House Votes to Stop U.S. Exit from Paris Climate Pact
Democrats in the House of Representatives last week used their majority control to adopt a Climate Action Now resolution (HR 9) that would prohibit President Trump from following through on his intention announced June 2017 to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Credit: National Geographic
In addition to denying federal funding to carry out the withdrawal, the resolution calls on Trump to develop and update annually a plan for the nation to meet its nationally determined contribution under the agreement.
Specifically, the plan required by the resolution must describe steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The administration would also be required to confirm that other countries “with major economies” that have signed on to the agreement are fulfilling their announced contributions.
It also would require the White House to submit a report to Congress within 120 days on how he planned to meet the U.S. obligation under the agreement.
The resolution passed mostly along party lines, 231-190. Three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting for the measure. Four GOP members did not vote.
Given that Republicans control the Senate, the measure is not expected to see action in the upper chamber. But Democrats say passage of the resolution in the House offers a platform for their candidates to use the issue in the 2020 elections.
Democratic leaders moved quickly to nail down the vote on the resolution, working to avoid intraparty conflict from those who want votes on the “Green New Deal” or on a carbon tax.
Republicans in the House faced some of their own tension from those who agree with Trump’s desire to pull the country from the Paris agreement, but who do not want to be perceived has having no plan to deal with climate change, which is becoming a growing concern among voters.
Though Trump announced his intentions to withdraw almost two years ago, the United States cannot formally exit the Paris pact until next year.
Climate Extremes Explain 18-43 Percent of Global Crop Yield Variations
Researchers from the United States, Australia, Germany and Switzerland and have quantified the effect of year-to-year climate extremes on the yield variability of staple crops around the world.
The research published in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, showed climate extremes, such as hot and cold temperature extremes, drought and heavy precipitation, by themselves accounted for 18-43 percent of the year-to-year, crop yield variations during the growing season for corn, rice, soy and spring wheat.
The research comes on the heels of hurricanes Florence and Michael, as well as unprecedented wildfires, massive flooding and other natural disasters that has devastated agricultural regions across the United States.
In a letter to Congress last month, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said estimated agricultural losses in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina total nearly $5.5 billion. In Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri, which were hit with record flooding from a “bomb cyclone” of catastrophic weather events, including blizzard conditions, hurricane-like winds, snow and heavy rain, losses are currently estimated at more than $3 billion, a figure that is expected to grow as recovery efforts continue.
Though the flood damage to crops in the midwestern United States was extreme, the international research team said that on the global scale, they found most important climate factors for yield anomalies were related to temperature.
The research also revealed global hotspots – areas that produce a large proportion of the world’s crop production, yet are most susceptible to climate variability and extremes.
“We found that most of these hotspots – regions that are critical for overall production and at the same time strongly influenced by climate variability and climate extremes – appear to be in industrialized crop production regions, such as North America and Europe,” said lead author Elisabeth Vogel, of Australia’s University of Melbourne.
For climate extremes specifically, the researchers identified North America for soy and spring wheat production, Europe for spring wheat and Asia for rice and corn production as hotspots.
But, as the researchers point out, global markets are not the only concern. Outside of these major regions, in regions where communities are highly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, the failure of these staple crops can be devastating.
“In our study, we found that [corn] yields in Africa showed one of the strongest relationships with growing season climate variability,” Vogel said. “In fact, it was the second highest explained variance for crop yields of any crop/continent combination, suggesting that it is highly dependent on climate conditions.”
Researchers say that while Africa’s share of global corn production may be small, the largest part of that production goes to human consumption – compared to just 3 percent in North America – making it critical for food security in the region.
“With climate change predicted to change the variability of climate and increasing the likelihood and severity of climate extremes in most regions, our research highlights the importance of adapting food production to these changes,” Vogel said.
She said increasing the resilience to climate extremes requires a concerted effort at local, regional and international levels to reduce negative impacts for farmers and communities depending on agriculture for their living.
How Farmers Are Fighting Climate Change
A 10-year veteran congressional legislator from Maine, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, shared with constituents on her House of Representatives website last month a detailed assertion that farmers “have a critical role to play in reversing the effects of climate change by improving soil health and increasing the amount of carbon stored in the soil.”
In late March, Pingree co-sponsored a bill that would require the Trump administration to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement and to develop a serious plan for how the United States will address climate change.
A member of both the House Agriculture and Ways and Means committees, Pingree acknowledged in her statement last month the “especially tough times for farmers,” noting thin margins, trade wars jeopardizing export markets, a serious mental health and substance abuse crisis that is ravaging rural communities, and extreme weather event. “Whether it’s the result of changing growing seasons, a 500-year flood, or a prolonged drought,” she said, “this is making it increasingly difficult for farmers to stay on their land and turn a profit.”
The congresswoman said farmers are already implementing climate-smart practices on their operations. Citing the wide array of USDA conservation, farm service and rural development personnel across the country, she said farm bill programs, infrastructure and state, along with research from federal labs land grant universities and 10 USDA climate hubs across the nation must be deployed to farmers nationwide.
NASA Study Verifies Global Warming Trends
A new study by researchers from NASA has verified the accuracy of recent global warming figures.
The team used measurements of the ‘skin’ temperature of the Earth taken by a satellite-based infrared measurement system called AIRS (Atmospheric Infra-Red Sounder) from 2003 to 2017.
They compared these with station-based analyses of surface air temperature anomalies – principally the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP).
They found a high level of consistency between the two datasets over the past 15 years. Their results were published last month Environmental Research Letters.
Commenting on the study, lead author Joel Susskind, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said: “AIRS data complement GISTEMP because they are at a higher spatial resolution than GISTEMP, and have more complete global coverage.
Could Computer Games Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change?
Scientists from Sweden and Finland say gaming presents both challenges and benefits for communicating climate change methods to farmers
Web-based gaming, such as simulation games, can promote innovative communication strategies that engage farmers with scientific research and help them adapt to climate change, the researchers say.
Methods employed to tackle climate change, such as, for example, improving drainage systems to cope with increased levels of precipitation, are known as adaptation strategies. “Maladaptation” is the implementation of poor decisions or methods that were initially considered beneficial, but which could actually increase people’s vulnerability in the future.
Researchers from Sweden and Finland have developed the interactive web-based Maladaptation Game, which can be used to better understand how Nordic farmers make decisions regarding environmental changes and how they negotiate the negative impacts of potentially damaging decisions.
Their research is presented in the article “Benefits and challenges of serious gaming – the case of ‘The Maladaptation Game’” published in De Gruyter’s journal Open Agriculture, by author Therese Asplund and colleagues from Linköping University in Sweden and the University of Helsinki in Finland.
Tested on stakeholders from the agricultural sector in Sweden and Finland, the Maladaptation Game presents the player with four agricultural challenges: precipitation, temperature increase/drought, longer growing seasons and increased risk of pests and weeds. For each challenge, the player must make a strategic decision based on the options given. At the end, the player receives a summary of the potential negative outcomes based on their decisions.
“While we observed that the conceptual thinking of the game sometimes clashes with the players’ everyday experiences and practice, we believe gaming may function as an eye-opener to new ways of thinking,” explains Asplund.
Based on recent literature on serious gaming and climate communication, the authors suggest that serious games should be designed to include elements of thinking and sharing, which will stimulate reflection and discussion among stakeholders.
“Serious games have great potential of how to address complex environmental issues. Used as a communication strategy, they illustrate, visualize and communicate research findings,” says Asplund.
Nebraska Legislators Adopt Clean Energy Economic Development Changes
In a move to boost clean energy and energy efficiency in the state, Nebraska lawmakers unanimously passed legislation last month that makes changes to the state’s Property Assessed Clean Energy Act, commonly known as PACE.
PACE programs provide a means of financing energy efficiency upgrades, disaster resiliency improvements, water conservation measures, or renewable energy installations of residential, commercial and industrial property owners. The programs allow a property owner to finance the up-front cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment on that property.
The act passed by the Nebraska legislature allows cities and counties to authorize PACE financing within their jurisdictions for energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy projects for commercial, agricultural and residential property.
LB23, sponsored by Seward Sen. Mark Kolterman, adds new public purpose language to the PACE Act and changes the classification of co-generation and tri-generation systems under the act from a renewable energy resource to an energy efficiency improvement.
The bill also allows municipalities, on a case-by-case basis, to wave a requirement that the energy savings generated by a PACE project exceed the cost of the project.
LB23 passed the unicameral body on a 45-0 vote.