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.
On February 3, the City of Fort Collins and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization released a new report, Extreme Heat in Fort Collins, prepared for the city by RMCO. The report documents recent increases in hot days and heat waves and projects their future levels. The annual rates of both 95° days and three straight 90° days have tripled so far this century, compared to 1961-1999. For most years of this century, those rates exceeded the corresponding rates in 1934, the year with the highest statewide average temperature in Colorado. In the future, these hot days and heat waves will be even more common, especially if emissions continue increasing on their current path.
Below is an example of the data from the report, for three straight 90° days. For 2046-65 and 2081-2100, projections are shown based on lower and medium-high future emissions of heat-trapping pollution. For these future periods, the solid boxes show the middle half of the projections, the solid lines the averages, and the dashed extensions the ranges from the 10 th to 90 th percentiles. Future heat waves would be much less frequent with lower emissions, demonstrating how important it is to limit heat-trapping pollution.
One of the reasons that more extreme heat matters is that in the last decade more Americans died from the effects of excessive heat than from any other weather-related cause, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods.
The report also includes new information identifying the linkage of extreme heat to Colorado’s most destructive wildfires in the past two years, which all began on very hot days, including the High Park fire west of Fort Collins in 2012, and the Black Forest (2013) and Waldo Canyon (2012) fires near Colorado Springs.
For more information and a more complete explanation of the analyses, see the RMCO website here.For media coverage, see Fort Collins summers heating up, Coloradoan, February 10, 2014, and Louisville-based climate group tracks surging summer heat, Boulder Daily Camera, February 8, 2014.
News about RMCO and Partners
News about RMCO Partners
The City of Boulder starts a new program to get very detailed information on energy use in the city. Boulder to track energy use in 50 homes, 25 businesses over next 2 years, Daily Camera, January 25, 2014.
The City of Fort Collins prepares to begin service on its new $87 million system bus rapid transit system through a central part of the city. MAX buses to begin practice routes through Fort Collins, Coloradoan, February 6, 2014.
Western Resource Advocates releases A Toolkit for Community Clean Energy Programs, which is intended for use by community organizations to advance energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy, and includes specific tools to prepare proposals for funding and to design and implement clean energy projects.
News about Climate Disruption
Amid drought, California agency won't allot water, Sacramento Bee, Feb. 1, 2014 and California snowpack hits record low, Los Angeles Times, January 31, 2014. With mountain snowpack measurements at 12 percent of average and the lowest for the date in more than a half-century of record keeping, California water officials announce they won't send any water from the vast State Water Project reservoirs to local agencies beginning this spring, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland. Agricultural users in California and Nevada are hit particularly hard (see California drought a 'train wreck' for Central Valley farms, San Francisco Chronicle, February 8, 2014, and Drought thinning the herd of ranchers in Nevada, AlJazeera America, February 8, 2014).
Carbon footprint maps reveal urban-suburban divide, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 14, 2014. University of California, Berkeley researchers confirm in a study the tendency for core city centers to have significantly lower carbon footprints than their surrounding suburbs. Regional differences around the country are also examined.
Extreme Weather and Climate Events
Record number of billion-dollar disasters globally in 2013, Climate Central, Feb. 5, 2014. According to a report recently released by a reinsurance group, 41 weather events caused $1 billion or more in damage in 2013, one more than the previous record set in 2010. In this country, the company counted nine events – not a record, but above the 10-year average of six per year.
The Colorado State Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service release their annual joint aerial survey, indicating that the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and sudden aspen decline have both slowed dramatically, while the spruce beetle outbreak continues to expand. Mountain pine beetles were active on 97,000 acres in 2013, bringing the total to 3.4 million acres since 1996. Spruce beetles expanded activity to 398,000 acres and have affected 1.1 million acres since 1996.
In the American West, a battle unfolds over bugs, climate change and the fate of an iconic species, Huffington Post, January 31, 2014. As covered in our January newsletter, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in December recommended that grizzly bears of the Yellowstone Ecosystem be delisted from their threatened species status, partly on their finding that the whitebark pines (the nuts of which contribute significantly to the bears’ diet) look to be rebounding from mountain pine beetle infestations. This past summer a field study team led by Jesse Logan, a renowned entomologist and whitebarks expert, found that, on the contrary, over half of whitebarks studied had recent infestations, an indication of “ . . insidious, chronic mortality, that, if you add it up over time, is no less threatening to the whitebarks.”
Climate change will force crop adjustments in Pacific Northwest, Twin Falls Times-News, January 12, 2014. Researchers from three universities find that even though farmers in the Pacific Northwest won’t feel the effects of climate change as much as their counterparts in southern regions, the projected shift to more winter precipitation but hotter and drier summers means they will need to adjust their cropping strategies, particularly for dryland wheat.
Recreation and Tourism
The end of snow?, New York Times, February 9, 2014 and Winter Olympics: Downhill forecast, Nature, February 4, 2014. Amid the Winter Olympics media coverage are some cautionary notes about the future of winter sports.
News about Climate Action
Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies
State oil and gas industries speak up on proposed air quality rules, Denver Post, January 7, 2014. This month Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission will hear extensive testimony about its landmark proposal to make Colorado the first state to directly regulate emissions of the potent heat-trapping gas methane from oil and gas production facilities. The proposed regulations were developed with extensive multi-interest stakeholder input, and while mainly aimed at controlling volatile organic compounds that are ozone precursors, they also have the effect of controlling leaking methane. Reportedly some in the industry are questioning the authority of the state to regulate one specific industry’s heat-trapping emissions.
Majority of Hispanics want action on climate, The Hill, January 23, 2014. One poll finds that for the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, “Action on climate change is a very high priority — regardless of age, income, party affiliation, or where they live.”
Firm seeks to harness Wyoming's wind energy for California, Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2014. The Anschutz Corporation is planning a 3,000 megawatt wind farm on 500 square miles near Rawlings, as well as a new 750-mile transmission line to California, at prices it claims will be far below what could be produced in California.
Solar on a grand scale: Big power plants coming online in the West, Washington Post, January 16, 2014. According to the Edison Electric Institute 232 utility-size solar plants are under construction, in testing, or granted permits, many in the Southwest and California. The largest yet, the Ivanpah plant in the Mojave desert, is now undergoing testing and is expected to come on line early this year.
U.S. solar jobs grow 20% to more than 142,000 last year, Bloomberg, January 28, 2014. A Solar Foundation survey of more than 15,000 employers found nearly 24,000 jobs were added in the last year, and that growth is projected at about 16 percent for the coming year.
Seattle building owners poised to save millions, Energy Manager Today, January 10, 2014. The city issues a new report that shows the results of reporting required by a city benchmarking ordinance from 2,600 commercial property owners: If all the highest energy users improved to the average level of efficiency for their building type, owners would save a combined $55 million on utility bills each year and lower annual energy use by an average of 25 percent; if these same buildings matched the energy efficiency levels of the best performing buildings in their class, savings would surpass $90 million each year and annual energy use would decline an average 42 percent.
Flood damage may hurt ability to fight fires, Coloradoan, February 7, 2014. An indicator of the types of challenges that a changed climate pose: Colorado’s devastating floods of September 2013, among many other impacts, damaged forest roads that are needed to fight wildfires, particularly in the wildland-urban interface.
Exporting the Colorado River to Asia, through hay, National Geographic Daily News, January 14, 2014. A University of Arizona water policy researcher takes note that hay crops, formerly reliable local low-value crops, have become global commodities, some irrigated by the chronically water-short Colorado River. For example, one calculation is that in 2012, roughly 50 billion gallons of western water—enough to supply the annual household needs of half a million families—were exported to China alone embedded in alfalfa crops grown with irrigation water.
Research survey does not support logging as beetle outbreak remedy, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, February 3, 2014. Researchers, in a study about the effectiveness of forest treatments in countering pine beetle attacks, find there has been a dearth of monitoring to assess outcomes, that a hotter and drier climate can often overwhelm treatment effectiveness, and that few studies have focused on how these treatments affect long-term forest structure and forests’ ability to adapt to climate change.
USDA chief: Climate change already hurting farmers, Associated Press, February 5, 2014. Warning that climate change is already hurting American farmers and rural residents, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announces seven new "climate hubs" will open in regions across the U.S., acting as clearinghouses for data and research about regional local climate risks, such as drought and wildfire, then develop plans for dealing with them, such as improved irrigation techniques. Three of the new hubs are in the West.
Resources of the Month
Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Washington State: Technical Summaries for Decision Makers
The report does an excellent job of concisely summarizing existing knowledge about the likely effects of climate change on Washington State, with an emphasis on research since 2007. It provides technical summaries detailing observed and projected changes for the state’s climate, water resources, forests, species and ecosystems, coasts and ocean, infrastructure, agriculture, and human health in an easy-to-read summary format designed to complement the foundational literature from which it draws. Particularly good is its analysis of the application of the IPCC’s new representative concentration pathways (RCPs), compared to the previous SRES scenarios. The report also describes climate change adaptation activities underway across the state and data resources available to support local adaptation efforts.
2013 Integrated Energy Policy Report
The Commission releases its assessment of key energy issues facing California. One major finding is that to meet energy needs of a growing population and a recovering economy in the face of climate change and loss of power plants in Southern California, the state must find ways to significantly scale two preferred resources—energy efficiency and demand response.
It also takes into account the possibility of future electricity shortfalls under a hotter climate, particularly during heat waves and cold snaps. For the first time, the 2013 IEPR looked at the impact climate change will have on electricity and natural gas consumption, in addition to electricity peak demand.
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Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: firstname.lastname@example.org