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Newsbites – October 2015
Climate Change News
While New Mexico is no longer in the grips of a severe, 10-year drought, (thanks to an unusually rainy spring and early summer, with a strong El Niño weather pattern predicted through the winter), UNM climatologist David Guzler says that it’s important to think of this rainy spell as a short-term abatement of a long-term water resource challenge. Like the rest of the West, New Mexico’s largest snow-fed reservoirs are still not in great shape.
Four independent studies in 2014 found the highest annual global surface temperatures in at least 135 years. 2015 is expected to break that record. July was the warmest month ever recorded on Earth, and the world’s oceans, which have risen an average of 3 inches since 1992, were the warmest they’ve ever been in July. Analysis of tree-ring data recently released revealed that it has been 500 years since California has been so dry. The average New Mexico summer is 3.4 degrees warmer now than in 1984. NASA scientists say the Southwest is facing a mega-drought that could last up to 30 years if greenhouse gas emissions are not dramatically curtailed by 2050.
EPA Methane Rules Would Impact Oil & Gas Operations
Methane is about 80 times more powerful over the first 20 years in trapping heat on the Earth’s surface than carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the oil and gas industry emits more than 7 million metric tons of methane annually and, without controls, emissions will rise by about 25 percent over the next decade.
A satellite image from NASA last year showed a huge methane “hot spot” over the Four Corners region. Methane extracted from coal seams and produced during coal mining are likely sources. According to scientists, including some from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the hot spot also accounted for 10 percent of all oil and gas-related methane emissions from the U.S. A recent independent study showed that, in New Mexico, about $100 million worth of gas extracted on federal and tribal land is lost annually to flaring, venting and leaking.
The EPA’s proposed rules to control methane emissions from oil and gas operations would have a major impact in New Mexico. The rules, to be finalized in 2016, would lower the emissions by between 40 and 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 by limiting flaring and venting and controlling leaks from extraction, processing and transmission equipment. The rules are part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
Clean Energy Investments—A Report from CitiBank
An August 2015 report released by Citibank researchers says that global clean-energy investments would cost only marginally more than “business as usual.” “In the context of potential implications of climate change inaction on society and global gross domestic product (GDP), and with the additional benefit of cleaner air, the “why would you not” argument comes to the fore, an argument that becomes progressively harder to ignore over time,” the researchers said.
Though the report says that renewable-energy investment costs more than conventional alternatives, the benefits of wind- and solar power take hold over time in the form of fuel savings and avoided future costs. “Inaction,” the report notes, “would lead to a reduction in global GDP which could reach $72 trillion by 2060 depending on temperature increase, scenario and discount rate used.”
The report’s authors, who are not climate scientists but researchers looking objectively at the economics surrounding the global warming debate, say adopting low-carbon solutions would not be without losers. “A study has shown that if we are serious about meeting the ‘carbon budget’ and have a chance of limiting temperature increase to 2ºC, then globally one-third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and 80 percent of coal reserves would have to remain in the ground.”
Meanwhile, countries worldwide are preparing for UN climate talks in December, something the researchers see as the first real opportunity to reach a global, legally binding agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. “Paris offers a generational opportunity; one we believe should be firmly grasped with both hands,” they said.
New Mexico Falls Out of Top Ten Solar-Producing States
New Mexico fell in a national ranking of total installed solar power generating capacity in 2014, according to a new report by Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center (ENMRPC). Of the top 10 states listed—including some that receive significantly less sunlight than New Mexico such as New Jersey, Vermont and Massachusetts—all have renewable-energy requirements, and nine have strong laws to allow solar customers to connect to the electricity grid and receive credit for the excess power their homes generate.
New Mexico was in 11th place. California was No. 1, followed by Arizona. The figures include both utility-scale installations and rooftop systems. The report says that every state in the country receives enough sunlight each year to meet its energy needs several times over. “Our analysis shows that policy choices are a key driver of solar-energy growth,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “As solar technologies improve and good federal policy makes solar energy more accessible, we must also commit to policies here in New Mexico that take full advantage of our abundance of sunshine,” said Carly Poremba, organizer with ENMRPC.
ENMRPC would like to see New Mexico utilize solar energy wherever possible on public buildings and properties and expand its renewable portfolio standard. The organization is also urging the state to establish programs to help finance renewable-energy upgrades to buildings and businesses, and to establish strong net-metering standards, community solar and virtual net metering (which can deliver the benefits of solar power to low-income communities.) Active Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs can finance energy efficiency and renewable-energy upgrades.
Nationwide, solar generation has tripled in the last three years alone. The industry is adding jobs much faster than the overall economy; last year the solar industry in New Mexico provided jobs for 1,600 people.
Hunter Arts and Agriculture Center Receives $1.4 Million EDA Grant
The U.S. Economic Development Administration has announced that it is awarding more than $1.4 million to Siete del Norte Community Development Corporation for the first phase of development of the Hunter Arts & Agricultural Center in Española, New Mexico.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said, “The Obama administration is committed to helping communities bolster their local industries to further their economic development plans. The EDA investment will enable the Española community to develop its agricultural and arts industries.”
The funding will make possible complete renovation and redevelopment of the two-building complex that will house the center. It is intended to become a resource for small and mid-size farms in the region by lowering farmers’ costs of processing, packaging and distribution of locally grown produce and products. Besides providing greater access to locally grown, healthy foods to northern New Mexico families, the center could create up to 150 new, full-time jobs, according to Siete del Norte.
A Parallel World: Resources for Your Sustainable Transition
Santa Fe-based “AParallelWorld.com” is a new website providing information, resources and vendors offering discounts and bonuses on products and services to help people transition to a sustainable life. The initiative is the brainchild of local green developer Alan Hoffman, who designs and markets energy-efficient homes. “APW is a one-stop site for helping folks save money, lower their carbon footprint and join a like-minded community of people making a transition to a sustainable, healthy life,” Hoffman says.
Hoffman contends that, ironically, because the mass market has been so disastrous for the environment, real-world solutions are hidden in plain sight. Although it has been obscured by a distorted corporate filter, Hoffman points to a renewable economy that has been humming along for decades, side by side with the old, polluting, carbon-based-economy. “Those participating in the renewable economy,” Hoffman says, “are living a healthier life.”
The APW team includes writers, designers, environmental activists and social media aficionados already living a “parallel lifestyle.” “Santa Fe will lead the way,” Hoffman says. “The progressive community chooses more organic, locally grown food, is replacing coal-fired electricity with rooftop solar, and many are switching to plug-in cars.”
On Oct. 3, from 3 to 7 pm, APW is having a launch party at the Center for Peace and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd. Attendees can sample food from Farm-to-Table restaurants, test drive electric bikes and cars and learn about “a parallel world.”
The “Santa Fe Climate Impact Fee & Community Dividend”
Enacting an environmental impact fee & community dividend in Santa Fe will “help us both combat global warming at the local level and grow a vibrant economy,” says Rob Hirsch of the Climate Change Leadership Institute. Hirsch and a growing grassroots alliance are advocating for a citywide, socially just, sliding-scale fee of approximately $25 per year for a typical household and $100 per year for the average-sized business. Administered by the city, the fee would raise about $1 million each year (more if the county participated) to be reinvested in community projects to phase out greenhouse-gas emissions and support local economic development. Investment priorities would be driven by the community for initiatives such as weatherization for low-income households, solar installations, community gardens, bike paths and zero- or low-interest loans for residential and commercial renewable-energy and energy-efficiency upgrades.
About 1,500 residents, businesses and organizations have signed a petition calling on local officials to enact the climate fee. Hirsch says the fee’s supporters recognize the need to internalize the environmental costs of consumptive lifestyles rather than treating pollution as something for future generations to deal with. To learn more and sign the petition, visit www.takeresponsibility.us
Green Construction: 2.3 Million Jobs in the U.S.
The green building sector of the U.S. construction industry will account for 2.3 million jobs in this year, according to a new study prepared by Booz Allen Hamilton for the U.S. Green Building Council. The 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study found that the sector is outpacing overall construction growth in the U.S. and will continue to rise, accounting for more than one-third of the entire U.S. construction sector by 2018. “Demand for green building will only continue to grow as individuals, businesses and institutions continue to prioritize sustainable approaches to the design, construction and operations of our built environment,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC.
The new analysis also quantifies the economic impact of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It found that LEED-certified building accounts for about 40 percent of green construction’s overall contribution to GDP in 2015. Green building also contributes to significant savings across energy, trash, water and maintenance costs.
To read the report, visit http://go.usgbc.org/2015-Green-Building-Economic-Impact-Study.html
Clean Buildings and Climate Change
Working with the Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) and Ceres, an organization dedicated to sustainability leadership, the U.S. Green Building Council has announced a new campaign leading up to the COP21 Climate Negotiations in Paris starting Nov. 30, calling on USGBC member businesses to sign on to the Building and Real Estate Climate Declaration to support a clear statement for governmental climate action.
The declaration provides an opportunity for the entire sector—architects and engineers, building product manufacturers, contractors, developers and real estate investors—to demonstrate strong business support and spotlight the critical role that companies in the sector play in advancing energy efficiency, distributing renewable energy, reducing embodied carbon in materials and other innovations that reduce carbon emissions throughout the lifecycles of buildings.
More than 40 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption is used in residential and commercial buildings alone, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that buildings have the greatest potential and lowest cost as a means for curbing climate change. Reducing buildings’ carbon footprints saves money as well as energy, water and other resources.
To read the declaration, visit www.ceres.org/declaration/sign/built-climate-declaration
Eco-Fiesta Celebrates Visions for the Future
October 10-11, Main Street, Las Cruces, New Mexico
A new overnight community festival in southern New Mexico will bring together artists, scientists and people engaged in efforts to reduce our world’s huge carbon footprint. The free event is billed as an opportunity for people to explore their visions for changes necessary to create an exciting, more livable and sustainable world, and to encourage Las Cruces to become the Southwest’s first “eco-city.” The organizers define an eco-city as one that relies on carbon-free energy, alternative transportation, green construction, old buildings retrofitted with alternative energy, recycled water systems, creative, local food production and human ingenuity and cooperation.
!OYE! Celebrating Visions for the Future will take place on seven blocks of Main Street starting at 1 pm on Saturday, continuing until 8 pm on Sunday. There will be installations, exhibits and performances, as well as panel and group discussions. It also includes the “Pachamama Awakening the Dreamer Symposium.” The festival is sponsored by the Southern New Mexico Community Foundation. For more information, visit http://oyecruces.weebly.com
10th Annual Traditional Agriculture & Sustainable Living Conference
October 23-24, Fine Arts Building, Northern New Mexico College, Española
The theme of the 10th annual Traditional Agriculture & Sustainable Living Conference is “The Ice Is Melting: Discussions on Global Warming and Other Issues Threatening Mother Earth.” The keynote speakers will be Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq (known as “Uncle”), a renowned elder/healer/shaman from a remote village in Greenland; and herbalist/author/teacher Daniel Gagnon, founder of the Santa Fe-based company, Herbs, Etc. The conference will feature panel discussions, workshops and community forums, as well as performances from Pueblo buffalo dancers, information booths of various organizations, vendors and hands-on activities.
Sponsors include the Pueblo of Tesuque, Northern New Mexico College, Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute and Green Fire Times. Tesuque Pueblo, as part of an effort to protect Mother Earth, has, in concert with resolutions from the All Indian Pueblo Governors Council, supported Native Seeds Protection legislation. Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute is a diverse group of farmers, educators, healers, youth, elders and spiritual leaders dedicated to preserving and sharing cultures and committed to helping inspire people to adopt a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. This includes educating people about what the group sees as the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and the environment.
The conference begins early each morning, breaks for lunch on-site, and runs through the afternoon. There are admission fees. For information about “Uncle,” visit www.icewisdom.com. For conference information and registration, call 518.332.3156, email email@example.com or visit 4bridges.org
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