Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’

Green Cities-A New Take on Energy Efficiency

October 12, 2011

St. Pertersburg, Florida - Photo: Darcy Kiefel

Climate change experts always point to energy efficiency as a win-win strategy. Achieving the same ends with less energy reduces carbon emissions and puts money back into the hands of families and businesses. There is broad public agreement that America should develop more energy-efficient technologies and encourage their use.

But the development of new technologies is not the only way to increase energy efficiency. We can also do this by changing where and how we live and by creating greener cities.

Attracting more Americans to live in cities will save energy and reduce carbon emissions. One study found that residents of New York City generated 13,448 pounds less CO2 each year than residents of surrounding suburban areas.

These energy savings come from multiple sources. Most importantly, urban residents use less energy for transportation and live in smaller spaces that require less energy for heat and electricity.

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek.com survey on the most attractive cities in the country included “green space per capita” among its criteria, and ranked leafy Raleigh, North Carolina at the top of its list. Restoring riverfronts, creating parks, and improving non-motorized trails will attract more people to the energy-efficient lifestyle in cities.

But that’s only half the picture. The same “green infrastructure” that increases livability also makes cities more energy efficient.

  • Creating paths and greenways for walking and biking reduces driving and other motorized transit
  • Increasing natural land lessens the wasteful “heat island effect” that elevates urban air temperatures by as much as 22 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Green spaces provide natural stormwater control, lessening energy needed for pumping and treatment

Green cities are like a living system-naturally regulating heat and precipitation.
Investing in urban green space is also good insurance against the impacts of climate change. As the nation witnessed with Hurricane Katrina, cities are vulnerable to the type of extreme weather that has been linked to climate change.

Conserving green spaces, especially wetlands, around low-lying cities makes them less vulnerable to flooding. An average acre of wetland can store a million gallons of water. The Trust for Public Land is helping New Orleans design new “water retention parks” to serve as urban green space in fair weather, and natural drainage during extreme weather events.

America’s cities are pushing forward on this win-win opportunity to mitigate climate change and ensure economic well being. Cities across America have included the conservation of green space as a major element in their climate action plans-New York did this as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC.

As public discourse continues over the need for new infrastructure in America, we should not overlook this “green infrastructure” in our cities as a priority investment that will benefit both the economy and the environment.

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Editor’s Note: Jad Daley is the director of The Trust for Public Land’s Climate Conservation Program.

Conservation finance links, 1/15

January 18, 2011

Votomatic - National Museum of American Histor/Wikipedia Commons

Twice each month TPL’s Conservation Finance service publishes links to state and local conservation finance stories from around the nation. As always, TPL’s online LandVote database provides the best source of data on conservation finance measures since 1988.

Climate Change
Reports lists top 10 ecosystems most threatened by climate change

Illinois
Kane County places $30M open space bond on April ballot
more here

Massachusetts
Analysis of Community Preservation Act 10 years on
More
and more

New Jersey
Township considers open space tax
New survey shows Cumberland County residents would support open space tax increase
Funding threatened for NJ open space payment in lieu of taxes program

Texas
Travis County looking at November bond which includes open space funding

Virginia
Governor outlines open space, farmland and forestry initiatives for 2011

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It’s time to mount a personal climate response

July 13, 2010

Close-to-home produce, Santa Fe Farmers Market - Photo: William Poole

It has been a tough few months for Americans who love the land. Scenes of the oil spill in the Gulf have brought the consequences of our fossil fuel economy deep into our hearts. Congressional gridlock on comprehensive climate change legislation-despite evidence of mounting climate shifts-has frustrated our hopes for a new energy course that would protect our land and water and slow the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

It is easy to be discouraged in the face of environmental catastrophe and political stalemate.  But there are small steps each of us can take while we wait for government’s big strides.  Instead of meditating on this national moment of dismay, every American should refocus on the energy and climate solutions that we all have at hand, right now, and work to create the change that we seek.  

Ultimately, slowing climate change will require government-led solutions that shift our energy infrastructure to a new model.  But our energy use and related environmental impacts are also driven by individual daily choices.  For example, you can ride your bike to work instead of driving.  Or I can eat lettuce grown in my own backyard rather than on the other side of the country.  It is these kinds of small actions, repeated billions of times over, that will be needed to solve our energy and climate crisis.  

These personal actions also have political consequences.  As someone who works in Washington D.C. but travels the country regularly, I see how the political mood in the nation’s capital moves in a shadowy dance with what is happening in our cities, towns, and rural landscapes.  The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway right now is that America has given up on a comprehensive energy and climate change response as too confusing, uncertain, and expensive.  Each one of us can help change this political mood by showing through our actions that we understand the problem and are ready to do what it takes.  

So if you feel despair right now at our inability to tackle energy and climate, this is the time to become the change you seek through personal action.  Talk about it to your friends and neighbors and ask them to join you—start the toppling dominoes of personal action. 

While you’re putting up a clothesline or screwing in high-efficiency light bulbs, TPL will continue to advocate for a comprehensive energy and climate change response from Washington.  And we will also continue doing our part to make a difference right now by developing land conservation projects that expand biking and walking opportunities in America’s cities and towns, sequester millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in newly restored native forests, and help protect our drinking water supplies and coastal areas from scientifically identified climate threats.  

None of us need to wait for government action before getting to work on our own personal energy and climate solutions.  The tipping point for national and even international action is closer than you think, and now is the time to push.  See you on the bike path! 

Editor’s Note: Jad Daley is the director of TPL’s Climate Conservation Program. 

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Washington Watch, May 19

May 20, 2010

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Periodically, the folks in TPL’s Federal Affairs department prepare a summary of conservation news from the nation’s capitol. The Washington Watch newsletter is available on the Web or by free email subscription.

New Climate Change Legislation Introduced in US Senate
Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released their long-awaited Senate climate change bill on Wednesday, May 12. The new proposal is a significant departure from previous climate bills, and has drawn and unprecedented level of industry support as well as broad support from the environmental community and other interests. Despite very significant political hurdles, the bill is in serious play due to this unusual level of industry support, driven in part by impending EPA regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act that will occur in 2011 if climate legislation does not pass. Most regulated entities fear EPA regulation more than cap and trade!
Details here

Childhood Obesity Task Force Unveils Action Plan
The Childhood Obesity Task Force, established through First lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, just released its report Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation. The report includes 70 specific recommendations, with some very encouraging words related to city parks and their connection to the health and well being of children.
Details here

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Tackling Climate Change in Louisiana

November 17, 2009

Tesas River National Wildlife Refuge - Photo:Chris Granger

There are three ways that conservation can help address the climate crisis.  Conserved natural lands can help mitigate climate change by absorbing greenhouse gasses from the air.  Conservation can help humans and wildlife adapt to climate changes that are already underway.  And parks and greenways can help shape more densely populated, energy-efficient communities.  This tripartite approach–mitigation, adaptation, and climate-smart communities–is at the heart of TPL’s own Climate Conservation Program.)

Natural lands conservation along the Gulf Coast offers a chance to use several of these approaches at once, according to Don Morrow, one of TPL’s most experienced project managers in the Southeast.  I had a chance to talk with Don this morning in connection with a story I am working on for the spring issue of TPL’s Land&People magazine.

Don Morrow - Photo: Anne Nelson

Several years ago, Don began working on a project at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Louisiana, where in the 1930s and 40s much of the native hardwood forests were stripped to grow cotton, soybeans, and other crops. The goal was to reforest this land for addition to the wildlife refuge.  And because rich, swampy bottomland is an ideal place for growing trees, a lot of carbon would be absorbed from the atmosphere and locked up in the forests as they grew–more than 3 million tons over seventy years.  Some of the money for the project came from electric utilities that purchased carbon credits to be used in any future carbon market.  An article in the fall 2007 issue of Land&People described this work in more detail.

Now Don is exploring similar work around Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, near Franklin, Louisiana, which TPL helped to create in 2001.  The primary purpose of that refuge is to conserve habitat for the endangered Louisiana black bear.  TPL hopes to enlarge this habitat by replanting forests long ago cleared to grow sugar cane and adding them to the refuge.  Like the project at Tensas, this one will absorb significant carbon.  But because Bayou Teche is right on the coast, the work will also help reduce the effect of coastal storms associated with a warming climate.

“Trees grow relatively quickly in this climate, so we get good carbon numbers that make it financially viable to sell carbon credits,” Don says.

But at Bayou Teche, the work will also be about conserving the coast from wind and water.  “Open salt marsh doesn’t stop those,” Don says.  “But if you put trees into the equation, it all changes.  Trees slow the wind and soak up the storm surge.” 

Across coastal Louisiana, clearing of land and loss of forests has exposed natural and human communities to a kind of terror from the sea such as was experienced during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Replanting those forests will not only help mitigate for climate change by absorbing carbon, but will help protect the land from future storms made more powerful by a warming climate.

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