Tag Archives: trees

Trump State of the Union’s brief environmental interlude: more oil, more trees

The reality TV president delivered a reality TV State of the Union Tuesday night. Over the course of 80 sometimes raucous minutes, he awarded a school voucher to a Philadelphia 4th grader, had the first lady present conservative shock jock Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and reunited a military servicemember with his family.

Along the way, he ticked off a checklist of statistics, claims, and promises designed to galvanize his colleagues on the right side of the aisle. The most prominent parts of the speech touted the strong economy, celebrated the administration’s crackdown on immigration, and decried an alleged Democratic attempt to engineer a socialist takeover of healthcare.

One phrase that didn’t pass the president’s lips — to nobody’s surprise — was climate change.

Trump devoted just a few seconds of his address to energy and environmental issues: first by celebrating the massive oil and gas boom that has made the U.S. a net exporter of oil, and later by reiterating his commitment to joining an international initiative to plant one trillion trees worldwide.

The president took credit for the recent increase in domestic fossil fuel production, suggesting that it was his administration’s “bold regulatory reduction campaign” that made the U.S. the top producer of oil and natural gas in the world. But the U.S. actually reached that milestone under the Obama administration. Thanks to the explosion in fracking beginning in 2008, the U.S. became the top producer of natural gas in 2009 and of oil in 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The president then went further, claiming that the boom has made the U.S. “energy independent” — ignoring the fact that the country is still subject to the global oil market, and that turbulence in the Middle East and elsewhere has the ability to affect gas prices in the U.S.

The dramatic increase in stateside oil and gas extraction has also generated environmental and public health consequences that went unacknowledged in Tuesday’s address. Though U.S. emissions likely fell by about two percent last year, those reductions are nowhere close to the cuts required to meet the targets set under the international Paris Agreement, which scientists say are essential to avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Research also suggests that increased pollution from the oil and gas boom could reverse that fragile progress.

Energy and environment have never been a point of emphasis in Trump’s State of the Union addresses. In 2018, the president devoted just two brief sentences to energy independence, focusing instead on immigration and tax cuts. Last year, too, energy and environmental policies were largely absent from his speech, save the passing mention of “an American energy revolution.”

The Trump administration’s decision to join the World Economic Forum’s initiative to plant one trillion trees worldwide is likely too little, too late. For one, if the U.S. is to compensate for all its 2019 emissions, it would need to plant trees on 371 million acres. That’s double the size of Texas.

Successful reforestation programs have also been hard to implement. Last year, Turkey planted 11 million trees, but according to reports from the country’s agriculture and forestry trade union, the vast majority of the saplings inspected died within just a few months. Trees also take decades to reach their full carbon-combating potential. Trees planted today may not reach full growth for 40 years or more — and that’s assuming they survive disease, wildfires, and droughts.

Then there’s the challenge of accurately monitoring and calculating the amount of carbon dioxide that the trees are pulling out of the air. Reporting by ProPublica and other research has found that many programs have grossly overestimated the emissions reductions from reforestation.

In fact, scientists have suggested that when it comes to climate change, conserving current trees is more helpful than planting new ones. Given that the Trump administration expanded logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest just a few months ago, one might be tempted to rip up Trump’s speech in frustration — if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not already done precisely that at the end of the address.

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Trump State of the Union’s brief environmental interlude: more oil, more trees

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Is My Roof Too Shaded for Solar Panels?

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Many people want to install solar panels but their roofs are very shaded. Is it worth it to go solar?

Obviously, solar panels produce more power when they are in direct sunlight, but they do generate some power when shaded. Here are the typical reasons for shady roof areas and how to place solar panels to take advantage of the light that is available.

Solar Orientation

It is ideal to install the solar panels on a south-facing roof.

When the panels point either west or east, they will not get as much direct sun during part of the day. If the panels face east, they will produce a lot of energy in the morning but very little in the late afternoon. The reverse is true if they face west. It is not recommended to install solar panels facing north as they will receive almost no direct sunlight.

To determine the generation loss due to orientation, use the PVWatts calculator tool and edit the azimuth field, which represents the angle at which your solar panels must be placed. 


Although trees are wonderful for so many reasons, they are not necessarily compatible with solar panels unless they are planted on the north side of the home.

Trees on the south side can be most problematic because they can block midday sun, which is very important for overall power production. Trees can also prevent passive solar gains that can keep your heating energy use down in the winter.

There are a few things to keep in mind with trees. They could shade your solar panels more in the colder months when the sun is at a lower angle (especially if you live farther north). It is also important to consider the type of trees and how much they will grow.

Some smaller trees can be pruned to keep them small while some trees are just immense. Deciduous trees will shade your panels less in the winter months than conifers because they lose their leaves. However, even branch shade does have an impact on energy production.

Dormers, Gables, and Chimneys 

These roof features are another culprit for solar electricity production. Aside from strategically placing solar panels where they aren’t shaded, there are few ways to get around these architectural obstacles.

An experienced solar installer will be able to place the panels where they receive the least amount of shading. Unfortunately, this might limit the size of the array.

Other Locations for Solar Panels

Keep in mind that you can install panels on a garage, as an awning, on a carport, or even on a trellis. This will probably increase the installation cost, especially if you need to purchase materials to reinforce the trellis or carport. Yet, these structures can be useful solar locations and provide other benefits. 

Join a Community Solar Farm

Community solar gardens or farms are owned by a group of people or a company. They allow a group of households and businesses to use the renewable energy that off-site solar panels generate without installing the solar panels on their properties. Solar farms are ideal for renters, apartment dwellers, low-income households, and people with shaded roofs.

Some states have legislation in place making this arrangement more feasible and economical. Currently, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, and Colorado are the the top states for community solar farms. But 15 other states also have policies supporting community solar projects, and in several other states, utility providers and other groups are working to offer community solar. If you live in one of these states and have a shaded roof, joining a community solar farm might be a great option.


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The Trees in My Forest – Bernd Heinrich


The Trees in My Forest

Bernd Heinrich

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 13, 2009

Publisher: HarperCollins e-books


Ina book destined to become a classic, biologist and acclaimed nature writer Bernd Heinrich takes readers on an eye-opening journey through the hidden life of a forest.

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The Trees in My Forest – Bernd Heinrich

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One-third of forests aren’t growing back after wildfires.

Forests in the American West are having a harder time recovering from wildfires because of (what else?) climate change, according to new research published in Ecology Letters.

Researchers measured the growth of seedlings in 1,500 wildfire-scorched areas in Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Across the board, they found “significant decreases” in tree regeneration, a benchmark for forest resilience. In one-third of the sites, researchers found zero seedlings.

The warmest, driest forests were hit especially hard.

“Seedlings are more sensitive to warm, dry conditions than mature trees, so if the right conditions don’t exist within a few years following a wildfire, tree seedlings may not establish,” said Philip Higuera, a coauthor of the study.

Earlier this month, a separate study found that ponderosa pine and pinyon forests in the West are becoming less resilient due to droughts and warmer temperatures. Researchers told the New York Times that as trees disappear, some forests could shift to entirely different ecosystems, like grasslands or shrublands.

You’d think the rapid reconfiguration of entire ecosystems would really light a fire under us to deal with climate change, wouldn’t you?

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One-third of forests aren’t growing back after wildfires.

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To reduce obesity and depression, we need more nature in our lives.

U.S. cities are packed with about 5 million medium-sized buildings — schools, churches, community centers, apartment buildings. Most use way more energy than they should. Many also have poor airflow and dirty, out-of-date heating and electrical systems. Those conditions contribute to high inner-city asthma rates and other health concerns.

“These buildings are actually making children sick,” says Donnel Baird, who grew up in such a place. His parents, immigrants from Guyana, raised their kids in a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, relying on a cooking stove for heat. Baird eventually moved to the South and then attended Duke University, before returning to New York as a community organizer in 2008.

In 2013, Baird launched BlocPower, which provides engineering and financial know-how to retrofit city buildings. The technical part is cool: Engineers survey structures with sensors and smartphone apps, figuring out the best ways to reduce energy use, like replacing oil boilers with solar hot water. But the financing is critical; BlocPower builds the case for each project and connects owners with lenders. It has already retrofitted more than 500 buildings in New York and is expanding into Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

“The biggest way for us to reduce carbon emissions right now,” Baird says, “is efficiency.”

Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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To reduce obesity and depression, we need more nature in our lives.

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The Wild Trees – Richard Preston


The Wild Trees

A Story of Passion and Daring

Richard Preston

Genre: Earth Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: April 10, 2007

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

Hidden away in foggy, uncharted rain forest valleys in Northern California are the largest and tallest organisms the world has ever sustained–the coast redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens. Ninety-six percent of the ancient redwood forests have been destroyed by logging, but the untouched fragments that remain are among the great wonders of nature. The biggest redwoods have trunks up to thirty feet wide and can rise more than thirty-five stories above the ground, forming cathedral-like structures in the air. Until recently, redwoods were thought to be virtually impossible to ascend, and the canopy at the tops of these majestic trees was undiscovered. In The Wild Trees , Richard Preston unfolds the spellbinding story of Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and the tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, a world that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored. The canopy voyagers are young–just college students when they start their quest–and they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that there’s nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air. The deep redwood canopy is a vertical Eden filled with mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, hanging gardens of ferns, and thickets of huckleberry bushes, all growing out of massive trunk systems that have fused and formed flying buttresses, sometimes carved into blackened chambers, hollowed out by fire, called “fire caves.” Thick layers of soil sitting on limbs harbor animal and plant life that is unknown to science. Humans move through the deep canopy suspended on ropes, far out of sight of the ground, knowing that the price of a small mistake can be a plunge to one’s death. Preston’s account of this amazing world, by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating, is an adventure story told in novelistic detail by a master of nonfiction narrative. The author shares his protagonists’ passion for tall trees, and he mastered the techniques of tall-tree climbing to tell the story in The Wild Trees –the story of the fate of the world’s most splendid forests and of the imperiled biosphere itself. From the Hardcover edition.


The Wild Trees – Richard Preston

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Tens of millions of trees across the U.S. are dying.

Or so says Lyft’s cofounder and president in a manifesto published on Sunday. John Zimmer writes that he has loved cars ever since getting introduced to Hot Wheels as a 3-year old. But then college ruined all the fun.

“Next time you walk outside, pay really close attention to the space around you,” Zimmer writes, referring to an uncomfortable realization picked up in a city-planning class. “Look at how much land is devoted to cars  — and nothing else.”

For decades now, those with similar epiphanies have concluded that we just need to take that space away from cars, period.

Zimmer proposes something else: a Lyft-branded car subscription service. Composed of both self-driving and people-driven automobiles, it would eliminate the need for private ownership of cars, Zimmer argues. And as this goal gets within reach, the space formerly occupied by parking spots will gradually return to public space.

Zimmer doesn’t have a particular date that this subscription service will be rolled out, which is sensible, because it would have to take a very long time. For now, though, Zimmer’s proposal should be read for what it is — high-quality futurism.

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Tens of millions of trees across the U.S. are dying.

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30 million dead trees could make California wildfires even worse

30 million dead trees could make California wildfires even worse

By on Jun 23, 2016

Cross-posted from

Climate CentralShare

With drought and climate change conspiring to push California’s summer wildfire season into premature overdrive, the state’s lead wildfire agency has acquired a multimillion dollar arsenal to help it cope with unprecedented numbers of dying trees.

California recently bought $6 million worth of chippers, mobile sawmills, portable incinerators, and other equipment to help its firefighters remove some of the nearly 30 million trees that now stand dead across the state, killed by drought and insects.

The equipment is being used as parched southern California landscapes explode in the types of summertime flames that wouldn’t normally be expected until August. Grasses that fattened up following winter storms in central and northern California are expected to fuel major blazes in the weeks ahead.

“The more time that goes by, the drier the fuels are going to become,” said Tom Rolinski, a U.S. Forest Service meteorologist who forecasts fire conditions in southern California. “As this summer unfolds and we get into the August and September timeframes, the fuels are going to be that much drier, and we’re probably going to see more intense fires.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, normally called CAL FIRE, which is charged with protecting tens of millions of acres of mostly private land, responded to about 250 fires last week — an unusually large number for mid-June.

On Tuesday, CAL FIRE was working with other agencies to try to contain two major blazes in southern California as firefighters in other Southwestern states also battled big fires amid record-breaking heat.

The fires are being fueled by droughts exacerbated by warming temperatures, which scientists have linked to climate change and to the natural whims of the weather.

“Warming causes fuels to be drier than they would otherwise be,” said Park Williams, who researches ecology and climate change at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Whether that corresponds to a large area burned for California this year will depend on human activities and individual weather events.”

Even as firefighters in California toil to battle the extraordinary blazes, they’re being forced to deal with another extraordinary phenomenon: the widespread dying of trees.

About 30 million trees across the state are estimated to have died, succumbing to attacks by beetles because of the weakening effects of drought.

“It’s the drought that sort of sets it off, and then it lets the beetles get out of hand,” said Roger Bales, a professor at the University of California, Merced.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency in the fall because of the unprecedented die-offs, helping to free up funds needed to remove and dispose of some of them. CAL FIRE hired hundreds of seasonal workers early this year to help remove dead trees and clear out other potential fuel for fires.

While ecologists value dead trees as natural assets that provide holes and logs needed by wildlife, firefighters view them as safety hazards that can crash down on roads, power lines, and homes, and that could potentially fuel bigger blazes.

The “scale of this tree die-off is unprecedented in modern history,” Brown’s emergency declaration stated, worsening wildfire risks and erosion threats and creating “life safety risks from falling trees.”

A group of ecologists formally objected to the emergency declaration, arguing in a letter to Brown that dead trees are natural and necessary parts of Californian landscapes. They pointed to a growing body of research downplaying the wildfire hazards posed by trees killed by beetles.

Dead pines photographed during an aerial survey last year in Los Padres National Forest.U.S. Forest Service

One of those ecologists, Chad Hanson, director of a small California nonprofit, says he agrees that dead trees that pose falling hazards should be removed. But he said trunks should be left on the ground to provide habitat instead of being incinerated or removed. “Once you fell the trees, they’re no longer a hazard,” he said.

Summertime fires in California cause less property damage than the fires that are fanned by dry Santa Ana winds in the fall and winter, but they sap more firefighting resources, research published last year showed.

“We were really trying to figure out how fires will change in southern California in the future,” said James Randerson, a University of California, Irvine earth scientist who contributed to the study. “What we realized early on is that there are two distinct fire types.”

While the effects of climate change on Santa Ana winds fires remain riddled with uncertainty, scientists are generally convinced that the parching effects of global warming will lead to bigger, longer, and more damaging summertime blazes in California — if they aren’t already doing so.

That suggests the intense and early summer fire seasons in this and other recent drought-stricken years may have been less an aberration and more a bellwether of something that CAL FIRE officials frequently describe as a “new normal” for firefighters.

With more greenhouse gas pollution piling into the atmosphere daily, continuing to warm the planet toward a 2 degrees F increase from preindustrial times, and with warmer weather exacerbating droughts, mass tree die-offs could become routine features of Western landscapes.

Not only would that eliminate or shrink some forests, driving them northward or uphill toward cooler climates, it could also force increasingly overworked firefighting agencies to juggle the additional routine task of managing dead trees.

CAL FIRE is focusing its tree removal efforts in areas where most trees have died and where the dead trees pose the most immediate dangers.

“We’re focused on high hazard areas with the greatest threat to life safety and critical infrastructure,” CAL FIRE spokeswoman Janet Upton said. “There are literally hundreds of thousands of acres, and growing, affected by the unprecedented scope and magnitude of tree mortality.”


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Climate change leaves trees out to dry

spoiler alert

Climate change leaves trees out to dry

By on 6 Jul 2015commentsShare

The drought may be killing lawns, but whatever — they’re useless. When drought starts going after trees, however, that’s another matter. As year four of California’s drought rolls around, the magical, shade-providing carbon sinks are starting to perish, thanks to a lack of rain and a more recent lack of lawn irrigation.

It turns out all that profligate sprinkling was feeding California’s trees — and when cities cracked down on turf, they inadvertently starved out the more useful urban greenery. And while this one’s partly on us — maybe we should have realized that all those trees need to drink, too — we can give climate change (which is ultimately on us as well) a lot of the credit for this fun development. Climate change, you’ve done it again! Everyone else: Welcome back to Spoiler Alerts.

Here’s the story from Al Jazeera:

Nature has already killed an estimated 12 million trees in California’s forests since the drought began four years ago — most falling victim to an outbreak of the bark beetle pests that attack trees weakened by drought.

Now, trees in city parks, along boulevards and in residential neighborhoods are dying because homeowners, businesses and municipalities have stopped watering.

“The reaction was to turn off irrigation in many locations,” said John Melvin, urban forester at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “If you do that, you lose a long-lived community asset. A tree is not something that can be easily replaced.”

Trees are a big part of what makes a city green — literally, but also figuratively, thanks to the energy they save on AC:

A recent report by the U.S Department of Agriculture Forest Service show that the number of street trees in California have not kept up with population growth. The 9.1 million street trees make up 10 percent to 20 percent of the state’s total urban forest. The report also found that tree density has declined 30 percent since 1988 “as cities added more streets than trees.” Tree density fell from 105.5 trees per mile to 75 trees per mile in that period.

Despite that, the agency estimates that California street trees save the amount of electricity equivalent to what’s required to air condition 530,000 households every year.

The conclusion? Radically simple, says Melvin:

“It’s OK to appropriately water trees.”

Trees are latest victims of California’s four-year drought

, Al Jazeera America.



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Future forests to be smaller, less majestic

Fe Fi Fo Bummer

Future forests to be smaller, less majestic

By on 21 Jan 2015commentsShare

To the list of ways climate change is slowly but surely rewriting the world as we know it, add “making forests less awesome.” A new study suggests that since the 1930s California has lost half of its biggest trees — those with a trunk over two feet in diameter — even in forests protected from logging and development. The study corroborates earlier findings that Yosemite’s pines are growing to smaller average sizes.

The researchers believe climate change is a major factor. Dwindling snowpack and rising temperatures mean plants have unreliable water supplies during the dry season, and they also lose water at a higher rate. Less water means trees aren’t growing as big.

The study, which surveyed 46,000 square miles of Golden State woodlands, found especially steep losses in Southern California’s forests, where the water deficit was most serious. But even tracts along the state’s foggy northern coast and northern Sierra high country suffered: The latter saw more than half of its largest trees vanish. From National Geographic:

Large trees in general appear to be more vulnerable to a water shortfall, [lead author Patrick McIntyre] said. Though it’s not clear why, one reason may be that in large, tall trees the internal hydraulic system that pumps water from roots to leaves is more susceptible to failing when water is short. Another factor could be that many of those trees sprouted centuries ago, when California’s climate was colder, said Jim Lutz, a Utah State University forest ecologist and lead author of the Yosemite study.

Since the study relied on surveys taken before the ongoing four-year California drought began, it’s hard to say how bad things now look for the state’s famous postcard giants, the sequoias and redwoods. But it’s almost certainly worse — and that means more than just a loss of wow factor:

Beyond their romantic grandeur, big trees play an outsized ecological role. They produce more seeds, resist wildfire damage, and store more carbon than their smaller brethren; rare animals such as spotted owls and flying squirrels live in their cavities.

Climate change isn’t even necessarily the most immediate danger. Add the pressures of a growing population, ongoing development, and overzealous fire suppression that leaves many small trees all vying for resources that would sustain a few large ones, and you have a future with far fewer giants in it.

California’s Forests: Where Have All the Big Trees Gone?

, National Geographic.



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Future forests to be smaller, less majestic

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