Working to keep the West special

This past monthly newsletter features information about news and developments on climate disruption and its impacts and on climate action in the West. You can sign up for our newsletter, which is sent out by email, by sending your own email to admin@rockymountainclimate.org. To see more, previous newsletters, continue clicking on "Next" on the bottom right of this and subsequent pages.

 
 

January 2017

Featured Item
Countering the President-Elect’s Climate Change Denial Cabal

With the election of an incoming president who has called climate change a hoax and his nomination to key federal posts of other on-the-record climate change deniers, the greatest climate progress in the next four years is most likely to come from state and local governments.

Media coverage of state and local government reactions to the election already offer encouraging signs. At the state level, see West Coast states to fight climate change even if Trump does not, Reuters, December 13, 2016; Jerry Brown strikes defiant tone: ‘California will launch its own damn satellite’, Sacramento Bee, December 14, 2016; and in Colorado, Senate Democrats offer their own new voice on climate, energy, Colorado Politics, December 6, 2016. Local governments active in climate and clean energy policies also look to be ready to redouble their efforts. See Washington won't have last word on climate change, Bloomberg View, November 22, 2016; U.S. Mayors to Trump: Help Us Keep Cool, Environment News Service, December 9, 2016; and Mayors could override Trump on the Paris climate accord — here's how, Business Insider, December 1, 2016.

Even before the election, Colorado local governments most committed to tackling climate change, recognizing that they would be stymied in meeting their local goals without more action at the state and federal levels, formed Colorado Communities for Climate Action to advocate for more emission reductions. Now with 14 local governments as members, CC4CA has hired its own public affairs consultant to lobby the state legislature for passage and defense of legislation that leads to emissions reductions and to work with Governor Hickenlooper’s office and state agencies to adopt more aggressive climate action policies. See a link to the coalition’s recently adopted policy priorities below, in the News about RMCO and Partners section.

RMCO is proud to have played a key role in the formation of CC4CA and to serve as the administrator of the coalition. Already, CC4CA is being looked at as a model for other states and we hope to be able to report on similar efforts elsewhere as the mantle on climate action is increasingly picked up at the state and local levels.

Special Note

Late in 2016, the West lost a pioneering, inspiring leader in understanding climate and climate change here when Kelly Redmond passed away. The December issue of Mountain Views features an extended tribute to Kelly Redmond, of the Western Regional Climate Center and the Desert Research Institute, who was a friend of RMCO, as he was of so many others in the field. We will miss him, but the West will be better because of him.

News About RMCO and Partners

News About RMCO

Colorado Communities for Climate Action, the coalition of local governments established during 2016 under the administration of RMCO to advocate stronger state and federal policies to reduce heat-trapping emissions, is noted in Signs of serious global warming impacts piled up in 2016, Summit County Citizens Voice, December 30, 2016. The coalition now numbers 14 members from across the state, and others are expected to soon join. In November, it adopted a policy agenda of priorities to guide the coalition's advocacy efforts in 2016 and 2017.

The value that the Town of Telluride places on participation in CC4CA is profiled in an interview with town manager Greg Clifton, who also serves as a CC4CA Steering Committee member. Town focusing on affordable housing, climate change in 2017, Telluride Daily Climate, January 6, 2017.

RMCO’s report on Future Climate Extremes in Boulder County is covered in How hot could it get?, Boulder Weekly, December 15, 2016.

News About Climate Action

Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies    

Second time the charm? Washington Gov. Inslee proposes new $25 carbon tax in budget, Utility Dive, December 20, 2016. Following the defeat of a similar carbon tax initiative in November, the governor includes a $25/metric ton carbon tax beginning in 2018 to help pay for the state's education system in his 2017-19 budget proposal.

Clean Energy

Nevada regulators restore retail-rate net metering in Sierra Pacific territory, Green Tech Media, December 22, 2016. The Nevada Public Utilities Commission in a draft order reverses a 2015 decision that phased out retail-rate net metering for the excess generation solar customers send back to the grid, and that tripled fixed charges for solar customers over a four-year period. The order applies only to northern Nevada customers so far.

Updated: Arizona regulators end retail net metering in value-of-solar proceeding, Utility Dive, December 21, 2016. After several years of rancorous debate, the Arizona Corporation Commission concludes a value-of-solar docket with a decision to eliminate retail rate net metering and replace it with a reduced compensation mechanism for new solar customers. Solar advocates say the new rates, to be decided in a separate rate case on an avoided costs basis, will reduce compensations by about 30 percent. Existing customers will keep their net metering rates for 20 years.

Anschutz’s TransWest Express one of new power line projects to get federal OK, will boost Western energy grid, Denver Post, December 13, 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management gives approval for construction of two power lines on federal lands to link the Interior West’s renewable energy sources to West Coast markets. One has the capacity to transport up to 3,000 megawatts from the massive Chokecherry wind farm in southwest Wyoming that has been under development for a decade. See also How a conservative billionaire is moving heaven and earth to become the biggest alternative energy giant in the country. Pacific Standard, June 15, 2015.

Transportation

Western governors collaborate on 2,000-mile electric vehicle charging network across highways, Denver Post, December 21, 2016. The governors of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada commit to working together to build a regional electric vehicle charging network on interstate highways across the three states.

Preparedness Planning

Climate change damages to Alaska public infrastructure and the economics of proactive adaptation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 20, 2016. RMCO commends this study by a group of public and private sector authors as an example of the type of vulnerability assessment that public agency planners should consider using in preparedness planning. It quantifies the potential economic damages to Alaska public infrastructure resulting from climate driven changes in flooding, precipitation, near-surface permafrost thaw, and freeze – thaw cycles using high and medium-low future climate scenarios.

Water Preparedness

California officials say a new plan will make water conservation ‘a way of life’, Washington Post, December 31, 2016. The state Water Resources Control Board rolls out Making Water Conservation a Way of Life, which strives to implement a May 2016 executive order by Governor Jerry Brown to require the state’s 410 urban water suppliers to meet new water use targets, or in other words, setting a water budget “that takes into account the unique climatic, demographic and land-use characteristics of each urban water agency’s service area.”

Ecosystems

Adapting to climate change in Western national forests: A decade of progress, in Mountain Views, December, 2016. Jessica Halofsky of the University of Washington and David Peterson of the U.S Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station review the progress made and processes developed through interagency partnerships regarding climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation options.

Agriculture

Falcons, drones, data: A winery battles climate change, New York Times, January 5, 2017. One California winery is on the cutting edge of adapting to a changing climate, employing technology, energy and water efficiency, and pest control.

National Climate Policies

Broad coalition of states and localities urge continued defense of Clean Power Plan in letter to President-Elect Trump, press release, New York Attorney General, December 29, 2016. A broad coalition of 19 states and localities, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, sends a letter to President-Elect Trump, urging him to continue the federal government’s defense of the Clean Power Plan. The group, which includes the City of Boulder, in 2015 intervened in the case brought by 29 states challenging the EPA’s authority to implement the Clean Power Plan. It now urges that the incoming administration wait for the pending decision by the D.C. Circuit of Appeals to rule on the legality of the Clean Power Plan rule and asserts that the course of action advocated by those 29 states – to take action in court to formally withdraw it and issue a “day one” executive order declaring the rule to be unlawful and prohibiting EPA from enforcing it – would only lead to new litigation and would not be upheld by the courts.

News About Climate Disruption

Extreme Weather and Climate Events

U.S. had more floods in 2016 than any year on record, USA Today, January 4, 2017. The global reinsurance company Munich Re reports that the 91 natural disasters across the nation were the second most in any one year according to records going back to 1980, including 19 floods that were the most on record. The company’s threshold for classifying a natural disaster is $3 million in damage and at least one death.

Drought

With snow piling up in the Sierra, what will it take to end California's drought?, Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2017. Even though statewide snowpack readings are at 70 percent of average for this time of year, water officials say that they are optimistic about prospects for continued winter precipitation statewide.

Water

Warming is sending mountain glaciers ‘off a cliff’, Climate Central, December 21, 2016. In a new study (abstract only), researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Innsbruck report they have figured out how to link increasing global temperatures to the retreat of individual mountain glaciers. Also described in the article is a new database of glacier measurements made possible from advancements in satellite observations.

Ecosystems

California forests failing to regrow after intense wildfires, Inside Climate News, December 21, 2016. Scientists from the University of California Davis and the U.S. Forest Service report that recent fires in California have killed so many mature, seed-producing trees across such large areas that the forests can't re-seed themselves and that such burned areas are quickly overgrown by shrubs, which can prevent trees from taking root.

Heat-Trapping Emissions

Side effect of California's drought: More climate pollution, Desert Sun, January 3, 2017. Researchers find that the loss of drought-caused hydropower capacity caused a shift to natural gas-fueled power generation, resulting in 33 percent more carbon dioxide generated by the state’s electricity sector from 2012 through 2014, compared to 2011.

Atmospheric levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, are spiking, scientists report, Washington Post, December 11, 2016. Atmospheric concentrations of the potent heat-trapping gas methane have spiked during the last two years, according to a report from an international research team. Agricultural sources are identified as the chief culprit, followed by the oil and gas industry.

Heat

There were a crazy number of record highs in 2016, Climate Central, January 3, 2017. Data from the National Environmental Information Center say that 2016 will be the second hottest year on record for the U.S., and record highs outnumbered record lows by a 5.7-1 ratio, the highest in 95 years of record keeping.

Resource of the Month

Looking Forward: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate
Federal Interagency Water Resources and Climate Change Workgroup

This federal interagency report published in November 2016 updates a 2011 report and is intended to support and implement the objectives of the October 2016 report published by the White House, Opportunities to Enhance the Nation’s Resilience to Climate Change. The objectives of the Opportunities Report are to guide sustained and coordinated action among federal agencies to further climate resilience efforts and to empower communities to continue to work with federal agencies on shared resilience priorities.

This document is not an inventory of the wide range of activity underway among water resources agencies throughout the federal government; rather, it focuses on addressing the highest priority actions that the Workgroup member agencies are planning to address in the next several years. General recommendations and specific actions are identified in three thematic areas: data and research, planning and decision support, and training and outreach.

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Suggestions and comments are welcome!

Stephen Saunders, RMCO president: saunders@rockymountainclimate.org
Tom Easley, RMCO director of programs: easley@rockymountainclimate.org
Suzanne Farver, RMCO director of outreach: farver@rockymountainclimate.org