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Several announcements this week from our team, but firstly, we are proud to announce Dan Dourte's new role as Director of Earth Science and Data! We are hosting a reception for Dan at Cocina 214 next Thursday. Following his reception, Dan will be flying to the new Brisbane office opening.
This edition of The Economic Perspective features articles on climate impacts to forest inventories by the end of the century, new guidance from the FDA on plant-based milk labeling, the need for seeds in Washington, and more. This week's data visualization highlights ArcGIS Data Atlas's trends on precipitation intensities across the US.
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Climate Change May Cut US Forest Inventory by a Fifth
A new study at North Carolina State University used an empirical forest composition model to estimate the impact of climate factors under six projections and two socioeconomic scenarios on forest productivity for 94 species across the U.S. The results showed up to 23% loss in forest inventory by 2100 compared to the baseline scenario. The researchers estimated that the losses of lost carbon sequestration be up to $5.5 billion per year and the economic impact on the overall U.S. forest products industry value could range from a loss of as much as $2.6 billion per year. Science Daily
FDA Guidance on Plant-based Milk Labeling
This week, the FDA released for comment their “Draft Guidance for Industry: Labeling of Plant-Based Milk Alternatives and Voluntary Nutrient Statements.” Based on a past comments and focus groups in recent years, FDA found that people generally understood plant-based milks and different than dairy milk, but there seemed to be confusions about the particular nutritional differences. Much to the chagrin of some in the dairy industry, plant-based milks can still be called milk. The guidance just released only proposes voluntary nutrient labels that would clarify the nutrient differences. For example: “this product contains a lower amount of potassium than milk.” See the full guidance doc and submit comments if you’d like at FDA.gov
US Steel Production Expansion
Nucor Corp. announced plans to build a new $125 million transmission tower manufacturing facility in Decatur, Alabama this week. Nucor is scouting sites for an additional production plant as part of the steel company’s new Nucor Towers & Structures division, which was formed after purchasing Summit Utility Structures LLC in 2022. Nucor has plans to invest in other areas of the country to expand steel sheet production and rebar as well. Read more here
Storms Prompt California Officials to Raise State Water Project Allocation
After a winter storm hit California this week, water officials increased supplies of water. The Department of Water Resources expects a delivery of 35% of requested water supplies up from 30%. Despite this, 2023’s forecast remains to be a dry year. If more storms come in, restrictions on water usage in California can be temporarily lifted, and water allocation will be less conservative. Farms that received zero water allocation will now be receiving 35% of their allocation this year which will be a needed benefit to California’s agricultural industry. Officials remain cautiously optimistic for the time being. Read More
Washington Seed Orchids to the Rescue
Cuts to Forest Service funding and dwindling timber harvests over the past few decades have left seed orchards such as Dennie Ahl, Washington State’s largest at 123 acres, low on the agency’s priority list. However, as megafires, pests, and disease sweep much of the West’s forests, forestry officials feel the need for seed. State forestry leaders see the Forest Service’s long-neglected orchards as a solution. An agreement known as the Good Neighbor Authority, provides for a state-federal partnership to produce more seeds. The Washington Department of Natural Resources is working across the state to restore Dennie Ahl and roughly two dozen additional federal seed orchards, which would then supply seed for both state and federal forestry efforts. Congress has invested billions of dollars since 2021 to support reforestation efforts, and kickstart seed-growing efforts for future reforestation needs. Pew Trusts
New Study Shows Municipalities Should Target Specific Recyclables
Across Florida, several municipalities have stopped recycling as costs in recent years have skyrocketed. A new study from the Florida Recycling Partnership Foundation shows that municipalities should target “high-value” recyclables such as plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and cardboard instead of eliminating recycling entirely as these typically have higher economic value over time. Researchers from University of Florida and Florida Polytechnic University studied the environmental and economic impacts of discontinued recycling programs and found axing recycling only saved households between $1-$12 annually. The researchers assessed data dating back through 2005 which looked across the best year for recycling markets (2011), worst (2020), and middle-ground (2015). Read More at Tampa Bay Times.
Data Visualization of the Week
ArcGIS Resources for Climate Prediction Shows Changes in Precipitation through 2050
Across areas of the US, rainfall averages have been seemingly high this winter with some areas such as California sustaining precipitation that's exceeded annual wet season averages. These incidents however, are not isolated as latest climate models point to a trend of extreme precipitation becoming the new normal. A report from the ArcGIS Living Atlas highlights immediate impacts and long-term precipitation predictions across various global and local models. In Living Atlas, a downscaled LOCA model ensemble from NOAA provides more US specific data and more granular variables to analyze precipitation extremes. At the county level, and in conjunction with demographic information, the data shows 78% of Americans could see more rain by 2050 under high emissions. Check out additional maps and findings that include watershed forecasts here: ArcGIS Living Atlas - Climate Extremes