Even though crops may fail again, landowners are shielded by taxpayers from the full burden of their bad bets.
Drought helped drive the cost of crop insurance to a record $17.2 billion, the US Department of Agriculture said April 29. The government covers more than 60 per cent of payouts, spending about seven times more than a $1.4 billion program that helps farmers adapt to climate change.
The subsidies encouraging farmers to ignore addressing extreme weather are harder to justify when automatic budget cuts remove 5 per cent from most US programs and lawmakers prepare to craft a new five-year farm law.
“We have given farmers incentives to take on more risk rather than give them an incentive to create a permanent solution,” said Vincent Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University in Bozeman. “You want to move toward programs that allow them to alleviate problems before the fact.”
Disaster declarations by the USDA have become commonplace over the past decade, as farmers face the disruption of traditional growing seasons.
Jerome, Idaho, seems like an neat, ordinary city—until you approach the parts of town where many of its 10,000 inhabitants live on the edge, in all senses of the word.
Unregulated and unzoned houses teeter on the precipice of the Snake River Canyon, which drops sheerly down below to a sleek, twisting river 1700 km long, formed by volcanic activity of the Yellowstone hotspot. Native Americans lived on its banks for thousands of years before European inhabitants began to cause the landscape to change—creating the stark contrast of this photograph: the idyllically civilised set against the apocalyptically wild.
On April 12, 2013, Sally Jewell was sworn in as the 51st Secretary of the Interior.
In nominating Jewell, President Obama said, “She is an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future. She is committed to building our nation-to-nation relationship with Indian Country. She knows the link between conservation and good jobs. She knows that there’s no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress; that in fact, those two things need to go hand in hand.”
As Secretary of the Interior, Jewell leads an agency with more than 70,000 employees. Interior serves as steward for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.
Prior to her confirmation, Jewell served in the private sector, most recently as President and Chief Executive Officer of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI).
Interesting conference recap for my resilience, cities, and adaptation readers. Focus seems to have been on public-private partnerships in rebuilding after disasters - getting NGOs, non-profits, and governments together to discuss how to better plan and manage environmental risks. Big fan of the international flavors at this event.
In 2011 a couple of months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear aftermath, the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction, which also hosted the first World Reconstruction Conference, brought together almost 3000 people working on reducing disaster risks and building resilient communities. This included several Heads of State, Ministers, a Managing Director of the World Bank, over 2,600 delegates representing 163 Governments, 25 inter-governmental organizations, 65 non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians, private sector, local government, academic institutions, civil society and international organizations.
The Chair’s Summary of the 2011 event identified 9 ways to place DRR at the forefront to preserve and protect the balance of nature and ensure sustainable development and well-being of future generations. This included supporting local government, drawing on the untapped potential of local actors, building on the role of women as change agents, involving children and youth in decisions that affect their future, engaging the private sector, building on the role of parliamentarians in setting policy, promoting cooperation at the local, national, and regional levels, supporting the scientific and technical communities to inform decisions, and supporting UNISDR in its leadership role in within the UN on DRR.
Why is there a push for self-driving cars? I get monkeying around with technology - there are new things to discover, it’s fun and educational, and of course R&D leads to great products that make our lives easier.
But I am having such a hard time understanding why we need self-driving cars. Our cities and highways are not going away. After all, we’re too dumb to even stripe roads for bike lanes, which require the cheapest tech of all: paint applied by a guy in an orange vest. In this context, self-driving cars seems like a misuse (even abuse) of R&D funds.
To me, self-driving cars seems like the wrong answer to a very old problem: transportation and travel still require very old technologies - e.g., a system of crude roads and fragile highways. Why do we need self-driving cars considering that our cities and towns can barely fill pot holes?
Inspectors discovered 326 deficient levees across the US, whose likely failures could leave millions of people dead.
A breach could demolish homes and cost local governments millions of dollars. By failing to repair the defective structures, the US is choosing to risk the lives of its citizens who are walking on eggshells with their proximity to the flood zones. In its first ever inventory of the nation’s flood control systems, inspectors raised the overdue alarm that hundreds of levees may be unable to regulate water levels and prove useless in face of heavy rains. Such populated cities as Washington DC, Sacramento, Dallas, Cleveland and many others might be flooded at any moment.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has only issued ratings for 58 percent of the 2,487 flood control systems, which means inspectors could still discover hundreds more deficient levees. Many of the earthen levees are crumbling under the effect of trees, shrubs and animal holes. Decaying pipes and pumping stations could also cause the flood control systems downfall, while some of the levees are dangerously close to houses or even have houses built on top of them.
Fed environmental agency tri-fecta complete. Obama has lost Chu, Jackson, and now Salazar.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who overhauled the federal government’s troubled offshore drilling agency after the BP oil spill and locked horns with Republicans over energy policy, plans to step down at the end of March.
Salazar, a former senator, will return to his ranch and family in Colorado, according to the Interior Department.
His tenure has included a heavy focus on developing solar power, wind and other green energy sources on federal lands.
He battled frequently with Republicans who say the Interior Department should allow faster oil-and-gas development on federal lands and make more offshore areas available for drilling.
Salazar’s departure is part of a wider turnover of President Obama’s energy and environment team.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced in December that she plans to depart sometime after Obama’s State of the Union Address, which will be delivered Feb. 12.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu is widely expected to leave as well, although he has not announced any plans.
Salazar, whose ever-present 10-gallon hat and bolo tie showed his Western roots, has been a colorful and sometimes combative chief of the agency that oversees conservation, recreation and oil-and-gas drilling on vast swaths of federal land.
A slide to analyze volcano debris flows? OK! Video shows how scientists in Oregon analyze how volcanic, avalanche, and other debris flows tumble down mountains. The goal is to identify and forecast hazards to protect property and save lives. Especially important in the coming years as mountains hold less snow pack and glaciers continue to melt.
Debris flows are hazardous flows of rock, sediment and water that surge down mountain slopes and into adjacent valleys. Hydrologist Richard Iverson describes the nature of debris-flow research and explains how debris flow experiments are conducted at the USGS Debris Flow Flume, west of Eugene, Oregon. Spectacular debris flow footage, recorded by Franck Lavigne of the Universite Paris, makes clear the destructive power of these flows. Via USGS.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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