Development’s Carbon Cost
Air Date: Week of October 19, 2007
Some states and local governments are calling on developers to
calculate the climate impact of their development projects. As Living
on Earth’s Ashley Ahearn reports, measuring the greenhouse gas
emissions from the loss of trees or new construction may be the first
step to limiting the emissions.

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CURWOOD: Converting land to new housing or commercial buildings can
aggravate global warming. How much depends on what you measure. There
are the emissions from heating and cooling of course, but some people
also count the loss of trees, or even new, longer commutes. Now some
states and local governments are starting to pressure developers to
calculate the climate impact of their projects. At the head of the
pack is Massachusetts. Living on Earth’s Ashley Ahearn has our story,
and she begins with a look at a major expansion at Harvard University.

AHEARN: Chris Gordon is standing on a bridge over the Charles River.
He’s pointing across the water to where Harvard University’s about to
break ground on a new 200-acre development that will include academic
buildings, housing, and community centers.

GORDON: On the right you can see the beginning of the Allston campus,
which is primarily the business school now, and then beyond that is
where the rest of the new Allston campus will be developed.

AHEARN: Gordon is chief operating officer for the new development.
All of the buildings will adhere to top green building standards-
solar panels, geothermal heat from the earth, energy efficiency. But
one-the new science center-is taking the concept further.

After being approached by the state government, Harvard agreed the
science center would take the building industry standard for
emissions, and cut that in half.

Chris Gordon is overseeing the new Allston development

for Harvard University. (Photo: Ashley Ahearn) AHEARN: What was
your reaction, I guess, when this kind of came on to the table-the
green house gas issue specifically and green building?

GORDON: Fear (laughs). No, I mean the debate was of course-can you
do it? I mean we wanted to do it and we felt we could but we really
wanted to do our homework to make sure we could do it.

AHEARN: Managers of all large developments in Massachusetts will be
facing similar challenges under a new state policy. Ian Bowles is the
secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs for the commonwealth.

BOWLES: What we did this year was we included for the first time,
greenhouse gases in the types of things we’re going to require people
to analyze.

AHEARN: Bowles says the new policy asks developers to ask themselves
a few questions:

BOWLES: What impacts are you going to have? How much are your
emissions going to be, and what are the steps you could take to
avoid, minimize or mitigate the damage you may do to the environment?

AHEARN: Major state projects, like the Big Dig for example, will have
to go further. They’ll have to account for what are called the
lifecycle emissions of the project. These are the emissions from
construction, operation of the structure, and transportation to and
from the site once it’s up.

That might seem like a pretty comprehensive assessment-and in the
urban world, it is. But Dan Sosland, head of the nonprofit
Environment Northeast, says that if you head to the wilder parts of
the country, the greenhouse gas picture isn’t complete without
factoring in how the landscape will be changed.

SOSLAND: If we don’t pay attention to the loss of forests, the steps
that we’re taking to reduce emissions in other areas are going to be
neutralized, in effect, by increased emissions from these developments.

AHEARN: The Plum Creek Timber Company, the largest private landholder
in the country, has plans for an over 20,000-acre development along
Moosehead Lake in Maine’s north woods. Sosland and Environment
Northeast decided to assess the greenhouse gas emissions of the
proposed development and produced a report.

Dan Sosland is the head of Environment Northeast
(Courtesy of Environment Northeast)
SOSLAND: This one proposal, if our numbers are right, will increase
Maine’s emissions by one percent. If Maine is looking at goals to
reduce emissions by ten percent by 2010, these are significant.

AHEARN: Luke Muzzy is a spokesperson for Plum Creek Timber.

MUZZY: This has never been discussed before as part of the permitting
process. I don’t believe it has been in any development in the state
of Maine. Global warming is a serious concern for everybody. I mean
it is for me personally, but I also realize that areas like mine have
got to grow and there is going to be development.

AHEARN: Other builders and developers are just beginning to address
this trend. The National Association of Home Builders says it’s
studying the issue.

Judi Greenwald, a policy analyst at the Pew Center on Global Climate
Change, says the carbon cost of development is beginning to register
with policymakers around the country.

Building standards, state by state.
(Courtesy of Pew Center on Global Climate Change)

GREENWALD: As we’re all starting to sit up and pay attention to how
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions people are using whatever tools
they can find.

AHEARN: In California, Attorney General Jerry Brown ignited a
firestorm this summer, when he tried to force local governments to
count greenhouse gases when they make growth decisions that are going
to create new longer commutes. Republicans in the legislature were so
angry it led to a budget stalemate for two months.

King County, Washington has added greenhouse gas pollution to its
project review and the state of Washington plans to follow suit. The
District of Columbia also plans to require developers to calculate
greenhouse gas emissions.

GREENWALD: This is another example of states and localities filling
this federal vacuum that we have, and they’re also playing an
interesting role as laboratories, which they often do on a lot of
policy arenas in the United States.

AHEARN: Lab rats or not, the sudden attention to climate change is
inspiring ideas that would have seemed far fetched just a few years
ago. Counting tons of CO2 from developments, some say, could be the
first step towards limiting them.

For Living on Earth, I’m Ashley Ahearn.


“This trend will continue into the future.”

” … poleward shifts of westerly winds in the
Southern Ocean reduced the region’s ability to
suck up CO2 as have mid-latitude droughts, which
slowed the growth rate of forests and plants that
capture carbon.”

“… this research shows that CO2 emissions over
the past decade were higher than those considered
in the most dire scenarios for future climate
change, which means that even more drastic
actions will be needed to stem global warming.”

Scientific American
October 22, 2007

Climate Change Pollution Rising-Thanks to Overwhelmed Oceans and Plants

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue
to rise thanks to dirtier economies and a
weakening in natural systems’ ability to remove
the greenhouse gas

The world may finally acknowledge that global
warming is a major environmental hazard. But new
research shows that reducing the main greenhouse
gas behind it may be even more difficult than
previously believed. The reason: the world’s
oceans and forests, which scientists were
counting on to help hold off catastrophic rises
in carbon dioxide, are already so full of CO2
that they are losing their ability to absorb this
climate change culprit.

“For every ton of CO2 emitted [into] the
atmosphere, the natural sinks are removing less
carbon than before,” says biologist Josep “Pep”
Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon
Project-an Australia-based research consortium
devoted to analyzing the pollution behind global
warming. “This trend will continue into the

Specifically, oceans and plant growth absorbed
only around 540 kilograms per metric ton (1,190
pounds per short ton) of the CO2 produced in
2006, compared with 600 kilograms per metric ton
(1,322 pounds per short ton) in 2000. Coupled
with an emissions growth rate of 3.3
percent-triple the growth rate of the 1990s-the
atmospheric burden is now rising by nearly two
parts per million of CO2 a year, the fastest
growth rate since 1850, the international team of
researchers reports in Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences USA.

“We have yet to make real progress in turning the
world toward decreasing CO2 emissions,” says the
study’s co-author Chris Field, director of the
Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department
of Global Ecology in Stanford, Calif. “A greater
buildup of CO2 means more warming.”

Atmospheric concentrations of the most ubiquitous
greenhouse gas reached 381 parts-per-million in
2006 after emissions of CO2 from burning fossil
fuels rose to 8.4 billion metric tons (1.85 X
1013 pounds) per year, according to figures from
the United Nations, British Petroleum and the
U.S. Geological Survey.

All told, human activity released 9.9 billion
metric tons (2.18 X 1013 pounds) of carbon in
2006, up from just 8.4 billion metric tons (1.85
X 1013 pounds) in 2000. At the same time,
poleward shifts of westerly winds in the Southern
Ocean reduced the region’s ability to suck up CO2
as have mid-latitude droughts, which slowed the
growth rate of forests and plants that capture

New maritime measurements over the past decade
also show that the North Atlantic’s ability to
absorb CO2 has been cut in half, according to
researchers from the University of East Anglia
who were not affiliated with the study by
Canadell and his colleagues. “Until now, we
thought that the decline in the efficiency of
natural sinks was going to happen during the 21st
century and more strongly during [its] second
half,” Canadell says. “If we didn’t [include in
the assumptions] that this was going to happen
[so soon], have we underestimated the decline in
the efficiency into the future?”

In addition, this research shows that CO2
emissions over the past decade were higher than
those considered in the most dire scenarios for
future climate change, which means that even more
drastic actions will be needed to stem global
warming. “The longer we wait to reduce
emissions,” Canadell says, “the harder the cuts
that will be required to stabilize atmospheric
CO2 emissions.”

© 1996-2007 Scientific American, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


0/22/2007 7:12:00 AM
Cattle Network

In the West, cool, wet weather across northern areas is slowing
Northwestern winter wheat planting but maintaining favorable moisture
supplies for crop emergence and establishment. In contrast, dry
conditions are favoring cotton harvesting across California and the

On the Plains, mild, dry conditions favor fieldwork following the
recent spell of stormy weather. However, wet fields continue to delay
summer crop harvesting across parts of Nebraska and the Dakotas.

In the Corn Belt, lingering showers continue to slow summer crop
harvesting, although the recent boost in topsoil moisture is
beneficial for emerging winter wheat. Corn and soybean harvest delays
are most significant in the western Corn Belt, where some locations
have already broken October rainfall records.

In the South, heavy rain east of the Delta is providing local drought
relief. However, extreme long-term rainfall deficits across much of
the Southeast are causing severe stress on pastures, depleting water
supplies, and limiting soil moisture for the establishment of
fall-sown crops.

Outlook: A large storm lifting into south-central Canada will
maintain cool, unsettled weather across the upper Midwest, while a
trailing cold front will generate locally heavy showers from the
eastern Gulf Coast into New England. Meanwhile, rain and mountain
snow will spread across the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies as
abundant Pacific moisture races onshore courtesy of strong westerly
winds aloft. Over the weekend, high pressure will allow dry, mild
weather to return to the eastern half of the Nation. In contrast, a
strong cold front will generate showers across the Dakotas, while
snow falls farther west in the central Rockies. As Gulf moisture
feeds into the front, heavy rain and potentially severe thunderstorms
are expected to develop from the central and southern Plains eastward
into the lower half of the Mississippi Valley by late Sunday. The NWS
6- to 10-day outlook for October 24-28 calls for drier- and
warmer-than-normal weather west of the Rockies. Drier-than-normal
conditions will also extend eastward into the central Plains and Ohio
River Valley, while above-normal rainfall prevails in the upper
Midwest and along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Below-normal
temperatures are expected from the southern Plains to the central and
southern Atlantic Coast.



—–Original Message—–
[]On Behalf Of Tim
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2007 3:24 PM
Subject: [Tim’s El Salvador Blog] October rains produce widespread flooding

October is supposed to be the last month of the rainy season in El Salvador,
but it has had some of the most dangerous rains of the year. The country is
currently on yellow alert due to the heavy rains prompting certain rivers to
overflow. According to La Prensa, one person died in flooding and 600 people
have been evacuated from their homes so far. La Prensa’s coverage at this
link has several stories as well as photo galleries of the flooding.

Posted By Tim to Tim’s El Salvador Blog at 10/22/2007 02:10:00 PM