California votes to protect Joshua trees

September 29, 2020 by  
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This week, the California State Fish and Game Commission unanimously voted to protect Western Joshua trees. In a move that is first of its kind, the Joshua trees will be protected for a year under the  California Endangered Species Act . During this year of protection, researchers will analyze threats to the species. The Western Joshua trees are beautiful, tall trees that are native to Southern California. They have become the first plant species in California to be granted protection from climate change. The vote now means that all the Joshua trees in the state will not be harvested for any purpose for a period of one year. In the meantime, a team of researchers will be looking into the state of affairs of the trees. After one year of research, the commission will have to make a decision as to whether the trees will be protected permanently or not. Related: Water pollution inspires the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to improve water quality The petition that has been approved was submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity , which raised concerns over the increasing threat of climate change. The petition cited heatwaves and worsening drought among the main reasons to protect the trees. In two previous attempts, the commission put off voting. Members of the commission were conflicted based on an outpour of public comments for and against conserving the trees. While conservationists have been pushing for protection, developers have put up a spirited campaign against such a move. But recent fires and extreme weather events seem to have jolted members of the commission into reality. According to Brendan Cummings, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, the vote is a big win for the trees and the environment at large. “This is a huge victory for these beautiful trees and their fragile desert ecosystem,” Cummings said. “If Joshua trees are to survive the inhospitable climate we’re giving them, the first and most important thing we can do is protect their habitat. This decision will do that across most of their range.” The decision to protect these trees will not be enough if efforts are not made to reverse the effects of climate change . According to recent research, only 0.02% of the Joshua trees’ habitat in Joshua Tree National Park will remain habitable if the current state of greenhouse gas emissions is maintained. The research suggests that even drastic measures taken to curb emissions would keep only 18.6% of the habitat viable for the trees’ survival. The damage done to the Joshua trees is already massive. In August alone, a wildfire damaged about 43,000 acres of the Mojave National Park, burning over 1.3 million plants. Via Gizmodo Image via Pixabay

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California votes to protect Joshua trees

3 keys for scaling nature-based solutions for climate adaptation

June 17, 2020 by  
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3 keys for scaling nature-based solutions for climate adaptation Jonathan Cook Wed, 06/17/2020 – 00:30 This article originally was published in World Resources Institute . In Indonesia, climate change is already a pernicious threat. More than 30 million people across northern Java suffer from coastal flooding and erosion related to more severe storms and sea level rise. In some places, entire villages and more than a mile of coastline have been lost to the sea. The flooding and erosion are exacerbated by the destruction of natural mangrove forests. These forests absorb the brunt of waves’ impact, significantly reducing both the height and speed of waves reaching shore. And mature mangroves can store nearly 1,000 tons of carbon per hectare, thus mitigating climate change while also helping communities adapt. Without mangroves, 18 million more people worldwide would suffer from coastal flooding each year (an increase of 39 percent). That’s why in Demak, Java, a diverse group of residents, NGOs, universities and the Indonesian government are working together on the “Building with Nature” project to restore a 12-mile belt of mangroves . The project, managed by Wetlands International, already has improved the district’s climate resilience, protecting communities from coastal flooding and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Countries around the world can harness the power of nature to adapt to climate impacts. Nature-based solutions are an underused climate adaptation strategy Java isn’t the only place where nature-based solutions can make a difference. Countries around the world can harness the power of nature to adapt to climate impacts. Coastal wetlands can defend communities from storm surge and sea level rise. Well-managed forests can protect water supplies, reduce wildfire risk and prevent landslides. Green space in cities can alleviate heat stress and reduce flooding. While we don’t yet have a full accounting of this potential, we do know that, for instance, wetland ecosystems cover about 8 percent of the planet’s land surface and the ecosystem services they provide — including flood protection, fisheries habitat and water purification — are worth up to $15 trillion . For example, offshore fisheries in areas with mangroves provide fishermen with an average of 271 pounds of fish (worth about $44) per hour, compared to an average of 40 pounds (only $2 to $3 per hour in places without mangroves). Yet despite nature’s ability to provide vast economic and climate resilience benefits, many countries are not fully using nature-based solutions for adaptation, according to research by the U.N. Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) produced for the Global Commission on Adaptation. Of 167 Nationally Determined Contributions submitted under the Paris Agreement, just 70 include nature-based adaptation actions; the majority of those are in low-income countries. The Global Commission on Adaptation is working with leading organizations and countries, including the governments of Canada, Mexico and Peru, the Global Environment Facility and the U.N. Environment Program, to scale these approaches globally through its Nature-Based Solutions Action Track . According to the Commission’s Adapt Now report  — which builds on UNEP-WCMC’s research — three crucial steps are needed to make this happen: 1. Raise understanding of the value of nature Policymakers need to better understand the value of natural capital such as mangroves and other ecosystems that provide important benefits for communities. For example, it can be 2 to 5 times cheaper to restore coastal wetlands than to construct breakwaters ­— artificial barriers typically made out of granite — yet both protect coasts from the impact of waves. The median cost for mangrove restoration is about 1 cent per square foot. This is far less than the often prohibitive cost of most built infrastructure. Mangrove areas yield other benefits, too, as illustrated by the effect on fisheries. In fact, the commission found the total net benefits of protecting mangroves globally is $1 trillion by 2030. While some research of this kind exists, countries often need place-specific assessments to identify the best opportunities to use nature-based solutions for adaptation. Governments also should consider that local and indigenous communities often have ample understanding of nature’s value for people, and should seek out and include this knowledge in plans and policies. The success of the “Building with Nature” project, for example, relied on the full involvement of local residents. Policymakers need to better understand the value of natural capital such as mangroves and other ecosystems that provide important benefits for communities. 2. Embed nature-based solutions into climate adaptation planning Nature-based solutions often work best when people use them at larger scales — across whole landscapes, ecosystems or cities. Governments are often best placed to plan climate adaptation at this scale given their access to resources and ability to make policy and coordinate among multiple actors. To be successful, they should include nature-based solutions in their adaptation planning from the start. Mexico’s approach to water management highlights how one way this can be achieved. Water supplies are especially vulnerable to climate change, as shifting rainfall patterns cause droughts in some places and floods in others. Mexico is proactively protecting its water on a national scale by designating water reserves in more than one-third of the country’s river basins. These protected areas and wetlands cover nearly 124 million acres and ensure a secure water supply for some 45 million people downstream. This approach can work in many other places. Research on cities’ water supplies shows that by conserving and restoring upstream forests, water utilities in the world’s 534 largest cities could better regulate water flows and collectively save $890 million in treatment costs each year. 3. Encourage investment in nature-based solutions Communities and countries often cite access to funding as a barrier to implementing nature-based solutions, and to climate adaptation efforts overall. But, as UNEP-WCMC highlights, governments can spur investment in these approaches by reorienting their policies, subsidies and public investments. They can also better incentivize private investors to finance adaptation projects. Many governments, private sector and philanthropic actors have funds that could be used for nature-based adaptation solutions — but a lack of awareness has hindered their widespread use. Part of the solution is helping communities and countries better understand what funding opportunities exist, learn from successful financing models and identify gaps that could be filled by interested donor countries, development institutions and private investors — an effort the commission is undertaking. The benefits of nature-based solutions go far beyond climate adaptation. From the heart of the city to vast forests and coastal wetlands, healthy ecosystems underpin societies and economies. Canada’s $1.6 billion Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund is one example of a public financing approach. This fund helps communities manage risks from floods, wildfires, droughts and other natural hazards by providing investments in both green (nature-based) and gray (built) infrastructure. Much like the mangroves in Indonesia, Canada has its own coastal wetlands that protect its coasts from sea level rise. The fund recently invested $20 million into a project that is restoring salt marshes and improving levees along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Once complete, the Bay of Fundy project will reduce coastal flooding that affects tens of thousands of residents, including indigenous communities, as well as World Heritage sites and more than 49,000 acres of farmland. Protecting nature protects people The benefits of nature-based solutions go far beyond climate adaptation. From the heart of the city to vast forests and coastal wetlands, healthy ecosystems underpin societies and economies. They provide food, fuel and livelihoods; sustain cultural traditions; and offer health and recreation benefits. Many of these solutions actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, serving as climate mitigation strategies as well . They also provide critical habitat for biodiversity. The Global Commission on Adaptation is establishing a group of frontrunner countries, cities and communities to highlight successes, stimulate greater commitments and increase attention to nature’s underappreciated role in climate adaptation. By taking these steps to scale up nature-based solutions, we can realize the potential of nature to advance climate adaptation and protect those most likely to be affected by climate change. Pull Quote Countries around the world can harness the power of nature to adapt to climate impacts. Policymakers need to better understand the value of natural capital such as mangroves and other ecosystems that provide important benefits for communities. The benefits of nature-based solutions go far beyond climate adaptation. From the heart of the city to vast forests and coastal wetlands, healthy ecosystems underpin societies and economies. Topics Risk & Resilience Risk Nature Based Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Scenic path on mangrove forest at Bama Beach in the Baluran National Park, a forest preservation area on the north coast of East Java, Indonesia Shutterstock Ivan Effendy Halim Close Authorship

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To make offices safe during COVID-19, buildings need a breath of fresh air

June 15, 2020 by  
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To make offices safe during COVID-19, buildings need a breath of fresh air Jesse Klein Mon, 06/15/2020 – 02:00 The coronavirus thrives inside. A Hong Kong paper found that of over 7,000 COVID-19 cases, only one outbreak was contracted outdoors. In Seoul, an infection cluster was so concentrated that even on a 19-floor building, the outbreak was contained to just one floor, and almost entirely on one side of that floor. The data seems to indicate that infections occur in dense inside areas with shared airspace, compounded by recirculating that air — the definition of a modern office building.  Over the past decade, the density of office buildings has increased in a bid for ever-increasing efficiency. The move from cubicles to open planning drastically decreased the average space per employee in an office. The average cubicle is usually between 6 feet by 6 feet and 8 feet by 12 feet. A standard office desk for an open plan is almost half that, typically 5 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep . Another side effect of open planning was more people sharing the same air with fewer physical barriers.  To keep energy costs low, contractors worked to tightly seal buildings including designing windows that don’t open. Improvements in ventilation technology have decreased energy consumption by up to 30 percent. Better filtration systems including HEPA filters, ionization, ultraviolet lights and active carbon have increased the quality of recirculated air, without having to increase the amount of fresh air in the building.  These denser, more shared office buildings were considered more sustainable because they used less energy and contained more people on a smaller carbon footprint. But they also seem to have created the perfect breeding ground for infection.  Forcing some of the owners of these buildings just to fix some of their systems that have been broken for a long time is a step in the right direction. Corporate sustainability experts are hoping that as COVID-19 forces corporate office managers to reevaluate their current setups, it also will be an opportunity to create more sustainable ventilation systems.  Pre-pandemic, LEED and WELL standards helped offices create more environmentally friendly and healthier ventilation systems. But even if LEED-certified buildings have ventilation systems that are up to code, the facilities managers haven’t always been enforcing or maintaining them. According to Joe Snider, green architect and founder of Integrative Sustainability Solutions, these buildings might be up to LEED standards on paper but in reality, they aren’t operating that way. The coronavirus could be a driving force in changing that, he said.  “Forcing some of the owners of these buildings just to fix some of their systems that have been broken for a long time is a step in the right direction,” said Richard Kingston, vice president of sustainability at HPN Select, a building materials procurement business based in North Carolina.  Offices might have to look for tactics from other industries in order to bring workers back to the office. For example, conference rooms that squeeze a mass of people in a small closed-off space are unlikely to be desirable to employees for a long while. Facility managers might need to consider negative pressure systems that can expel all the air in the room, similar to how infectious patients are contained in hospitals, for this type of collaboration. Companies including the San Francisco-based vertical farm Plenty are already organizing workers in cohorts who come in on the same days so if an outbreak occurs, it will be contained to one set of workers. Managers of traditional office space might need to consider doing the same. But the ventilation itself also will need divisions to contain an outbreak within a cohort as much as possible. “You’ll need to divide systems up so that massive rooms are not ventilated by the same ventilator that then blows air across the room,” said Clinton Moloney, managing director of sustainability solutions at Engie Impact. “Because what you don’t want to do is blow a continuous infection across a large space.” According to Gensler technical director Ambrose Aliaga Kelly, we could see a new wave of underfloor ventilation common in upscale theaters and concert halls such as Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. Workers will be very conscious of air being forced down onto them by overhead vents. Underfloor ventilation creates safer and better air quality with the added benefit of being more sustainable. The New York Times Building and the San Francisco Federal Building are just two examples of places that opted for this type of ventilation long before an infection started sweeping the globe. Concerning implications for energy consumption But some ways of mitigating virus transference indoors also could push employers in the opposite direction of energy efficiency.  As workers return to the offices, the amount of fresh air in a building could be one of the most drastic shifts facilities have to make. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers ( ASHRAE ) 62.1. Code an outdoor air minimum for healthy buildings of about 15 percent, according to Kelly. Most of what people breathe inside is recirculated air.  Architects predict that the amount of fresh air in buildings will skyrocket. Buildings might have to embrace windows that open, increase the fresh air take up and invest in outdoor workspaces. Brandywine Realty Trust , a commercial landlord in Philadelphia, already has adjusted its systems to maximize the amount of fresh outside air in its buildings. Along with hopefully mitigating coronavirus infections, studies have shown that increases in fresh air create more productive and healthier workers. The Centers for Disease Control released guidelines for businesses on ventilation during COVID-19 that recommend up to 100 percent outdoor air, if possible. But with more outdoor air, the energy to heat and cool that air also will increase.  Suddenly you’re having to condition all that [outdoor] air. And that’s where the energy bill can really spike. “That’s kind of the trade-off with better ventilation,” Snider said. “The system itself is not necessarily more expensive. Suddenly you’re having to condition all that [outdoor] air. And that’s where the energy bill can really spike.”  He believes there are opportunities beyond just defaulting to MAX ventilation that will push up energy consumption, such as being able to set ventilation systems in meeting rooms so while it is occupied the ventilation is high, continues to crank for a little while after people leave and then ramps down while the space is empty. If office buildings decide the energy emissions and costs are worth bringing people back to the office safely, Moloney expects an increased focus on renewable energy credits and offsets in order for companies to continue to meet its sustainability goals. According to a 2011 paper by researchers at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), strategies for better indoor air quality can exist in conjunction with energy efficiencies including envelope airtightness, heat recovery ventilation, demand-controlled ventilation and improved system maintenance. Facilities managers might become the new heroes of the office building. They will need to start stepping up into a more visible role as employees demand a better understanding of their office’s maintenance systems. A focus on better filters and, more important, remembering to replace those filters will move from a banal chore to a priority.  The changes in the density of the workplace also could push employers to invest in more sophisticated systems and sensors to increase energy efficiencies. As remote work continues and staggered shifts with fewer people in the office at one time become the norm, offices will need to adjust their ventilation systems. Executives won’t want to waste money and energy on a half-empty building. Demand control CO2 sensors measure the number of people in a room based on breath and can adjust the systems accordingly. And automatic thermometer and ventilation controls will help remove human error. “You’re eliminating the need for somebody to flip the switch,” Kingston said. “And if you can eliminate the need, you’re gonna save energy costs.”  The pandemic has shifted air quality from a side benefit of sustainable buildings to a prime objective of many construction projects, sustainable or not. Experts hope the crisis is the opportunity to turn every construction project into a sustainable one.  “Not only are we addressing what’s going on right now, but we’re putting in place things that are going to affect the workspace in the future,” Kingston said. “And those are all things that needed to change for a long time.” Pull Quote Forcing some of the owners of these buildings just to fix some of their systems that have been broken for a long time is a step in the right direction. Suddenly you’re having to condition all that [outdoor] air. And that’s where the energy bill can really spike. Topics COVID-19 Buildings Energy & Climate HVAC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Bioclimatic design creates a highly efficient and healthy home in Spain

November 20, 2019 by  
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Spain’s Rías Baixas area is a picturesque part of the country. Now, in this idyllic region sits a highly energy-efficient home designed by local firm ARKKE . The architects incorporated several bioclimatic features into the design, taking advantage of the local climate and landscape to help reduce the building’s energy use. The Small Bioclimatic House is a compact, two-bedroom home that sits elevated on a steep hill side overlooking the Ría de Arousa, the largest estuary in Galicia. The area is known for its picturesque landscape dotted with quaint fishing villages, so the architects wanted to create an energy-efficient home that harmonizes with the surroundings and complements the existing vernacular. Related: Brazilian timber home uses bioclimatic principles to reduce its environmental footprint The home is just over 900 square feet and is surrounded by natural landscaping. According to the architects, the layout and size of the house was inspired by the limited building space as well as the stunning views. The firm explained, “The essential premise of the commission was to design a small, highly efficient and healthy house capable of making the most of a very narrow plot but with delicious views of the Arosa estuary.” The architects created a simple, one-story design with two bedrooms, a living room, an open kitchen and a bathroom. The front wall is comprised of floor-to-ceiling windows that open up to a front deck; this helps the family to enjoy optimal natural light as well as unobstructed views year-round. To create a strong thermal envelope for the home, the architects chose to build with CLT . The porch extends laterally, forming eaves that shade the interiors from direct solar radiation, again reducing the home’s energy use. Additionally, the entire envelope has been insulated with a unique exterior insulation system (SATE) to withstand both the region’s frigid winters and the searing summer months. + ARKKE Via ArchDaily Images via ARKKE

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English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees

May 21, 2019 by  
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This week, England announced a plan to plant at least 130,000 trees in cities and towns throughout the country as part of the Forestry Commission’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund. The challenge, endorsed and announced by environment secretary Michael Gove, allows individuals, municipalities, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations to access trees and maintenance funding as long as they can prove they have funding to continue to maintain the trees after a three-year funding period. “We need trees lining our streets, not only to green and shade them but to ensure we remain connected to the wonders of the natural world, which is why we must go further and faster to increase planting rates,” said secretary Michael Gove . Related: Labor party launches solar panel program for 1.75m homes Trees have remarkable benefits for the environment and for people living in urban areas. Although 130,000 trees won’t stop climate change , evidence suggests that a mature tree can absorb and store up to  22 kg of carbon every year and produce enough oxygen to sustain two people. Every 10 percent of forest cover in urban areas reduces ozone gas by 3 to 7 percent. In addition to the benefits to air quality , urban trees provide a habitat for birds, squirrels and other species. Tree-lined streets are considered aesthetically pleasing and mentally calming and have even been linked to a reduction in violent and petty crimes, as well as an increase in property values of between 5 to 15 percent. The English Forestry Commission is a U.K. government agency with a mission to increase the value of forests for people and the environment. Forestry Commission chair Sir Harry Studholme said of the tree planting challenge, “This will allow us to plant more trees much closer to where people live and work and where the benefits of trees make the most difference.” Via The Guardian Image via Mary Salazar

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English tree planting challenge will help plant 130,000 trees

Scrapping Energy Star labels leaves a vacuum in Europe

March 25, 2019 by  
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The EU Commission’s decision to ditch Energy Star labels for office equipment remains controversial with manufacturers.

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Scrapping Energy Star labels leaves a vacuum in Europe

Electric buses and trucks charge ahead

March 25, 2019 by  
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China is ahead with electrification, but the year ahead could be a tipping point elsewhere.

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Electric buses and trucks charge ahead

Stopping the flood of marine debris

March 25, 2019 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Execs from impact investing, corporates and NGOs talk ending ocean plastic pollution.

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Stopping the flood of marine debris

Mastering the long haul of sustainability

March 25, 2019 by  
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Self-management, perseverance and adaptability all matter.

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The inconvenient truths behind the ‘Planetary Health’ diet

February 6, 2019 by  
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The recently published EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems uses flawed research on health, sustainability and food systems.

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The inconvenient truths behind the ‘Planetary Health’ diet

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