Too much going on to write a whole post about each one.


Post-Carbon Cities reminds us that it’s at the local level that we need to transform sustainability thinking into planning and action.

Our practice of sustainability, however, has lagged. In the 21 years since the Brundtland Report, cities in the US and Canada have made progress on things like recycling, green building and renewable energy. But we’re significantly behind the achievements of most Western European cities, and neither continent is nowhere near a quality of economic development that could truly be called “sustainable” from a global perspective.

Sustainability thinkers realized early on that, while international action was required on big issues like global warming and global inequity, many green goals were best addressed at the level of communities and local governments (hence initiatives like ICLEI). It’s at this local level that both governmental and academic attention now needs to focus: How do we translate the need to reduce oil consumption into urban development practices that encourage renewable energy? How do we apply the lessons of resource use, connectivity and collapse in complex adaptive ecosystems to those ecological-social-economic systems known as cities and suburbs?

Berkeley CA to finance rooftop solar on residential properties. It doesn’t seem to pay for itself. Do I have the math right? Or is the difference in reducing the local carbon footprint? As posted in the article:

City staff has estimated that the average photovoltaic system in Berkeley costs $28,077 with an average California Solar Initiative rebate of $6,108. A hypothetical financing structure for an average system is set forth below.

Hypothetical Financing for $28,077 Solar System (~3kW)
Project Financing Amount: $22,569
Estimated Financing Rate: 6.75% (to be determined)
Program Costs to be Amortized: $600 Bank and Administration Fees
Term of Repayment: 20 years Paid Through Annual Special Tax
Annual Special Tax Charges: 4.5% of Special Tax County and Program Administration

Projected Annual Special Tax: $2,089/Year – Equates to $182/month

The property tax increase will be offset by the value of the electricity produced by the system. At the outset and based on PG&E’s rates, one could expect the solar systems to result in at least $70/month in lower electric bills.

We bike commuters get a Bailout break!

Oh, darn. I work for myself. Can I give myself a reimbursement? Sure, I can. Here…thanks!

Starting in January, workers who use two-wheelers as their primary transportation mode to get to and from work will be eligible for a $20-a-month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bicycle-related expenses. In return, employers will be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes.

“It significantly legitimizes bicycling and elevates it to a credible commute mode, like riding a bus or train,” said Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Land rush to the Northwest? Will there be a climate migration?

You must be kidding. Of course there’s gonna be climate migration. And of course a lot of people are going to move from the waterless oven of the Southwest to the lush green coastal Northwest. When? As soon as enough people see the writing on the wall and begin suffering under extreme conditions. But this article tends to downplay such a scenario.

Under the most aggressive growth model, the area could have more than 6 million people by 2060, according to the Metro forecast. The more likely model, however, indicates a population of 3.85 million, plus or minus 300,000.

From a water supply standpoint, at least, the region should be OK.

“We are blessed with water resources,” said Stickel, the Portland Water Bureau planner. “We don’t even tap, or barely tap, the two largest water resources in the region — the Columbia and the Willamette. Even with climate change, we’re blessed.”

Most notable in the protracted drought conditions that have worried resource managers in the American Southwest is the decreasing snowpack in the Rocky Mountains. In the region surrounding Denver, Colorado this has prompted Denver Water to explore two scenarios of rising average temperatures, and the impacts those scenarios would have on regional water supplies. The following is from the story in Summit Daily News, beginning with the two temperature scenarios as described by Marc Waage, manager of water resource planning:

• With a temperature increase of two degrees over a 50-year stretch — assuming no change in precipitation — streamflows and water supplies would decrease by 7 percent.

• The second scenario plugged a 5 degree temperature increase into the model. Streamflows would drop by 19 percent, with a 14 percent impact to Denver Water’s supply.

Both temperature scenarios are “modest” compared to what many climate change models are predicting, he added. Most of the decrease in stream flows and supplies is due to increased evaporation and sublimation. The bottom line is that Denver Water’s system is very sensitive to warming temperatures, Waage said.

“It would cost a bundle of money to replace 14 percent of our water supply,” he said.
It would also take a significant increase in precipitation to make up for the losses.

Some recent climate change models are actually predicting an increase in winter precipitation in Colorado. Under those scenarios, the northern Rockies could see a snowfall regime similar to the Sierra Nevada, with more wet and heavy snow.

Future snowpack seasons will be shorter and runoff will occur earlier. The point of the studies is to develop a long-term water plan that will work in different climate change scenarios, Waage said.

“We know the climate is variable, but within a certain range. Water planners have always dealt with uncertainties, like population change. Now, we also have to deal with hydrological uncertainty,” he said.

Resource manager around the world have similar worries about water supply and how factors including rising temperatures, rising populations and changing precipitation patterns will stress existing systems.

H20 Conserve tells you all you need to know to understand why you should be actively conserving water – even if you’re not experiencing a drought – and how to calculate your water wastage. Educational resources are provided along with a teacher’s guide. There’s a glossary and a collection of information pages that will tell you even more about the role water plays in every aspect of our lives. Definitely worth a visit.