The Metadata Access Tool for Climate and Health (MATCH) is a publicly accessible, online tool for researchers that offers centralized access to metadata ‐ standardized contextual information ‐ about thousands of government-held datasets related to health, the environment, and climate-science. MATCH is one of a growing number of tools, driven by open data, that are being made available by the Obama Administration as fuel for innovation, ideas, and insights ‐ in this case, at the important intersection of climate and human health.
Category Archives: Climate change
Facing Climate Change is a documentary project that tells the story of global change through local people. This new video series is from the Pacific Northwest, and features stories about oyster farmers confronting ocean acidification, coastal Tribes planning for sea level rise, potato farmers adjusting to reduced snowpack, and plateau Tribes concerned about habitat loss.
Climate Change: Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure Decision Makers. GAO-13-242, April 12.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653740.pdf
What GAO Found
According to the National Research Council (NRC) and others, infrastructure such as roads and bridges, wastewater systems, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) centers are vulnerable to changes in the climate. Changes in precipitation and sea levels, as well as increased intensity and frequency of extreme events, are projected by NRC and others to impact infrastructure in a variety of ways. When the climate changes, infrastructure– typically designed to operate within past climate conditions–may not operate as well or for as long as planned, leading to economic, environmental, and social impacts. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that, within 15 years, segments of Louisiana State Highway 1– providing the only road access to a port servicing 18 percent of the nation’s oil supply–will be inundated by tides an average of 30 times annually due to relative sea level rise. Flooding of this road effectively closes the port.
Decision makers have not systematically considered climate change in infrastructure planning for various reasons, according to representatives of professional associations and agency officials who work with these decision makers. For example, more immediate priorities–such as managing aging infrastructure–consume time and resources, limiting decision makers’ ability to consider and implement climate adaptation measures. Difficulties in obtaining and using information needed to understand vulnerabilities and inform adaptation decisions pose additional challenges.
Key factors enabled some local decision makers to integrate climate change into infrastructure planning. As illustrated by GAO’s site visits and relevant studies, these factors included (1) having local circumstances such as weather-related crises that spurred action, (2) learning how to use available information, (3) having access to local expertise, and (4) considering climate impacts within existing planning processes. As one example, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District managed risks associated with more frequent extreme rainfall events by enhancing its natural systems’ ability to absorb runoff by, for instance, preserving wetlands. This effort simultaneously expanded the sewer system’s capacity while providing other community and environmental benefits. District leaders enabled these changes by prioritizing adaptation, using available locallevel climate projections, and utilizing local experts for assistance.
GAO’s report identifies several emerging federal efforts under way to facilitate more informed adaptation decisions, but these efforts could better support the needs of local infrastructure decision makers in the future, according to studies, local decision makers at the sites GAO visited, and other stakeholders. For example, among its key efforts, the federal government plays a critical role in producing the information needed to facilitate more informed local infrastructure adaptation decisions. However, as noted by NRC studies, this information exists in an uncoordinated confederation of networks and institutions, and the end result of it not being easily accessible is that people may make decisions–or choose not to act–without it. Accordingly, a range of studies and local decision makers GAO interviewed cited the need for the federal government to improve local decision makers’ access to the best available information to use in infrastructure planning.
Why GAO Did This Study
The federal government invests billions of dollars annually in infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, facing increasing risks from climate change. Adaptation–defined as adjustments to natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climate change– can help manage these risks by making infrastructure more resilient.
GAO was asked to examine issues related to infrastructure decision making and climate change. This report examines (1) the impacts of climate change on roads and bridges, wastewater systems, and NASA centers; (2) the extent to which climate change is incorporated into infrastructure planning; (3) factors that enabled some decision makers to implement adaptive measures; and (4) federal efforts to address local adaptation needs, as well as potential opportunities for improvement.
GAO reviewed climate change assessments; analyzed relevant reports; interviewed stakeholders from professional associations and federal agencies; and visited infrastructure projects and interviewed local decision makers at seven sites where adaptive measures have been implemented.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends, among other things, that a federal entity designated by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) work with agencies to identify for local infrastructure decision makers the best available climaterelated information for planning, and also to update this information over time. Relevant EOP entities did not provide official comments, but instead provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated, as appropriate.
Bad for you, bad for business: Can framing climate change as a public health concern win over deniers?
Read the full story in Sustainable Industries.
The Guardian published an article that ties climate change to real health concerns. As the article points out, as a society, we are much more inclined to take preventative action when it directly impacts our own health and well-being. By casting environmental concerns in the terms of public health — something done to great effect in the 1970s during the passage of the Clean Air Act — it’s possible to shift the climate change conversation toward issues that impact people’s daily lives
Read the full story at R&D Magazine.
Detecting greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could soon become far easier with the help of an innovative technique developed by a team at NIST, where scientists have overcome an issue preventing the effective use of lasers to rapidly scan samples.
The team, which recently published its findings in Nature Photonics, says the technique also could work for other jobs that require gas detection, including the search for hidden explosives and monitoring chemical processes in industry and the environment.
Research paper cited: G.-W. Truong, K.O. Douglass, S.E. Maxwell, R.D. van Zee, D.F. Plusquellic, J.T. Hodges and D.A. Long. Frequency-agile, rapid scanning spectroscopy. Nature Photonics, DOI: 10.1038/NPHOTON.2013.98, April 28, 2013.
Abstract: Challenging applications in trace gas measurements require low uncertainty and high acquisition rates1, 2, 3, 4. Many cavity-enhanced spectroscopies exhibit significant sensitivity and potential5, 6, but their scanning rates are limited by reliance on either mechanical or thermal frequency tuning7. Here, we present frequency-agile, rapid scanning spectroscopy (FARS) in which a high-bandwidth electro-optic modulator steps a selected laser sideband to successive optical cavity modes. This approach involves no mechanical motion and allows for a scanning rate of 8 kHz per cavity mode, a rate that is limited only by the cavity response time itself. Unlike rapidly frequency-swept techniques8, 9, 10, 11, FARS does not reduce the measurement duty cycle, degrade the spectrum’s frequency axis or require an unusual cavity configuration. FARS allows for a sensitivity of ~2 × 10−12 cm−1 Hz−1/2 and a tuning range exceeding 70 GHz. This technique shows promise for fast and sensitive trace gas measurements and studies of chemical kinetics.
Read the full story at Atlantic Cities.
Urban trees in the U.S. absorb 25.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually and help lower energy costs by shading the asphalt and concrete jungle. The US Forest Service estimates all that carbon storage is worth $50.5 billion and growing by $2 billion a year, according to a new study from the agency.
That’s a lot of green. Just one problem—how do you profit from all that photosynthesis?
R. Warren, J. VanDerWal, J. Price, J. A. Welbergen, I. Atkinson, J. Ramirez-Villegas, T. J. Osborn, A. Jarvis, L. P. Shoo, S. E. Williams & J. Lowe (2013). “Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss.” Nature Climate Change DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1887.
Abstract: Climate change is expected to have significant influences on terrestrial biodiversity at all system levels, including species-level reductions in range size and abundance, especially amongst endemic species. However, little is known about how mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions could reduce biodiversity impacts, particularly amongst common and widespread species. Our global analysis of future climatic range change of common and widespread species shows that without mitigation, 57±6% of plants and 34±7% of animals are likely to lose ≥50% of their present climatic range by the 2080s. With mitigation, however, losses are reduced by 60% if emissions peak in 2016 or 40% if emissions peak in 2030. Thus, our analyses indicate that without mitigation, large range contractions can be expected even amongst common and widespread species, amounting to a substantial global reduction in biodiversity and ecosystem services by the end of this century. Prompt and stringent mitigation, on the other hand, could substantially reduce range losses and buy up to four decades for climate change adaptation.
Read the full story from the Associated Press.
Every time Los Angeles exhales, odd-looking gadgets anchored in the mountains above the city trace the invisible puffs of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases that waft skyward.
Halfway around the globe, similar contraptions atop the Eiffel Tower and elsewhere around Paris keep a pulse on emissions from smokestacks and automobile tailpipes. And there is talk of outfitting Sao Paulo, Brazil, with sensors that sniff the byproducts of burning fossil fuels.
It’s part of a budding effort to track the carbon footprints of megacities, urban hubs with over 10 million people that are increasingly responsible for human-caused global warming.
Climate science researchers from Arizona State University are launching a first-of-its kind online “game” to better understand the sources of global warming gases. By engaging “citizen scientists,” the researchers hope to locate all the power plants around the world and quantify their carbon dioxide emissions (CO2).
The game officially launches today and is housed on a website called “Ventus.” Ventus (the Latin word for wind) has a simple interface in which users enter basic information about the world’s power plants. By playing the game, people around the globe can help solve the climate change problem.
Kevin Gurney, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and lead scientist for the project, estimates there are as many as 30,000 power plants around the world burning fossil fuels. While a list of those facilities (created by the Center for Global Development) does exist, scientifically accurate information the researchers need to map each power plant’s location and carbon dioxide emissions—does not.
“Of all the fossil fuel CO2 emissions in the world, power plants account for almost half—so a pretty big portion of the climate change problem is due to the production of electricity everywhere in the world,” said Gurney, also a senior scientist with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “While you might imagine that we would know where they are and how much they’re emitting, it turns out we don’t. With the growth in countries such as China, India and Brazil, this lack of information is poses challenges for both basic science and climate change solutions.”
“The Ventus project will empower citizen scientists with a simple tool that can truly make a difference in solving a significant climate change problem,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “With more accurate scientific information on every power plant in the world, international leaders in political and scientific fields can work together more effectively to address carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.”
Players who know the amount of CO2 emissions from a specific power plant have valuable information to use in the game. Additionally, Gurney and his team need three other pieces of information: the location of the facility (within a few hundred meters), the fuel used, and the amount of electricity produced. Players may enter all or only a portion of the information. Researchers have started the process by entering approximately 25,000 power plants onto the map so people can see what already exists in the Ventus database.
“Ventus uses a Google Earth map which allows someone playing the game to drop pins on the power plants,” explained Darragh O’Keefe, the ASU research scientist who built the website. “Our logic is that for every power plant in the world, there are probably at least a dozen people who live near it, work at it, or know someone who works at it. With the proliferation of phones and GPS, it makes it pretty easy to locate things.” In addition, the Ventus website will be translated into several other languages to help facilitate worldwide participation.
Players will be free to look at all the data researchers currently have from many power plants around the world. Then, players can adjust that information or make edits to their previous entries. The game does not require registration to play, however, Gurney and his team will choose a winner who, at the end of the first year, has provided the greatest amount of useable information. To be considered for the competition, players must register.
While crowd sourcing a problem such as this one is unusual in the science community, Gurney’s team believes this innovative effort might work to solve a fairly profound problem. And, Gurney believes that most people around the world care about what happens to our environment.
“Through Ventus, people around the world can play an active role in helping to solve the climate change problem,” Gurney said. “We hope to gather a global team of people who want to make a difference — and do so, right now. The information we gather from Ventus can ultimately help determine what we as a society, can do locally and globally about climate change.”
Gurney is a senior sustainability scientist with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability, and affiliated with the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning.
The Ventus project is funded by a National Science Foundation CAREER award.