Environmental Policy

Climate change has less impact on drought than previously expected
August 31, 2016 03:47 PM - University of California – Irvine via ScienceDaily

As a multiyear drought grinds on in the Southwestern United States, many wonder about the impact of global climate change on more frequent and longer dry spells. As humans emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, how will water supply for people, farms, and forests be affected?

A new study from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington shows that water conserved by plants under high CO2 conditions compensates for much of the effect of warmer temperatures, retaining more water on land than predicted in commonly used drought assessments.

According to the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the implications of plants needing less water with more CO2 in the environment changes assumptions of climate change impacts on agriculture, water resources, wildfire risk, and plant growth.

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Giant forest fires exterminate spotted owls
August 3, 2016 07:17 AM - University of Wisconsin-Madison

As climate changes and wildfires get larger, hotter and more frequent, how should public lands in the American West be managed to protect endangered creatures that, like the spotted owl, rely on fire-prone old-growth forests?

Could periodic forest thinning and prescribed burns intended to prevent dangerous “megafires” help conserve owls in the long run? Or are those benefits outweighed by their short-term harm to owls? The answer depends in part on just how big and bad the fires are, according to a new study.

In a report published Aug. 1 that may help quiet a long-simmering dispute about the wisdom of using forest thinning and prescribed burns to reduce the “fuel load” and intensity of subsequent fires, a University of Wisconsin—Madison research group has documented an exodus of owls following the fierce, 99,000 acre King Fire in California in 2014.

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SPOTLIGHT

Thousands of Homes Keep Flooding, Yet They Keep Being Rebuilt Again

Katherine Bagley, Yale Environment 360

The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, which holds policies for more than 5 million homes, is $23 billion in debt after a string of natural disasters this century. As climate change further strains the program, analysts say it is time to shift its focus from rebuilding to mitigating risk.

More than 2,100 properties across the U.S. enrolled in the National Flood Insurance Program have flooded and been rebuilt more than 10 times since 1978, according to a new analysis of insurance data by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One home in Batchelor, Louisiana has flooded 40 times over the past four decades, receiving $428,379 in insurance payments. More than 30,000 properties in the program, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have flooded multiple times over the years. Those homes, known as “severe repetitive loss properties,” make up just 0.6 percent of federal flood insurance policies. But they account for 10.6 percent of the program’s claims — totaling $5.5 billion in payments.

The new data illustrates the serious problems facing the nation’s flood insurance program. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which currently provides policies for more than 5 million American homes, is $23 billion in debt following a string of major natural disasters over the last decades, including as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

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