Sustainability Reads: January 26- February 1

Rocket blasts off with NASA satellite to track climate change
In case you haven’t noticed yet, we’ll just go ahead and tell you: we love good data! The NASA satellite that launched yesterday will provide data on the earth’s soil moisture- information that is currently estimated using computer models. The rocket had a 100 pound soil moisture active passive (SMAP) observatory on board that will spend three years measuring the amount of water in the top 2 inches of the Earth’s soil. Why is this valuable? ‘The tiny amount of soil moisture links the planet’s overall environmental systems – its water, energy and carbon cycles – as well as determines whether particular regions are afflicted with drought or flooding.’ This is key for understanding climate change. By Irene Klotz on Reuters.

Obama orders rising seas built in to building standards
President Obama issued an executive order on Friday with the premise that flooding affects the environment, economic prosperity, health and safety, and national security. And the impacts will just increase due to climate change. This piece does a nice job of summing it up for us: ‘The order requires projects funded by the government to adopt tighter construction standards so that scientific projections for how climate change could affect flooding in a given area can be factored into where and how the projects are built.’ Builders can choose one of three options to reduce vulnerability: the use of best available climate science to determine best place in flood plain to build, the construction of new buildings two feet above the 100-year flood mark (hospitals and other critical buildings three feet above), or above the 500-year flood mark. The building standards are also to be updated every five years using the latest flood risk projections based on available climate science. By Bobby Magill on Climate Central.

Keystone and Congress
In light of the recent U.S. Senate vote (and approval) of the Keystone XL Pipeline last Thursday, this podcast produced by The New Yorker examines the political importance for environmentalists and Republicans alike of the pipeline. Considering President Obama’s public statement to veto such a bill, Republicans’ choice of making this bill the first of the 114th Congress demonstrates their outdated objectives. This podcast also highlights the role of the tar sands pipeline in the current context: abundant supplies of shale and OPEC’s decision to not meddle in setting oil prices will make it difficult for profits to be earned. The podcast also outlines the political (in)feasibility of a national carbon tax in the U.S, despite the economic arguments for it. By The New Yorker.

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