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Archive for May, 2014

Here’s the press release we sent out this morning. We received Judge Dalton’s opinion late Friday afternoon. I’ve attached her opinion at the end of the post. The Bainbridge Review’s article is here. The Inside Bainbridge article is here.

Kitsap Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton ruled Friday that the City of Bainbridge Island violated the Public Records Act (PRA) by failing to turn over emails from the personal email accounts of council members David Ward and Steven Bonkowski, after public records requests were made by Islanders Althea Paulson and Robert Fortner. Judge Dalton awarded monetary penalties, attorneys fees and costs to Paulson and Fortner, who filed suit last August. Ward and Bonkowski are also required to turn over their personal computers to the City to be searched for missing emails.

Paulson and Fortner made separate requests beginning in June 2013 for public records relating to the City-run water utility. The City produced responsive records that were stored on the City’s server. In addition, council member Sarah Blossom turned over emails from her personal email account showing that Blossom, Ward, Bonkowski and council member Debbi Lester had been conducting city business from their personal accounts. (more…)

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After a week of daunting climate news, here’s your Friday reward: Internet news sensation, Kitsap Report TV, in a no-holds-barred interview with Bainbridge mayor Anne Blair on pressing topics like our city council’s military coup, fast food and twerking. Be sure to look for Councilman Bonkowski’s wink.

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IMG_1563The National Climate Assessment issued this week doesn’t have much good news about solutions to our climate problem. The report says natural processes remove about half the carbon dioxide currently being emitted due to human activities. As a result, mitigation efforts that merely keep emissions from increasing are not enough to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but will only limit their rate of increase.

To meet the lower emissions rate used by the report (the “B1 scenario”) in its climate change predictions and assessment–which would still result in significant changes—the world would have to limit global carbon dioxide emissions to 44 billion tons per year for the next 25 years and decline thereafter.

In 2011, global carbon emissions were 34 billion tons per year, and have been rising by .9 billion tons per year for the last decade. We are on track to exceed the 44 billion tons per year within the decade, assuming the rate of emissions does not increase.

Carbon storage in land ecosystems in the U.S. (carbon “sinks”) offset 17% of annual fossil fuel emissions annually, but scientists believe the positive effect of these carbon sinks may not be sustainable.

Between 2008 and 2012, there was a decline in the U.S. in annual emissions of carbon dioxide due to energy use, due to changes in our economy and improvements in government policies and development of alternative energy sources.

In spite of the slight improvements in recent years, the report warns that we need “aggressive and sustained greenhouse gas emissions reductions by the U.S. and other countries” in order to achieve the B1 scenario that is described in the report.

The report suggests national policy that is urgently needed to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, with a mix of new energy technology for wind, solar and bio-energy, stricter emissions regulation, additional research, and market solutions. The report emphasizes that even if such policies were adopted today the task would be hard, “but delay by any of the major emitters makes meeting any such target even more difficult and may rule out some of the more ambitious goals.”

City, state and regional mitigation actions

The country’s most ambitious state activity is California’s “Global Warming Solutions Act” which sets a state goal of reaching 1990 greenhouse gas emissions rates by 2020. The statute uses a cap and trade mechanism (a cap on emissions and a market-based system of trading emissions credits), as well as a number of regulatory actions.  (more…)

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The National Climate Assessment, reported in my last post, highlights regional impacts of climate change, as well as national consequences.

storm11The section that details impacts on the Northwest was written by Northwest scientists, including convening lead authors Philip Mote from Oregon State University and Amy K. Snover from the University of Washington.

Key findings include:

1. Changes in streamflow relating to changes in snow melt have already been observed and will continue, reducing water supply for competing users and causing “far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences.”

2. In coastal zones (such as Bainbridge Island), the effects of sea level rise, erosion, inundation, threats to infrastructure and habitat, and increasing ocean acidity collectively pose a major threat.

3. Increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks, and tree diseases are already causing widespread tree die-off and are “virtually certain” to cause long-term forest landscape transformation by 2040.

4. While technology may be able to adapt some of the changing conditions and consequences to agriculture, there remain “critical concerns for agriculture” in terms of high costs, development of responsive technology and water availability.

Water and flooding

River-related flooding is expected to increase in basins with mixed winter rain and snowmelt runoff and remain largely unchanged in snow dominant basins. Climate models project an increase of up to 20% of extreme daily precipitation (wettest days of the year), and heavy downpours, which in turn increase the risk of flooding.

Decreased summer waterflows in rivers and streams threaten several species of freshwater fish, particularly salmon, steelhead and trout.

Coastal vulnerabilities

storm6Global sea levels have risen about 8 inches since 1880, and are expected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. Much of the coastline in the Northwest is rising due to tectonic uplift, which currently mitigates some of the impacts of rising sea levels. A major earthquake in the region, expected in the next few hundred years, could immediately reverse the trend and, based on historical evidence, increase relative sea level by 40 inches or more.

Even taking coastal uplift into account, the report says that more than 140,000 acres of coastal land in Washington and Oregon, including parts of Seattle, will be underwater during high tide by the end of the century. Flooding will be exacerbated by storm surges.  (more…)

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The New York Times today has a story on a climate change report issued by a panel of scientists, business leaders and government officias, which says human-caused climate change is already affecting the United States in significant, observable ways.

“The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects,” wrote the Times.

climate

Rise in natural disasters since 1950 (from Center for Research on Epidemiology on Natural Disasters).

“One of the report’s most dramatic findings concerned the rising frequency of torrential rains. Scientists have expected this effect for decades because more water is evaporating from a warming ocean surface, and the warmer atmosphere can hold the excess vapor, which then falls as rain or snow. But even the leading experts have been surprised by the magnitude of the effect.”

The report, known as the National Climate Assessment, explained that scientists are reluctant to attribute specific weather events to overall climate change, but heavy rains and dramatic weather patterns are consistent with what they expect in a warming climate. Climate change will not happen at a steady pace, and bitterly cold winters will continue, even as they become less likely to occur.

Just six weeks ago, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, with over 100,000 scientist-members around the globe, kicked off a campaign to cut through public confusion and identify the realities of global climate change.

Today’s report was approved by a large committee of science, business, governmental and other leaders, including representatives from two oil companies (Chevron and ConocoPhillips). (more…)

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