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The California fires situation is concerning, but not hopeless

Reprinted from UCANR News

The news that Americans are getting about California's devasting fires is not being hyped up by the media, said UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor Lenya Quinn-Davidson on the nationally broadcast NPR program On Point.

Host Eric Westervelt of WBUR in Boston got a Northern California perspective from Quinn-Davidson, who works with communities in Siskiyou, Trinity and Mendocino counties on managing the threat of wildfires and is the Northern California coordinator of the California Fire Science Consortium. 

"I definitely don't think the situation is being hyped up," Quinn-Davidson said. "I'm in Ukiah and there's a thick blanket of smoke. Everyone can feel the tension of the Mendocino Complex Fire."

Lenya Quinn-Davidson
 

Quinn-Davidson said she grew up in the vicinity and, back then, major fires like those burning today only happened every few years. Lately, such super fire seasons are happening every year. She said it's time for Californians to take a different approach when thinking about fire.

"Fire is the only natural disaster that we fight against," Quinn-Davidson said. "With hurricanes and earthquakes, we adapt and try to identify vulnerabilities and change our behavior. We haven't treated fire like that. We need to learn how to adapt and make changes that make us more resilient to fire."

On Point is NPR's only call-in program. One caller asked whether climate change has reached an irreversible tipping point at which little can be done to reverse the damage that is causing extreme flooding, heat, hurricanes and wildfires.

Quinn-Davidson said she offers hope to the people in communities she serves.

"They're not powerless," she said. "I don't want people to feel that we are beyond some tipping point and they should just throw in the towel. I think we need to feel empowered to make the changes we can make - whether on a personal scale, at at the mid-grade community scale, or if it is taking political action to make larger change ... We still have some place to make a difference. I really believe that."

Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, was also a guest on the On Point program. He said that, as a nation, we may have breached a different tipping point - a tipping point in public consciousness. Recent news reports have informed the public about extreme flooding in Japan, record-breaking heat in Europe and catastrophic wildfires in California.

"This summer has made a difference in the public perception of how profound the threat of climate change already is," Mann said. "And I like to think that when they go to the voting booths in less than 100 days, they're going to be thinking about climate change and the need to act on this problem. I think we will see progress."

Posted on Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 3:57 PM
  • Author: Jeannette Warnert

Cities in California inland areas must make street tree changes to adapt to future climate

Many common street trees now growing in the interior of California are unlikely to persist in the warmer climate expected in 2099, according to research published in the July 2018 issue of the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

“Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for warmer conditions expected in 2099 due to climate change,” said the study's co-author, Igor Lacan, UC Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in the Bay Area.

Common trees in Coastal California cities appear to be better suited to withstand the 2099 climate.

Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for climate change.
Urban foresters in inland cities of California should begin reconsidering their palettes of common street trees to prepare for climate change.

“Our research shows that some trees now lining the streets of cities like Fresno, Stockton and Ukiah are likely to perform poorly in 2099,” Lacan said. “Those cities need to look at the conditions – and trees – now found in El Centro, Barstow and Fresno respectively.”

To reach these conclusions, Lacan and co-author, professor Joe McBride of UC Berkeley, used space-for-time substitution. They compared the most common street tree species in cities representing each of the 16 California climate zones with trees in cities that currently have climates that approximate the expected warmer conditions in the 16 cities 80 years from now.

For example, Eureka can expect a climate like Berkeley's today; Fresno's climate will resemble the climate of El Centro today. (Find the complete list of cities below.) The corresponding cities were determined with climate predictions from Cal-Adapt, which synthesizes California climate change scenarios to reach a consensus view of the magnitude of climatic warming.

Igor Lancan, UC Cooperative Extension urban horticulture advisor. (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)
Igor Lancan, UC Cooperative Extension urban horticulture advisor. (Photo: Evett Kilmartin)

“We used the mid-range models,” Lacan said. “It's very reasonable to say the warming predicted by the model we used is already ‘baked in,' regardless of any mitigation efforts. While we should take measures to prevent even greater warming – mostly by reducing the use of fossil fuels – this study aims to help adapt California urban forests to the warming that can be reasonably expected to occur.”

Lacan said he and McBride were surprised to find that coastal cities and their warm equivalents contain most of the same common urban tree species, while the warm equivalents of inland cities seemed to lack most and, in some cases, all of the common trees there today.

“It's really a sharp distinction,” Lacan said. “Perhaps they were lucky, but coastal cities are better positioned for the climate of 2099 than the inland cities.”

Climate zone

City

Corresponding city 
(approximates climate
in 2099)

1

Eureka

Berkeley

2

Ukiah

Fresno

3

Berkeley

Santa Ana

4

King City

Stockton

5

Santa Maria

Santa Ana

6

Santa Monica

King City

7

San Diego

Santa Ana

8

Santa Ana

Burbank

9

Burbank

Fresno

10

Riverside

Barstow

11

Yuba City

El Centro

12

Stockton

Barstow

13

Fresno

El Centro

14

Barstow

El Centro

15

El Centro

Furnace Creek

16

Susanville

Barstow

For a copy of the complete research report email Igor Lacanilacan@ucanr.edu.

Posted on Monday, August 6, 2018 at 3:26 PM
  • Author: Jeannette Warnert

Republicans and Democrats agree on climate change — they just don't realize it

Reposted from the University of California newsroom

Just how far apart are Republicans and Democrats when it comes to views on climate change? Not all that far, as it turns out. They're just too party-focused to notice. 

three researchers
Left to right, David Sherman, Phil Ehret and Leaf Van Boven
Credit: Sarah Anderson

That's according to scientists from UC Santa Barbara and the University of Colorado Boulder in new research just published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Surveying 2,000 adults, the research team found that, across party lines, there is general agreement that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity and that something should be done to mitigate it.

The study further reveals that people are more likely to support the same climate policy proposal when they think that their own political party supports it — and that both Democrats and Republicans overestimate how much their peers oppose the ideas of the other party.

“Democratic and Republican citizens alike evaluate a carbon tax or cap and trade policy based on who proposed it — above and beyond their thoughts on the details of the policy, or on whether it is consistent with their beliefs about the importance of climate change,” said David Sherman, a UC Santa Barbara professor of psychological and brain sciences and senior author on the paper. “They do this despite stating themselves that policy considerations should be more important than partisanship.”

Added lead author Leaf Van Boven, a psychology and neuroscience professor at CU Boulder, “We found that people routinely place party over policy and disagree for the sake of disagreeing.” 

Disagreeing for the sake of disagreement

For their project, Sherman, Van Boven and Phil Ehret, who just completed his Ph.D. in social psychology at UC Santa Barbara, set out to explore the psychological reasons that — despite warnings about economic, social and humanitarian impacts of climate change — U.S. lawmakers have yet to enact a national policy.

Previous studies and conventional wisdom suggested this was primarily because most Republicans are skeptical of climate change.

So the researchers conducted two studies in 2014 and 2016 with diverse national panels of over 2,000 U.S. adults, asking: Is climate change happening? Does it pose a risk to humans? Is human activity responsible? And can reducing greenhouse gas emissions reduce climate change?

Sixty-six percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents and 90 percent of Democrats said they believed in human-caused climate change and the utility of reducing greenhouse gases.

“Just before the presidential election when most Republicans were voting for Trump, who characterized climate change as a ‘hoax,' they nevertheless expressed a belief in climate change,” noted Van Boven.

Policy is nearly irrelevant

As part of the 2014 study, the researchers showed participants one of two proposed policies. One was a cap-and-trade policy that historically has been championed by Democrats. The other was a revenue-neutral carbon tax based on policies recently advocated by Republicans. Participants were told that 95 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats supported the policy, or vice versa. 

Regardless of the content, Democrats supported policies from Democrats more strongly, and Republicans supported policies from Republicans more strongly. “If you want to know who will support a climate policy, just look at which political party supports it,” Ehret said. “Climate change belief alone is not the whole story.”

In a related study of 500 people, co-authored by the same researchers and published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, the authors used actual language from a proposed climate change policy that was part of ballot initiative I-732 in Washington State in 2016.

The researchers highlighted either Democrats or Republicans who genuinely supported or opposed the policy to the study volunteers and found similar results.

“What is more, people anticipate that others, their fellow Republican and Democratic citizens will be even more polarized and influenced by political party than they actually are,” Sherman said. “This creates a false norm of consensus and unanimity within each party that, for example, other Republicans will reject any policy proposed by Democrats. This perception of within-party unanimity makes it very difficult to cross party lines.”

In a unique contribution of their paper, the researchers also interviewed four retired members of Congress who have worked on environmental issues: Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., Robert Inglis, R-S.C., David Skaggs, D-Colo., and Tim Wirth, D-Colo. All four reported that as climate change became closely associated with Democrats, Republican disagreement increased.

“If you were interested in supporting climate change, that meant you were interested in supporting Al Gore,” Wirth told the researchers. In his interview, Edwards said, “Nobody wants to be an outlier — nobody.” 

This distrust of the other side, combined with a false assumption that the two parties sharply disagree has made it difficult for good, bipartisan ideas to gain traction, according to the researchers.

“One of the foundational insights of social psychology is the under-appreciated influence of social norms and that actions are determined more by perceptions of norms than the actual norms,” Sherman said. “It is crucially important for lawmakers and voters alike to be informed about what others actually think about environmental issues such as climate change.

“There are many reasons the media focuses on differences between partisans,” he added, “but our work shows why it is important to highlight this strong consensus as well as the even stronger consensus that citizens should evaluate policies on their details and impact and ability to address problems, and not based on which party proposes them.”

Posted on Sunday, July 22, 2018 at 12:12 PM
  • Author: Shelly Leachman

Q&A: Gilless reflects on CNR

Reposted from UCANR News

After 11 years leading the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, Dean J. Keith Gilless stepped down from his post in June. As dean, Gilless has been dedicated to supporting CNR's diverse research, teaching and outreach activities. He has led the college through major growth, launched a number of interdisciplinary initiatives and tackled infrastructure-renewal projects. After completing his second term, Gilless—who has been a professor of forest economics at Berkeley since 1983—will continue to teach, conduct research and serve as the chair of the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

Keith Gilless talks with students in the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program. Photo by Jim Block
 

Looking back on the past 11 years, what are your proudest moments?

The entire CNR community has a lot to feel proud about. We've doubled the number of undergraduates in the College by responding to students' intellectual and career interests and creating a strong culture of advising and student support. Despite budget constraints, we found ways to create two new cross-campus centers: the Berkeley Food Institute and the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity. We launched the Master of Development Practice program. We became more successful and sophisticated in our fundraising efforts, allowing us to increase graduate student support and make some much-needed improvements to our infrastructure. We expanded our network of research forests at a pivotal time for understanding the effects of climate change on California's ecosystems. And we've been a major contributor to campus-wide initiatives in biofuels and gene editing. 

Beyond this long list, what makes me proudest is that UC Berkeley has come to recognize CNR as one of its most successful and dynamic centers of excellence. Our college embodies the relevance in modern society of the vision that created the land-grant universities. We share the mission of Berkeley —and of public education generally—to serve society through problem-solving research and discovery, instruction that enables students to realize their potential, and public service. Here, we really do aspire to “See the bigger picture and make a better world.”

Favorite memory of being dean?

That's easy: congratulating students at commencement. Education transforms lives. My own education—and my participation in the research and educational mission of  UC Berkeley—transformed my life and my understanding of society and the environment around me. Berkeley students are overwhelmingly the first or second generation in their family to attend college. When they cross the stage in cap and gown, and their families and other loved ones applaud and cry, I feel privileged to have been allowed to be a part of their joy on that day.

What are the needs and opportunities you see for the College going forward?

Continued success for CNR depends on our ability to continue to grow our philanthropic base. Success here will help us to improve our facilities, fund cutting-edge research, and achieve strong financial support for our graduate students. We must also ensure that all members of our community feel they are heard, valued, and respected. I firmly believe that we can meet these challenges, in part because what we do is so directly relevant to many of the difficult problems facing our world—these are problems people want to solve. Complex issues require interdisciplinary solutions, and that's something at which this College excels.

CNR doesn't exist in a vacuum. Our fate is inextricably tied to the fate of the campus, and the fate of public education. No single unit can succeed without collaborating across administrative boundaries—and without the campus successfully addressing its financial challenges with respect to aging infrastructure, accessibility, and housing, among other issues. CNR needs to help Berkeley thrive in order to thrive itself.

Any other thoughts? 

I've been part of the Berkeley and CNR community for 35 years and have enjoyed it all. I never cease to be amazed at the opportunities to interact with brilliant and inquisitive students; faculty colleagues who set the bar for excellence in research, teaching, and service; and dedicated staff who keep the College running no matter how difficult things get. I have never known what to expect at each new stage in my career here, other than that I would find myself working with people who inspire me to try harder to do a good job. As I change my business card back to reading simply “Professor of Forest Economics,” I know this feeling will continue. 

 

Posted on Thursday, July 5, 2018 at 12:14 PM
  • Author: Julie Gipple

Berkeley Forests: New Future for UC Center for Forestry & Center for Fire Research & Outreach

The Center for Forestry and Center for Fire Research and Outreach are merging to become Berkeley Forests!

As we all know, forests and fire are inextricably linked in California. Historically, both Centers have carried out research, outreach, and education on human interactions with California ecosystems. Combining the Centers under one roof will facilitate the work of our co-directors, Dr. Scott Stephens and Dr. William Stewart, our Berkeley Forests staff, and management of our new research forest, Grouse Ridge.

To this end, we are proud to release our new website at https://forests.berkeley.edu/ The new website features easy to access information about our forests, fire resources, information on current research, our long-term datasets for our forests, and more.

With these changes, we will also be hiring a new Policy Analyst (located at the Berkeley campus). We seek someone with experience in and knowledge of forests, fire, grant writing, social media, website work, and GIS/data analysis. An official position will be released shortly on the Berkeley jobs website, but please make sure to follow us on social media or email one of or co-directors so you don't miss it!

We're also merging all our social media pages! The Center for Forestry and Center for Fire facebook pages will be closed and transition to the Blodgett Forest Research Station page to become Blodgett Research Station at Berkeley Forests. Please like us at our new home if you have not done so already! 

On twitter, the @ucforestcenter page will be closed, and the @ucfirecenter page will become @berkeleyforests. If you are only on the @ucforestcenter, please make sure to change your follow to @berkeleyforests!

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Berkeley Forests' co-directors at billstewart@berkeley.edu or sstephens@berkeley.edu

Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 10:39 AM
  • Author: Carlin Starrs

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