Josh Edmonds has decided where he will work to make a difference in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
“The built environment accounts for 40 percent of global emissions,” said Edmonds in a recent interview. “Furthermore, two thirds of existing buildings will still be in use in 2050.”
Thus, the mission of Edmonds and his company, Simple Integrity, is to turn standing buildings into high-performance structures and build new ones that are carbon-neutral. With 80 percent of their projects consisting of existing retrofits, it’s clear where the passion lies.
Every year the growth, and non-growth, of a variety of areas of interest—such as the economy, the population, bird migrations, immigration, wildfires, utilities, stocks, violence, college rankings, China and the like—are subject to intense research and interpretation. Inevitably, the results are published far and wide just after the last drop of the New Year’s ball.
One such fast-developing aspect of our life is our carbon footprint (CO2e), the total greenhouse gas emissions that trap and release heat, causing global warming. GHG is caused, directly and indirectly, by individuals, events, organizations, services, places or products. As these emissions enter the atmosphere they give rise to extreme precipitation, acidification and the warming of the oceans. Think climate change.
Originally published in October in “Water Front,” an online blog by Peter Mantius, this article is being reprinted with permission from Mantius because of its relevance to issues currently threatening water bodies statewide, including challenges to keeping our freshwater resources clean and climate-caused threats.
GENEVA, NY – A comprehensive plan to cut phosphorus pollution in the Seneca-Keuka Watershed won final state approval this week, providing a roadmap for protecting the two lakes from toxic algal blooms and flooding driven by climate change.
The 9E report recommends that mitigation efforts focus on Seneca-Keuka Watershed subbasins that produce the most phosphorus.
The Nine Element Plan, or 9E, was a “grass roots effort led by Finger Lakes watershed communities to actively restore these prized waters,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC and the Department of State jointly approved the project.
Phosphorus is identified as a “primary driver” of outbreaks of cyanobacteria, or harmful algal blooms (HABs), that have plagued the lakes for at least the past seven years.
The lexicon of climate change evolves as the climate crisis wears on. Terms like “greenhouse effect” and “global warming” are now considered old, even though they are not. Recently, two new terms (new to this writer) appeared during a Harvard University climate change webinar: “retreating communities” and “receiving communities.” Simply put, these terms refer to communities that are becoming undesirable or unlivable (“retreating”), and those that appear to be either less affected or even benefit from the changing conditions (“receiving”). More and more people, it seems, consider Central New York, which includes Otsego County, in the latter group.
New York’s Climate Action Council is finalizing its Scoping Plan for meeting the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals. The Climate Action Plan needs to achieve an affordable, dependable, and safe electric grid but we are not certain that the CAP will achieve this.
OEC is a distribution utility. We do not generate our power supply. OEC has been a green energy utility since the early 1960s. OEC currently buys about 85 percent of our power from hydro and other zero emission sources; our goal is 100 percent zero emissions. The Climate Action Plan presents challenges for OEC and the New York electric grid. If vehicles, businesses and households are going to become electric, we will need to increase energy supplies rapidly.
The summer of 2022 will be remembered as the year our beloved Lake Otsego first suffered a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB).
The conditions which allow a HAB to occur are known. This column reviews Village of Cooperstown public beaches, boat launch sites and most importantly, Village drinking water.
The SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station (BFS) has monitored lake conditions for decades. This summer, when Glimmerglass State Park first noted an algae bloom on July 27 and closed, BFS began twice weekly testing at locations around the lake. The results of those tests are on their website — suny.oneonta.edu/biological-field-station.
The Village of Cooperstown does a yearly assessment of all of the trees in the Village.
“The assessment went well this year. We were fortunate to have five members of the Tree Committee able to attend. We did it with 5 sets of eyes which is fantastic,” Cindy Falk, Deputy Mayor and Chair of the Streets Committee.
“We have a number of village trees where it’s clear that parts of them have either already dropped their leaves or never had leaves at all this year,” Ms. Falk said. “We wanted to make sure we captured that and weren’t mistaking it for what normally happens in the fall, that’s why we did the survey earlier this year.”
“The Village is responsible for the trees that are between the sidewalk and the street, or within the village right of way,” she said. “We had some unusual weather this year that caused a lot of problems. Large branches came down, entire trees came down,” Ms. Falk said.
Recently, we at The Freeman’s Journal have become aware that some of our readers, and others who may not be our readers, still have questions about the toxic algae blooms that of late have been creeping up on us from the depths and edges of our beloved Otsego Lake. So here goes an effort to get it right.
According to NOAA, whose satellites, along with those of the EPA, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, are picking up images of them, these blooms have been found in 2,300 lakes in the contiguous U.S., and in another 5,000 bodies of water in Alaska.
The algae, often — but not strictly — of a blue-green color, is cyanobacteria, which grows naturally in fresh water, though it also also been spotted, although less frequently, in brackish and salt water. The bacteria can also be red, neon or brown, and when it dies it exudes a rotten smell. When the water is warm, stagnant and nutrient-rich, as it presently is here, the algae can burst into blooms, which is what we are seeing along the shores of the Lake. The blooms can, and do, produce a toxin, called cyanotoxin, which can enter the mouth, nose and eyes, or be inhaled with water vapor. They can also keep blooming into the early fall, until the temperature drops.
Our column, The Life of the Land, is an exploration of local agricultural practices. Several of our pieces will focus on farms which raise grass-fed animals; here we address the environmental implications of locally raised livestock.
It is indisputable that industrial livestock management is an ecological disaster. This has led to pronouncements from numerous authoritative agencies to eat “less meat” or even “no meat”. Yet grass-fed production of livestock is an important and growing component of our local agricultural economy. For those of us who wish to support these farms, is their meat actually environmentally “better meat”?
Jane Forbes Clark, President of The Fernleigh Foundation, announced today that The Board of Directors has approved a $9,695 grant to SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station (BFS) to do twice a week testing on Otsego Lake to better monitor the effect of the recent Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs).
“It is important that science and data drive our decisions about the impact of the HABs,” said Miss Clark. “There is not a local organization better equipped to do that than the Biological Field Station.”
Dr. Willard “Bill” Harman, CLM, Distinguished Service Professor, Rufus J. Thayer Otsego Lake Research Chair, and Director, SUNY Oneonta BFS, explained that “the HABs typically start in deeper waters, deriving nutrients from the bottom muds, which have been deposited there annually for as long as the lake has been in existence, then visible blooms sometimes rise to the surface.
Until this past week, we were just settling into a summer of weather that seemed almost perfectly “Goldilocks” — not too cold, not too hot. It reminded us of the summers of old, when there would be one or two days in early July that were considered hot — somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees. No one had air conditioning and very few had a swimming pool.
But last week the heat was intense and somewhat frightening, given global headlines on record-breaking heat, raging wildfires and devastating drought. Those of us who saw the allegorical film “Don’t Look Up” found ourselves, well, looking up. Since not well-versed in climate science, we considered looking up some facts and statistics but, afraid of finding anything too scary, put it off. Then, when a real scientist pointed out that we are now seeing effects of climate change not expected until around 2050, we had to do some looking up.
Two years ago, I lamented the absence of bluebirds up here on the hill. As well, the equally disappointing absence of the several pairs of tree swallows that habitually took up residence in the two nest boxes adjacent to our larger vegetable garden. Both species have chosen to summer elsewhere again. However, my faith in what nature writer Hal Borland has characterized as nature’s enduring patterns has not waned. Frankly, I have more confidence in nature’s inherent adaptability than that of my own species. I know there are bluebirds and tree swallows close by, so perhaps they just needed a respite. That is okay with me. Their absence, caused either by climate fluctuations or sheer desire for a change, has been more than compensated for by the summer tenancy of some new feathered friends. These are species I normally only bump into on my walks. Besides, just as we humans opt to vary our vacation spots, why should not birds do the same.
Climate change and land use are inextricably bound together. The collision between the two creates tension. We are experiencing that tension in multiple ways — not least of which is the drive to create more renewable energy through use of solar and wind-power generation on central New York farmland.
There currently are proposals — some approved and some being considered — to develop large solar and wind “farms” throughout upstate New York, including Schoharie, Delaware, and Schenectady counties.
In some cases, these projects will reduce or eliminate crop production from previously fertile farmland and reduce or eliminate grazing capacity for livestock. The result of this will be a reduction in agricultural productivity
in central New York and removal of these lands from agricultural production for at least a generation.
Otsego 2000 was instrumental in the elimination of hydrofracking for natural gas in New York and has advocated for responsible development of solar and wind energy production for local use. Large-scale production of solar and wind energy, however, can be quite a different proposition if it involves taking potentially productive farmland out of service or fragmenting the ecological integrity of natural systems.
Mr. Mellor’s recent opinion piece suggested we are well on our way to meeting state energy goals with wind and solar. Mellor looks at cost and feasibility, but the issues are more complex than he suggests.
When solar panels are in full sun — and if the electricity they produce is consumed during that time — the cost of solar is relatively cheap. That’s true. However, solar power is intermittent. Over the course of a year, a solar farm in the northeast generates just 14% of the energy that it could if the sun shone 24X7X365. That means we must build six or seven times more solar capacity to produce the same amount of energy as a baseload gas or nuclear power plant. But that’s not all. The intermittency of solar generation challenges the health of our electric grid. Getting useful energy when it’s needed with solar requires battery storage—lots of it. Wind has a somewhat better capacity factor (29% onshore), but it requires storage, too. Furthermore, the relatively random nature of intermittent generation means that anything less than an infinite-sized battery — big enough to carry months of summer sunshine through a New York winter — may not be enough. Consequently, even with storage in the mix, intermittent renewables require ‘firm’ generators of electricity as back-up to ensure reliability. To move electricity around from wind and solar installations distributed across the state will require lots more transmission infrastructure, too.