This is our latest monthly newsletter with information about news and developments on climate disruption and its impacts and on climate action in the West. You can sign up for our newsletter, which is sent out by email, by sending your own email to email@example.com. To see more, previous newsletters, continue clicking on "Next" on the bottom right of this and subsequent pages.
Methane Emissions and Natural Gas-Coal Comparisons
Amid the controversy in Rocky Mountain West communities and beyond about hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations are unresolved questions about the climate impacts of methane escaping from natural gas production and distribution. In its recently released Natural Gas and Climate Change report, Climate Central demonstrates that while it has been widely reported that shifting from coal to gas in electricity generation will provide a 50 percent reduction in heat-trapping emissions, the reality is that the actual number depends largely on three factors: the assumed methane leakage rate (which has been reported anywhere from 1 percent to 8 percent or more), how much time has passed after making the switch, and the rate at which coal plants are converted to gas. Climate Central has developed an interactive graphic in which different rates can be plugged in for all three factors. The report concludes that at best, it would be decades before switching to natural gas from coal could bring a 50 percent reduction.
News about RMCO and Partners
News about RMCO
The update of Colorado’s inventory of heat-trapping gases, reported in our May newsletter and featured at an April 30 Colorado Climate Network workshop organized by RMCO, is covered by the Summit County Citizens Voice. Colorado’s Greenhouse gas inventory update nearly done, May 28, 2013.
RMCO’s 2012 report with the Natural Resources Defense Council documenting how much heavy precipitation has increased in the Midwest, Doubled Trouble: More Midwestern Extreme Storms, is cited as a source linking flooding to climate change – but ignored by the media in this spring’s coverage of Midwest floods. Study: Media ignore climate context of Midwest floods, Media Matters, May 7, 2013.
News about RMCO Partners
Western Resource Advocates creates an informative interactive map of the Colorado River Basin, with layers featuring important issues facing the basin and links to key river flow gauges.
News about Climate Action
National Climate Policies
More than 100 ski areas sign climate declaration, calling for U.S. policy action on climate change, press release, May 29, 2013. Many of the West’s best-known ski areas are among those joining 40 other businesses and Ceres, an advocate for sustainability leadership in the business world, in signing a Climate Declaration calling upon federal policymakers “to seize the American economic opportunity of addressing climate change.”
Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies
Hickenlooper signs bill to double rural renewable-energy requirement, Denver Post, June 6, 2013. SB 13-252 raises Colorado’s renewable energy standard (RES) from 10 to 20 percent by 2020 for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Co., the supplier for most of the state’s rural electric cooperatives. Tri-State and the Colorado Rural Electric Association had waged a highly visible media campaign urging a veto. In an unusual maneuver, Hickenlooper also issued an Executive Order directing an advisory committee to determine if the 2020 deadline and the law’s two percent cap on consumer price increases are reasonable and implementable. Previously passed laws setting the RES at 30 percent for investor-owned utilities and at 10 percent for municipal utilities were unchanged. See also the press release from the Office of the Governor.
Xcel proposes adding more wind power to its system, Denver Post, May 30, 2013. Low price, and not Colorado’s renewable energy standard, is Xcel’s driving factor for adding 550 megawatts of new wind power, which would result in 30 percent of the company’s power coming from wind by 2016, earlier than required by the state law.
Lafayette pushes forward on creating ballot measures on Xcel franchise agreement, Boulder Daily Camera, May 21, 2013. A nearby Colorado city takes note of the City of Boulder’s electricity municipalization efforts and begins to consider its own approach to getting more renewables in its energy supply.
Xcel Energy seeks power from forest waste in Colorado, Denver Post, May 20, 2013. Xcel proposes to seek bids for up to megawatts from forest biomass gasification demonstration projects developed by independent power producers.
Nearly 100% of new California electricity to be solar, REneweconomy, May 17, 2013. Nearly all of the new power that will be added to the California grid during the second half of 2013 will be solar energy; the remainder is from biomass sources.
A powerful use for spoiled food, Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2013. Food waste, said to contribute as much as 25 percent of landfill methane, is being converted to energy by the Kroger Co. in California.
Idaho Power will invest in coal, for now, Idaho Statesman, May 17, 2013. Idaho Power Co. weighs the costs and benefits of investing in a new natural gas plant against paying for pollution controls in five Wyoming and Nevada coal-fired plants in which it is part owner.
States dependent on Colorado River consider conservation effort, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2013. Apparently taking to heart the shortages projected in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Supply & Demand Study, officials of the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation announce the establishment of three inter-state committees to devise plans for conservation, possibly including water reuse, desalination, water banking, and the sale of water from farms to cities.
Hickenlooper directs Colorado agencies to create water plan, Denver Business Journal, May 15, 2013. The governor issues an Executive Order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to lead development of the state’s first-ever state water plan in collaboration with other state agencies and stakeholders, due for completion by December 2015. Conspicuously absent from the executive order is any mention of climate change, the biggest driver of the state’s water challenges.
Cabinet secretaries vow to find money to fight fires, Idaho Statesman, May 14, 2013. Already stretched federal agency firefighting budgets to pursue the traditional fire suppression approach are getting whacked by budget sequestration.
News about Climate Disruption
Aspen-area snowmelt bites the dust, Aspen Times, June 5, 2013. In recent years, researchers have found that dust blown in from Southwest deserts acts as an accelerant for snowmelt - a double whammy to the hydrologic cycle when combined with drought and heat from the changing climate. Dust deposition was particularly heavy this year.
Spruce beetles on the rise, Telluride News, May 29, 2013. At a Telluride forest health summit, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist says that spruce beetle infestations are rising, and if hot and dry conditions persist, up to 90 percent of the state’s 3.4 million acres of spruce forest could be killed.
Dry year spells trouble for valley irrigators and Wildfire danger rising in Bitterroot, Ravalli Republic, June 6 and May 14, 2013. In western Montana, low precipitation and hot early spring temperatures team up to reduce water supplies and elevate fire risk.
Drought, climate change, forest practices elevate Utah’s wildfire risk, Salt Lake Tribune, June 4, 2013. Utah State University researchers say that drought, combined with an altered water cycle from more precipitation falling as rain than snow and with fire suppression, make an active wildfire season likely this year.
Climate change and wildfire, Science Daily, May 21, 2013. Flipping the normal direction of a causal link, some researchers are focusing on how wildfire affects climate, such as through radiative forcings and carbon dioxide emissions.
Wildfire smoke a rising health concern with climate change, Huffington Post, June 5, 2013. Last year in central Washington state, smoke from wildfires caused respiratory impacts.
Migrating elk dwindling because of climate change, predators, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, June 5, 2013. Researchers attribute declining numbers in an elk herd that migrates between central Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park to lowered reproduction caused by climate change and other factors.
Climate change study: 82 percent of California native fish species risk extinction, Sacramento Bee, May 30, 2013. A study by University of California-Davis researchers finds that, of 121 native fish species, 82 percent are at risk, but only 19 percent of the 50 non-native fish species in the state. See also World’s fish have been moving to cooler waters for decades, study finds, Washington Post, May 15, 2013.
Resource of the Month
Wildfire, Wildlands, and People: Understanding and Preparing for Wildfire in the Wildland-Urban Interface
Climate change and other influences are contributing to vast changes in wildland vegetation that in many areas result in landscapes that are drier, less resilient, and more likely to burn once ignited. This 2013 U.S. Forest Service report is intended to heighten awareness of the ecological role and societal costs of wildfire, the causes and impacts of wildfire on human communities, and the relationship between increases in housing development and wildfire risk. Some 32 percent of U.S. housing units and one-tenth of all land with housing are situated in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), and growth is expected to continue, making WUI fire management more complex and costly. The report includes maps identifying WUI areas in the U.S. and where structures have already been lost to wildfire. Resources and case studies describe options to make communities more “fire-adapted.”
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Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: firstname.lastname@example.org