April 28, 2021
April 28, 2021
Welcome to Thoughts from Our Fellows, a collection of recent activity regarding the Academy's Grand Challenge of each Month. In April, the Academy focused on Steward Natural Resources and Address Climate Change. Below you will find:
In November of 2020, the Academy published Steward Natural Resources and Address Climate Change: An Agenda for 2021 as a part of its Election 2020 Project. The paper's Working Group recommended the following actions:
In addition to our Election 2020 papers, which focused on recommended actions for the first year of a new administration, the Academy also asked its Fellows for advice for the first four years of the Biden Administration.
Daniel Fiorino: I would start with addressing the country's needs for updated and green infrastructure, which it has already started to deal with. The priority should be investments that meet goals for clean energy and air, safe and healthy water, and resilience against climate change. I would then look into ways of pricing environmental harms--to account for the effects that markets do not account for. Finally, I would design better ways of valuing the multiple services provided by the nation's ecosystems. Such natural systems as wetlands, coastal estuaries, watersheds, and others provide essential services that underpin our quality of life.
Another necessary step would be a campaign to educate the public about the natural systems on which human well-being depends and the many opportunities for enhancing our quality of life while also protecting the environment.
Dan Guttman: Activities with fast impact are essential. Reduction in fossil fuel emissions will take many years--action with current impact is essential. The most important current fast action initiative is implementation of the 2016 Rwanda amendments to the Montreal Protocol to reduce HFCs. HFCs are short lived super pollutants, and the Montreal protocol has been the single most effective greenhouse gas reducing treaty. In December 2020 Congress provided for action and of course Biden will proceed. A next step will be to focus on reducing methane release. See the website of the Institute for Global Sustainable Development, which has pioneered in work with the Obama white house, India and China and other countries on these fast impact approaches.
Felicia Marcus: The Administration has made an impressive start in a very short time to raise the bar on climate change mitigation (rejoining Paris Accords, pledges to reduce reliance on fossil fuels), on protecting natural lands and resources (30x30 pledge), and on integrating equity and respect for sovereign indigenous nations into environmental and natural resources work. Making good on those pledges is essential, as is making a commitment to climate adaptation as a "Manhattan project," worthy of massive mobilization to deal with sea level rise, increasing drought and flooding, and increased heat. That will require retooling our infrastructure to be more integrated, resilient and efficient, and should include a massive investment in nature based solutions that protect and restore natural systems and processes, while providing better water supply, better water quality, and enhanced ecosystems for fish and wildlife and people.
Randy Lyon: The Administration has made an outstanding start on climate change and other environmental matters by making them a priority, taking domestic and international policy steps to reengage the federal government as a constructive force, and appointing highly qualified personnel to lead the effort. As it proceeds, the Administration faces three major challenges—centered on science, economics, and politics—with important roles for public administrators in many different capacities.
The Administration has embarked on a path that, if successful, would be transformational for the economies of the U.S. and the world. It is seeking to do this with a divided U.S. electorate, where broad segments distrust science and government, and where economic growth has been unevenly distributed. The challenge of climate change would be daunting under the most favorable of conditions due to the need for new technologies, international cooperation, and costly investments. However, success may depend as much on the third leg of the stool—achieving widely beneficial distributional outcomes—as on other elements of our strategy.
Barry Rabe: The abiding climate change policy focus on carbon dioxide has overshadowed the role of methane, which has contributed one-quarter of global warming to date. Methane is the primary constituent of natural gas, often characterized as "low-hanging fruit." This reflects numerous common-sense ways to minimize flaring and venting while capturing rather than squandering value from a non-renewable natural resource. That fruit, however, often goes unpicked, reflected in growing evidence that methane release levels from oil and gas production are considerably higher than those reported by many industries and production states.
The Biden Administration has an opportunity to revisit ways to create a constructive federal presence in a field that has seen very uneven state and industry engagement and performance, drawing on best practice models emerging in some states and other federal systems. Colorado has continued to build on an early foundation of innovation with new legislation and regulations designed to halt most flaring and venting, deploy state-of-the-art emissions monitoring technology, and prepare for long-term stewardship of oil and gas well sites once they are no longer operating. New Mexico has begun to take creative steps cognizant of extreme industry performance variation, intensifying oversight of firms with poor methane records while easing pressures when measurable performance proves robust.
Across the northern border, Canada has continued to honor its 2016 continental methane reduction agreement with the U.S. and Mexico, through a collaborative federalism process involving producing provinces. Alberta has developed a system to more reliably measure releases, improve public disclosure practices, tighten performance standards, and cost-share mitigation technology purchase through a levy on firms that miss emission-reduction targets. These cases offer promising models for any Biden Administration review of how to prepare America to assume a global leadership role in methane mitigation, including development of a suite of world-class regulatory and disclosure tools to minimize methane waste for as long as oil and gas continue to be produced and used.
Federal News Network: GSA has ambitious goal for using renewable electricity in all federal buildings, by Eric White
The General Services Administration has a goal to use renewable electricity for the entire federal real estate portfolio by 2025. GSA said it’ll continue to eliminate fossil fuel use in newly constructed buildings with the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2030. The agency also launched a Federal Building Decarbonization Task Group. The group will explore alternative energy methods and set climate action plans for federal buildings.
CBS News: NASA measures direct evidence humans are causing climate change by Jeff Berardelli
It may come as a surprise, given the extensive body of evidence connecting humans to climate change, that directly-observed proof of the human impact on the climate had still eluded science. That is, until now. In a first-of-its-kind study, NASA has calculated the individual driving forces of recent climate change through direct satellite observations
Grist: House hunters are fleeing climate change, causing a new kind of gentrification, by Ysabelle Kempe
Climate change is causing many Americans to rethink where they want to live, according to a new survey conducted by real estate brokerage Redfin. The survey of 2,000 U.S. residents — conducted between February 25 and March 1 — reveals that about half of the 628 respondents planning to move in the next year are motivated in part by extreme temperatures or the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters.
Governing: Which state is the greenest, most environmentally friendly? by Zoe Manzanetti
As extreme weather becomes more frequent and costly, companies are pledging to use environmentally friendly practices; car manufacturers are transitioning to produce only electric vehicles; and, electricity companies are turning to renewable energy sources like solar and wind powers. Other major firms have joined climate pledges to become net-zero carbon in the coming decades. States, too, are beginning to implement more environmentally friendly practices and standards that could help reduce climate-related disasters and the large price tags that accompany them.
Pew: Timber, condos, glamping? States debate land use to fund schools, by Alex Brown
Known as state trust lands, these parcels were given to Western states as they were admitted to the Union, setting them up with a long-term revenue stream to fund public services, primarily schools. Although the rules can vary by state, government officials generally have broad leeway to manage the lands to provide that education funding. Historically, that’s often come from timber harvesting, agriculture and grazing leases, and fossil fuel extraction. In some states, though, those natural resource-based industries are no longer paying the bills. Some, including Wyoming and New Mexico, still rely on trust lands for a significant portion of their education budgets. Others, such as Washington, only get a fraction of their school funding from the land.