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Updated: 27 min 59 sec ago

Clean Water Rule Protects Streams and Wetlands Critical to Public Health, Communities, and Economy

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 04:55

By EPA.gov

Does not create any new permitting requirements and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions

In an historic step for the protection of clean water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule today to clearly protect from pollution and degredation the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.

The rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry. The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.

“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”

“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. “This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act. This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide.”

People need clean water for their health: About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule. America’s cherished way of life depends on clean water, as healthy ecosystems provide wildlife habitat and places to fish, paddle, surf, and swim. Clean and reliable water is an economic driver, including for manufacturing, farming, tourism, recreation, and energy production. The health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters are impacted by the streams and wetlands where they begin.

Protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex, and time-consuming as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. EPA and the Army are taking this action today to provide clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act after receiving requests for over a decade from members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public for a rulemaking.

In developing the rule, the agencies held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country, reviewed over one million public comments, and listened carefully to perspectives from all sides. EPA and the Army also utilized the latest science, including a report summarizing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies which showed that small streams and wetlands play an integral role in the health of larger downstream water bodies.

Climate change makes protection of water resources even more essential. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Impacts from climate change like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures threaten the quantity and quality of America’s water. Protecting streams and wetlands will improve our nation’s resilience to climate change.

Specifically, the Clean Water Rule:

  • Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters. The Clean Water Act protects navigable waterways and their tributaries. The rule says that a tributary must show physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark – to warrant protection. The rule provides protection for headwaters that have these features and science shows can have a significant connection to downstream waters.
  • Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters. The rule protects waters that are next to rivers and lakes and their tributaries because science shows that they impact downstream waters. The rule sets boundaries on covering nearby waters for the first time that are physical and measurable.
  • Protects the nation’s regional water treasures. Science shows that specific water features can function like a system and impact the health of downstream waters. The rule protects prairie potholes, Carolina and Delmarva bays, pocosins, western vernal pools in California, and Texas coastal prairie wetlands when they impact downstream waters.
  • Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.
  • Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. The rule does not change how those waters are treated and encourages the use of green infrastructure.
  • Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters. Previously, almost any water could be put through a lengthy case-specific analysis, even if it would not be subject to the Clean Water Act. The rule significantly limits the use of case-specific analysis by creating clarity and certainty on protected waters and limiting the number of similarly situated water features.

A Clean Water Act permit is only needed if a water is going to be polluted or destroyed. The Clean Water Rule only protects the types of waters that have historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. It does not regulate most ditches and does not regulate groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains. It does not make changes to current policies on irrigation or water transfers or apply to erosion in a field. The Clean Water Rule addresses the pollution and destruction of waterways – not land use or private property rights.

The rule protects clean water necessary for farming, ranching, and forestry and provides greater clarity and certainty to farmers about coverage of the Clean Water Act. Farms across America depend on clean and reliable water for livestock, crops, and irrigation. The final rule specifically recognizes the vital role that U.S. agriculture serves in providing food, fuel, and fiber at home and around the world. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for America’s farmers. Activities like planting, harvesting, and moving livestock have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and the Clean Water Rule preserves those exemptions.

The Clean Water Rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

More information: www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule and http://www.army.mil/asacw

Categories: Ecological News

Get a (Red) Nose Job

Thu, 05/21/2015 - 09:51
May 21, 2015 is the inaugural USA Red Nose Day It’s a tough act to follow…

For 30 years, the Brits with all their dour, dry humor, have raked in mega bucks in their Red Nose Day, a fundraiser for impoverished children at home and abroad, presented by the BBC.

This year, the first Red Nose Day USA is being celebrated and broadcast in a special 3-hour live event on NBC tonight, May 21. Walgreens and M&Ms are co-partnering the event.

Every Little Bit Helps

For many, the concept of charity giving to any extent that can make a difference is defined by the likes of the Gates Foundation, Angelina Jolie, Robert Redford, who give millions of dollars to support various causes, many aimed at reducing poverty around the world.

Comic Relief brought Red Nose Day to the people, giving them the opportunity to laugh and have fun, all the while making it possible to donate small amounts to help a huge cause. This concept works in the UK and the hoopla surrounding the first U.S. RND indicates that the concept of fun and giving will work here in the United States.

With climate change wreaking havoc around the globe, help is desperately needed, not just in rural areas of Africa and Asia, but here in the United States. Drought is threatening children and families in California’s Central Valley; fierce tornadoes have whipped through southern states, leaving devastation in their wake – and children and families in dire need.

In Africa and Asia, where poverty is a way of life to many, funds from charity events such as this, bring much needed help to those in need.

The charities earmarked to receive funds from this RND event are already on the ground helping the needy, and this extravaganza will help them continue their work.

Comic Relief, the 501(c)(3) charity and sister site to the UK charity of the same name is the lead fundraiser for the event, with 12 charities slated to benefit from the fundraiser. The pre-selected charity partners are Boys & Girls Clubs of America; charity: water; Children’s Health Fund; Feeding America; Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund; LIFT; National Council of La Raza; National Urban League; Oxfam America; Save the Children and United Way.

The Fun-Raiser

The line-up for this event is spectacular! Ed Sheeran, Josh Groban, Christian Slater, Al Roker, Andy Cohen, Kellan Lutz, Kermit the Frog Julia Roberts, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Blake Shelton, Richard Gere, Reese Witherspoon, Jack Black, Michelle Rodriguez, Julianne Moore, Pharrell, One Direction, Keith Urban, John Mellencamp, John Krasinski, Zac Efron, Nick Cannon are just a few of the stars who will be joining hosts Seth Meyers, David Duchovny and Jane Krakowski. Each host will present and hour-long portion of the show that is happening at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.

The UK version of the event, one of the BBC’s highest-rated Friday night shows has raised over $1 billion in donations over the past 30 years. It will be fun to see if the original concept of creator/producer Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones Diary,” “Notting Hill”), that “mass media and celebrities can help raise money and increase awareness of poverty in order to save and change millions of lives” is a viable concept in the U.S.

Go to the Red Nose Day site to donate – all amounts, large or small, are greatly appreciate by those on the receiving end.

Categories: Ecological News

Rhino Return to Samburu

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 22:29

By Wanjiku Kinuthia
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Critically endangered black rhino reintroduced to a native habitat 25 years after the last individual was poached in the area

Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Monday (May 18, 2015) the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy have embarked on a relocation programme in a bid to expand black rhino habitat in the country, and boost populations of the iconic species.

At least 20 preselected rhinos will be moved from Lewa, Nakuru and Nairobi National Parks to a sanctuary within the community owned and operated Sera Community Conservancy.

Two rhino have already been successfully moved and released to their new home.

This will be the first time in East Africa a local community will be responsible for the protection and management of the highly threatened black rhino, signaling a mind shift in Kenya’s conservation efforts. This pioneering move demonstrates the Government of Kenya’s confidence in the local community, and materialises the promise to support community-based conservation initiatives as provided for by the new Wildlife Act, 2013.

It is expected that the presence of black rhino in Samburu County will be a significant boost to tourism in the area whilst providing new job opportunities for local communities. Parts of the Sanctuary will also be set aside for dry season grazing for local herders, and the community look forward to increased overall security in the area.

The candidates earmarked for translocation range from six and a half years to 20 years old. Candidates are meant to reflect natural demographics and encourage natural breeding conditions. All animals will be fitted with satellite-based transmitters for close monitoring. The community rangers have been trained by Lewa and KWS in data gathering, anti-poaching operations, bush craft and effective patrolling – and will have the back up of the Lewa, NRT and KWS Anti-Poaching Units.

According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature, populations of the Eastern black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) plummeted by 98% between 1960 and 1995 primarily as a result of poaching and hunting.

However, conservation efforts have managed to stabilise and increase numbers in most of the black rhino’s former ranges since then. Kenya’s population has increased from 381 since 1987 to a current estimate of 640. It is projected to rise significantly in the near future, especially with growing partnerships between government, communities and conservation organisations. It is hoped that the new rhino sanctuary will benefit Kenya’s black rhino population

Sera Community Conservancy, established in 2001is a member of NRT umbrella. It is governed by a council of elders, an elected board of trustees, a management team and the residing communities which include the Samburu, Rendille and Borana.

This translocation is jointly supported by Samburu County Government, USAID, The Lundin Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, San Diego Zoo, St. Louis Zoo, Tusk Trust, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Zurich Zoo, and several private philanthropists.

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is an award-winning catalyst and model for community conservation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features on the IUCN Green List of successful protected areas. Lewa is the heart of wildlife conservation, sustainable development and responsible tourism in northern Kenya and its successful working model has provided the framework on which many conservation organisations in the region are based. www.lewa.org

The Northern Rangelands Trust is an umbrella organisation that aims to establish resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources. There are now 27 NRT-member community conservancies across northern and coastal Kenya, home to over 300,000 people who are managing over 31,000 square kilometres of land and safeguarding a wide range of species and habitats. NRT is now widely seen as a model of how to support community conservancies, and its success has helped shape new government regulations on establishing, registering and managing community conservancies in Kenya. www.nrt-kenya.org

The Kenya Wildlife Service is a State Corporation established by the Act of Parliament, CAP 376, (now repealed by Wildlife Act, 2013) with a mandate to conserve and manage wildlife in Kenya. It also has a sole jurisdiction over 27 both terrestrial and marine National Parks and oversight role in the management of 28 national reserves and private sanctuaries.www.kws.go.ke

Categories: Ecological News

Link Forests into Food Security Efforts, UN Told

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 04:23

By SciDevNet

International efforts to address food insecurity must pay more attention to the role forests play in food production, say a panel of scientists.

A report issued on 6 May (see video) by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), a body convened by the United Nations, says forests should be considered as food sources, rather than just areas for conservation. It says the concerns of people living in or near forests should be included in the final version of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which currently focuses on ending hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture.

The report warns that most governments separate forests from food production when making policy, usually having different departments deal with each. As a result, the two areas must compete for funding and political attention, and policies that benefit one may harm the other, according to the report’s authors.

“The report’s main emphasis is to recognise the complementary role of forests to agriculture and promote the awareness that we already depend on forests for supplementing conventional agriculture,” says Bhaskar Vira, director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute in the United Kingdom and chair of the IUFRO’s Expert Panel on Forests and Food Security, which produced the study.

Governments own around 80 per cent of global forests, the report says, but management rights are increasingly being transferred to indigenous communities. The authors say that ensuring local people have access to forest resources is vital to helping them sustain a nutritious diet.


Watch the report’s presentation at the UN

Vira says existing policies to end hunger have largely neglected the value that forest foods — for example, fruits, seeds and wild meat — can add to people’s diets.

Another advantage of making better use of forests in food production is that it would strengthen local people’s ability to resist environmental changes, the report says. Vira says forests appear to be a more-resilient food source under extreme weather conditions caused by climate change than field-based agriculture.

The report’s message of paying more attention to forests in the SDGs was echoed by Dominic White, head of international development at the United Kingdom branch of conservation charity WWF.

“Sustainable development depends on the maintenance of healthy forests and the services they provide,” he tells SciDev.Net. “It is essential that the global community agrees strong SDGs and puts the intelligent management of natural capital at the heart of social and economic development.”

References
Forests, trees and landscapes for food security and nutrition — A global assessment report (International Union of Forest Research Organizations)

Categories: Ecological News

Human Security at Risk as Soil Depletion Accelerates, Scientists Warn

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 02:43

By Sarah Yang
UC Berkeley News Center

Scientists warn that humans have been depleting soil at rates that are orders of magnitude greater than our current ability to replenish it. They say that fixing this imbalance is critical to global food security over the next century.

Steadily and alarmingly, humans have been depleting Earth’s soil resources faster than the nutrients can be replenished. If this trajectory does not change, soil erosion, combined with the effects of climate change, will present a huge risk to global food security over the next century, warns a review paper authored by some of the top soil scientists in the country.

The paper singles out farming, which accelerates erosion and nutrient removal, as the primary game changer in soil health.

“Ever since humans developed agriculture, we’ve been transforming the planet and throwing the soil’s nutrient cycle out of balance,” said the paper’s lead author, Ronald Amundson, a UC Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy and management. “Because the changes happen slowly, often taking two to three generations to be noticed, people are not cognizant of the geological transformation taking place.”

In the paper, published today (Thursday, May 7) in the journal Science, the authors say that soil erosion has accelerated since the industrial revolution, and we’re now entering a period when the ability of soil, “the living epidermis of the planet,” to support the growth of our food supply is plateauing. The publication comes nearly two weeks ahead of the Global Soil Security Symposium at Texas A&M University, a meeting held as part of the declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Soils by the United Nations.

A future ‘phosphorous cartel’

The authors identify the supply of fertilizer as one of the key threats to future soil security. Farmers use three essential nutrients to fertilize their crops: nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. The paper credits the discovery of synthetic nitrogen production in the early 1900s for significantly increasing crop yields, which in turn supported dramatic growths in global population. Because the process of synthesizing nitrogen is energy-intensive, its supply is dependent on fossil fuels.

Unlike nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous come from rocks and minerals, and the authors point out that those resources are not equitably distributed throughout the world. The United States has only 1 to 2 percent of the world’s potassium reserves, and its reserves of phosphorous are expected to run out in about three decades.

“This could create political challenges and uncertainties,” said Amundson. “Morocco will soon be the largest source of phosphorous in the world, followed by China. These two countries will have a great deal of say in the distribution of those resources. Some people suggest we will see the emergence of a phosphorous cartel.”

Contributing to climate change

Another threat to soil security relates to its role as a mass reservoir for carbon. Left unperturbed, soil can hold onto its stores of carbon for hundreds to thousands of years. The most recent estimates suggest that up to 2,300 gigatons of carbon are stored in the top three meters of the Earth’s soil – more carbon than in all the world’s plants and atmosphere combined. One gigaton is equal to a billion tons.

But agriculture’s physical disruption of soil releases stored carbon into the atmosphere. Based on the area of land used for farming worldwide, 50 to 70 gigatons of carbon has been released into the atmosphere throughout human history, according to the paper. Proponents of sequestration, the long-term storage of carbon in soil, have argued that regaining this carbon will be a means to mitigate continuing fossil fuel emissions of the greenhouse gas.

“Carbon sequestration plans won’t make a dent in the amount of soil released by climate change,” countered Amundson. “The amount of carbon stored through sequestration would be tiny compared to the potential amount lost through global warming.”

Of particular concern are the large carbon stores in the soils in the planet’s polar regions. Researchers have found that temperatures are increasing at greater rates in the northern latitudes.

“Warming those areas is like filling your freezer with food, then pulling the plug and going on vacation,” said Amundson. “There will be a massive feast of bacteria feeding on the food as the plug gets pulled on the stored carbon in the frozen soil. Microbes are already starting the process of converting the carbon to CO2 and methane.”

Recycling soil nutrients

The authors recognize the human reliance on farming and note that most of the Earth’s most productive soils are already in agricultural production. However, they argue for  better management of the soils we rely upon.

One proposal is to stop discarding nutrients captured in waste treatment facilities. Currently, phosphorous and potassium are concentrated into solid waste rather than cycled back into the soil. Additionally, more efficient management is needed to curtail losses from soil. Excess nitrogen, for example, is considered a pollutant, with the runoff sapping oxygen from the nation’s waterways, suffocating aquatic life and creating dead zones in coastal margins.

Amundson noted that it did not take too long to get people to start separating paper, glass and aluminum cans from their trash for recycling.

“We should be able to do this with soil,” said Amundson. “The nutrients lost can be captured, recycled and put back into the ground. We have the skillset to recycle a lot of nutrients, but the ultimate deciders are the people who create policy. It’s not a scientific problem. It’s a societal problem.”

Other authors on the paper are Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, an associate professor of soil biogeochemistry at UC Merced; Jan Hopmans, a professor of hydrology at UC Davis; Carolyn Olson, a senior scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Climate Change Program; A. Ester Sztein, assistant director at the National Academy of Sciences Board on International Scientific Organizations; and Donald Sparks, a professor of plant and soil science at the University of Delaware.

Categories: Ecological News

New Insight on Ground Shaking from Man-Made Earthquakes

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 23:01

U.S. Geological Survey

Significant strides in science have been made to better understand potential ground shaking from induced earthquakes, which are earthquakes triggered by man-made practices.

Earthquake activity has sharply increased since 2009 in the central and eastern United States. The increase has been linked to industrial operations that dispose of wastewater by injecting it into deep wells.

The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report today that outlines a preliminary set of models to forecast how hazardous ground shaking could be in the areas where sharp increases in seismicity have been recorded. The models ultimately aim to calculate how often earthquakes are expected to occur in the next year and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result. This report looked at the central and eastern United States; future research will incorporate data from the western states as well.

This report also identifies issues that must be resolved to develop a final hazard model, which is scheduled for release at the end of the year after the preliminary models are further examined. These preliminary models should be considered experimental in nature and should not be used for decision-making.

USGS scientists identified 17 areas within eight states with increased rates of induced seismicity. Since 2000, several of these areas have experienced high levels of seismicity, with substantial increases since 2009 that continue today. This is the first comprehensive assessment of the hazard levels associated with induced earthquakes in these areas. A detailed list of these areas is provided in the accompanying map, including the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Scientists developed the models by analyzing earthquakes in these zones and considering their rates, locations, maximum magnitude, and ground motions.

“This new report describes for the first time how injection-induced earthquakes can be incorporated into U.S. seismic hazard maps,” said Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Modeling Project. “These earthquakes are occurring at a higher rate than ever before and pose a much greater risk to people living nearby. The USGS is developing methods that overcome the challenges in assessing seismic hazards in these regions in order to support decisions that help keep communities safe from ground shaking.”

In 2014, the USGS released updated National Seismic Hazard Maps, which describe hazard levels for natural earthquakes. Those maps are used in building codes, insurance rates, emergency preparedness plans, and other applications. The maps forecast the likelihood of earthquake shaking within a 50-year period, which is the average lifetime of a building. However, these new induced seismicity products display intensity of potential ground shaking from induced earthquakes in a one-year period. This shorter timeframe is appropriate because the induced activity can vary rapidly with time and is subject to commercial and policy decisions that could change at any point.

These new methods and products result in part from a workshop hosted by the USGS and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. The workshop, described in the new report, brought together a broad group of experts from government, industry and academic communities to discuss the hazards from induced earthquakes.

Wastewater that is salty or polluted by chemicals needs to be disposed of in a manner that prevents contaminating freshwater sources. Large volumes of wastewater can result from a variety of processes, such as a byproduct from energy production. Wastewater injection increases the underground pore pressure, which may lubricate nearby faults thereby making earthquakes more likely to occur. Although the disposal process has the potential to trigger earthquakes, most wastewater disposal wells do not produce felt earthquakes.

Many questions have been raised about whether hydraulic fracturing—commonly referred to as “fracking”—is responsible for the recent increase of earthquakes. USGS’s studies suggest that the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only occasionally the direct cause of felt earthquakes.

Read the newly published USGS report, “Incorporating Induced Seismicity in the 2014 United States National Seismic Hazard Model—Results of 2014 Workshop and Sensitivity Studies.”

Categories: Ecological News

Remarks by President Obama on the Impacts of Climate Change

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 23:37

White House.gov

The Everglades, Florida, Earth Day, April 22, 2015

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Please have a seat. It’s good to be back in Florida. So I can’t think of a better way to spend Earth Day than in one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures, the Everglades. And anybody who comes here to visit — and I advise everybody who’s watching who hasn’t been down here to come on down. You can see what makes this unique landscape so magical — what the poet Emma Lazarus called “the savage splendor of the swamp.” Although I was informed it’s not technically a swamp.

I want to thank our outstanding Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, who’s here. Her team at the Interior Department and the National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis for helping to protect places like this. The Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos is doing outstanding work. I want to thank Miami-Dade Congressmen Murphy and Carvalho who are here doing outstanding work, as well as Debbie Wasserman Schultz. You’ll be pleased to know that they are all in when it comes to protecting the Everglades, and we’re very proud of the good work that they’re going. We even have the Science Guy, Bill Nye, here. There’s Bill.

Now, they’re all here and we’re all here because this 1.5 million acres is unlike any place on Earth. It’s no wonder that over a million people visited last year alone. The sawgrass prairies and mangrove forests are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife – bald eagles, herons, hundreds of plant species, from pine trees to wild orchids. Believe it or not, south Florida is the only place in the world where you can find both alligators and crocodiles in the same habitat. I’m told this is a good thing.

In the words of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who helped preserve this land: “There are no other Everglades in the world.” But part of the reason we’re here is because climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of south Florida. And if we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it.

2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. Yes, this winter was cold in parts of our country, including Washington. Some people in Washington helpfully used a snowball to illustrate that fact. But around the world, in the aggregate, it was the warmest winter ever recorded.

This is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore. This is a problem now. It has serious implications for the way we live right now. Stronger storms. Deeper droughts. Longer wildfire seasons. The world’s top climate scientists are warning that a changing climate already affects the air that our children are breathing. The Surgeon General and I recently met with doctors and nurses and parents who see patients and kids grappling with the health impacts. The Pentagon says that climate change poses an increasing set of risks to our national security.

And here in the Everglades, you can see the effect of a changing climate. As sea levels rise, salty water from the ocean flows inward. And this harms freshwater wildlife, which endangers a fragile ecosystem. The saltwater flows into aquifers, which threatens the drinking water of more than 7 million Floridians. South Florida, you’re getting your drinking water from this area, and it depends on this. And in terms of economic impact, all of this poses risks to Florida’s $82 billion tourism industry on which so many good jobs and livelihoods depend.

So climate change can no longer be denied. It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation. And action can no longer be delayed. And that’s why I’ve committed the United States to lead the world in combatting this threat.

The steps we’ve taken over the last several years are already making a difference. We’re using more clean energy than ever before. America is number one in wind power, and last year we generated 20 times more electricity from sunlight than we did in all of 2008 — 20 times.

We’ve committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution. China, in part because of our actions, has now committed for the first time to limit their emissions. And this means that there’s new hope that this year the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.

We’re wasting less energy, with more fuel-efficient cars that save people money at the pump, and more energy-efficient buildings that save us money on our electricity bills.

So more clean energy, improved energy efficiency – these steps can help us avoid some of the worst effects of climate change down the road. But we also have to prepare for the effects of climate change that we’re already too late to avoid. If you think about it, this is like we’re hitting the brakes on a car, but the car is not going to come to a complete halt right away. So some of these changes are already happening, and even if we take the right steps, we’re going to have to make some adaptations.

And that’s why we’ve been working with cities and states to build more resilient infrastructure and restore natural defenses like wetlands. And today, I want to announce new actions to protect our national parks and our public lands, and the communities that rely on them.

First, we’re releasing a report showing that every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 for the economy. That’s a good investment. I don’t run a private equity fund, but I know that if you invest a dollar and you get $10 back, that’s a good investment.

In 2014, almost 300 million visitors to our national parks spent almost $16 billion and supported 277,000 jobs. So protecting our parks is a smart thing to do for our economy. That’s why I’ve set aside more public lands and waters than any administration in history.

Here in the Everglades, we’ve already invested $2.2 billion in restoration efforts. With the support of some outstanding members of Congress, I’ve proposed another $240 million this year. We want to restore the natural water flow of the Everglades, which we know is one of the best defenses against climate change and rising sea levels. And I’m calling on Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports this work across the country.

I’m also announcing $25 million in public and private money for restoration projects at our national parks. And this is part of our broader effort that we’ve launched to encourage every American to “Find Your Park.” Chances are, there’s one closer than you think.

Just last weekend, Michelle and I took the girls for a hike in a national park just 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. As we were walking a trail along the Everglades, we saw a group of school kids – couldn’t have been more excited about mostly seeing the gators, not seeing me – but also learning about the science of the planet that they live on. And I want every child to have that opportunity.

So starting this fall, we’re going to give every fourth grader in America an “Every Kid In A Park” pass, and that’s a pass good for free admission to all our public lands for you, your families for an entire year. Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters – these places are your birthright as Americans.

And today, I’m designating America’s newest national historic landmark, the Marjory Stoneham Douglas House in Miami, so that future generations will know how this amazing woman helped conserve the Everglades for all of us.

We’re also working with farmers and ranchers and forest land owners to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. I’m going to keep doing everything I can to prepare and protect America from the worst effects of climate change, including fighting for clean air, clean water. Because in places like this, folks don’t have time, we don’t have time – you do not have time to deny the effects of climate change. Folks are already busy dealing with it. And nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in south Florida. No place else. It has to be paying closer attention to this and acknowledging it, and understanding that if we take action now we can do something about it.

This is not some impossible problem that we cannot solve. We can solve it if we’ve got some political will. And we can solve it in a way that creates jobs. We can solve it in a way that doesn’t disrupt our economy but enhances our economy. And it’s a bipartisan issue.

On the way in, I was talking to some folks about the fact that Teddy Roosevelt, he’s a Republican – started our National Park System. Richard Nixon started the EPA. George H.W. Bush was the first President, globally, to acknowledge the impacts of climate change and that we needed to do something about it. This is not something that historically should be a partisan issue.

Five years ago, local leaders down here, Republicans and Democrats, formed the bipartisan Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact – an agreement to work together to fight climate change. And it’s become a model not just for the country, but for the world.

It’s the type of mission that Americans from all walks of life are taking on – from the CEOs of some of our biggest corporations and utilities, to student organizations across the country. Because they know that simply refusing to say the words “climate change” doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t happening.

And we know that in our own lives. If you’ve got a coming storm, you don’t stick your head in the sand; you prepare for the storm. You make sure our communities are prepared for climate change. And that’s an economic imperative. Protecting the one planet we’ve got is what we have to do for the next generation. I want Malia and Sasha not only to be able to enjoy this amazing view; I want my grandchildren – a way, way long time from now – to enjoy this amazing view. And their children, and their children after that. That’s what we do as Americans, take responsibility and leave behind for our children something special.

And we are blessed with the most beautiful God-given landscape in the world. It’s an incredible bounty that’s been given to us. But we’ve got to be good stewards for it. We have to take care of it. We only get to enjoy things like our amazing national parks because great Americans like Teddy Roosevelt and Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a whole bunch of ordinary folks whose name aren’t in the history books, they fought to protect our national inheritance. And now it’s our turn to ensure that this remains the birthright of all Americans for generations to come. So many people here are active in your communities, doing what’s needed. The young people who are here, the next generation, they’re way ahead of us in understanding how important this is. Let’s make sure we don’t disappoint them. Let’s stand up and do what’s right before it’s too late.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

Categories: Ecological News