Sunday, March 5, 2017

Global warming - who gets hurt?

 Short answer - Americans think that some people in the U.S. may be impacted by global warming. They think that future generations, people in developing countries, plants and animals will definitely be affected by global warming.
But they don't think that they, personally, will be affected.
In Pennsylvania, 53% of us think that we will feel the effects of climate change "little or not at all".
Sell the skis, turn up the A.C. - it's all good.
These maps are inspiring me to turn up the volume on climate communications. People need to understand the socio-economic implications of the changes that will be all too real, even for those of us who may be buffered from temperature and precipitation shifts.
Here's the data and it comes from Yale Climate Opinion Maps:
50% of Americans think global warming will harm them personally:
But these opinions flip around when we start asking if someone else will be harmed. 58% of Americans think someone else in the U.S. will be harmed by global warming - just not them or their neighbors.
And future generations? Absolutely, those poor people are definitely going to be harmed by global warming. 70% of Americans think this. (Incidentally, the map of opinion about harm to plants and animals is almost the same as this one about future generations.)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Climate Change: Talk it up.

I just found the Yale Climate Opinion Maps. (Peter Howe, Matto Mildenberger, Jennifer Marlon, and Anthony Leiserowitz) (Some of my connections will recognize Peter Howe, PhD in Geography from Penn State.)
What a resource this map is! It is so helpful to hold a mirror up to the country and show us what we think!
The first data visualization you'll see when you go to the website is the Estimated % of adults who think global warming is happening:
[On the website you can select different model outputs, you can view the "absolute value" (shown here) or the difference from national average. You can zoom in to a state, or change the basis of granularity of this map - to congressional districts, for example.]
So... Clearly, in almost every county of the United States, more than 50% of the adults are somewhat convinced that climate change/global warming IS HAPPENING. And while some are uncertain, very few disagree.
But now, let's look at how many people are worried about it. Uh oh. A lot fewer. They're thinking: Happening, yes - but, whatever.
The interactive website lets you explore so many variants on these climate change opinions... but I'll leave you with one more.
Well, shoot! Maybe people would be more worried about it, and more willing to act on it, IF THEY WERE EVEN TALKING ABOUT IT!
And this is where we come in. Because we can all talk about it. More often. With our parents, our kids, our friends, our neighbors. Put a sign in the lawn? Invite a climate speaker to come to your church?
I'm pretty sure that if we changed that last map, all the others would change too and we'd be on our way to solving this crisis at every scale.
Leaders only follow, you know.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Delaware Water Gap Offers Climate Adaptation Opportunities

OSI's map showing the recent acquisitions supporting
climate resilience in the Delaware Water Gap.
In my PhD research, one of the questions I investigated was how topographic complexity provides a wide range of habitat diversity that can be accessed over short distances. This high density of climate niches, soil types, and vegetative communities provides a time buffer for species as they adapt to the relatively fast changes associated with human-caused climate change. Species are less likely to become extinct if they can migrate a short distance (or seeds can disperse a short distance) to a new location with suitable conditions to sustain generations while longer-distance migration mechanisms take place.

Recently, the Open Space Institute (OSI) studied the climate resilience around the Delaware Water Gap and evaluated diverse geology, diverse landforms, connectedness, and intact biological condition - all factors that provide this time buffer to climate change. Through this analysis they demonstrated the importance of the Delaware Water Gap in sustaining species through the anticipated climate change and justified the conservation of 3 additional tracts of land which have been acquired as of this month (April 2016).

This is a fantastic example of strategic conservation - OSI and their partners built on an existing high quality habitat in the middle of a relatively developed landscape. They added critical features like intact forest, high quality streams, and large wetlands. Many of our most imperiled species rely on these high quality aquatic habitats. The fact that OSI was able to include them in the recent conservation acquisitions is really a significant contribution to conservation in general and climate adaptation in particular.

NJ Spotlight covered the story.

The Open Space Institute's work was funded through a grant by the Doris Duke Foundation. Partners' work was partially funded by the William Penn Foundation.
OSI worked with The Conservation Fund and the Trust for Public Land.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A National Food Policy, with Mark Bittman among the authors - tell me more!

My issue of Catalyst arrived yesterday and in it some fantastic articles!
In my spare time (ha) I do whatever I can to support our local start-up food cooperative, the Friends and Farmers Cooperative. One of our strongest missions is to make whole, local, well-produced food more convenient to customers in central PA. (If you are in Central PA, you can take advantage of our online market... order Friday-Monday, pick-up or home delivery ($5) is on Tuesday.)
In this issue of Catalyst, I found out that Mark Bittman is now a fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists! And he's helping develop and promote a National Food Policy that would address food issues comprehensively including health consequences, social equity issues for consumers and workers, and national systemic economic structures. The complete article, authored by Bittman along with Olivier de SchutterMichael Pollan, and Ricardo Salvador, is on medium.
I've been a UCS supporter since 1993... For more than 20 years, I've believed in their effectiveness at translating rock-solid science into sound well-crafted public policy. When I found out one of my heros in food philosophy had joined UCS... I sent them another $20.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

State Climate Leadership

While the news on climate action at the federal level seems rather disappointing, a number of states are taking some notable steps. This morning's google alert highlighted steps taken in Vermont, New York, and Maryland:
Hundreds of people gathered in Randolph, Vermont Monday to discuss the state’s “climate economy.” Attendees considered how to advance the state’s economy in the midst of climate change. About a year ago, the Vermont Council on Rural Development formed the Vermont Climate Change Economy Council which recently completed an action plan: Progress for Vermont: Report and Action Plan of the VT Climate Change Economy Council. (reported by WAMC, Northeast Public Radio)
Meanwhile, "Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin made an appeal on Tuesday to the board that oversees the state’s public retirement funds to shed investments in coal companies and the oil giant Exxon Mobil in an effort to combat climate change." (reported by Washington Times)
New York and Maryland also explored actions against Exxon...
New York state's comptroller and four other Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) shareholders asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this week to force the oil producer to include a climate change resolution in its annual shareholder proxy, according to a filing seen by Reuters. (reported by Reuters)
In response to a petition calling for an investigation of ExxonMobil, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said his office will "hold accountable any individuals and corporations who have intentionally contributed" to climate change. (reported by InsideClimate News)
Maybe bottom-up leadership can be a more powerful change agent?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Independent Study: White Nose Syndrome

Now and then I squeeze a tiny bit of time to learn more about a conservation topic. This post is basically my notes on the topic. Any errors or misunderstandings are my own and not attributable to my sources.

Through my work with the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Diversity Technical Committee, I've had an opportunity to learn more about the disease affecting bats throughout the eastern U.S. One of the best places to go to learn more about the disease is - a website dedicated to reporting the latest information as researchers and agency scientists work together to respond to this devastating bat disease.

The disease is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Affected bats show a white fungus on their noses. The disease seems to kill bats by causing them to arouse too often during hibernation - expending too much energy and leaving them drained when they come out of hibernation in spring.
Tri-colored bat with white nose syndrome symptom. Photo by Darwin Brack via USFWS flickr account.

White nose syndrome was first observed in New York in the winter of 2006-2007. The disease spread radially from there over the last 9 years and confirmed cases of bats with white nose syndrome have been found in 31 states. Four more states have confirmed the fungus Pseudogymonoascus destructans.

Map of Bat White Nose Syndrome Occurrence over time (2006-2016) produced by Lindsey Heffernan, Pennsylvania Game Commission via

Seven species of bat in North America have been identified with symptoms of White Nose Syndrome:

  • Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
  • Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii)
  • Gray bat (Myotis grisescens)
  • Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis)
  • Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
  • Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)
  • Tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus)

Each species is impacted by the disease to differing degrees and in different ways based on their particular hibernation conditions (temperature, seasonal duration) and other factors - some species, like tri-colored bat, are experiencing high mortality.

Population declines have been so severe that concern for the affected species is very high. Gray bat and Indiana bat have been federally listed as endangered, and northern long-eared bat is now listed threatened. In the Northeast, little brown bat, eastern small-footed bat, northern long-eared bat, and tri-colored bat are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in all 14 states' Wildlife Action Plans.

Little brown bat. Photo by J.N. Stuart via Flickr.
Northern long-eared bat. Photo by USFWS-Midwest

Treatments that are effective at eliminating Pseudogymnoascus destructans both on cave walls and on bats' noses have been developed. However, treatment of caves could eliminate many other native fungii with potentially disastrous unintended consequences, and bats could carry the fungus back to the cave every year. Treatment of individual bats is only practical on a small scale - and they could be reinfected every winter. At this time there is no feasible way to prevent this disease in wild populations.

As with any wildlife disease, natural biological responses can eventually control the impact. Bats could adapt to the fungus or other species (plant or animal) could control Pseudogymnoascus destructans through competition or other means. The best stewardship actions humans can provide are not disturbing hibernating bats, not spreading the fungus through our own visits to caves (read about decontamination protocols), and reducing any other stresses on bats - the healthier each individual is, the more likely they would survive a hibernation with white nose.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Appalachian Trail Landscape Conservation Initiative

A few years ago it was my pleasure to serve on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's (ATC's) Stewardship Council.

The A.T. is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world. It was completed in 1937, and has been a National Park since 1968. The trail runs roughly 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine, through public and private lands with a wide range of land uses and management goals. You can't draw a line that long anywhere in the U.S. without having hundreds of highways, pipelines, power lines, rail lines, you-name-it crossing the line. And yet, people take pilgrimages to follow these white blazes on a quest for a deeply moving wilderness experience.

The ATC and the A.T. office of the National Park Service work everyday to preserve that experience for people spending a day walking in the woods or six months living in nature.

The footpath of the A.T. (and it's immediate surroundings) is protected by law and maintained by people like you - but the landscape around the trail is vulnerable to many threats. The landscape around the trail is as much a part of the experience of hiking the trail as the footpath itself... you can hear beyond the footpath, you can smell beyond the footpath, and you can certainly see beyond the footpath - it's the main reason you'd climb to the top of the next peak, right!

To address these external threats, the ATC and A.T. National Park Office launched the "Appalachian Trail Landscape Conservation Initiative". This is a collaborative effort to bring together willing and interested public and private land managers, local communities, landowners, and a wide range of partners to promote and conserve ecological, cultural, historic, and economic values across a large landscape centered on the A.T.

The success of this initiative hinges on scaling up the personal passion derived from the awe-inspiring experience of hiking this iconic wilderness and converting it into a commitment to set some tracts of lands aside... to say that we don't need to use it all, we can let some of it just be.

If you know someone that has the money or land or influence to assist A.T. managers in their quest to preserve the surroundings of the A.T., please contact Dennis Shaffer, Director of Landscape Conservation, ATC, (802) 552-4738.