skip to content

Sustainability

Category Archive: News

New Promotion Announced by Enterprise CarShare!

Now’s the time to get a membership with Enterprise CarShare – join and you’ll be ready to roll when you come back to campus in just a few more weeks! Go HERE to join!

Enterprise CarShare Drives on to Campus this Fall

12_CarShare_rgb

Being introduced to incoming students and their parents at FOCUS this year, but also available to all students, faculty and staff is the opportunity to join Enterprise CarShare. Two cars will be available in the Main Housing parking lot in late August for hourly, daily and overnight rental. Supported by the campus Sustainability Committee, the program is being offered as an alternative transportation option to encourage students who may only need to use a car every once in a while to leave their car at home and it also provide options to students who don’t have a car, as well as to faculty/staff who may need a car for a quick trip in town.

In order to participate you must become a member of the program. Note that this is a personal membership and for personal use. A yearly membership fee is charged, along with hourly rental charges. Enterprise is currently running a promotional program that allow you to join for $10 and receive $35 in driving credits (expires 8/1/14). Use Promo code:  CAMPUS2014. All the details of how the program works can be found at:   http://www.enterprisecarshare.com/car-sharing/program/uwgb . Enterprise will also be funding a paid student internship position beginning in the Fall to help market the program and maintain the cars. More information on the position and an application can be found here:  https://us-erac.icims.com/jobs/112168/enterprise-carshare-intern-%28brand-ambassador%29—uw-green-bay-%28fall-2014%29/job

Olympic athletes rally in defense of winter

Olympic_RingsBy Russell McLendon

Source:  Mother Nature Network

Posted Feb. 12, 2014

“Winter is getting weirder, and a coalition of Olympic athletes has seen enough. As Sochie’s Winter Olympics threaten to become the warmest in history, more than 100 Olympians have signed a petitions urging world leaders to take action against climate change.

Sochi is just the latest in a string of summery Winter Games, and the athletes say their sports are in danger unless an Olympic-style effort is launched to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. Although climate change can also promote wild winter weather like a recent spate of U.S. snowstorms, those unusual outbursts do little to offset the long global slog toward warmth, especially in winter-sports hotspots like Vancouver or Sochi.

‘Snow conditions are becoming much more inconsistent, weather patterns are more erratic, and what was once a topic for discussion is now reality and fact,’ U.S. cross-country skier Andrew Newell says in a statement released this week by the U.S.-based Protect Our Winters campaign. ‘Our climate is changing and we are losing are winters.’

At least 105 Olympians from 10 different countries have signed the petition so far, including 85 Americans. They want world leaders to carry on their Olympic spirit from Sochi to Paris, where a major U.N. climate summit will be held in 2015.

‘For the next two weeks, I’ll be in Sochi giving it my all on the ski course, just like thousand of Olympic athletes from around the world, putting politics, religion, all of our differences aside,’ Newell says. ‘Coming together for something that is bigger than one individual, or even one country. Next year in Paris, world leaders will also have that chance. Previous climate conferences have ended with nothing to show for it, but Paris needs to be different. We can’t risk inaction any longer and we’re asking our world leaders to come together in the spirit of something bigger than just our individual goals.’

Temperatures in Sochi have already topped 60 degrees Fahrenheit this week, creating slushy conditions that have frustrated many skiers and snowboarders. But the problem goes far beyond Sochi, as highlighted in a recent study led by University of Waterloo researcher Daniel Scott. Of the 19 cities that have previously hosted a Winter Olympics, as few as 10 may still be cold enough by 2050 to host again, according to the study.”

For the rest of the article and a nifty infographic on The Winter Olympics in a Warming World go HERE.

7 things to know about the new UN climate change report

By Ilissa Ocko

Published on October 1, 2013 on GreenBiz.com

Source URL:  http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/10/01/7-things-know-about-new-un-climate-change-report

“On Friday, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report – the fifth since the IPCC’s creation in 1988 – on the science of climate change.

These reports, published every five to seven years, are the work of several hundred scientists from around the world who summarize the current understanding of all aspects of climate change research. Thousands of other scientists review the summary, after which the IPCC publishes a comprehensive report, which synthesize findings from thousands of research studies.

Almost 200 countries are involved in the process. The IPCC also publishes reports that provide potential options for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The creators of the fourth IPCC report collectively were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Here are seven key findings from the new IPCC report on the state of the science of climate change:

1. It is virtually certain that the planet has warmed since the mid-2oth century.

At the surface, each of the last three decades has been progressively warmer than the preceding decades since 1850. The rate of sea level rise has been higher than any average rate during the previous 2,000 years, and in the last two decades, ice sheets have been losing mass. Almost all glaciers are shrinking, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere snow cover have decreased in extent.

2. Scientists are more confident than ever that humans are responsible.

With every report it has become clearer that the Earth is warming and that human activity is responsible. Scientists are now more than 95 percent certain that humas are the principle cause of climate change, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels. That’s up from more than 90 percent in 2007, 66 percent in 2001 and 50 percent in 1995.

3. Further warming is imminent, and short-term records do not reflect long-term climate trends.

Natural internal variability of the climate system, due to the El Nino effect, volcanic eruptions and other influences, makes it impossible to determine the overall warming trend of the planet through short-term measurements. For example, the rate of increase in surface warming over the past 15 years, from 1998 to 2012, appears slower because it begins with a record hot year due to a strong El Nino effect. On the other hand, the rates of sea level rise and glacial ice melt have accelerated during this time period. Over the long-term, continuing emissions of heat-trapping gases ineveitably will cause the plante’s surface temeratures to rise.

4. The surface could warm anywhere from 2.7 F to 7.2 F by 2100, relative to pre-1900 conditions.

The warming will be unevenly distributed, with more warming over land and even greater warming at the poles. Temperature increases such as these, even at the lower end, could increase the chances of extreme heat waves, drought and flooding due to heavy rains, and raised sea levels in areas where hundreds of millions of people reside.

5. The melting pace of land ice is accelerating in the Arctic and Antarctica, and sea levels could rise by more than 3 feet by 2100 if greenouse gas emissions are unchecked.

This could affect major cities, from New York to London to Shanghai. On longer timescales, sea levels could rise by nearly 10 feet over the next several hundred years, and even by more than 20 feet after a millennium if the Greenland ice sheet nearly disappears. However, if governments are able to curb emissions soon, sea levels could rise by slightly less than a foot by the end of the century. Sea level will not be uniform across the world, though, and more than two-thirds of coastlines may experience 20 percent more sea level rise than these globally averaged estimates.

6. The IPCC’s estimates of temperature and sea level rise are conservative.

Hundreds of scientists and representatives from nearly 200 countries have to agree on the precise wording of the IPCC reports, and therefore the reports inherently are conservative in their estimates. The new report is no exception.

7. Weather extremes are expected to change from human influence.

Scientists are virtually certain that there will be more hot and fewer cold days and seasons over most land areas, and it is very likely that heat waves will be more frequent and last longer. Extreme rainfall events over many mid-latitude countries and wet tropical regions are very likely to become more intense and more frequent by 2100. ”

To learn more abou the IPCC’s report visit:  www.ipcc.ch

Carbon footprint from food waste bigger than most countries’

By SustainableBusiness.com

Published on GreenBiz.com on 9-16-2013

Food waste isn’t just a devastating misuse of natural resources, it’s also a huge part of the world’s carbon footprint, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Every year, the world throws out about 1.3 billion tons of food – a startling one-third of the food produced. And that creates a greenhouse gas footprint bigger than all countries, except fo China and the U.S.

How? Because of the immense amounts of energy, water and chemicals used for agriculture and food production. The food supply chain produces about 3.3 billion tons of carbon a year.

That means 30 percent oft he world’s farmland – about 3.5 billion acres – is wasted.

And not counting seafood, wasting all that food costs about $750 billion a year, about the GDP of Switzerland, says FAO.

“All 0f us – farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers – must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can’t,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva. “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million go hungry every day.”

“Food wastage reduction would not only avoid pressure on scarce natural resources but also decrease the need to raise food production by 60 percent in order to meet the 2050 population demand,” writes FAO in its report ‘Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources.’

The UN study is the first to examine the impacts of global food waste from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity.

Where Waste Occurs

The majority of food waste (54 percent) happens during and after food harvesting, particularly while it’s handled and stored. The rest occurs during the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

In developed economies, such as the U.S., where up to 40 percent of all food is wasted, the issue is one of consumers buying too much and throwing away what they don’t need. Elsewhere, in emerging and developing nations, the waste comes from framing inefficiences and a lack of proper storage, reports FAO.

Asia (China, Japan, Korea) is a regional hot spot for vegetable waste and rice, the cultivation of which is extremely carbon-intensive. Meat waste is a big issue in Latin America, which accounts for 80 percent of the world’s meat waste. Fruit and vegetable waste is problematic in Asia, Latin America and Europe.

How to Solve the Problem

The highest priority is to reduce crop losses through better farming practices, says FAO. Also important are re-use and recycling strategies that make it easier to donate surplus food to those that need it, and to divert foods no fit for human consumption to livestock.

Beyond these strategies, FAO recommends by-product recycling, anaerobic digestion and composting to recover energy and nutrients. These processes also minimize the amount of methane created by food rotting in landfills.

“UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy,” say Achim Steiner, executive director for the UN Environment Program (UNEP). “Today’s excellent report by FAO underline the multiple benefits that can be realized – in many cases through simple and thoughtful measures by, for example, households, retailers, restaurants, schools and businesses – that can contribute to environmental sustainability, economic improvements, food security and the realization of the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge.”

UNEP and FAO are founding partners of the Think Eat Save – Reduce Your Footprint campaign, launched this year to coordinate worldwide efforts to cut food waste.”

Source URL: http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2013/09/16/carbon-footprint-food-waste-bigger-most-countries

 

 

 

Will campus activism reach the C-suite?

Published on Greenbiz.com, 8/1/2013

By Georges Dyer

“Something’s brewing on college campuses that soon may affect corproate sustainability professionals in all industries.

“During the past year, a groundswell of action demanding that college and universtiy endowments sell their holdings in fossil fuel companies has brought environment, social and governance (ESG) issues to the fore. Driven in part by 350.org, the fossil fuel divestment movement has sprung up on more than 300 campuses and is spraeding to cities, faith organizations and beyond.

The latestes news: Sterling College – a small, private liberal arts college in Vermont – has completed its divestment from the fossil fuel industry. While Steriling is small, with only about 100 students and an endowment of approximately $1 million, it provides more evidence that divestment is pssible and relatively straightforward.

Do your homework

Common initial concerns about divestment include that it is costly, complicated and requires investors to sacrifice returns. To divest, Sterling College chose a fossil-free option that Trillium Asset Management has offered clients for over a decade. ‘Those who say divestment is not possible haven’t done thier homework,’ said Matt Patsky, CEO of Trillium.

Trillium’s fossil free option replaces screened companies with similar investment characteristics (e.g. similar beta and return on equity). The result is a fossil-free option that doesn’t sacrifice returns. Recent reports from Impax Asset Management, MSCI and Aperio Group support the claimt hat removing fossil fule investments from portfolios has a negligible impact.

Sterling is one of just six colleges to commit to divestment to date, along with Hampshire, Unity, Green Mountain, San Francisco State and College of the Atlantic. But many others are considering it.

Divestment highlights the moral hazard of our fossil fule based economy for institutions that understand the devestating implications of climate change, yet support fossil fuel production as shareholders. This is a particularly difficult challenge for college and university endowments, designed to benefit institutions and students over the long term, in perpetuity. How is it justifiable to risk the fundamental resilience of our society from climate change impacts in the name of potentially higher financial returns? (Particularly when the data suggest those higher returns are negligible, if they exist at all.)

A moral paradox

Divestment proponents recognize the fossil fuel companies are unlikely to stop mining and drilling because soem investors sold their shares – others will buy them. But the movement highlights this moral paradox. And even if no other schools divest, it has sparked conversations on campuses across the country about a range of other ESG investment strategies.

And this could have dramatic implications across all industries – not just the fossil fuel companies. Every company currently has some responsibility, in one way or another, for greenhouse gas emissions and a wide range of other sustainability challenges such as water use, toxic chemicals, and labor and human rights issues. But those that are proactively implementing strategies that help move society towards sustainability can avoid risks and seize opportunities for innovation, attracting top talent and enhancing shareholder value.

Increasingly, investors seek out companies creating sustainability solutions or driving best practices in social, environmental and governance realms.

‘More and more companies have been embracing the idea that sustainability principles are good for business and shareholders over time. WE’ve seen tremendous growth in this space.’ said Trillium’s Patsky. ‘The more they see interest from the investor, the more they will do about it.’

Companies that don’t make the cut from an ESG perspective risk limiting their pool of potential investors. Fewer buyers and more sellers can hurt stock performance, a key driver (for better or worse) of corporate decision-making. Investors influence corporate executives and directors.

There are many ways investor scrutiny on ESG issues can influence corporate sustainability practices, such as:

*ESG investors look to sustainability indices, such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices and MSCI’s ESG Indices, to benchmark and inform investment decision-making.

*As more asset managers incorporate ESG factors into their investment decision-making, and sell-side analysts do the same for their buy/sell ratings, companies increasingly will be judged on their sustainability performance.

*Asset managers (and their clients) that understand the benefits of ESG investing often engage directly with companies through various forms of shareholder advocacy, providing direct pressure to improve sustainability performance.

A recent survey from Oekom Research supports the idea that sustainability investing impacts corporate strategy: Nearly two-thirds of the companies said requests from sustainability rating agencies were a decisive factor in tackling sustainability issues. One-third said enquiries from sustainability analysts influence the overall strategy, and two-thirds said they influence their sustainability strategies.

Uncovering value

As college and university presidents, business officers and board investment committee members look more closely at these issues (thanks in large part to student pressure), they will realize that ESG factors are materials and can undercover hidden risk and value. By requiring traditional asset managers to step up their game on ESG factors, they will help drive more of the financial services industry to consider sustainability issues in all investments.

The shift to sustainability will be the result of the sum total of many companies, organizations, communities and individuals implementing bold, transformative strategies, through incremental step-wise actions. Institutional investors sit at a critical place to drive and accelerate this process. Imagine a virtuous cycle where Wall Street analysts, currently focused on short-term, quarterly earnings results, shift their attention to comprehensive ESG considerations. This will motivate corporate execs to improve sustainability performance to enhance their ratings and stock price, driving healthy competition and moving whole industries toward sustainability.

In recent months, a host of conferences, workshops, webinars and new initiatives have sprung up to help endowments understand these issues. This is just the beginning of what could prove to be the next big step in elevating sustainability as a core strategic issue for the C-Suite at companies in every industry.”

Source URL:  http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2013/08/01/campus-activism-c-suite

Game On: Why Walmart is ranking suppliers on sustainability

Published on GreenBiz.com, April 15,2013

By Mark Gunther

“Since launching its sustainability program in 2006, Walmart has reduced energy consumption in its stores, installed solar panels on its rooftops, curbed emissions from its trucks and recycled millions of tons of its trash. Now that the world’s biggest retailer has streamlined its own operations, it is turning its attention elsewhere – actually, almost everywhere.

Since last fall, Walmart has rolled out what it calls a supplier sustainability index to thousands of suppliers, asking them pointed questions about their operations and prodding them to better understand and manage their own supply chains.

It’s Walmart’s most ambitious environmental project ever, and if all goes according to plan, it will change the way all kinds of consumer products – clothes, toys, electronics, food and beverages – are made. The typical Walmart stocks 125,000 to 150,000 products (!), and the environmental and social performance of most companies that make them soon will be rated and ranked in Bentonville, Ark.

So Walmart is asking lots of questions of its suppliers. Among them:

How can wheat be grown with less water and fertilizer? How can chemicals of concern by removed from toys? What mining practices were used to extract copper, gold and silver for computers or jewelry? What percentage of your televisions sold last year were Energy Star certified? Do the grapes in a bottle of wine come from a farmer with a biodiversity management plan? How much water was needed to produce those polyester pants?

A Fiendishly Complicated Undertaking

If this sounds like a massive and fiendlishly complicated undertaking, well, it is. It has been in the works since 2009, when Walmart unveiled The Sustainability Consortium, a nonprofit coalition led by the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University that was set up to provide scientific research to undergrid the effort. Since then, a few other retailers (Tesco, Kroger, Ahold, Best Buy) and dozens of consumer product brands (Coca-Cola, Disney, Kellogg’s, Mars) have signed on to the consortium.

Working with research produced by the consortium and its scientists, Walmart last year sent questions to suppliers in about 200 product categories. Hundreds more will be surveyed this year. The surveys will cover about half of the products sold in Walmart, which had revenues of $468 billion last year.

Walmart is ranking its suppliers, from best to worst in each category. The rankings will be shared with its buyers, who are known as ‘merchants’; theydecide what gets onto store shelves and play a vital role inside Walmart. The merchants, in turn, will be compensated in part based on the sustainability performance of their category.

Jeff Rice, who as senior director of sustainability at Walmart oversees the index, told me that it had four broad goals:

  • To improve the environmental performance of its most popular products.
  • To further integrate sustainabiltiy into Walmart by giving responsibility to the merchants.
  • To drive a productivity loop that reduce costs and ultimately benefits customers.
  • To increase customer trust in Walmart and its brands.

As always with Walmart, the opportunity is to drive change at scale. ‘We’re really trying to accelerate the scale of sustainability innovation, not just identify green niche products,’ Rice said.

Will it have an impact? It’s too early to answer that question with any certainty.

Several Walmart suppliers who were willing to talk – any many were not – told me that the index will help build a stronger business case for their own sustainabiltiy efforts. ‘The index challenges us to continually improve,’ said Kim Marotta, chief sustainability officer at Miller Coors, which is working with the farmers who grow its barley to reduce their use of water and pesticides. It also helps her make the case inside the company that ‘sustainability is very important to our business,’ she told me.

Dave Stangis, vice president of corporate responsibility at Campbell’s Soup, believes the index will make a difference. ‘The index validates people who are doing the good work. It’s a wakeup call to others,’ he said. Campbell’s, he said, is working with The Sustainability Consortiium to develop a mapping tool that will help buyers of agricultural commodities such as soybeans, sweet potatoes, or sugar beets avoid purchasing them from places with water risk, or where biodiversity is threatened. ‘We’re trying to be cognizant of the priorities that Walmart has, as well as those of our other customers,’ he said.”

To read more from companies that don’t think it makes a difference, the rest of the article is available HERE.

Draft 2013 National Climate Assessment Document Open for Review

Here’s your opportunity to read and review for yourself carefully documented analysis that assesses the impact of climate change over periods up to the next century. After the open review period, during which the National Acadamies of Science and the general public will be able to review and provide comments on the contents of this 1,000 page document, the Third National Climate Assessment Report will be final and presented to the President and Congress.

The 13 federal government departments supporting this effort are:  Commerce, Defense, Energy, Interior, State, Transportation, Health & Human Services, NASA, National Science Foundation, Smithsonian, US AID, Agriculture, and EPA. There are 240 authors presenting detailed review and analysis for this assessment.  

The website to visit to review the document is:  http://ncadac.globalchange.gov/

UW-Green Bay is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) - one of the few programs mentioned in the “Mitigation” chapter of this assessment as having a positive impact.

Timothy White, Chancellor of The California State University and ACUPCC chair, provided the following synopsis of the Report Findings:

1. Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. in a wide range of observations. The climate change of this past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels. U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5 degrees F since 1895, with more than 80% of this increase occurring since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, rising temperatures are not evenly distributed across the country or over time (Ch. 2).

2. Some extreme weather and climate events have increased in recent decades, and there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities. Changes in extreme events are the primary way in which  most people experience climate change. Human-induced climate change has already increased the frequency and intensity of some extremes. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen an increase in prolonged stretches of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, and in some regions more severe droughts (Ch. 2, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23).

3. Human-induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to increase. Heat-trapping gases already in the atmosphere have committed us to a hotter future with more climate-related impacts over the next few decades. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally, now and in the future (Ch. 2, 27).

4. Impacts related to climate change are already evident in many sectors and are expected to become increasingly challenging across the nation throughout this century and beyond. Climate change is already affecting human health, infrastructure, water resources, agriculture, energy, the natural environment, and other factors – locally, nationally, and internationally. Climate change interacts with other environmental and societal factors in a variety of ways that either moderate or exacerbate the ultimate impacts. The types and magnitudes of these effects vary across the nation and through time. Several populations – including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, tribes and other indigenous people -  are especially vulnerable to one or more aspects of climate change. There is mounting evidence that the costs to the nation are already high and will increase very substantially in the future, unless global emissions of heat-trapping gases are strongly reduced (Ch. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

5. Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increase extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water, and threats to mental health. Climate change is increasing the risks of heat stress, respiratory stress from poor air quality, and the spread of waterborne diseases. Food security is emerging as an issue of concern, both within the U.S. and across the globe, and is affected by climate change. Large-scale changes in the environment due to climate change and extreme weather events are also increasing the risk of the emergence or reemergence of unfamiliar health threats (Ch. 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23).

6. Infrastructure across the U.S. is being adversely affected by phenomena associated with climate change, including sea level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours, and extreme heat. Sea level rise and storm surges, in combination with the pattern of heavy development in coastal areas, are already resulting in damage to infrastructure such as roads, buildings, prots, and energy facilities. Infrastructure associated with military installations is also at risk from climate change impacts. Floods along the nation’s rivers, inside cities, and on lakes following heavy downpours, prolonged rains and rapid melting of snowpack are damaging infrastructure in towns and cities, farmlands, and a variety of other places across the nation. Extreme heat is damaging transportation infrastructure such as roads, rail lines, and airport runways. Rapid warming in Alaska has resulted in infrastructure impacts due to thawing of permafrost and the loss of coastal sea ice that once protected shorelines from storms and wave-driven coastal erosion (Ch. 2, 3, 5, 6, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25).

7. Reliability of water supplies is being reduced by climate change in a variety of ways that affect ecosystems and livelihoods in many regions, particularly the Southwest, the Great Plains, the Southeast, and the islands of the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the state of Hawai’i. Surface and groundwater supplies in many regions are already stressed by increasing demand for water as well as declining runoff and groundwater recharge. In many regions, climate change increases the likelihood of water shortages and competitions for water amount agricultural, municipal, and environmental uses. The western U.W. relies heavily on mountain snowpack for water storage, and spring snowpack is declining in most of the West. There is an increasing risk of seasonal water shortages in many parts of the U.S., even where total precipitation is projected to increase. Water quality challenges are also increasing, particularly sediment and contaminant concentrations after heavy downpours (Ch. 2, 3, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23).

8. Adverse impacts to crops and livestock over the next 100 years are expected. Over the next 25 years or so, the agriculture sector is projected to be relatively resilient, even though there will be increasing disruptions from extreme heat, drought, and heavy downpours. U.S. food security and farm incomes will also depend on how agricultural systems adapt to climate changes in other regions of the world. Near-term resilience of U.S. agriculture is enhanced by adaptive actions, including expansion of irrigated acreage in response to drought, regional shifts in crops and cropped acreage, continued technological advancements, and other adjustments. By mid-century, however, when temperature increases and precipitation extremes are further intensified, yields of major U.S. crops are expected to decline, threatening both U.S. and international food security. The U.S. food system also depends on imports, so food security and commodity pricing will be affected by agricultural adaptation to climate changes and other conditions around the world (Ch. 2, 6, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19).

9. Natural ecosystems are being directly affected by climate change, including changes in biodiversity and location of species. As a result, the capacity of ecosystems to moderate the consequences of disturbances such as droughts, floods, and severe storms is being diminished. In addition to climate changes that directly affect habitats, events such as droughts, floods, wildfires, and pest outbreaks associated with climate change are already disrupting ecosystem structures and functions in a variety of direct and indirect ways. These changes limit the capacity of ecosystems such as forests, barrier beaches, and coastal-and freshwater wetlands to adapt and continue to play important roles in reducing the impacts of these extreme events on infrastructure, human communities, and other valued resources (Ch. 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 19, 25).

10. Life in the oceans is changing as ocean waters become warmer and more acidic. Warming ocean waters and ocean acidification across the globe and within U.S. marine territories are broadly affecting marine life. Warmer and more acidic waters are changing the distribution of fish and other mobile sea life, and stressing those, such as corals, that cannot move. Warmer and more acidic ocean waters combine with other stresses, such as overfishing and coastal and marine pollution, to negatively affect marine-based food production and fishing communities (Ch. 2, 23, 24, 25).

11. Planning for adaptation (to address and prepare for impacts) and mitigation (to reduce emissions) in increasing, but progress with implementation is limited. In recent years, climate adaptation and mitigation activities have begun to emerge in many sectors and at all levels of government; however barriers to implementation of these activities are significant. The level of current efforts is insufficient to avoid increasingly serious impacts of climate change that have large social, environmental, and economic consequences. Well-planned and implemented actions to limit emissions and increase resilience to impacts that are unavoidable can improve public health, economic development opportunities, natural system protection, and overall quality of life (Ch. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 26, 27, 28).

The True Cost of Clothing

Published on Greenbiz.com, Dec. 12, 2012; Author: Richard Mattison

“Past True Cost columns have relied on generic product data. This month, we provide a case study based on actual product data following the work PUMA has done to identify the environmental price tag of its products.

PUMA wanted to understand whether its efforts to develop more sustainable clothing products had in fact been making a positive difference after all environmental impacts across the full product lifecycle had been taken into account.

The PUMA Product Enviromental Profit and Loss (EP&L) analysis compares a pair of PUMA’s conventional Suede sneakers versus a pair of PUMA’s soon-to-be-launched biodegradable InCycle Basket sneakers.

The analysis takes account of the environmental impacts caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, waste and air pollution, as well as the use of natural resources such as water and land along the entire value chain, from the generation of raw materials and production processes to the consumer phase where the product is used, washed, dried, ironed and ultimately discarded.

The results of this analysis confirm that PUMA’s focus in creating a sustainable footwear alternative was not in vain. The enviromental impacts of the conventional PUMA Suede sneaker amounted to €4.29 ($5.61) per pair, while those of the InCycle basket sneaker were only €2.95 ($3.86) – around a third less environmental damage across the product lifecycle.

How was this acheived?

Previous EP&L analysis of PUMA’s operations and supply chain identified that its environmental impacts were mainly concentrated in the raw material production and processing tiers of PUMA’s supply chain. This provided important focus areas for environmental optimization.

Greenhouse gases. Substituting the conventional PUMA Suede leather uppers for a combination organic cotton and linen led to significant GHG savings for the InCycle sneaker, as the GHGs associated with rearing cattle for leather production far exceed those related to cotton farming. Further GHG savings resulted from a switch to organic cotton which avoids the use of GHG-intensive synthetic fertilizers. And finally at the end-of-life, the InCycle Basket has the lowest GHG emissions because it is 100 percent compostable, whereas the traditional PUMA Suede is not currently recyclable and cannot be composted due to chemicals used in the production of the Suede. The PUMA Suede will ultimately end up in a landfill or incinerator.

All tallied, GHG emissions from the production, consumer use and end-of-life of the PUMA InCycle sneaker cause around 35 percent less environmental costs from GHG emissions than the conventional PUMA Suede.

Water. The InCycle sneaker outperformed the PUMA Suede with 21 percent less water consumption. This can be linked directly to leather, which requires more water during the tanning and processing phase than cotton. The PUMA InCycle sneaker does, however, have a higher water cost during the raw material phase since organic cotton farming is more intensive than cattle ranching.

Land Use. Choosing which country products and services are sourced from has a direct impact on land use valuation, since this relates to the types of ecosystems that are affected. The analysis found that the InCycle sneaker has a 20 percent reduced enviromental cost from land use because a far larger area of agricultural land is required for the production of leather, in particular related to cattle farming, than for the production of cotton.

Waste.  When analyzing waste generation throughout the product life-cycle, the InCycle sneaker creates approximately one third of what the PUMA Suede generates. The main savings are at the raw-material production and processing stages, where cotton generates far less waste than leather. Additionally, due to the compostable nature of the PUMA InCycle, there aren’t any environmental costs associated with waste at end-of-life.

Air Pollution. The PUMA InCycle sneaker has a 14 percent higher environmental cost related to air pollution than the PUMA Suede because the energy required to convert cotton into thread and weave it into fabric is higher than the energy necessary to process leather.

However, applying a financial value to these competing environmental costs quickly revealed that the negative air pollution impacts were easily offset by the much more significant savings in other areas.

Focusing on Waste

To clear the waste that 100,000 pairs of conventional sneakers cause during the production process and the consumer life, 31 waste disposal trucks are needed. Now consider this against the billions of sneakers made each year – around 21 billion pairs in 2011 alone – and you will begin to see the tip of the iceberg of what needs to change.”

To read more and understand the impact of true cost accounting, read the rest of the article here.

Warming Lakes: Climate Change and Variability Drive Low Water Levels on the Great Lakes

Note: If you venture up to the 8th floor of the Cofrin Library and take a look out at Green Bay, you will see sand bars that normally are under at least a few inches of water. This article from Newswatch: National Geographic details some the possible explanations of what we’re seeing.

By Lisa Borre, published Nov. 20, 2012

“For people living around the Great Lakes, water levels this past month have appeared much lower than many will remember. The upper Great Lakes reached near-record low water levels in October. This was most evident on Lake Michigan and Huron, where lake levels dropped to less than two inches (4 cm) above record lows and 28 inches (71 cm) below the long-term average. All five lakes, plus Lake St. Clair, remain below their long-term averages.

Rock and sand recently exposed by low water levels made stretches of the northern Lake Michigan shoreline look like a moonscape. Recreational boaters had trouble navigating the shallow water this fall, and shipping companies lightened loads to compensate for low water. Lakes Michigan and Huron hovered just above a record low set nearly 50 years ago, and Lake Superior was within five inches (11 cm) of record lows set in 1975.

A 2002 National Geographic magazine story, Down the Drain: The Incredible Shrinking Great Lakes, documents declining lake levels and the potential economic and ecological consequences for the region. Ten years later, the story continues to unfold, as water levels remain lower than normal.

Experts blames the recent low water on the unusually warm and dry weather over the past year. Rain events in October, including Hurricane Sandy, delayed the inevitable, but forecasters predict Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron will likely reach historic low levels in the late fall or winter, a time of year that the lakes are normally already dropping due to high rates of evaporation.

Low water levels are not the only climate-related trend being observed on the Great Lakes. Ice cover is also declining. The Great Lakes have lost 71% of their ice cover since 1973, according to a study by the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL). This past winter, the Great Lakes, including Lake Superior, were virtually ice free with just 5% ice coverage, the second lowest on record. Similar to the global assessment conducted in 2000, loss of ice cover is being reported on lakes throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

Summer lake temperatures are also on the rise. As mentioned in one of my previous posts about warming lakes, the Great Lakes are among many lakes in the northern hemisphere experiencing a rapid warming trend. Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area and third largest by volume (after Baikal in Siberia and Tanganyka in Africa), is also one of the most rapidly warming lakes in the world.

Because lower lake levels are considered one of the potential consequences of climate change, I was curious to find out whether there was any connections to what is being observed on the Great Lakes.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with John Lenters, a lake and climate scientist, while we attended a meeting of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) in Mulranny, Ireland. When comparing notes about our personal connections to Lake Superior, I learned that this accomplished scientist, with a laid-back Midwestern manner, first fell in love with the Big Lakes as a 14-year-old boy while on a backpacking trip in Isle Royale National Park. “Although the trip was grueling, I was awed by Lake Superior and realized I wanted to study lakes,” Lenters told me.

Now an associate professor at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL), Lenters studies lake-climate interactions in the Great Lakes region, the Alaskan Arctic, and western Nebraska. Given the global implications of his research, he joined GLEON in 2008 and helped to form the new Global Lake Temperature Collaboration (GLTC), hosting their first meeting at UNL, this past June. With his boyhood dream as inspiration, he and his collaborators are leading the way to learning more about how climate change is affecting lakes around the world, including the Great Lakes.

On Lake Superior, Lenters and his collaborators are studying the interactions among evaporation, ice cover, and water temperature. Their research builds on works by others in the region (and elsewhere) and provides new insight on factors affecting water levels.”

Surface Water Temperatures Increasing on the Great Lakes

Is it or isn’t it? Click here to read the rest of the article.