Endangered Species in the Era of COVID-19 and the Climate Crisis

August 31, 2020

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed in 1973 in response to growing concerns about biodiversity loss.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are the primary agencies tasked with carrying out actions under the ESA.  The ESA’s Section 9 prohibits any entity from taking direct actions that would harm an endangered species.  Despite mounting scientific evidence, it is presently difficult to prove a direct causal link between climate change and a specific “harm” to an endangered species.  To date, USFWS has declined to define climate change as a “harm” under Section 9.  The polar bear is one of the few species successfully listed under the ESA primarily due to climate change, listed as “threatened” in 2005. 

Despite these limitations, the ESA is a vital tool for protecting vulnerable species in a warming world.  The Vermont Journal of Environmental Law argues that the best tool the ESA has to fight climate change is critical habitat designation. The Journal reasons that USFWS can consider future migrations when proposing such designations.  Providing species with additional habitat allows them to do what they do best: adapt to a changing world. 

Read more

COVID-19 and the Rise of Renewables

July 4, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely affected every aspect of our economy, including the construction of renewable energy projects.  However, even a pandemic cannot stop the continued march of renewable energy’s dominance in the U.S. energy market. On May 21, 2020, in a historical and unprecedented moment, renewable energy outshone coal by providing a higher percentage of U.S. energy consumption for 100 consecutive days.  Consumption of renewable energy sources increased 1% and coal consumption decreased 15%.

Consumer demand in the face of climate change, declining costs, and the increasing imperative for grid resiliency will continue to drive the growth of renewable energy projects.  According to the 2019 Cogent Reports Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™ Residential study, over 40% of U.S. consumers would choose renewable energy over fossil fuels.  In a December 2019 Gallup poll, 55% of U.S. adults ranked climate change as an extremely or very important issue in the 2020 elections.  Deloitte has calculated that the levelized costs of commercial-scale solar projects fell 10% in 2019.  Onshore and offshore wind costs fell 18% and 24%, respectively.  According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the power generation costs of solar photovoltaics and onshore wind decreased 82% and 39%, respectively, from 2010 to 2019.

Read more

"They Just Don't Get the Science!"

July 16, 2018

I have a favor to ask. Before you read this blog post any further, would you mind taking this very brief survey? This survey—composed of 11 true or false statements involving science and engineering concepts—is presented every year by the National Science Foundation (NSF). As a further favor, I also ask that you take a four-question anonymous Survey Monkey poll regarding the results of the survey. I assure you that the NSF survey does have something to do with this blog post. The poll, on the other hand, is just for me, although it may make an appearance in the future.

(I will be waiting here patiently until you get back)

A widely held belief among people who accept Climate Change is that people who deny the science just don’t understand it. Thus, if we just keep tossing off “the facts,” these people will eventually be convinced. This idea is often based on the opinion that people who accept Climate Change know more than those who don’t, or at least understand it a little better.

If only that were true.

Read more

A Quick Aside

May 16, 2018

Note: A post on a world-wide issue that relates to Climate Change.

Climate Change is not the only area where humans can have an impact on the entire Earth. Two stories from last month, one that received widespread coverage in the mainstream press and one that didn’t, talk about the widespread problem we have with plastic pollution.

Read more

Can We Talk?

April 14, 2018

I am pretty confident that everyone reading this blog post already accepts Climate Change science.

When Ted Conwell, the Director of Climate First!, asked if I would be interested in restarting the blog on the nonprofit’s website, I spent a good amount of time thinking about what I would blog about, and more importantly what I wouldn’t blog about. It was immediately obvious that debating Climate Change would be carrying coals to Newcastle—sorry, I am dating myself, Google it. It also seemed pointless to talk about Climate First!’s protest campaigns. They already do a good job with that, and it honestly isn’t my specialty.

So what should I blog about?

Read more

What's Next for the Climate Movement?

March 3, 2017

Now that the first month of the Trump administration is over, those fighting for climate protection have a better idea of what they are up against for at least the next four years. While there are many negatives that we could dwell on--EPA's measures to address climate change (such as the Clean Power Plan) are very likely history, the president wants to return the coal industry to its glory days, work on the Dakota Access Pipeline has started anew, and the tightening-up of fuel economy standards for the nation's vehicles could be eased, are just a few--there are a few bright spots that we shouldn't overlook.

Read more

Past Blog Postings:

Martin Luther King

January 20, 2014

As we celebrate the life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, Climate First! posts a letter that the famed civil rights leader might have written to today’s climate activists.

Read more