Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Urban land-cover change threatens biodiversity and affects ecosystem productivity through loss of habitat, biomass, and carbon storage. However, despite projections that world urban populations will increase to nearly 5 billion by 2030, little is known about future locations, magnitudes, and rates of urban expansion. Here we develop spatially explicit probabilistic forecasts of global urban land-cover change and explore the direct impacts on biodiversity hotspots and tropical carbon biomass. If current trends in population density continue and all areas with high probabilities of urban expansion undergo change, then by 2030, urban land cover will increase by 1.2 million km2, nearly tripling the global urban land area circa 2000. This increase would result in considerable loss of habitats in key biodiversity hotspots, with the highest rates of forecasted urban growth to take place in regions that were relatively undisturbed by urban development in 2000: the Eastern Afromontane, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, and the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka hotspots. Within the pan-tropics, loss in vegetation biomass from areas with high probability of urban expansion is estimated to be 1.38 PgC (0.05 PgC yr−1), equal to ∼5% of emissions from tropical deforestation and land-use change. Although urbanization is often considered a local issue, the aggregate global impacts of projected urban expansion will require significant policy changes to affect future growth trajectories to minimize global biodiversity and vegetation carbon losses.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Airport Noise Grants: FAA Needs to Better Ensure Project Eligibility and Improve Strategic Goal and Performance Measures. GAO-12-890, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648149.pdf
2. Asset Forfeiture Programs: Justice and Treasury Should Determine Costs and Benefits of Potential Consolidation. GAO-12-972, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648097.pdf
4. Bureau of Prisons: Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure. GAO-12-743, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648124.pdf
5. Critical Infrastructure: DHS Needs to Refocus Its Efforts to Lead the Government Facilities Sector. GAO-12-852, August 20.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593580.pdf
6. Department of Homeland Security: Oversight and Coordination of Research and Development Should Be Strengthened. GAO-12-837, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648153.pdf
7. Federal Disaster Assistance: Improved Criteria Needed to Assess a Jurisdiction’s Capability to Respond and Recover on Its Own. GAO-12-838, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648163.pdf
8. Iraq and Afghanistan: Agencies Are Taking Steps to Improve Data on Contracting but Need to Standardize Reporting. GAO-12-977R, September 12.
9. Military Training: DOD Met Annual Reporting Requirements and Improved Its Sustainable Ranges Report. GAO-12-879R, September 12.
10. Millennium Challenge Corporation: Results of Transportation Infrastructure Projects in Seven Countries. GAO-12-631, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648093.pdf
11. Nonproliferation: Agencies Could Improve Information Sharing and End-Use Monitoring on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Exports. GAO-12-536, July 30.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/593132.pdf
1. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Oversight of Safety, Security, and Project Management, by Mark Gaffigan, managing director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-12-912T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592773.pdf
2. Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Faces Implementation Challenges, by Gerald L. Dillingham, Ph.D., director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Aviation, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-1011T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648121.pdf
3. Operational Contract Support: Sustained DOD Leadership Needed to Better Prepare for Future Contingencies, by Timothy J. DiNapoli, acting director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the House Committee on Armed Services. GAO-12-1026T, September 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/648106.pdf
Source: Zoological Society of London
Tarzan’s chameleon, the spoon-billed sandpiper and the pygmy three-toed sloth have all topped a new list of the species closest to extinction released today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The list’s creation and publication has received the backing of His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge who said: “This book does not merely tell us which species are most endangered, it shows us how we can save them. It challenges us to commit to safeguarding our priceless natural heritage for future generations”.
For the first time ever, more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have come together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. But conservationists fear they’ll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.
The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea this week, and hopes to push the conservation of ‘worthless’ creatures up the agenda that is set by NGOs from around the globe.
Source: PLoS Medicine
More than half of the world’s population now live in cities , and while urbanization has the potential to allow greater access to health care for all, huge discrepancies in how resources are allocated within cities result in major inequities in health . Addressing these discrepancies and improving health require accurate assessment. To that point, earlier this month PLOS Medicine published a Policy Forum article by Jason Corburn and Alison Cohen that focused on the urbanizing planet and the need for health equity indicators to guide public health policy in cities and urban areas .
The major theme of Corburn and Cohen’s argument is that if societies are to ensure those living in the poorest urban slums have the same right to health as people living on the richest boulevards, health indicators must allow for the identification of where health inequities exist. For example, while indicators in Nairobi measure population access to communal toilet blocks, they give no information as to whether the toilet blocks are hygienic or safe to use and therefore mask inequity within the city. Such indicators, however, would have little value in cities like London or New York, which illustrates the need for context-specific measures.
FAA Has Not Effectively Implemented its Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General
On August 22, we issued a report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program, which aims to reduce the risk of wildlife strikes to aviation. Under the Program, FAA requires airports to create and implement wildlife hazard management plans to assess and minimize the risk of future strikes. However, we found that FAA’s oversight and enforcement activities are not sufficient to ensure airports fully adhere to Program requirements or effectively implement their wildlife hazard plans. In addition, FAA’s policies and guidance for monitoring, reporting, and mitigating wildlife hazards are mostly voluntary, thereby limiting their effectiveness. For example, FAA recommends but does not mandate that airports and aircraft operators report all wildlife strikes to FAA’s strike database. As a result, FAA’s strike data are incomplete, which impacts the Agency’s ability to evaluate the effectiveness of its Program in reducing wildlife hazards. Finally, FAA coordinates effectively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, its main partner in wildlife hazard mitigation, but its efforts to coordinate with other relevant Government agencies are limited and infrequent. We made 10 recommendations intended to improve FAA’s management and oversight of the Program. FAA concurred with six, partially concurred with three, and did not concur with one. We are requesting additional information or revised responses for five recommendations—particularly related to improving the quality and quantity of the Agency’s wildlife strike data.
TRB’s second Strategic Highway Research Program 2 (SHRP 2) Report S2-C06-RW-2: An Ecological Approach to Integrating Conservation and Highway Planning, Volume 2 is designed to help transportation and environmental professionals apply ecological principles early in the planning and programming process of highway capacity improvements to inform later environmental reviews and permitting. Ecological principles consider cumulative landscape, water resources, and habitat impacts of planned infrastructure actions, as well as the localized impacts.The report introduces the integrated ecological framework, a nine-step process for use in early stages of highway planning when there are greater opportunities for avoiding or minimizing potential environmental impacts and for planning future mitigation strategies.Information developed as part of the project that produced SHRP 2 Report S2-C06-RW-2 is included on the on the Transportation for Communities: Advancing Projects through Partnerships website.This publication is only available in electronic format.
Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill
Source: Natural Resources Defense Council
Food is simply too good to waste. Even the most sustainably farmed food does us no good if the food is never eaten. Getting food to our tables eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all of that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions.
Nutrition is also lost in the mix — food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables. Given all the resources demanded for food production, it is critical to make sure that the least amount possible is needlessly squandered on its journey to our plates.
Report card shows Australia’s oceans are changing
Source: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Launched today, the 2012 Marine Climate Change in Australia Report Card demonstrates that climate change is having significant impacts on Australia’s marine ecosystems.
The report card provides information about the current and predicted-future state of Australia’s marine climate and its impact on our marine biodiversity. The report card also outlines actions that are underway to help our marine ecosystems adapt to climate change.
Key findings show
- warming sea temperatures are influencing the distribution of marine plants and animals, with species currently found in tropical and temperate waters likely to move south
- new research suggests winds over the Southern Ocean and current dynamics are strongly influencing foraging of seabirds that breed in south-east Australia and feed close to the Antarctic each summer
- some tropical fish species have a greater ability to acclimatise to rising water temperatures than previously thought
- the Australian science community is widely engaged in research, monitoring and observing programs to increase our understanding of climate change impacts and inform management
- adaptation planning is happening now, from seasonal forecast for fisheries and aquaculture, to climate-proofing of breeding sites for turtles and seabirds.
See: Report Card Shows Australia’s Oceans Are Changing (Science Daily)
Water, the once plentiful resource, is growing scarcer. And that scarcity is a finance issue – one that has the potential to disrupt business and supply chain operations, lead to increased costs, and increase the price of commodity products.
In this edition of CFO Insights, we explore the reasons behind water scarcity; the risks associated with the growing lack of water; and why water availability is a CFO issue.
At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in Cancun, in November 2010, the Heads of State reached an agreement on the aim of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 °C relative to preindustrial levels. They recognized that long-term future warming is primarily constrained by cumulative anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, that deep cuts in global emissions are required, and that action based on equity must be taken to meet this objective. However, negotiations on emission reduction among countries are increasingly fraught with difficulty, partly because of arguments about the responsibility for the ongoing temperature rise. Simulations with two earth-system models (NCAR/CESM and BNU-ESM) demonstrate that developed countries had contributed about 60–80%, developing countries about 20–40%, to the global temperature rise, upper ocean warming, and sea-ice reduction by 2005. Enacting pledges made at Cancun with continuation to 2100 leads to a reduction in global temperature rise relative to business as usual with a 1/3–2/3 (CESM 33–67%, BNU-ESM 35–65%) contribution from developed and developing countries, respectively. To prevent a temperature rise by 2 °C or more in 2100, it is necessary to fill the gap with more ambitious mitigation efforts.
After five decades of sustainability debates and policymaking, the world still lacks a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the complexity of the issues. This report, produced by the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, analyzes the main aspects of sustainability — from the environmental challenges facing cultures around the globe to the quest for a sustainable supply of water and food. Green business practices are seen through the lens of the tradeoffs involved and consumers’ attitudes towards the environment. The report also looks at what kinds of governance structures are needed to encourage sustainability worldwide and to improve collaboration among government officials, companies and nonprofit organizations.
U.S Forest Service facts and figures and new traffic safety studies detail many urban street tree benefits. Once seen as highly problematic for many reasons, street trees are proving to be a great value to people living, working, shopping, socializing, walking and motoring in, around and through urban places.For a planting cost of $250-600 (includes first 3 years of maintenance) a single street tree returns over $90,000 of direct benefits (not including aesthetic, social and natural) in the lifetime of the tree. Street trees (generally planted from 4 feet to 8 feet from curbs) provide many benefits to those streets they occupy. These trees provide so many benefits that they should always be considered as an urban area default street making feature. With new attentions being paid to global warming, the need for energy independence, and more urban living more is becoming known about the many negative environmental impacts of treeless urban streets. We are well on the way to recognizing the need for urban street trees to be the default design, rather than a luxury item to be tolerated by traffic engineering and budget conscious city administrators.
Mangroves are among the most threatened and rapidly disappearing natural environments worldwide. In addition to supporting a wide range of other ecological and economic functions, mangroves store considerable carbon. Here, we consider the global economic potential for protecting mangroves based exclusively on their carbon. We develop unique high-resolution global estimates (5′ grid, about 9 × 9 km) of the projected carbon emissions from mangrove loss and the cost of avoiding the emissions. Using these spatial estimates, we derive global and regional supply curves (marginal cost curves) for avoided emissions. Under a broad range of assumptions, we find that the majority of potential emissions from mangroves could be avoided at less than $10 per ton of CO2. Given the recent range of market price for carbon offsets and the cost of reducing emissions from other sources, this finding suggests that protecting mangroves for their carbon is an economically viable proposition. Political-economy considerations related to the ability of doing business in developing countries, however, can severely limit the supply of offsets and increases their price per ton. We also find that although a carbon-focused conservation strategy does not automatically target areas most valuable for biodiversity, implementing a biodiversity-focused strategy would only slightly increase the costs.
IntroductionReviews of mass gathering events have traditionally concentrated on crowd variables that affect the level and type of medical care needed. Weather and environmental hazards at mass gathering events have not been fully researched. This review examines these events and aims to provide future suggestions for event organisers, medical resource planners, and emergency services, including local hospital emergency departments.MethodsA review was conducted using computerised data bases: MEDLINE, The Cochrane Library, HMIC and EMBASE, with Google used to widen the search beyond peer-reviewed publications, to identify grey literature. All peer-review literature articles found containing information pertaining to lessons identified from mass gathering disasters due to weather or environmental hazards leading to participant death, injury or illness were analysed and reviewed. Disasters occurring due to crowd variables were not included. These articles were read, analysed, abstracted and summarised.Results20 articles from literature search were found detailing mass gathering disasters relating directly to weather or environmental hazards from 1988 – 2011, with only 17 cases found within peer-review literature. Two events grey literature from 2011 are due to undergo further inquiry while one article reviews an event originally occurring in 1922. Analysis of cases were categorised in to heat and cold-related events, lightning and storms and disease outbreak.ConclusionsMass gathering events have an enormous potential to place a severe strain on the local health care system, Prior health resource and environmental planning for heat & cold-related illness, lightning & storms, and disease outbreak can advance emergency preparedness and response to potential disasters.
U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis (PDF)
Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
From press release:
A new study of renewable energy’s technical potential finds that every state in the nation has the space and resource to generate clean energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory produced the study, U.S. RE Technical Potential, which looks at available renewable resources in each state. It establishes an upper-boundary estimate of development potential. Economic or market restraints would factor into what projects might actually be deployed.
The report is valuable for decision-makers and utility executives because it compares estimates across six renewable energy technologies and unifies assumptions and methods. It shows the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given resource availability – solar, wind, geothermal availability, etc. — system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and land-use constraints.
The study includes state-level maps and tables containing available land area (square kilometers), installed capacity (gigawatts), and electric generation (gigawatt-hours) for each technology.
See: Renewable Energy Potential in Every U.S. State, Study Shows (Science Daily)
Best Global Green Brands 2012
Though “green” was once the province of empty promises, the world’s most valuable green brands have earned their place in our report, which examines how leading brands perform in the arena of sustainability and how their environmentally conscious efforts are perceived by the public. These two critical halves—performance and perception—make up the whole of a green company: one that operates sustainably and has built a positive image that can be leveraged to strengthen brand value.
The best green brands are vital, relevant, powerful and pioneering. They are profitable, ethical, and ecologically responsible. They have a proven record of performance, strive to operate with transparency and they practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability. The best green brands show us what is possible.
After evaluating the world’s top brands on the basis of their performance as well as the public’s perception of their green credentials, Interbrand and Deloitte have carefully ranked—and wholeheartedly applaud—the 50 Best Global Green Brands that are featured in this report. These strong, highly innovative brands are paving the way to a new era of stability, prosperity and confidence—and they embody our greatest hopes for the future.
Health Benefits From Large Scale Ozone Reduction in the United States
Source: Environmental Health Perspectives
Exposure to ozone has been associated with adverse health effects, including premature mortality, cardiopulmonary and respiratory morbidity. In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the primary (health-based) National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone to 75ppb, expressed as the fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hr average over a 24-hr period. Based on recent monitoring data, U.S. ozone levels still exceed this standard in numerous locations resulting in avoidable adverse health consequences.
To quantify the potential human health benefits from achieving the current primary NAAQS standard of 75ppb and two alternative standard levels, 70 and 60ppb, representing the range recommended by the EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC).
We apply health impact assessment methodology to estimate numbers of deaths and other adverse health outcomes that would have been avoided during 2005, 2006 and 2007 if the current NAAQS ozone standards (or lower standards) had been met. Estimated reductions in ozone concentrations were interpolated according to geographic area and year, and concentration-response functions were obtained or derived from the epidemiological literature.
We estimated that annual numbers of avoided ozone-related premature deaths would have ranged from 1,410-2,480 at 75ppb to 2,450-4,130 at 70ppb and 5,210-7,990 at 60ppb. Acute respiratory symptoms would have been reduced by 3 million cases and school-loss days by one million cases annually if the current 75ppb standard had been attained. Substantially greater health benefits would have resulted if the CASAC recommended range of standards (70 to 60ppb) had been met.
Attaining a more stringent primary ozone standard would significantly reduce ozone-related premature mortality and morbidity.