Working to keep the West special

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 admin@rockymountainclimate.org. To see more, previous newsletters, continue clicking on "Next" on the bottom right of this and subsequent pages.

 
 

April 2014

Featured Item
What We Know about Climate Change

The best summary of climate change for general audiences, in the opinion of RMCO, is a newly released report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, What we know: The reality, risks, and response to climate change. Its 28 pages express and explain, in a comprehensive, accurate, readable, and persuasive way, messages that we highly recommend to the readers of this newsletter for their communications to the public. This is now our go-to document to recommend to others. Its top-line messages include:

  • Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now. And it’s going to get worse.
  • Given the high stakes, it is valuable to understand not just what is most likely to happen, but what might possibly happen to our climate. We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
  • The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do. We've successfully faced environmental challenges before. There's much we can do to respond to the challenge and risks of climate change, particularly by tapping America's strength in innovation.

News about RMCO and Partners  

News about RMCO Partners

Western Resource Advocates announces that Jon Goldin-Dubois, a veteran of the Colorado nonprofit world, is its new president, effective June 1.

The Vail Town Council approves an ordinance that mandates recycling and makes noncompliance a civil offense. Town of Vail passes recycling requirements, Vail Daily, March 18, 2014.

News about Climate Disruption

Drought

For southeast Colorado, a new dust bowl is blowing in, Denver Post, April 6, 2014. Four years of drought exceed the dryness of the 1930s Dust Bowl years in the same region, according to the state climatologist.

Drying up the delta: 19th century policies underlie today's crises, Los Angeles Times, March 22, 2014. Even as some irrigators and environmental flows for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta face little to no water from the State Water Project because of drought restrictions, some upstream senior water rights holders will fare much better. See also For Imperial Valley farmers, abundant water amid drought, Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2014.

Water

Winds produce dust on crust on Aspen slopes, Aspen Times, April 1, 2014. A major dust-on-snow event is reported in Aspen. The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies reports five dust events so far during the 2013-14 winter, consistent with previous recent winters, with more events likely before snowmelt ends. The Center’s studies show the dust deposits absorb the sun’s radiant energy into the snowpack, causing it to melt quicker, often before it can be used for irrigation or stored in reservoirs.

Snow survey program forecasts big water year for Colorado, Denver Post, March 19, 2014. The traditional manual measurement shows snow and water content at the headwaters of the Colorado River at 143% of the historic median in mid-March. But the Natural Resources Conservation Service says that April 1 readings from 91 automated sites in the entire Upper Colorado River Basin are showing snow water equivalent at a more modest 110% of the 30-year median.

Ecosystems

Climate change causing plants to flower earlier, recent research shows, Casper Star-Tribune, March 25, 2014. High mountain flowers in the Rocky Mountains are blooming up to a month earlier than they did 40 years ago, according to on-going research conducted by University of Maryland professor David Inouye at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory outside Crested Butte, Colorado. Earlier blooms are susceptible to killing frosts and can create mismatches in timing for pollination by bees and hummingbirds.

Wildlife

A USGS study modeling the current and future breeding ranges of seven bird and five reptile species in the Southwest with sets of landscape, plant, and climatic variables finds two bird species face possible extinction and up to 40 percent habitat loss for three of the reptiles.

Heat-Trapping Emissions

Heat-trapping gas concentrations top 400 ppm, two months earlier than last year, NOAA news release, March 21, 2014. Carbon dioxide levels at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii surpassed 400 parts per million two months earlier than last year, when the milestone was first reached. Researchers estimate concentrations will hit 402 ppm this year and continue to rise by about 2 ppm per year.

Methane emissions to increase with global warming, Nature World News, March 27, 2014. Princeton researchers find that methane emissions from freshwater systems (e.g., lakes, swamps, marshes, and rice paddies) will likely rise with the global temperature, and at a greater relative rate to carbon dioxide increases from the same sources. See also Princeton Journal Watch, March 26, 2014.

Heat

Long-term warming likely to be significant despite recent slowdown, NASA Research News, March 11, 2014. A new analysis by NASA researchers finds that previous calculations on the effects of climate forcing, including in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, were underestimated because the effects of atmospheric aerosols and ozone were not accurately taken into account.

News about Climate Action 

Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies

Casper meeting aims to resolve science standards debate, Casper Star-Tribune, April 6, 2014. The Wyoming Board of Education considers what to do about the state legislature’s ban on using state funds to adopt national science standards that affirm human-caused climate disruption.

April brings California electricity 'climate credit’, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 30, 2014. Californians get their first bi-yearly electricity bill credits, a provision from the state cap-and-trade law on use of the proceeds from pollution permit auctions.

Public Opinion

Americans still favor energy conservation over production and A steady 57% in U.S. blame humans for global warming, Gallup Politics, April 2, 2014 and March 18, 2014. Gallup polling continues to show consistent strong support for energy conservation, renewables, and controls on carbon pollution. But just 57% of respondents say rising temperatures are due more to pollution from human activities than from natural causes. RMCO notes that other polls often show fewer than half of Americans believe that humans are changing the climate.

Clean Energy

Rocky Mountain Power to build first solar farm in Utah, Salt Lake Tribune, March 29, 2014. New thermal solar projects by some of the state’s largest power producers may help the state to start moving up from its 11th out of 13 rating for renewables among western states.

Fossil Fuels

Black Hills Corp. closes coal unit at Wyodak Neil Simpson complex in Gillette, Casper Star-Tribune, March 25, 2014. The 22-megawatt plant is the first of three older coal plants that the company is replacing in 2014 with power from a new natural gas plant.

Natural gas may be the future at Utah's giant coal plant, Deseret News, March 24, 2014. The 1800-megawatt Intermountain Power Project, one of the nation’s largest, may get a billion-dollar natural gas makeover in response to California’s laws banning coal power imports.

Preparedness

Experts say climate change is increasing wildfire dangers, Cronkite News Service, April 6, 2014. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute stages a congressional briefing, Drier and Hotter: Managing Climate Risks in the Southwest, featuring speakers from the Colorado River District, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Walton Family Foundation.

Land managers unprepared for effects of climate change on Crown of Continent, Missoulian, March 19, 2014. Public land managers, university researchers, and non-profit stakeholders explore what is needed to prepare for the daunting array of climate change risks facing the Crown of the Continent ecosystem in northwest Montana and British Columbia.

The Environmental Defense Fund releases Weathering Change, a report on an October 2013 forum for Colorado business leaders to talk about how changing weather patterns and climate trends are already beginning to affect their enterprises, and what the state should be doing to protect its economy in the face of these challenges.

Water

NASA measures snowpack in California, Colorado, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 24, 2014. NASA starts up a program to measure mountain snowpacks with airplanes fitted with high-tech equipment to measure snow depth to within 4 inches and water content to within 5 percent, said to likely be much more accurate than the traditional manual measurements by snow surveyors.

Wildlife

Grizzly delisting process likely to start this fall, Jackson Hole News & Guide, March 28, 2014. The federal government’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, after having determined that the grizzly bears of the Yellowstone Ecosystem are not threatened by the on-going decimation of whitebark pines and their nuts - a major food source - and that their bear counting methods are sound, is proceeding with the required analyses for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to again propose taking this population off the list as a threatened species. See our March, February, and January newsletters for additional coverage.

‘We Have the Most to Lose’, Flathead Beacon, March 26, 2014. An avid hunter and angler founds the non-profit Conservation Hawks, aiming to alert sportsmen to the threats climate disruption poses to their heritage.

National Climate Policies

White House unveils plans to cut methane emissions, New York Times, March 28, 2014. A multi-agency strategy will tackle control of the potent heat-trapping gas from oil and gas operations, coal mines, landfills, and cattle yards. See also the White House Blog on the strategy.

Resource of the Month

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability
Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Released on March 31, a new report from Working Group II of the IPCC details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. Produced by 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors from 70 countries, the report says the effects of climate change are already occurring worldwide but less-developed countries are for the most part ill-prepared to deal with them. The report places special emphasis on managing those risks, but says that unless efforts are made to avoid high levels of increasing temperatures many risks will be difficult, if not impossible, to manage. The Working Group I report (the Physical Science Basis) was released in September 2013, and the Working Group III report assessing the options for mitigating climate change will be released in April 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle concludes with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.

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Suggestions and comments are welcome!

Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: saunders@rockymountainclimate.org
Tom Easley, RMCO director of programs: easley@rockymountainclimate.org
Bob Berwyn, RMCO director of communications: berwyn@rockymountainclimate.org
Suzanne Farver, RMCO director of outreach: farver@rockymountainclimate.org

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