The precipitous loss of native vegetation [to agriculture] across the United States has led to a dramatic decline of insect populations.
This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.
It is only the latest bad news about the dramatic decline of insect populations.
Another insect in serious trouble is the wild bee, which has thousands of species. Nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids are implicated in their decline, but even if they were no longer used, experts say, bees, monarchs and many other species of insect would still be in serious trouble.
That’s because of another major factor that has not been widely recognized: the precipitous loss of native vegetation across the United States.
“There’s no question that the loss of habitat is huge,” said Douglas Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, who has long warned of the perils of disappearing insects. “We notice the monarch and bees because they are iconic insects,” he said. “But what do you think is happening to everything else?”
A big part of it is the way the United States farms. As the price of corn has soared in recent years, driven by federal subsidies for biofuels, farmers have expanded their fields. That has meant plowing every scrap of earth that can grow a corn plant, including millions of acres of land once reserved in a federal program for conservation purposes.
Related to Obama’s voracious support for ethanol. See my earlier post on how the president’s policies supporting ethanol fuel is devastating conservation land across the United States.
Bump in corn grown for ethanol has polluted water and wiped out 5 million acres of conserved land, AP finds
Five million acres of land — more than in Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite national parks combined — have been pulled from conservation on Obama’s watch, according to Agriculture Department figures.
What’s more, from 2005 to 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than 1 billion pounds. More recent data isn’t available from the Agriculture Department, but because of the huge increase in corn planting, even conservative projections by the AP suggest another billion-pound fertilizer increase on corn farms since then.
Some of that fertilizer has seeped into drinking water, contaminating rivers and boosting the growth of enormous algae fields in the Gulf of Mexico; the algae eventually decompose, sucking oxygen from the water and leaving behind a huge dead zone, currently covering 5,800 square miles of sea floor where marine life can’t survive.
That dead zone is just one example of a peculiar ethanol side effect: As one government program encourages farmers to plant more corn, other programs pay millions to clean up the mess.
Obama is no environmentalist. He’s helped increase fracking, expanded off-shore oil drilling, continues to stealthily approve parts the Keystone XL Pipeline, weakened endangered species protection, and will sign off on Alaska’s horrifying Pebble Mine gold mine.
impulsivefarmer asked: Do you think this new EO will have an effect on green energy funding? Could we see another wind energy boom like the one back at the beginning of Obama's first term?
Thanks for following me all this time. Honestly, I don’t know. The new EO is mostly focused on infrastructure and disaster preparedness. Things like how the Federal Government can help communities better prepare for inevitable climate impacts that will occur, such as wild fires, health impacts, coastal erosion, economic resilience. Things like that.
So, this particular Executive Order is focused on adaptation and resilience for cities, and doesn’t really focus on prevention. In fact, there’s a package of resilience actions that the President has taken published right on the White House website: “Climate Change Resilience | The White House”.
I don’t focus on prevention, so I’ll have to direct you to Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which has several energy initiatives that might interest you.
“An Executive Order to Protect Our Communities
The Obama Administration has taken significant steps to strengthen the climate resilience of America’s communities and economy. More than 30 Federal agencies developed their first-ever Climate Change Adaptation Plans, outlining strategies to protect their operations, programs, and investments to better serve communities and safeguard our public resources in the face of climate change. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Administration has provided resources to rebuild the affected area to be more resilient than before, including support for more climate-resilient roads and infrastructure, and projects that protect drinking water and buffer communities from flooding. In addition, Federal agencies have partnered with states, cities, tribes, and the private sector to develop strategies to address the impacts of climate change on our freshwater resources, oceans and coasts, and wildlife. Agencies have also built new, data-driven tools to help decision makers and resource managers map and plan for future sea level rise. From Florida to Minnesota, and from Alaska to New York, Federal agencies have partnered with communities to provide funding and technical assistance to address local climate impacts such as sea level rise, flooding, and water scarcity.
To build on this progress, the Executive Order (E.O.) “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change,” signed today directs Federal agencies to:
- Modernize Federal programs to support climate-resilient investments: Agencies will examine their policies and programs and find ways to make it easier for cities and towns to build smarter and stronger. Agencies will identify and remove any barriers to resilience-focused actions and investments– for example, policies that encourage communities to rebuild to past standards after disasters instead of to stronger standards – including through agency grants, technical assistance, and other programs in sectors from transportation and water management to conservation and disaster relief.
- Manage lands and waters for climate preparedness and resilience: America’s natural resources are critical to our Nation’s economy, health and quality of life. The E.O. directs agencies to identify changes that must be made to land- and water-related policies, programs, and regulations to strengthen the climate resilience of our watersheds, natural resources, and ecosystems, and the communities and economies that depend on them. Federal agencies will also evaluate how to better promote natural storm barriers such as dunes and wetlands, as well as how to protect the carbon sequestration benefits of forests and lands to help reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
- Provide information, data and tools for climate change preparedness and resilience: Scientific data and insights are essential to help communities and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with extreme weather and other impacts of climate change. The E.O. instructs Federal agencies to work together and with information users to develop new climate preparedness tools and information that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions. In keeping with the President’s Open Data initiative, agencies will also make extensive Federal climate data accessible to the public through an easy-to-use online portal.
- Plan for climate change related risk: Recognizing the threat that climate change poses to Federal facilities, operations and programs, the E.O. builds on the first-ever set of Federal agency adaptation plans released earlier this year and directs Federal agencies to develop and implement strategies to evaluate and address their most significant climate change related risks.
To implement these actions, the E.O. establishes an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, chaired by the White House and composed of more than 25 agencies. To assist in achieving the goals of the E.O., these agencies are directed to consider the recommendations of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.”
Read the FACT SHEET, here.
President Obama issues new Executive Order, “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change." The new EO, issued November 1st, directs the agencies to
1) Federal infrastructure spending will have to take climate into account. Agencies are supposed to examine their policies and find ways to help states prepare for the effects of climate change.
So, for example, federal disaster-relief programs that help coastal communities rebuild after a storm or flood will have to take into account the possibility that the next storm or flood could be even worse. Likewise, roads and bridges built with federal money will have to be planned with changing climate conditions — such as future sea-level rise — in mind.
2) Water- and land- management will get revamped. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior will have to review their land- and water-management policies to take shifting conditions into account.
For example, agencies will have to ”evaluate how to better promote natural storm barriers such as dunes and wetlands” and figure out “how to protect the carbon sequestration benefits of forests and lands to help reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.” (The EPA has already released its plans to this effect.)
3) The federal government will try to provide better data on what climate impacts are actually coming. As part of the executive order, federal agencies are supposed to offer better information “that state, local, and private-sector leaders need to make smart decisions.” - WaPo
It’s an integrative approach, folding climate science and data into decision making at the federal level. Each agency was directed to create an adaptation policy back in 2011. Now the agencies have to implement their plans and use the National Climate Assessment and other findings from peer-reviewed climate scientists. This new EO builds upon several(!) orders by the President, including Executive Order 13514, which I wrote about here.
FoxNews, Washington Times, Drudge, and other conservative and conspiracy media outlets are having a field day with Obama’s EO.
Mainstream media ignores the announcement.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on Monday sent a letter to the White House asking Obama to push the committee to hear from environmental regulators at an upcoming hearing on the impacts of climate change.
“As your Climate Action Plan sets in motion a litany of new actions with significant economic implications, those in your Administration charged with implementing your agenda should be made available to testify as to the scope, purpose, and consequences of such unilateral action,” he wrote in the letter.
“The American people should not be kept in the dark regarding the scope of the actions the Administration is taking to theoretically control our climate – actions that have significant potential to negatively impact employment, job creation, and our national debt,” he added.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the head of the committee, has so far declined to invite administration officials to testify at the hearing, Vitter said. However, she previously told reporters that she would consider having federal officials testify at later hearings on climate change.
Waste of time. Via The Hill
America, model for the world? This coal plant leaks and dumps waste into the Yellowstone River. Only about 30% of coal burned in a power plant produces electricity - the remaining 70% of the energy is literally wasted…
If you can stomach it, here’s a picture of an ExxonMobil oil refinery, also on the Yellowstone. This is how your electricity works…
Corette coal-fired power plant on the Yellowstone River in Montana. This facility is discharging toxic water pollution into the Yellowstone using a permit that should have expired several years ago.
President Obama will speak from the White House about Syria beginning just after 9 p.m. ET. Stay here for real-time updates on the president’s address.
Wants to chat with Putin.