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Open letter from a distressed climate scientist

Javier Hernández, Director of the Climate Research Center, Sonoma State University

I am addressing this open letter to the Sonoma County government government officials, the California governor, and to all policymakers in the world, especially to those in areas where climate change-related phenomena (extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, heavy rainfall, floods, hurricanes, sea-level rise, storm surge, tornadoes) and other geophysical processes exacerbated by climate change like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc. are already causing ample biophysical, social and economic devastation.

More recently, scientists like myself, are confirming that climate change-related processes are happening much earlier than expected and that urgent and massive emergency action must be undertaken.

Climate change accentuated phenomena are impacting us now and their frequency and intensity are set to increase even if all anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are stopped today. For this reason, even though stopping anthropogenic GHG emissions and drawing down existing carbon in the atmosphere at maximum speed is still very important to mitigate climate change, it is paramount to deploy deep climate adaptation strategies in order to better cope with our present and future climate reality. Deep climate adaptation means to undertake all the necessary economic, structural, organizational, societal, etc., transformations to minimize the impact of climate change vulnerabilities particular to each region.

This open letter is not intended to convince anyone on whether climate change is happening or not, or whether is occurring because of natural forces, mostly human activities or a combination of both factors. The aim of this open letter is to discuss the most important problem related to climate change, the issue of living in a world where climate change enhanced phenomena are impacting us now and will become the norm in our very near future.

I’m a very distressed climate scientist that has done research on extreme weather and its relations to climate variability and change. I’ve experienced firsthand the devastating impacts of climate change accentuated phenomena, with more powerful Hurricanes impacting my homeland of Puerto Rico and more frequent and larger wildfires in California where I currently live. I am in the front lines of the climate change apocalypse.

The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) Report of October 2018 presented a dire state of the climate which, in reality, understated the true, even more disastrous, state of the climate. The Report claimed that with global CO2 emissions reductions of 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050, the average global temperature increase above pre-industrial times would likely stay below 1.5º C. The exclusion of the self-reinforcing climate change amplifying feedbacks (f.i. ice sheet disintegration, loss of albedo effect, heat storage by the oceans and release of methane from melting permafrost) in their climate change models, makes those suggestions irrelevant and misleading. The Report suggests that there is still a “carbon budget” that safely allows for more GHG emissions, which is not supported by the more realistic models that include the amplifying feedbacks, and by the now almost constant extreme and usually “unprecedented” climate change-related events happening around the world. There is no safe carbon budget left.

Because of those amplifying feedbacks alone, the increase of 1.5ºC is going to be surpassed significantly sooner than 2030, even if all anthropogenic GHG emissions are stopped immediately. The current global average temperature increase is close to 1.2º C and many areas of the Earth are already beyond a 1.5º C increase. For instance, Canada is at about 2 times the global average temperature increase and the Arctic Region (including Northern Canada) is at about 3 times the average.

The already major activation of the self-reinforcing climate change amplifying feedbacks, as a consequence of anthropogenic GHG emissions, makes the existing climate change mostly irreversible and leaves a short, but difficult to quantify, time for humans to mitigate further climate change aggravation by stopping all GHG emissions and removing GHG from the atmosphere, before a runaway climate change gets established.

As a scientist and as a being of this world I argue that we must stop debating whether we act or not on climate change. My position on the issue is clear, we must take bold climate action to prepare our societies for a more extreme world at the brink of societal collapse. We must embrace the fact that more devastating climate change effects will occur in the near future, so we must quickly begin our deep adaptation process to live in this new more climate extreme world.

If we don’t want to witness the end of organized civilization as we know it, we must act now. For that reason, I urge local, state and federal/national policymakers to accept the scientific consensus and the empirical reality that climate change is impacting us now and that it will continue to impact us in the immediate and long term future. After acknowledging our climate reality, I ask policymakers at all levels to issue official climate disaster state of emergency executive orders to make all resources available to deal with the climate change crisis which, ultimately, has the potential for the extinction of humanity.

I urge our governments to develop emergency measures that would allow us to prepare all of the infrastructure (roads, dams, buildings, parks, bridges, emergency-response infrastructure) and essential sustaining systems like farming, water supply, and health care, in our communities to the impacts of climate change. If we take bold action now, we can employ every able person in our communities in the 100% renewable energy transformation, infrastructure resiliency efforts and environmental restoration measures that would allow us to be better prepared to cope with climate change impacts now and in the very near future.

The impacts of climate change will not stop in the near future, even if we dropped all of our GHG emissions to zero. For that reason, I urge policymakers to focus on developing a more just and resilient local, national and global society that would allow all of its members to have a dignified life under our current and future climate reality.

In order for all of this to happen, policymakers need to accept one very important fact, we cannot continue with our current unsustainable economic activities that view the Earth as merely a collection of resources to be exploited in eternity for the sake of never-ending economic growth and wealth accumulation. Our voracious economic growth since the industrial revolution, almost exclusively dependent on fossil fuels, is what brought us here and it needs to stop if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

If we want to avoid the worst of the very likely climate apocalypse in our horizon, we must act now and work together to build a more just and resilient world for us, our children and all of humanity. It is impossible to put a brake on all of the climate change impacts that will threaten us now and in the very near future, but we can still mitigate Climate Change, build more resilient communities, restore key ecosystems and relinquish old unsustainable practices that would allow us to live a dignified life in a more climate extreme world.

Sincerely,

José Javier Hernández Ayala, PhD
Assistant Professor and Director
Climate Research Center
Geography, Environment and Planning Dept.
Sonoma State University
jose.hernandezayala@sonoma.edu

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , , ,

Flooding in Sonoma County causes estimated $155 million in damage

Nashelly Chavez, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The powerful storm that swept over Sonoma County last week caused an estimated $155 million in damage to homes, businesses, roads and other public infrastructure, county officials announced Saturday.

The updated assessment came at the end of a week marked by the largest flood on the lower Russian River in nearly a quarter century. Guernville and other riverside communities took the heaviest blow, but flooding elsewhere — in Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Geyserville — led to widespread damage countywide, said Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma, the county’s planning and building agency.

Approximately 1,900 homes were affected, with major damage reported at 1,760, according to the county.

Flooding impacted 578 commercial buildings and businesses, including restaurants, pubs, resorts, stores and theaters.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9342974-181/flooding-causes-estimated-155-million?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags ,

DNA mapping will include Sonoma County redwoods as hedge to climate change

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Redwood Genome Project
New technology is coming to the aid of the world’s tallest trees, the coast redwoods that blanket Sonoma County hills and date back to the time of dinosaurs.
Climate change has not yet impacted the most iconic of California trees, which live for centuries and in some cases millennia, sheathed in soft, thick reddish bark that shields them from fire and insect damage.The forest giants are thriving. Despite the rampant logging that for 150 years swept over their historic range having been virtually eliminated, organizations that protect and manage thousands of acres of redwoods in Sonoma County and the North Coast are looking for ways to fortify them against the anticipated stress of rising temperatures.
One answer may be deeply embedded in the trees themselves.The Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that has helped protect nearly 200,000 acres of forestland in more than 60 parks and preserves, is now betting $2.6 million on a 5-year project to unravel the remarkably complex DNA of the redwoods, and ultimately gain new tools for their conservation.
“The Redwood Genome Project is our opportunity to apply the world’s most cutting-edge science to save the redwoods for the next century,” said Emily Burns, the league’s director of science. “With genetic insight at our disposal, we will be able to enhance protection for the world’s most beloved trees.”
Already underway, the project has begun teasing out the genetic code of a redwood from Butano State Park in San Mateo County. The code, expressed in the DNA of every living cell, amounts to a “parts list” for the entire organism, said David Neale, a UC Davis professor of plant genetics who is project partner.
Read more at: DNA mapping will include Sonoma County redwoods as hedge to climate change | The Press Democrat –

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Sonoma County’s Gravenstein apple crop a mixed bag this year

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Apple farmer Lee Walker also has noticed more falling fruit this year. He and other farmers speculate the numerous hot days this summer may be partly to blame.

“Normally we get maybe one” hot spell per summer that hovers around 100 degrees, he said. However, this year there have been several heat waves.

The Gravenstein apple crop is a mixed bag this season for Sonoma County farmers.
As they gear up for the typically short harvest, some apple farmers said they expect a good crop of the red-and-green streaked fruit, an iconic but fairly delicate local variety and the earliest to be picked in the orchards around Sebastopol.
But others report their gravs suffered from long spring rains during bloom or from prolonged heat this summer.
Joe Dutton, an apple and grape grower outside Graton, said that this season, one block of trees in an orchard shows plenty of fruit, while another nearby block didn’t fare as well.
“The microclimates are for sure showing what they can do,” said Dutton, who farms grapes and apples at Dutton Ranch with his brother, Steve Dutton. Joe Dutton called the farm’s Gravenstein crop “spotty” and advised consumers to get fresh gravs soon because “they will not last long.”
The west county is gearing up for apple season, where for decades the Gravenstein has been a staple in juices and pies.
Apples remain one of the county’s million-dollar crops, though the value lags far behind such areas as livestock, nursery products, eggs, dairy and wine. Last year, the Gravenstein crop amounted to nearly $1.6 million, while the value of late variety apples, such as Jonathans and Golden Delicious, totaled almost $3.9 million.
Read more at: Sonoma County’s Gravenstein apple crop a mixed bag this year | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

Op-Ed: California’s best investment in the fight against climate change

Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET
Trump is on a search-and-destroy mission against climate science & energy research. We need to fill the gap.
How can California best move the ball on the climate issue? Ann Carlson and I have just published an op. ed. in the Sacramento Bee making the case for a state climate-research fund and explaining how it could be implemented. Here’s why investing in new knowledge is such an important move for California.
California can make the most impact if we get a multiplier effect, with our investments leading to further action by others. Knowledge is the most portable of all commodities, and there are crucial gaps in current knowledge. First, although available technologies will get the world to our 2025-2030 goals –much deeper cuts are going to be needed for 2050 and beyond. We’re going to need new technologies. That’s going to take basic research of a kind that private markets don’t supply. Second, although current climate models are pretty good at identifying long-term, large-scale trends, they’re weaker at predicting the timing of changes and at projecting local impacts. Cost-effective adaptation will require more precision as a basis for planning. The federal government has been subsidizing this kind of knowledge creation, but that’s obviously not going to be a priority for Trump or the current Congress – far from it. By filling the gap, California can be the catalyst for climate progress over the long haul and on a global basis.
Why California, you might ask? One reason is that we care about the issue, and we want to make a difference. Another reason is that California has the financial heft, as one of largest economies in the world. And finally, this research effort plays to California’s strengths. We have what is probably the strongest cadre of climate and energy researchers anywhere, taking into account the state’s universities, national labs, and Silicon Valley. For that reason, we can play a role that no other state – maybe no other country – could play.
California is already doing a lot, of course – setting an example to the rest of the country, while communicating to the rest of the world that all is not lost in the United States. Reducing our own emissions and starting to think about adaptation are crucial tasks. But we can make the most difference with actions that make climate progress possible not only here, but also globally. Money spent on installing rooftop solar in California is important, but it only reduces California’s emissions. But investing in new technologies and prediction methods will create tools that we and other people around the world can put to work. That’s why generating the knowledge that humanity will need over coming decades is our best bet to promote progress on a global basis.
Source: California’s Best Investment in the Fight Against Climate Change | Legal Planet

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Petaluma OKs two flood control projects 

Eric Gneckow, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
Two significant flood control projects are moving forward in Petaluma, the latest steps in the city’s long-term quest to fortify itself against rising waters.
The Petaluma City Council on Monday authorized a $1.4 million project for a section of the city’s Capri Creek, which will bolster flood protections in the area around Sunrise Parkway and North McDowell Boulevard. The work will also include habitat improvements and the installation of educational materials.
A separate $3.1 million project authorized in July will improve protections in an area of the Petaluma River upstream of Corona Road, while also adding a riverfront stretch of bicycle and pedestrian pathway. It is the third and final phase of recent flood protection work in the area known as Denman Reach.
On the heels of the completion of a major $41.5 million floodwall project spanning north from Lakeville Street, the work is another milestone in a long-term flood control effort in Petaluma, said Dan St. John, the city’s director of public works and utilities.
Read more at: Petaluma OKs two flood control projects | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

Posted on Categories Habitats, Land Use, Local Organizations, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , , ,

Op-Ed: Measure AA is vital for future of the bay 

Dave Koehler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The San Francisco Bay defines our region — a shared natural resource that unites residents and visitors with its breathtaking beauty. The truth is, the bay is highly threatened by pollution and sea-level rise. Thousands of acres of wetlands must be restored because miles of bay shoreline face increasing flood threats from extreme weather and rising seas. If we are going to pass on a healthy, beautiful bay to our children and grandchildren, we need to come together and act now to protect and restore it.
For the first time in our history, the entire Bay Area has an opportunity to financially support the San Francisco Bay and make it healthier and safer for future generations. Measure AA on the June 7 ballot in all nine Bay Area counties is a small parcel tax that generates big benefits. For only $12 per year per parcel, amounting to $1 per month, Measure AA will raise $500 million over 20 years to restore wetlands around the bay — including in Sonoma County — that will provide habitat for fish and wildlife and filter out pollutants from the water. These wetlands — such as the Sonoma Land Trust’s own Sears Point Wetland Restoration project along Highway 37 — also provide a natural barrier against flooding and offer recreational open space for all of us.
North Bay counties will receive millions from Measure AA for essential wetland restoration projects. The allegation made by some that these counties — and Sonoma County in particular — will receive less than our fair share of the $500 million in funding is simply inaccurate. Measure AA has many built-in provisions to ensure the funds are used where they are most needed. Sonoma County has thousands of acres of wetlands restoration projects ready to go, and our projects will be highly competitive with other regions.
Of all the anti-AA arguments, the claim that the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority is not answerable to the public completely distorts the truth. The restoration Authority board was set up under state law and is made up entirely of local elected officials. In other words, they are the same county supervisors and city council members who we rely on and interact with every day. Each region of the bay has a designated representative on the board. The current North Bay representative is Supervisor Keith Caldwell from Napa.
Our own Supervisor Susan Gorin has expressed interest in being nominated to the authority for the North Bay seat when it opens up for a term change. Measure AA also includes an additional level of openness and accountability by establishing a citizen oversight committee whose sole job is to make sure the authority is following the law and being transparent with its funding decisions.
Measure AA is endorsed by the most diverse coalition the Bay Area has ever seen, including local and national environmental organizations, leading businesses and organized labor and mayors and other elected officials, from Gov. Jerry Brown to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Reps. Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson — more than 600 groups and individuals in all. They understand Measure AA will bring us critical bay improvements for people and wildlife, and green infrastructure that will help protect our cities from flooding.
Sonoma Land Trust is campaigning hard for Measure AA because we have confidence in its safeguards and believe it is our best chance to fund the restoration of large sections of the Sonoma and northern bayshore before ocean levels rise even higher. We trust you won’t believe the scare tactics of the anti-tax groups. Please free to reach out to us if you have additional questions.
Dave Koehler is the Executive Director of the Sonoma Land Trust.
Source: Close to Home: Measure AA is vital for future of the bay | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , ,

Living on Earth: Saving the Bay Area

Emmett Fitzgerald, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
Air Date: Week of May 27, 2016
stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Alviso wetlands
Much of San Francisco Bay used to look like the small wetlands in Alviso (Photo: Emmett Fitzgerald)

In June, San Francisco Bay Area residents will vote on Measure AA, a proposed tax that would fund wetland restoration. Bringing back wetlands would provide habitat for many bird species, and could help save the Bay Area from the rising seas expected from global warming. But some argue the funding mechanism is unfair.
Source: Living on Earth: Saving the Bay Area

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , ,

Report says cars are key to addressing climate change in Sonoma County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
If Sonoma County plans to follow through on its plans to combat climate change, its leaders will need to focus on gasoline burned by cars and trucks, as well as electricity and natural gas consumed by homes and offices.
A new report, Climate Action 2020 and Beyond, identifies transportation as the county’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with vehicle tailpipes emitting nearly 2 million metric tons a year, about half — 52 percent — of the county’s total.
Electricity and natural gas burned to heat, cool, light and run appliances in homes, offices and other buildings generates more than 1.2 million metric tons, one-third of the county’s total annual emissions of about 3.7 million metric tons, the report said.
Statewide, greenhouse gas emissions were 459 million metric tons in 2013, according to the California Air Resources Board.
Reducing emissions, primarily carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels, “has become an environmental and societal imperative” in the campaign to forestall “the projected catastrophic effects” from global warming, the county’s report said.
The report, released by the county’s Regional Climate Protection Authority, sets a goal of reducing emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and putting the county on a path to hit 80 percent below those levels by 2050.
Source: Cars key to addressing climate change in Sonoma County

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Sierra a 'living lab' for climate change

Tracie Cone, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST — In parts of California’s Sierra Nevada, marshy meadows are going dry, wildflowers are blooming earlier and glaciers are melting into ice fields.

Scientists also are predicting the optimal temperature zone for giant sequoias will rise hundreds and hundreds of feet, leaving trees at risk of dying over the next 100 years.

As indicators point toward a warming climate, scientists across 4 million acres of federally protected land are noting changes affecting everything from the massive trees that can grow to more than two-dozen feet across to the tiny, hamsterlike pika. But what the changes mean and whether humans should do anything to intervene are sources of disagreement among land managers.

via Sierra a 'living lab' for climate change – San Jose Mercury News.