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Our Daily Planet: Wind power saves lives while the homeless suffer from extreme heat caused by climate change
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By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

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Thursday, June 21st, 2018

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 Air

Colorado Rejects Pruitt's Pollution Agenda 

Colorado's governor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday issued an executive order requiring the adoption of low-emission vehicle standards by 2025. As the Denver Post reported, the order requires the state Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a rule that would establish the LEV program and, in part, incorporate some of the requirements already in place in California. Hickenlooper wants the nine-member Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to take up the proposed rule at its August meeting with the hope of adopting it by the end of this year. While Colorado's car dealers have been concerned that this decision is based on air quality standards tested in a coastal state and will cost CO residents more money, environmental groups hailed it as a necessary step. “Adopting clean-car standards means fewer bad-air days and a better quality of life for citizens across our state,” said Garrett Garner-Wells, director of Environment Colorado.

This isn't the first time that Colorado has led the way amongst inland states in the fight against climate change. Two Colorado counties and the city of Boulder became the first inland municipalities to sue oil companies for their part in raising GHG emissions and global temperatures. 

Why This Matters: This past April, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would reduce national vehicle emissions standards through 2025. California has a waiver to adopt its own stricter emissions standards under the Clean Air Act and other states can opt to do the same. As Eco Watch noted, during the Obama era, the national government's standards were strict enough that California and the other states following its lead were willing to accept them, meaning that automakers only had to make cars for one national set of standards. Pruitt's decision changed that. 
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 Energy

Child treating an asthma attack. Photo: CBS News
Switching to Wind Power Saves Lives and Improves Health

As governors up and down the east coast begin to consider and plan for wind power projects in their offshore areas, Ecowatch reports that bringing wind power onto the grid replacing dirtier power plants will save lives and improve health in those states.  Jonathan Buonocore, a research associate at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard, led a study on this issue and found that offshore wind farms installed off the Mid-Atlantic coast bring about quantifiable health and climate benefits.  They looked at offshore wind in the Mid-Atlantic and calculated that it is capable of producing health and climate benefits of between $54 and $120 per MWh of generation, with the largest potential facility that they simulated (3000 MW off the coast of New Jersey) producing approximately $690 million in benefits. 

There are other health benefits and environmental benefits from bringing offshore wind on-line. Buonocore and his team estimated that a 1,100-megawatt wind farm off the coast of New Jersey, which is slightly smaller than the two recently-approved offshore wind farms, would save around 13 lives per year.  Buonocore says, "[r]eplacing fossil fuels with wind and solar energy, can reduce risks of asthma, hospitalizations and heart attacks."  Moreover, Buonocore reports that the same wind facility would reduce carbon emissions by around 2.2 million tons every year, the equivalent of taking more than 400,000 cars off the road.
 
Why This Matters:  There are estimates of the savings created by phasing out unprofitable coal.  Anthony Hobley of the Carbon Tracker Initiative estimates that figure to be $10b annually.  But putting a dollar value on the health benefits of wind power -- particularly when looking at those benefits down to the facility level -- is something that helps make the case for switching from coal sooner rather than later.  And these numbers are quite impressive -- potentially hundreds of millions per facility.  Not to mention the number of lives saved and the reductions in carbon emissions. These benefits are on the horizon since Massachusetts and Rhode Island have projects in the works now.

To Go Deeper:  We recommend this NY Times story on how offshore wind may transform fishing towns in Massachusetts. 
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 People

Photo: Sean Havey/KQED
Homeless Americans Can't Find Shelter from the Heat

Climate change has made extreme heat more likely at the same time that homelessness has risen. Between 2016-17 the number of homeless rose by 9 percent largely due to housing shortages. In addition, according to the National Climate Assessment, the hottest average days will see increases of 8 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. As Slate reported, making matters worse, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island amplifies this effect in major U.S. cities. Not only do urban heat islands increase local temperatures, they can prevent natural nighttime cooling and raise nighttime lows.

There is also evidence that the majority of unsheltered homeless populations in the country reside in warm climates. According to a  HUD report, California and Florida ranked highest in the nation for the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in one state; together, they accounted for 53 percent of all unsheltered homelessness in the country. With these factors combined, homeless Americans often don't have anywhere to go to cool down at night and their bodies cannot get a break from the heat--this exposure can lead to many chronic health problems and even death. 

Why This Matters: This reinforces the argument that climate change does not affect all people equally. Homeless populations are disproportionately exposed to the heat island effect, lack of vegetation for shade and inadequately maintained parks, and access to reliable drinking water making them more susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration. 

What You Can Do: There are many ways you can help prevent deaths this summer. Most cities have cooling centers where people can go freely on extreme heat days. Knowing the information of these centers and sharing them with those in need of AC can save lives (in DC the hyperthermia hotline is (202) 399-7093). Help people get to a cooler place if you can or carry some cold water bottles around and hand them out to people you walk by. In addition to water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and umbrellas can help people stay cool, and bus passes or tickets to a movie can give someone an air-conditioned place to go for a while. Perhaps most importantly, if you see someone who looks passed out during a heat wave, don’t assume they are OK. Check on them or call a paramedic.
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 Oceans

President Obama signs National Ocean Policy in 2010.  Photo: The White House
Trump Ocean Policy Reversal Widely Condemned

President Trump on Wednesday reversed the Obama Administration's National Ocean Policy, which was adopted in 2010 after a long and inclusive public process.  The policy established for the first time a comprehensive, integrated National Policy for the stewardship of the ocean, our coasts, and Great Lakes, and put the U.S. on a path toward comprehensive planning for the preservation and sustainable use of ocean space and resources.  ODP reached out to ocean leaders for their reaction, and here is what they told us.
  • "President Trump’s new executive order to unravel President Obama’s National Ocean Policy does not refer to climate change even once, a shameful denial of the challenge that we must confront for the sake of the future of the planet.”  -- Senator Edward Markey (D MA)
  • "Human life is directly tied to the health of the ocean. A one-sided ocean policy that takes only and does not save will surely spell doom.” -- Brian Skerry, National Geographic Ocean Photojournalist and Author
  • "The Trump order assumes that with minimal coordination assistance from the federal government, the oceans and Great Lakes will continue to provide traditional services for the military, oil & gas drillers, fishing, and recreational resources.  That's wrong.  The reality is that our oceans and Great Lakes are under enormous stress ...This is exactly the wrong time to shut down the prior Administration's call to action to address these serious issues."  -- David Hayes, former Deputy Secretary of Interior, NYU Law School
  • “With the stroke of a pen, President Trump has put coastal communities across America at risk. By rescinding the Obama National Ocean Policy, which balanced both conservation and sustainable blue economy goals, President Trump’s policy change threatens the very fabric of ocean security."  -- Sally Yozell, Director of the Stimson Center’s Environmental Security Program and a former U.S. State Department Official  
  • "This move, combined with the President’s quest to drill offshore for oil and gas, shows a complete lack of recognition of the value of healthy oceans to our economy.  From a successful businessman, one would expect a more sensible approach." -- Jackie Savitz, Chief Policy Officer, Oceana
  • “U.S. ocean policy has changed overnight from a focus on safeguarding vulnerable and valuable ocean wildlife for the future to short-term resource use and extraction. Managing ocean life as an interconnected system and proactive planning for our busy oceans is out. -- Alison Chase, NRDC
Why This Matters:  Oceans need governance -- without a comprehensive policy like the one implemented by President Obama, we will have a race to use up all the remaining ocean resources in our U.S. waters.  The Obama policy was working well -- helping to make the blue economy a reality while conserving precious resources.  As these experts have said, the President's decision to put his own policy in place -- a policy that is nothing more than platitudes -- is setting the U.S. back on ocean security, commerce, and conservation.  
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 Sustainability


Hawaii: On Track for 100% Renewable Energy 

In 2015, Hawaii passed the "100% RPS law" that requires utilities in the state to purchase 30 percent of their power as renewables by December 31, 2020,  It further mandates that the state purchase 70 percent renewable energy by December 31, 2040, and 100% by December 31, 2045. The Hawaii law was passed because fossil fuel imports were costing the state of Hawaii billions of dollars annually -- all oil had to be shipped into the state --  in 2015, nearly 90 percent of Hawaii's electricity was generated using oil imported from the mainland.  But more than just cost savings, leaders in Hawaii also realized that renewable energy technology markets were expanding rapidly, and thus making an energy switch could bring new jobs and business opportunities to the state. Currently, Hawaii is ahead of its timeline to reach the requirement of 40 percent renewable electricity by 2030. 

The campaign to convince the Hawaii legislature to go for this ambitious renewable goal was led by the Blue Planet Foundation.  They believed Hawaii would be the perfect "laboratory" to try to tackle renewable energy in a big way -- Hawaii was the first state to pass a carbon tax, and the first state to have an energy report card to keep track of its carbon emissions.  What Blue Planet learned was that what started out as a mandate became wholesale systems change -- that drove public support from students to unions, to businesses across the state.  "The minute the ink was dry on the law, the conversation immediately changed -- the law actually fostered collaboration and unlocked innovation," said Jeff Mikulina, Blue Planet's Executive Director.    

Why This Matters:  With proof of concept in Hawaii, now other states should feel "empowered" (bad pun) to do the same and set really ambitious goals for renewable energy adoption.  According to the Sierra Club, over 65 cities have adopted 100% clean energy goals. Better yet, six cities in the U.S. --Aspen, CO, Burlington, VT, Greensburg, KS, Georgetown, TX,  Rockport, MO, and Kodiak Island, AK -- have already hit their 100% renewable targets.  !00% Renewable energy is not a fantasy for someday -- it is, indeed, a reality today.

To Go Deeper:  See the full list of cities, counties, and states with ambitious 100% renewable energy mandates, click here.

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 Food

One Cool Thing: Ocean-Flavored Beer

According to Atlas Obscura, up until the mid-19th century, Scottish farmers grew their barley in seaweed-fertilized fields which infused an ocean-y flavor to their beer. Although agricultural techniques have changed, a few UK brewers have decided to resurrect this special brew. Williams Bros. Brewing Co., located in the Scottish port town of Alloa, makes their famous Kelpie ale by adding freshly harvested bladder wrack to their mash tun. Drinkers detect a beachy breeze when opening a bottle and note that it's light and rich, perfect for a summer day. 

To find a similar brew stateside check out Sea Belt from Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. which was inspired by Kelpie and uses sugar kelp that grows off the coast of Belfast, Maine.
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