Climate Change Driving Species Loss

May 08, 2019


New York Times: "Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

"The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

"Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate 'unprecedented in human history.'

"At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with the other ways humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species, such as the Bengal tiger, closer to extinction.

"As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts."

New York Investing in Freight Rail to Divert Truck Traffic

April 08, 2019

NYA_Map_0215.jpgNew York Times: "City officials have been working to reduce the inundation of trucks on New York’s streets. The trucks carry about 90 percent of the city’s freight, more than most major American cities, contributing to the city’s worsening gridlock and pouring greenhouse gases into the air.

"By contrast, the city’s rail lines transport just 2 percent of New York’s cargo.

"To change that, city officials are investing tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the freight train’s corridors, including modernizing several rail depots.

"The railway will also handle more freight because another little-known piece of the region’s transportation network will soon be expanded: a service that floats rail cars from New Jersey across New York Harbor by barge to Brooklyn, where they connect with New York and Atlantic’s line.

“'That rail line has an important but unsung job of diverting truck traffic, and it is key to the future of freight transport for New York City,' said Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who has long advocated rail freight, including supporting building a tunnel under New York Harbor connecting New Jersey to Brooklyn.

"The New York & Atlantic line now is in the surprising position of having its big diesel locomotives — and the sooty, graffiti-strewn boxcars they haul — pegged as a progressive, environmental choice for New York."

Memphis Business Journal"'With gas prices at an all-time high, Americans can't afford to waste money and time sitting in traffic. Because one intermodal train can take nearly 300 trucks off our highways, shifting freight from trucks to trains reduces competition between commuters, drivers and freight traffic for space on the road,' said Wendell Cox, author of the study and principal of Demographia, a market research and urban policy consultancy."

Socialized Driving

April 06, 2019


New York Times: "In reality, the government is a monopoly provider of road space, and the government has largely chosen to give it away. It’s no surprise, then, that the vast majority of American commuters drive to work alone, or that all those lonely commuters (plus taxis, Ubers, buses and delivery trucks) cause congestion.

"When the government holds down the price of something people value, Mr. Manville said, we get shortages. And congestion is effectively a shortage of road — one that occurs at the peak times when people want to use it most.

"If we had that problem with other kinds of infrastructure or commodities, we’d charge people more for them. If airline tickets were particularly in demand, their prices would go up. If there were a run on avocados, grocers wouldn’t respond by keeping them as cheap as possible. . . .

"Today, because most people seldom pay directly for roads — or because general funds do — it can seem as if no one does.

“'Therefore the street transportation system has no cost,'” said Yonah Freemark, a doctoral student in city planning at M.I.T., who runs the blog The Transport Politic. 'And therefore we can just expect to have unlimited parking, we can expect to have unlimited access to neighborhoods, for whatever reason, for free.'

"Take those expectations to their logical conclusion in a major city today, and you get 10-mile-per-hour road speeds, rampant double parking, clogged intersections and worsening commute times. You get, finally, the political will for congestion pricing."

CCEC: Congestion pricing is heavy lift in most communities, but there are other practical tools such as paid parking that provide similar benefits.

Los Angeles Traffic Congestion Cost - $91 Billion

34% of Congested Traffic Cruising for Parking

Largest, Deadliest, and Most Destructive Wildfires

March 29, 2019


California Energy Commission: "Five of the deadliest, seven of the most destructive (in terms of structures destroyed), and four of the largest wildfires in California’s history occurred in 2017 and 2018 alone, with some fires making the top 20 list in more than one category."

Tahoe Settlement Generates TDM Strategies Report

March 25, 2019


CCEC settled litigation with Placer County in November, 2017, over the Tahoe Basin Area Plan.  Under the settlement, the County agreed to undertake a systematic study of reducing traffic congestion by making non-automobile travel options easier for everyday trips.

Subsequently, the highly-regarded Bay Area transportation firm Nelson-Nygaard has worked with the County and other agencies in the area to produce a draft "Transportation Demand Management Strategies for North Lake Tahoe."

The TDM strategies document contains a range of recommended solutions for traffic congestion in North Lake Tahoe that may be presented to the Placer County Board of Supervisors for consideration and potential implementation.

The document is now open for public discussion.  A detailed presentation will be made by County staff and Nelson Nygaard at the April 11, 2019, meeting of the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council.  The meeting will take place at 5:00 p.m. at the North Tahoe Event Center, 8318 North Lake Tahoe Blvd, Kings Beach, CA.

Greenland Ice Sheet Nears Tipping Point

February 06, 2019

New York Times: "Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting at such an accelerated rate that it may have reached a 'tipping point'and could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a study published on Monday."

PG&E: The First Climate-Change Bankruptcy

January 29, 2019


Wall Street Journal: "PG&E Corp.’s bankruptcy could mark a business milestone: the first major corporate casualty of climate change. Few people expect it will be the last."

"California’s largest utility was overwhelmed by rapid climatic changes as a prolonged drought dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire. On Monday, PG&E said it planned to file for Chapter 11 protection by month’s end, citing an estimated $30 billion in liabilities and 750 lawsuits from wildfires potentially caused by its power lines."

"The company’s fall has been fast and steep. In October, its market value was $25 billion. This week, it was removed from the S&P 500 as its value tumbled below $4 billion and its shares fell to their lowest level since at least 1972."

CO2 Emissions Increase Sharply in 2018

January 08, 2019

Rhodium Group: "After three years of decline, US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose sharply last year.  Based on preliminary power generation, natural gas, and oil consumption data, we estimate emissions increased by 3.4% in 2018. This marks the second largest annual gain in more than two decades — surpassed only by 2010 when the economy bounced back from the Great Recession."

New York Times: "Under the Paris climate agreement, the United States vowed to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.  The Rhodium Group report warns that this target now looks nearly unattainable without a flurry of new policies or technological advances to drive down emissions throughout the economy."

Bipartisan Climate Legislation Introduced

December 30, 2018

The Hill:  "A bipartisan group of lawmakers is introducing a landmark bill that would charge fossil fuel companies a tax for their carbon dioxide emissions."

"The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, announced by two Republicans and three Democratic members of the House on Tuesday, would charge $15 for each ton of carbon emitted into the air and would increase that fee by $10 every year afterward, in an effort to fight climate change. Other than administrative costs, all of the money would go back to taxpayers.

"Supporters say the bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 10 years, and 91 percent by 2050. That’s a bigger cut than former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan or the United States’ commitment under the Paris climate agreement — a pact President Trump has promised to exit."

Citizens Climate Lobby: The Basics of Carbon Fee and Dividend

REMI Study: "The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power, and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax"

Speeding Freight Train

December 07, 2018


New York Times: "Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said Wednesday, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected."

"Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles."