Information of Interest, Feb 2012
1. Caucasus Region Climate Change Impacts Study
(www.envsec.org) – This 2011 report, Regional Climate Change Impacts Study for the South Caucasus Region, is the first cooperative study on the impact of climate change and adaption in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The study considers four areas of investigation: recent historical and projected climate change, climate change impacts on transboundary river basins, climate change impacts on crop water and irrigation requirements in critical agriculture areas, and climate change effects on urban heat stress in selected cities in the region. The critical points from the Executive Summary are listed below:
- Climate change is already occurring in the South Caucasus. In all three countries there is strong evidence of increased warming over the last century. At country-level, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia all show statistically increasing trends in mean annual temperature, mean daily minimum temperature and mean daily maximum temperature.
- The evidence seems to suggest that with the exception of one model result, the South Caucasus will continue to become drier this century. Four models that simulate historical climate reasonably well in the region project declines in precipitation for all three countries: 20 to 31 percent in Armenia, 5 to 23 percent in Azerbaijan and 0 to 24 percent in Georgia by the end of the century.
- All climate models are in agreement that the region will become warmer. Across the four selected GCMs (Global Climate Models), the projected change in mean annual temperature is: 1.1°C to 1.9°C (1.98°F to 3.42°F) for Armenia, 1.0°C to 1.6°C (1.8°F to 2.88°F) for Azerbaijan and 0.9°C to 1.9°C (1.62°F to 3.42°F) for Armenia. By 2100, the increase may be dramatic: 4.4°C to 5.5°C (7.92°F to 9.9°F) for Armenia, 3.6°C to 4.1°C (6.48°F to 7.38°F) for Azerbaijan and 4.1°C to 5.5°C (7.38°F to 9.9°F) for Georgia.
- Water supply is likely to decrease in important transboundary basins. Due to the projected decline of precipitation and increase in temperatures, by the end of the century streamflow is projected to decline dramatically: 26 to 35 percent in the Alazani (Ganikh), 45 to 65 percent in the Khrami-Debed and 59 to 72 percent in the Aghstev River Basins. For effective climate change adaption planning in these Basins, it is imperative that trans-national river management plans are enacted that include comprehensive water accounting.
- Substantially more water will be required in the future in critical agricultural areas to maintain the current cropping pattern due to a likely decrease of precipitation and an increase in temperature. In the Ararat Valley, by the end of the century, the crop water requirements (CWR) for winter wheat and vegetables are projected to increase 19 to 22 percent for winter wheat and 19 to 23 percent for vegetables compared to 1967 to 1982 while the irrigation water requirement (IWR) is projected to increase 35 to 36 percent and 38 to 42 percent for winter wheat and vegetables, respectively. Regardless of the exact quantitative projections on CWR and IWR, it is clear that maintaining the current compliment of crops in these regions will require significantly more water, which may not be available.
- Urban heat stress may be a significant climate change-induced health issue in the South Caucasus. As the South Caucasus is relatively urbanized and heat stress is likely to be the most serious climate change-related health issue, all the countries need to enact adaption plans that address: reducing exposure to heat in urban areas (e.g. infrastructure measures), adopting preventive public health measures (e.g. surveillance and early warning systems) and ensuring preparedness of the healthcare system and other care providers to respond to heat waves.
- Climate change in the South Caucasus is a transnational challenge. Further regional cooperation would be beneficial in a number of areas, and future programs could include: formulation of transboundary river management plans; exchange of climate and hydrometeorological data, development of Early Warning Systems for natural disasters and seasonal forecasting; and sharing of lessons learned in climate change adaption projects, such as water conservation, natural disaster management and agriculture.
2. Benchmarking Electric Utility Energy Efficiency
(www.ceres.org) – This November 2011 report, Benchmarking Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Portfolios in the U.S., examines and compares energy efficiency expenditures and energy savings of a diverse set of electric utility ratepayer-funded energy efficiency portfolios in the United States while highlighting the challenges that face this and similar efforts. The 50 electric utilities featured in this report are ranked by total electric sales. These utilities include public and private entities that together account for nearly one-third of retail electricity sales and more than two-thirds of electric energy efficiency spending reported to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the 2009 data year. These utilities were selected to reflect a diverse and representative sampling of distribution companies throughout the U.S. that administer energy efficiency portfolios for the benefit of their customers.
The selected utilities varied considerably in their levels of annual energy efficiency portfolio spending and savings achieved.
- Reported energy efficiency expenditures of the selected utilities ranged from under $100,000 (Fairfield Electric Cooperative) to nearly $410 million (Pacific Gas & Electric).
- Normalized for retail electricity sales, reported energy efficiency expenditures ranged from about $0.02 per megawatt-hour of retail electricity sales (Ohio Edison) to about $4.80 per megawatt-hour of retail electricity sales (Pacific Gas & Electric).
- Reported annualized energy savings from new energy efficiency measures ranged from about 500 (Ohio Edison) to nearly 1.6 million megawatt hours (Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric).
- As a percentage of total retail sales, the selected utilities reported energy savings from under 0.1 percent to nearly 2 percent.
- The top 10 utilities all reported achieving single-year energy savings equal to 1 percent or more of their annual electricity sales.
State policies and political support for energy efficiency are major drivers of utility spending, particularly for regulated, investor-owned utilities. Through an appropriate mix of policies, states can remove the disincentives traditional regulation created for a utility to aggressively pursue cost-effective energy efficiency. Not surprisingly, larger and more successful programs tend to coincide with stable multi-layer budgets, clear energy savings goals and mechanisms that align utility financial incentives with delivery of effective energy efficiency portfolios (for example, decoupling of utility revenues from electricity sales and shareholder incentives to achieve savings from consumer energy efficiency programs.)
The extent to which programs differ by region indicated the importance of variations in state policy and climatic zones, customer composition, utility experience and the evaluation, measurement and verification provisions in place.
3. Pew Research Center’s Military-Civilian Gap Report
(www.pewresearch.org) – America’s post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are unique. Never before has this nation been engaged in conflicts for so long. And never before has it waged sustained warfare with so small a share of its population carrying the fight. This report, The Military-Civilian Gap: War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era, sets out to explore a series of questions that arise from these historical anomalies. It does so on the strength of two nationwide surveys the Pew Research Center conducted in the late summer of 2011.
The report compares and contrasts the attitudes of post-9/11 veterans, pre-9/11 veterans and the general public on a wide range of matters, including sacrifice; burden sharing; patriotism; the desirability of a return of the military draft and the gaps in understanding between the military and civilians. In a 2011 remark about the military-civilian gap, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (now retired) comments, “I fear they do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle.”
Below are some of the key findings within each of the five research categories:
The Rewards and Burdens of Military Service
- Veterans who served on active duty in the post-9/11 era are proud of their service (96 percent), and most (74 percent) say their military experience has helped them get ahead in life. The vast majority say their time in the military has helped them mature (93 percent), taught them how to work with others (90 percent) and helped to build self-confidence (90 percent). More than eight-in-ten (82 percent) say they would advise a young person close to them to join the military.
- At the same time, however, 44 percent of post-9/11 veterans say their readjustment to civilian life was difficult. By contrast, just 25 percent of veterans who served in earlier eras say the same. About one-half (48 percent) of all post-9/11 veterans say they have experienced strains in family relations since leaving the military, and 47 percent say they have had frequent outbursts of anger. One-third (32 percent) say there have been times when they felt they didn’t care about anything.
The Military-Civilian Gap
- Only about one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population has been on active military duty at any given time during the past decade of sustained warfare. Some 84 percent of post-9/11 veterans say the public does not understand the problems faced by those in the military or their families. The public agrees, though by a less lopsided majority – 71 percent.
- Some 83 percent of all adults say that military personnel and their families have had to make a lot of sacrifices since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; 43 percent say the same about the American people. However, even among those who acknowledge this gap in burden-sharing, only 26 percent describe it as unfair. Seven-in-ten (70 percent) consider it “just part of being in the military.”
Post-9/11 Veterans and Their Wars
- About one-half of post-9/11 veterans (51 percent) say relying too much on military force creates hatred that leads to more terrorism while four-in-ten endorse the opposite view: that overwhelming force is the best way to defeat terrorism.
- About six-in-ten post-9/11 veterans (59 percent) support the noncombat “nation-building” role the military has taken on in Iraq and Afghanistan. The public and pre-9/11 veterans are less enthused. Just 45 percent of both groups say they think this is an appropriate role for the military.
A Profile of Post-9/11 Veterans
- Patriotic sentiment runs high among post-9/11 veterans. Six-in-ten (61 percent) consider themselves more patriotic than most other people in the country. Just 37 percent of Americans overall say the same.
- When it comes to their financial well-being, post-9/11 veterans are somewhat less satisfied with their personal financial situation, compared with 25 percent of the public. The dissatisfaction may be linked in part to high unemployment rates (11.5 percent of post-9/11 veterans were unemployed at the end of 2010.)
A Profile of Today’s Active-Duty Force
- The percentage of minorities in the ranks of enlisted personnel and officers has increased significantly since 1990. In 2009, more than one-third of all active-duty personnel were minorities (36.2 percent), an increase from 25.4 percent about two decades ago. Women also comprise an increasing share of all active-duty officers and enlisted personnel.
- Today’s enlisted personnel are better educated than those who served before them. Fewer are high-school dropouts and more are college graduates. In 2009, 92.5 percent of recruits were at least high-school graduates, compared with 82.8 percent of comparably aged civilians.
4. The Green Evolution
(www.grailresearch.com) – In November 2011 Grail Research completed a new study, The Green Evolution, to evaluate how the green market had changed since their 2009 report, The Green Revolution. Below are the highlights:
- Consumer Attitudes toward Green do not Exist in a Bubble. The market has been volatile for both companies and consumer. This type environment will have an impact on almost all product categories.
- Impact of Recession on Green Purchasing. Green consumers’ behavior has been influenced by the recession. Most “light green” consumers (43 percent) have reduced their usage of green products or switched to conventional ones while the vast majority of “dark green” consumers have remained true to green.
- Perception of Green Products. The key attributes that shape consumers’ perceptions of a green product are centered on natural ingredients, recyclability of product or packaging and green certifications. When analyzed at a segment level, “dark green” consumers most associate green to products with natural ingredients while “light” and former green consumers associate green with recyclability.
- Reasons for Not Pursuing Green in New Categories. Price is by far the main reason why consumers have not embraced green. The economic recession has also deterred green consumers from buying green products in new categories.
- Important Green Attributes for Companies. Consumers evaluate companies and products differently when it comes to being green. Adopting sustainable manufacturing practices is perceived as the most important green attribute for companies.
- Sources for Information on Green Companies. Although consumers state they care about companies being green, only 11 percent reported seeking information about green products and practices on a regular basis. Mainly consumers rely on the sources of information that are most convenient or commonly presented to them, such as product labels.
- Communicating Green: Role of Certifications. Consumers are confused about certifications, and most do not understand their relevance. There is a need for different evaluators or certifications with better education behind them.
- Communicating Green: Ratings and Rankings. More than 50 percent of all green consumers stated they would be very likely to use a “greenness” rating to compare products, even if that was provided by the retailer.
- Communicating Green: Product Claims. Consumers are more likely to find green claims compelling if they provide quantitative information in an easy-to-visualize description of the impact the product has on the environment.
- Top Green Brands by Perception. In 2009: 1-Seventh Generation, 2-General Electric, 3-Toyota, 4-Whole Foods, 5-Trader Joe’s. In 2011: 1-General Electric, 2-Seventh Generation, 3-Toyota, 4-Whole Foods, 5-The Clorox Company.