Trees are Great for Cities

Cleaning the air and keeping areas cool are what trees do best. A new study has looked into how best to use trees from a purely utilitarian standpoint. Essentially they drilled down to what trees do best and where they can thrive. The researchers cataloged the best places to plant trees based on factors like removing particulate matter from the air and where they can have the greatest impact on local temperatures. As a result their research outlines the most efficient use of money when deciding where to plant more trees.

As always, the best time to plant a tree is today.

There is one catch, though: The tree-planting campaign has to be well-targeted. And that gets a bit complex.

Trees only improve air quality in their immediate vicinity, about 100 feet or so. That means cities need to figure out which neighborhoods benefit most from new trees (typically the densest areas, but also areas around hospitals and schools). They also have to plant species that are most effective at trapping pollution (typically those with large leaves).

Officials also need to account for things like wind patterns and tree spacing and figure out whether they’ll be able to maintain their trees. Plus, if water is scarce, they’ll want to consider drought-tolerant varieties. And they may want to steer clear of trees that increase pollen and allergies.

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Obama and Canada Bans New Coastal Oil and Gas Drilling

ocean shore

Obama is leaving office and he’s clearly worried that the next president will ignore climate change and its effects on humanity. In order to stymie any damage that president Trump can do, Obama has passed a law that effectively bans ocean-based drilling for oil and gas in some areas. In support, Canada has passed a similar law that will ban arctic drilling. With fossil fuels becoming less profitable and alternative source energies getting cheaper the need to drill in precarious places become less tenable.

The ban affects 115 million acres (46.5 million hectares) of federal waters off Alaska in the Chukchi Sea and most of the Beaufort Sea and 3.8 million acres (1.5 million hectares) in the Atlantic from New England to Chesapeake Bay.

The White House and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jointly announced their move to launch “actions ensuring a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem.”

Obama said in a statement that the joint actions “reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region’s harsh conditions is limited.”

Canada will designate all Arctic Canadian waters as indefinitely off limits to future offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based life-cycle assessment.

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Economy Continues to Grow Despite Decrease in Emissions

carbon output

Economists used to measure progress using emission rates correlated to GDP, now that comparison is ridiculous. A few years ago we looked at how carbon output is shrinking while economies grow and that is continuing to be the case. Earlier this year it was predicted that the global economy will continue to see a separation of economic progress and an increase in carbon output. This year it looks like we have been able to stall carbon output again (so now I’m hoping it will start going down).

What makes the three-year trend most remarkable is the fact that the global economy grew at more than 3% per year during this time. Previously, falling emissions were driven by stagnant or shrinking economies, such as during the global financial crisis of 2008.

Developed countries, together, showed a strong declining trend in emissions, cutting them by 1.7% in 2015. This decline was despite emissions growth of 1.4% in the European Union after more than a decade of declining emissions.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Standing Rock Sioux Achieve a Victory

Standing Rock #DAPL

This is proof that direct protest action works.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has decided to not grant permission to allow the Dakota Access pipeline to be built as planned. The pipeline was meant to go through burial lands of the Standing Rock Sioux which is offensive in itself, but there’s more to it. The pipeline would have also greatly harmed the local ecosystem and drinking water. In the event of a spill (and pipelines spill all the time) the damage to the natural environment and to people would be epic.

Despite these risks, Energy Transfer Partners and the Army Corps of Engineers will continue to try to build the pipeline elsewhere. Of course this recent development will make it harder to do so and the protestors will continue to fight big oil for the average person’s right to clean water. What’s more, is that the economic argument for pipelines is weak at best.

The Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river, the army announced on Sunday, handing a major victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe after a months-long campaign against the pipeline.


The announcement came just one day before the corps’ deadline for thousands of Native American and environmental activists – who call themselves water protectors – to leave the sprawling encampment on the banks of the river. For months, they have protested over their fears that the pipeline would contaminate their water source and destroy sacred sites, and over the weekend hundreds of military veterans arrived at the camps in a show of support for the movement.

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47 Developing Countries Leapfrogging to Renewables

wind turbine

At the tail end of the Marrakech UN conference on the climate 47 countries formed the Climate Vulnerable Forum to share the one goal: getting to 100% renewable energy as fast as possible. Previously, economists and politicians argued that developing countries will need to use coal or other destructive carbon-based energy before upgrading to renewables. With the cheap price of solar panels and other non-carbon intensive electricity it looks like these countries can skip coal. They are hoping to replicate the infrastructure “leapfrog” that mobile phones created in much of the world with renewable power.

Members of the CVF hope to perform the same kind of ‘leapfrogging’ with regards to energy.

The 47 members of the CVF – which includes nations like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Haiti – say they’ll “strive to meet 100 percent domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible, while working to end energy poverty and protect water and food security, taking into consideration national circumstances”.

The goal is to have all of these systems in place some time between 2030 and 2050, and the members have committed to presenting a detailed plan to the UN by 2020.

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