CLIMATE NEWS SCAN – 05 June 2012
- Stiffer roads reduce fuel consumption
- UK’s green economy thrives
- ‘Common-sense climate change’ guide released for forests
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RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
UK’s green economy thrives
May 25, 2012. Despite the UK economy falling into a double-dip recession due to a sharp decline in construction output, the UK’s green economy has been surprisingly resilient and has continued to grow. Recent figures provided by the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reveal that the UK’s green goods and services market expanded by 4.7 percent over the past year and now employs almost one million people. Worldwide, the clean technology industry expanded by 3.7 percent to 3.3 trillion pounds in 2010/11, with the UK claiming sixth position and a green economy valued at 122 billion pounds. Canada followed in 13th place with its green economy valued at 59 billion pounds and the United States led the world’s clean technology industry, with a green economy valued at 644 billion pounds. Globally, the top three sectors experiencing the highest percentage of clean technology investment were alternative fuels, building technologies and wind.
British Columbia (BC) has taken action to create jobs and grow its green economy by creating provincial investments and policies to promote clean tech innovation and adoption. The BC government has created the Venture Capital Program and the Renaissance Capital Fund, both of which make it easier for small businesses to access capital to help finance the development of clean technologies. Supporting policies that have helped foster a green marketplace include a low-carbon fuel standard, carbon tax, the Clean Energy Act and the Climate Action Plan. According to the latest numbers provided in BC’s Green Economy: Growing Green Jobs, BC’s clean tech sector provides over 8,400 jobs, generates more than $2.5 billion in revenue, and has the highest number of clean tech companies in Canada.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Stiffer roads reduce fuel consumption
May 22, 2012. A new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests that changing the mix used in road surface paving could result in significant fuel and maintenance cost savings. The research was funded in part by the Portland Cement Association and looked at the energy efficiency improvements that might be achieved from mixing concrete with asphalt, or even making the top layer concrete only. The scientists calculated the near-imperceptible dip in asphalt caused by the weight of a car, which actually means cars are experiencing higher friction. A firmer surface would mitigate this, allowing more energy use to propel the car forward. If implemented as common practice in the US, this change in road surface could cut overall transportation emissions by 3%.
While it is commonly assumed that sustainable communities will require less road surface (thanks to clustering uses on narrower, more walkable streets), small quick-win solutions such as the one suggested above might be more easily introduced with less disruption to our way of life. In that sense, the proposal is similar to that of painting roofs white to save on heat gain, to the Japanese attempt to encourage business casual wear, or even to passive building design and replacing storm drains with bioswales. While low-tech, if these changes can be easily integrated into existing engineering practice, they may result in cumulatively greater mitigation than more dramatic low carbon investments and community reconfigurations.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Cold-blooded creatures on the move with changing climate
May 27, 2012. The journal Nature Climate Change reports that the changing distribution of cold-blooded animals as a result of climate change is less predictable than previously thought. The researchers looked at 142 different species and considered the temperature ranges the animals were assumed to live within, then compared the results to the actual temperature ranges found where those animals live in the wild. The correlation between lab measurements and real world distribution patterns aligned closely for cold-blooded animals living in the ocean, but not for those living on land. Cold-blooded terrestrial animals were found to not occupy the warmer equatorial regions that the lab measurements suggested they could, which researchers speculate may be due to low rainfall in these areas. Land-based species were also found to not leave the warmer areas behind as their ranges moved, thus resulting instead in an expanded range for many populations.
Based on this research, cold-blooded marine populations off the BC coast will move northward in a relatively predictable way, whereas the migration of cold-blooded animals on land should be expected to be more erratic. Some animals will be sharing ecosystems with species they have never encountered before, which could lead to surprising results. The study is also interesting in the context of planning for a northward expansion of species from the US, where many have been classified as Species at Risk, raising questions about BC’s obligation towards these species and the conservation efforts taking place in the US. These new findings are also useful inputs when considering the comprehensiveness of the BC Forests and Range Practices Act and BC Wildlife Act.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
Views on climate change determined by culture, not scientific savvy
May 27, 2012. A new survey conducted by researchers at Yale and published in Nature Climate Change suggests that members of the public with the best understanding of science and technical matters are not the most concerned about climate change, despite scientific consensus on the matter. Individuals are instead more likely to be influenced by their cultural orientation when forming an opinion on the subject. This leads to a conflict between the views held by others with whom they share close ties, and the collective interest they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare. People with strong technical skills tend to use their abilities to better rationalize their predetermined views. Researchers find that fitting in with your friends is a lot more important than getting climate science right. The study concludes by stressing how important it is to communicate climate science in a way that doesn’t alienate either side of the cultural divide.
Cultures characterized by individualistic viewpoints are less concerned about the environment than more community-focused cultures. These results highlight the importance of continuing to communicate the science in an evidence-based fashion, but finding ways to deliver the message in ways that won’t discourage the less environmentally minded members of society. Similar research sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that there is still a part of society that hasn’t been polarized by the climate change debate, and the trick is to engage them effectively without scaring or alienating them. It is suggested that trusted representatives of cultural circles should deliver the message, and that it may be better to frame the discussion in a non-scientific way. While BC already has a strong community-based and environmentally minded culture, these findings will be useful when communicating further climate action.
RESEARCH THEME V: CARBON MANAGEMENT IN BC FORESTS
‘Common-sense climate change’ guide released for forests
May 29, 2012. The US Forest Service (USFS) has released a new common-sense climate change guide that offers direction on how to develop policies that cope with the uncertainty of climate change. It does so by encouraging planners to consider multiple climate change scenarios, rather than focusing on a “most accurate” scenario that ignores variability at the local level. Climate change is expected to increase heavy rainfall, droughts, fires and forest pests. Land managers will have options in how they respond to these threats. After a large fire, for example, they could replant the scorched area with the same species as before, or they could plant a mix of more drought-resilient trees that might better cope with impending climatic change. Managers may also have to invest in larger culverts – concrete structures that carry water under roads – to handle higher levels of precipitation. Speaking about the report, David Cleaves, climate advisor to the USFS, suggested that the challenge for land managers comes in “balancing the costs of overprotection and underprotection.”
The report provides a framework for land managers in BC who are adapting to climate change. The authors employ a technique called “downscaling” where they consider global climate models (GCMs) in tandem with regional climate models (RCMs) to understand climate impacts at the local level. RCMs have a higher resolution than GCMs, and can help managers visualize how climate change might impact their lands. The USFS has used 140 downscaled climate projections, considering these projections alongside GCM findings. BC has a huge land base with 12 different biogeoclimatic zones. Complimenting province-wide management priorities with local variability will strengthen our response to a changing climate.
ALSO IN THE NEWS
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