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Solar Hot Spots and Clean Energy Potential Pinpointed in New Maps
How will Los Angeles County prepare for a warmer future? And what role could clean energy investments play?
A joint project of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation—Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER)—provides new data designed to help the public and policymakers prepare for the effects of climate change, from current environmental health risks to estimated temperature increases and climate change vulnerability throughout the region. It can also be used by communities to help identify opportunities to invest in projects that will create renewable energy jobs and cut electricity bills.
Solar Atlas” (2011). UCLA used and modified data from the Los Angeles County Chief Information Office, the
Los Angeles County Solar Map. http://solarmap.lacounty.gov. Disadvantaged communities are outlined in grey lines and identified per California Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, “California Communities Environmental Health Screening Tool Version 2.0” (2014). http://oehha.ca.gov/ej/ces2.html.
“The project is timely because with new state funding sources becoming available, LASER can help inform how the region invests resources to address pressing environmental challenges while providing job opportunities in its most impacted communities,” said Colleen Callahan, lead author of the study and deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.
The data-driven mapping tool, by parcel-level analysis, illustrates the area’s renewable energy potential through rooftop solar energy generation and energy efficiency measures. L.A. County presently has about 98 percent of its solar capacity untapped. The tool points out that if the county achieved only 10 percent of its rooftop solar potential, it would generate 47,000 jobs and cut almost 2.5 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.
The release today of the newest version of LASER is part of UCLA's "Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles" project, which sets a goal for the region to use solely renewable energy and local water by 2050, and a response to President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, which calls for leveraging public data to stimulate collaboration and innovation in support of national climate change preparedness.
LASER was highlighted in a White House announcement emphasizing ongoing efforts to broadly advance the initiative. “Through his Climate Data Initiative, President Obama is calling for all hands on deck to unleash data and technology in ways that will make businesses and communities more resilient to climate change,” said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor. “The commitments being announced today answer that call.”
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By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
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