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Renewable Natural Resources Foundation

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development's Transboundary Landscape Program described at RNRF lecture

Talley Dr. Rajan Kotru, Program Manager of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development's (ICIMOD) Regional Transboundary Landscapes Program, spoke at RNRF’s lecture "Landscape-Level Sustainable Development: Transboundary Mountain Management Across the Himalayas."

ICIMOD's Transboundary Landscapes Program is the recipient of RNRF’s 2018 Outstanding Achievement Award.

At the lecture, Dr. Kotru discussed the challenges of sustainable development in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and ICIMOD's work to bridge international boundaries in a region where nearly two billion people live and work. The program provides a valuable framework for international cooperation in long-term ecological monitoring and both environmental and cultural conservation, even between countries with geopolitical sensitivities.

TalleyThe lecture was hosted by the American Society of Landscape Architects at its Washington, D.C. headquarters.

Dr. Kotru's presentation can be found here.

More information about the program can be found here:


Community, city, and state level action on climate change has intensified to fill the gap left by the federal government after Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June 2017. Mayors, city officials, and business leaders across the country have committed to reducing their impacts on the environment and over 400 cities have adopted the goals of the Paris Agreement.

RNRF's Fall Meeting featured presentations on climate change action at local and state levels from three major coalitions formed in the wake of the Paris withdrawal: We’re Still In, America’s Pledge, and the U.S. Climate Alliance. Speaker presentations were followed by robust discussion from representatives of over 20 private sector, federal government, and non-profit organizations. The meeting was hosted by the American Society of Landscape Architects at its Washington, D.C. headquarters.

TalleyKevin Kennedy, deputy director of the U.S. Climate Initiative at World Resources Institute, introduced the America’s Pledge initiative. Kennedy’s presentation focused on details from America’s Pledge’s recent report Fulfilling America’s Pledge, which was released during the California Global Climate Action Summit in September 2018.

America’s Pledge was formed with three goals in mind: 1) to survey non-federal climate action in the U.S., particularly current actions and the potential for more action, 2) to communicate those findings to both international and domestic audiences, and 3) to catalyze further climate action by states, cities, and businesses in the near-term. Fulfilling America’s Pledge compiled emissions reduction policies and progress so far in reaching the U.S.’s Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of 26-28% in greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The report found that the U.S. is almost halfway to this target and that current commitments from the federal government and market forces could see a further decline to 17% below 2005 levels by 2025. In 2017, America’s Pledge released its Phase 1 Report outlining ten Climate Action Strategies – key priority areas that would have the most near-term impact on greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Fulfilling America’s Pledge reported that emissions could be further reduced to 21% by fully implementing those ten measures, and even broader buy-in from coalitions of cities, states, and businesses could see a reduction of up to 24% of 2005 levels by 2025.

Kennedy outlined some current strategies already being taken at the sub-federal level to reduce emissions. These include retrofitting buildings to be more energy-efficient, regional strategies for sequestering carbon in agricultural and forest land, carbon pricing programs, identifying and mitigating methane leaks, and accelerating the retirement of coal plants. Kennedy cautioned that, although commitments across the country have been made to reduce emissions, there will still be a tremendous amount of effort required to meet and exceed those commitments. With that in mind, he further reiterated that Fulfilling America’s Pledge seeks to encourage actors around the country to look for places where a particular state, city, or business has the potential to make a difference in their emission reductions.

TalleyShara Mohtadi, senior advisor to the president of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) described state-level greenhouse gas reduction policies in New York, and how coordination works among the states of the the U.S. Climate Alliance. The U.S. Climate Alliance is a coalition of 17 governors (3 Republican, 14 Democrat), whose mission is to keep their states on track to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. There are three criteria that states must meet to join the coalition: 1) collectively the states must meet the U.S. nationally determined contribution (NDC) of greenhouse gas emission reduction outlined in the Paris Agreement, 2) all coalition states must publicly track their progress in reducing emissions (detailed in an annual report), and 3) member states must also commit to accelerating and strengthening existing state policies meant to reduce emissions.

Once states have joined the Climate Alliance, the organization works to enhance the states’ individual capacities to research and implement climate-conscious policies. Mohtadi noted, for example, that some states only have a handful of employees working on climate policy issues, while others have 500 or more. The Climate Alliance helps aggregate the states’ resources and philanthropic funding, directing resources to states with smaller institutional capacities. Another aim of the coalition is to leverage the significant market share among all of the states to raise industry standards for greenhouse gas pollution nationwide. Climate Alliance states California, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York have already started by announcing their intention to reduce their limits for hyper-polluting hydrofluorocarbon emissions than federal law requires. Similar work is underway to raise appliance standards.

TalleyElan Strait, U.S. campaigns director for World Wildlife Fund, concluded the meeting with a talk on the We’re Still In initiative. We’re Still In represents a broad, multi-sectoral coalition of American businesses, non-profit organizations, and local governments interested in staying in the Paris Climate Agreement. The coalition was initially formed for two reasons: 1) to encourage other countries to stay in the agreement by showing an international audience that Americans still care deeply about climate policy, and 2) to show other Americans that, despite federal-level rhetoric, the Paris Agreement has wide domestic, bipartisan support among the general population. We’re Still In initially aimed at only putting out a statement that various organizations and governments could sign to support global climate action. However, when large numbers organizations began signing on (now over 3,000), We’re Still In began seeking other ways to mobilize their coalition.

Strait acknowledged that without leadership at the federal level, We’re Still In and other similar campaigns and coalitions need to focus on making change at the state and local levels. The next steps for We’re Still In will be to form state-level coalitions similar to their national membership list in order to create greater coordination among state-level actors, to provide organized support in response to oil- and gas-funded groups with well-funded and established networks, and to put pressure on individual senators that are key in changing the national trend in climate action.

While strong federal leadership would provide much needed support in emissions-reducing policies and resources, there is still a great deal of work that can be done among the many thousands of non-national actors who want to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Fall Meeting proved to be an excellent opportunity for reviewing and discussing the need to build and maintain momentum for climate action at the state and local level. Coalitions such as We Are Still In, America’s Pledge, and the U.S. Climate Alliance provide research, policy support, and avenues for coordination to build domestic support for the Paris Agreement. They also demonstrate to the international community that the U.S. still takes climate issues seriously.

See the full Fall Meeting agenda here.

Download Kevin Kennedy's PowerPoint presentation here.

Other reports cited during RNRF's Fall Meeting include the IPCC 1.5° Report, the most recent New York Clean Energy Industry Report, and the Obama White House report Climate Change: The Fiscal Risks Facing the Federal Government


TalleyTrigg Talley, director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Global Change, hosted the RNRF Washington Round Table on Public Policy on October 10. He spoke about his current work at the Office of Global Change.

Among other climate-related diplomatic duties, the Office of Global Change leads U.S. government negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and leads U.S. participation in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Talley outlined the U.S.’s recent history of climate treaty involvement, from the Kyoto Protocol to the Paris Agreement.

Pew Charitable Trusts’ Project on Deep Seabed Mining Described at RNRF Round Table

NugentRobertsConn Nugent, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ seabed mining project, hosted the RNRF Washington Round Table on Public Policy on September 6. He spoke about current preparations for international deep seabed mining and Pew’s work to advance responsible seabed mining regulatory frameworks. Pew seabed mining project officer Winnie Roberts also contributed to the round table with professional insights about the technological and regulatory issues. Representatives from Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund-US, American Fisheries Society, Oceana, Geological Society of America and American Water Resources Association participated in discussions.

There is no current mining activity on the deep seafloor anywhere in international waters. Historically, deep sea mining offered more risk than reward for potential operators, but as technology advances, extraction on land becomes more costly, and certain rare earth minerals become more critical to modern technology, deep sea mining approaches inevitability.

Waters outside of the 200 nautical mile band of a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are broadly governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The International Seabed Authority (ISA) is the treaty organization within UNCLOS that regulates seabed and mineral activity in these international waters. The ISA will write rules that will govern the exploitation of the seabed, including how revenues from resource extraction will be shared. UNCLOS language refers to the seabed, ocean floor, and subsoil of international waters as the “common heritage of mankind,” but there is significant contention among nations as to how these resources should be shared.

Nugent observed that there are currently no American NGOs participating in any major advocacy or scientific capacity in ISA discussions, in part because of the U.S.’s failure to ratify UNCLOS. The U.S.’s relative absence in the seabed governance debate is illustrated by the fact that U.S. delegates observe debates but do not publicly comment. Despite many unknowns in the policy and scientific realm of international seabed mining, prominent American environmental groups have been slow to take up the cause. There also is uncertainty about what, or to whom, they should be advocating.

Pew is an exception, and is using its ability to convene scientific and regulatory experts to provide the best available analyses to ISA during its framework-drafting process. However, as Nugent observed, scientific expertise on mining the deep seafloor, or even just on deep seafloor ecology, is sparse. ISA has no internal capacity to conduct scientific and economic analyses of the impacts of mining the deep seafloor, and there is a tremendous need for more data. While some general information can be gleaned from near-shore seabed mining and petroleum extraction, the challenges of extracting resources on the deep sea floor in international waters are utterly unique and have never been attempted before. Critical research to inform best practices is expensive to conduct, necessitating specialized ships and equipment that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day to operate. Most research so far has come from commercial interests in preparation for potential future exploitation. Non-industry funders are scarce and limited mostly to some universities and governments. The costs of regulating and monitoring mining activities for environmental impacts will also be enormous. It is unclear how or in what way such monitoring will take place.


The specific mineral resources on the deep sea floor are not found in shallower waters. These are polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulfides, and the mineral-rich crust of some underwater mountains, which occupy the first few centimeters of the ocean floor. While there is no doubt that mining damages ecosystems, much of the understanding of to what extent ecosystems could be impacted by gathering these resources directly, or the plumes of debris such extraction would create, is unknown. This is why Pew has been urging a strong precautionary approach to deep sea mining, and suggesting that at least 50% of possible mining area be reserved for conservation.

The ISA is working to approve exploitation guidance. Some contractors, including a Belgian company, have expressed an interest in applying for exploitation licenses as soon as possible, which means mining operations could begin as soon as 7-10 years after the rules are adopted. In the meantime, far more work needs to be done gathering scientific information and outlining conservative, cautious guidelines to extracting these novel resources            (Photo by W. Cordua)
on this largely unexplored and little understood terrain.

American Geophysical Union


AGU is proud to announce that it has added a new title to its distinguished portfolio of journals, AGU Advances.

Published in partnership with Wiley, AGU Advances will be a Gold open-access journal. It will differentiate itself from other journals by being highly selective and will focus on publishing seminal research in the form of novel, innovative full-length papers that present new and selective scientific advances across the Earth and space sciences and related interdisciplinary fields. These articles are expected to have broad and immediate implications in their discipline and also be of interest to researchers in other Earth science disciplines, the broader science community and the public.

"Over the last century, Earth and space science has advanced greatly to address the challenges and opportunities society has faced. AGU too has advanced during that time, working diligently to provide our community with the highest quality, most well-respected journals in which to share their scientific knowledge," said AGU Executive Director/CEO Chris McEntee. "Today, as we prepare to mark AGU's Centennial, society depends on Earth and space science more than ever to ensure our ability to address the challenges and opportunities of the future. AGU Advances will help us to build on the legacy and impact created by Geophysical Research Letters, AGU's leading letters-length journal, and our 19 other prestigious journals, as we accelerate scientific discovery and the exchange of knowledge, and work to inform those inside and beyond our community about the critical contributions Earth and space science makes to improving lives around the world."

Beginning with the inaugural issue in late 2018/early 2019, AGU Advances will be published online-only. Full length papers are approximately 8,000 words and include multiple figures and in-depth explanations of methods, as well as discussion. Letters are approximately 4,000 words and typically include half as many figures. Most of the papers will be further enriched by open-access commentaries to provide further context around the research. AGU Advances will aim to publish at most around 150 papers per year to allow this enrichment and complement both GRL and the rest of AGU's portfolio.

"Unlike most other highly selective journals, AGU Advances will be an open access journal. Selected content will be freely available immediately for all – including the public and policy makers – to read, download and share as soon as it is published," said Brooks Hanson, AGU Executive Vice President of Science. "Because it will focus on publishing novel, influential research that has broad and immediate implications, AGU Advances will be of interest to researchers across the Earth science disciplines."

AGU currently publishes 20 peer-reviewed scientific journals covering a great breadth of research in the Earth and space sciences;, an online news site (accompanied by a monthly magazine); and award-winning books. The journals include Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), which publishes letters-length papers that merit rapid review and high attention across the Earth and space sciences. GRL is AGU's largest journal and published more than 1400 papers last year, indicating the broad popularity of this format. GRL will remain AGU's leading letters-length journal.

"As its publishing partner, we are proud to support the expansion of AGU's high quality portfolio and Open Access journal program with this ambitious new launch," said Colette Bean, Vice President & Society Publishing Director at Wiley. "As a high-impact, Open Access journal, AGU Advances is uniquely positioned to encourage meaningful change in the world, and we believe it will serve as a powerful platform for advancing scientific discovery in the field.

AGU is conducting a search for a scientist to lead the journal as Editor in Chief. The Editor in Chief will appoint additional Editors to this new independent Editorial Board from AGU's new College of Fellows, which will include representation from each of AGU's sections. AGU will also appoint a full time Ph.D. Managing Editor to further support authors and the peer review process.

Read more here.

American Meteorological Society


The AMS Policy Program released a study in May 2018 entitled "A Reset for U.S. Natural Hazards Policy? Lessons from Harvey, Irma, and Maria."

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season inflicted heavy casualties and loss of life. At the same time, events in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico highlighted opportunities for improving U.S. natural hazards policy. In short, these involve building community-level resilience nationally and correspondingly reducing reliance on forecast-based emergency evacuations. Progress is needed in several respects: a more integrated approach toward economic development and hazard risk management; more effective and strategic public-private collaboration in risk management; a focus on reducing risk versus mere redistribution of risk; rigorous learning from experience versus rebuilding as before; and shouldering responsibility versus relying on federal bailouts. Ultimately, resilience in the face of hazards cannot be accomplished by a few. Instead it will require embrace as a shared public value.

Read the report here.

99th Annual American Meteorological Society Meeting

The American Meteorological Society has announced the 2019 annual meeting, "Understanding and Building Resilience to Extreme Events by Being Interdisciplinary, International, and Inclusive (III)."

Analyses by reinsurance companies have clearly shown the monotonically increasing cost of extreme events. There are a number of interrelated factors that have contributed to this increased vulnerability. For example, sea level rise combined with the migration of people to coastal regions exacerbates the impacts of hurricane/typhoon landfall and tsunamis, the interdependent nature of the energy grid with other infrastructure and our increasing reliance on technology would lead to a cascading negative effect if a major space weather event or other natural hazard were to occur, changes in climate have led to more frequent water extremes from flooding to drought conditions that significantly impact energy and food production, and the increasing number of wildfires has destroyed large regions of forests and buildings while also enhancing the risk of landslides and contributing to extreme air pollution events. Finally, urban-to-regional-scale air pollution episodes can be particularly hazardous under severe meteorological stagnation events.

Read more here.

American Society of Civil Engineers


Produced by MacGillivray Freeman Films and ASCE, the film Dream Big: Engineering Our World debuted on Netflix in early July.

Dream Big opened in museums and giant screens around the world in February 2017 to positive reviews. The documentary continues to show in theaters this summer.

The film aims to inspire kids of diverse backgrounds to become innovators, educators, and leaders who will improve the lives of people around the world throughout the 21st century.

"Over the past 30 years, it has been increasingly harder to get kids interested in science and engineering as a career. So firms have a tough time finding enough engineers to hire," said Dream Big Director Greg MacGillivray. "Dream Big's mission over its five-year plan is to change that by showing how adventurous, creative, and fun engineering can be – and the film and its massive campaign elements have succeeded! That message is conveyed even further with our play on Netflix."

Read more about the documentary and ASCE's Dream Big initiative here.

American Society of Landscape Architects Fund


In September 2017, the American Society of Landscape Architects convened the interdisciplinary Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience. The panelists included a diverse range of practitioners, experts, and stakeholder representatives, with experience working at various scales in different geographic and technical areas. The panel was given two tasks: first, to identify the most important design and planning approaches for creating healthy, climate-smart, and resilient communities, and second, to identify specific public policy recommendations to support those approaches. A report released in June 2018 details the panel's findings.

Climate change is a threat to people and the ecosystem services on which we depend. Extreme weather events are on the rise. Flooding, drought, and wildfires are more frequent and more severe. Higher temperatures are increasing community health risks. The changing climate is causing species dislocation and accelerating the rate of species extinction. Global agricultural systems are increasingly stressed. These early effects are harbingers of the more severe consequences that science tells us we can expect in the future if we do not act.

Even without climate change, standard development patterns and practices are putting our people and our communities at risk. Natural systems that protect shorelines are removed to make way for development. Engineered stormwater systems designed to move water rapidly off buildings and pavements disrupt natural hydrology, contribute to water pollution, and weaken or destroy marine ecosystems. "Pave the planet" development replaces natural vegetation with impervious surfaces, leaving even inland communities outside floodplains prone to flooding. Development patterns emphasizing car travel isolate communities from recreation opportunities and contribute to unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles. Taken together, these practices have made our communities and people more vulnerable and set the stage for significantly greater loss of property and life in the face of inevitable natural disasters.

ASLA's interdisciplinary Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience identified core principles, key planning and design strategies, and public policies that will promote healthy, climate-smart, and resilient communities.

Read the full report here.

For more information contact ASLA, 636 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 898-244,

American Water Resources Association

AWRA'S Annual Water Resources Conference 2018

AWRA's Annual Water Resources Conference will be held November 4-8, 2018 at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards, in the heart of Baltimore's downtown. The conference will convene water resource professionals and students from throughout the nation and will provide attendees the opportunity to learn about and engage in multi-disciplinary water resource discussions.

The program will stimulate conversations on water resource management, research and education. The 2018 conference will also include locally relevant topics such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River watershed, and eastern water law as well as globally significant issues such as coastal resilience, fire effects on watersheds, communication and outreach strategies and integrated water resources.

For more information visit here.

Geological Society of America


GSA’s governing Council approved a new position statement, Removing Barriers to Career Progression for Women in the Geosciences, at its May 2018 meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Chair-Elect of GSA's Geology and Public Policy Committee (GPPC) and Position Statement Panel Chair, Monica Gowan, noted, "Culture starts at the top and resonates through the ranks. A culture that tolerates systemic barriers and beliefs resulting in unequal access to or exclusion from career opportunities for women is unacceptable. GSA leadership saw it as vital to create a position statement stating so."

Purpose. This position statement (1) affirms the pressing need for a change in professional culture so that all people are welcomed, supported, and thrive in the geoscience profession; and for policies that aspire to the highest standards of conduct as a professional society; (2) advocates for resolving implicit and explicit biases and the elimination of harassment, bullying, and sexual misconduct in the workplace; (3) recommends elevated personal and professional responsibility and evidence-based policies that extend beyond civil and legal remedies, to promote inclusive, safe, and productive environments in the geoscience classroom, laboratory, field, and office; and (4) establishes GSA's commitment to identifying and implementing reporting procedures and clear consequences for members who practice discrimination, harassment, bullying, retaliation, sexual misconduct, or sexual violence.

Along with the position statement on Diversity in the Geosciences, GSA endorses the right for all to work in a safe, supportive, non-discriminatory, and recrimination-free environment where trust, respect, equity, fairness, accountability, and justice are honored.

"We've seen that biases and problematic behaviors by people abusing their power and privilege are present in the sciences, yet discrimination and prejudice are antithetical to the scientific method," said Gowan. "In any learning or workplace environment, one thing everyone should be able to count on is professionalism and mutual respect."

Related to this position paper, the GSA Geology and Society Division, GSA Geology and Public Policy Committee, Association for Women Geoscientists, and the Earth Science Women's Network are co-sponsoring a Pardee Keynote Symposium at the GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, 4-7 November 2018, titled, "Women Rising: Removing Barriers and Achieving Parity in the Geosciences." Susan Stover and Kelly Kryc are the session conveners.

Read the full text of the position statement here.

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry


SETAC Europe's Special Science Symposia (SESSS) will be held in Brussels, Belgium, from October 23-24, 2018. The purpose of the Symposia is to debate current scientific issues in a regulatory context, for example, the testing, evaluation, risk assessment and management of chemicals in the environment, as well as to strengthen the link between science and regulatory decision-making.

This SESSS will show a series of new developments that facilitate the extrapolation of adverse effects, caused by chemical exposure, observed in experiments amongst different levels of biological organisation. Different methodologies will be showcased, such as Quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathways, Toxicokinetic-Toxicodynamic modelling, Population models, Ecosystem/food chain models and landscape level models.

The symposium will start with the regulatory views from the European Food Safety Authority, the European Chemicals Agency, and the European Commission on the implementation of these new developments into Environmental Risk Assessment. This will be followed by a series of expert presentations on novel experimental and modeling approaches, as well as successful case studies on how these approaches could inform future Environmental Risk Assessments of chemicals.

Learn more about the program here.

International News

International Whaling Commission

Japan's Proposal to Resume Commercial Whaling Denied 

The 67th International Whaling Commission meeting (IWC) concluded on September 14th, 2018. This year, the biannual meeting promised to be heated as two opposing proposals for the future of the IWC were brought to the table.

Host country Brazil, together with Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru proposed the 'Florianopolis Declaration,' a direct opposition to Japan's 'Way Forward' proposal.

The Florianopolis Declaration consists of changing the role of the IWC from an organization focused on cetacean management of stocks to a cetacean conservation regulation body. It reaffirms the moratorium on commercial whaling and it agrees that the use of lethal research methods is unnecessary.

In contrast, Japan's Way Forward saw that the moratorium on commercial whaling was already due to end. The proposal advocated for the return of commercial whaling. The moratorium on whaling was established by this same commission in 1986. Despite this, more than 32,000 whales have been killed since then by Japan, Iceland, Norway and Russia (Russia only continued killing whales after the moratorium in 86 and 87).

Japan, Norway and Iceland have never abided by the commission's restrictions. Iceland was sitting in the plenary in Brazil making their point that commercial whaling should return as a sustainable practice. At the same time, Iceland is currently engaged in the commercial killing of endangered fin whales, including some that are pregnant. Danish Faroe Islands also continued its dolphin and pilot whale hunt as the convention went on and had a representative at the commission.

The Florianopolis Declaration was adopted by majority vote and the Japanese proposal for the return of commercial whaling lost, with 41 votes against 27. Four countries abstained from voting.

Previously, Japan, Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands (Denmark) have shown no respect for any rules or regulations from this or any other regulating body. It is questionable whether they will respect this year’s resolution.

During Japan's speech after the defeat of their proposal, they threatened to leave the IWC, or to form a separate body that would cater to the countries that want the return of commercial whaling.

Sea Shepherd's founder Captain Paul Watson, who has spent many years opposing Japan's "scientific research" programs, stated this morning, "Following yesterday's most welcome Florianopolis Declaration, this defeat of the Japanese Proposal has made the 67th meeting of the International Whaling Commission an awesome historical event for the world’s whales."

"The Florianopolis Declaration states that the purpose of the IWC is the conservation of whales and that the commercial killing of whales is to no longer be up for further discussion," Captain Watson concluded.                                     

Read the press release from Sea Shepherd here.

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