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Friday, June 6, 2014

Study: value of nature > 2X global GDP

I’ve written about the concept of ecosystem services - the idea of attaching dollar signs to the benefits provided by natural systems, in order to elevate the importance of preserving and conserving them. While it strikes me as a sad commentary on how society has devolved – the fact that we have to put a price tag on nature in order to really value it - the concept can be powerful, if it’s given proper attention.

This must-read article in The New York Times describes and contextualizes the findings of a new study that suggests that even the most narrow-minded and economically-motivated policymakers had better start paying big-time attention to nature.  The closer we look at nature, the bigger its value is – and the bigger it will get as the globe warms and our climate is disrupted.

Changes in the global value of ecosystem services, published in the May issue of the journal Global Environmental Change, concludes that the value of the services of the world’s ecosystems is between $US 4.3–20.2 trillion per year – contributing “more than twice as much to human well-being as global GDP.”

The study couldn't come at a better time.  President Obama has proposed the most ambitious actions in our history to combat climate disruption, positioning our nation to finally lead a global effort to stop history's largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment - the carbonization of our atmosphere. 

As the NYT article points out, with every day that passes without action, we are losing immense economic – as well as spiritual - value.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

NRDC developing air, water monitoring practices for fracking

The Natural Resources Defense Council has launched a project to develop recommended practices for air and water monitoring related to unconventional oil and gas extraction that would inform public health assessments and protections.

As part of that effort, NRDC has scheduled three webinars this month to share the results of its work to date, and to gather input from the public about air and water monitoring around unconventional oil and gas operations.

Monitoring the impacts of unconventional oil and gas development is an essential task for governments in shale gas states, at least, and perhaps for communities and the Federal government as well. NRDC’s effort and the experts they have assembled are exemplary – and equally essential to developing this critically-needed work.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The public trust should be a public must

Yesterday morning, I testified before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee about an idea (developed with the help of my chief counsel when we were both still at DCNR) to use royalty income from existing state forest natural gas leasing to create a Conservation Trust Fund for Pennsylvania.  I first proposed this three years ago and wrote about here. 

The other testimony is highly recommended reading, and a summary of the meeting can be found here.

The essential question that I asked the committee is this: what will Pennsylvania have to show when the shale gas era ends?  A repeat of it's sorry history of energy extraction and environmental and economic degradation?  Or conserved, improved and endowed public lands and - perhaps - endowed statewide recreation and conservation?

As I told the Committee,
How Pennsylvania uses the windfall from existing shale gas development on the people’s land will define our state for generations. Will our actions as trustees be viewed by future generations of Pennsylvanians as a time of tremendous vision - or of tremendous opportunity lost? 
That is up to all of us.