climate change


BGnews_logoOcean rapidly warming

The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA researchers.

Arctic sea ice has been in sharp decline during the last four decades. The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years.

“The Arctic is warming and this is causing the melt season to last longer,” said Julienne Stroeve, a senior scientist at NSIDC, Boulder and lead author of the new study, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the ocean and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover.”

See NASA News article for full story.

Eat your fruits and vegetables

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42% compared to eating less than one portion, reports a new University College London (UCL) study.

Researchers used the Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population between 2001 and 2013, and found that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age. Eating seven or more portions reduces the specific risks of death by cancer and heart disease by 25% and 31% respectively. The research also showed that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.

This is the first study to link fruit and vegetable consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per-portion, and the first to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit.

See UCL News article for full story.

Events

  • Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup —  Saturday, April 5, 9 am – noon. Join Rock Creek Conservancy at one of more than 50 locations along the 33-mile length of Rock Creek for volunteer trash cleanups.
  • Master-Metered Condo Alliance Meeting — Monday, April 7, 4 – 5:30 pm at Bethesda Green. A representative from WSSC will discuss ways to reduce water consumption and get some control of water and sewer bills.
  • Demystifying Clean Green Energy — Thursday, April 10, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD. GreenWheaton, Silver Spring Green, and Bethesda Green present an expert assessment on the current state of the clean energy industry.

 

BGgreennews_logo1Bethesda Downtown Plan

Although there are still issues to work out, a development plan is taking shape for downtown Bethesda. The Montgomery County Planning Department is updating the 20-year-old Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan to manage future building and zoning decisions in the area. The Department recently hosted a workshop for residents, planners, and developers to help them move forward with their plan. Guests were asked to determine where the exact “heart of downtown Bethesda” was on a map on the wall and where the most troublesome areas were for pedestrians. Discussion also included changes that attendees thought needed to be made, with most saying there was a need for more green space.

Downtown Bethesda is growing rapidly; in fact, it is expected that between now and 2040 the population will double.

To get all the details, check out the Gazette.

Purple Line Project — Recommended by the White House

President Barack Obama’s new budget plan includes $100 million in federal construction money for the proposed light rail Purple Line Project, an infusion to help keep the $2.2 billion project on schedule. Also, the Purple Line Project was recommended for a full funding grant agreement, a long-term construction commitment that Maryland officials hope will amount to $900 million in federal funding. Purple Line construction is scheduled to start in 2015 and open in 2020.

Some of the advantages of the proposed plan would be faster and more reliable transit options for traveling east-west between suburbs and would encourage new investments around stations in older suburbs. Opponents of the project say that the construction would require cutting down hundreds of trees in popular trails and would bring noise pollution to residents living along the route. The town of Chevy Chase has been leading the opposition to the Purple Line Project because it would require condemning 116 homes and businesses; they also believe that the state hasn’t done enough to explore other options.

The Purple Line would consist of 21 stations with two-car trains mostly running above ground.

Read the Gazette article here.

Addendum: Council members call for Purple Line community task force (see article here).

Climate Change in Montgomery County

Climate change is becoming more apparent to farmers and gardeners because their farming or blossoming seasons are becoming unpredictable and unreliable. Last week, several horticulturists, biologists, and environmental activists met to discuss ways of adapting to climate change. They were part of a conference called “Green Matters 2014: Gardening in a Changing Climate” in Montgomery County.

Precise temperature and weather are key to growing healthy crops and plants but with the increasingly severe and erratic weather, the plants are susceptible to death.  Farmers and planters have to worry about temperatures dropping below freezing and damaging their crops. There is not much farmers and gardeners can do except respond to the changes they see. With higher temperatures, new pests can now survive farther north and at higher elevations than normal. For example, the mountain pine beetle, which is normally found in western forests, is beginning to spread. It and many other species could start invading Maryland.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network leads efforts to fight climate change through political activism and encouragement to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Read the Gazette article here.

Events

  • Raptors of the Chesapeake Bay: Past, Present, and Future Outlook for the Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon — Lecture, Thursday, March 13, 7 pm, Annapolis Maritime Museum, 723 Second Street, Annapolis. Speaker: Craig Koopie, Raptor Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chesapeake Bay Office. Free for certain Museum members; $10 for the public.
  • 5th Annual Davidsonville Green Expo — Saturday, March 15, 10 am – 2 pm, Davidsonville Elementary School, 962 West Central Avenue, Davidsonville, MD. The Expo features awareness about environmental issues, children’s activities, free native tree give-aways, Bay-friendly lawn and landscape techniques, and more.
  • Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital — various venues from March 18 – March 30. The theme of the 2014 Festival — Our Cities, Our Planet — will examine the challenges posed by Earth’s urban environments and the efforts of the world’s cities to balance environmental and economic needs.

bggreennews_logo11Want To Do Something About Climate Change?
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is organizing a series of public events drawing attention to proposals to transport liquified natural gas thru Maryland. Click here for details.

County Leading the Charge in Electric Vehicles
According to the Gazette, “Businesses across the county have been working to make it more convenient for the growing number of electric vehicle drivers to find a place to plug in and charge up, with about 15 percent of Maryland’s electric car charging stations now in Montgomery County.” Click here to see article.

Healthier Food in Schools
Seeking to find out why and how school food should be made more healthy, Real Food for Kids-Montgomery and Montgomery Victory Gardens recently hosted a community forum to get some answers. Click here for the Gazette’s coverage of the event. 

MD’s New Lawn Fertilizer Law Kicks in this Week
Maryland’s newly enacted Lawn Fertilizer Law prohibits the use of fertilizer products containing nitrogen or phosphorus during cold weather months. Click here for details.

Mow, Don’t Rake Leaves
While there’s still a few weeks left before the trees shed all their leaves, consider mowing your leaves into a healthy mulch for your yard. More 

Events

  • Bethesda Central Farm Market — Open Sundays, 9 am – 1 pm at the Bethesda Elementary School parking lot on Arlington Road, at the corner of Wilson Lane and Old Georgetown Road.
  • Support DC Greenworks — Wednesday, Nov. 20, 5 – 10 pm, 20 percent of sales at Le Grenier Restaurant, 502 H St. NE, Washington, DC 20002 will support DC Greenworks’ stormwater mitigation and green job training services in the District. More
  • Poultry Fair Share Town Hall Forum — Organized by Food & Water Watch, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 6 – 7 pm,  6810 Eastern Ave NW, Takoma Park, DC. More detail here
  • Greening Your Retail Business — Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2 – 4 pm, All Eco Center, 2662 University Blvd, Wheaton, MD. Free seminar organized by GreenWheaton.  More 

By Alison WentzellBGgreennews_logo1

The Planet’s Budget Crisis

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their fifth comprehensive report on climate change.  One of the most frightening observations the panel made was that we have almost maxed out our carbon budget.  The burning of fossil fuels and dumping of carbon pollution into our planet’s oceans and atmosphere has taken its toll on our greenhouse gas emissions.

The carbon budget was developed to prevent us from exceeding the amount of fossil fuel we can burn before exceeding the tipping point.  If we continue at our current rate, we would only be able to last another 15 years before having to stop burning fossil fuels altogether.

Scientists can no long ignore the drastic changes we have seen because of climate change.  With 95% of scientists agreeing that climate change is caused by human industrialization and pollution, climate change deniers are struggling to come up with reasons to prevent action.  Despite the grim news about our planet’s health, there is a silver lining.  The IPCC’s report could perpetuate more focus and spending on America’s environmental sector.  There is the potential to create new jobs in energy efficiency and clean energy, as well as in other areas of environmental concern.

See the Huffington Post column by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) for more on this topic.

Gas Exhaust Reduces Bees’ Ability to Find Flowers

Bees are a vital part in our ecosystems and are responsible for more than half of the food in your fridge.  However, bee populations are rapidly declining as concerns about food security rise at an increasing rate.  Scientists have mostly been studying the adverse effects of chemical pesticides on bees with the hopes that if we reduce or change pesticides we can get more bees to pollinate.  They have discovered that the chemicals have prevented bees from doing their job.

Unfortunately, bees are exposed to myriad pollutants and chemicals every day, many of which come from car exhaust.  Neuroscientist Tracey Newman, who worked on the study, explains, “We got into this because we were aware of the impacts of airborne pollutants on human health, so it didn’t seem so wild that there may be impacts that extended beyond human health.”

What she and her fellow scientists found was that the chemical odors given off by flowers got “lost” after reacting with exhaust fumes.  The loss of chemical odor from the flowers has hindered the bees ability to track the scents and procure nectar in the most efficient way.

Now the race to improve air quality no longer impacts human health, but bees’ health too.  If bees stop being able to gather nectar in the most efficient manner, then we also risk a severe reduction in food availability and biodiversity loss in ecosystems.

For more information, check out the BBC article here.

Events

Come meet Christy Nordstrom of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals and help create a local chapter of the organization.  This is a great opportunity for networking and opening conversations.

  • Pitch for Charity, October 10, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM, Washington Post Building,1150 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Come pitch your start-up at the CleanTech Southeast Open “Pitch for Charity” event.  If your pitch wins, $1000 will go towards the charity of your choice.  You only have 60 seconds, so make it smart, persuasive, and fast!

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on environmental politics, cultural aspects of the environment, and environmental conflict.

BGnews_logoBy Alison Wentzell

Climate Panel Warns Human Activity is the Cause for Warming

Recently, a draft of the International Panel of Climate Change’s “Fifth Assessment Report” has been leaked and the report looks bleak, according to an article in the New York Times.  The International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) is a team of several hundred scientists that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, along with Al Gore. Although the team does not conduct any of their own research, it is their duty to analyze work done by other scientists and publish the most important findings regarding climate change.  Many governments rely on these findings to create policies and prepare for the future impacts climate change will have.

This year’s assessment report, which will be finalized in September, strengthened many scientists’ beliefs regarding the future of climate change.  The assessment’s first major finding is that human activity is the cause of the increase in global temperature.  In the past climate skeptics have dismissed the idea that global warming was the adverse effects of human activity, but something that happened naturally.  But now, scientists are about 95% certain that the rapid increase in global temperature since the industrial revolution is the cause of carbon emissions produced from human activities.  Scientists have also dismissed the recent notion of a slowdown in the pace of warming.

The draft also elaborates on how strongly correlated carbon emissions and global temperatures are.  The report states that the lowest possible increase would be 2.7 degrees Celsius, down from 3.6 degrees published in the “Fourth Assessment Report”.  However, the IPCC was quick to point out that just because 2.7 degrees is possible, doesn’t mean it’s likely.  If we continue with a business as usual mindset, then carbon emission will double in the next few decades, increasing the global temperature by approximately 5 degrees.  This will cause extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food, mass extinctions and changes in plant and animal life, and land ice to melt.  The melting of ice is one of the biggest concerns for scientists, since it will displace many communities and many of the world’s major cities.

The report will be finalized in September, but until then check out this article in the New York Times.

Students Succeed in Building Electric Vehicle

A group of 7 students in Sandy Spring Friends School’s Advance Placement environmental science class won fourth place in the 2013 DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix this summer, which was open to high school students in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.  In addition to placing fourth in the competition, the students’ car won Best Technical Innovation and Best Graphic, and the team won Best Team Photo.   The team started working in December, when they were inspired to create a battery powered vehicle as a class project.  In March they started to build the vehicle to make their idea a reality.  The students hit many roadblocks while working on the project, but they believe that they learned more from the overall experience because of these roadblocks than if the project had ran smoothly.

These students are the future innovators and designers of our country, and have proven that they have the potential to change the world.  Competitions like the DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix help to foster and motivate students to take action and prove that they can do something remarkable, not only for them but for the world.  I can only hope that these students will continue on the path of brilliance and someday change our society’s infrastructure, to create a greener, healthier world.

For the full article, check out the Gazette here.

Events

  • 4th Annual Bake Bethesda A Pie Contest, September 1st, 9am-12pm, Bethesda Central Farm Market, located at the Bethesda Elementary School parking lot

Come out to the annual “Bake Bethesda a Pie” contest and help raise money for Mana Food Center!  Last year over 200 people attended for the judging of more than 45 different pies.

  •  Happy Hour, September 5, 5pm-8pm, The Courtyard by Marriott Chevy Chase, 5220 Wisconsin Avenue

 Join Bethesda Green for their First Thursday Happy Hour at The Courtyard and have a chance to win a raffle, get discounts on wine, beer, and cocktails, and delicious appetizers.  Also, meet the people protecting the local watershed—Cabin John, Little Falls and Rock Creek.  There is a $10 entrance fee and the proceeds are shared with local watershed groups.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Alison Wentzell

Builders, County Disagree on Tree Canopy Legislation

BGnews_logoLegislation passed by Montgomery County Council last week requires builders to provide 50 percent tree canopy coverage on lots they develop.  The new law essentially triples the amount of trees builders had proposed providing and applies to all lots in Montgomery County, not just developing lots.

County data suggests that only one in three trees planted would be able to survive into adulthood.  However, builders argue that approximately 85% of trees planted survive into adulthood and even more trees survive when they are being cared for on private property.

Read the full article from the Gazette here.

Individual Action Encouraged at Climate Change Town Hall

A town hall meeting held in Silver Spring by Organization For Action encouraged residents to start taking a more active role in addressing climate change.  About 500 residents attended the four-hour meeting.

Leaders from organizations such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and the Maryland Clean Energy Center encouraged action on the individual, communal, and national levels to push the United States into becoming a leader in environmental action.

Presenters discussed way to push for policy change in Congress by showing the linkage between health issues and environmental stewardship.  CCAN Director Mike Tidwell said, “We don’t need to invent anything; all we need is more policy.  The fossil-fuel industry is allowed to treat our atmosphere as a sewer.”

Check out the full story from the Gazette here.

Upcoming Events

  • Caleva Dirty Dinners: A Farm to Table Series, August 24th, 6-9 PM, Calleva Farm, 19120 Martinsburg Road, Dickerson MD.

Come out to Calleva Farms and enjoy a delicious meal that has been grown and prepared on site.  Meals include wine, festive music, and non-alcoholic “mocktails.”  Make your reservation and find out more info at http://www.DirtyDinners.org.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Terri Lukas

It’s a hot day.  A walk to the Bethesda library should take 20 minutes, but in the heat, it will be at least 30.  It will feel good to reach my air-conditioned destination.  But as it turns out,  I don’t have to wait to feel the cool blast of air conditioning.  I feel it right out in the open, on the street, as I pass one establishment after another: a small tea shop, a sports clothing store, an Asian restaurant … the list goes on. 

So I ask myself: what is going on?  This is Bethesda: highly educated, connected, progressive.  If nowhere else, surely here people understand the basics about what it takes to find fossil fuels needed to meet our increasing demand for energy: deep sea drilling, fracking, troops to secure foreign sources.  Then there is the issue of a warming planet. . .

How can people spend thousands on high efficiency air conditioners, windows and doors, yet appear not to notice the weather-blind, open-door practices of stores and restaurants?

I have no answers; do you?

Terri Lukas works in public health and is an active conservationist. She lives with her husband in Chevy Chase West.

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