Environmental Watch http://www.environmental-watch.com Keeping an eye on the environment Wed, 15 Nov 2017 14:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://www.environmental-watch.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/EW-Logo-400x400-150x150.jpg Environmental Watch http://www.environmental-watch.com 32 32 51908374 Logging and Climate Change to Bring More Landslides http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/11/15/logging-climate-change-bring-landslides/ http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/11/15/logging-climate-change-bring-landslides/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.environmental-watch.com/?p=4094 In 2014, a landslide in Oso, Washington, sent 270 million cubic feet of mud through a neighborhood, killing 43 people and destroying 49 homes. The slide covered a 1-square-mile area, and it is the deadliest landslide in U.S. history. An engineering report found that recent logging may have increased the amount of water on the […]

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In 2014, a landslide in Oso, Washington, sent 270 million cubic feet of mud through a neighborhood, killing 43 people and destroying 49 homes. The slide covered a 1-square-mile area, and it is the deadliest landslide in U.S. history.

An engineering report found that recent logging may have increased the amount of water on the slope, but the report didn’t single out any one factor as a cause of the slide.

Now, research from Washington State University is showing that landslides on logged forests will become more widespread as the Northwest’s climate changes. The study, modeled on clear-cut lands in the Olympic Peninsula, anticipates the climate of 2045 based on current models, and concludes that there will be a 7 to 11-percent increase in the amount of land that is highly vulnerable to landslides.

Climate change is expected to bring warmer and wetter winters to the Pacific Northwest. It could also bring more frequent extreme rainfall events.

“Logged landscapes become more susceptible to landslide activity under climate change,” said State of Washington Water Research Center Associate Director Professor Jennifer Adam.

The study found that vulnerable slopes tend to be at elevations over 1,600 feet, with slopes or 40 or more degrees, and have talus or sandy soils.

The study “is telling people, if you are cutting trees on this slope, it might be okay today. But in the future, it might not be, so plan according to that,” said study lead author Muhammad Barik. “If you do logging in this area without considering future projections, it might become susceptible to landslides.”

The hydrologic model the researchers used considered variations in topography, soil, land cover, and subsurface moisture. They also factored in meteorological data, a digital landslide database, and satellite imagery.

“The combination of warming, precipitation, and less snow means more liquid precipitation, which will then sit in the soil and keep it wet and unstable,” said Adam.

The researchers used two greenhouse gas emission scenarios from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scenario predicting the lowest emissions saw an average 7.1 percent increase in the area highly susceptible to landslides. The scenario predicting the highest emissions increased the risk by 10.7 percent.

“We’re giving you a tool to see into the future,” said Barik. “Most of the landslide studies are based on historical data. Here, along with historical data, we also used climate models so you can look at future projections.”

Hopefully, the data from Washington State University will sound an alarm and get land managers thinking in the long term about what trees to harvest and from where. It may even promote the wider use of land management scenarios like planting trees to replace the ones that have been harvested in order to reduce the risk of future landslides.

This data could also be useful for other forested regions all across the world that are going to get warmer and wetter under climate change.

Photo via Pixabay

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US Foods Wins 2017 Eco-Innovation Award http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/11/08/us-foods-named-winner-2017-eco-innovation-award/ http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/11/08/us-foods-named-winner-2017-eco-innovation-award/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 16:28:53 +0000 http://www.environmental-watch.com/?p=4089 Leading foodservice distributor US Foods has been crowned the winner of KKR’s prestigious Eco-Innovation Award. Global investment firm KKR launched the Eco-Innovation Award in 2016 as a way to incentivize its portfolio companies to become more environmentally friendly. US Foods won the award for its Serve Good program, a new company line in which all […]

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Leading foodservice distributor US Foods has been crowned the winner of KKR’s prestigious Eco-Innovation Award.

Global investment firm KKR launched the Eco-Innovation Award in 2016 as a way to incentivize its portfolio companies to become more environmentally friendly. US Foods won the award for its Serve Good program, a new company line in which all products are either sustainably sourced or help reduce waste.

The Eco-Innovation Award is part of KKR’s commitment to responsible investing, which includes financial backing for companies that are trying to solve environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Ken Mehlman, head of KKR’s ESG department, believes that these types of investments can be just as profitable as they are ethical.

“Over the last several years at KKR, we’ve invested 5.2 billion dollars in companies focused on getting the returns our investors expect. But the way they were going to get them—and are going to get them—is by solving important societal problems,“ Mehlman said in an interview with Bloomberg. 

Part of the reason these investments are so lucrative is because the demand for green products has substantially increased over the past few years. According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66 percent of global consumers said that they were willing to pay extra for eco-friendly brands, a 55 percent increase from 2014.

“At US Foods, we strive to source and deliver delicious foods while also considering the environmental and social impact of our offerings,” said Stacie Sopinka, Vice President of Product Development and Innovation at US Foods. “As demand for sustainable foodservice products continues to grow, we remain committed to providing our customers with an array of innovative offerings to help them succeed. We are honored to be recognized by KKR for these efforts and appreciate the years of partnership.”

It goes to show that voting with one’s wallet can be just as effective (if not more effective) than voting in political elections. Money talks, and businesses are listening by meeting the public’s demand. The Eco-Innovation Award is just further proof of that.

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New Study Shows How Cities can Fight Climate Change Effectively http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/11/01/cities-fight-climate-change/ http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/11/01/cities-fight-climate-change/#respond Wed, 01 Nov 2017 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.environmental-watch.com/?p=4084 It’s no surprise that after President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, that states and cities stepped up to the plate and said, “Climate change is real, and no amount of fake news can stop it.” A number of mayors and governors across the political spectrum have pledged to take action about climate change on […]

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It’s no surprise that after President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, that states and cities stepped up to the plate and said, “Climate change is real, and no amount of fake news can stop it.” A number of mayors and governors across the political spectrum have pledged to take action about climate change on their own, and have already been starting to do so.

Those mayors and governors could benefit from a new study from MIT that shows how cities can fight climate change most effectively.

The study analyzes how local planning policies could either complement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan of 2015 or compensate for its absence. The researchers analyzed 11 major U.S. cities—Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Seattle—and developed models projecting emissions through the year 2030, based on several different policy scenarios.

What the researchers found was that it will be easier to reduce emissions from residential energy use rather than from local transportation. And that reduction will happen mostly because of better building practices rather than greater housing density.

Requiring newly built homes to be more energy-efficient would reduce residential emissions by an average of 6 percent through 2030, the researchers said, but requiring existing homes to be retrofitted to increase efficiency would cause a further 19 percent reduction in residential energy emissions.

The researchers were surprised to see that there was less benefit from reducing the number of single-family homes and replacing them with multi-family residences.

“Shifting people to multifamily buildings is what planners have always wanted to do, but that’s actually not as effective as most advocates would have thought,” said David Hsu of MIT, one of three co-authors of the paper summarizing the study’s results.

The greater housing density “would have virtually no incremental benefit in terms of reduced residential energy use and CO2 emissions,” the paper states.

The reason for this, the researchers found, is that as new homes become more energy-efficient, the energy use differences between larger single-family homes and homes in multi-family dwellings will shrink.

Hsu said the impact of policies related to construction standards and retrofitting alone is significant. “You can do a lot of things at the local level to affect housing stock that are basically equivalent or even more aggressive than the Clean Power Plan,” he said.

On the other hand, transportation is what the researchers referred to as a moving target, although a federal mandate increasing vehicle fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon would reduce auto-based emissions in the 11 cities studied by 38 percent. And that’s without any additional mass transit or density programs. That number could increase to 46 percent if cities adopted robust transit and density policies.

“The results for increasing the average fuel efficiency of the U.S. fleet are still stronger than what we can do on the planning side,” Hsu said. But he did note that this is a relative outcome, and incremental emissions reductions from increased use of mass transit and other traffic-related policies could be worth pursuing at the municipal level.

“We’re trying to be hopeful,” Hsu concluded. “It’s really just [about] getting planners to think about what makes sense in their market. There’s not going to be a policy idea that works everywhere equally…if you have a fixed amount of time and political capital and focus, you should do the most efficient thing.”

So, there’s a lot that cities can do at the municipal level to combat climate change, but the political will has to exist in order to do these things. Oftentimes, increasing available public transportation, for example, is a long-term goal that requires tax levies. But tax levies (or bond issues, as they’re called in some states) are not very popular, even though they may be for the greater good.

What do you think? What can cities do to combat climate change in an efficient and practical way? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo: A city street in Boston. Photo via Pixabay

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6 Steps to Prepare Your Garden for Winter http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/10/25/6-steps-prepare-your-garden-for-winter/ http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/10/25/6-steps-prepare-your-garden-for-winter/#respond Wed, 25 Oct 2017 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.environmental-watch.com/?p=4077 Here in the northern hemisphere, winter is quickly coming upon us. In October and November, you need to prepare your gardens, shrubs, and tools for the coming snow and rain. Here are our tips on what to do to prepare your garden for winter. 1. Harvest your late veggies Before the first frost, harvest crops […]

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Here in the northern hemisphere, winter is quickly coming upon us. In October and November, you need to prepare your gardens, shrubs, and tools for the coming snow and rain. Here are our tips on what to do to prepare your garden for winter.

1. Harvest your late veggies

Before the first frost, harvest crops like pumpkins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions and get your fall vegetables planted. Be sure to leave your pumpkins and squash outside for that first frost to “harden them off.” Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and other root crops can stay out during light frosts.

2. Make some leaf mold

All those leaves that have fallen in your yard? Don’t blow them away. Instead, prepare your garden for winter (and spring) by piling the moist leaves and waiting for them to decompose. You can enclose the pile with chicken wire or snow fencing to keep all the leaves in one place. Learn more about how to make leaf mold in this article.

3. Mulch your garden beds

A nice, thick layer of organic matter like compost, fertilizer, or fallen leaves can get your raised beds ready to produce with maximum efficiency next spring and summer. You can also use newspaper or cardboard to prevent weeds from cropping up before you get to your garden beds next year.

4. Get your bulbs protected

Prepare your garden for winter by giving your bulbs a thick topping of mulch. Some gardeners recommend evergreen boughs, but use what you have. This will prevent the soil from shifting and cracking—and potentially heaving your bulbs to the surface. Garlic, daffodils, irises, tulips, and other such plants should be protected in this manner.

5. Gather up your tools

It never fails: In the heat of planting, weeding, and harvesting, some of your gardening tools will end up outdoors. Go around your gardens and find any tools, then put them in your shed or other area to keep them organized and in good shape for next year’s gardening.

6. Get your greenhouse winterized

If your greenhouse or cold frames are covered in plastic, either remove it or cover it with tarps to keep it from being damaged by winter weather.

And finally, take a deep breath and enjoy the fruits of your harvest. Now that you’ve taken the time to prepare your garden for winter, you’ll be ready to start all over again next spring.

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Rainfall Trends In Dryland Regions Also Affected By Climate Change http://www.environmental-watch.com/2017/10/18/rainfall-trends-dryland-regions-climate-change/ Wed, 18 Oct 2017 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.environmental-watch.com/?p=4073 Everyone is talking about how climate change is influencing weather patterns in the Atlantic, where several intense hurricanes have wreaked havoc in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But what about drylands? Does climate change affect them, too? It turns out that it does. Researchers at the Universities of Cardiff and Bristol […]

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Everyone is talking about how climate change is influencing weather patterns in the Atlantic, where several intense hurricanes have wreaked havoc in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But what about drylands? Does climate change affect them, too?

It turns out that it does.

Researchers at the Universities of Cardiff and Bristol in the U.K. studied more than 50 years of detailed rainfall data from a semi-arid drainage basin in southeastern Arizona. What they found was that although there was an increase in total rainfall, there has been a long-term decline in heavy rainfall events. So: fewer monsoons, and more small storms, delivering less rain.

The interesting thing about the researchers’ findings is that it goes against commonly held assumptions about rainfall trends under climate change.

“In drylands, convective (or short, intense) rainfall controls water supply, flood risk, and soil moisture, but we have little information on how atmospheric warming will affect the characteristics of such rainstorms, given the limited moisture in these areas,” said study lead author Dr. Michael Singer of Cardiff University.

Co-author Dr. Katerina Michaelides of the University of Bristol said, “Our findings are consistent with previous research in the Colorado Basin, which has revealed a decline in runoff in the upper part of the Basin. Our work demonstrates that there is a more regional decline in water resources in this dryland region, which may be found in other dryland regions of the world.”

Because convective rainfall trends are not easily detected in daily rainfall records or well simulated by global or regional climate models, the researchers needed to create a new tool to assess the effects of climate change on rainfall patterns in drylands.

Their model, STORM, simulates individual rainstorms and their expression over a river basin. It can also represent different classes of climate change over decades.

The researchers used STORM to show that historical rainfall trends likely resulted in less runoff from this dryland basin, and they expect that the same effect has occurred at many similar basins in the region.

“We see this model as a useful tool to simulate climate change in regions and cases where traditional models and methods don’t capture the trends,” said Singer.

Photo: Monsoon rains in the desert near Tucson, Arizona. Credit: Shutterstock

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