Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Bio-regional tourism greener, argues WWU enviro dean

by June 18th, 2013

Tourism has a more pronounced effect on the world than the average tourist realizes. Whether they travel by air, sea or land, the long-distance tourist needs to appreciate the effects on the broader environment, the climate, and their own region and home. It’s more socially responsible, economically beneficial and ultimately more satisfying to travel closer to home, in one’s own region, than to distant lands. These were the key messages from Steve Hollenhorst, dean of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment, in a lecture earlier this month at WWU’s Biology Building titled, “The Trouble with Tourism: Rethinking Travel in the Age of Climate Change.” His talk was the final of the Huxley College speaker series.

Tutorial: Using NOAA’s U.S. Climate Data Mapping Tool

by June 17th, 2013

Federal data for 2012 show Washingtonians can feel confident crowing about how cool and moist is their climate, even if some other parts of the country experienced record or very high heat and record or very low rainfall. 2012 temperatures and precipitation are depicted in a series of maps from the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration covering the country, regions, states and climate sub-divisions within states. The tool allows views of data back to 2002.

U.S.: Washington stays near top in carbon-free capitalism

by May 14th, 2013

A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy shows Washington state has continued through 2010 to remain near the top among all 50 states in fueling its economy with minimal consumption of carbon dioxide emissions. According to the report from the department’s Energy Information Administration, Washington in 2010 ranked sixth lowest nationally for the tenth year in a row in metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per million dollars of gross domestic product (GDP). The only states ranking lower in 2010 in proportion of energy-related carbon dioxide emitted to fuel their economies were, in order, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Oregon.

The report emphasizes that what is being measured is based on where the energy is used, not where it is produced. But in the states whose economies are most tied to carbon emissions in the report, a lot of the consumption of that greenhouse gas actually occurs in order to produce fossil fuels.

The states using the most energy-related carbon dioxide per million dollars GDP were Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, West Virginia and Louisiana. The report notes, “All these are fossil-energy-producing states. The activity of producing energy is itself energy intensive.”

Another important metric in the report is per-capita, or per person, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per state. There, Washington ranked eighth lowest among all 50 states in 2010, and between sixth and tenth lowest straight through from 2000 to 2009.

Looking at the percentage decrease in per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from 2000 through 2010, only nine states outpaced Washington, which decreased by nearly one-fifth, in percentage terms.

The EIA also analyzed each state for 2010 energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by major sector of usage. In Washington, the commercial sector was responsible for 3.8 percent, electric power production for 13.1 percent of the usage, the residential sector for 5.1 percent, industrial 12.0 and transportation a relatively whopping 42.1 percent.


Study overview page with tables in .pdf and Excel.

Public Data Ferret’s Energy+Environment archive.

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

State wants public comment on pocket gopher recovery plan

by February 12th, 2013

Some 6,000 years ago in what became Oregon, volcanic Mount Mazama erupted. That carved out Crater Lake, from around where later originated Thomomys mazama, or the Mazama pocket gopher. It thrived in western Oregon, western Washington and northern California. But the advance of man has spelled trouble for this five-and-a-half-inch long, prominently-incisored rodent – which helps wildflowers grow and provides shelter for salamanders and Western Toads. By year’s end the U.S. government may designate four of its subspecies as officially threatened in Washington. The state has already listed it as threatened, in 2006, and recently released a draft recovery plan upon which public comment can be submitted through April 19.

73 percent of commutes in Washington by solo drivers

by January 29th, 2013

Each weekday about three million Washingtonians travel to work. A detailed performance metrics report presented last week to the Washington State Senate’s Transportation Committee finds that nearly three-quarters of those trips are by solo drivers. About 2.2 million or 73 percent drove alone to work in 2010, up slightly in percentage terms though not in raw numbers from 2008. More than 10 percent of Washington work trips were via carpool in 2010. Another 5.4 percent were by transit; 5.6 percent were classified as taxi/motorcycle/bike/walk/other; and 5.3 percent of workers, or telecommuters, travelled only down the hall to their home office to start the work day.

The report says that one objective for the state is to “reduce the percentage of commuters who drive alone to work.” That measure has become an increasingly central baseline indicator of transportation impact on the environment. Compared to solo commutes, carpooling, biking, walking and transit use are considered greener alternatives because there are typically fewer greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. As more and more jobs move away from downtown cores, it becomes more difficult for regions to reduce solo work commutes. However, improving vehicle mileage and continued market penetration of electric vehicles can also help limit the environmental effects of solo work commuting, as can increased telecommuting.

The “mode split” data on commuting are among a range of indicators on mobility, safety, and environmental impacts in the “2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report” from the Washington State Office of Financial Management.

Figures are for Washington state. Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management - from American Community Survey data, U.S. Census Bureau

According to the OFM report, walking accounted for 3.49 percent of trips to work by Washingtonians in 2010 and biking for 0.91 percent. This is versus 3.42 percent and 0.69 percent, respectively, in 2007.

Figures are for Washington state. Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management

The report also looks at transit ridership in the four counties of Central Puget Sound, King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish. The overall five year-trend is a 13.3 percent increase, but “with job losses and depressed economic activity between 2008 and 2010, transit ridership dropped 3.3 percent,” the report says.

Via 2012 Biennial Transportation Attainment Report, Washington State Office of Financial Management

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Trees a life-saver? Portland expert, UW dean discuss

by January 16th, 2013

Trees aren’t just a nice-to-have, their widespread removal due to pest infestations can actually be associated with higher rates of mortality, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Geoffrey Donovan and a team of researchers. He’s an economist of forestry for the Portland-based Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Donovan probed changes in mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and lower respiratory tract diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis in 15 U.S. states where the spread of a beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer wiped out roughly 100 million ash trees since its appearances in Detroit in 2002. He found that controlling for a range of other factors, and compared to uninfected areas, the pest’s presence and resulting loss of tree canopy was associated with increased mortality of an additional 6.8 deaths per year per 100,000 adults (or 6,113 total) due to lower respiratory system illnesses; and another 16.7 deaths per year per 100,000 adults (or 15,080 total) connected to cardiovascular malfunction. The infected and uninfected areas were within 1,296 counties in the 15 states.

However, Donovan warned against jumping to conclusions based on the study. In an accompanying commentary. The Dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health Howard Frumkin also urged caution but said the study was important as part of a growing wholistic approach in the public health field, to try to quantify the benefits of nature.