Map of Extreme Weather in 2012

2012 was a year of extreme weather events, with record heat waves, significant drought across the Southern and Western States, and major wildfires. A map posted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) allows users to watch the events on the national map over the course of the year.

The map also allows user to look at a summary of extreme weather events at the state level.

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According to the NRDC, in 2012 California experienced:

  • Record-breaking heat in 15 counties
  • Record-breaking snow in 5 counties
  • Record-breaking precipitation in 18 counties
  • 102 large wildfires

The website lets users see the specific records set (for example, the records for monthly highest maximum temperature below) and the previous record.

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For those (like me) who like to know the source of the data, the map was based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations’s National Climatic Data Center.

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Weather extremes are damaging parts of the U.S. infrastructure [NY Times]

The United States ranks 9th out of 12 of the world’s largest economies on energy efficiency but feels the least guilty [BuildingGreen.com]

Demolition began at the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library – when completed, it will be a zero net energy building [Berkeleyside]

The Feds say the PACE retrofit program is still too risky [BuildingGreen.com]

Photo: A blooming artichoke in Berkeley, CA, by Anna LaRue

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Land Surface Temperatures Over Time

This video shows the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature groups’s land surface temperature data from 1800 to 2009, illustrating overall global warming since the industrial revolution.

Click the image below to watch it on The Guardian website or click here (there may be an ad first).

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More information on the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group can be found on their website, here. Team members include Art Rosenfeld.

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Snippets – Waste Not Want Not

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Today, I want to share a few not-quite-so-recent stories related to waste that have been on my mind lately.
Via the New York Times, a food industry alliance is planning a three-year initiative to reduce the tremendous amount of food that Americans still throw in the garbage even as they grow somewhat more conscientious about recycling paper and yard trimmings. … A substantial portion of food is thrown away while still fully edible because of cosmetic blemishes or overstocking. … According to the most recent available statistics, more than 30 million tons of food was dumped in landfills in 2009, making food by far the most abundant material there by weight, the federal Environmental Protection Agency says.
From NPR comes a story about how all that wasted food contributes to climate change. A company called CleanMetrics gathered USDA’s estimates of food loss from retail and consumers for 2009. And when the company’s founder, Kumar Venkat, fed the data into his software he found that food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, or about 1.5 percent of all emissions ,,,  “If you compare beef to tomatoes, beef has a much higher footprint,” says Venkat. “So if you’re going to reduce waste, you need to prioritize.”
Via Bloomberg, a story about Bank of America selecting some its most decrepit, derelict homes in Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago and paying up to $7,500 to local agencies toward demolition costs. “There is way too much supply,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Cleveland-based Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which works with lenders, government officials and homeowners to salvage vacant homes. “The best thing we can do to stabilize the market is to get the garbage off.”
From the New York Times –  Across western North Dakota, hundreds of fires burn as companies rushing to extract oil from the Bakken shale field treat the gas as waste and simply burn it. … Every day, more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared this way — enough energy to heat half a million homes for a day. The flared gas also spews at least two million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, as much as 384,000 cars or a medium-size coal-fired power plant would emit.
And again from NPR, some insight into why cleaned wastewater stays dirty in our minds. … “It’s a very broad feature of human thinking,” Nemeroff explains. “Everywhere we look, you can see contagion thinking.” … The conclusion? “It is quite difficult to get the cognitive sewage out of the water, even after the real sewage is gone,” Nemeroff says.

Climate Change Hits Home

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(Image credit: flickr user heidi.nutters, via SPUR)

A recent report by SPUR entitled “Climate change hits home” addresses how we should plan to adapt to climate change in the Bay Area. The report includes a number of strategies to help local communities to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Some of the key impacts discussed in the report include:

  1. Higher average temperatures,
  2. Increased number of heat waves,
  3. Water uncertainty: droughts, extreme storms, flooding,
  4. An increased risk of wildfire, and
  5. Sea level rise.

The SPUR task force responsible for the report then considered how these impacts would affect various areas of planning in the Bay Area and proposed strategies to adapt to them.

The goal of the report is to get local agencies to begin to talk to one another to coordinate responses to climate change. Many of the adaptation strategies proposed in the report will also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – a real “win-win” overall.

A copy of the report is available for download from the SPUR website.

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Finding Data – WRI EarthTrends Delivered

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Image from: WRI EarthTrends

World Resources Institute has a useful and interesting service called EarthTrends Delivered. By signing up for this free service you can explore dozens of data charts and maps online and receive email digests of new data as it is produced by WRI in any of the following:

-Greenhouse Gas Emission Sources and Trends

-U.S. Climate Policy

-Energy and Electricity

-Adapting to Climate Change Impacts

Upon signing up you also get a dashboard to manage your subscriptions, save data, and share data via facebook, email or tweet.

Peter Calthorpe – Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change

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Last week I saw Peter Calthorpe speak about his new book, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.

A highly influential planner, designer and urban thinker, Calthorpe has spent decades advancing holistic approaches to the built environment, most famously as a champion of  New Urbanism.

His latest book lays out the case that urbanism, i.e., creating more dense and livable cities, is the only real defense against climate change. If climate change is hastened by runaway carbon emissions, and carbon emissions are linked to the energy intensity of daily life, then it follows that altering the built environment and transportation patterns are key to its mitigation.

This may not be news to anyone, but Calthorpe’s book is about skillfully unpacking this data for a non-technical audience and showing how sprawl is not just a little more carbon intensive than denser urban development, but more intensive by orders of magnitude. Read it for a study of “the big picture”.

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Assorted Links

Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, introduced legislation on Monday to block the Environmental Protection Agency from taking any action to regulate greenhouse gases to address climate change.

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Cyber thieves are actively targeting the European carbon credit market.

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UC Berkeley tops an international ranking of “greenest universities.”

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There’s no such thing as free parking.

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Upcoming Bay Area Events, January 2011

Happy New Year Zero Resource Readers!

Below is a collection of interesting events for the month of January.

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Electric Vehicles + Smart Grid

Dian Grueneich, Former Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission, Mark Duvall, Director of Electric Transportation and Energy Storage, Electric Power Research Institute and Ted Howes, Partner, IDEO, discuss new technologies and their implications for the future of power generation, while Anthony Eggert, Commissioner, California Energy Commission, Transportation Lead, Diane Wittenberg, Executive Director, California EV Strategic Plan, Diarmuid O’Connell, Vice President of Business Development, Tesla Motors, and Marc Geller, Co-founder, Plug-In America, discuss the future of the electric car in California. At the San Francisco Commonwealth Club, with a networking break between topics.

Thursday, January 13,  9 – 11:30 a.m.

595 Market St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA

$45 member, $65 standard, and $15 student tickets

event link

 

A Look Ahead at California’s Clean Energy Future

Panama Bartholomy from the CEC and Emma Wendt from PG&E discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the new report “California’s Clean Energy Future”, jointly issued by the California Air Resources Board, California Energy Commission and the California Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

SPUR Evening Forum, Tuesday January 25, 6p.m.

654 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

free to SPUR and Association of Environmental Professionals members, $10 general admission

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Film, ‘ A Sea Change: Imagine A World Without Fish’

The San Francisco Public library will be hosting two free screenings of  ‘A Sea Change’.  “The documentary film A Sea Change, broadens the discussion about the dramatic changes we are seeing in the chemistry of the oceans, and conveys the urgent threat those changes pose to our survival, while surveying the steps we can take to reduce the severity of climate change.”

Wednesday, January 26, 6 p.m. and Saturday, January 29 at 2 p.m.

Koret Auditorium, Main Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA.

free

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“Transforum” with Peter Calthorpe: ‘Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change’

Highly influential urban planner Peter Calthorpe discusses his new book, ‘Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change’.

Thursday, January 27, 6:30 p.m.

Hosted by Transform, and held at the SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA.

$15, rsvp recommended.

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“Save Our Caltrain!” Summit

Attend this summit to learn about and discuss the severe fiscal crisis facing Caltrain, an important Bay Area transit agency that lacks its own dedicated funding, and connect with others working to find solutions. Organized by the Friends of Caltrain.

Saturday, January 29, 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Samtrans Auditorium 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, CA

free

event link

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An Upcoming Talk by Nancy Skinner

On Thursday, December 12, Nancy Skinner will speak on the UC Berkeley campus on state and local efforts to halt climate change. Nancy Skinner is Berkeley’s representative in the California state assembly, and she is a founder of ICLEI. Assemblymember Skinner will also discuss the launching of ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection Program, the national movement of mayors and cities working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

106 Wurster Hall, UC Berkeley campus

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

More information here.

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