Here is a press release from the Wild Center on the report on Adirondack climate change impacts which was first posted here at the Almanack earlier today. I’ve been live blogging the Wild Center’s climate conference today and will continue tomorrow – you can read all the posts here (start from the bottom).
From the Wild Center: An advance edition of a sixty-two page report detailing potentially radical shifts in the ecology and economy of the Adirondack region was released today as part of a climate change conference held at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The document was produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and authored by Jerry Jenkins, with support from The Wild Center and The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
The report analyzed data from the Adirondacks and looked at projected changes based on a range of peer-reviewed climate change models. The report states that even if fossil fuel use were immediately reduced, the upstate New York region would still experience a warming of about six degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The report details a recent rise in temperatures in the Adirondacks. Highlights of the report include: » Continue Reading.
Carter Bales, Co-Chair of the American Response to Climate Change National Conference, just gave a talk on what a national approach to greenhouse gas reductions might look like. “It’s difficult to be optimistic,” Bales said, noting also that it would require “a mobilization of the nation not seen since World War Two.” He said that provided the misinformation campaign of the Exxons and the coal producers fails, and the new Obama administration is serious, there “could be legislation may by 2011″ and it may become effective by 2015.” “There is hope” he said, “but time is not our friend.” Generally speaking Bales said a four pronged action plan was necessary:
1 – a cap on carbon emissions 2 – raising efficiencies 3 – supporting deployment of new technologies and solutions 4 – addressing sections of the economy not included in the carbon cap (like ag and forestry)
Bales laid out five areas where differences could be made:
Building and Appliances (advanced lighting, electronic equipment, building shell / green building improvements). He called for a “new generation of appliances using half the energy of today.”
Transportation (biofuels, fuel economy improvements, advanced propulsion systems). Bales said gas would be $14 gallon if not for “peace keeping” and subsidies.
Industry (recovery of non CO2 green house gases from industrial processes, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency). Bales said that carbon capture and storage is “a complete nightmare, it either isn’t going to happen or it isn’t going to happen for a long time.”
Carbon Sinks (Afforestation of underutilized pasture and crop land, better forest management, alternative agricultural practices such as winter cover crops, conservation tillage). Bales noted that our carbon emissions in the US average about 20 tons per person; in India, it’s 1.5 tons per person. He also noted the important role of forested areas as carbon sinks. Guyana, he pointed out, has negative carbon emissions per person thanks to their large rainforest. “We should be paying Guyana to keep its rainforest standing,” he said adding that it would cost less than $5 a per ton of carbon emissions.
Power (expanding low carbon generation including carbon capture and storage for coal, developing wind and solar, and improving power plant efficiencies). “Natural gas is at best a transitional strategy,” he said, adding that “without fixing our power generation you’re not going to fix the problem.”
Bales also suggested a number of economic benefits from the transition to a low carbon economy:
1 – many existing industries (such as energy services) will boom especially as off-shoring is reduced and local production and servicing comes to the fore.
2 – new industries and businesses will form (particularly around efficiency retooling and green technologies).
3 – energy efficiency will save money for consumers directly.
4 – “peaking power” used at times of peak power demand will be reduced (“peaking power” is dirtier and more expensive)
5 – economies in rural areas (!!) will benefit from renewable energy technologies including wind and biomass.
One important thing for our region that Bales said was that there needs to be discussions on putting a value on standing carbon sinks like the Adirondack forests.
So far the conference is going well and putting together an Adirondack Climate Action Plan looks closer to reality then ever before. This afternoon smaller groups will meet and workshop over the following topics:
Energy Efficient Buildings & Contractor Preparedness Alternative Fuels & Biofuels, Small Scale Power Generation Local ‘Green’ Economic Development and The role of Government Natural Ecosystems and The Role of Adirondack Lands and Forests in Carbon Mitigation
So many questions are going through my mind that it’s difficult to decide on which session.
What are the plans for getting the big real estate developers on board? After all, construction is a huge segment of our economy.
Does small scale power generation mean a distributed network? Small scale solar, water, and wind everywhere? Does it mean the kind of industrialization of our mountaintops and ridges like that proposed for the wind project in Johnsburg?
How does the tourism industry get on board? Does green economic development mean finally capitalizing on the Adirondacks potential as a green tourism destination?
Does the Adirondack sink mean that money will flow from government and industry coffers into the region in the future? Aren’t we in the Adirondacks like Guyana, at least a little bit?
So many questions, and I can only get to one workshop.
Just pulling into the Wild Center from my drive over I was heartened to see a line of hybrids – mostly Toyotas, but a few Hondas as well – it’s clear that the crowd that has gathered here is already in the choir.
The sense so far from the speakers has been that the challenge of checking human-made global warming is daunting, depressing, lacking inertia, distracted by economics and politics, but doable. » Continue Reading.
The Wild Center has unveiled final plans for the Adirondack Climate gathering, describing the economic focus of the event. The conference, open to the public, will take place November 18 and 19 at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Officially titled ‘The American Response to Climate Change – The Adirondack Model: Using Climate Change Solutions to Restore a Rural American Economy,’ the event has been in the planning stages for more than a year. The Conference will include the release of a major study by the Wildlife Conservation Society compiling information on the current impacts of climate change on the Adirondacks and showing detailed projections for the region in the near future. The goal of the Conference according to organizers is to develop a local plan to boost the region’s economy in a world changed by climate related economics. Mickey Desmarais, who is the Mayor of Tupper Lake, is part of the Conference planning team. “We are all in agreement that new type of green power production is exciting,” he said, “but the biggest and most effective thing we can all do is to conserve what we have. It has to be done at every level, town, village, and in each and every home. We have never had this cost incentive before–-now we do and we are paying attention. We need to keep educating ourselves and the discussion at the conference will help us do that. We know our winter weather is more severe than other parts of the state so that is all the more reason to be smarter about energy. ”
The Adirondack Conference will include groups focused on energy-efficient buildings that will reduce area energy bills and create new jobs through retrofits of existing buildings and new construction, alternative fuels including cellulosic biofuels and forest by-products, small scale power generation technologies and how they could be developed in the region, the development of new local businesses that will benefit from the expected new cap on national carbon emissions, and the role of natural resources, such as clean water and forests. With water shortages predicted by many climate models, the Adirondack supply may have special future value. There is more information about the conference at its official website, www.usclimateaction.org.
“Many of us think this is the best place in the world to live and raise families,” said Ann Heidenreich, Executive Director of Community Energy Services and another of the Conference organizers. “The people here know how to do things. We like to be independent, we get things done ourselves. I don’t see any reason in the world that we can’t get together as Adirondackers and take this opportunity to have the rest of the country say, ‘wow, those guys figured it out.’ I think we can figure out how to put energy money back into our own neighborhoods instead of sending it to Canada or Saudi Arabia for oil.”
Kate Fish, a Lake Placid resident who is Conference Director for both the National and Adirondack Conferences, said that the Adirondack gathering could have immediate impact, and said that many grassroots organizations were already helping to boost the region. “There is something big already happening here. People are looking into the future and seeing that the age of cheap energy is over – that means a possible new day for local food, for locally-generated electricity, for local materials that used to be priced out of the market because it was cheaper to truck something from Mexico than to buy it from a local maker, and when all that changes, a place like the Adirondacks could actually come out ahead.” She cited a study that says that every dollar spent locally circulates between 5 and 14 times in the local community. Fish said that last year Essex County residents alone spent $15 million on fuel oil to heat their homes, 70 percent of it imported. “That’s a lot of money to send away, and a lot that could be invested it in local power generation or savings.”
Stephanie Ratcliffe is executive director of The Wild Center where the idea for the national climate conference held last June and the regional conference was created. Ratcliffe says the conferences were custom-made for the new Museum. “We’re here in part so people can come together to dig into ideas that are important for how the Adirondacks work. We do need a better economy here, and we don’t need a snowless winter. The Adirondack idea of people living with nature works when our kids don’t have to move away to find jobs, and when we can still swim in clean lakes, this Conference gets at both those issues.”
The Adirondack Conference will take place after the election. “Washington won’t start to move until 2009,” said Lake Placid Mayor Jamie Rogers, one of the Conference co-chairs. “The more you look at this the more you see two things. We actually can do this. We can become more independent, and then you see that we’re in great shape to be out in front in the Adirondacks. We don’t have billions of dollars of skyscrapers that all have to be redone. I think of someone in New York City trying to get local food, or a local hydro dam or cutting the waste in their water system, boy it would be tough. We’ve already cut our electric use in Lake Placid by enlisting the scouts to sell energy efficient light bulbs instead of candy.”
The Adirondack Conference will be attended by members of the following businesses, academic institutions, and organizations: New York State Tug Hill Commission, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Wildlife Conservations Society, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Park Agency, New York State Department of State, Workforce Development Institute, Adirondack Community Housing Trust, Adirondack Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, SUNY – ESF, St. Lawrence University, Houghton College, Hamilton College, Paul Smith’s College, Community Power Network, Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, Adirondack Mountain Club, Energy $mart Park Initiative, and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) has vowed to vigorously oppose the Bush administration’s efforts to reinstate a federal regulation that would expose the environment to mercury contamination.
In February, a federal appeals court ruled that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) conflicted with the clear language of the federal Clean Air Act, which requires power plants to install the best technology available to reduce mercury emissions. Now, the administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse that decision. CAMR, a cap-and-trade program, allowed polluters to buy pollution credits and emit mercury without pollution controls, which in turn resulted in regional mercury “hot spots.” Two recent studies have linked coal-fired power plants to mercury hot spots in the Adirondacks and Catskills.
ADK has joined with more than a dozen states, leading medical, health care and public health groups, and several prominent national environmental advocacy groups to challenge CAMR. In January 2007, ADK filed a brief with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asserting that CAMR was an illegal attempt to weaken the strict mercury emission controls in the Clean Air Act.
Last Friday, acting Solicitor General Greg Garre filed a petition asking the high court to restore the EPA mercury rule. The power industry is also seeking a Supreme Court review of the case.
In enacting the Clean Air Act, Congress provided for strict limits on mercury emissions through the installation of maximum achievable control technology, which Congress made applicable to all coal-burning power plants. By contrast, the EPA administrative rule would have delayed for two decades the elimination of airborne mercury emissions as a source of mercury toxins in the Northeast.
Furthermore, the contested rule would have allowed many of the worst polluters to buy “pollution rights,” continue to release mercury up their smokestacks and perpetuate mercury hot spots in New York and the Northeast.
The Adirondacks and Catskills are downwind of numerous coal-burning power plants, whose mercury emissions contribute significantly to mercury pollution in these regions. A 2007 independent study by Charles Driscoll and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation estimated that mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent to 65 percent of mercury deposition in the Northeast.
Current levels of mercury deposition in the Northeast are four to six times higher than the levels recorded in 1900. Ninety-six percent of the lakes in the Adirondack region and 40 percent of the lakes in New Hampshire and Vermont exceed the recommended EPA action level for methyl mercury in fish. Because of high mercury levels in fish from six reservoirs in the Catskills, state health officials have warned that infants, children under 15 and women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from these reservoirs.
A long-term study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, released earlier this year, confirmed that human-generated mercury emissions are degrading the health and reproductive success of loons in the Northeast. High mercury levels have also been recorded in eagles, songbirds, otters and other animals in the Northeast.
The Adirondack Council reserved its highest praise for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation, while offering criticism to the federal government and State Senate in its 23rd Annual “State of the Park” report. The publication tracks the actions of local, state and federal officials who helped or hurt the ecological health or wild beauty of the Adirondack Park over the past 12 months.
A non-partisan environmental research, education and advocacy organization based in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council is funded solely through private donations. It doesn’t accept government grants or taxpayer-funded contributions of any kind. The Council does not endorse candidates for public office. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency has rejected a proposal by the state Department of Environmental Conservation that would have allowed commercial floatplanes to continue to use Lows Lake for up to 10 years under a permit system. Agency commissioners rejected the plan 6-5. Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said the decision is not just a win for canoeists and kayakers who use Lows Lake, which straddles the Hamilton-St. Lawrence county border in the western Adirondacks. It is also a victory for anyone who cares about the future management of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, he said.
“There is much more at stake here than whether commercial floatplanes should be allowed on a particular Adirondack lake,” Woodworth said. “The real issue is whether DEC is bound by the provisions of the Adirondack Master Plan. APA said today that they are.”
In rejecting DEC’s proposal, APA commissioners followed the recommendations of APA counsel and staff, who concluded that the proposal was “inconsistent with the guidelines and criteria of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.” According to the Master Plan, which is part of state Executive Law, the “preservation of the wild character of this canoe route without motorboat or airplane usage … is the primary management goal for this primitive area.”
At 3,100 acres, Lows Lake is one of the larger lakes in the Adirondack Park. The lake stretches about 10 miles east to west and is the centerpiece of two wilderness canoe routes. Floatplanes were rare on Lows Lake until the mid-1990s. Sometime before 1990, non-native bass were illegally introduced into the lake, and as public awareness of the bass fishery grew, floatplanes and motorboat use increased.
In January 2003, when it signed the Bog River Unit Management Plan, DEC agreed to phase out commercial floatplane use of Lows Lake within five years, but the agency never developed the regulation to implement the ban. In May, ADK, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club and the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks sued DEC. The lawsuit was adjourned while APA considered DEC’s proposed amendment to the Bog River UMP, which would have established a permit system for floatplane operators and limited flights into the lake.
APA’s decision to reject the amendment was supported by state law and regulation, including DEC’s 2005 regulation to ban motorboats on Lows Lake. DEC rejected a proposal to zone the lake to provide designated areas for motorboat use, noting that “it would not satisfy the legislative intent to manage the waterway ‘without motorboat or airplane use’ as set forth in the Master Plan.” DEC’s Regulatory Impact Statement for the regulation also refers to the Master Plan as a “legal mandate.”
APA also considered the 1994 UMP for the Five Ponds Wilderness Area that designated the lake as part of a wilderness canoe route. An Oct. 1 APA staff memo noted that that the canoe route was designated “for use by those primarily seeking a wilderness experience.”
DEC has argued that banning floatplanes from Lows Lake would cause financial hardship for the two floatplane businesses in the Adirondacks, but APA staff pointed out that economic considerations were irrelevant to compliance with the Master Plan. Steve Erman, APA’s economic adviser, said in a memo that DEC had provided “little information to indicate that either of these floatplane operations is truly at risk if flight operations to Lows Lake were halted.”
On the other hand, Erman noted that DEC failed to look at the potential economic benefits of paddling on outfitters, lodging, restautants and other businesses in the Adirondacks. “The economy of the Boundary Waters Area of northern Minnesota has been heavily promoted for paddling for years and it has become a significant economic generator,” he said.
Removing commercial floatplanes from Lows Lake will go a long way in bringing to fruition DEC’s goal of expanding “quiet waters” opportunities in the Adirondacks. Roughly 90 percent of the lake and pond surface in the Adirondack Park is open to motorized vessels.
“In light of the law and the recommendations of APA staff, the agency really had no choice but to reject DEC’s proposed amendment,” Woodworth said. “Now it is incumbent upon DEC to move forward on a regulation that will enhance the wilderness character of this important canoe route and prohibit floatplanes on Lows Lake before the 2009 season.”
In court papers, DEC agreed to promulgate regulations to ban floatplanes if its proposal were rejected by the APA. “If the agency (APA) determines that the proposed amendment does not conform to the Master Plan, this proceeding will likely become moot because DEC will then begin to promulgate regulations eliminating public floatplane access to Lows Lake,” according to a motion by Lawrence Rappoport of the state Attorney General’s Office.
Next month, The Wild Center will be taking another important step with a another significant conference – American Response to Climate Change Conference: The Adirondack Model. This latest event follows-up on the national leadership meeting held this past June that addressed greenhouse gas abatement policies for the United States. This conference, however, will have a regional approach, with a focus on the Adirondacks. The work of the Adirondack Conference will, in part, be shaped by the research, findings and recommendations from the national conference. According to the website:
The primary conference objective will be to develop a Climate Action Plan for the Adirondacks. This will include specific action recommendations for individuals, communities, and enterprises; detailing climate change driven economic opportunities and benefits for region; concrete time-bound goals for efficiency improvements in buildings and transportation; alternative fuels and small scale power generation options; the role of Adirondack forests and natural systems mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; adaptation measures for local government and economics in changing climate; the role of local governments; policy recommendations for region and state; identification of priority messages and strategies for broad communication efforts; and the creation of an ongoing structure to forward action after the conference.
More than 150 leaders from businesses, local and state government, academia, Adirondack non-profits, and experts in climate mitigation in the areas of building efficiency, alternative fuel sources, small scale power generation technologies, transportation, natural systems and resources, rural areas and local economies.
The conference will take place on November 18th and 19th, 2008; Conservationist of the Year Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker.
BTW, on October 22nd, The Wild Center will announce, with its research partner the Wildlife Conservation Society and Jerry Jenkins, author of The Adirondack Atlas, a major research effort concerning impacts of climate change in the Adirondacks.
Congratulations Wild Center, for showing the way in making our region a leader in the discussions over local impacts to global warming.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today that grant applications are now being accepted for projects proposing to eradicate terrestrial invasive species. Terrestrial invasive species is defined as a plant or animal that lives or grows predominately on land. Applications will be accepted until October 31, 2008 DEC is making up to $1 million in state grants available to municipalities and not-for-profit organizations for projects to eradicate and/or permanently remove infestations of terrestrial invasive species throughout the state. The funding for these grants was secured in the 2008-09 enacted state budget, through the Environmental Protection Fund. State funds can be used to pay for up to one-half of the cost of selected projects. Individual grants for terrestrial eradication proposals will be awarded for projects that range from $2,500, up to $100,000. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York is inviting families visiting the museum from September 24 through September 30 to participate in the “Young Naturalists Program” — a series of self-guided activities that explore gardens, grounds, and wooded areas while learning about the natural history of the Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Museum is one of many participants nationwide in “Take a Child Outside Week.” The program is designed to help break down obstacles that keep children from discovering the natural world. By arming parents, teachers, and other caregivers with resources about outdoor activities, the goal is to help children across the country develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment in which they live, and a burgeoning enthusiasm for its exploration. “Take a Child Outside Week” has been initiated by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and is held in cooperation with partner organizations such as the Adirondack Museum, across the United States and Canada.
The museum is offering a number of special activities to guide families in exploration of the outdoors. Find the beauty in leaves, trees, and rocks with the Nature’s Art Scavenger Hunt. Use a tree guide to identify and learn about the trees on museum campus. Learn about the tracks and signs animals leave behind at the Animal Signs Station and visit sites on grounds where you can see signs of nighttime animal visitors. Make a pinecone mobile or leaf rubbing at our Nature Crafts Center. Explore mystery boxes at the Senses Station and look at pictures and pelts of Adirondack animals. Learn how animal coloring helps them survive. Watch fish in the pond, learn how to identify rainbow and brook trout, and help feed them lunch at 12:30 p.m. daily.
Families should not leave the museum without a “Young Naturalists” booklet filled with activity suggestions to do at home, in parks, and on trails.
According to the organizers of the weeklong program, “Going Outside” connects children to the natural world, helps kids focus in school, and reduces chances of childhood obesity.
Connie Prickett is Director of Communications, for the The Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter & Adirondack Land Trust in Keene. I sent her five questions about the impending sale of more then 90,000 of the 161,000 acres of Finch Pruyn lands the Conservancy recently purchased; here are her responses. AA: Does this sale mean that all 90,500 acres will be logged off?
CP: The lands are being offered for sale subject to a conservation easement that specifies the land will be managed on a sustainable basis for forest products; restricts both private and commercial development; and will provide for some public access in the future. The objective is to keep these lands as commercial working forests. The property is currently managed under two “green” certifications: Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Maximum annual harvest levels are determined by things like soil, slope, species composition, and growing conditions. There is a fiber supply agreement in place that requires pulp wood from this property to go to the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls, New York. » Continue Reading.
Some of the biggest news this summer has come out of the Nature Conservancy. First there was the announcement at the end of August that it will list for sale — under conservation easement — about 90,000 acres of the 161,000 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands it acquired in June 2007.
Now comes the news that the Conservancy has purchased Follensby Pond for $16 million. The pond was the location of the Philosopher’s Camp where Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James Stillman, Louis Agassiz, and others helped birth the Transcendentalist movement, often cited as a important precedent for the modern environmental movement. » Continue Reading.
On Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at the Agency’s offices, there will be an energy conservation workshop beginning at 1:00 (and ending no later than 4:00) focused on technical assistance for the design, construction and financing of energy efficient residential dwellings. The session will be web-cast. Presenters will include:
James Hotaling, Architect-Planner, AIA, AICP, will discuss the overall energy aspects approach of the regional plan, site assessment, including solar and other potentials, and his experience for the possible energy-related futures for large and small scaled homes, with ‘old’ and ‘new’ examples.
Michael DeWein, Technical Director, BCAP/Alliance to Save Energy, will discuss simple, cost-effective things people can do to save money and energy in the home. This will cover simple home air sealing and insulation treatments, to getting a proper energy audit, to installing a variety of energy conservation measures themselves.
David Trudeau, Program Coordinator for Honeywell, will discuss 3 NYSERDA residential programs for existing homes: i) EmPower NY, ii) Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star, and iii) Home Performance with Energy Star. David will also discuss various types of heating fuels (electric, propane, fuel oil, Kerosene, wood pellets, and cord wood) and the cost comparisons between them.
The Wild Center is the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified museum in New York State. LEED is a green building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The certification is considered the international benchmark for green building design. The Wild Center is going farther then just the certification, however, and will host a special day in October for builders and regional leaders to learn about the newest techniques and technologies of green building. » Continue Reading.
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