Conservation Update - November 2014

Conservation Victories in the Midterm Elections
Land and water gained some victories across the United States on election day, 2014. While partisan battles determined victories between candidates, ballot initiatives centered around conservation had no problem finding sweeping support across partisan lines. Voters approved a record $13 billion in funding for conservation purposes in deciding 35 local and statewide ballot measures. Among the victories:
  • Florida voted  75% - 25% to approve a state constitutional amendment dedicating $18 billion for conservation and restoration over the next 20 years;
  • With 65% of the vote, New Jersey approved a proposal to dedicate $18 billion for conservation and restoration over the next two decades; and
  • In California, voters approved a $7.5 billion state water bond, including a $1.5 billion measure for land conservation.
Conservation Pays Off: U.S. Water Usage Lowest in Decades
In a report by the U.S Geological survey in early November, findings showed that “water conservation efforts have paid off,” with usage across the nation reaching its lowest level in over 45 years. Enormous savings came from cutbacks in big scale industrial use, while it appears that public usage of water only decreased by 5%. When it comes to biggest users, only two industries, thermoelectric power (like coal plants) and irrigation, are responsible for over half of the country’s water use, and twelve states accounted for more than 50% of total water use: California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Alabama and Ohio. Read more here:
Every Branch of the United States Military is Worried About Climate Change
The Military Advisory Board’s recently released report, National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, argues that the security threats and costs posed by climate change to both military and civilian infrastructure should be a “catalyst for change and cooperation.” Instead, little is being done and the impact of climate change is already causing more conflict in the world. Lack of political will in the United States is a major reason for this inaction, and the Military Advisory Board notes its “dismay that discussions of climate change have become so polarizing and have receded from the arena of informed public discourse and debate.” Read more here:
Motivating Investment in Mitigating Climate Change
The United States has pledged  $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund, which was  founded as a “mechanism to aid the world’s poorer and most-vulnerable countries move toward a future marked by low-carbon emissions and resilience,”and as noted by President Obama, “allows us to help developing countries break out of the false choice between development and pollution.” Read more here:
Major Companies See Renewable Energy as a Good Investment
On Tuesday, IKEA announced its biggest renewable energy purchase to date: a 165 megawatt wind farm in southern Texas. “IKEA believes that the climate challenge requires bold commitment and action,” Rob Olson, IKEA U.S. acting president and CFO, said in a statement. “We invest in renewable energy to become more sustainable as a business and also because it makes good business sense.” Google also announced on Tuesday that it was purchasing the entire output of a Dutch wind farm to fuel a new datacenter in the Netherlands. The “datacenter will be 100 percent powered by renewable energy from its first day of operation in the first half of 2016,” according to the company’s statement.  Read more here:
Renewable Energy Farms Spread Through California Deserts
The Mojave Desert is about to become home to the biggest renewable energy projects in the world--13 of them are built or on the way. But these big projects are also the subject of controversy within the conservation movement. Many are concerned about the impact these projects have on wildlife and the local ecology. Others, like Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, emphasize how critical it is to take major, fast action on climate change: “We are facing a mass extinction,” said Gerrard,” “the only pathway to solve that problem involves a massive increase in renewable energy.” Solar and wind farms are only expected to multiply in years to come. In the Mojave, the Desert Sunlight Solar farm, under construction east of Joshua Tree National Park, covers 4000 acres, and when completed in 2015, it is expected to peak at a nominal power of 550 megawatts—making it the most powerful solar farm on the planet. Read more here:
Ending the Long Delay in Pollution Controls on Ozone
On Wednesday, the Obama administration is expected to release a contentious and long-delayed environmental regulation to lower the threshold for ozone emissions, from 75 parts per billion to 65 to 70 parts per billion, in an effort to lower emissions that have been linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death. This regulation is especially aimed at smog from power plants and factories in the Midwest, and has long been advocated for public health groups. Read more here: