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Will California’s ‘atmospheric river’ storms end the drought?

Grist - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 03:45

For the past three years, California has been suffering under the worst drought in state history. Key reservoirs have bottomed out, farmers have left their fields unplanted, and cities have forced residents to let their lawns go brown.

Now the state’s weather has taken a violent swing in the other direction. A series of powerful “atmospheric river” storms — so called because they look like horizontal streams of moisture flowing in from the Pacific — have brought record-breaking precipitation to the Golden State over the last two weeks, dropping almost a foot of rain in the San Francisco Bay Area, overwhelming the state’s rivers, and bringing several feet of snow to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the eastern part of the state. The storms have caused widespread devastation, destroying critical roadways in the Bay Area and killing at least five people.

Though it has come at a tremendous cost, the past few weeks of rain have helped to refill the reservoirs that supply much of the state’s water, and snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada are now well above their average levels for this time of year, meaning that major rivers will be much more robust after the snow melts in the spring. Barring a major dropoff, this year will be much wetter than the last few. 

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Jered Shipley, the general manager of the Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District, which provides water to pasture owners in the northern part of the state. “It gets us on track.” Shipley’s district takes water from Lake Shasta, the state’s largest reservoir, which all but bottomed out during the drought but has started to rebound over the past month.

If the reservoirs fill up as predicted, that will be great news for farmers and cities up and down the state, from Chico all the way to San Diego. Come spring and summer they’ll release the stored-up precipitation to cattle ranchers, nut farmers, and local water utilities around the state, ending a three-year spell of privation.

“To put it very bluntly, it’s been total devastation,” said Shipley. “This drought was a natural disaster. You may not have seen apartment buildings on fire or communities underwater, but [there were] displaced families, migrant workers not having jobs, businesses closing because nobody needed to service their tractors, feed stores closing.”

Even if 2023 does end up a wet year, it won’t prevent an ongoing water crisis, because surface precipitation is only one pillar supporting the state’s water needs. Since the reservoirs can’t hold more than a year of water, officials don’t have the option of holding it back to conserve for future years. And the other two pillars ensuring regular water availability in the Golden State — groundwater and the Colorado River — are facing crises that even a wet year won’t fix.

“This will fill our reservoirs, so that’s the good news,” said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, who studies atmospheric rivers and their impact on California’s water. “But we have been in a really dry period for the last 20 years, and that hasn’t come to an end yet.”

A false-color satellite image shows the flooding caused by an “atmospheric river” rain event that struck California around New Year’s Day. NASA Earth Observatory

In the agriculture-heavy Central Valley, for instance, many farmers rely on water deliveries from a federal canal that funnels water westward from the Sierra Nevada. But households in this area also depend on groundwater withdrawn from underground aquifers, and recent research shows that these aquifers are drying up at an alarming rate. This dropoff has led to a surge in the number of dried-up wells in recent years and has forced some towns to rely on deliveries of bottled water.  

A deluge of snow may help recharge the reservoirs that supply major Central Valley irrigators, but it won’t refill the underground aquifers in the region, in part because most valley communities don’t have the ability to store excess water. In other parts of the country like Arizona, officials can bank water from wet years in underground aquifers, but any extra rainfall in the Central Valley just gets lost.

Cities in the Los Angeles metropolitan area face a similar two-pronged challenge. The region gets about a third of its water from the State Water Project, a canal system that diverts water from the reservoirs in the northern part of the state, and these deliveries have declined in recent years, forcing some cities to make drastic cuts. 

The current bout of rain will help fill up those reservoirs, but the rest of the water used by these cities comes from the Colorado River, which snakes through the arid western United States. The river’s two main reservoirs in Nevada and Arizonaare both in danger of bottoming out this year, and the federal government may soon slash California’s water allotment to stop that from happening. The rainfall from this week’s atmospheric river event won’t do anything to alleviate that crisis, although it will make the most dire scenarios for Los Angeles much less likely.

“Our focus tends to be on filling of surface reservoirs, and everybody declares the drought over,” said Mount. “That’s just fundamentally wrong.”

Read Next Snow loss is fueling the West’s megadrought

Atmospheric river storms like the one that struck California this week account for as much as half of all West Coast precipitation even in normal years, which makes them critical for bringing the region out of prolonged drought periods. The most recent forecasts suggest that this year’s wetter trend will persist through the winter, but there’s still a small chance that “the door slams shut,” as Mount puts it, and rain stops altogether. The northern Sierras also saw high precipitation totals in November and December of 2021, but then the rain flatlined in January and February of last year, leaving the state well short of average rainfall.

“It doesn’t look like that right now,” Mount told Grist. “None of the models I’m aware of are saying that it’s going to stop.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Will California’s ‘atmospheric river’ storms end the drought? on Jan 5, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

È tempo di ridare potere ai sindacati europei

Green European Journal - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 03:33

La crisi del costo della vita ha colpito proprio in un momento storico in cui le organizzazioni europee dei lavoratori vivono una condizione di fragilità. Ridare fiato ai movimenti sindacali e alle istituzioni di contrattazione collettiva è il solo modo per permettere ai cittadini di far fronte all’inflazione in crescita. In un clima di grande incertezza politica, la solidarietà sindacale potrebbe rappresentare un baluardo contro il ritorno dell’estrema destra.

Il salario reale, per i lavoratori europei meno ben pagati, è sceso ben del 19 per cento nel 2022, mentre la diminuzione dei salari minimi reali (stimata in media al 4,8 per cento) è la più grave degli ultimi cento anni. Nel frattempo, nei notiziari si susseguono previsioni di contrazioni economiche e perdite di posti di lavoro. Il Fondo Monetario Internazionale avverte che la recessione mondiale non risparmierà l’Europa, mentre la Banca Mondiale ha annunciato che l’obiettivo iniziale di cancellare la povertà a livello globale entro il 2030 appare ora irrealistico.

Finora, l’estrema destra è riuscita a trarre profitto da quasi tutte le crisi attuali. In Italia, il partito post-fascista Fratelli d’Italia guidato da Giorgia Meloni è salito al governo, forte della promessa di contrastare l’aumento del costo della vita. In Svezia, Paese faro della socialdemocrazia, i Democratici svedesi (partito che affonda le proprie radici nel neonazismo) sono entrati a far parte del nuovo governo di destra. Nella capitale rumena Bucarest si è assistito a raduni di estrema destra, mentre in Repubblica Ceca vi sono state grosse manifestazioni contro la NATO e l’UE. Diversi sondaggi transnazionali hanno rivelato una preoccupazione crescente delle persone per i disordini sociali causati dall’aumento vertiginoso del costo della vita. Il 53 per cento degli intervistati britannici condividono queste preoccupazioni, mentre in Polonia la cifra sfiora il 75 per cento.

Tra inflazione e senso di abbandono generale, le istituzioni europee cercano di prendere provvedimenti il più rapidamente possibile per impedire che i cittadini cadano tra le braccia dei partiti estremisti. La Commissione europea ha insistito affinché fosse istituito un calmiere sui prezzi dell’energia e ha incoraggiato gli Stati membri a introdurre tasse sui profitti delle società. Malgrado le soluzioni che le istituzioni europee cercano di apportare, la loro voce è sovrastata da quella degli estremisti di destra determinati a sfruttare le paure e i pregiudizi della gente.

Lo scenario attuale appare poco rassicurante: nonostante il successo di iniziative quali Don’t Pay UK, che incoraggiava i cittadini a non pagare le fatture energetiche e ha spinto con la forza il governo conservatore britannico ad offrire maggiore supporto economico alle famiglie più colpite dalla crisi energetica, la fiducia e l’ottimismo delle persone sono fortemente compromessi.

In Romania saranno necessari sforzi importanti per mettere in contatto le unioni sindacali e i movimenti ambientalisti.

L’eredità delle crisi passate

L’ondata di misure di austerità imposte in seguito alla crisi economica del 2008 ha lasciato cicatrici profonde, che hanno compromesso le capacità di diversi Paesi di affrontare le crisi attuali e ridotto all’osso gli enti del servizio pubblico, tra cui la sanità. In Romania, il governo neoliberale ha chiuso 67 tra ospedali e cliniche nel 2011, mentre in Grecia il budget per la sanità è stato dimezzato dal 2009 al 2015.

Anche il dialogo sociale, processo tramite il quale sindacati, datori di lavoro e forze di governo collaborano, è tra le vittime della crisi. Nel 2011, il governo rumeno ha posto dei limiti ai contratti collettivi e al diritto allo sciopero, sciolto il contratto collettivo in vigore a livello nazionale e dichiarato che i sindacati sarebbero un ostacolo alla flessibilità della forza lavoro. I governi di Romania e Spagna hanno operato tagli sui salari e introdotto una legge che rende più semplice licenziare e sostituire i dipendenti. Questo tipo di misure segue le orme della Germania, in cui nei primi anni Duemila i sindacati sono stati depotenziati dall’introduzione di leggi sul lavoro flessibili.

Dal 2010, il numero di iscritti alle unioni sindacali è sceso del 15 per cento circa nei Paesi dell’Unione Europea, con casi estremi come quello della Romania, in cui il calo è stato di oltre il 37 per cento. Il raggio di copertura dei contratti collettivi è sceso in media del 10 per cento in tutta Europa; in particolare, Romania e Grecia hanno registrato un calo rispettivamente del 60 e del 55 per cento. Il declino dei contratti collettivi porta con sé stagnazione dei salari, diminuzione delle garanzie per i lavoratori e maggiori disuguaglianze salariali. Una delle conseguenze più evidenti è il fatto che sempre più persone percepiscono il salario minimo. In Romania, il numero di contratti di lavoro a retribuzione minima è arrivato nel 2020 a 1,7 milioni, rispetto ai 350 mila del 2011. In un contesto di crisi del costo della vita, questi numeri parlano da soli: c’è bisogno di contratti collettivi per migliorare le condizioni di vita.

Lo conferma il direttore del gruppo di ricerca Syndex Romania, Ștefan Guga: “I contratti collettivi dovrebbero avere un ruolo centrale, ma in Romania non è più così. Le discussioni ruotano principalmente intorno al salario minimo, senza tuttavia portare a vere soluzioni. Non essendoci un meccanismo chiaro per aumentare qualsiasi tipo di salario, il risultato è che un numero record di lavoratori riceverà la retribuzione minima”. Guga avverte anche che, senza una militanza attiva né riunioni dei lavoratori sul posto di lavoro, i contratti collettivi potrebbero non portare i risultati sperati. Sempre in Romania, per esempio, tutte le imprese con più di 21 dipendenti sono tenute legalmente a partecipare alla contrattazione collettiva, ma non vi è alcun obbligo di raggiungere un’intesa.

Dan Năstase, presidente della Federazione rumena dei lavoratori tessili, aggiunge che è spesso una questione di “box ticking” legale: “Le aziende invitano uno dei loro dipendenti nella sala riunioni e fanno finta di negoziare; in pratica, “danno il via alle trattative” senza tuttavia che queste portino a soluzioni tangibili”. Guga insiste su come questi processi fittizi di contrattazione collettiva siano spesso solo un modo per mantenere i salari bassi: “Stipulando un accordo lavorativo collettivo, le aziende evitano il problema dei lavoratori che chiedono contratti diversi”. I risultati dei contratti collettivi saranno necessariamente limitati se non vi è una reale organizzazione alla base, ma sia Guga che Năstase sono convinti che il dialogo tra sindacati e datori di lavoro sia l’unico modo per ottenere migliori salari e condizioni lavorative.

Verso un ritorno delle azioni collettive?

Il 2022 ha visto la crescita delle attività dei sindacati di tutta Europa. I lavoratori si sono mobilitati per chiedere un aumento dei salari e un ruolo più importante nella stipula dei contratti collettivi. In Belgio, Francia, Germania e Regno Unito hanno avuto luogo massicci scioperi in diversi settori, tra cui quelli dei trasporti e dell’energia. La Confederazione europea dei sindacati (CES), che raggruppa tutti i sindacati europei, ha organizzato varie manifestazioni e chiesto ai governi nazionali e alle istituzioni internazionali di rinforzare le unioni sindacali. Nei suoi comunicati, la CES esprime timore per nuovi periodi di austerità imminenti, e attribuisce la deteriorazione delle condizioni lavorative e dei salari reali ad una contrattazione collettiva debole.

Con l’ascesa dell’estrema destra, non si possono ignorare i benefici politici dati da unioni sindacali forti, non solo in quanto garanti dei miglioramenti salariali, ma anche nelle vesti di attori sociali. Nel Regno Unito, la Trades Union Congress (TUC, Federazione sindacale) ha organizzato campagne per protestare contro i progetti politici dell’estrema destra e proteggersi dalle infiltrazioni all’interno del movimento stesso. Dopo il risultato disastroso delle elezioni italiane, il presidente della CES Laurent Berger ha dichiarato: “I sindacati europei ed internazionali sono stati creati sulla base della solidarietà e del progressismo, valori all’antitesi dei partiti di estrema destra”.

Nel corso della storia, le unioni sindacali si sono opposte all’ascesa dell’estrema destra: basti pensare, per esempio, al sindacato Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), che si batté contro il razzismo negli Stati Uniti degli anni Dieci del Novecento, o all’opposizione dei sindacati italiani di sinistra all’epoca del fascismo. In entrambi i casi, le unioni sindacali finirono per essere schiacciate dal potere dello Stato. Negli Stati Uniti, più di cento tra i leader dell’IWW vennero incarcerati tramite l’Espionage Act del 1917, e il segretario generale e tesoriere Bill Haywood dovette fuggire in Unione Sovietica; in Italia, Mussolini usò violenza di Stato e repressione per dissolvere le organizzazioni sindacali. Nonostante l’opposizione dei sindacati a questi regimi non sia sopravvissuta alla repressione statale, le loro lotte sono la prova che costruire una società diversa è possibile.

La storia deve servire da lezione ad un’Europa che entra in una fase cupa, segnata da difficoltà economiche e dal conflitto in Ucraina, e resa ancora più incerta dall’ascesa dell’estrema destra. Viste le circostanze, i governi europei potrebbero rivolgersi ai sindacati non solo in qualità di rappresentanti dei lavoratori in lotta per migliori condizioni di vita, ma anche in quanto partecipanti attivi in grado di contrastare la disinformazione e di prendere posizione contro gli estremismi di destra. Se l’Europa dovesse scegliere, come fece durante l’ultima crisi economica, di allearsi una volta di più con il grande capitale, potrebbe non esserci via d’uscita dalla virata a destra a cui stiamo assistendo. La vittoria di Giorgia Meloni, cent’anni dopo la marcia su Roma, ne è un’ulteriore prova. FdI è riuscito ad attirare a sé i lavoratori con promesse ambigue e parole incoraggianti, senza però definire obiettivi tangibili.

In quest’epoca di crisi, governi e partiti politici devono rivolgersi ai sindacati, ascoltare le loro richieste, tenere in considerazione le loro proposte nelle future prese di decisione.

Alleanze necessarie

Cosa potrebbe rappresentare un maggiore potere in mano ai sindacati nelle politiche climatiche e ambientali europee? Le unioni sindacali hanno avuto un ruolo sempre più importante nelle discussioni su come operare una transizione ecologica equa. Organizzazioni ombrello quali la CES, la EPSU (Federazione Sindacale Europea dei Servizi Pubblici) e IndustriALL sono a favore della riduzione delle emissioni e coscienti delle conseguenze negative delle industrie altamente inquinanti. I dibattiti in corso a Bruxelles, però, rimangono ben lontani dalle realtà europee.

In Romania, per esempio, saranno necessari sforzi importanti per mettere in contatto le unioni sindacali e i movimenti ambientalisti. L’industria rumena dell’estrazione del carbone è stata bruscamente smantellata alla fine degli anni Novanta, generando disoccupazione e comunità logorate da alcolismo e ludopatia. L’interesse dimostrato dalla società rumena verso i cambiamenti climatici non è paragonabile a quello presente nei Paesi dell’Europa occidentale. Ciononostante, il sindacalista Năstase è convinto che i contratti collettivi potrebbero avere un ruolo importante nel percorso verso la sostenibilità: “I contratti collettivi potrebbero includere clausole sulla transizione ecologica, garantendo che quest’ultima abbia luogo nel rispetto dei lavoratori”.

Proposte di questo tipo possono sembrare utopistiche, dato il tasso di sindacalizzazione in calo in Romania e il crollo dei contratti collettivi, ma sono più che mai necessarie. Senza sindacati pronti a negoziare in merito a potenziali licenziamenti, corsi di formazione e obbligo dei datori di lavoro di reintegrare i dipendenti, i singoli lavoratori si troveranno a dover affrontare da soli i cambiamenti in arrivo. I movimenti ambientalisti, inoltre, hanno moltissimo da guadagnare dal supporto delle unioni sindacali sul campo, considerato l’abituale negazionismo dell’estrema destra verso i cambiamenti climatici.

Nonostante gli Stati europei stiano stilando programmi per affrontare questo ed il prossimo inverno, le politiche aggressive di odio dell’estrema destra continuano a guadagnare terreno. La storia ci insegna che, con l’estrema destra al potere, sono i sindacati, i contratti collettivi e i lavoratori in generale ad essere presi di mira, mettendo in pericolo non solo le condizioni di vita ma anche i diritti e le libertà dei cittadini.

A causa dell’attuale instabilità economica e politica, la nostra società corre il rischio di cadere in una spirale di pessimismo in cui immaginare un futuro migliore potrebbe diventare impossibile. Senza fiducia nel cambiamento, le speranze di sindacati e movimenti politici progressisti di ottenere risultati potrebbero svanire del tutto. Per contrastare questa tendenza, dobbiamo poter visualizzare un futuro che offra più di piccoli miglioramenti e aumenti dei salari minimi: ai lavoratori non basterà ricevere qualche briciola di cibo in più dalla pagnotta comune.

In quest’epoca di crisi, governi e partiti politici devono rivolgersi ai sindacati, ascoltare le loro richieste, tenere in considerazione le loro proposte nelle future prese di decisione. I sindacati, dal canto loro, devono tornare a guardare alla militanza ed alla solidarietà di classe. Specialmente per i partiti ecologisti, costruire legami duraturi con le unioni sindacali è ora indispensabile per aspirare, nel lungo termine, alla realizzazione dei loro punti programmatici. Una transizione ambientale equa non può provenire dalle stanze del potere dei burocrati, ma dev’essere al contrario costruita dal basso, con la partecipazione di coloro che lottano per una vita dignitosa e per un futuro migliore.

Tradotto in collaborazione con la Heinrich Böll Stiftung Parigi, Francia. 

Traduzione Elena Pioli Voxeurop.

Categories: H. Green News

Kentucky becomes the newest battleground in Republicans’ fight against green investing

Grist - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 03:30

Kentucky officials threatened to divest the state from 11 financial institutions on Tuesday over what it deemed to be climate-conscious investing practices. Targeted firms include BlackRock, JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup, all of which have publicly pledged to incorporate pro-environment principals into their financial strategies.

Such policies, Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball said in a press release, “boycott fossil fuels” and “intentionally choke off the lifeblood of capital to Kentucky’s signature industries.” The announcement follows a state bill passed last year directing her office to publish an annual list of financial institutions involved in a so-called “energy company boycott.” 

Kentucky’s efforts are the latest in the Republican Party’s larger campaign against what are known as environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, investing principles. After years of activist efforts to get financial firms to disclose and account for their climate risks, ESG practices — which, in theory, prioritize investments in renewable energy, for example, over oil and gas — have moved from the sidelines to the mainstream, becoming a buzz-acronym on Wall Street. In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, the federal agency meant to protect U.S. investors, proposed new rules that would require companies to disclose their carbon emissions as well as the risks posed to their business by climate change. According to the mutual fund research firm Morningstar, 90 percent of all companies now have, or are in the process of creating, ESG strategies.

But over the past year, Republicans have staked their ground against what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called “woke capitalism.” As of last August, 17 states have proposed or adopted legislation to limit business with institutions that consider environmental and social criteria in their investment practices. West Virginia and Texas created similar lists to Kentucky’s last year, and Florida, Louisiana, and Missouri pulled a collective $3 billion dollars out of BlackRock, whose CEO has been one of the most outspoken financial leaders about the value of ESG investing. 

Now, Republicans are using their control of the U.S. House of Representatives as a new tool in their fight against ESG, which they say could harm the fossil fuel industry as well as stakeholder profits. Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican representative and new chair of the House Committee on Financial Services, called the SEC’s climate risk disclosure rules a “far-left social agenda” and has pledged close oversight of regulators. Other House Republicans will call asset managers to testify in hearings on their investments. At the state level, Republican state attorneys general have motioned that they are prepared to take the SEC policies to court if the rules are finalized, according to Inside Climate News

Yet when you look at the current state of climate-aligned investing on Wall Street, it seems Republicans’ concerns are much ado about nothing. While asset managers have started to invest growing subsets of funds in adherence with ESG principles, which consider things like the effects of climate change and the social impacts of supply chains, most of their money remains in funds that don’t account for carbon emissions. JPMorgan and Citigroup, both members of the United Nations’ Net-Zero Banking Alliance, were among the top financiers of the fossil fuel industry in 2021, according to a recent report. (Vanguard, the largest asset manager after BlackRock, dropped out of the alliance last month following backlash from Republican attorneys general.) What counts as an ESG investment also remains vague and undefined, which can lead to greenwashing; some financial companies’ energy transition funds, for example, can still invest in fossil fuel companies. While last year was the first in history where more money was raised in debt markets for green projects than for fossil fuel companies, Big Oil is still getting more money from high gas prices and private equity, and banks and asset managers appear to remain committed to funding the industry. 

In the wake of Kentucky’s announcement, the 11 financial firms added to the state’s restricted list have 30 days to notify the treasury of their holdings in energy companies, and 90 days to “stop engaging” in boycotts. If they fail to comply, the Kentucky government will pull its money from the institutions. So far, some of the listed companies have asserted their fossil fuel bonafides in response. In a statement to The Hill, a JPMorgan Chase spokesperson said, “We are among the largest financiers of the U.S. traditional and renewable energy industries, including in Kentucky where we serve some of its largest energy companies and utilities.” For Reuters, BlackRock pointed to its investments in energy companies like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Kentucky becomes the newest battleground in Republicans’ fight against green investing on Jan 5, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

The heat is on

Ecologist - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 01:49
The heat is on Channel News brendan 5th January 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

How to save the whitebark pine

High Country News - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 01:00
The tree is getting federal protection. But plenty of people were already trying to save it.
Categories: H. Green News

The power of atmospheric rivers, explained

High Country News - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 13:30
Back-to-back storms in California threaten lives, homes, and infrastructure — but will also bolster the West’s water supply.
Categories: H. Green News

A new EPA proposal is reigniting a debate about what counts as ‘renewable’

Grist - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 03:45

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new standards for how much of the nation’s fuel supply should come from renewable sources. 

The proposal, released last month, calls for an increase in the mandatory requirements set forth by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. The program, created in 2005, dictates how much renewable fuels — products like corn-based ethanol, manure-based biogas, and wood pellets — are used to reduce the use of petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil, or jet fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

The new requirements have sparked a heated debate between industry leaders, who say the recent proposal will help stabilize the market in the coming years, and green groups, which argue that the favored fuels come at steep environmental costs. 

Below is a Grist guide to this growing debate, breaking down exactly what these fuels are, how they’re created, and how they would change under the EPA’s new proposal:

The fuels

Renewable fuel is an umbrella term for the bio-based fuels mandated by the EPA to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply. The category includes fuel produced from planted crops, planted trees, animal waste and byproducts, and wood debris from non-ecological sensitive areas and not from federal forestland. Under the RFS, renewable fuels are supposed to replace fossil fuels and are used for transportation and heating across the country, and are supposed to emit 20 percent fewer greenhouse gasses than the energy they replace.

Under the new EPA proposal, renewable fuels would increase by roughly 9 percent by the end of 2025 — an increase of nearly 2 billion gallons. The new EPA proposal will set a target of almost 21 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2023, which includes over 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol. By 2025, the EPA hopes to have over 22 billion gallons of different renewable fuel sources powering the nation. 

The United States is the largest producer of corn, which can be seen being harvested and stored in grain silos. With 40 percent of the corn produced used for ethanol, environmental groups argue that increased corn production leads to more fertilizer use and pollution. YinYang/Getty Images

Advanced biofuel, a type of renewable fuel, includes fuel created from crop waste, animal waste, food waste, and yard waste. This also includes biogas, a natural gas produced from the methane created by animal and human waste. Advanced biofuel can also include fuels created from sugars and starches, apart from ethanol. 

In its newest proposal, the EPA suggests a roughly 14 percent increase in the use of these fuels from 2023 to 2024 and a 12 percent increase the year after that. The EPA wants roughly 6 billion gallons of advanced biofuel in the marketplace by this year.

Nestled inside of the advanced biofuel category is biomass-based diesel, a fuel source created from vegetable oils and animal fats. This fuel can also be created from oils, waste, and sludge created in municipal wastewater treatment plants. Under the new EPA proposal, the agency is suggesting a 2 percent year-over-year increase in these fuels by the end of 2025, which equals a final amount of nearly three billion gallons.

Cellulosic biofuel, another type of renewable fuel, is a liquid fuel created by “crops, trees, forest residues, and agricultural residues not specifically grown for food, including from barley grain, grapeseed, rice bran, rice hulls, rice straw, soybean matter,” as well as sugarcane byproducts, according to the 2005 law.

“In the interim period, there’s going to be a need for lower carbon, renewable liquid fuels”

Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuel Association

The EPA’s recent proposal aims for nearly double the amount of the use of these fuels by 2024. Then a 50 percent increase the year after, equivalent to 2 billion gallons. 

The new RFS proposal also hopes to create a more standardized pathway for renewable fuels to be used in powering electric vehicles, with more and more drivers turning to EVs in recent years. 

“We are pretty pleased with what the EPA proposed for 2023 through 2025,” Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuel Association, an industry group whose members primarily include ethanol producers, but also represent biogas and biomass producers, told Grist. 

Read Next:

Cooper said that the EPA and the Biden administration recognize that alternative fuels are a growing and needed sector while the country tries to move away from fossil fuels. Setting standards for the next three years will help the biofuels industry grow, said Cooper, who predicted more ethanol, biomass, or biogas producers will emerge in the coming years. 

“I think the administration recognizes that you’re not going to electrify everything overnight,” Cooper said, “and in the interim period, there’s going to be a need for lower-carbon, renewable liquid fuels.”

The controversy

While renewable fuel standards have gained a stamp of approval from industry producers and the federal government, environmental groups see increased investment in ethanol, biomass, and biogas as doubling down on dirty fuel. 

“It’s not encouraging because it continues on the false premise that biofuels, in general, are a helpful pathway to meeting our climate goals,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the nonprofit environmental group Center for Biological Diversity

Biomass wood pellets are a fuel source made from wood debris and lumber, and are a booming industry in the American South. The new Renewable Fuel Standard proposal calls for an increase in this fuel source, despite opposition from environmental groups. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Hartl argues that investing in increased corn production to fuel ethanol will continue harmful agricultural practices that erode soil and dump massive amounts of pesticides on corn crops, which causes increased water pollution and toxic dead zones across the country and the Gulf of Mexico. The United States is the world’s largest producer of corn, with 40 percent of the corn produced used for ethanol. 

A study released earlier this year from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that when demand for corn goes up, caused by an increase in blending requirements from the RFS, prices increase as well, which causes farmers to add more fertilizer products, created by fossil fuels, to crops. The EPA’s own internal research has also shown greenhouse gas emissions over the next three years will grow with the increase in blending requirements from the federal mandate.

22.68 billion the number of renewable fuel gallons the EPA hopes to have by 2025

The Center for Biological Diversity has been critical of the EPA’s past support of renewable fuel without a calculation of the total environmental impacts of how the fuel is produced and is currently in legal battles with the federal agency. They’re not alone in their critiques. 

Tarah Heinzen, legal director for Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit environmental watchdog group, said in a statement that an increase in both industrial corn production and biogas, a fuel created from animal and food waste, are not part of a clean energy future. 

“Relying on dirty fuels like factory farm gas and ethanol to clean up our transportation sector will only dig a deeper hole,” Heinzen said. “The EPA should recognize this by reducing, not increasing, the volume requirements for these dirty sources of energy in the Renewable Fuel Standard.” 

Alternative fuels, like biogas and biomass (a fuel created from trees and wood pulp), have gained steam thanks to the ethanol boom of the renewable fuel category. The biogas industry is set to boom thanks to tax incentives created by the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Biomass is a growing industry in the South, with wood pellet mills popping up in recent years. Scientists from across the globe have decried the industry’s suggestion that burning trees for electricity is carbon neutral, with 650 scientists signing a recent letter to denounce the industry’s claims.

The world’s largest producer of wood pellet biomass energy has come under fire from a whistleblower who said the company uses whole trees to create electricity, despite the company’s claims of sustainably harvesting only tree limbs to produce energy. Wood pellet facilities have faced opposition from local governments and federal legislators, with community members in Springfield, Massachusetts successfully blocking a permit for a new biomass facility in November. 

Despite concerns from environmental groups, the forecasted demands of the EPA show that the nation is pushing for more of these fuels in the coming years. This past spring, a bipartisan group of Midwestern governors asked the EPA for a permanent waiver to sell higher blends of ethanol year-round, despite summer-time smog created by the higher blend of renewable fuel.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline A new EPA proposal is reigniting a debate about what counts as ‘renewable’ on Jan 4, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Europe kicks off 2023 with a record-setting heat wave

Grist - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 03:30

Europe broke heat records last year, and 2023 is shaping up to be no different. A winter heat dome descended on the continent right just in time for New Year’s Day, crushing thousands of standing high-temperature records. Eight countries — Belarus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Poland — set new all-time records for warmest January weather on the first of the month. The heat wave caused temperatures to rise up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) above average for this time of year. 

“This is exactly the kind of very abnormal event that is progressively rewriting global climatology,” Nahel Belgherze, a meteorologist in France, said in a tweet. Other experts based in Europe said the heat wave was unprecedented and alarming. Climatologist Maximiliano Herrera told CNN it’s “the most extreme heat wave in European history.” 

Climate researchers say the science linking climate change to record-setting heat waves is indisputable. Analyses of more than 100 hot spells over the past decade have shown that modern-day global warming, the majority of which has been brought about by the burning of fossil fuels, made nearly all of them more likely or severe. For example, an unusually hot summer in Texas in 2011 and a summertime European heat wave in 2017 were made 10 and four times more likely by climate change, respectively. 

Read Next:

It’ll take time for researchers to parse exactly how much rising global temperatures influenced this particular weather event. Abnormal heat is still moving through Europe as the heat wave mixes with Arctic air edging in from the northeast and dissipates. But it’s already abundantly clear that Europe just experienced a severe departure from the norm. 

Poland broke its national temperature record before the sun had even breached the horizon on New Year’s Day when the town of Glucholazy hit 65.7 degrees F, according to the Washington Post. France broke more than 100 heat records that day. A town in western Belarus clocked a maximum temperature of 61.5 degrees F — the norm there in midwinter is 32 degrees F. The warm winter has turned famed European skiing destinations soupy and brown. Parts of the Alps were totally devoid of snow as of January 1; a major skiing competition set to take place in Switzerland next week will depend entirely on artificial flakes

The extremely warm temperatures aren’t expected to stick around for much longer, but meteorologists say above-average temperatures could plague mainland Europe for at least another week.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Europe kicks off 2023 with a record-setting heat wave on Jan 4, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

To Change Politics in Hungary, We Need to Find the Switch

Green European Journal - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 02:16

The April 2022 Hungarian election resulted in a resounding victory for Viktor Orbán’s right-wing populist Fidesz party, despite the high hopes about the chances of a broad coalition of opposition parties. In this interview, the mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony speaks about the financial challenges the Hungarian capital is facing as a result of Orbán’s budgetary policies, and explains why he believes that the next few years may prove decisive for the political future of both the country and its capital city.

Zoltán Lakner: After gaining another two-thirds majority at the last national elections1, Fidesz continues to dominate Hungarian politics. How will this result shape the coming period?

Gergely Karácsony: Although I have a hunch, I still do not completely understand what led to the opposition’s weak election performance in April. Many elements of the opposition strategy that I regarded as necessary were implemented. At the same time, it became clear that cooperation among the parties, and involving citizens in this cooperation by setting up primaries, were necessary but not sufficient conditions for success. Despite my efforts, we did not manage to come up with a strong pro-equality programme. I am using this word instead of “left-wing” on purpose – although I am fully aware that this is left-wing politics, and I am proud to be a left-wing politician. I believe that we should not think in ideological categories, but instead try to relate to the lived reality of citizens.

Today, my main task is to win the election for mayor in 2024, even though the government’s decision to combine [European and municipal] elections on the same day might make this very tricky.2 While it pains me to say it, I cannot imagine that the European elections will take place with no in-fighting within the opposition. A major challenge for the opposition is that we struggle to imagine what governing together would look like. Even if this cooperation is far from impossible: running Budapest in a multi-party coalition for over three years proves that the opposition can indeed govern together. I am not sure if this track record is enough to win the national elections, but as supporters of the opposition we need to keep our fingers crossed.

What exactly would it mean for the opposition to win? Would they simply use the opportunities provided by the current political framework, or can they significantly challenge Orbán’s system? 

It is crucial to defend our 2019 achievement [when the opposition gained control over some key municipalities]. Elections inevitably mobilise people who are critical of the system. Those who voted for us in 2019 wanted to see the end of Orbán’s regime, and I would argue that many of them believe that our success at the next municipal elections is a step towards pulling down the system. 

At the same time, I think Budapest has significantly changed under our governance, and we must defend what we have achieved since 2019. The fact that cars can no longer use the city’s Chain Bridge following its renovation has become a new normal. For decades, experts called for such an action, but nobody dared to take this step. 

We have received a mandate to make changes and transform city politics. Our resources are scarce, so we cannot make huge changes. Still, whatever we do, it fits into a clear vision. In my view, many people already see that we are introducing a different kind of politics. Good governance on the local level might not be enough to topple Orbán’s government on the national level, but I am sure that every system reaches an end eventually.

Elections inevitably mobilise people who are critical of the system.

What contributes to the weakening of the system?

Economic performance is one reason for the success of the Orbán government over the past decade. The Hungarian population had probably never experienced such huge growth in real wages as that seen in recent years. This was made possible with the help of EU funding. Now, however, there is no economic boom, and the government may lose EU funds. This is a completely different situation, and it remains to be seen whether the government can survive by its communication [campaigns] alone. 

Do you think there is a risk that there won’t be an election for the position of the mayor of Budapest in the future (as it was rumoured that direct mayoral elections might be abolished before 2024)?

For the citizens of Budapest, participating in local elections and electing the city’s mayor is a meaningful democratic exercise. This experience has not been taken away from them so far, precisely because such a measure would be highly unpopular. Not to mention that the members of the governing party probably think it doesn’t matter if they lose Budapest, as long as they win on the national level. And there they are still strong. In the current climate of polarisation, right-wing populist forces, such as the governing party, turn out to be popular among voters from marginalised groups, smaller towns, and among the elderly and less educated. This is difficult to digest as a left-wing person, similarly to the fact that during past elections in the capital city, I (as the progressive candidate) gained less support in some of those districts where traditionally a left-wing politician would be expected to be popular. By now, upper middle-class citizens have become the most important electorate for the opposition. This is a huge challenge for pro-equality politics.

How will the next opposition candidate for mayor be selected? 

At this time, I do not support organising primaries. In a diverse opposition, the primaries could open debates which we try to settle internally as a coalition. I can also see that the unity of the opposition no longer exists, however this does not mean that another opposition will not emerge – hopefully a better, more powerful one.

Voters rightfully expect a joint electoral candidacy. A cooperation on behalf of the opposition will be necessary in some form. In 2024, any party which undermines the unity of the opposition in the municipality campaign because of a chip on their shoulder will be punished severely by the voters at the European elections.

There is a switch somewhere we cannot find, and we may have the opportunity to influence people to pursue a more equal world not only for themselves, but for others as well.

How can the city make ends meet? 

2022 is the first year we do not have a surplus. Last year we still had a 20 billion surplus. We start the new year with a deficit of over 10 billion forints. And then we will get the new electricity bills. Increasing energy prices have already caused problems for the public transportation company. Next year, street lighting, drinking water supply, and public transportation together will generate astronomical utility bills. However, we are not sitting idle; we are trying to find ways to minimise the impacts of the energy price hike.

Will there be EU funds available for the capital? 

There will be some for sure. We have no idea how much. Along with two other Hungarian cities Pécs and Miskolc, Budapest is part of the EU initiative called “100 climate neutral cities”. Even if we cannot become fully climate neutral by 2030, these cities have taken huge steps in this direction. I believe that being part of such initiatives can create the kind of political legitimacy that allows us to use domestic funds in higher proportions as well. 

The government plans to draw from the recovery funds and spend it on breaking Hungary’s energy dependence on Russia. This is very positive and should have been started much earlier. This cannot be done without Budapest – the city, its companies and citizens. In addition, when we produce remote heating by geothermic energy, we save money for the central budget, as the government can spend less on gas price compensation. So, in the end, this is in the interest of the government as well.

Whether or not we receive these funds will depend on the agreement between the government and the European Commission. We have a large stake in the operational programmes that are affected by the EU’s freezing of funds to Hungary (due to the rule of law situation and corruption issues). In this respect, we keep our fingers crossed that these funds will become available. I am far from being a friend of this government, however Budapest has an interest in the disbursement of the fund, especially since it would help break the city’s energy dependence. 

You have mentioned that egalitarian policies are much needed in the country, and it seems like climate consciousness is also growing among citizens. Nevertheless, left-wing and green parties are barely able to secure the 5 per cent support needed to cross the parliamentary threshold. Why? 

This is a very important question. And I can even raise the stakes. How could a government that self-identifies as Christian be so popular in the most secular country in Europe? In my view, these are questions asked in a left-wing paradigm. They presuppose that politics is about correct solutions, choices between good and bad, and that politics as well as vote behaviour are rational. Meanwhile, the kind of politics that is extremely successful today in Hungary does not consider whether a particular measure is good or bad for the many; it only cares whether it serves the interests of the powerful few. 

Many people in society believe that equality doesn’t exist for them – they feel like equality is something they are left out of. Yet, they are not demanding solidarity from their institutions. What is more, a significant proportion of those citizens who feel left behind see Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party as a pro-equality political power. So, I don’t think we can, at this point, anticipate voter behaviour or draw too many conclusions from opinion polls. There is a switch somewhere we cannot find, and we may have the opportunity to influence people to pursue a more equal world not only for themselves, but for others as well. The openness to this is certainly present in the thinking of society, however, so far, we have not been able to exploit it.

This is an abridged version of an interview first published in published in the Hungarian weekly Jelen.

[1] As the 2024 municipal election is expected to be held on the same day as the European election, the “other ballot” can also refer to the European election where parties have to be chosen vs. the municipal election where the voter picks a candidate.

[2] In Hungary, general elections are conducted in a two-ballot system: on the first ballot citizens can vote for a candidate, on the second one for a party. In this context, the first ballot is to elect 106 members of parliament from single-member districts, the second ballot assigns 93 seats based on party preferences. 

Categories: H. Green News

Sacred Groves: How the Spiritual Connection Helps Protect Nature

Yale Environment 360 - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 01:36

From Ethiopia’s highlands to Siberia to the Australian rainforest, there are thousands of sacred forests that have survived thanks to traditional religious and spiritual beliefs. Experts say these places, many now under threat, have ecological importance and must be saved.

Read more on E360 →

Categories: H. Green News

Navigating nature loss through fiction

Ecologist - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 23:00
Navigating nature loss through fiction Channel News Yasmin 4th January 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Five options for restoring nature after the COP15 UN biodiversity agreement

Red, Green, and Blue - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 17:00

To slow and reverse the fastest loss of Earth’s living things since the dinosaurs, almost 200 countries have signed an agreement in Montreal, Canada, promising to live in harmony with nature by 2050. The Kunming-Montreal agreement is not legally binding but it will require signatories to report their progress towards meeting targets such as the […]

The post Five options for restoring nature after the COP15 UN biodiversity agreement appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

US wind and solar likely to outpace coal and nuclear power in 2023

Red, Green, and Blue - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 07:54

A new analysis of federal data shows that wind and solar alone could generate more electricity in the United States than nuclear and coal over the coming year, critical progress toward reducing the country’s reliance on dirty energy. By Jake Johnson Common Dreams The SUN DAY Campaign, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable energy development, highlighted […]

The post US wind and solar likely to outpace coal and nuclear power in 2023 appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

Groups Call on U.S. Treasury to Measure Climate Crisis’ Impact on Insurance

Red, Green, and Blue - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 07:40

More than 75 advocacy and environmental groups are calling on the U.S. Treasury Department to begin collecting consistent, comparable, and granular data to evaluate how climate change is harming insurance consumers. By Public Citizen “The insurance industry has spent decades fueling the climate crisis through investments and underwriting,” said Carly Fabian, policy advocate with Public Citizen’s […]

The post Groups Call on U.S. Treasury to Measure Climate Crisis’ Impact on Insurance appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

Winter Warm Spell Stifles Skiing in Swiss Alps

Yale Environment 360 - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 07:33

The Alps are seeing a dearth of snowfall this winter amid unusually warm temperatures, forcing closures at some slopes.

Read more on E360 →

Categories: H. Green News

Species to Watch in 2023

The Revelator - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 05:00

Here at The Revelator, we spend our days reading and writing about endangered species and our nights worrying about them. At the same time, we spend our days talking to and writing about people working to save these species from extinction — and that helps us sleep better at night.

As we move into 2023, here are more than a dozen species we’ll be watching in the year ahead. They represent species on the brink, those awaiting protection, those recovering, and those whose habitat could be disrupted in the coming year. They don’t represent everything — there’s no way one list could encapsulate every threat facing endangered species, or every species deserving attention — but this should give you an idea of some of the reasons wildlife on this planet are suffering and the things we can do to help them.

Photo: Bri Benvenuti/USFWS Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus)

A rebounding population of Great Lakes piping plovers provides a glimpse at the success of dedicated conservation efforts and endangered species protections.

The Great Lakes population of these shorebirds was listed as endangered in 1985 after it was lost from all of its range except Michigan, with just 19 pairs remaining. Habitat destruction from shoreline development and recreation likely played a big role in the decline.

But years of dedicated recovery efforts helped make 2022 a banner year for these plovers, with 150 chicks fledgling in the wild — the most since they were protected as endangered. These efforts included “nest protection via enclosures and fencing, site monitoring, education and outreach, captive rearing, and annual banding,” reported Audubon.

It’s a bright spot in a dim overall outlook for birds across the United States. A 2022 State of the Birds report found bird populations declining in virtually every type of habitat, and 70 species have lost two-thirds of their populations in the past 50 years. The one habitat exception was wetlands, where conservation dollars have poured in to help ducks and geese, who are popular with hunters. The biggest losses have been felt among grassland birds, where agriculture has destroyed native grasslands and introduced toxic pesticides. Shorebirds have suffered major declines as well — 10 species had population declines above 70% since 1980.

We’ll be watching to see if the numbers of Great Lakes piping plovers continue to climb and if their recipe for success can be applied to more at-risk birds.

Gray wolf. Photo: John & Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS Wolves (Canis lupus)

To understand why we included wolves on this year’s list, just look back to 2022. Colorado moved forward on plans to reintroduce wolves to the state (and perhaps kill too many of them in the process). Wolf populations increased in California and Oregon. Poachers killed animals in Oregon and other states. Idaho and Montana moved forward on more plans to legally hunt more wolves. Conservationists sued to restore national protections to wolves under the Endangered Species Act, after a judge reinstated protection for some populations outside the Rockies. Scientists outlined a plan to restore more wolves to more parts of the American West. Mexican gray wolves got a revised, if imperfect, restoration plan. Red wolves got a new draft plan, too, and the first red wolf cubs since 2018 were born in the wild.

On top of that, few species represent the breadth of conservation issues that we see in wolves. They’ve gained and lost protection more times than we can count, and the constant push between conservation, hunting and other interests remains potent. Meanwhile wolves — who have enormous value for numerous human cultures — display a resilience that allows them to continue to spread and regain territory in places where they were once exterminated. We expect more of all of that — on all these fronts — in 2023.

Asian elephants in Bandipur National Park, India. Photo: Mike Prince (CC BY 2.0) Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus)

These pachyderms make our list this year because, well, no one else around here seems to be talking about them.

Asian elephants don’t get nearly the same scientific or media attention as their larger African cousins, but they face the same — if not worse — pressures from habitat loss, conflict with humans, population fragmentation, disease, poaching and other exploitations. A recent paper calls this a “charisma failure” and finds that it results in less public awareness of Asian elephants’ endangered status. This, in turn, results in lower conservation funding and prioritization, especially in comparison to other charismatic megafauna species. It also restricts the size and effectiveness of protected areas available to Asian elephants, which leads to more elephant-human conflict, according to a recent study in Malaysia.

The media doesn’t help in this regard. Most of the recent media articles we found mentioning Asian elephants concerned cute baby animals in zoos, and the majority of those fail to mention the species’ endangered status or conservation challenges.

We expect Asian elephants to have a unique opportunity in the year ahead, with 30×30 dominating many top-level conservation discussions. Will it pay off for this oft-neglected species? We’ll be watching.

Tom Jefferson, courtesy NOAA Fisheries West Coast Vaquitas (Phocoena sinus)

With maybe 10 of these small porpoises left alive in their only habitat, the Gulf of California, all eyes should be on the Mexican government to see what it does next. Tragically, “what it does next” has traditionally amounted to “nothing.” Pay attention: Every further vaquita death matters.

By Chong Chen (CC BY-SA 3.0) Sea Pangolins (Chrysomallon squamiferum)

Hydrothermal vents, where mineral-rich waters spew from cracks in the seafloor miles below the surface of the water, support a unique and diverse array of animal life on par with the biodiversity of rainforests and coral reefs. Scaly-foot snails, also known as sea pangolin, are among these deep-sea residents.

In 2018 the IUCN listed the mollusks as endangered — not because of an existing threat, but because of one on the horizon. Two of the snails’ three known microhabitats in the Indian Ocean are being investigated as potential sites for deep-sea mining by companies looking to cash in on the demand for minerals needed for electric car batteries. “If mining is permitted the habitat could be severely reduced or destroyed,” the IUCN assessment found. “Even the initial exploration is likely to cause disruption to the habitat.”

Unfortunately sea pangolins are in good company. A 2021 global assessment of mollusks endemic to hydrothermal vents led to 184 being added to the IUCN Red List.

Time may be running out to save them. Despite calls for a moratorium, deep-seabed mining in international waters could begin as early as July, and the testing of mining equipment on the seafloor has already begun.

Guizhou Snub-Nosed Monkey © 花蚀 via iNaturalist (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) Guizhou Snub-Nosed Monkeys (Rhinopithecus brelichi)

There are easily a few dozen primates that could end up on this year’s list, but for now let’s focus on this bizarre-looking species. Native to China, only about 125 to 336 of these monkeys are left alive, crammed into a single nature reserve — one that was created to protect them. But that promise has failed, and the population has plummeted over the past decade as tourism and nearby agriculture have soared. Now researchers have called on China to place immediate limits on tourism in the reserve, reconnect a migration corridor to improve genetic health, and create additional populations in case the first one crashes further. “Without immediate action,” they warn, “the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey could go extinct.”

The snub-nosed monkey is not alone in its plight: Primates around the world are generally in peril, and the species in China are often at the tip of that spear of extinction. Will China take action to protect this species — and others within its borders — before it’s too late? Will other countries stand up to conserve their own native primates, to set aside nature for them and other species to live, and to reestablish migration corridors?

If the nations of the world don’t address these issues, we’ll be asking another question: How long until the next primate extinction is announced?

Photo: James St. John (CC BY 2.0) Pillar Corals (Dendrogyra cylindrus)

Mass coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef has signaled dire times for corals, but there’s more bad news in the Atlantic, too.

Pillar corals, found in the western Atlantic from Florida to the Caribbean, are in peril. These stony corals have been moved from vulnerable to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List as their populations fell 80% across much of their range since 1990, with most of the loss being much more recent.

The biggest threat is a relatively new one: stony coral tissue loss disease, which was discovered on the Florida reef tract in 2014 and rendered pillar corals there “functionally extinct” a few years later. The disease has since spread south to the Caribbean.

It’s not just pillar corals at risk, either. At least 22 species of reef-building corals are vulnerable, and the disease can kill within weeks or months after infection.

Pollution, destructive fishing practices, and climate change add to the problem by weakening corals.

As scientists work to prevent the disease from spreading further, other corals face grave threats as well. Globally, one-third of all coral species are now listed as endangered. Climate change is a primary contributor in many places.

If we don’t work to stem rising sea temperatures, the biodiversity implications of coral loss will be massive. Reefs support 25% of marine species. Without them entire ecosystems could collapse, and thousands of species of fish, birds, sea turtles, plants, invertebrates and marine mammals could be without the food or shelter that reefs help create.

Woodland caribou in northern Ontario. Photo: J.H., (CC BY-ND 2.0) Caribou (Two subspecies of Rangifer tarandus)

Climate change poses one of the biggest threats to Dolphin and Union caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus), a distinct population of barren-ground caribou native to Canada’s northern territories. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the caribou as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in December. Their population has alarmingly dropped 75% between 2015 and 2018.

The caribou migrate across sea ice between the mainland and Victoria Island. Warming temperatures weaken the ice, making the journey to their breeding, feeding and wintering grounds potentially fatal. A decrease in sea ice has also brought more shipping and industrial activity, which further disrupts sea ice formation and threatens the animals with “mass drowning events,” according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

As climate change drives more warming, expect more trouble for these caribou.

But these northern subspecies aren’t the only ones facing grave dangers. Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) once ranged across half of Canada and some northern U.S. states. But they’re now mostly gone from their southern range. In Canada’s boreal forests, they’re listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act, Canada’s version of the Endangered Species Act.

Their biggest threat is habitat fragmentation driven by logging, mining, and oil and gas development.

While Canada’s boreal woodland caribou try to hang on, in the United States the damage has already been done. Here southern mountain caribou, a distinct population segment of woodland caribou, were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but none are believed to still be living in the wild.

Will Canada increase protection efforts and safeguard caribou habitat? A recent announcement at the U.N. biodiversity conference in December suggests that some help could be on the way with an agreement between Canada’s federal government and Yukon to increase protected areas in the far north. “Barren-ground and boreal caribou, along with wood bison are at-risk species the agreement says will be prioritized,” the CBC reported.

Quick Hits:

Our colleagues, the activists at the Center for Biological Diversity, suggested several additional species to add to this year’s list, chief among them a toad and a rare plant.

Both the Dixie Valley toad and Tiehm’s buckwheat just gained Endangered Species Act status in December, which could protect their habitats from potential renewable energy projects. The world desperately needs more renewable energy, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of endangered species or even extinction — a fate that could await these two species if their habitats are destroyed for geothermal energy or lithium mining.

Meanwhile, coal still causes problems for a lot of wildlife, including the yellow-spotted woodland salamander, who lives only on an outcrop of Appalachian rock that’s due for mountaintop removal.

A jaguar in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Photo: Bernard DuPont (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jaguars are starting to wander back into the United States decades after they were eradicated here. In December the Center filed a petition to have the government more actively reintroduce the species. They’re trickling in slowly on their own but need plenty of help to re-establish themselves in their ancestral homes.

The fish of the Colorado River will need some attention as the drought there continues. Wildlife have traditionally gotten short shrift when it comes to Colorado River water allocation, and now several species are paying the price. New rules currently in the works could be all it takes to end several of the river’s key fish species.

We’re eager to learn the fate of the regal fritillary, a large, colorful butterfly that relies on Prairie remnants across the upper Midwest. Conservationists petitioned to protect it way back in 2013; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is supposedly going to finally look into that this year. We hope the news is worth the wait.

And what list would be complete without the eastern hellbender? The Fish and Wildlife Service denied a petition to protect that species last year; conservationists hope this year will bring a reversal. Hellbenders are some of the world’s biggest salamanders, and they’re at risk from a wide range of environmental threats that also affect humans. Saving them would be heavenly news for us all.

What species will you be watching in the months ahead? Drop us a line anytime.

The post Species to Watch in 2023 appeared first on The Revelator.

Categories: H. Green News

New year, same gas crisis

Ecologist - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 03:00
New year, same gas crisis Channel News Yasmin 3rd January 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

Within the climate emergency

Ecologist - Mon, 01/02/2023 - 23:00
Within the climate emergency Channel Comment brendan 3rd January 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

‘I’m not separate from the land, I’m a part of it’

High Country News - Sun, 01/01/2023 - 01:00
#iamthewest: Giving voice to the people that make up communities in the region.
Categories: H. Green News

Fire risk map ignites controversy

High Country News - Sun, 01/01/2023 - 01:00
Southern Oregon residents lash back at wildfire preparedness rules.
Categories: H. Green News

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