Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vulnerability & Adaptation to Climate Change in California

The California Natural Resources Agency and the California Energy Commission have jointly released "Our Changing Climate 2012", the State’s third major assessment on climate change.  This report highlights California's specific vulnerabilities, few of which will be a surprise to anyone:
  • The state’s electricity system is more vulnerable than was previously understood.
  • The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is sinking, putting levees at growing risk.
  • Wind and waves, in addition to faster rising seas, will worsen coastal flooding.
  • Animals and plants need connected “migration corridors” to allow them to move to more suitable habitats to avoid serious impacts.
  • Native freshwater fish are particularly threatened by climate change.
  • Minority and low-income communities face the greatest risks from climate change.
The report maintains that there are effective ways to prepare for and manage climate change risks, but local governments face many barriers to adapting to climate change.

Read the complete report here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stop Traffic Before It Starts

Found via the Daily Good...

Christian Br├╝ggemann, 25, and two of his friends, all of them students at universities in Germany, have created a Windows Phone app called Greenway that aims to prevent traffic jams and get you from Point A to B in the shortest amount of time.

While existing mapping apps such as Waze and Google Maps show their users traffic jams and hazards and offer alternate routes, Greenway hopes to prevent backups from occurring in the first place by using software to predict where drivers are heading. The approach is part of a broader trend that has, for example, seen some insurers offer rates tailored to a person's driving habits—after tracking their movements via a GPS unit attached to the car.

The Greenway app, which is being tested by dozens of smartphone users around Munich, Germany, has already gained some recognition by clinching an environmental sustainability award (and a $10,000 prize) at Microsoft's annual Imagine Cup student technology competition in July. The Greenway group is now trying to secure funding to bring its app to iPhone and Android smartphone users.

Read the complete story here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Improper Waste Management Sends Three to Hospital

Three men were hospitalized after encountering five barrels of hazardous materials that were illegally disposed in a dumpster.

Prosecutors are seeking cleanup costs and up to $200,000 in fines from Pellarin Construction Group, according to a lawsuit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court on Monday.

Two Recology garbage men and their supervisor were exposed to a gas composed of ammonia and hydrochloric acid after the containers exploded when they were compacted in their truck.  They suffered eye pain, breathing difficulties, and extreme coughing attacks.

Read the complete story here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Green Roof Trend

An interesting article popped up via LinkedIn today about the green roof trend. From the Engineering News Record:

'Green roofs are gaining acceptance in dozens of countries, joining other forms of green infrastructure that are being used to mitigate environmental problems of urban centers.
For example, vegetated roofs “are very good at managing stormwater. Most extensively planted green roofs will hold the first inch of rainfall and slow any additional rainfall, thus reducing peak flows and lowering the stress on combined sewer overflows,” says Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (CRHC).
The group is a professional association with both corporate and individual members, ranging from large manufacturers to contractors, nurseries, landscape architects, structural engineers, roofing consultants and horticulturalists. "Stormwater management has been a driver [of green roof construction] in the U.S.," adds Peck.
"The Environmental Protection Agency is working on rulemaking for municipal separate stormwater sewer systems (MS4s). It's very clear there is going to be a very significant green infrastructure component (green roofs and green streets)," says Nancy Somerville, executive vice president of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Many cities throughout the U.S. and Europe have green-roof mandates or incentives in place. Stuttgart, Germany, requires green roofs on all new flat-roofed industrial buildings. In 2007, Pittsburgh enacted an law establishing stormwater volume reduction standards for properties greater than 10,000 sq ft, including on-site retention of the first inch of rainfall through any combination of infiltration, evapotranspiration and rainwater harvesting. Portland, Ore., requires new city-owned buildings and existing buildings in need of a roof replacement to install a green roof on at least 70% of the roof area.
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities' annual survey of its corporate members found that the green roof industry in the U.S. and Canada increased 115% between 2010 and 2011. The annual growth rate is derived by averaging the square footage of green roofs installed by a representative sample of corporate members.
"Increasing numbers of building owners in the public and private sectors are recognizing they can design, build and maintain green roofs profitably with a good return on investment," says Peck.
"Green roofs have a higher cost up front, but the payback over time is significant, not just in energy savings. It's protecting your roof membrane—you can skip one or two or three roof replacement cycles," says Somerville.'

The full article from ENR can be found here. Check out more great photos of the largest green roof projects in the world: 

It's an encouraging trend to see cities across the US, including Oakland, promoting urban greening strategies to mitigate serious environmental issues, including the urban heat island effect and waterway contamination from stormwater runoff. Cities may never be carbon sinks, but green roofs are just one example of the many creative ways urban areas are becoming more climate conscious and aesthetically pleasing places to live.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Port of Oakland Challenges: Competition and Labor Relations

Despite funding victories, challenges remain
Andrew Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood toured the Oakland Army Base this week, bringing news of a $15 million grant for the $1 billion redevelopment project scheduled to break ground next year. An $80 million rail yard expansion at the former Oakland Army Base is the first phase of the redevelopment project to transform the base into a state-of-the-art logistics center managing cargo flow at the Port.

The redevelopment project has been in the works for 15 years. Late last month, the Oakland City Council managed to save the $242 million in funding the state had threatened to cut off. A regional tax measure would provide an additional $275 million for further infrastructure improvements, including an overpass to separate rail and truck traffic near the port, if voters give their approval on November's ballot.

In addition to its money woes, the Port needs the cooperation of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021. Union members rejected a negotiated contract offer last month and there could be a strike at any time. Like many labor-management disputes, this one revolves around increased health and pension contributions, in part to help fill a huge unfunded pension liability.

Labor disputes could shift business through the new Panama Canal -- scheduled to open in 2014 -- and to east coast ports. The canal's business plan "explicitly assumes that a lot of the trade between Asia and America's east and Gulf coasts will be diverted from California's ports to the canal," the Economist magazine reported in January. The Oakland Army Base rail yard project is slated to begin during the fall of 2013 and be completed in 2015.

Oakland has its advantages, however. It can handle many of the larger containers that other U.S. ports cannot, including the massive, 1,200-foot-long MSC Fabiola, which recently passed through the Port in March. Also, the Port's main business is exports, including food and wine. It's often called "the last port of call leaving America for the Far East," said Jock O'Connell, an international trade analyst at Beacon Economics.

Read the complete article here.