Our Daily Planet: REGISTER TO VOTE!, the steep cost of climate change to the US economy and using tech to fight famine
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By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

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Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

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Register To Vote: The Green Wave Needs YOU!

To Register To Vote RIGHT NOW, Click here  

Yesterday was National Register to Vote Day.  It is a good reminder that in order to have pro-conservation and environment policies, we need to vote for candidates that are supportive.  Most states require you to register to vote well in advance of election day and there are lots of special rules.  But the web site above makes it as easy as possible!  Just a few minutes in most cases.
  • Some States Require You to Register Up to 30 Days BEFORE the Election
  • The Midterm Election is November 6th –  40 Days Away
So that means if you are not registered, you need to get it done!  And soon!  The Planet is counting on you.  And check out how to vote early — avoid the lines and hassle of election day by using the early voting option.  Stay tuned for more on that soon!  

State By State Registration Deadlines and Details Can Be Found Here
Put Election Day – November 6 – On Your Calendar Now!


Fourth-grade students at Esperanza Elementary School search for pollinators in their schoolyard habitat. The area used to be an asphalt lot. Photo: Ruxandra Guidi/High Country News 
Connecting Inner-City Students to Nature 

For many kids getting to spend time outside and being close to nature isn’t a possibility. Whether they live in neighborhoods that are too dangerous to spend time outdoors, are too polluted or because green space isn’t easily accessible, there are millions of kids who are deprived of a connection to the natural world. Without a connection to nature, it’s difficult to cultivate the next generation of conservationists, but many schools–where kids have the best chance of getting outside–struggle to provide green spaces for their students. 

Esperanza Elementary School is one of those schools where the majority of students are 2nd or 3rd generation Americans but have little access to the outdoors as their school is located in one of the most park-poor areas of Los Angeles. Their principal Brad Rumble wanted to not just get kids outside but encourage curriculum focusing on nature. His solution was to rip up old asphalt and turn it into a garden. As High Country News recently reported, Rumble reached out to Los Angeles Audubon, which guided the process of building a native garden that would attract birds and other pollinators, while the National Wildlife Federation, gave the garden its stamp of approval, as part of its national Schoolyard Habitats initiative. Rumble also turned the school’s old equipment warehouse into a natural history library, and he encouraged teachers to develop curricula emphasizing science skills, such as data gathering and observation. Through these efforts, students were able to observe birds, insects and a variety of pollinators and become familiar with camera trapping techniques and science tools like iNaturalist

Why This Matters: Exposure to green spaces has numerous health benefits for children and has been shown to reduce childhood stress. For kids from low-income families, stress reduction is critical as the stress of poverty can wreak havoc on a child’s brain. Additionally, green spaces where kids can interact with animals enable them to develop a love for nature and value conservation throughout their lives. If we have any hope of enabling future generations to protect our planet, we need to expose them to the outdoors early on. Programs to green school and get kids to national parks have lasting societal benefits. 

Go Deeper: Turning schools green can also help fight the urban heat island effect and keep kids cool. As we saw at the beginning of this school year in the DC area, keeping kids cool is really important 
This story was brought to you by the National Wildlife Federation.  To learn more about how the National Wildlife Federation can help you connect your family with the outdoors, click here

 Climate Change

Image: Aurich Lawson, Thinkstock via arstechnica.com
Carbon Pollution Will Cost U.S. More Than All Countries Except India

A study published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change estimates the U.S. will pay the highest economic price for its projected carbon emissions — higher than China, Russia, and Brazil.  Only India will pay a higher economic price per ton of carbon emitted. 

The study estimated the “social cost of carbon,” which is a commonly used way to measure the expected economic damages from carbon dioxide emissions, but broke it down to the individual country level.  This study looked at the future costs to each country based on all the ways climate change currently affects economies, such as higher health and energy costs and damage to property and agriculture, and then determines the cost overall per ton of carbon emitted.  

Inside Climate News surmises that the U.S. has been underestimating how much it benefits from reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.  All prospective regulatory actions undergo a cost-benefit analysis in the U.S. and the government’s economists determine the cost numbers for carbon emission that are used in the cost-benefit calculation.  As you can see, the carbon costs vary depending on who does the analysis. 
  • $42/ton —  was the median social cost of carbon was set at about $42 per metric ton used in Obama Administration cost-benefit analyses
  • $3/ton — is the social cost of carbon used in the Trump Administration cost-benefit analysis for rolling back the Clean Power Plan
  • $48/ton — is the new study’s social cost of carbon estimate for the U.S. looking only at the impact within U.S. borders,
Why This Matters:  It’s simple dollars and cents — and the Trump Administration is “cooking the books” on carbon costs.  When the real costs of air pollution from burning carbon are taken into account — costs that are currently being left off the ledger — the U.S. has far more to gain from adhering to international climate agreements than the Trump administration admits.  And this study did not even take into account the costs of things like sea level rise and ocean acidification — just pollution. Talk about fuzzy math.  We can do better than this.  We must.  See our story about registering to vote above.  


Photo: Virgin Atlantic 
Virgin Atlantic to Begin Using Low-Carbon Jet Fuel 

In 2008 Virgin Atlantic was this first commercial airline to fly a jet partially using biofuel (a mixture of Brazilian babassu nuts and coconuts to be exact) and it got Virgin founder Richard Branson thinking about how to make aviation more sustainable. Since 2011, Virgin Atlantic has been working with LanzaTech, a US-headed biotech company, to develop the world’s first jet fuel derived from waste industrial gases from steel mills (that would otherwise go up chimneys) via a fermentation process. In a blog post last Thursday Branson wrote:

This October we will make history by using LanzaTech’s innovative new sustainable aviation fuel in a commercial flight for the first time. The fuel will be used in one of our much-loved 747s on a flight from Orlando to London Gatwick, demonstrating the art of the possible, and taking a landmark leap towards making this ground-breaking new low carbon technology a mainstream reality.

The carbon footprint of the jet fuel made with LanzaTech’s technology shows a 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to jet fuel made from fossil fuels. Additionally, LanzaTech’s CEO Jennifer Holmgren said this new fuel will cost the same as the lowest cost alternative jet fuel available today with the hope to compete with the price of kerosene in the future. 

Why This Matters: Taking just one round-trip flight between New York and California generates about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over an entire year. In America aircraft accounts for 12 percent of all transportation GHG emissions and 3 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. Globally it’s estimated that aviation’s share of total CO2 emissions is just above two percent. If new fuels like the ones LanzaTech is developing can eliminate the bulk of those emissions, it could be a key component of curbing climate change. 


Photo: World Bank
World Bank & Tech Giants Launch Tool to Fight Famine 

Famine has many causes including political instability, food price inflation, droughts made worse by climate change, or even too much rain. Today, 124 million people experience crisis-levels of food insecurity, and over half of them are in situations affected by conflict. As a response to global famine, the World Bank along The United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross, Microsoft Corp., Google and Amazon Web Services announced this past weekend the launch of a technology tool called Famine Action Mechanism (FAM) to help provide more powerful early warning to identify when food crises threaten to turn into famines. These alerts will trigger pre-arranged funding and action plans by donors, humanitarian agencies and governments to generate earlier and more efficient interventions. 

According to the World Bank’s press release, the FAM seeks to change famine responses that come too late by moving towards famine prevention, preparedness and early action—interventions that can save more lives and reduce humanitarian costs by as much as 30%. The initiative will use the predictive power of data to trigger funding through appropriate financing instruments, working closely with existing systems. The FAM will initially be rolled out in a small group of vulnerable countries building up to ultimately provide global coverage. On October 13, leaders dedicated to this initiative will gather as part of the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings to discuss further implementation of the FAM.

Why This Matters: Aside from the immediate human suffering that famine causes, it also has reverberating effects for the people (and more specifically, the children) it affects. Famine raises child mortality by roughly 60 percent, increases stunting, and impairs cognitive development for children in utero at the time of the famine. Famine also reduces productivity and lifetime earnings–it’s estimated that a child born during a famine might have his or her lifetime income reduced by 13 percent. Early intervention can be key in alleviating poverty and also helping the most vulnerable populations better adapt to climate change and help avoid political crises, such as the case we say play out in Syria


USCG Cutter Healy – the U.S.’s only ice breaking ship   Photo:  Jessie Creamean, NOAA
One “Cool” Thing:  Scientists Find Less Ice, More Fish In Arctic

Scientists doing their annual surveys of the Arctic marine environment are finding new species in the ocean there — animals are beginning to migrate north due to the warmer climate — according to Devin Powell, who reported for The Washington Post from aboard the USCGC Healy, the one ice-breaking U.S. ship in the fleet.  Scientist Jackie Grebmeier of the University of Maryland said, “[w]e’re starting to see changes that we’ve never seen in the decades we’ve been studying this area.”  Clams, fish, and humpback, minke and fin whales that do not usually migrate this far north have begun to move in.  The fisheries changes are even more dramatic.  According to Powell,  “in 2010, walleye pollock and Pacific cod collected by NOAA trawl surveys made up just 2 percent of life in the north Bering Sea. In 2017, that number jumped to 37 percent.”  Fortunately, just before the Trump Administration took office, the U.S. concluded an agreement among ten Arctic nations to put a 16-year hold on industrial fishing there.
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