Capital Region Climate News & Resources: April 22, 2020

Collaborative Update

Happy Earth Day! Even though so many planned events have been cancelled, we hope that you can find a joyful way to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day at home. Climate work has not stopped, and many Earth Day events have gone virtual (there’s a long list below). We know it’s difficult to see the silver lining in the midst of so much tragedy, but for the first time in history, the entire world (or very nearly) is united against a common challenge, and we’ve all agreed to drastic changes in our life for the public good. This is an enormous, unprecedented shift, and one can’t but hope that we’ll be able to sustain this transformation toward addressing our climate crisis. We’ve seen demonstrated firsthand the importance of global collaboration, science-informed decision making, the political will to make difficult decisions, and equity and environmental justice. We’re hopeful that we can draw on these lessons for sustained progress toward carbon zero and climate resilience – as soon as we can safely emerge from social distancing like this grizzly bear breaking out from hibernation. We can’t wait.

Additionally, CRC would like to give a huge thank you to our speakers, Yoon Kim, Michael McCormick, and Kate Gordon for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us and to CRC Chair, Meg Arnold, for moderating CRC’s first virtual workshop – Climate Change and the Economy in the Context of COVID-19! We appreciate folks taking the time to call in and hope you found the virtualshop valuable. You can find the presentation and recording below and on our website: Presentation Slides, Recording



Climate change won’t stop for the coronavirus pandemic
The flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that now regularly arrive in the U.S. each spring and summer are not on hold because we also face a health crisis. Changes in the climate have made the chance of a natural disaster striking during this pandemic significantly more likely, and its likely impact more severe. In California, firefighting training, brush reduction efforts, and prescribed burns have all been delayed this spring. Even in regions that don’t burn, air quality will decline, putting sensitive people at greater respiratory health risk. And if last year’s blackouts are repeated, the power may be shut off in some areas to avoid sparking wires. How can the sixth largest economy in the world recover from economic depression spurred by the pandemic when millions of people working from home lose power, grinding their work, as well as online schooling, to a standstill? ProPublica found little evidence that such scenarios were being planned for. A spokesperson for the California State Department of Public Health, which manages disaster response, replied to questions with an email stating simply that “we’re not speculating on the overlap of coronavirus and wildfires.” And a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services did not respond to a detailed list of questions about how the state’s plans could address cascading crises. (Pro Publica)

‘Hope isn’t a strategy.’ How to prepare for a natural disaster during COVID-19
It’s a situation nobody wants to imagine: a major earthquake, flood, fire or other natural disaster strikes while the U.S. is grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 23 states from the Upper Plains to the Gulf Coast could see major to moderate flooding this spring. What’s more, much of the usual disaster strategies — evacuation shelters, food assistance, an influx of aid workers — may be dangerous or impractical. Here’s what disaster response during the pandemic might look like. (NPR)

Air pollution linked to higher coronavirus death rates
Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country, according to a new study that offers the first clear link between long-term exposure to pollution and Covid-19 death rates. In an analysis of 3,080 US counties, researchers at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that higher levels of PM 2.5 were associated with higher death rates from the disease. “The results of this paper suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution increases vulnerability to experiencing the most severe Covid-19 outcomes.” The findings were particularly important for hospitals in poor neighborhoods and communities of color, which tend to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution than affluent, white communities. The paper found that if Manhattan had lowered its average particulate matter level by just a single unit, or one microgram per cubic meter, over the past 20 years, the borough would most likely have seen 248 fewer Covid-19 deaths by this point in the outbreak. As more is learned about Covid-19, the study also could have far-reaching implications for clean-air regulations, which the Trump administration has worked to roll back over the past three years. (NYT, Guardian)
Polluted US areas are among worst-hit by coronavirus – putting people of color even more at risk
The coronavirus pandemic is hitting hard in America’s most vulnerable communities already burdened by toxic industries and environmental pollution. Experts warn that this elevates the risk of developing complications from Covid-19. Polluted neighbourhoods in cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Newark, and Detroit, as well as the Navajo Nation are among the country’s worst virus hotspots, a Guardian analysis found. As the virus sweeps across the US, major risk factors include poverty, pollution, pre-existing medical conditions, substandard housing and inadequate health care, running water and nutrition. These are issues that most commonly afflict poor people of color. The article takes a closer look at these communities. (Guardian)
How our responses to climate change and the coronavirus are linked
There are, to a certain degree, parallels that can be drawn between the current COVID-19 pandemic and some of the other contemporary crises our world is facing. All require a global-to-local response and long-term thinking; all need to be guided by science and need to protect the most vulnerable among us; and all require the political will to make fundamental changes when faced with existential risks. A first lesson we are drawing from the COVID-19 pandemic and how it relates to climate change is that well-resourced, equitable health systems with a strong and supported health workforce are essential to protect us from health security threats, including climate change. (World Economic Forum)



Coronavirus is a once in a lifetime chance to reshape how we travel
When the world finally emerges from the pandemic and travel restrictions are ended, a whole reservoir of pent up demand will be suddenly released as people seek to make up lost time. Yet by that point the sector could already look very different, and months of lockdown could have changed patterns of behavior forever. So what will the crisis mean for how we travel in the future? (Fast Company)

Study: Warming makes US West megadrought worst in modern age
A two-decade-long dry spell that has parched much of the western United States is turning into one of the deepest megadroughts in the region in more than 1,200 years, and about half of this historic drought can be blamed on man-made global warming. Scientists looked at a nine-state area from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico. They used thousands of tree rings to compare a drought that started in 2000 and is still going — despite a wet 2019 — to four past megadroughts since the year 800. What’s happening now is “a drought bigger than what modern society has seen,” said study lead author A. Park Williams. (AP, NYT)
The 2020 census can help us fight climate change — if coronavirus doesn’t get in the way
A flawed census count would have ripple effects on environmental justice and plans to tackle climate change. City planners looking at how climate change will affect different neighborhoods so they can develop adaptation strategies rely on census data. An undercount will skew the results in all cases, potentially downplaying how communities have been or will be affected. Cara Brumfield, a senior policy analyst at the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, said groups that have historically been hard to count under normal circumstances include people of color, recent and undocumented immigrants, and people experiencing poverty and/or homelessness. “Lots of vulnerable populations are considered hard to count in the census, and of course, being undercounted or missing in the census puts that community at even more of a disadvantage,” she said. (Grist)

World cities turn their streets over to walkers and cyclist
A growing number of cities around the world are temporarily reallocating road space from cars to people on foot and on cycles to keep key workers moving and residents in coronavirus lockdown healthy and active while socially distancing. Limited urban park space and leisure trails are under increasing pressure, with many closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, further limiting urban dwellers’ access to outdoor space. While traffic has dropped around the world, and with it nitrogen dioxide levels, there are widespread concerns over a rise in speeding drivers endangering those walking and cycling. With pedestrians crammed on to narrow pavements, and acres of empty asphalt on roads, lower speed limits, filtering residential streets to prevent rat-running, introducing emergency cycleways and expanding footpaths are among potential solutions. (Guardian)
When humans are sheltered in place, wild animals will play
Goats in Wales; coyotes in San Francisco; rats, rats, everywhere: With much of the world staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, animals have ventured out where normally the presence of people would keep them away. Now people are getting a glimpse of what animals that usually keep their distance do when they are left alone. (NYT)

Mutual aid groups respond to double threat of coronavirus and climate change
When Indigenous community organizer Valentina Harper co-founded the CareMongering mutual aid Facebook group in Toronto in mid-March to help people cope with the coronavirus pandemic, she was expecting a couple of dozen members. Four days later, 6,000 people had joined.“It was glaringly obvious that people were desperate to connect to each other and to help each other,” said Harper. “People are desperate for help as well.” Four weeks later, the CareMongering group has more than 600,000 members in more than 30 places. (PRI) Photo: Kate Munsch/Reuters
In an era of pandemics and fires, global action is the only hope

The coronavirus has already shown us how connected we are: this is the first time people around the globe have watched a pandemic together, the first time billions of us have feared the same thing at the same time. Accordingly, it’s time to acknowledge that what most threatens us — climate change and the virus — are global crises, whose only solutions are global. (Yale 360) Photo: Shelly Rivoli / Alamy

One year to save the planet: a simple, surprising guide to fighting the climate crisis in 2020
Veganism might help and it’s always good to avoid flying. But the answer to Earth’s emergency must involve political, collective action – and there are countless ways to get active. (Guardian)

Tools and Resources

The Future of the Last-Mile Ecosystem
A new World Economic Forum report examines the rise in e-commerce and delivery vehicles, and their implications for traffic congestion and air pollution. Without intervention, the number of delivery vehicles in the top 100 cities globally will increase by 36% until 2030. Emissions from delivery traffic will increase by 32% and congestion will rise by over 21%, equalling an additional 11 minutes of commute time per passenger per day. This report assesses 24 supply chain and technology interventions and provides three different transition roadmaps. The report argues that an integrated ecosystem approach would optimize the last mile for both private and public players while minimizing customer disruption. This scenario includes electric vehicle regulation for inner-city areas, deliveries during night-time and before/after working hours, effective data-based connectivity solutions such as dynamic re-routing and load-pooling, as well as multi-brand parcel lockers and boxes. Such a scenario could reduce CO2 emissions by 30%, congestion by 30% and delivery costs by 25% by 2030 compared to a baseline scenario. (WEF)


Community Resilience Planning and Clean Energy Initiatives: A Review of City-Led Efforts for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Cities are actively planning to improve energy efficiency and promote renewable energy to make their neighborhoods more resilient in the face of climate change as well as other shocks and stresses. To assess the extent and quality of clean energy initiatives within community resilience plans, ACEEE reviewed and rated 66 plans selected from the international program, 100 Resilient Cities. The report identifies the energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives that cities are commonly including in resilience plans. The report also identifies and discusses opportunities that cities have missed to improve their energy efficiency and increase their reliance on renewable energy. (ACEEE)


Report: Assessing Vulnerability of State Assets to Climate Change

A report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office analyzes efforts by state departments to assess climate risks for state facilities. Most state agencies are only at the early stages of conducting such assessments, which are a critical first step of a multistep process of planning for climate change and implementing projects and policies to reduce the risks to public safety and welfare. Consequently, much more work will need to be done before state agencies, their facilities, and the people they serve are adequately protected. The report provides a number of oversight questions the Legislature can use to monitor progress as well as inform future legislative guidance to state agencies and spending decisions. (LAO)

Upcoming Opportunities

Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council Grants
The Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council is requesting concept applications for enhancement projects on PG&E Watershed Lands. There is $3 million available for projects that would enhance beneficial public values of natural habitat, outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry, agriculture, open space, or cultural or historic resources. Eligible applicants include nonprofits, federal- and state-recognized tribes, or public agencies. Deadline: April 27. (PFWL)


Thriving Earth Exchange: Receive support from scientists on your community project
Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) supports community projects related to natural hazards, natural resources, or climate change. Projects are assisted by scientists and last 6-18 months. TEX is accepting applications from community leaders representing historically marginalized communities to join the Fall 2020 Cohort. Selected communities will work directly with a Community Science Fellow and American Geophysical Union scientists to co-design a local project. Deadline: May 15, 2020. (TEX)


Tribal Government Challenge Planning Grant Program
Funded by the California Energy Commission and administered by the California Strategic Growth Council, the Tribal Government Challenge Planning Grant Program will provide funds for California Tribes to conduct planning to identify solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve clean energy access, and advance climate adaptation and resiliency on Tribal lands and in Tribal communities. The program goals are to support planning activities that promote clean energy access and energy efficiency, with a focus on promoting public health, reducing emissions, and supporting climate adaptation and resiliency in Tribal communities. Deadline: May 22. (SGC)


Statewide Energy Efficiency Virtual Forum call for proposals
The 2020 SEEC Forum will be taking place virtually from June through September. The Call for Proposals for the August-September events will open April 27 and close May 29. The call for proposals for the October-November block of events will open June 29 and close July 31. (SEEC)


Forestry Assistance Grant Opportunity
CAL FIRE has created a new grant opportunity for eligible entities (counties, resource conservation districts, and nonprofits) to provide technical and financial assistance to forestland owners. The purpose is to allow prospective grantees the ability to provide a program of financial and technical forestry assistance to nonindustrial forest landowners. Deadline: May 31. (CalFire)


Clean Mobility Options Voucher Pilot: Applications open
The Clean Mobility Options Voucher Pilot provides funding for the design and implementation of clean mobility projects in California’s historically underserved communities. $20 million is available in 2020 for two types of projects: 1) the Community Transportation Needs Assessment Vouchers help communities to engage residents to identify their biggest transportation needs; and 2) Mobility Project Vouchers fund the implementation of projects that increase access to transportation, designed with community priorities at the forefront. Organizations can now start their applications for both project types. Community Transportation Needs Assessment Voucher applications will be accepted starting June 1, 2020, and approve them on a first-come, first-served basis. Mobility Project Voucher applications will be accepted starting at a later date to be determined – but applicants may still begin designing a Mobility Project. (Apply)


Strategic Growth Council: Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Grant
The Strategic Growth Council is accepting applications for Round 6 of the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC). SALC fights climate change by protecting our productive farmlands and encouraging infill development. SALC provides two types of grants: Planning grants support the development of policies and economic development strategies to protect agricultural land, and Land Acquisition Grants (for either conservation easements or fee acquisitions) permanently protect lands that are at risk of conversion to sprawl development. Prospective applicants for acquisition grants must submit pre-proposals by Thursday, April 30. (Organizations interested in planning grants are encouraged to submit pre-proposals as well.) Complete applications for both grants are due Friday, August 28, 2020. (DOC)


Beacon Program Request for Award Consideration 2020
The Beacon Program recognizes the measurable achievements of cities and counties working to address climate change. Cities can be awarded in five categories based on their level of achievement. If you would like to apply for award consideration, please apply by July 1. (ILG)
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