Thursday, May 21, 2015

California: The Rebeavering!

Check out my latest post on the WWF ClimatePrep blog:

California: The Rebeavering

Consisting mostly of the results of an extensive interview Brock Dolman, Director of the WATER Institute at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, a leading beaver believer in the California movement for rebeavering. I actually interviewed more people for this article than for any of my previous articles, but he was very generous with his time and energy. By the end of the interview I felt like I'd been recruited to join the movement!

I come from a place where beavers are a-plenty (the swamps between Lake Ontario and the Tug Hill Plateau, west of the New York's Adirondack Park) and quite frankly considered pests, so this article gave me a chance to think about the beaver's important role in water system management, and appreciate the possibilities they present to our parched state here in California.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Wisconsin joins the follies

Wisconsin, really?

Yes, Wisconsin, reports Tim McDonnel in Another State Agency Just Banned the Words "Climate Change," on Apr. 8, 2015, for Mother Jones.

And this time it isn't just one political leader unilaterally deciding to deny those tasked with preparing for changes to the land use of the words "climate change," it's a collective decision, specifically two political leaders on a committee of three. The decision to decree that public employees refrain from "engaging in global warming or climate change work while on [Board of Commissioners of Public Lands] time" was proposed by Wisconsin's new State Treasurer Adamczyk, who ran on a platform of promising to eliminate the State Treasurer's office, and supported by the new State Attorney Schimel, who, as a candidate, said he would have defended the state's ban of interracial marriage in the 1950's, and would have defended the state's ban on same-sex marriage more recently. The third committee member, Secretary of State La Follette, voted against it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Government Follies, Florida Edition

Hey, I have a new piece up on the WWF Climateprep blog!

Wherein I get to talk about my favorite historian the brilliant Barbara Tuchman and her definition of government folly:

Government Folly in the Face of Climate Change (March 19, 2015)

As the piece was being prepared for publication I was wondering if the topic wasn't a little dated, since the momentum is only growing for governments to come to the climate change adaptation table, but then this happened:

Former Florida DEP employees say they were told not to use terms "climate change" or "global warming" (March 9, 2015)

In Florida, of all places. When people want to know in a 3 second sound-bite what I've learned from all my research and work in the adaptation field, I often joke: "don't buy land in Florida."

And now Governor Scott has gone one more step further down the folly-tastic path:

Crazy on you: Scott administration orders employee to get medical evaluation for considering "climate change." Wow. (March 19, 2015)

Wow, indeed.

Read his official reprimand if you want to look at the inner workings of an employee being silenced on the topic of climate change. Now, true, this isn't about burying an inconvenient scientific report about climate change hazards; it's about an administrator feeling like she is being put in a precarious position by an employee's efforts to advocate against the Keystone XL pipeline, citing climate change as a reason to oppose it. However, the employee being asked to get a mental health screening before returning to work strikes me as beyond the pale.

As of this past week, the Florida chapter of the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is taking up Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee Bart Bibler's case. The Florida PEER director Jerry Phillips says "Bart Bibler has no idea whether he will ever be allowed to return to work."

This kerfuffle in Florida doesn't meet Tuchman's definition of government folly (it's not collective folly: it's folly  resulting from the actions of an individual, the governor), but let's see how the Florida legislature respondsor doesn't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

In the Heat of the Moment

Check out my newest post at the WWF Climate Prep blog: In the Heat of the Moment, discussing recently released evidence on the connection between heat and violence, and implications for society and security under climate change.

Shout out to UC Berkeley professors Sol Hsiang - now teaching at my alma mater the Goldman School of Public Policy - and CEGA's Ted Miguel for their great research on these topics!

CEGA is the Center for Effective Global Action, which focuses on using quantitative impact evaluation methods to improve results of poverty alleviation programs in the international development field. When I was at GSPP I took a student-led course on impact evaluation, taught by students working at CEGA, and the problems we addressed were along the lines of how to ethically roll out an experimental vaccination or disease testing program. It's great to see those big brains being bent to the task of assessing possible disparate climate change impacts on CEGA's constituency-- the world's poorest communities.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

New U.S. EPA video: "Anticipate, Prepare, Adapt."

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a 3 min. 25 sec. YouTube video titled "Climate Change: The Cost of Inaction" featuring EPA Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation Joel D. Scheraga (an economist by training). He ends the video by calling for viewers to reduce GHGs and  to "anticipate, prepare, adapt." The viewer is then directed to "" - "What you can do."

The video gives a quick overview of climate change impacts and examples of climate events in recent years that had large price tags for communities-- with price tag estimates captioning the photos and slo-mo videos of devastation from Sandy and Katrina, floods and droughts. Two of the highlights (well, lowlights) are in the U.S. west -- Lake Mead's current historic low behind the Hoover Dam and California's drought-driven wildfire season, priced here at "$260 million and rising in federal fire suppression" for the year thus far (wish there was a citation... is this just the U.S. Forest Service price tag,  is it actual or estimated?).

"What you can do" according to the EPA is do-able but not likely to change our adaptation outcomes, not even if every single one of us did them to our utmost extent at a household level. We are coached:
You can reduce emissions through simple actions like changing a light bulb, powering down electronics, using less water, and recycling. 
It's great to give people a list of 25 things "you can do" to reduce GHGs. Reducing GHGs today are crucial to the adaptation potential of coming generations.

But this problem requires industry-wide, government-wide, world-wide action. Eventually people will catch on that this household to-do list is the equivalent of asking "Do you think your leg is broken?" and suggesting "Make sure your grandchildren take calcium!" instead of "Call 911!"

EPA, where is your guidance on the video's closing commands, "anticipate, prepare, adapt"? 

The EPA "what you can do" page says NOTHING to the person who wants to prepare for today's impacts, addresses NONE of the factors that studies have shown lead to better outcomes after disasters (such as being socially connected to your community, having access to health care, having access to transportation, etc.). They could easily kick the reader over to a page about the importance of community gardens to food security and local environmental awareness-- starting or joining a garden is something "you can do" that might actually help people cope with the current and ongoing climate impacts. Or go to a climate march, like the one in NYC planned for tomorrow. Let the political powers-that-be know we care.

EPA, I like your video, but if you are worried about our communities dealing with climate impacts don't just tell us to change a light bulb and fix a dripping faucet. You can do better.

Monday, September 15, 2014

California's Adaptation Clarion Call - the California Adaptation Forum

Check out my new contribution to the WWF ClimatePrep blog:
California's Adaptation Clarion Call - about my experience at the California Adaptation Forum (CAF), held Aug. 19-20, 2014, in Sacramento.

For more vicarious enjoyment of the CAF:

Check out the PowerPoint presentations from the Forum.

You can also buy the audio recordings of all the Forum sessions - $200 for all the recordings, otherwise $10 a pop. Audio clip #CAF14-204 will get you the recording of the session I moderated,
"California Coastal Fog: An Untapped and Little-Known Water Resource?" although it can't be fully appreciated by audio - we had fog special effects and fog collectors. But you can see our 124-slide fog presentation here.

Here are the video recordings of the four plenary sessions (free!):

Aug. 19 Morning Welcome - various state officials and representatives
Kate Meis - Local Government Commission and state government representatives Mike McCormick and Ken Alex - Office of Planning and Research, Mary Nichols - Air Resources Board, Ken Pimlott - CalFire, and Fran Spivy-Weber - State Water Board.

Aug. 19 Lunch - the role of the for-profit private sector in climate change
Kish Rajan - Office of Business Development, John Makower - GreenBiz Group, Christopher Benjamin - PG&E, Kathy Gerwig - Kaiser Permanente, Stephanie Rico - Wells Fargo.

Aug. 20 Morning  (the best of the bunch) - on partnerships
The inimitable Jack Mackenzie from the City Council of Rohnert Park moderating a discussion including: Salud Carbajal - Santa Barbara County Supervisor, Rick Cole - City of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation, Nicola Hedge - Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA) Vice Chair and Director of the San Diego Foundation's Climate Initiative, Alice Hill - Senior Advisor for Preparedness and Resilience to the President's Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (White House National Security Council). John Laird, the head of the state's Natural Resources Agency, finished off the morning plenary with a moving speech about the lessons he's learned on making the right - if unpopular - decision in a position of political leadership.

This is the one plenary I would like to re-watch, especially for the contributions of Rick Cole, Alice Hill, and John Laird. And the antics of Jack Mackenzie, with his warm Scottish humor.

Aug. 20 Closing - Keynote by Mayor Rex Parris
Featuring Wade Crowfoot - Deputy Cabinet Secretary and Senior Advisor to the Governor introducing the keynote speaker R. Rex Parris, the Mayor of the City of Lancaster, a Republican who believes in climate change preparedness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Are farmers responding to the right signals? - WWF Climate Prep Blog feature

I've been remiss in updating this little blog o' mine lately, but I do have something to show for it-- a guest-author article on the WWF Climate Prep blog! I decided to write about some recent research done in California and Europe on the choices farmers are making around climate change adaptation. Read my article here:

Farmland in Flux - July 8, 2014 - WWF Climate Prep blog

I promise my readers I will get back in the groove with this blog now that the summer doldrums are upon us.