CLIMATE NEWS SCAN – 10 April 2012
- New guidance for managing extreme weather risk
- Understanding energy: sources and options for a low carbon future
- Washington State first to tackle ocean acidification
The PICS News Scan is produced by ISIS at the Sauder School of Business and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). To be added to the News Scan distribution list Subscribe Here or to provide content feedback and/or suggestions about interesting news items, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors: Neil Thomson, Calyn Shaw, Neil Salmond, Kristina Welch, Justin Bull
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Carbon Governance Project (CGP): The Berkeley sessions
March 29, 2012. The CGP is an international workshop series co-sponsored by PICS and hosted by UBC, the University of Oxford, UK, and the University of California, Berkeley that brings together business, political and academic leaders from each of these jurisdictions to share ideas on how to spur the transition to a low carbon economy. The third and final workshop in this series was held on March 29 in Berkeley, California and included internationally renowned participants from the world of public policy, cleantech, energy, and academia. Some of the key themes discussed were the importance of not only pricing carbon, but also creating the right policy infrastructure to drive the economic realignment; the necessity to take a full systems approach when determining appropriate solutions in order to optimize benefits; the trend towards large capital-flush firms internalizing emerging innovations as a driver of notable change; and the possibility that behaviour change will achieve greater gains than decreased consumption or improved efficiency.
The Vancouver CGP event was held on June 1, 2011 and attended by 48 leaders from the aforementioned sectors. By the end of the session, the group displayed a strong consensus that BC should innovate and lead even in the absence of federal policy or a globally binding agreement. Two specific measures were identified as key action items: the development of a broad, multi-industry consortium of business leaders to support the province’s low carbon, economic initiatives, and a ‘living lab’ concept wherein the province would provide a supportive place for demonstration projects to bridge the gap to commercialization. The Oxford workshop was held on September 28, 2011 with 35 leaders in attendance and also identified consumer behaviour change and buy-in as a broad requirement to create market pull for solutions. It further highlighted the need to use existing planned capital expenditures to drive the transition and avoid further ‘lock-in’ of carbon intensive projects.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
New guidance for managing extreme weather risk
March 28, 2012. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published a comprehensive study of measures that governments can take to build resilience against the ever more common extreme weather events forecast for this century. This detailed report provides background to the previously published summary for policymakers, and describes the physical and social patterns that leave communities most exposed to damage. The advice focuses on risk management and adaptation, particularly policy measures that result in a diversity of options and offer benefits across a range of climate scenarios. Such policies include sustainable land use and ecosystem protection.
The report also notes that exposure to extreme climatic events will be most strongly felt in the agriculture, forestry and tourism industries, some of the biggest employers in the province. There are severalresources for local governments in BC to help with climate change adaptation, which also cover preparation and resilience against extreme weather events. With Metro Vancouver’s agricultural land reserve once again in the news and the recent announcement of major transportation investments(including ports and trucking routes), it will be important for policymakers to ensure today’s public investments can ensure continued prosperity in the range of forecast climate and likely weather damage.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Washington State first to tackle ocean acidification
March 29, 2012. Ocean acidification is occurring as a portion of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released to the atmosphere by fossil fuel combustion dissolves into the sea to form carbonic acid. The resulting slowly increasing acidity threatens delicate marine ecosystems that have evolved over thousands of years in a less-acidic ocean. Washington State is the first jurisdiction in the United States to assemble an expert panel to examine the acidification issue. The Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, convened by Governor Chris Gregoire, is made up of scientists, local and tribal officials, and seafood industry representatives. The objectives of the panel will be to survey the latest science and outline a set of practical, affordable policy recommendations to address the root causes of acidification. Threats from excess CO2 to the region’s shellfish industry are a major driving force behind the panel’s creation. Washington shellfish growers directly and indirectly employ more than 3,200 people and provide an estimated total economic contribution of $270 million per year.
BC faces similar challenges due to ocean acidification. The value of harvested shellfish in BC was over $130 million in 2010. The BC Shellfish Growers Association has started posting information on its website, including a guide for policymakers. The March 6 News Scan highlighted this problem, stating that the “overall picture is bleak for both wild and farmed marine ecosystems if CO2 levels continue to rise, affecting BC both economically and culturally.” According to a recent study from the University of British Columbia, some areas that were expecting to see increased fish stocks due to climate change may in fact see declines as a result of ocean acidification and deoxygenation. A study published recently inScience says that due to carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels, the world’s oceans may be turning acidic faster today than they did during the four major historical extinctions of the last 300 million years. Convening a panel on ocean acidification similar to the one in Washington State is an advisable first step to begin devising strategies and policy to address this issue.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
Understanding energy: sources and options for a low carbon future
March 19, 2012. The National Center for Science Education has recently released a new education resource titled Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education. A number of organizations were involved in the production of the report, including the US Department of Energy, which identifies seven principles, or categories, representing ‘big ideas’. Energy is governed by natural laws, physical processes on earth are the result of energy flows, biological systems depend on this energy flow, energy can be used to power human activities, energy decisions are influenced by economic, political, environmental and social factors, the amount of energy consumed is highly variable, and human quality of life is affected by energy choices. The report also highlights some key ‘fundamental concepts’ discussing ways in which people learn about energy, and suggests using these concepts to support improved learning outcomes and understanding of the energy principles.
Increasing awareness about energy sources and consumption is timely given Canada’s current discussion of a national energy policy. Federal and provincial leaders are trying to grapple with many questions surrounding energy sources and how best to use them. In particular, the energy ministers have highlighted “regulatory reform, improving energy efficiency and developing new energy export markets” as critical to a new energy strategy. BC’s role in any energy policy will be multifaceted given the rich natural resources available in the province. The abundance of natural gas and clean energy sources will ensure that BC is a provider of energy, but BC’s leading role in energy policies (i.e. carbon tax) as well as a strong green tech sector will see the province play other supporting roles in the future of a national strategy on energy.
RESEARCH THEME V: CARBON MANAGEMENT IN BC FORESTS
Climate change may accelerate “peak carbon” in forests
April 3, 2012. Research from the United States Forest Service (USFS) suggests that American forests might attain “peak carbon” sometime in the next 10 to 40 years. Peak carbon, similar to the concept ofpeak oil, implies that forests will eventually no longer sequester new carbon, but instead reach equilibrium and act as a stock of carbon. Climate change is pushing forward the date when we reach peak carbon. Forests are having trouble responding to changes in precipitation, increased intensity and frequency of fires, and chronic insect infestations. As a result, they are not reforesting as intensively as they otherwise might. Researchers from the USFS suggest that forest carbon stocks will likely peak, remain steady, and then slowly decline.
In BC, there are similar threats, but different circumstances. Compared to the US, BC has a concentrated urban population with more remote wilderness. Given that forests at the urban-wilderness boundary are those most likely to attain peak carbon for a variety of ecological reasons, BC forests have the potential to continue sequestering carbon for a longer period. At the same time, pestilence, fire, and drought threaten forest health. The resilience of BC forests in the face of climate change will influence when they hit peak carbon. The ability to adaptively manage through assisted migration, enhanced silvicultural techniques, and more aggressive replanting all play a role. Another variable not discussed in the USFS research is the role of harvesting. When a tree is converted into a forest product, such as dimensional lumber, much of the carbon is retained in the final product. These products can then act as carbon stocks for decades, while the harvested area is replanted. This cycle extends peak carbon, and lends credence to the idea that to address climate change, we should use more wood, not less.
ALSO IN THE NEWS
Download pdf version: Week 131 PICS News Scan 10 April 012
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