California's wine industry is under threat from global warming, and while the problem is too big for the wineries to handle on their own, some are trying to lead by example by doing things like installing solar panels and using less glass in their bottling plants.
"There are strong initiatives in the wine industry to reduce climate change impacts," said Ann Thrupp, the director of sustainability at Fetzer Vineyards in Northern California, in an interview.
Areas suitable for growing wine grapes in the United States, the fourth largest wine producer behind France, Italy and Spain, could shrink by as much as 81 percent by the end of the century due to rising temperatures, according to research published in the National Academy of Sciences. The Northern California Napa and Sonoma valleys would be hit the hardest.
Climate change would trigger more extreme heat waves, harming premium wine grapes that need stable temperatures to flourish by causing them to overripen from too much sugar.
The natural beauty and unique species of the Grand Canyon are "in the crosshairs" because of renewed interest in the region's uranium reserves. That is the warning from critics of the mines, ahead of the release of a government report on Friday on the potential impact of fresh mining.
Mining has been banned within the Grand Canyon national park since President Roosevelt declared it a national monument in 1908. But since 2003, foreign companies have submitted 2,215 claims to prospect on the edge of the canyon.
Ken Salazar, the secretary of the interior, temporarily withdrew one million acres of land from exploration in 2009 to allow time for an environmental assessment. Salazar must decide by July whether to ban "mineral entry" for two-thirds of the claims for the next 20 years.
The term "reskinning" may sound like a word straight out of a science fiction novel, but in actuality it means retrofitting the exteriors of aging buildings with energy-saving facelifts, and the practice is taking off — especially in Canada and Europe.
Ron Dembo, a former computer science professor at Yale University who founded the Toronto-based carbon software company Zerofootprint, coined the term in 2009. His inspiration came in part from being steeped in data on carbon pollution management.
Dembo said that the role of buildings in global warming is too big to ignore, especially in major cities, where they account for 60 to 80 percent of greenhouse gases. "Buildings were built inadequately and they leak heat or cold," he told SolveClimate News. "They have insufficient skins or exteriors."
As climate change worsens, some leading U.S. corporations are working to find ways to adapt to higher sea levels and other unavoidable effects fueled by warming that they say will deal a big blow to their bottom lines.
Most firms have kept their plans under wraps. But publicly known efforts reveal how adaptation is taking center stage for businesses with vulnerable supply chains, amid mostly feeble attempts by the world's largest carbon polluters to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"It creepingly has become apparent that even if mitigation were highly successful — which so far it's not — we'd still have lots of climate impacts," said Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chair of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Cambridge, Mass.-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
"We have to adapt," he told SolveClimate News.
Energy giant Entergy Corporation would seem to agree. On Tuesday, the utility will announce an adaptation project with New Orleans-based nonprofit America's WETLAND Foundation and government officials from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The collaboration seeks to help a dozen communities along the U.S. Gulf Coast gauge their vulnerabilities to climate change, and establish plans to deal with the impacts.
China has announced a billion dollars in emergency water aid to ease its most severe drought in 60 years, as the United Nations warned of a threat to the harvest of the world's biggest wheat producer.
Beijing has also promised to use its grain reserves to reduce the pressure on global food prices, which have surged in the past year to record highs due to the floods in Australia and a protracted dry spell in Russia.
The desperate measures were evident at Baita reservoir in Shandong — one of several key agricultural provinces afflicted by four months without rain. With nearby crops turning yellow, a mechanical digger cut a crude, open-cast well into the dried-up bed of the reservoir. Muddy water from the 16-foot-deep pit was pumped up to the surface via a hose that snaked past a fishing boat stranded on the cracked earth.
KANSAS CITY, KAN.—Roderick Bremby said on Thursday he has an inkling why he was dismissed as Kansas' top environmental official last fall, but he wasn't ready to publicly link it to his rejection of a controversial coal plant permit.
Bremby made his first public appearance yesterday since losing his job as secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) in early November. He said he had been forced out by then-Gov. Mark Parkinson while a second permit application was pending for a controversial coal-fired power plant in western Kansas that had gained national notoriety.
After a 90-minute presentation to about 75 people on issues of sustainability and the coal plant project, Bremby said in an interview that he was shocked and dismayed to lose his job. He said he wasn't told why he was let go.
"I have a sense internally what the issue may have been, but I don't want to suggest anything in particular because I don't want to impugn anyone's character," Bremby told SolveClimate News.
The world's second biggest palm oil company has agreed to halt deforestation in valuable areas of Indonesian forest, bowing to pressure from western food processors and conservationists.
Golden Agri-Resources Limited (GAR) has committed itself to protecting forests and peatlands with a high level of biodiversity, or which provide major carbon sinks, as part of an agreement with conservation group the Forest Trust.
However, the agreement announced on Wednesday will still leave GAR free to exploit other areas of forest, and land that is judged to be of lower conservation value.
Greenpeace, which has strongly criticized GAR in the past for its alleged destructive activities, is expected to keep a close watch on the company to ensure it lives up to its promises. Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace's campaign to protect Indonesian forests, said: "This could be good news for the forests, endangered species like the orangutan and for the Indonesian economy.
"On paper, the new commitments from Golden Agri are a major step towards ending their involvement in deforestation. And if they do make these changes, large areas of forests will be saved. But now they've actually got to implement these plans, and we're watching closely to make sure this happens."
A pipeline to carry carbon dioxide from Midwestern coal gasification plants to Gulf Coast oil fields — announced with much fanfare in 2009 — is currently in a holding pattern with no confirmed suppliers.
Proposed gasification plants that have signed contracts to supply the carbon dioxide are facing numerous hurdles, including legislative roadblocks, local opposition and low natural gas prices that make expensive coal-based substitutes unattractive by comparison.
But developers and proponents continue to push the pipeline and gasification plants as a linchpin of the Midwest's energy future, while opponents call it a financially and environmentally irresponsible idea that will ultimately perpetuate reliance on fossil fuels.
CHIANG MAI—In what experts are calling a slow disaster in the making, up to 90 percent of coral in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea has been bleached, resulting in state shutdowns of affected areas and projected annual losses into the millions.
Many observers say the cause of the latest bleaching outbreak is extreme heat stress due to climate change, as ocean temperatures hover around 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).
"If there is a long-term solution to the Thai problem — and the global problem — it lies in finding a realistic alternative to the combustion of fossil fuels, thus reducing the CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere," said Monty Halls, a spokesperson for the UK-based Shark and Coral Conservation Trust (SCCT), who warned that it is quickly becoming too late for the world's corals.
The bleaching in Thailand is said to be the worst in 20 years or more, while damage to the corals may well be the worst the country's ever seen, said Kasemsan Jinnawaso, director-general of the state's Marine and Coastal Resources Department. He told Thailand's Nation newspaper last month that the coral destruction could be more severe than when the 2004 tsunami struck Thailand's shores.
China is to impose an environmental tax on heavy polluters under an ambitious cleanup strategy being finalized in Beijing, according to experts familiar with the program.
The tax will be included alongside the world's most ambitious renewable energy scheme and fresh efforts to fight smog when the government unveils the biggest, greenest five-year plan in China's modern history next month.
After three decades of filthy growth, the measures are designed to pull the country from the environmental mire and make it a leader in the low-carbon economy. But skeptics question whether the policy will have any more success than previous failed efforts to overcome the nexus of corrupt officials and rule-dodging factory bosses.