PICS CLIMATE NEWS SCAN – 02 AUGUST 2011
- Has warming put ‘Dirty Dozen’ pollutants back in the saddle?
- Community gardening cultivates emotional and physical health
- Study: climate change to increase Yellowstone wildfires dramatically
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: email@example.com.
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Green expectations: lessons from the US green jobs market
July 22, 2011. A UK think-tank has published a survey and assessment of several city and state-level green jobs policies in the US and their impact on local markets. The report begins by noting the lack of an over-arching national climate policy, but also states that rhetoric on climate policy from Washington is frequently focused on the economic opportunity, therefore setting high expectations for the green economy. The authors find that job creation has often fallen short of these expectations, partly due to the recession but also due to policy regulation design. As an example of strategies to improve the creation and quality of green jobs, the report includes a case study highlighting efforts made in California to provide a stable and professionalized retrofitting workforce as opposed to employing untrained, contract-based construction workers.
The promise of green jobs will be a familiar policy message to British Columbians, and the focus on building retrofitting is particularly relevant given the high carbon footprint of the province’s building stock. According to the Globe Foundation, 7.2% of provincial employment is in the green economy, covering occupations from agriculture to education. Nevertheless, the lessons from this report, in terms of encouraging training and apprenticeships in skilled trades, could help expand the market and opportunities further.
Cloud computing: the IT solution for the 21st century
July 21, 2011. Companies are increasingly turning to cloud computing to deliver their information and communications technology (ICT) needs, according to a recent study conducted by Verdantix. The study reported that by 2020, ‘large U.S. companies that use cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion and annual carbon reductions equivalent to 200 million barrels of oil’. Cloud computing, a trend originally adopted for its cost-saving measures, is now being recognized for the opportunity it presents to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by consolidating an organization’s IT needs, creating efficiencies and increased utilization of servers. If a company is located in an area where coal or other dirty sources of energy are used to produce electricity, cloud computing enables organizations to relocate energy intensive IT needs to low-carbon regions elsewhere, where the electricity grid consumes clean energy sources.
Greenpeace released a report earlier this year that evaluated some of the largest cloud computing players and their environmental impact, and discussed ways that cloud computing can be leveraged to reduce emissions across many sectors. In order for carbon emissions savings to be derived from cloud computing, organizations offering cloud computing services must be located in regions with clean sources of electricity. Otherwise, the result is simply a matter of companies outsourcing their emissions to the cloud, also known as leakage. BC, with an electricity grid supplied primarily by clean, renewable hydroelectricity, has the opportunity to play a key role in hosting green cloud computing. PICS recently published a policy briefdiscussing the opportunities for the province and ISIS completed a green IT study for CANARIE this spring. Companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are continually building new datacentres, and arelooking for clean, low-cost power sources to meet their energy needs.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Incorporating social equity into sustainable communities
July 25, 2011. Communities in which all residents can access local economic, social and environmental assets are also more economically competitive, and have improved public and environmental health. This is the key rationale behind a new report from US think tank PolicyLink that provides a guide for policymakers seeking to include social equity in sustainable community planning. Examples of best practices cited in the report include transit focus groups and community engagement in Boston and Denver, community mapping of transportation, fresh food and economic access, and a San Francisco program to encourage growth in existing urban areas and near transit. Aside from developments that mitigate climate change, the report also offers tools for conducting climate change impact assessments.
The government of BC has recently announced that its public sector is officially carbon neutral, but with theprovince continuing to grow, planning for equitable sustainable development must continue. While the broad messages of this report are well integrated into most regions’ growth strategies, the specific examples, case studies and tools offered here may provide useful information and inspiration for policymakers.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Has warming put ‘Dirty Dozen’ pollutants back in the saddle?
July 25, 2011. According to a recent study published in Nature Climate Change, the so-called “Dirty Dozen” chemicals are being freed from Arctic sea ice and snow through global warming. Formally known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), the “Dirty Dozen” were widely used as insecticides and pesticides before being outlawed in 2001. The study looked at atmospheric concentrations of three chemicals – DDT, HCH and cis-chlordane – and found that POPs have been remobilized into the Arctic atmosphere over the past two decades as a result of climate change, confirming that Arctic warming could undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to these toxic chemicals.
The monitoring was conducted at stations in Norway’s Svalbard Islands and the Canadian Arctic. Researchers from the Air Quality Research Division at Environment Canada led the research. The report stressed the need for urgent action noting the Arctic is two or three times more susceptible to warming than other parts of the planet, and thus could be the focus of POP releases from other stores, including the soil and deep ocean. Most of the recent research on POPs in BC has focused on increased toxicity levels in the diet of animals such as harbour seals and grizzly bears. As these pollutants further leak into the Arctic Ocean, this will likely have an effect on the province’s food system.
Study: climate change to increase Yellowstone wildfires dramatically
July 25, 2011. According to a new study, an increase in wildfires due to climate change could rapidly and profoundly alter the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The study by a professor at the University of California suggests that the expected rising temperatures caused by climate change could increase the frequency of large wildfires in Yellowstone to an unprecedented level. The result could be fewer dense forests and more open woodland, grass and shrub vegetation, which would affect the region’s wildlife, hydrology and carbon storage. This new study builds on existing theories about the interrelationship between climate change and wildfires.
In BC, fire records show that the wildfire season has been increasing in length by one to two days a year since at least 1980, according to the government’s Climate Change and Fire Management Research Strategy report. Wildland fire managers benefit from analyses of climate change impacts that are as accurate and forward-looking as possible, so that they have the maximum lead-time to prepare. The report also highlights that wildland fire threatens about 20 communities and 70,000 people annually in Canada, and fire management costs the country approximately $700 million a year. Years without large fires were common historically, but are expected to become rare as annual area burned and the frequency of regionally synchronous fires increase.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
Community gardening cultivates emotional and physical health
July 12, 2011. Gardening is good for your health, your emotional well-being, and your broader community, according to research conducted at the University of Colorado, School of Public Health and published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Twenty minutes of gardening a day translates to improved health outcomes, and the opportunity to become involved in community gardening is correlated with increased civic involvement and safer neighbourhoods. Not only does gardening produce positive benefits for your health and the community, it also reduces the impact that your food consumption has on the environment. Food miles refers to the distance that food has to travel before it reaches your plate, producing greenhouse gas emissions in the process and contributing to climate change issues. Local food and gardening have become focal points for communities looking to improve their sustainability and mobilize action around climate change. Farmers’ markets are a key indicator of this trend and are on the rise throughout Canada and the US.
Vancouver is known for its local food, and is home to the creators of the ‘100 Mile Diet’, a concept, book and movement meant to encourage people to reduce their consumption of food shipped over long distances. Other initiatives include an urban farm in Vancouver`s downtown eastside, SOLEFood Farm, which is capitalizing on the positive impacts that local farming can create in a neighbourhood. Other, more technically-savvy ways to connect and shop for local food include the newly launched FoodTree social network website and iPhone app, which allows community members to take photos of food and upload the photos and locations to the Internet. The website enables information-sharing about local food between neighbours, and represents an online `community garden` where people can connect and engage over food.
Download pdf version: Week 97 PICS News Scan 02 August 2011
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