The Conservation Column
By Pepper Trail
Well, this certainly wasn’t the post-pandemic we were dreaming of, but I hope everyone got out and enjoyed our beautiful southern Oregon environment before the smoke descended. Here’s hoping that by the time you read this, blue skies will have returned.
This first Conservation Column back from the summer break is a bit of a grab bag, as there has been a lot of activity on multiple environmental fronts.
For those of you interested in tracking President Biden’s rollbacks of the previous administration’s many terrible environmental actions, the Washington Post provides a handy and constantly updated digest, at:
(you can find the scorecard in this article in the pdf version of the September Chat).
As you can see, there are plenty in the “Not Yet Targeted” category, so lots of work still to do. But here are a few of the positive actions to date:
Reviewing activities in roadless areas in national forests
Biden officials instructed that any activities in roadless areas must undergo special review, effectively barring log-ging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.
Conserving public lands and waters
President Biden set a goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 (the “30×30” goal.
Banning the nerve-agent pesticide chlorpyrifos
Under the new regulation signed by the EPA in August, all food uses of chlorpyrifos would be revoked six months from the final rule’s publication in the Federal Register, which will likely happen in the coming weeks.
Proposed listing of Emperor Penguins and Lesser Prairie Chickens under the Endangered Species Act.
Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies
President Biden instructed all agencies to identify existing fossil fuel subsidies and eliminate them from their FY 2021 budget request.
So, the Biden Administration is a huge improvement from the previous one. But, there have also been major disappointments:
The Biden Administration is permitting Line 3 tar-sands oil pipeline in Minnesota to go ahead (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/climate/line-3-pipeline-biden.html), and in an apparent political deal with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, also allowed the largest oil-and-gas drilling project in the Alaska National Petroleum Re-serve to go forward. Fortunately, a federal district court has now vacated that permit, as described in this news release from Earthjustice:
The Sixth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
The severity of the climate crisis, and the necessity to keep fossil fuels in the ground, was proclaimed yet again and with more urgency than ever by the latest report of the IPCC, released in August. This was, in the words of the re-port, “A Code Red for Humanity.” The “Headline Statements” can be seen at: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_Headline_Statements.pdf
Here are some of the major ones:
• Each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850.
The Last Interglacial, around 125,000 years ago, is the next most recent candidate for a period of higher temperature.
• In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years. Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
• Many changes in the climate system become greater in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of heat extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation; agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions; and proportion of intense tropical cyclones; as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover, and permafrost.
• Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets, and global sea level.
But it’s not too late…
If nations follow through on recent promises — like President Biden’s April pledge to eliminate America’s net carbon emissions by 2050 or China’s vow to become carbon neutral by 2060 — then something closer to 2 degrees Celsius of warming might be possible. Additional action, such as sharply reducing methane emissions from agriculture and oil and gas drilling, could help limit warming below that level.
“The report leaves me with a deep sense of urgency,” said Jane Lubchenco, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Now is the critical decade for keeping the 1.5 target within reach.”
Last But Not Least: Oregon’s Marbled Murrelets
And finally, I’ll close with an Audubon priority close to home. In response to strong advocacy by Oregon Audubon groups and others, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife “uplisted” the Marbled Murrelet from “threatened” to “endangered” in July. As a result of that decision, state natural resource agencies that own, manage, or lease lands with murrelet habitat are required to develop an endangered species management plan and submit for approval by the Commission within 18 months of uplisting.