Author Archives: Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported, produced and blogged on health, climate change and local news for KQED in San Francisco.

California Expects $1 Billion From Carbon Trading

And that’s just for starters — but how that money will be spent is still up in the air

California's cap and trade program will kick into gear when the state holds its first emissions allowance auction, in August.

There might be more money in the first year of California’s cap-and-trade program than expected. Governor Brown’s 2012-2013 budget includes $1 billion in revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program, ramping up this year as part of California’s 2006 climate legislation, known as AB 32.

That might seem surprising since 90% of initial permits to emit greenhouse gases will be given away to industry. But number-crunchers at the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) say that selling just ten percent of allowances at auction could generate that much cash. The price for an emission allowance has not been set, but projections range from $10-$40 per credit, which means that the state might garner even more than $1 billion in the bargain. Continue reading

Climate Science in Schools: the Next “Evolution”

An Oakland group vows to keep climate science in the classroom.

Some science teachers face opposition from students, parents and even administrators when they teach basic climate science.

As the climate change debate creeps into classrooms across the country, an Oakland non-profit vows to stem the tide of climate denial in California. They also plan to conduct a comprehensive review of science textbooks to help teachers separate the sound from the shaky in climate science.

The Oakland-based National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has announced that it will now offer support to teachers facing resistance to climate science in the classroom, similar to their long-standing work to keep the instruction of evolution in schools. “We’ve already had a couple of calls along the lines of, ‘I know you guys do evolution, but I’ve got this problem with [teaching] climate change and do you have any suggestions for me,’” said Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of NSCE.
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Low Flows Endanger Russian River Coho Salmon

The abnormally dry winter weather is causing problems for more than just ski resorts in the Sierra.

Coho salmon turn red in their spawning stage.

The endangered coho salmon, which has slowly been making a comeback, faces another threat, this time from low flows in the Russian River.

Bob Norberg of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat has been reporting on the plight of the coho.

A major difficulty brought by reduced rain is the fish are still in the Russian River’s main stem rather than in the tributaries where they are usually spawning by now.

As a result, the Sonoma County Water Agency is distributing 20,000 cards with pictures and identifying characteristics at places where fishing licenses are purchased, in addition to the 20,000 printed two years ago.

“We kept hearing from people that there were coho in the river and we were hearing that the anglers would not be able to tell the difference and they would keep the coho,” said Ann DuBay, water agency spokeswoman.

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A Few May Lose Big as Delta Changes: How to Contain the Cost

A new report warns that some islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta may not be worth saving.

Increased flood risk in the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta has people worried about the economic impact on the farmers and residents located there.

Here’s the bad news for Delta farmers: A new report concludes that the worst climate impacts on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could affect a relatively small number of people — the farmers whose land is below sea level and protected by a vast system of levees. Maintaining and repairing those levees falls on local reclamation districts, which can’t necessarily count on state or federal bailouts in the event of catastrophic flooding in the future. It can be expensive if a levee breaks. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) studied the economic impacts of changes to the fragile Delta ecosystem and has produced some recommendations that are not likely to warm the hearts of some Delta landowners. Continue reading

Drain it! Pay More for the Water! The Hetch-Hetchy Saga Continues

San Francisco’s use of the Hetch-Hetchy Valley to store 85% of its water has come under fire…again.

The Yosemite Valley offers some of the most spectacular views in California. Some people would like to see the Hetch-Hetchy Valley restored to a similar state.

Over the past couple of weeks San Francisco’s water supply and fixed annual fees for that water have come under attack by Republican Congressmen from other parts of the state. The first parry came from Representative Dan Lungren who represents the area stretching east from Sacramento. Lungren has a self-proclaimed “love affair” with Yosemite and thinks it’s worth spending some money to find out if restoring the valley is feasible. On KQED’s Forum program, Lungren argued that, “The possibility that we might have a second Yosemite Valley is something that at least I believe ought to be looked at. And yet everyone who opposes us seems to be afraid of looking at the facts.”

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Keeping Central Valley Crops and People Safe From Floods: A Costly Proposition

Big plans to revamp the Valley’s piecemeal flood management system…if there’s money for it

Now that the state’s revamped Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (big PDF) is out for public perusal, the question is whether the political will — and the cash — will be there to make it happen.

California's status as an agricultural powerhouse is largely due to the fertile lands in the Central Valley, which are also prone to floods.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins run through the valley and can overflow their banks threatening more than a million people and an estimated $69 billion in assets, according to the report. The current flood management system has been in place for about a hundred years and was designed specifically to keep water from the rivers off the land so that people could grow crops. Now the system has varied uses including conservation of habitat, water supply and water quality. The old system really isn’t up to the job anymore and almost everyone agrees that it will take a serious investment to bring it up to snuff.

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American Pika Gets Another Shot at Endangered Status

The American pika can only survive within a narrow temperature band and can suffer heat stroke at temperatures as mild as 80 degrees.

The California Fish and Game Commission is asking for public input on the status of the American pika. The small, alpine mammal has been at the center of a prolonged debate over whether to list it under the Endangered Species Act. If the pika ultimately wins endangered status it would be the first species to do so with climate change cited as a major factor contributing to its decline. The Center for Biological Diversity originally petitioned for the pika to receive protected status, considering it to be a bellwether for climate change in California. Continue reading

Soot in Your Stocking: A Spate of Spare-the-Air Days in the Bay Area

Don’t light that Yule Log just yet

30% of the particulate matter found in the air during the winter comes from wood smoke.

If it seems like we’ve had a lot of Spare-the-Air days recently in the Bay Area, you’re right. Wednesday will bring the total to eight air quality alerts since November 1st, when the season began.

Blame the weather. Last year there were only four all season, November-February, mostly because it was so rainy. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the agency responsible for issuing the alerts, has recorded up to 20 in a single winter. So eight in a month and a half is pretty significant, though it’s hard to know if the trend will continue since weather patterns change constantly.

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SolarCity’s Military Deal a Boost for the Biz

A rooftop solar array on a home in Vacaville.

SolarCity’s announcement this week that the company is moving forward with a massive military housing solar project, may be more than just a boost for one company. It’s another indication that despite a turbulent few months, the solar industry is alive and thriving.

By itself it’s a big deal that SolarCity and Bank of America Merill Lynch are teaming up without a government loan guarantee. That isn’t traditionally how it’s been done. Private investors usually like the security of a guarantee before they get into a big, risky investment. But in an interview with KQED’s Lauren Sommer, SolarCity’s CEO Lyndon Rive says this investment isn’t actually very risky, “We’re selling electricity; the consumer needs it. It’s not like you are financing a car where they can skip on their financing payments. It is a necessity.”

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