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Before September 2015

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Got Policy Solutions? Think: Brownies. A messaging recipe for policy wonks. This post is part of the research project: Flashcards We’re policy nerds here. (You may have gathered that.) It means sometimes we know just about every last detail of a particular policy solution. It means we sometimes go a little overboard telling other people about all those details—because we’re excited about the possibilities.

(Okay, maybe a lot overboard!) Most of the other nerds we know do this too. Of course, knowing the specifics is important for us. But as we’re talking about policy solutions, we sometimes get bogged down in the details. What people want to know—what they really need to know, in fact—is what good a policy will do and why it matters. Here’s a way to think about it: Imagine yourself standing at the grocery store trying to choose a box of brownie mix. We should follow the Brownie Mix Rule when talking about policy: Focus on outcomes.

Here are just a few reasons why this is so important: Using Solar Energy to Improve Desalination Process. A new process to decompose waste desalination brine using solar energy, which neutralises ocean acidity and reduces environmental impact, has been proposed by an Aston University (UK) academic. Although turning salty ocean water into fresh water is important to benefit poverty-stricken populations, desalination has a very damaging ecological footprint. Many environmental advocates see it as a last resort for retrieving fresh water, but fast growing populations mean it is becoming the only viable option. The amount of fresh water produced by desalination is predicted to double within the next decade to meet global demand. Dr Philip Davies, of Aston's School of Engineering and Applied Science, has devised a system using solar energy that could allow desalination plants to act as a sink, rather than a source of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and help to neutralise ocean acidity.

Drones could help save the world's forests. Lauren Fletcher is aiming to tackle global climate change by planting one billion trees per year with his fleet of drones. Fletcher, who is the CEO of Oxford-based BioCarbon Engineering, and his team are developing planting technologies that will be integrated with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sensors, allowing them to carry out "precision forestry". This uses geospatial information in forest planning and management, as well as site-specific silvicultural operations. The technology has reached the semi-final stage of the UAE's Drones for Good competition taking place in Dubai. The winner will be announced on 7 February and pocket $1 million (£656,000) to help develop their project. Global deforestation is one of the biggest problems contributing to climate change, with mining, agriculture and urban expansion destroying 26 billion trees per year.

"I'd been following trends on drones for the last five years," Fletcher tells Here's What Every Governor Thinks About Climate And Clean Energy. By Ryan Koronowski & Tiffany Germain - Guest Contributor Posted on Share this: "Here’s What Every Governor Thinks About Climate And Clean Energy" Share: CREDIT: Shutterstock The new Republican majorities in the 114th Congress are mostly — 56 percent — on the record denying the reality of climate change.

What about the leaders of each of the 50 states, unburdened by congressional backbiting, national lobbying, or being whipped by party leaders? According to new data from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the 2014 midterm elections resulted in eleven new governors, two of whom are confirmed climate deniers: Gov. Nationwide, 16 governors explicitly reject the reality of mainstream climate science, up from 15 before the elections.

Many governors are openly hostile to mainstream climate science and the idea of cutting wasteful carbon pollution. Maryland’s newly-inaugurated Republican Governor Larry Hogan, who defeated former Lt. Tiffany Germain is Research Manager for CAP Action. Oregon Bill Would Eliminate Coal-Fired Power By 2025. A bill in the Oregon Legislature this session would require electric companies to stop delivering coal-fired power to Oregon customers by 2025. The replacement power would have to come from sources that are 90 percent cleaner than coal plants. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) and Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene), targets coal-fired power coming into Oregon from out of state. Oregon's only coal-fired power plant in Boardman is scheduled to be retired in 2020. It would affect two investor-owned utilities in the state: Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, both of which own out-of-state coal facilities.

Both companies say the bill would drive up their Oregon customers' electric bills without guaranteeing an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Read says he'd rather see Oregonians spend money on clean energy than on upgrading aging coal plants. "If it passes, we'll see a cleaner energy future," he said. "We're very concerned," Corson said. 2014 Was the Hottest Year—Ever. The heat is on, climate deniers. Two separate analyses by scientists at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released Friday confirm that 2014 was the hottest year on record.

In fact, nine of the 10 warmest years on record—dating back to 1880—have occurred since 2000. “This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades,” NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies Director Gavin Schmidt said in a statement. “While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases.” The 2014 annual average temperature in the United States was 52.6 degrees Fahrenheit, about half a degree above the 20th-century average. The change in weather patterns is also leading to an increase in volatile meteorological activity.

The heat is on, climate deniers. Is “resilience” the new sustainababble? Suddenly, “resilience” is everywhere. It’s the subject of serious books and breezy news articles, of high-minded initiatives and of many, many conferences. After Superstorm Sandy, it was triumphantly plastered on city buses, declaring New Jersey “A State of Resilience.” What’s going on? Does all this talk about resilience mean that we’ve basically given up on averting climate change and other environmental catastrophes — and that our only hope is to roll with the punches? Have we leapfrogged over denial, anger, and bargaining, landing squarely in acceptance? Not necessarily. A truly resilient city would look very different from those we now inhabit — in ways that would make Grist readers proud. Or at least that’s what resilience should mean. Now the co-opters are hard at work on “resilience.”

Aside from out-and-out co-optation, there is a danger that resilience will be defined too narrowly, and deprived of its power to transform. So, is resilience the new sustainababble? A Green Light for Using Rain Barrel Water on Garden Edibles. Is it safe to use rain-barrel water collected from your roof to irrigate homegrown lettuces, strawberries, and tomatoes? The question is so straightforward, and yet the answer has been so murky. In the past, many sources cautioned against this use of stormwater runoff, while some, including Seattle Public Utilities, suggest it’s OK with water collected from some roof types but not others. As rain barrels proliferate and climate change squeezes summer water supplies, there’s certain to be increasing interest in using roof runoff to grow vegetables and fruits.

The problem is that there has been little direct research using runoff to water edibles and checking them for contamination. Now data from Australia, where scientists used stormwater runoff to irrigate vegetables, as well as recently released results from the Washington Department of Ecology, which analyzed the pollutants washing off roofing materials, are helping resolve the rain-barrel dilemma. So what exactly do the new data say? What You Can Learn from Seattle's Approach to Building Resiliency. If there were still any doubt, recent studies have made clear that climate change already has begun to have serious impacts in the United States -- and that the problem is only getting worse. The federal government's National Climate Assessment issued in May laid out in stark detail the region-by-region effects: water shortages, sea-level rise and more frequent wildfires, to name a few. At the same time, U.S. cities lag behind those of the rest of the world in planning for climate change.

A recent survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability found that, globally, "the U.S. has the lowest percentage of cities engaged in [climate change] assessments and planning. " Of those American cities that have begun the process, most are in the early stages.

Planning for climate change requires local governments to seriously "engage the science," Fleming says. SPU's adaptation and resiliency planning is ongoing. Life on Earth now officially at risk, scientists say. Humans are “eating away at our own life support systems” at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years by degrading land and freshwater systems, emitting greenhouse gases, and releasing vast amounts of agricultural chemicals into the environment, new research has found. Two major new studies by an international team of researchers have pinpointed the key factors that ensure a livable planet for humans, with stark results.

Of nine worldwide processes that underpin life on Earth, four have exceeded “safe” levels — human-driven climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change, and the high level of phosphorus and nitrogen flowing into the oceans due to fertilizer use. Researchers spent five years identifying these core components of a planet suitable for human life, using the long-term average state of each measure to provide a baseline for the analysis.

All of these changes are shifting Earth into a “new state” that is becoming less hospitable to human life, researchers said. Beijing's “Airpocalypse” Offers Dismal View of Life in Megacities. Neoconservatives and others of similar bent would have us believe that unregulated, ‘laissez-faire’ capitalism, ‘free’ market economics and the relentless pursuit of economic growth are the best means of enhancing overall quality of life for the world’s 7-plus billion people. Others note that every system has, and needs, governing rules and that given the authority by their populaces, governments need to provide an essential counterbalance to unbridled greed and the pursuit of monetary and material wealth by individuals and organizations. Aiming to move beyond GDP as a measure of a society’s overall economic performance, the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) factors social and natural, as well as produced, capital into the equation.

Results of the second biennial Inclusive Wealth Report revealed stark differences in 140 nations’ economic performance over the decade to 2012 as measured by GDP and the IWI. Beijing’s “airpocalypse” A bitter irony *Image credits: 1) NRDC; 2) NASA Earth Observatory. The Surprising Source of Pollution Trashing San Diego’s Beaches. When San Diego environmentalists tallied up how much trash they collected from local beaches in 2014, they found, not surprisingly, a lot of plastic.

In fact, volunteers removed 23,477 pieces of plastic and 17,438 pieces of plastic foam. But that pollution was dwarfed by the 75,069 cigarette butts fouling beaches, according to a report released Monday by San Diego Coastkeeper and the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “Littered butts continue to be a major concern because they are nonbiodegradable and leach toxins into the water, poisoning marine life,” the report states. “They also move with ease through our storm water systems, meaning a cigarette butt need not be dropped directly at the beach in order to find its way there.” Although smoking rates have been in decline for decades, more butts are finding their way to the beach. This year, volunteers picked up nearly 30 percent more cigarette butts than in the 2013 cleanups. The question is, why? The Case for Mandatory Composting. By Aubin Tyler Living in the country, I have the luxury of a backyard compost pile. Right now it’s overflowing with acrid slop, but eventually it will yield dark, rich soil nutrients for the garden.

If my potato peels, leftover rice, and parsley stems had been buried in a landfill, deprived of sun or air, those same scraps would have given rise to methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Nationwide, there’s a lot of potential in all that slop. Scattered households with compost heaps won’t make a dent in this problem. On pickup days, kitchen scraps get dumped into tightly covered green curbside bins, alongside black ones for trash and blue ones for recyclables. Besides reducing landfill waste and methane emissions, composting enriches soil and reduces the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Could a composting law work in Massachusetts? For island residents, it’s now second nature to divide trash into two streams: recycling and organic waste. Saving Our Soils and Climate with Biochar.

Dear EarthTalk: What is biochar and how can it help reduce my carbon footprint? – William Jarvis, Bethlehem, PA Biochar is a naturally occurring, fine-grained, highly porous form of charcoal derived from the process of baking biomass—and it’s been associated with fertile soils for some two thousand years. “Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices,” reports the International Biochar Initiative (IBI), a trade group representing the world’s burgeoning biochar industry.

“Intensive study of biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon has led to a wider appreciation of biochar’s unique properties as a soil enhancer.” Indeed, researchers have been hard at work perfecting their own methods for manufacturing biochar by baking biomass in giant oxygen-free kilns. Beyond agriculture, biochar can also be used to clean up polluted land. Low mountain snowpack raises water-supply fears in Washington. Originally published January 6, 2015 at 8:50 PM | Page modified January 6, 2015 at 11:28 PM A severe lack of snow in Washington’s mountains could signal trouble for the state’s water supply later this year, according to specialists who have been monitoring the mountain snowpack. The mountain snowpack on Jan. 1 was 52 percent of average, with the Olympics and Central Puget Sound Cascades faring the worst with 27 percent and 34 percent, according to the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, which assists conservation efforts on nonfederal lands.

The percentage is better than at this time last year, when similar worries were aired. However, last year, snowfall that came later in the season made up for the deficit. “We are sitting at about half of normal, give or take a few points, and we would certainly like to see it in better shape than that,” said Scott Pattee, a water-supply specialist with the conservation service’s Mount Vernon office. 5 Ideas That Could Have Prevented Flooding in New York. Stormwater Solutions: Curbing Toxic Runoff | Projects. SustainAbility's 10 trends for 2015. Education for Success in the Sustainability Industry. Domtar Brings Transparency to the Pulp and Paper Industry. Procter & Gamble Releases 16th Annual Sustainability Report. Interactive: Carbon Emissions Past, Present and Future.

Argentina: The Country that Monsanto Poisoned. These Floating Sea Trees Could Bring Wildlife Back to Big Cities. EPA's Historic Coal Ash Disposal Rule Not Enough, Watchdogs Say. This Reusable Paper Saves Trees and Prints Using Ultraviolet Light. 'Cooling As a Service' Pays for Your Waste Heat. Outlet Outrage: Why Not All Electric Cars Are as Clean as They Seem. Seeking Creative Ways to Deal with Food Waste at Hospitals. F-ABRIC RESOURCES. Free Money to Save Water? You Can Do It, and Here’s How. Fracking the Poor. How to Communicate a Good Idea: Carbon Pricing. Within 2 Years, a Quarter of the World’s Carbon Emissions Are Likely to be Priced. Will a Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Matter? The New Oregon Carbon Tax Report is Out.

Six Myths About Electricity in the U.S. South Debunked. Fashion Futures: Resource Constraints and Sustainable Design. Power Lines » Power from the Sun and Support for Affordable Housing. Are We Missing the Big Picture on Climate Change? Matched 'hybrid' Systems May Hold Key to Wider Use of Renewable Energy. High-Tech Mirror Beams Heat Away From Buildings Into Space. Hospitality Industry Finds Room for Sustainable Growth. LEDs to Get Bigger Share of Market Even as Revenue Drops, Navigant Says.

V-Spring™ Telescoping Light Pole. Small Modifications to Tractor-Trailers Could Save Billions of Gallons of Gasoline Each Year. New Plastic That Disappears When You Want It To. Mining Can Damage Fish Habitats Far Downstream, Study Shows. ASBC Summit Attendees Chart Path and Policies to a Sustainable Economy. Cost of Energy Efficiency Is under Half the Cost of Building Coal Power Plants. California Approves $13.5M in Loans for Energy Upgrades to Schools. 'Green Revolution' changes breathing of the biosphere: Stronger seasonal oscillations in carbon dioxide linked to intensive agriculture -- ScienceDaily.