CLIMATE NEWS SCAN – 24 July 2012
- Fraser River Basin water levels becoming more variable
- Young adults genuinely conflicted by climate change
- Cities of the future have huge opportunities for going green
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.
RESEARCH THEME I: THE LOW CARBON EMISSIONS ECONOMY
Going green: Markets reward greenhouse gas disclosure
July 17, 2012. New evidence shows that companies create value for shareholders by voluntarily reporting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to a University of California study that examined press releases issued over a 10-year period on the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) newswire, average stock prices increased nearly half a percent in the days following emissions-related announcements, with larger gains for smaller companies. In total, the companies studied, whose industries ranged from utilities to IT to health care, saw a $10 billion increase in market value related to their CSR releases. The study partially revolves around “disclosure theory,” which suggests that disclosure of information by business managers should produce an overall net benefit for shareholders, because it provides a knowledge advantage to investors facing risks associated with unknown costs and liabilities. The study also adds to previous research on how different aspects of sustainability affect stock price, as shown by a study involving the Standard and Poor 500 Index, which found that company values decrease as emissions rise.
In 2004, Canada introduced the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Program (GHGRP), which collects GHG emissions data from the largest industrial emitters. However, smaller facilities can voluntarily report their emissions if they are below the program’s 50,000 tonne reporting threshold. In the latest emissions reporting year of 2010, a total of 537 facilities reported their GHG data; 64 of them doing so voluntarily. Facilities in British Columbia emitting 10,000 tonnes or more of GHG emissions must report to the BC Ministry of Environment. In addition, voluntary registries such as The Climate Registry typically collect data at both the facility and corporate level. These registries serve the needs of investors, consumers, and public advocates interested in corporate-level environmental performance and sustainability practices.
RESEARCH THEME II: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
Cities of the future have huge opportunities for going green
July 12, 2012. Interest in the study of cities is growing rapidly as cities become more populous. Some projections estimate that by 2030, 60 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. From engineering and technology to urban planning and psychology, a number of disciplines and professions are exploring how to make them more efficient, vibrant, livable, and technologically sound. A report in Phys Org highlights a newly established innovation network in Germany called “Morgenstadt” (City of Tomorrow), led by the Fraunhofer research group. The essence of this initiative is to engineer urban technologies and integrate them into a holistic and systemic approach to how cities are managed. The German government has bold plans to advance its sustainability planning and renewable energy policy, and Morgenstadt is one of the projects that will help the German government reach its goals. As 75 percent of Germany’s population lived in cities in 2011, Morgenstadt hopes to retrofit existing urban form, and make future infrastructure more reliable and mutable.
The “Morgenstadt” project is only going to make Germany’s renewable energy numbers more impressive and its transportation infrastructure more efficient. The initiative offers many valuable lessons for BC, including how to improve transportation mobility. For instance, there are opportunities to embrace technologies that help manage and alleviate congestion problems. This would be particularly valuable for those municipalities in Metro Vancouver who recently placed first in Canada for being the most congested. Morgenstadt is still in its preliminary stages but given its strong support from the German government, and its research momentum, Metro Vancouver may wish to keep an eye on how German cities innovate on the congestion issue. Morgenstadt hopes to produce cities that are largely free of emissions. This is noteworthy for BC, as GHGs from the transportation sector comprise the highest share in the province. Smarter transportation is at the heart of “cities of the future”, allowing for shorter commutes, minimal congestion and low emissions.
RESEARCH THEME III: RESILIENT ECOSYSTEMS
Fraser River Basin water levels becoming more variable
July 3, 2012. The Fraser River is experiencing more extreme high and low water levels, according to recent research from the University of Northern BC. This conclusion was drawn after analyzing 100 years of hydrological data collected at 139 Environment Canada river gauges distributed throughout the watershed. The variability stems from heavy rains and the loss of vegetation, notably from pine beetle infestation and deforestation, which would normally have retained more of the snowmelt. Receding glaciers and more severe droughts, both of which are expected to worsen, are also contributing to variable water levels. Glaciers moderate water levels through continued run-off, but as they disappear, rivers will loose their summer-time flow. Amongst other things, this research raises the question of whether the dikes along the Fraser will be high enough over the long term.
Increasing variability of water levels in the Fraser River Basin will affect a number of ecosystems and species that rely on the vast watershed. Professor Stephen Déry and others have predicted that so-called 100-year flood events will occur in roughly four to ten year intervals, adversely affecting the habitat of the largest salmon-run in the world. Low water levels decrease the effort needed for the fish to swim upstream, while conversely higher water levels tire them out, thus affecting success rates. Déry’s research points to a relationship between the 2010 salmon run – the largest in almost a century – and low water levels in some of the salmon’s spawning grounds. According to another recent report, in the region from Washington State up to southeast Alaska, 24 out of 37 populations of salmon showed a decrease in productivity over the last two decades.
RESEARCH THEME IV: SOCIAL MOBILIZATION
Young adults genuinely conflicted by climate change
July 16, 2012. New research, published as part of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAM), finds that young adults in Generation X are “genuinely conflicted” about the issue of climate change. The study, which follows the responses of several thousand young American adults from year to year, further finds that the level of understanding of climate change amongst Generation X is decreasing. In 2009, 16% of young adults felt well informed on the issue of climate change. In 2011, this number had dropped to 11%. Unlike other public policy issues that are driven by a concerned public experiencing the impact of the issue on a day-to-day basis, climate change requires the public to heed the warnings of the scientific community about events that are projected to have limited impact within the lifetime of Gen X-ers, but great impact in the lifetime of their children. The study finds that despite broad awareness of the issue, the complexity of the arguments about climate change has created much uncertainty among Generation X young adults. The study also finds that better educated young adults tend to be more “alarmed and concerned” about climate change than their peers.
Within BC, several initiatives have emerged to better educate young adults and youth about the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. For example, the goBeyond project, a youth-led initiative aimed at university and college students, engages young adults across the province in workshops, competitions and conferences designed to raise awareness of and educate them about the issue. ClimateChangeEducation.org links K-12 teachers with resources to better educate students about Climate Change, and the multi-issue Gen-Why Media Project engages young adults in active dialogue about how to shape the future. The Vancouver-based Kids for Climate Action raises awareness and seeks to influence policy and decision-making on the issue. Despite the good work of these and other organizations, the findings of the LSAM indicate that Generation X British Columbians may also benefit from initiatives aimed toward unraveling the complexity of the climate change issue.
RESEARCH THEME V: CARBON MANAGEMENT IN BC FORESTS
Seeing the forest for the genes: Researchers map tree genomes to fight climate change
July 12, 2012. Researchers at the University of British Columbia are using genetics to help ensure the long-term survival of BC’s forests. The three-year, $4.7 million study is focused on two species: Interior spruce and lodgepole pine. These species are critical to the forest sector and are widely dispersed across the province. The researchers found that over the past 30 years, 23 percent of BC has shifted into a different biogeoclimatic zone. In some regional ecosystems, climate characteristics have shifted by as much as 77 per cent. The researchers are using genetic sequencing to identify how trees might naturally adapt to a changing climate. By mapping out the genomes of trees that are successfully adapting, the researchers hope to identify and plant seedlings that can cope with climate change.
Understanding how trees might naturally adapt to climate change is critical for BC’s forests. The public, activists, and government are all hesitant to use controversial methods, like genetic modification, to develop climate-resilient trees. However, by studying the genomes of trees, scientists can find samples within the population with desirable characteristics. Planted as seedlings, these trees will have a better chance of surviving current and future changes in climate. This will help ensure a long-term fibre supply for the forest industry. It will also ensure that trees planted today survive far into the future. This means that the carbon they capture will be permanently stored and can be reliably traded and sold on carbon markets. As the lead scientist on the study, Sally Aitken, said: “In my opinion, climate change is the biggest challenge facing our forests and our forest management.” Using genetics to improve our forest management efforts will be central to making BC’s forests a climate change solution, not a climate change problem.
ALSO IN THE NEWS
Download pdf version: Week 146 PICS News Scan 24 July 2012
PICS Climate News Scan by PICS & ISIS, Sauder School of Business is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://isis.sauder.ubc.ca/contact/
Leave a comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.