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Friday, June 27, 2014

Greening cities will save lives

Heat-related deaths  in major US cities are likely to soar over the next 40 years - more than doubling by 2050 - due to climate disruption. But new research published in the the on-line journal PlosOne finds that lives can be saved if major cities across the nation embraced a greener footprint

Avoided Heat-Related Mortality through Climate Adaptation Strategies in Three US Cities looked at Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.  It finds that if these cities (and undoubtedly others) plant more trees and add green space, decrease impervious surface areas such as parking lots, and use more reflective materials on roads and rooftops to reduce the urban heat island effectthe loss of human life can be cut in half.

Green is the right answer to so many questions.  

When we will we start asking them?


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Climate risks are business risks

The US economy could face significant, widespread damage from climate disruption unless businesses and policymakers take immediate action to reduce climate risk, according to a new report.

Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States explores in detail the sobering "likely impacts" of business as usual and a failure to combat history's largest uncontrolled chemistry experiment - the carbonization of our atmosphere: 
  • Large-scale (hundreds of billions in US$) losses of coastal property and infrastructure
  • Extreme heat across the nation—especially in the Southwest, Southeast, and Upper Midwest—that threatens labor productivity, human health, and energy systems 
  • Shifting agricultural patterns and crop yields, with likely gains for Northern farmers offset by losses in the Midwest and South, with risks for individual farming communities most vulnerable to projected climatic changes.
The report finds that if we stay on the current emissions path, climate risks will multiply and accumulate. It recommends that:
  • Business must change everyday business practices to become more resilient.
  • Investors must incorporate risk assessment into capital expenditures and balance sheets, and the companies they invest in must be required to disclose the climate-related financial risks they face.
  • The public sector must institute policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. 
Climate risks are business risks.  Will this report - and the leadership of former US Treasury secretaries in preparing it - propel action?


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Some questions about local control of drilling

This webpage contains information on a fight by citizens in the Mars Area School District in Butler County, Pennsylvania against a proposed shale gas well site located about a half mile from not one but two schools. 

It's essential reading. Particularly so given a February, 2014 well explosion and fire in Greene County, PA that required a half-mile safety zone.

Some questions come to mind.

Is it really smart business to site a well so close to schools?  Is it smart public policy to allow it?  Is it wise to take away local officials' ability to have some say in the matter, as Pennsylvania's Act 13 attempted to do? 

And what about the funding decisions that create the need for local school officials to consider leasing public land for drilling in the first place?

This local controversy - at least - illustrates why there are ubiquitous calls for drilling bans and moratoria, the necessity of local control over the placement of this industrial activity, and the danger to companies - and the industry as a whole - that ignore their social license to operate.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Are abandoned wells a big source of methane emissions?

A new study by a Princeton University researcher finds that all of the 19 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania that were examined are leaking methane. The study is still being peer-reviewed, but was reported on in this article in The Guardian.

CO2, Methane, and Brine Leakage Through Subsurface Pathways: Exploring Modeling, Measurement, and Policy Options found that, given the fact that there may be close to 200,000 such wells (or more) in Pennsylvania, the leaks could account for between 4 percent and 13 percent of human-caused methane emissions in the Keystone State.
Extrapolating from these results, the study suggests that uncounted abandoned wells across the country – which aren’t typically monitored for methane leakage - could be a bigger source of climate disruption than previously thought.
The peer-review process should be allowed to work, and the Guardian article contains important observations on the study from prominent researchers that need to be considered.  But clearly, as the study itself says, more work is needed to fully understand how common leaking abandoned wells are in Pennsylvania and nationwide, how much methane they may emit, and the urgency of finding and remediating them.