Cities Celebrate Earth Day

Cities Part Of Environmental Problems, Solutions

When Earth Day began in 1970, the dire state of cities had a lot to do with it. Urban industrialism had literally become lethal: During a particularly warm Thanksgiving weekend in 1966, the smog in New York City killed nearly 200 people.

A lot has changed in the intervening decades. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed after the first Earth Day, and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts followed. Cities have cleaned up their air and water, and many have stepped up as forces for environmental progress. San Francisco is now striving for zero waste by 2020, and Portland, Oregon, is working toward cutting the city’s carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030.

sustainable cities

According to Kathleen Rodgers, the president of Earth Day Network, thousands of events will happen around the world this weekend in honor of Earth Day, which is officially on Sunday. They are intended to draw public attention to issues that environmentalists wrestle with year-round: climate change, habitat loss, and plastic pollution, to name a few.

But for many city dwellers, the goal is a little simpler: to engage with their communities in an Earth-friendly way and have a good time. Here are a few of the more unusual ways that American cities will be advocating for a healthy planet this weekend.If you live in Baltimore, you may have spotted Thomas Dolby driving his motorboat around the city’s harbor. “I don’t have a car, but I have a little motorboat, and I use that to get around,” Dolby told CityLab. “You’ll often see me out there on my way to Safeway to get groceries, or on my way to Fells Point to get breakfast.”

Those who don’t know Dolby from his jaunts around the Baltimore Harbor may remember the British musician’s 1982 hit, “She Blinded Me With Science.” Baltimore’s Peabody Heights Brewery has partnered with Dolby to release a new Belgian wheat ale.” Fittingly, the label will feature an image of Professor Trash Wheel, the newest googly-eyed trash-collecting device on the Inner Harbor. Proceeds from the beer will benefit the Healthy Harbor Initiative, whose goal is to make the harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. The beer will be released in Baltimore and around the region on Saturday, just in time for Earth Day.

“I think people should get enjoyment out of their harbor,” said Dolby, who is currently a professor of the arts at Johns Hopkins University. “The harbor is already a great center of gravity for Baltimore events … but it would certainly be nice if there were a beach or two.”

trees a climate change solution

There are plenty of other untraditional Earth Day celebrations happening around the country. In Milwaukee on Saturday night, REmodel Resale Fashion Boutique will host an Earth Day Fashion Show to promote recycling and refurbishing clothing. In Dallas, thousands of Tesla owners will gather on Saturday at the city’s EarthX conference to admire each other’s cars and endorse the benefits of electric vehicles. In Monterey, California, a group of divers plans to remove a dumpster’s worth of garbage from the sea. And on Sunday in Corpus Christi, Texas, there’s going to be a Plogging Party, where runners will pick up garbage while jogging through town.

“We don’t use the word ‘celebration’ inside Earth Day, though we recognize that people use Earth Day to connect with each other or do things that are cool or funny,” Rogers said. “For the most part, our work is entirely focused on getting communities to make commitments around what they’ll do for the next 365 days.”public affairs and public relations firmCrossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Jakarta Sinking Below Sea Level

Threats Rising Due To Climate Change, Development

By Michael Kimmelman, New York Times

With climate change, the Java Sea is rising and weather here is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt.

One local climate researcher, Irvan Pulungan, an adviser to the city’s governor, fears that temperatures may rise several degrees Fahrenheit, and the sea level as much as three feet in the region, over the coming century.

That, alone, spells potential disaster for this teeming metropolis.

But global warming turned out not to be the only culprit behind the historic floods that overran Rasdiono’s bodega and much of the rest of Jakarta in 2007. The problem, it turned out, was that the city itself is sinking.

Indonesia Jakarta climate change

In fact, Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, faster, even, than climate change is causing the sea to rise — so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth. The main cause: Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level.

Coastal districts, like Muara Baru, near the Blessed Bodega, have sunk as much as 14 feet in recent years. Not long ago I drove around northern Jakarta and saw teenagers fishing in the abandoned shell of a half-submerged factory. The banks of a murky canal lapped at the trestle of a railway bridge, which, until recently, had arched high over it.

Climate change acts here as it does elsewhere, exacerbating scores of other ills. And in Jakarta’s case, a tsunami of human-made troubles — runaway development, a near-total lack of planning, next to no sewers and only a limited network of reliable, piped-in drinking water — poses an imminent threat to the city’s survival.

Sinking buildings, sprawl, polluted air and some of the worst traffic jams in the world are symptoms of other deeply rooted troubles. Distrust of government is a national condition. Conflicts between Islamic extremists and secular Indonesians, Muslims and ethnic Chinese have blocked progress, helped bring down reform-minded leaders and complicated everything that happens here, or doesn’t happen, to stop the city from sinking.

“Nobody here believes in the greater good, because there is so much corruption, so much posturing about serving the public when what gets done only serves private interests,” as Sidney Jones, the director of the local Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, put it. “There is no trust.”

climate change policy

Hydrologists say the city has only a decade to halt its sinking. If it can’t, northern Jakarta, with its millions of residents, will end up underwater, along with much of the nation’s economy. Eventually, barring wholesale change and an infrastructural revolution, Jakarta won’t be able to build walls high enough to hold back the rivers, canals and the rising Java Sea.

And even then, of course, if it does manage to heal its self-inflicted wounds, it still has to cope with all the mounting threats from climate change.

As far the eye can see, 21st-century Jakarta is a smoggy tangle of freeways and skyscrapers. Spread along the northwestern coast of Java, this capital of the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population used to be a soggy, bug-infested trading port for the Hindu kingdom of Sunda before local sultans took it over in 1527.

They named it Jayakarta, Javanese for victorious city.

Dutch colonists arrived a century later, establishing a base for the East India territories. Imagining a tropical Amsterdam, they laid out streets and canals to try to cope with water pouring in from the south, out of the forests and mountains, where rain falls nearly 300 days out of the year. Thirteen rivers feed into the city.

After independence in 1945, the city began to sprawl. Today, it is virtually impossible to walk around. Parks are rarer than Javan rhinos. A trip to the nearest botanical garden requires the better part of a day in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“Living here, we don’t have other places to go,” said Yudi and Titi, a young professional couple who one recent Sunday had made the roughly hour’s round trip from western Jakarta to the center of the city just to spend a few minutes walking up and down a chaotic, multilane freeway briefly closed to traffic. “Without cars, at least you can breathe for a few minutes,” Titi said.

The most urgent problems are in North Jakarta, a coastal mash-up of ports, nautically themed high-rises, aged fish markets, abject slums, power plants, giant air-conditioned malls and the congested remnants of the colonial Dutch settlement, with its decrepit squares and streets of crumbling warehouses and dusty museums.

Some of the world’s most polluted canals and rivers weave a spider’s web through the area.

It is where the city is sinking fastest.

That’s because, after decades of reckless growth and negligent leadership, crises have lined up here like dominoes.

Jakarta’s developers and others illegally dig untold numbers of wells because water is piped to less than half the population at what published reports say are extortionate costs by private companies awarded government concessions.

The aquifers aren’t being replenished, despite heavy rains and the abundance of rivers, because more than 97 percent of Jakarta is now smothered by concrete and asphalt. Open fields that once absorbed rain have been paved over. Shores of mangroves that used to help relieve swollen rivers and canals during monsoons have been overtaken by shantytowns and apartment towers.

There is always tension between immediate needs and long-term plans. It’s a similar story in other sinking giants like Mexico City. Here, all of the construction, combined with the draining of the aquifers, is causing the rock and sediment on which Jakarta rests to pancake.

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California Communities File Suits Over Climate Change

Coastal Communities Suing Fossil Fuel Companies

Three California communities are suing 37 of the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies for knowingly contributing to climate change.

San Mateo and Marin counties, as well as the city of Imperial Beach, have filed suit against companies like Exxon, Shell, and Chevron, which they claim produced roughly 20 percent of all greenhouse emissions between 1965 and 2015.

The communities are now seeking relief from the costs of climate change, which include rising sea levels and carbon dioxide pollution.

climate change policy

“As a low-income coastal community, we have no capacity to pay for the adaptation measures needed to protect ourselves from these impacts,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said. “It is unfair to force citizens, business owners and taxpayers to fend for ourselves when the source of the problem is so clear.”

Marin County, meanwhile, argues that the effects of flooding caused by climate change will cost the community upwards of $15.5 billion (£11.9 billion) in the next 15 years alone.

The communities further claim that the companies knew about the effects of climate change for at least 50 years, but failed to act. The companies, they allege, took steps to secure their own assets, but did nothing to warn the larger community.

Previous investigations have claimed that Exxon Mobil sat on findings from one of their senior scientists about the effects of climate change, starting as early as 1977. Exxon claims they never sought to hide these findings.

A spokeswoman for Shell told The Guardian that the company believes climate change is a “complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change … not by the courts”. A spokesman for Statoil pointed out that previous, similar cases had been dismissed for being outside the scope of the judiciary.

Similar complaints have seen some success against the tobacco industry, after local governments sued cigarette manufacturers for health-related expenses. The most prominent of these claims was settled outside of court, for a substantial sum.

According to Columbia Law Professor Michael Burger, however, causation may be more difficult to prove in the case of climate change.

air pollution and climate change

“Proving that these particular emissions that came from these fossil fuel companies led to this particular level of sea level rise and contribute X amount to harms that have happened or will happen – that’s a long chain of causation,” Mr Burger told Insideclimate News.

“There are a number of significant legal hurdles,” he added.

Climate News

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California A Global Leader On Climate Change

White House Agenda Not Slowing Action In Golden State

The environmental ministers of Canada and Mexico went to San Francisco last month to sign a global pact — drafted largely by California — to lower planet-warming greenhouse pollution. Gov. Jerry Brown flies to China next month to meet with climate leaders there on a campaign to curb global warming. And a battery of state lawyers is preparing to battle any attempt by Washington to weaken California’s automobile pollution emission standards.

As President Trump moves to reverse the Obama administration’s policies on climate change, California is emerging as the nation’s de facto negotiator with the world on the environment. The state is pushing back on everything from White House efforts to roll back pollution rules on tailpipes and smokestacks, to plans to withdraw or weaken the United States’ commitments under the Paris climate change accord.

climate change policy

In the process, California is not only fighting to protect its legacy of sweeping environmental protection, but also holding itself out as a model to other states — and to nations — on how to fight climate change.

“I want to do everything we can to keep America on track, keep the world on track, and lead in all the ways California has,” said Mr. Brown, who has embraced this fight as he enters what is likely to be the final stretch of a 40-year career in California government. “We’re looking to do everything we can to advance our program, regardless of whatever happens in Washington.”

Since the election, California has stood as the leading edge of the Democratic resistance to the Trump administration, on a range of issues including immigration and health care. Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton here by nearly four million votes. Every statewide elected official is a Democrat, and the party controls both houses of the Legislature by a two-thirds margin. Soon after Mr. Trump was elected, Democratic legislative leaders hired Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, to represent California in legal fights with the administration.

But of all the battles it is waging with Washington, none have the global implications of the one over climate change.

climate change and extreme weather

The aggressive posture on the environment has set the stage for a confrontation between the Trump administration and the largest state in the nation. California has 39 million people, making it more populous than Canada and many other countries. And with an annual economic output of $2.4 trillion, the state is an economic powerhouse and has the sixth-largest economy in the world.

California’s efforts cross party lines. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, and led the state in developing the most aggressive pollution-control programs in the nation, has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s biggest Republican critics.

Mr. Trump and his advisers appear ready for the fight.

Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency chief, whom Mr. Trump has charged with rolling back Obama-era environmental policies, speaks often of his belief in the importance of federalism and states’ rights, describing Mr. Trump’s proposals as a way to lift the oppressive yoke of federal regulations and return authority to the states. But of Mr. Brown’s push to expand California’s environmental policies to the country and the world, Mr. Pruitt said, “That’s not federalism — that’s a political agenda hiding behind federalism.”

“Is it federalism to impose your policy on other states?” Mr. Pruitt asked in a recent interview in his office. “It seems to me that Mr. Brown is being the aggressor here,” he said. “But we expect the law will show this.”

In one of his earliest strikes, Mr. Trump signed an executive order in March aimed at dismantling the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama’s signature climate policy change. Much of the plan, which Mr. Trump denounced as a “job killer,” was drawn from environmental policies pioneered in California.

Jerry Brown California water conservation

Mr. Brown has long been an environmental advocate, including when he first served as governor in the 1970s. He has made this a central focus as he enters his final 18 months in office. In an interview, he said the president’s action was “a colossal mistake and defies science.”

“Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else,” Mr. Brown said.

The leadership role being embraced by California goes to the heart of what has long been a central part of this state’s identity. For more than three decades, California has been at the vanguard of environmental policy, passing ambitious, first-in-the-nation legislation on pollution control and conservation that have often served as models for national and even international environmental law.

Read The Full Story at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/us/california-engages-world-and-fights-washington-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_ta_20170523&nl=top-stories&nlid=59791470&ref=cta&_r=0

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Bloomberg Urges Leaders To Ignore Trump’s Climate Commentary

Climate Solutions Found Outside Of Washington, DC

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing foreign leaders not to follow President Trump’s lead on climate change.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Bloomberg said other countries should continue pursuing the goals laid out in the international Paris climate accord, regardless of whether Trump pulls the U.S. out of the pact, something the White House is still considering.

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” Bloomberg, who in 2014 was appointed a United Nations special envoy on climate change, told the AP.

“And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression — and help save the Paris deal.”

Michael Bloomberg climate change

 

Bloomberg and former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope are releasing a book about climate change, which he said is not a political statement but rather a way to urge citizens and policymakers to focus more on the environment.

He said there was no political motive tied to his new book, “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet,” co-authored by former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

“I’m not running for office,” Bloomberg told the Associated Press. The 75-year-old billionaire, who has championed liberal causes despite his political independence, repeatedly mulled presidential runs during his tenure as New York’s mayor.

Instead of helping to re-ignite his political career, he said the new book offered a specific policy objective: To help save an international agreement, negotiated in Paris, to reduce global carbon emissions.

The Trump administration is debating whether to abandon the pact as the president promised during his campaign. Under the agreement, the U.S. pledged that by 2025 it would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons.

Bloomberg said he believed the U.S. would hit that goal regardless of what Trump does because of leadership at the state level and market forces already at play in the private sector.

greenhouse gas and climate change

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” he said in an email Saturday to the AP. “And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand that led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression – and help save the Paris deal.”

Bloomberg already plays a significant role in shaping some of the nation’s fiercest policy debates, having invested millions of dollars in one advocacy group that pushes for stronger gun control and another that promotes liberal immigration policies. In the new book, which follows what a spokeswoman described as $80 million in donations to the Sierra Club in recent years, the New York businessman solidifies his status as a prominent climate change advocate as well.

His policy repertoire aligns him with core values of the Democratic Party, although the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent has no formal political affiliation.

In the interview, Bloomberg shrugged off conservatives who condemn him as a paternalistic New York elitist. He noted that policies he helped initiate in New York City – including a smoking ban and high taxes on sugary drinks – have eventually caught on elsewhere.

climate change and extreme weather

 

“My goal has been to save and improve lives,” he said. “Some ways of doing that can be controversial at first, but end up being highly popular and successful.”

Bloomberg’s book reportedly takes aim at the coal sector, of which he writes, “I don’t have much sympathy for industries whose products leave behind a trail of diseased and dead bodies … for everyone’s sake, we should aim to put them out of business.”

Bloomberg told the AP he will donate $3 million to groups that help out-of-work coal miners find jobs and distressed coal country communities revive their local economies.

He avoided condemning the Trump administration directly, however, largely casting the new president’s steps on climate change as irrelevant. The White House declined to comment when asked about Bloomberg’s statements.

“As it turns out, Trump’s election makes the book’s message – that the most important solutions lie outside of Washington – even more important and urgent,” Bloomberg said.

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Cities Hold Solutions To Climate Change

Cities, Citizens Tackling Issues and Opportunities

Cities around the world have multiplied their efforts to emit fewer greenhouse gases and brace for climate-change-driven natural disasters, scientists and environmentalists say.

Amid uncertainty over whether Washington will withdraw from a global accord to combat climate change, many people are increasingly pinning their hopes on cities to cut global warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Last month U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said he was keeping an open mind on whether to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. He has appointed two climate skeptics to top jobs in his administration.

greener cities conference

Below are five U.S. cities that left their mark on the fight against climate change in 2016:

Portland, Oregon

Portland made national headlines by pushing the frontiers of how municipal governments can speed up the transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. This month, the West Coast city of nearly 600,000 people said it was the first nationwide to ban the construction of new bulk fossil-fuel storage facilities on its territory.

“Now, more than ever, local community voices are needed, because the risks of not acting on climate change are just too severe,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said after adopting the new rules, which prohibit the construction of fossil-fuel storage facilities exceeding 2 million gallons.

Burlington, Vermont

This year, Vermont’s largest urban center put together a plan to pursue its goal of becoming a “net-zero city,” meaning it aims to consume only as much energy as it generates.

“We are doing things that other bigger cities sometimes really even aren’t thinking about yet,” said Neale Lunderville, general manager of the Burlington Electric Department, a part of the municipal government, in a telephone interview.

In 2014, Burlington, a former manufacturing town of 42,000 people, became the first U.S. city to run 100 percent on renewable energy, including wind and solar power, the Electric Department said.

San Diego, California

With a population of nearly 1.4 million people, San Diego was the largest U.S. city in 2016 to have committed to producing all its energy from renewable sources. The city, located in the drier southern part of California, has had to introduce water cuts to combat prolonged drought in the state, which has been aggravated by climate change.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has committed $130 million of a $3.4 billion budget for 2017 to funding various projects to tackle climate change, such as installing solar panels, adding bike lanes and using energy-efficient street lights.

Cleveland, Ohio

In 2016, Cleveland, on the shores of Lake Erie, made progress on what could be the country’s first freshwater offshore wind turbine installation. As part of Project Icebreaker, six turbines are to be installed eight to 10 miles off Cleveland’s shore, with the aim of meeting 10 percent of the electricity needs of 6,000 homes.

The $120 million project, the brainchild of the Cleveland Foundation, a community group, received a boost in May when the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would award $40 million to help cover the construction of the wind turbines by 2018.

Baltimore, Maryland

In a first nationally, Baltimore announced in 2016 it would beef up its disaster-preparedness plans with neighborhood centers to help the most vulnerable residents, according to Kristin Baja, climate and resilience planner for the city administration.

The centers will be fully equipped with backup electricity and fresh water, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The seaside city of more than half a million people is particularly susceptible to flooding, hurricanes and storms.

“It’s an interesting model,” Garrett Fitzgerald, an adviser for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a coalition of U.S. and Canadian cities, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “People need a place to go that they can walk to, that they know, that they trust, where they feel safe.”

Sustainable Cities News via http://www.voanews.com/a/many-look-cities-reduce-emissions-fight-climate-changes/3654526.html

Cities Divided Over Fossil Fuel Investments

Divesting From Fossil Fuels, Investing In The Future

By James B. Stewart, New York Times

The trustees of Cooperstown, N.Y., hardly expected their village (population 1,834) to emerge as a flash point in a national debate over climate change and socially responsible investing.

But when they voted in October to divest the pension fund they oversee of all fossil fuel holdings, Cooperstown became the first community in the nation to do so — not just coal (like Stanford University), but also oil and gas.

climate change policy

Just as the divestiture movement has roiled college campuses across the country, pitting environmental activists against college endowment managers, the trustees’ decision caused a stir locally. The town treasurer and tax collector publicly opposed the move, and a village resident took to the local newspaper to suggest the trustees were indulging their personal causes at the expense of prudent portfolio management.

The issue has upset the usually tranquil village on the shores of scenic Otsego Lake, which bills itself as “America’s hometown” and is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Talk of carbon neutrality and fiduciary duty has at least temporarily supplanted Donald J. Trump, who easily carried Otsego County.

Cooperstown “is abuzz,” said Jim Kevlin, the editor and publisher of the local newspaper, The Freeman’s Journal (founded in 1808 by James Fenimore Cooper’s father) and its companion website, allotsego.com.

“I’ve gotten into arguments with a lot of my friends,” said Louis Allstadt, a retired Exxon Mobil executive and town trustee credited with spearheading the divestiture movement (or blamed for it, depending who you ask). “Even at my weekly lunch group.”

Mr. Allstadt is emerging as something of a small-town hero in the divestiture movement, in part because he has gone full circle on the issue, from managing all of Mobil Oil’s exploration efforts in the United States, Canada and Latin America and helping oversee Mobil’s merger with Exxon during a 31-year career in the industry, to an antifracking, anti-fossil-fuel activist.

air pollution and climate change

He has owned a house near Cooperstown since 1973, which served as both a vacation getaway and home base during the years he was based overseas. He moved to the village in 2008 and, after his post-retirement conversion, gave over 150 speeches in upstate New York as part of a successful campaign to ban fracking in the state.

“It’s so much worse than the conventional drilling I was familiar with,” he said. “I started talking about how to make it safer, and inevitably someone would ask, ‘Can you make it safe?’ And basically, the answer is no.”

Mr. Allstadt ran for town trustee as an independent, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. “I wasn’t running as a ‘green,’ or anything like that,” he said. “I mostly focus on efficiency and lowering costs.” (There are two independent trustees and four Democrats, which makes Cooperstown something of an anomaly in heavily Republican Otsego County.)

Mr. Allstadt is becoming more than a local celebrity. He will be featured next week at a news conference in New York City hosted by the fossil fuel divestment advocacy group Divest-Invest Philanthropy.

“Cooperstown showed immense leadership in its decision to divest,” said Lindsay Meiman, a spokeswoman for 350.org, the environmental activist group and a supporter of Divest-Invest.

But the move sparked immediate opposition outside the environmental movement, starting with the town treasurer and tax collector, Derek Bloomfield, who argued at the trustees meeting in October that energy stocks provided valuable diversification.

“Social investment should be done with one’s own money,” he maintained, according to a report in The Freeman’s Journal, adding that in his view, “fossil fuels have done more to raise mankind out of poverty than any other development through the ages.”

“They’ve created a great threat to humanity,” Mr. Allstadt shot back.

Mr. Allstadt argued that the industry faced insurmountable obstacles in the future and fossil fuel stocks would suffer as a result. “You don’t just keep driving your car when you see a cliff ahead,” he told The Freeman’s Journal.

The discussion “got a little contentious over the historic merit of fossil fuels,” the mayor, Jeff Katz, told me this week. He and his family were drawn to Cooperstown by its baseball legacy; he has written two books on the topic, including “Split Season,” about the strike-marred 1981 baseball season.

As a former options trader in Chicago, Mr. Katz is also financially sophisticated. He and the trustees oversee a pension fund, with total assets of about $900,000, that benefits the town’s volunteer firefighters and emergency squad. Of that amount, about $140,000 was invested in an S.&.P 500 fund that included fossil fuel stocks. But last year, State Street started an exchange-traded fund that excludes fossil fuels from the S.&P. 500 (the fund’s symbol is SPYX), offering a cost-efficient way to purge fossil fuels from any portfolio.

“It’s something people believe in, and we thought it’s a positive way for the name of Cooperstown to be out there,” the mayor said. “It’s meaningful in that way. It’s not so meaningful financially. We’re not a $100 million pension fund. No one will suffer if Exxon Mobil triples in the next year.”

He added that he and the trustees didn’t realize Cooperstown would be the first community in the nation to divest itself of all fossil fuels.

But the trustees’ decision, and especially Mr. Allstadt’s comments about driving off a cliff, struck a nerve with a village resident, David Russell, who moved with his family to Cooperstown from Westchester County soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Russell is an asset manager who commutes to Manhattan, but he is also steeped in pension fund management as a former counsel to the New York state comptroller H. Carl McCall, who oversaw the state’s vast public retirement plan.

“It’s a very pristine place up here,” Mr. Russell told me this week. “Feelings run very high about the environment. A lot of people went crazy over fracking.”

“Lou Allstadt went from being a retired oil executive to a pied piper against fossil fuels, which is fine for him personally,” he added. “But as a trustee, you have to look at this through the lens of fiduciary duty, which means acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Village trustees shouldn’t be stock pickers, and they shouldn’t be injecting social issues into the decision.”

“I’d never written anything in the paper before,” Mr. Russell said, “but I felt strongly that someone had to speak up.”

So he drafted a lengthy op-ed for The Freeman’s Journal, arguing that the trustees had a duty to seek the “best risk-adjusted returns” for the fund and should be “free from any conflicts of interest or political beliefs/statements.”

Mr. Russell noted that so far this year, the SPYX fund, minus fossil fuels, had lagged the SPY fund by 16 percent.

He added that stock in the two leading firearms manufacturers — Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger — which were sold off by many pension funds after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy, have risen 400 percent and 100 percent since then, easily outpacing broad market indexes.

Read The Full Story at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/business/much-ado-in-cooperstown-ny-over-vote-to-dump-fossil-fuel-stocks.html?emc=edit_tnt_20161209&nlid=59791470&tntemail0=y&_r=0

Most People Breathing Unhealthy Air

Air Pollution An Extreme Threat To Public Health

By Mike Ives, The New York Times

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that 92 percent of people breathe what it classifies as unhealthy air, in another sign that atmospheric pollution is a significant threat to global public health.

A new report, the W.H.O.’s most comprehensive analysis so far of outdoor air quality worldwide, also said about three million deaths a year — mostly from cardiovascular, pulmonary and other noncommunicable diseases — were linked to outdoor air pollution. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths are in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region, compared with 333,000 in Europe and the Americas, the report said.

air pollution Beijing

“When you look out through the windows in your house or apartment, you don’t see the tiny little particles that are suspended in the air, so the usual perception is that the air is clean,” Rajasekhar Balasubramanian, an air quality expert at the National University of Singapore who was not involved in the study, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“But the W.H.O. report is a clear indication that even in the absence of air pollution episodes, the concentrations of particles suspended in the air do exceed what’s considered to be acceptable from a health viewpoint,” he said.

In previous studies, the W.H.O. estimated that more than eight in 10 people in urban areas that monitored air pollution were breathing unhealthy air and that about seven million deaths a year were linked to indoor and outdoor pollution.

The new study reduced the second estimate to 6.5 million deaths. But María P. Neira, director of the W.H.O.’s Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a telephone interview that “the trends are still going in the wrong direction.”

“Somebody has to pay for those health systems to sustain the treatment and the care for those chronic patients, and this is something that countries need to balance when they make decisions about the sources of energy they are selecting or the choices they make in terms of public transport,” Dr. Neira said. “These economic costs of health have to be part of the equation.”

The W.H.O. study was conducted by dozens of scientists over 18 months and was based on data collected from satellites, air-transport models and ground monitors in more than 3,000 urban and rural locations, agency officials said Tuesday.

greenhouse gas and climate change

The agency defined unhealthy air as having concentrations of fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, above 10 micrograms per cubic meter, or 35.3 cubic feet, but it did not measure concentrations of ozone, nitrous oxide or other harmful pollutants.

The study said that major drivers of global air pollution included inefficient energy use and transportation but that nonhuman factors, such as dust storms, also played a role.

Professor Balasubramanian said it was an open question whether countries in Southeast Asia, a region that has densely packed cities and struggles to combat cross-border pollution, would choose to improve urban air quality by switching to cleaner fuels in their power plants, as Western European countries did several decades ago.

Prolonging the decisions will probably increase the health risk from air pollution, he said, because the region’s population is rising and demanding more energy.

About 300 million children in the world breathe highly toxic air, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a new report. The vast majority of these children, about 220 million, live in South Asia, in places where air pollution is at least six times the level that the World Health Organization considers safe, Unicef said.

Air Pollution News via http://nyti.ms/2cSBoVb

UNDP Launches Program For Green Cities

Cities A Massive Problem, Opportunity

By Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

On behalf of UNDP, welcome to the launch of the UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy. As we meet here in Quito today for the Habitat III conference, we are also celebrating the International Day for Poverty Eradication.

greener cities conference

Many of the world’s poor now live in cities where the most pressing development challenges are found. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to ensure that the urban poor are not left behind.

The New Urban Agenda, which is due to be adopted here at Habitat III, aims to ensure that the cities of today and tomorrow offer an inclusive and sustainable future for all. The UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy lays out the support which UNDP as a global development organization can provide to help achieve that.

Around our world, people are moving to cities in very large numbers.  Cities are seen as places of opportunity and hope, where hard work and determination can transform lives.

UNDP has developed its sustainable urbanization strategy to support cities to deliver on the hopes of their citizens and to implement the New Urban Agenda.  Many people in cities, particularly young people, lack work and say they currently feel excluded from opportunities. For women and girls, cities can be dangerous places where they cannot walk in safety and may risk exploitation in dangerous and demeaning jobs.  Natural disasters – including those exacerbated by climate change – and conflict and citizen insecurity can turn back the clock on hard won development gains.

UNDP’s experiences of working in towns and cities around the world have shaped this first UNDP sustainable urbanization strategy, and will guide our efforts beyond Quito.  Allow me to share three of our lessons learned:

  1. For cities to be succeed, they need to meet the needs of all their residents. Truly dynamic cities make space for all, and serve the needs of all.  Inclusivity is one of the main principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which UN Member States pledged to leave no one behind. The needs and aspirations of poor and marginalized people in the world’s cities must be addressed to fulfill that ambition.
  2. Cities must be resilient to natural and man-made disasters and crises. Urban areas are now home to more than half the world’s people, and they also host most of the world’s critical infrastructure, key development assets, political institutions, and major socio-economic architecture. If disasters and crises rock cities, the spillover effects are great. In the first half of 2016 alone, natural disasters caused US$71 billion in damages worldwide, with most economic loss concentrated in cities. Political instability and conflict also have major costs.
  3. Cities are at the forefront of the battle against climate change and environmental degradation. They produce more than seventy percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and use eighty per cent of the world’s energy. How cities grow and develop in the coming decades will play a significant part in determining whether the world can live within its planetary boundaries.

climate change policy

Delivering the sustainable, inclusive, and resilient cities of the future requires that we work together in partnership, as UNDP is committed to doing. Our partnerships are diverse:

  • Here in Ecuador, we have been part of the efforts to help local communities recover and rebuild in Manabí province following the 16 April earthquake this year.
  • In Soacha, Colombia, a town close to Bogota, UNDP and UNCHR have been working together on a programme called Building Sustainable Solutions. It supports the local municipality with land registration and title, promoting economic development with the support of the private sector, and with community and institutional strengthening.
  • In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, UNDP has worked with local community groups to improve access to municipal services.
  • In Bangladesh, UNDP has supported municipal leaders to improve the livelihoods of millions of urban dwellers through our large scale Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction programme.
  • Initiatives like these, taken to scale through partnerships and strong urban leadership, will be critical to implementing the New Urban Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Helen Clark is the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group.

Are Cities Ready For The Next Major Hurricane

Coastal Cities Unprepared For Extreme Storms

By Nick Stockton, Wired

After the storm, after the flooding, after the investigations, the US came to realize that what happened to New Orleans on August 29, 2005 was not a natural disaster. The levee system built by the US Army Corps of Engineers had structural flaws, and those flaws were awaiting the right circumstances. In that way, what happened was all but inevitable.

sustainable cities and climate change

And just as the storm is not to blame, New Orleans is not unique in its vulnerability. The city endured a lot of scolding in the aftermath of Katrina, as if the storm was the climax to a parable about poor urban planning. Sure, the city sits below sea level, at the end of hurricane alley, and relies heavily on an elaborate (and delicate) system of infrastructure. But where the city’s geography is unique, its vulnerability is anything but. Just about every coastal city, state, or region is sitting on a similar confluence of catastrophic conditions. The seas are rising, a storm is coming, and critical infrastructure is dangerously exposed.

The basic math of carbon dioxide is pretty simple: Generally, as CO2 levels rise, the air will warm. Warmer air melts glaciers, which drip into the sea—even as the water itself warms, too. Both cause the oceans to rise. Even if the entire planet stopped emitting carbon dioxide, Earth would continue to suffer the effects of past emissions.

“We’ve got at least 30 years of inertia in terms of sea level rise,” says Trevor Houser, a Rhodium Group economist who studies climate risk. And even if the sea weren’t rising, the rate of urban growth will more than double the area of urban land at high flood risk, according to a study Global Environmental Change published earlier this year.

But the sea is rising, at about .13 of an inch per year, for the past 20 years. (It was rising before then, too, but at about half the rate for the preceding 80 years.) Another recent study calculated that the world should expect about 4 feet of sea level rise for every degree Fahrenheit the global average temperature rises. This puts nearly every coastal city, in every coastal state, in danger of floods. Climate Central has an extensive project looking at sea level risk, if you’re curious about your city’s risk.

Warm air also holds more moisture, and moisture holds more energy, hence stronger (though not necessarily more frequent) storms. Those storms combine with high sea levels to create a danger greater than the sum of their parts. In a combined flooding event, a severe storm traps a city between rainfall and surging seas. Higher sea levels cause rivers to back up, water tables to saturate, shorelines to shorten. Storms—which are likely to be stronger than before—have fewer options to run off, so they pool and flood. And America built its coastal civilization oblivious to their threat.

hurricane Katrina

Take Florida, the most climate-threatened swath of American soil. It’s low, flat, built on porous limestone, and hurricane prone. According to a new analysis by disaster insurance agency Karen Clark and Co., Florida has four of the 10 US cities most vulnerable to combined flooding events.

Florida, knowing its place in the world, has copious levees and seawalls. But the levees are there mostly to protect against the Everglades. The seawalls are about as good at breaking a hurricane as a hood ornament is at breaking the wind. And all of that infrastructure is of little use in the face of combined flooding events—the sea will simply come up from below. Miami flooded last year when the storm sewers backed up because the water table was too high to drain them.

The Sunshine State’s geography makes it an easy target for blame (not to mention hurricanes). But if there’s anything the US should have learned in the decade since Katrina, it’s that storms don’t always hit where you expect them—because, you know, Sandy. “Florida is definitely the most vulnerable place, but you also have places like Norfolk that are built on the coastal floodplain, and parts of New England where there is a lot of sunk infrastructure very close to the increasingly vulnerable coast,” says Houser. The pattern repeats itself all along the Atlantic coastal plain: Physical protections are largely insufficient to protect against a new class of climate threats.

And then, sometimes, that infrastructure falls apart entirely. Louisiana’s levees couldn’t have held off Katrina entirely, but it was their collapse, not the hurricane itself, that turned the Big Easy into a bathtub. “Some were improperly designed, some were improperly constructed, the rest were improperly maintained,” says Sandy Rosenthal, the director of Levees.org, an infrastructure watchdog group.

That same sentence could apply to key infrastructure nationwide. A lot of the country’s infrastructure—its bridges, transportation corridors, airports, seaports, water supply systems, electrical grids, flood control, and so one—were built poorly, hastily, or both. A lot of it is old and neglected. In a 2013 survey, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave US infrastructure a D+ grade.

“A lot of infrastructure went up in the midcentury,” says Solomon Hsiang, a UC Berkeley economist who studies public policy. “Now we’re reaching the end of the natural lifetime of that infrastructure, and we need to decide that we can no longer ride on all the investment that occurred 50 or 60 years ago.” Much of this stuff is directly vulnerable to climate change. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers released two surveys describing hundreds of dams and thousands of levees vulnerable to rising seas and stronger storms. Threats identified—but not yet remedied.

Sustainable City News via http://climatedesk.org/2015/08/no-one-is-ready-for-the-next-katrina/