Tuesday, March 31, 2015
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Climate Change

Famed Polar Explorer Brings Mission, Amazing Photos, to UM

Polar explorer Will Steger, one of the most accomplished Arctic adventurers of all time, has seen and done things that most mortals can't imagine. In 1986 he led the first dogsled expedition to the North Pole without resupply; in 1988, he traversed Greenland by dogsled, a 1,600-mile trip that was the longest of its kind ever; in 1989 he launched the first dogsled traverse of Antarctica, a seven-month, 3,471-mile journey. What Steger never expected to see was the end of ice. And what he never expected to be doing is what he's engaged in right now: a battle to fight climate change and save the planet. Global warming doubters might refute the scientific studies, Steger says. What they can't do, he believes, is refute eyewitness reports and photos from someone who's explored the territory for 45 years. So Steger has taken the injured Arctic on the road. Read More »

Idaho, Oregon Need To Cut The Smog

A number of states in the West could be impacted by a proposal announced Thursday from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding stricter health standards for smog, replacing a Bush-era limit that ran counter to scientific recommendations. The new limit will likely put hundreds more counties nationwide in violation, a designation that will require them to find additional ways to clamp down on pollution or face government sanctions, most likely the loss of federal highway dollars, according to the EPA. The new standards could impact counties in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada, among numerous others states for the first time based on EPA data. The tighter standards will cost tens of billions of dollars to implement, but will ultimately save billions in avoided emergency room visits, premature deaths, and missed work and school days, the EPA said. Read More »

Long Drought Ahead From Global Warming, Study Says

A University of Montana study led by acclaimed scientist Steven Running shows that climate change will significantly extend drought periods in the Northern Rockies, stressing forests and inviting more frequent and virulent wildfires. Running, the author of the study, is a Regents professor of ecology in UM’s College of Forestry and Conservation and a co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his leading role with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The peer-reviewed study, conducted with the help of other UM forestry researchers, predicts that global warming will have a dramatic impact on regional forests. Rising temperatures could spark an epidemic of insect infestations and cause catastrophic fires in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, "potentially affecting more than 360,000 people who live in homes in the forest-urban interface that are valued at $21 billion," according to a UM announcement about the study. Read More »

Wild Homage: Photos of Flathead Valley Travel to Washington, D.C.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a group of conservation photographers is giving the Flathead an ample voice as an exhibit on the values of and threats to the valley heads to Washington, D.C. The International League of Conservation Photographers, along with the National Parks Conservation Association, spent two weeks in the Flathead River Valley in British Columbia and parts of Glacier National Park documenting the animals, plants and landscape. But, along with the beauty, the photographers also attempted to capture the threats the valley could face in the future. “Here’s a million acres that is pretty much the way it always has been. It’s a very unique valley in that respect,” said Will Hammerquist, Glacier program manager for the NPCA. Read More »

Is UM Green Enough? Yes, and Growing Greener

UM has now launched its new Climate Change Studies minor program, the first of its kind in the nation. Last spring, the Green Thread Initiative held its first workshop to help professors introduce climate and sustainability topics into their curriculum, allowing more environmental dialogue throughout campus. Faculty members across campus are directly addressing different aspects of climate change in their own work, creating an interdisciplinary curriculum and minor through departments from economics to journalism, forestry to ethics, and science to law. Students like me are gaining valuable skills through this strong education in science, society, and solutions to climate change. The Environmental Studies Department is even funding two of us to represent UM at the international climate treaties in Copenhagen this December. My environmental studies major together with this climate minor are providing me critical advocacy skills, and I know that I am not the only student that UM has helped become empowered in enacting change. Read More »

Small Hydro: The Wave of the Future?

Big public utilities these days are turning to the wilderness to produce power -- on streams that are so remote, hardly anyone complains, according to a fine Wall Street Journal story by Jim Carlton. The article kicks off with news about how the Snohomish County Public Utility District (from the area north of Seattle) is building a small hydroelectric-power plant on "picture-perfect" Youngs Creek in the Cascades foothills -- with little opposition. According to the story: "So-called small hydro plants like Youngs Creek are sprouting up across the country, with around 500 potential sites identified by a federal study in Washington state alone." Read More »

Flathead Lakers Grapple With Conservation

The fate of the north shore and a warming lake were two issues attendees were greeted with at the Flathead Lakers annual meeting at Flathead Lake Lodge last week. More than150 landowners and conservationists honored one of the Flathead’s key attractions and heard testimony to the importance of its continued preservation. The shallows, wetlands and sloughs found along the north shore of Flathead Lake, between Somers and the Flathead River, provide for a rich ecosystem frequented by more than 200 species of birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a Waterfowl Production Area along 7 miles of shoreline, but speakers at the meeting voiced concern about the surrounding acreage of farmland that remains at risk of encroaching development. Read More »

UM Native American Lab Snags Big Green Energy Grant

Big dollars for green energy -- and for a unique University of Montana program -- arrived this week at the UM Native American Research Laboratory (NARL), considered the only such research facility in the nation for Native college students. NARL Director Michael Ceballos said the laboratory has received a $300,000 two-year grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new process that boosts the efficiency of ethanol production. The goal is to perfect an enzyme technology that makes celullosic ethanol -- a high octane, renewable fuel produced from the stalks and stems of plants -- easier to make and cheaper to buy. Read More »

Nissan Turns Over New Leaf, Unveils Electric Car

Get your motors running, electric car devotees: Nissan on Sunday unveiled its first all-electric car, the Leaf, according to a report in Grist from Agence France-Presse. Nissan's mid-sized hatchback is slated to go on sale in late 2010 in Japan, the United States, and Europe, the Grist story says. Nissan hopes the pure electric vehicle will "lead the way to a zero-emission future" and attract hordes of eco-conscious buyers, many of whom long for an affordable car that is greener than today's hybrids. The Leaf can travel more than 100 miles on a single charge, with a top speed of 87 miles per hour, Nissan said. Company executives, who held a press conference about the car at Nissan headquarters in Japan, did not give a list price for the Leaf, but said it would cost about the same as a comparable gas-powered model. Read More »