Get Involved

What's blooming on the citizen science front


Support for Climate Policy High in California

Three-quarters of Californians believe climate change is a serious threat to the state’s economy. And a majority thinks we need to act now to reduce emissions, rather than wait until the economy improves. These are among the findings of a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California

“Californians really believe that in our state there’s an opportunity to have a better environment and a better economy through addressing climate change,” concludes Mark Baldassare, who directed the survey and says Californians believe — by a two-to-one margin — that climate change policies, like requiring more renewable energy, will create jobs.

The survey also finds overwhelming bipartisan support for requirements mandating more fuel efficient cars (81%), “greener” buildings and appliances (74%), requiring utilities to increase renewable energy sources (82%), and for requiring industry to reduce emissions (82%). Continue reading

Visualizing California Climate Change

An engrossing one-stop shop for California’s climate future goes online

If you’re like me, and you spend a good part of every day thinking about climate change and California, you may have already lost yourself in the treasure trove of climate data and mapping fun that is Cal-Adapt, a comprehensive series of online tools just released by  the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Energy Commission.

And if you’re not like me, it’s still worth checking out.

Built by UC Berkeley’s Geospatial Innovation Facility, Cal-Adapt is designed to aid local and regional planners in preparing to adapt to climate change by providing scientific data from institutions like Scripps Institute of Oceanography, U.S. Geological Survey, UC Merced, and the Pacific Institute, and integrating it with mapping and charting capabilities from Google. The result is an attractive, interactive experience that enables you to view potential future climate-related scenarios for any location in California, and to sort by topics such as sea level rise, wildfire, and snowpack.  Importantly, data sources are prominently displayed. Continue reading

High Marks but Few Takers on California Transit

So…if Bay Area transit is so good, why don’t more people use it?

(Photo: Craig Miller)

A new study from the Brookings Institution finds that compared with the rest of the nation, the Bay Area offers pretty good public transportation options.

Among 100 major metropolitan areas, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont ranks 16th, and San Jose-Santa Clara-Sunnyvale ranks second.  Areas were ranked according to how accessible transit is to riders, how long it takes to get to work on transit and how often the systems run during rush hours.

So…if Bay Area transit is so good, why doesn’t anybody seem to take it?

Just one out of ten people in the Bay Area commute by public transportation, according to John Goodwin of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He says that number hasn’t changed much over the years, despite huge investments in the system. And the Bay Area isn’t alone in that. A recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that between 1990 and 2008, the share of commuters taking transit increased by less than one percentage point, from 5% to 5.5%, despite the construction of 217 new rail stations, and the fact that more than a third of California’s transportation spending since the early 1980s has gone to public transit.
Continue reading

Climate: The Next Generation

What do they want? Climate Justice! When do they want it? You guessed it.

Young activists are taking to the streets to call for immediate action against climate change.

Young people rallied for climate action on Mothers' Day in San Francisco and ten other California cities and towns. (Photo: Chris Penalosa)

Youth turned out in eleven cities across California over the weekend in a series of coordinated demonstrations.

Dubbed the i-Matter marches, youth from Eureka to San Diego and from grammar school to college, demanded “climate justice” for their generation. The marches follow a recent lawsuit filed by young people against the Federal government and all 50 states, to force more aggressive reductions of greenhouse gases. Continue reading

Saving Redwoods: There’s an App for That

Redwoods: There's an app for that. (Photo: Michael Limm)

We’re not the only ones who think iNaturalist is pretty cool. Save the Redwoods does, too.

The San Francisco-based conservation organization has teamed up with the biodiversity-tracking social networking site to create an iPhone app exclusively for monitoring redwood and giant sequoia forests. It’s called Redwood Watch. It uses the same technology as the iNaturalist iPhone app, aggregating data on a special Redwoods page within

“We hope that this will help us have a better idea of where redwoods are, and then we can use that data to understand what kinds of conditions they can tolerate,” said Emily Limm, director of science and planning for Save the Redwoods. Continue reading

Planners Seek Public Input on Bay Area Growth

How do you want the Bay Area to look in 2040?

Tonight the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) kicks off the first of nine “Plan Bay Area” workshops, aimed at gathering public input on plans for sustainable growth in the region. The planning agency is seeking comment on the Initial Vision Scenario, which was released by MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) last month.  This scenario is the first draft of the Bay Area’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, a planning document required under the state law, SB 375, which was passed in 2008 and requires planning regions throughout California to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars by integrating land-use and transportation planning.

The Bay Area, Sacramento, and San Diego
have some of the most aggressive reductions targets: seven percent per capita by 2020 and 13-16% by 2035 (compared to 2005 levels).  The South Coast (by far the biggest region, including Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Ventura, and other counties) is shooting for an eight percent reduction by 2020, and 13% by 2035.
Continue reading

To Shrink Carbon Footprints, One Size Doesn’t Fit All

While turning down your thermostat, taking public transportation, and buying locally grown food could all reduce your household’s carbon emissions, just how effective each of those individual strategies is depends on who you are and where you live, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.

The study, authored by Christopher M. Jones and Danial Kammen of Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), analyzed thousands of different “types” of typical carbon footprints by looking at households in all 50 states, including six different household sizes and 12 different income brackets.  They used data from the US Labor Department’s Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The results of the analysis are summarized in a new “carbon calculator” that can help people estimate their carbon footprints and identify the areas where lifestyle changes would have the largest impact.  Users can also compare their footprints to similar households in their own area.
Continue reading

Time for “Creosote Bush” National Park?

It’s not time to rename Joshua Tree just yet, says the author of a new study.

Climate change is threatening the Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park all right, according to a new report. But unlike the findings of recently-published study,  this report finds the park’s iconic, spiky namesake is unlikely to completely vacate the premises over the next century.

The new report was funded in part by Joshua Tree National Park, and its author Cameron Barrows, a researcher at UC Riverside’s Center for Conservation Biology, says that he conducted it partly in response to the recent study by Ken Cole of the USGS, which found that the trees would likely be gone from the park within the next 90 years.

“I facetiously say if that was to happen, we’d have to rename the park ‘Creosote Bush National Park’ or something like that,” said Barrows.  “It would be really sad if that’s the case.”
Continue reading

Goldman Prize Winners Reflect Energy, Water Concerns

2011 Prize winner Ursula Sladek (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

The 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize winners were honored in San Francisco last night. In a ceremony at the Opera House, they were each awarded $150,000 for their grassroots work addressing pressing environmental issues around the world.

Environmental degradation from energy production is a common theme in the work of at least half the winners: Dmitry Lisitsyn, who’s worked to protect the ecosystems of Sakhalin Island from rapid destruction caused by companies exploiting the region’s petroleum reserves; Hilton Kelley, for environmental justice work on the Texas Gulf Coast, a region plagued with air-quality-related health problems due to emissions from the major refineries and petrochemical plants in the area; and Ursula Sladek, who created Germany’s first cooperatively-owned renewable power company. Continue reading

How “Tsunami-Ready” Are You?

Crescent City has the drill down

A sign along Highway 101 in Crescent City marks the tsunami hazard zone. Officials say they can evacuate the hazard zone in about two hours. (Photo: Craig Miller)

Of course, after facing down 34 tsunami events in the past 100 years, I suppose they should have it down. When I was there to cover the aftermath of the March 11 event that pretty much took out the working harbor, it was clear that the possibility of a seismically-triggered surge is never far from the public consciousness in Del Norte County.

“It’s here with us from the names of buildings to the names of the businesses,” Cindy Henderson told me. “Tsunami is our world. So yeah, it is a very big threat,” said Henderson, who heads emergency services for the county. “We do have others we have to prepare for but in the backs of our minds, we are always thinking about tsunamis — every time there’s a big earthquake.” Continue reading