Conservation Science News February 22, 2013

Highlight of the WeekRapidly Shrinking Arctic Ice Cap









Highlight of the Week– Rapidly Shrinking Arctic Ice Cap


Scientists alarmed by rapidly shrinking Arctic ice cap

David Kramer Physics today February 2013, page 17

In September 2012 Arctic sea-ice extent fell to its lowest level since the first satellite records in 1979. At 3.4 million km2, the area was roughly half the median minimum coverage that occurred from 1979 to 2000. A 2011 MIT model showed the sea ice is thinning at four times the rate the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in 2007. The Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System model developed at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory showed last year’s minimum volume at 3263 km3, roughly half the volume it had in 2007, the year of the previous record low. Some climate scientists are now warning that an ice-free summer Arctic Ocean could appear within a few years—more than a decade sooner than existing climate models have predicted…..



Arctic Death Spiral Bombshell: CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed

By Joe Romm on Feb 14, 2013 at 6:28 pm

The sharp drop in Arctic sea ice area has been matched by a harder-to-see, but equally sharp, drop in sea ice thickness. The combined result has been a collapse in total sea ice volume — to one fifth of its level in 1980.

Arctic sea ice volume in 1000s of cubic kilometers (via Robinson)

Back in September, Climate Progress reported that the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe appeared to support the key conclusion of the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center: Arctic sea ice volume has been collapsing much faster than sea ice area (or extent) because the ice has been getting thinner and thinner.

Now the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s primary agency for funding and managing environmental sciences research, has made it official. In a Wednesday press release, they report:…

Many experts now say that if recent volume trends continue we will see a “near ice-free Arctic in summer” within a decade. And that may well usher in a permanent change toward extreme, prolonged weather events “Such As Drought, Flooding, Cold Spells And Heat Waves.” It will also accelerate global warming in the region, which in turn will likely accelerate both the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet and the release of the vast amounts of carbon currently locked in the permafrost. The findings were published online in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d). In a U. of Washington news release, polar scientist and coauthor Axel Schweiger said:”Other people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid.”


Reduced sea ice disturbs balance of greenhouse gases
(February 18, 2013) — The widespread reduction in Arctic sea ice is causing significant changes to the balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. …
“Changes in the balance of greenhouse gases can have major co
nsequences because, globally, plants and the oceans absorb around half of the carbon dioxide that humans release into the air through the use of fossil fuels. If the Arctic component of this buffer changes, so will the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” says Dr Frans-Jan Parmentier, a researcher at Lund University, Sweden. …> full story


Frans-Jan W. Parmentier, Torben R. Christensen, Lise Lotte Sørensen, Søren Rysgaard, A. David McGuire, Paul A. Miller, Donald A. Walker. The impact of lower sea-ice extent on Arctic greenhouse-gas exchange. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1784







Flooded rice field is tested as salmon nursery in Yolo Bypass



By Matt Weiser Sacramento Bee Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 1A Decades of experience have proved that Sacramento Valley rice farmers can use their fields to grow healthy ducks. Now, research under way in the Yolo Bypass aims to find out if they can grow salmon, too. On Tuesday, researchers from UC Davis, the California Department of Water Resources and a nonprofit fisheries group released 50,000 juvenile salmon into a 20-acre rice field north of Woodland…



A pair of sandhill cranes forage on a farm in Staten Island, California. Photograph courtesy Cynthia Tapley, The Nature Conservancy

for National Geographic News

Bird-friendly Farms Catching On in California

Migratory birds find refuge on farms as part of conservation plan.

Published February 20, 2013

On a recent bright afternoon in late January, scattered flocks of geese, sandhill cranes, and other birds foraged for food in cornfields on Staten Island (map) in California‘s Central Valley.

“Some farmers, if they had this concentration of geese, will put out the shotguns and use the sound to distract them,” said Brent Tadman, who manages the 9,200-acre (3,700-hectare) Conservation Farms and Ranches on the island. But birds on Staten Island are allowed to forage in peace, because this is no ordinary farm. Located about 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Staten Island was purchased by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2002 in order to create a place where agriculture and conservation can coexist. (Related: “‘Walking Wetlands’ Help Declining Birds, Boost Crops.”) TNC hopes bird-friendly practices developed and tested on Staten Island will set an example for other farmers for how they can keep their land productive and profitable—while creating habitat for birds traveling along the Pacific Flyway, one of four primary migratory routes in North America.



Monster goldfish in Lake Tahoe threaten trout

Los Angeles Times February 22, 2013

The monster goldfish that researchers retrieved from Lake Tahoe is the latest discovery that warns of the breakdown of ecological systems if people don’t stop dumping their aquarium pets into lakes, rivers and the ocean.


Mutant champions save imperiled species from almost-certain extinction
(February 19, 2013) — Species facing widespread and rapid environmental changes can sometimes evolve quickly enough to dodge the extinction bullet. Scientists consider the genetic underpinnings of such an “evolutionary rescue.” … > full story


Common swifts make mysterious twilight ascents
(February 21, 2013) — Common swifts climb to altitudes of up to 2.5 km both at dawn and dusk. This unexpected behavior was discovered by a geo-ecologist. … > full story

How seals sleep with only half their brain at a time
(February 19, 2013) — Biologists have identified some of the brain chemicals that allow seals to sleep with half of their brain at a time. … > full story


Antarctic biodiversity data gathered by 90 expeditions since 1956 summarized
February 19, 2013) — A new article describes a comprehensive database of macrobenthic assemblages from the seas around the Antarctic. The article is a valuable collection of unique georeferenced biological information that could be useful for the planning of future biodiversity research and conservation activities. … > full story


Key to Cleaner Environment May Be Right Beneath Our Feet

Feb. 17, 2013 ScienceDaily — While many people recognize that clean water and air are signs of a healthy ecosystem, most do not realize that a critical part of the environment is right beneath their feet, according to a Penn State hydrologist. The ground plays an important role in maintaining a clean environment by serving as a natural water filtration and purification system, said Henry Lin, professor of hydropedology and soil hydrology. Understanding the components that make up this integral part of the ecosystem can lead to better groundwater management and smarter environmental policy.

“We look at nature and we see all the beauty and all the prosperity around us,” said Lin, “But most people don’t know or tend to forget that the key to sustainability is right underground.”

Lin, who reports on his research Feb. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, said that Earth’s outer layer — from the top vegetation canopy to the strata of soils and layers of underground material — helps soak up and purify water by extracting excess nutrients, heavy metals and other impurities. The ground can also act as a storage container for freshwater. About 60 percent of the world’s annual precipitation ends up in this zone, Lin said. “In fact, there is more water under the ground than there is in the so-called ‘blue waters,’ such as lakes and rivers,” said Lin.

Besides using freshwater for drinking, people use large amounts of water to irrigate agricultural fields and as part of industrial operations. The researcher said that just as a global green revolution raised awareness about food security, a “blue revolution” may lead to efforts to water security with clean, safe water supply around the globe. “Without water there is no life,” Lin said. “Without groundwater, there is no clean water.” Lin said that the system is currently under threat from poor land management practices that fail to consider how ground water is affected by land uses, such as new building projects, underground storage and agricultural operations. Planners should consider, for example, how the ground and plants in an area can affect water run-off. In some cases, not taking the ground and underground features of an area into consideration can lead to flooding, or to the addition of impurities into drinking water supplies. Besides reaching out to managers and planners, Lin said that the general public also must become more aware of groundwater management issues.”In a lot of cases, for the general public and even people from government agencies and funding agencies, it’s out of sight, out of mind,” Lin said. “But, ben



The wolf issue: What science suggests; the players, and our role.
By Norman A. Bishop Feb 10 2013

I will briefly sample a few recent studies, many of which were enabled by wolf restoration that may inform the issue of wolf management in the greater Yellowstone area. Then I’ll discuss the way the wolf issue is playing out in Montana, and how we can get involved. I’m open to questions following the talk. It may be useful to put three issues in perspective before we move on to the science that suggests a fresh look at our relationship to wolves: livestock depredation, human safety, and effects on big game hunting.

About 2.6 million cattle, including calves, live in Montana. Seventy-four killed by wolves in 2011 out of 2.6 million is less than 0.003 percent. Western Montana, where most wolves live, has fewer cattle than the east side of the state. As of 2009, there were 494,100 cattle there. Seventy-four of these animals were killed by wolves, or less than 0.015 percent of the western Montana cattle population. Similar percentages apply to sheep. There were approximately 33,000 sheep, including lambs, in western Montana in 2009. Wolves were documented to have killed 11 of these animals, or 0.03 percent, in 2011. In that same year, 64 wolves were killed in response, plus 166 were taken in the 2011 hunt, leaving 653 at year’s end (Mallonee, 2011). This is not to say that the loss of a teenager’s 4H calf or a small operator’s animals are not devastating; just that the industry is not at risk. Keefover (2012) compares Montana cattle losses reported to NASS (USDA 2011) versus those verified by USDI Fish and Wildlife Service (USDI 2011).

..From 1987 to 2010, Defenders of Wildlife provided a wolf compensation program to reimburse ranchers for livestock lost to wolves. In 23 years, they invested more than $1.4 million in an effort to build trust and promote tolerance within the livestock community. The state is compensating now, using federal funds. Meanwhile, federal agencies spend at least $123 million a year to keep U.S. public lands open to livestock grazing, and Wildlife Services spends $126.5 million annually to kill wolves and other animals on behalf of agriculture.

Another bogus issue is the danger that wolves pose to humans. During a 4 year period last decade, livestock killed 108 people in 4 states and this does not include people killed by vehicle and cattle interactions (CDC, 2009). During this same time period, wild wolves in the lower 48 states killed no one. In the last 80 years, two fatalities, one in Saskatchewan, and one in Alaska, may have been wolf-caused.

As of 2012, the Montana elk population statewide was doing well, with numbers at an all-time high of 112,000. The state management objective calls for 90,000, so they are about 22,000 elk over objective.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks researchers and several scientists from MSU have contributed to our knowledge of large predator effects on the Gallatin elk herd. Hamlin and Cunningham (2009) concluded:

“Even where intensive data has been collected, there has been scientific and public debate concerning the impacts of wolf restoration on ungulate populations. Disagreement generally does not occur about the fact of declines in numbers of some ungulate populations, but disagreement about cause(s) or proportional shares of cause continues to exist.” And,…







Coldness triggers northward flight in monarch butterflies: Migration cycle may be vulnerable to global climate change
(February 21, 2013) — Each fall millions of monarch butterflies migrate south in order to escape frigid temperatures, traveling up to 2,000 miles to an overwintering site in a specific grove of fir trees in central Mexico. A new study suggests that exposure to coldness found in the microenvironment of the monarch’s overwintering site triggers their return north every spring. Without this cold exposure, the monarch butterfly would continue flying south. … > full story



Caves point to thawing of Siberia: Thaw in Siberia’s permafrost may accelerate global warming
February 21, 2013) — Evidence from Siberian caves suggests that a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius could see permanently frozen ground thaw over a large area of Siberia, threatening release of carbon from soils, and damage to natural and human environments.
A thaw in Siberia’s permafrost (ground frozen throughout the year) could release over 1000 giga-tonnes of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, potentially enhancing global warming. The data comes from an international team led by Oxford University scientists studying stalactites and stalagmites from caves located along the ‘permafrost frontier’, where ground begins to be permanently frozen in a layer tens to hundreds of metres thick. Because stalactites and stalagmites only grow when liquid rainwater and snow melt drips into the caves, these formations record 500,000 years of changing permafrost conditions, including warmer periods similar to the climate of today. Records from a particularly warm period (Marine Isotopic Stage 11) that occurred around 400,000 years ago suggest that global warming of 1.5°C compared to the present is enough to cause substantial thawing of permafrost far north from its present-day southern limit. … > full story


Nearing a Tipping Point on Melting Permafrost?

Published: February 21st, 2013 By Michael D. Lemonick

Nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere’s land surface is covered in permanently frozen soil, or permafrost, which is filled with carbon-rich plant debris — enough to double the amount of heat-trapping carbon in the atmosphere if the permafrost all melted and the organic matter decomposed.

According to a paper published Thursday in Science, that melting could come sooner, and be more widespread, than experts previously believed. If global average temperature were to rise another 2.5°F (1.5°C), say earth scientist Anton Vaks of Oxford University, and an international team of collaborators, permafrost across much of northern Canada and Siberia could start to weaken and decay. And since climate scientists project at least that much warming by the middle of the 21st century, global warming could begin to accelerate as a result, in what’s known as a feedback mechanism.

How much this will affect global temperatures, which are currently projected to rise as much as 9°F by 2100, is impossible to say. It all depends on how quickly the permafrost melts, and how quickly bacteria convert the plant material into carbon dioxide and methane gas, and nobody knows the full answer to that. But since climate scientists already expect a wide range of negative consequences from rising temperatures, including higher sea level, more weather extremes and increasing risks to human health, anything that accelerates warming is a concern.

While the rate at which melting permafrost will add carbon to the atmosphere is largely unknown, a study released February 11 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at least begins to tackle the problem. It shows that when the permafrost does melt, carbon dissolved in the meltwater decomposes faster after it’s been exposed to the ultraviolet component of sunlight.

In any case, there’s no doubt that the permafrost will melt, at least in part, since it’s already starting to do so. In some parts of the Arctic, trees, buildings and roadways have started listing to one side, or even collapsing, as soil that was once hard as a rock has softened from the warming that’s already taken place….



How Bad Will It Be When the Permafrost Melts?

Truthdig February 22, 2013

If the Earth’s average global temperature rises by another few tenths of a degree, a large area of Siberian permafrost will start to melt uncontrollably, releasing 160 to 290 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the years that follow.

Permafrost and climate change – interactive

The Guardian UK February 22, 2013

Permafrost and climate change – interactive. Permafrost, soil that has remained below 0C for more than two years, occurs in a quarter of the Earth’s land surface.



‘Uneven’ global sea-level rise predicted
(February 19, 2013) — Sophisticated computer modeling has shown how sea-level rise over the coming century could affect some regions far more than others. The model shows that parts of the Pacific will see the highest rates of rise while some polar regions will actually experience falls in relative sea levels due to the ways sea, land and ice interact globally.. The study focused on three effects that lead to global mean sea-level rise being unequally distributed around the world. Firstly, land is subsiding and emerging due to a massive loss of ice at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago when billions of tons of ice covering parts of North America and Europe melted. This caused a major redistribution of mass on Earth, but the crust responds to such changes so slowly that it is still deforming. Secondly, the warming of the oceans leads to a change in the distribution of water across the globe. Thirdly the sheer mass of water held in ice at the frozen continents like Antarctica and Greenland exerts a gravitational pull on the surrounding liquid water, pulling in enormous amounts of water and raising the sea-level close to those continents. As the ice melts its pull decreases and the water previously attracted rushes away to be redistributed around the globe. Co-author Professor Giorgio Spada says, “In the paper we are successful in defining the patterns, known as sea level fingerprints, which affect sea levels. “This is paramount for assessing the risk due to inundation in low-lying, densely populated areas. The most vulnerable areas are those where the effects combine to give the sea-level rise that is significantly higher than the global average.”… > full story


G. Spada, J. L. Bamber, R. T. W. L. Hurkmans. The gravitationally consistent sea-level fingerprint of future terrestrial ice loss. Geophysical Research Letters, 2013; DOI: 10.1029/2012GL053000






Rates of warming (°F per decade) for average winter (Dec.-Feb.), 1970-2012.


Climate central February 22, 2013 A dramatic winter warming trend has developed since 1970, with the coldest states warming the fastest, according to an analysis of 101 years of temperature records. The data, collected from thousands of government weather stations, is analyzed in our latest report Warming Winters. The report includes a state-by-state interactive illustrating how winter temperatures have warmed since both 1970 and 1912. An analysis of data from the U.S. Historical Climatology Network of weather stations shows that the coldest states are warming the fastest, and across the country winter warming since 1970 has been more than four-and-a-half times faster per decade than over the past 100 years. Winter nights across the country have warmed about 30 percent faster than nights over the whole year. Some states cooled or failed to join the warming trend over the past 100 years, but since 1970, every state has shown winter-warming.

Click Here to Explore the Interactive

  • Since 1970, winters in the top 5 fastest-warming states — Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and South Dakota — heated up four-and-a-half times faster than winters in the 5 slowest-warming states: Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington. The five fastest-warming states have seen at least 4oF warming in winters since 1970.
  • Winter nights have warmed in all but one of the lower 48 states since 1970. Across the continent, winter nighttime temperatures have warmed about 30 percent faster than nighttime temperatures over the entire year. Since 1970, overnight winter temperatures in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Vermont have warmed faster than 1.29°F per decade, or more than 5°F in just 43 years.



(Charles Krupa/ Associated Press ) – FILE – In this Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 file photo, Mike Brown of Boston cross country skis past snow-covered cars through the Chinatown neighborhood of Boston. Scientists point to both scant recent snowfall in parts of the country and this month’s whopper of a Northeast blizzard as potential signs of global warming. It may seem like a contradiction, but the explanation lies in atmospheric physics.

Experts: Global warming can strangely trigger less yearly snowfall, but more potent blizzards

By Associated Press, Published: February 18 | Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON — With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit.

Then, when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming.

How can that be? It’s been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction.

But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that’s likely to continue with manmade global warming.


— The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation — both rain and snow — in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center.

— Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the past 45 years.

— And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study’s author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 percent and 70 percent by the end of the century.

“Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. “That’s the new world we live in.”

Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink the snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards…..


University of Adelaide news release

Après Nous, Le Déluge: Extreme Rainfall Rises With Global Temperatures

Posted: 17 Feb 2013 05:15 AM PST

A worldwide review of global rainfall data led by the University of Adelaide has found that the intensity of the most extreme rainfall events is increasing across the globe as temperatures rise.

In the most comprehensive review of changes to extreme rainfall ever undertaken, researchers evaluated the association between extreme rainfall and atmospheric temperatures at more than 8000 weather gauging stations around the world. Lead author Dr Seth Westra said, “The results are that rainfall extremes are increasing on average globally. They show that there is a 7% increase in extreme rainfall intensity for every degree increase in global atmospheric temperature. “Assuming an increase in global average temperature by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, this could mean very substantial increases in rainfall intensity as a result of climate change.” Dr Westra, a Senior Lecturer with the University of Adelaide’s School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering” and member of the Environment Institute, said trends in rainfall extremes were examined over the period from 1900 to 2009 to determine whether they were becoming more intense or occurring more frequently. “The results show that rainfall extremes were increasing over this period, and appear to be linked to the increase in global temperature of nearly a degree which also took place over this time. “If extreme rainfall events continue to intensify, we can expect to see floods occurring more frequently around the world,” Dr Westra said. The strongest increases occurred in the tropical countries, although some level of increase seems to be taking place at the majority of weather gauging stations. Dr Westra said, “Most of these tropical countries are very poor and thus not well placed to adapt to the increased risk of flooding, which puts them in a larger threat of devastation.” This work is being published in the Journal of Climate and can be seen online.



Preparing for climate change-induced weather disasters
(February 17, 2013) — The news sounds grim: Mounting scientific evidence indicates climate change will lead to more frequent and intense extreme weather that affects larger areas and lasts longer. However, we can reduce the risk of weather-related disasters with a variety of measures, according to scientists. … While climate change’s role in tornadoes and hurricanes remains unknown, Field says, the pattern is increasingly clear when it comes to heat waves, heavy rains and droughts. Field explains that the risk of climate-related disaster is tied to the overlap of weather, exposure and vulnerability of exposed people, ecosystems and investments.

While this means that moderate extremes can lead to major disasters, especially in communities subjected to other stresses or in cases when extremes are repeated, it also means that prepared, resilient communities can manage even severe extremes. During the past 30 years, economic losses from weather-related disasters have increased. The available evidence points to increasing exposure (an increase in the amount and/or value of the assets in harm’s way) as the dominant cause of this trend. Economic losses, however, present a very incomplete picture of the true impacts of disasters, which include human and environmental components. While the majority of the economic losses from weather-related disasters are in developed world, the overwhelming majority of deaths are in developing countries. Withstanding these increasingly frequent events will depend on a variety of disaster preparations, early warning systems and well-built infrastructure, Field says. The most effective options tend to produce both immediate benefits in sustainable development and long-term benefits in reduced vulnerability. Solutions that emphasize a portfolio of approaches, multi-hazard risk reduction and learning by doing offer many advantages for resilience and sustainability. Some options may require transformation, including questioning assumptions and paradigms, and stimulating innovation. > full story



Jurassic records warn of risk to marine life from global warming
(February 19, 2013) — The risk posed by global warming and rising ocean temperatures to the future health of the world’s marine ecosystem has been highlighted by scientists studying fossil records. …

The team found a ‘dead zone’ recorded in the rock, which showed virtually no signs of life and contained no fossils. This was followed by evidence of a return to life, but with new species recorded. Professor Twitchett added: “The results show in unprecedented detail how the fossil Jurassic communities changed dramatically in response to a rise in sea level and temperature and a decline in oxygen levels. “Patterns of change suffered by these Jurassic ecosystems closely mirror the changes that happen when modern marine communities are exposed to declining levels of oxygen. Similar ecological stages can be recognised in the fossil and modern communities despite differences in the species present and the scale of the studies.”…full story

Nesting site protection ‘key to save turtles from climate change’
February 19, 2013) — International marine scientists warned it will be vital to protect key marine turtle nesting grounds and areas that may be suitable for turtle nesting in the future to ensure that the marine reptiles have a better chance of withstanding climate change. … > full story



Climate Change Poll: Americans Think Government Can Affect The Climate

Huffington Post  – ‎Feb 21, 2013‎

A week after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) responded to President Barack Obama’s climate change push by arguing that “the government can’t change the weather,” a new poll shows that most Americans think the U.S. government can make some difference in combating climate change. But polls also show that people consider climate change to be a relatively low priority, underscoring the political difficulty of taking action on the issue. According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, Americans are divided over whether climate change is caused primarily by human actions or by natural patterns in the Earth’s environment, with 41 percent choosing each option. Still, most agree that the U.S. government can have at least some effect in reducing the impact of climate change, though they’re divided on whether the government can make a major or minor difference. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said that U.S. policies can make a major difference, 30 percent said they can make a minor difference, and 28 percent said they can make no difference at all.


A coal mining operation in West Virginia where operators have blasted off a mountaintop to uncover valuable, low-sulphur coal seams. After the coal is removed, leftover rock and dirt is dumped into nearby valleys and streams. (Pete Souza, Chicago Tribune / December 1, 2003)

Activist investors put climate-change issue up for vote at bank

PNC Financial Services Group shareholders will consider the resolution at the April 23 annual meeting. It seeks a review of how its loans lead to greenhouse gas. By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times

February 21, 2013

Activist investors have succeeded for the first time in placing a shareholder resolution on the risks of greenhouse-gas emissions up for a vote at a major bank, a step toward making climate change an important consideration for corporations.

The resolution, which follows years of protests over banks financing certain coal operations, is to be included in proxy material being sent to shareholders of PNC Financial Services Group of Pittsburgh before the bank’s April 23 annual meeting.

It asks PNC to assess and report back to shareholders on how its lending results in greenhouse gas emissions that can alter the climate, posing financial risks for its corporate borrowers and risks to its own reputation.


Landmark carbon assessment developed for Australia
CSIRO 20 February 2013

The Australian landscape soaked up one third of the carbon emitted by fossil fuels in Australia over the past twenty years, according to a new CSIRO study released last week. The study, which marks a significant milestone in Australian atmospheric science, also found that Australia exported 2.5 times more carbon in fossil fuels in 2009-2010 than was emitted from fossil fuels burned within Australia…….

Other results include:

•    On average 2.2 billion tonnes of carbon is taken up by plants per year (1990-2011)

•    Across Australia, grassy vegetation (dominant in dry and savanna regions) accounts for 56% of carbon uptake while woody vegetation accounts for 44%

•    In wet (high-growth) years, the Australian biosphere ‘breathes in’ a vast amount of carbon from the atmosphere, exceeding the total of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, while in dry years, the biosphere ‘breathes out’ a nearly equal amount of carbon back to the atmosphere – this variability is associated with Australia’s highly variable climate; and

•    Carbon uptake from 1990-2011 was high compared with the rest of the twentieth century due largely to carbon dioxide fertilisation.



Australia’s first rainforest research ‘Supersite’ opens for business

February 18, 2013

Following three years of research and planning, CSIRO and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) have opened Australia’s first large-scale rainforest research plot.

The plot, which is located at Robson Creek on the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns, will allow scientists to monitor the rainforest over the long term and answer questions about the health of this unique Australian environment and any impacts that might arise from climate change. ‘In preparing the plot for research, we established baseline data by identifying, mapping and measuring every tree that was greater than 10cm in diameter so we can continue to monitor them. We censused over 23 000 stems from 212 different species and there is estimated to be more than 400 plant species represented on the plot,’ said Matt Bradford, a field botanist who manages the Robson Creek site for the CSIRO. ‘It’s been a huge effort, but it’s a great place to be working. There’s such a diversity of life and some of the trees on site are well over a thousand years old.’ TERN and CSIRO are now inviting scientists from Australia and across the world to undertake research at the Robson Creek site, which is the largest rainforest plot that has ever been set up in Australia….






Obama Administration Moves Forward on Climate Change Without Congress

Forthcoming regulation likely means no new coal-fired power plants will be built in the United States

US News and World Report By Rebekah Metzler
February 22, 2013
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President Barack Obama is tired of waiting for Congress to move on legislation to reduce carbon emissions, and his administration is poised to move forward on actions to do just that—including a move that will effectively eliminate the possibility of any new coal plant opening in the United States, experts say.

“We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence,” Obama said during his State of the Union address. “Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science—and act before it’s too late.”



UK Climate Change Secretary Slams Deniers As ‘Dogmatic And Blinkered’

Posted: 18 Feb 2013 09:13 AM PST

At a UK Royal Society symposium last week, Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, was as blunt on the reality of climate science as he was critical of those who deny it. His full remarks are here.

Some excerpts on the science:

  • Two hundred years of good science – teasing out uncertainties, considering risk – has laid the foundation of what we now understand.
  • It screams out from decade upon decade of research.
  • The basic physics of climate change is irrefutable.
  • Greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere and cause changes to the climate.
  • Human activity is significantly contributing to the warming of our planet.
  • And on the mistaken notion that  reading on climate action is bad for a country’s economy:
  • Too often, we are told that those who go low-carbon first will sacrifice their competitiveness.

But as the Prime Minister set out last week, reaffirming our shared commitment to being the greenest government ever:

  • “We are in a global race and the countries that succeed in that race, the economies that will prosper, are those that are the greenest and the most energy efficient.”
  • The real danger we face is being outpaced by other countries who are investing in clean, low-carbon economies.
  • This is a boom market of £3.3 trillion, growing at 3.7% a year, with investment in renewables outpacing that in fossil fuels.
  • For our businesses this means opportunities, for our governments tax revenues, for our people jobs, for our societies insulation from the volatility of fossil fuel prices.
  • So this drive for low-carbon energy is a real engine of growth for hard-pressed economies around the world.

And on those who deny the science:

  • You know, when I am confronted by some of the most dogmatic and blinkered people who deny that climate change is happening, I am reminded of the sentiment of the famous USA Today cartoon.
  • “If we really are wrong about climate change, we will have created a better world for nothing”.
  • In reality, those who deny climate change and demand a halt to emissions reduction and mitigation work, want us to take a huge gamble with the future of every human being on the planet, every future human being, our children and grand children, and every other living species.
  • We will not take that risk.

Hear, hear! Act, act!


Kerry comes out swinging on climate change

By Ben Geman – 02/20/13 01:04 PM ET The Hill

John Kerry used his first major speech as secretary of State to make that case that failing to confront climate change means missing big economic opportunities — and worse. “If we waste this opportunity, it may be the only thing our generation — generations — are remembered for. We need to find the courage to leave a far different legacy,” Kerry said in a wide-ranging address Wednesday at the University of Virginia. Kerry again signaled that he hopes to use his role as top diplomat to promote green energy technologies, arguing they can provide a major boost to U.S. industries in the “next great revolution in our marketplace.” He also cited the prospect of new markets for “America’s second-to-none innovators and entrepreneurs.” “We need to commit ourselves to doing the smart thing and the right thing and to truly take on this challenge, because if we don’t rise to meet it, then rising temperatures and rising sea levels will surely lead to rising costs down the road. Ask any insurance company,” he said. The Hill’s Julian Pecquet has much more on the speech here….



Agencies Release Sustainability Plans, Include Climate Change Adaptation

Bloomberg BNA  – ‎Feb 8, 2013‎

Federal agencies Feb. 7 released their third annual sustainability plans, which for the first time include steps to adapt to climate change. The adaptation plans outline initiatives to reduce the vulnerability of federal assets, programs, and ..



Welcome to the Politics of Climate Change: Adapt and Avert

by Mark Hertsgaard Feb 19, 2013 9:45 AM EST

While thousands converged on Washington to rally for climate change, the U.S. government was building a levee to protect the National Mall against Katrina-like flooding. Whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to adapt while also averting total disaster, writes Mark Hertsgaard.

Braving frigid cold, at least 35,000 demonstrators gathered in Washington on Sunday for the largest climate change rally in history. With a second climate and clean energy rally planned for Earth Day on April 22, Sunday’s demonstration had the feel of a first act, an opening statement of what the burgeoning U.S. climate movement is demanding from a government that for decades has denied and delayed action on the most urgent problem of our age.

The primary aim of the demonstrators was to press President Obama to make good on his pledge in the State of the Union address to “do more to combat climate change.” Above all, they urged him to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Building that pipeline would be like lighting a fuse to the second-largest pool of carbon on earth, according to writer Bill McKibben, whose group co-sponsored the rally with the Sierra Club, America’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental group.

“Keystone isn’t simply a pipeline in the sand for the swelling national climate movement,” says K.C. Golden, the policy director at Climate Solutions, a clean energy group in Seattle. “It’s a moral referendum on our willingness to do the simplest thing we must do to avert catastrophic climate disruption: stop making it worse.”

Environmentalists aren’t alone in making this argument. A recent report by the eminently establishment International Energy Agency warned that two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if humanity is to have a 50-50 chance of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.
That 2C used to be considered a relatively safe limit, but scientists now consider it the boundary between “dangerous” and “extremely dangerous” climate change. After all, they point out, look at the impacts already being experienced today, after we’ve experienced only 1C of warming. In 2012 alone, the United States endured its hottest summer on record, its worst drought in 50 years, and the superstorm horrors of Hurricane Sandy.

One disquieting sign of the dangers climate change is already posing was evident right under demonstrators’ feet on Sunday, on the grounds of the Washington Monument, where they assembled before marching to the White House. Just south of Constitution Avenue, a new levee is being built, linking the grounds of the monument with those of the World War II Memorial. Its purpose? To protect the White House, the National Archives, buildings containing the Justice Department, the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, the Commerce Department, and other key federal agencies from flooding caused by torrential rains or hurricanes.

A study by the Federal Emergency Management Administration had determined that this section of Washington, known as the Federal Triangle, had less than 100-year flood protection. In other words, the heart of the nation’s capital was roughly as vulnerable to flooding as much of New Orleans was prior to Katrina. Hence, the new levee….

USA Today On Keystone XL Rally: ‘Tens Of Thousands Demand Action On Climate Change’

Posted: 17 Feb 2013 02:12 PM PST Joe Romm

So that was a heck of a rally. I welcome readers who attended to share their thoughts and pics. If you missed it, you can get details from USA Today‘s story “Tens of thousands demand action on climate change.” Or from the Sierra Club news release, “More Than 35,000 Strong March on Washington for Climate Action.” And then there’s always the Climate Progress twitter feed — my first mass tweeting from an iPhone.

I loved the combination of passion and knowledge that was driving the day. I had the chance to talk to a bunch of the speakers and was impressed by the strength of their commitment on climate in general and Keystone XL in particular. Van Jones made clear that all of President Obama’s other accomplishments would be wiped away if he approves Keystone, since future generations are going to judge all of us on the basis of the actions we take on climate. I was very impressed with the celebrities who came, that they had substance to go with the style. How great to have Rosario Dawson explain that it is called “tar sands” and not “oil sands.” And in chatting with her afterwards, it’s clear she also understands the spectrum of clean energy solutions. And Evangeline Lilly (aka Kate Austen from Lost) was there as a Canadian to apologize to all the Americans in the audience for her country’s ceaseless efforts to send the dirtiest of fuels our way. …. I had a long talk with Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge-fund manager who helped lead the “No on Prop 23″ campaign to save California’s climate law in 2010. He is also on the board of CAP (Center for American Progress0. He is full throttle that we have to act — and act now — if we are to avert catastrophe. He said to the crowd that he has spent a lot of time reviewing investments and Keystone is a bad investment for this country. It is good to see a movement with passion from the top all the way down to the roots.


Thousands protest pipeline in SF

February 18, 2013 SF Chronicle

Rallies in downtown SF and other major cities urge President Obama to reject construction of the $7B Keystone XL oil pipeline.


Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press A protest on Sunday against the Keystone oil pipeline, a project that Canada is counting on and that environmentalists oppose.

Keystone Pipeline Decision Risks New Problems

By JOHN M. BRODER, CLIFFORD KRAUSS and IAN AUSTEN Published: February 17, 2013 557 Comments

President Obama faces a knotty decision in whether to approve the much-delayed Keystone
oil pipeline: a choice between alienating environmental advocates who overwhelmingly supported his candidacy or causing a deep and perhaps lasting rift with Canada. In deciding whether to approve the Keystone oil pipeline, President Obama faces a choice between alienating environmental advocates or … But this is also a decisive moment for the United States environmental movement, which backed Mr. Obama strongly in the last two elections. For groups like the Sierra Club, permitting a pipeline carrying more than 700,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude into the country would be viewed as a betrayal, and as a contradiction of the president’s promises in his second inaugural and State of the Union addresses to make controlling climate change a top priority for his second term. On Sunday, thousands rallied near the Washington Monument to protest the pipeline and call for firmer steps to fight emissions of climate-changing gases. Groups opposing coal production, nuclear power and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas were prominent; separate groups of Baptists and Catholics, as well as an interfaith coalition, and groups from Colorado, Toronto and Minneapolis joined the throng…..One speaker, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, compared the rally to Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, but, he said, “while they were fighting for equality, we are fighting for existence.” In front of the stage was a mock-up of a pipeline, looking a bit like the dragon in a Chinese new year parade, with the motto, “separate oil and state.”

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, predicted that Mr. Obama would veto the $7 billion project because of the adverse effects development of the Canadian oil sands would have on the global climate. “It’s rare that a president has such a singular voice on such a major policy decision,” Mr. Brune said. “Whatever damage approving the pipeline would do to the environmental movement pales in comparison to the damage it could do to his own legacy.” Mr. Brune was one of about four dozen pipeline protesters arrested at the White House on Wednesday, in an act of civil disobedience that was a first for the 120-year-old Sierra Club. So far, Mr. Obama has been able to balance his promises to promote both energy independence and environmental protection, by allowing more oil and gas drilling on public lands and offshore while also pushing auto companies to make their vehicles more efficient. But the Keystone decision, which is technically a State Department prerogative but will be decided by the president himself, defies easy compromise.



Keystone XL decision will define Barack Obama’s legacy on climate change

Does the president have courage to say ‘no’ to a project that will lock us into decades of dependency on this dirty energy?

February 22, 2013 – by John Abraham, associate professor in the school of engineering, University of St Thomas in Minnesota

Very few of us have the opportunity in life to look forward to our legacy. However, sometimes events occur that we just know will shape how history will judge us.

One of those events is about to happen to President Barack Obama. This year, his administration is expected to make a decision on whether to allow the construction of a massive pipeline that would be used to export tar sands from Alberta, Canada. The so-called Keystone XL pipeline would essentially bisect the United States to bring the tar substance (bitumen) to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. From there, it could be exported around the world.


Op-Ed Contributor

How Not to Fix Climate Change

By JOE NOCERA Published: February 18, 2013 327 Comments

After much back and forth, James E. Hansen and I had agreed on a date to meet. Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is the scientist most closely associated with climate change activists like Bill McKibben, who has led the charge against the Keystone XL pipeline, and Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. In Hansen’s view, the country needs to start moving away from fossil fuels now, before the damage becomes irreversible. As regular readers know, I believe the Obama administration should approve the Keystone pipeline, which would transport oil mined and processed from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Like it or not, fossil fuels are going to remain the world’s dominant energy source for the foreseeable future, and we are far better off getting our oil from Canada than, say, Venezuela. And the climate change effects of tar sands oil are, all in all, pretty small. I had the strong sense that Hansen hoped that once we met, I would begin to see the error of my ways…..




A Fork in the Road  19 February 2013

A response to Joe Nocera’s column in today’s New York Times is available here–  or on my web site-   Apologies to Bill McKibben for the comment that could be misconstrued — I do not question the efforts to wake up the public to the situation at hand, and pressure elected officials to serve the public interest, not special interests.


“We stand at a fork in the road. Conventional oil and gas supplies are limited. We can move down the path of dirtier more carbon-intensive unconventional fossil-fuels, digging up the dirtiest tar sands and tar shales, hydrofracking for gas, continued mountain-top removal and mechanized destructive long-wall coal mining. Or we can choose the alternative path of clean energies and energy efficiency.

The climate science is crystal clear. We cannot go down the path of the dirty fuels without guaranteeing that the climate system passes tipping points, leaving our children and grandchildren a situation out of their control, a situation of our making. Unstable ice sheets will lead to continually rising seas and devastation of coastal cities worldwide. A large fraction of Earth’s species will be driven to extinction by the combination of shifting climate zones and other stresses. Summer heat waves, scorching droughts, and intense wildfires will become more frequent and extreme. At other times and places, the warmer water bodies and increased evaporation will power stronger storms, heavier rains, greater floods.

The economics is crystal clear. We are all better off if fossil fuels are made to pay their honest costs to society. We must collect a gradually rising fee from fossil fuel companies at the source, the domestic mine or port of entry, distributing the funds to the public on a per capita basis. This approach will provide the business community and entrepreneurs the incentives to develop clean energy and energy-efficient products, and the public will have the resources to make changes.

This approach is transparent, built on conservative principles. Not one dime to the government.

The alternative is to slake fossil fuel addiction, forcing the public to continue to subsidize fossil fuels. And hammer the public with more pollution. The public must pay the medical costs for all pollution effects. The public will pay costs caused by climate change. Fossil fuel moguls get richer, we get poorer. Our children are screwed. Our well-oiled coal-fired government pretends….”



Cross-posted from the Sierra Club

One-Sided Keystone XL Poll Tells the Story Big Oil Wants You To Hear

Posted: 22 Feb 2013 07:45 AM PST

After a weekend during which tens of thousands of Americans took to the streets to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and demand solutions to the climate crisis, the American Petroleum Institute (API) is touting a one-sided poll they claim shows Americans supporting the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

However, a closer look at their poll questions unveils a biased survey which failed to equip respondents with the basic facts of the project before asking them to form an opinion. Instead, API crafted a poll to ensure they got the types of answers they were looking for by totally ignoring the environmental and economic realities of the toxic pipeline from Canada.

You can see the questionnaire for yourself here (PDF). And you’ll notice that poll respondents are presented with all types of arguments for the pipeline, but not a single argument against Keystone XL. In fact, the survey doesn’t even mention the words “tar sands” at all. Without the proper context, people who had never heard of Keystone XL before could easily associate the pipeline with conventional oil — not the toxic, more carbon-intensive tar sands oil that Keystone XL would transport. Furthermore, there is no mention of the grave risks Keystone XL poses. API’s survey ignores any discussion of possible oil spills, drinking water contamination, or climate-disrupting pollution — just to name a few….



Change for good

The United States must boost energy spending to make its mark on the climate debate.

January 29, 2013 NATURE Editorial

Environmentalists lauded US President Barack Obama when he raised the issue of global warming in his second inaugural address on 21 January, but the truth is that he said nothing new. Obama kept it simple, short and vague, discussing climate change as a moral imperative while declaring clean energy a battleground for innovation. It was a generic vision for a pragmatic president, which is to his credit. But if Obama truly wants to leave his mark on the climate debate, he will need to break out of the mold and lay the foundation for something larger….



Thousands of protestors gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, as well as act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and ‘move beyond’ coal and natural gas, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)


Solutions for Climate Change Aren’t Either/Or

February 20, 2013 by Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club

Last week, we posted a video interview with Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, in which he explained why the organization had decided to break a 120-year prohibition on civil disobedience to protest the Keystone pipeline. In this guest post, Brune shares his thoughts on Sunday’s climate change rally and responds to some of the critics who question whether Keystone is the right focus for the environmental movement right now.

On Sunday, over 35,000 Americans from across the nation and from all walks of life took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to demand action to solve the climate crisis. Ranchers, scientists, doctors, investors, students, mothers and fathers — we all stood together in the shadow of the Washington Monument united in our demand that our leaders stop listening to the special interests and start taking action to address climate disruption. And we were joined in spirit by thousands more at solidarity rallies across the country.

The media coverage of what will now be known as the largest climate rally in U.S. history rang out across the globe, featuring Americans from across the country who braved the bitter cold to call on President Obama to reject dirty fossil fuels and go all in on clean energy and climate solutions.

We were loud, we were clear and we know our voices were heard. <–more–>

But while tens of thousands of Americans raised their voices outside the White House gates, a few critics who stayed home decided to throw rocks after the fact. For example, Joe Nocera took to the pages of The New York Times to criticize our opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, while others argued that the climate action movement that came to life on Sunday should focus on other goals, like stopping pollution from coal-fired power plants. To present opposing Keystone XL and promoting other climate solutions as an “either/or” proposition is a false dichotomy. The reality is we need to do both — and more.

During the past year, Americans have had their lives shaken by record droughts, record floods, record wildfires and record storms fuelled by the climate crisis. The threat of climate disruption has become a dangerous reality. We cannot settle for half measures taken at a “business as usual” pace.

The threat of climate disruption has become a dangerous reality. We cannot settle for half measures taken at a “business as usual” pace.

The thing about Mr. Nocera and others who criticize our focus on tar sands don’t seem to be aware of is that the Sierra Club and our allies in the Forward on Climate movement have been fighting the climate crisis from all angles for many years. Around the country, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal activists have retired or stopped 314 coal plants — helping to drop our nation’s climate-disrupting carbon emissions to their lowest level since 1994. What’s more, we’ve advocated passionately for the EPA to finalize its carbon pollution standards from new power plants, and to release a strong proposal for carbon pollution standards from existing plants. We’re also fighting to keep dirty energy companies out of America’s pristine Arctic — protecting that area not just from destructive drills but also from an even more destabilized climate brought on by the extraction and burning of dirty fuels. And we’re standing up to curb the poisoned water and climate pollution created by fracked gas.

More than that, the tens of thousands who stood up for climate action, and the millions more they represent, know that fighting the climate crisis means more than just stopping the sources of dirty energy — it also means fighting to lessen our nation’s dependence on dirty fuels while investing in our new clean energy economy. That’s why the Sierra Club worked side-by-side last year with automakers, auto workers and the Obama administration to implement new vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will cut our nation’s fuel usage for cars and light trucks by 3.1 million barrels a day in 2030. That step alone will create more than half a million new jobs and cut the number of times families have to go to the pump in half. That’s also why we are vocal in our support for President Obama’s stated goal of doubling our nation’s clean-energy capacity, building on a thriving wind and solar industry that already supports tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs.

President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL is at the top of our list because it’s the most immediate decision he can make to fight climate disruption. The reason why Americans want to stop tar sands is because they recognize something that short-sighted critics seem to have overlooked: The president cannot be serious about fighting climate disruption and approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This pipeline would open the floodgates for one of the filthiest fuel sources in the world. It would pump some of the filthiest, most carbon-intensive fuels through our country and onto the world market. President Obama can’t have it both ways.


New Outdoor Industry Data Show The Power Of The Recreation Economy In Every State

Posted: 15 Feb 2013 08:04 AM PST By Jessica Goad

The outdoor recreation economy is big business in America. Data released today by the Outdoor Industry Association show the fiscal impacts of recreation in all 50 states, from consumer spending to direct jobs to wages and salaries. The top five states for consumer spending on outdoor recreation are: California ($85.4 billion), Florida ($38.3 billion), New York ($33.8 billion), Texas ($28.7 billion), and Georgia ($23.3 billion).

Additionally, every state in the union benefits from between 28,000 direct jobs (North Dakota) to 732,000 direct jobs (California) in the industry.

In total, outdoor recreation provides $646 billion in economic impacts and 6.1 million direct jobs every year (three times that of the oil and gas industry). These data incorporate the various sectors the outdoor recreation industry relies on, including manufacturing, retail and sales, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and services near outdoor recreation sites.

A number of western state legislatures are attempting to “reclaim” federal public lands in order to exploit their resources more easily. But Frank Hugelmeyer, CEO of the Outdoor Industry Association, noted that for the industry’s economic influence to increase, political leaders must balance the use of public lands for energy while implementing policies that protect them:

Outdoor recreation is good for the American economy and our future. When we invest in the nation’s network of public lands and waters, we are protecting and enhancing outdoor experiences for the benefit of the thousands of businesses, communities and families whose livelihoods depends on the outdoor recreation economy.

More than 140 million Americans participate in some sort of outdoor activity every year. While the value of such recreation has long been suspected, only in the last several years has it actually been quantified. As Greg Hanscom writes in Grist:

After decades of being blown off as dirty hippie backpacker types, [environmentalists]  can finally declare, with a straight face and data to back them up, that protecting the public lands from oil and gas drilling and other ecological insults is not just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business…




(Jahi Chikwendiu/ The Washington Post ) – Tom Steyer poses for a portrait on Saturday, January 26, 2012, in Washington, D.C. The San Francisco billionaire has President Obama’s ear when it comes to energy and climate change.

Billionaire has unique role in official Washington: climate change radical

By Juliet Eilperin, Published: February 17


When Thomas Steyer — a San Francisco billionaire and major Democratic donor — discusses climate change, he feels as if one of two things is true: What he’s saying is blindingly obvious, or insane.

“I feel like the guy in the movie who goes into the diner and says, ‘There are zombies in the woods and they’re eating our children,’ ” Steyer said during a recent breakfast at the Georgetown Four Seasons, his first appointment in a day that included meetings with a senator, a White House confidant and other D.C. luminaries. It’s a somewhat shocking statement for someone who’s in the running to succeed the cerebral Steven Chu as energy secretary. Granted, he’s a long shot — the leading contender is MIT professor Ernest Moniz, who served as the department’s undersecretary during the Clinton administration — but his backers say his strength lies in combining business savvy with an activist’s passion. John Podesta, who chairs the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said Steyer has “got the right skill set, the understanding and attitude to lead an energy transformation in this country.” “I think he would be a fabulous choice for energy secretary,” Podesta added, “and I’ve let my friends in the administration know that.”


But it’s not as if Steyer, 55, needs an official government perch to make an impact. Armed with his wealth and his political connections, Steyer has played a critical behind-the-scenes role in helping shape the country’s national energy policy. He has helped bankroll two successful ballot initiative campaigns in California since 2010, including one last fall that closes a corporate tax loophole and steers $500 million toward energy-efficiency projects for each of the next five years. He has funded initiatives at the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress, along with major research centers at Yale and Stanford. And he has spoken with President Obama about how to pursue climate and energy policy in a second term.

But Steyer is taking on a more prominent public role. On Sunday, he spoke to a crowd that organizers estimated at 35,000, gathered on the Mall to call for a stronger national climate policy.“I’m not the first person you’d expect to be here today. I’m not a college professor and I don’t run an environmental organization,” he said. “For the last 30 years I’ve been a professional investor and I’ve been looking at billion-dollar investments for decades and I’m here to tell you one thing: The Keystone pipeline is not a good investment.”

The move stems from an uncomfortable conclusion Steyer has reached: The incremental political victories he and others have been celebrating fall well short of what’s needed to avert catastrophic global warming. “If we can win every single battle and lose the war, then we’re doing something wrong,” he said, moments after consuming two mochas on the table before him.

The simultaneous mocha-drinking is understandable: Steyer had arrived just hours before on the red-eye, which he chooses over a private jet to reduce his carbon footprint. He may have built one of the nation’s most successful hedge funds — Farallon Capital Management, named after the waters off San Francisco Bay teeming with great white sharks — but he’s not flashy.

Dressed in a blue button-down shirt, a tan houndstooth blazer and black-and-green neon tennis shoes (when asked the brand, Steyer replies, “They’re the kind of sneakers they sell in the tennis club store when you show up at the club and you’ve forgotten your tennis shoes”), Steyer doesn’t appear radical. He excelled at Phillips Exeter Academy, Yale and Stanford Business School; Steyer and his immediate family are responsible for more than $1.1 million in donations to Democratic candidates since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

And while plenty of people seek audiences with Obama on their issue of choice, Steyer is one who can claim at least some degree of influence. Steyer, who has prioritized increasing buildings’ energy efficiency in his work, discussed the matter with Obama during a small dinner in October when the president was on a fundraising swing through Northern California; a couple of weeks later during an MTV interview the president mentioned the idea as a key pillar in how the United States can address global warming . “The next step is to deal with buildings and really ramp up our efficiency in buildings,” Obama said. “If we had the same energy efficiency as Japan, we would cut our energy use by about 20 percent. That means we’d be taking a whole lot of carbon out of our atmosphere.”

Chris Lehane, one of Steyer’s political advisers and a former aide to both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, said Obama administration officials appreciate the fact that Steyer has not only been a generous financial supporter but also has combined his business and political acumen to score electoral wins.”There are not many donors who have gone out there and been successful in the political world,” Lehane said. Steyer, who made his initial fortune engaging in arbitrage, has employed unconventional tactics at times to achieve his goals. In 2010 he teamed up with former Reagan secretary of state George P. Shultz to defeat a proposition financed by Texas oil firms to reverse California’s law capping greenhouse gas emissions. The two men learned a month before the election that they were assured of victory. But rather than save the $10 million they still had on handfor the campaign, Steyer and Shultz decided to spend it so they could win by an even larger margin.

“We didn’t just want to beat it, we wanted to beat it big time,” Shultz said in an interview. In 2012, Steyer targeted a handful of companies exempted from California taxes, spending $32 million on a ballot initiative toclose that loophole and funnel the money to energy efficiency and education initiatives. He convinced the firms directly affected by the change — General Motors, Kimberly-Clark, Chrysler, International Paper and Procter & Gamble — that their image would suffer if they fought it. “It just blew me away that he was able to persuade these CEOs of major corporations to say, ‘Guys, we’re going to back away from this,’ ” said Art Pulaski, who heads the California Labor Federation.

Not all Californians are as pleased with Steyer’s efforts, even if they’re impressed by his record. Gino DiCaro, spokesman for the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, said Steyer’s push to wean the state off fossil fuels has raised the cost of manufacturing for its member companies. “Some of the stuff he’s done doesn’t really take into account the challenges our industry has out here in terms of competing and growing,” DiCaro said. “He hasn’t made it easy on us.”

In the past Steyer had dabbled in politics while simultaneously heading a $20 billion hedge fund. But he stepped down from Farallon Capital at the end of 2012, and he is devoting himself primarily to the Center for the Next Generation — the nonprofit organization that he and his brother Jim established. Steyer is convinced that global greenhouse gas emissions will have to begin to fall within the next few years or the world will suffer catastrophic consequences. Butwhen he talks to many in his circle— including business leaders and prominent politicians — he finds them oblivious to what he sees as a monumental threat.”I feel as if people have a completely different time frame than I do,” he said, adding that while U.S. leadership is essential in curbing the world’s carbon output, “We’re not going to lead the world on this unless the American people understand why we’re doing this. . . . Have the American people declared war on carbon? No . . . way.”

Steyer has. On Sunday he returned to Washington to speak at a climate rally urging Obama to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. He is preparing to launch a report that will quantify how much inaction on climate change will cost the United States, akin to the 2006 report by Sir Nicholas Stern that estimated climate effects ranging from extreme weather to hotter temperatures could sap between 5 and 20 percent from the world’s future annual economic output.

And Steyer is trying to figure out who can communicate this message in a way that Americans will trust, so they don’t see him and others as people straight out of a zombie movie.

“When you talk about global warming, you’ve lost 90 percent of the public unless you make it real to them,” he said.

Steyer may face long odds, but he seems prepared to approach the situation with a sense of humor. He dons Scottish ties every day — although not those bearing the tartan of his own clan, Murray, because he said it was too ugly. “You gotta dress up for a fight,” he said.Although he and his college-age daughter braved freezing temperatures at Sunday’s climate rally in Washington, he’s not a masochist. While marching with his daughter and her classmates en route to the White House, he declared, “I look forward to buying everyone a warm drink at the Willard [Hotel]” — proof that perhaps he could fit neatly into the Washington establishment after all.


Alice R. Crites and Steven Mufson contributed to this report.








Free Print Versions of EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States 2012 Now Available

The Earth’s climate is changing. Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events—such as heavy rainstorms and record high temperatures—are taking place. These types of changes can bring about fundamental disruptions in ecosystems, affecting plant and animal populations, communities, and biodiversity. Such shifts can also affect society, including where people can live, what kinds of crops farmers can grow, and what kinds of businesses can thrive in certain areas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2012 report presents a set of 26 indicators tracking observed signs of climate change in the United States. EPA has worked in partnership with other agencies, organizations, and individuals to collect and communicate useful data about five categories of climate indicators: greenhouse gases, weather and climate, oceans, snow and ice, and society and ecosystems. The report, Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2012 is designed to be useful for scientists, analysts, decision-makers, educators, and others who can use climate change indicators as a tool for:

  • Assessing trends in environmental quality, factors that influence the environment, and effects on ecosystems and society.
  • Effectively supporting science-based decision making and communication.
  • Evaluating existing and future climate-related policies and programs.

If you  are interested in ordering some print copies of Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2012, please write to There is no charge for these reports, but we would love to hear how you’ll be using the report to support your own climate change work on a state or local level.






Watershed Valuation: A Closer Look
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
1:00pm – 3:00pm PST


Dr. Rosalind Bark – Resource Ecological Specialist, CSIRO Ecosystem Services

Shawn B. Komlos, P.G. – Physical Scientist, US Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources

Rowan Schmidt – Research Analyst, Earth Economic

Dr. Holly Hartmann – Director, Arid Lands Information Center, University of Arizona/CLIMAS

Dr. Kiyomi Morino – Research Associate, University of Arizona


Join the Academy’s first extended webinar taking a closer look at how to value watersheds and the services they provide to downstream users. Investment in watersheds expands the portfolio of risk management options available to water utilities as they plan for the effects of climate change on their water systems. Implementing a watershed valuation study informs the structure of, and determines possible sources of funding for, ongoing watershed investment programs. Watershed valuation helps answer some of the questions of what services watersheds provide, and how to account for them – for example, what are the costs of providing those services through some other mechanism or what costs can be avoided by investing in watersheds? Dr. Rosalind Bark returns to discuss the recent valuation of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin. Rowan Schmidt, Earth Economics, will share his experience with ecosystem services valuation and cost benefit analysis. Shawn Komlos, US Army Corps of Engineers, will give an overview of the Institute for Water Resources Planning Suite tool, which conducts cost effectiveness and incremental cost analyses. REGISTER NOW



Archiving and Accessing your Ocean Data for the Long Term: NOAA’s National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) Today

February 27, 2013; 12:00-13:00 Eastern Time;  NOAA HQ SSMC-4 Room 8150; (Add to Google Calendar)

Tracking Climate Change in the Northern California Current Pelagic Ecosystem: Response of Zooplankton in the Oregon Upwelling Zone to Large-Scale Climate Forcing with Thoughts on the Looming Problems of Hypoxia and Ocean Acidification

February 28, 2013; 11:00-12:00 Pacific Time; NOAA NWFSC
Auditorium (Seattle, WA);  (Add to Google Calendar)


Small Pelagic Fish and Climate
March 7, 2013; 11:00-12:00 Pacific Time; NOAA NWFSC
Auditorium (Seattle, WA); (Add to Google Calendar)

Drought Prediction
March 12, 2013, 13:00 – 14:15h Eastern Time; NOAA HQ SSMC-3 12th Floor Fishbowl; (Add to Google Calendar)

From Ridge Tops to Wave Tops; Exploring The Life History of Central California Steelhead in Stream, Estuarine and Ocean Habitats
March 14, 2013; 11:00-12:00 Pacific Time; NOAA NWFSC
Auditorium (Seattle, WA); (Add to Google Calendar)



COAST Student Internships Summer 2013

Application Deadline: March 18 2013, 5:00 pm Pacific time

Want to get paid to collect abalone, test new marine technology or sample beautiful streams in northern California? Then apply for a
COAST Student Summer Internship today!

The CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology (COAST), with generous support from California Sea Grant, is offering paid internships for continuing CSU undergraduate and graduate students for Summer 2013. Interns will be placed with one of several host institutions where they will work side-by-side with professional scientists on current research projects. This is an excellent opportunity for CSU students to gain valuable experience and technical skills while working with experts in fisheries, marine ecology, eco-toxicology and marine technology!

Fourteen individual internship positions are available. Host institutions are the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), Marine Applied Research & Exploration (MARE), Pacific Coast Environmental Conservancy (PCEC) and PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO).








Electric cars fight to thrive

February 18, 2013 SF Chronicle Carolyn Lochhead

Their owners gush, but with sales weak, can these plug-in vehicles stave off oblivion?



Geoengineering by Coalition to Mitigate Global Warming

Science Daily (press release)  – ‎Feb 21, 2013‎

Solar geoengineering is a proposed approach to reduce the effects of climate change due to greenhouse gasses by deflecting some of the sun’s incoming radiation.




Turning pine sap into ‘ever-green’ plastics
(February 20, 2013) — Scientists are developing new plastics that are “green” from the cradle to the grave. Given that the new polymers they are working on often come from pine trees, firs and other conifers, they are giving the word “evergreen” added resonance. … > full story






Exxon Cease-And-Desist Order Gets Climate Change Ad Pulled From State Of The Union Coverage see VIDEO here

Posted: 02/15/2013 4:13 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/15/2013 6:51 pm EST

A still from the ‘Exxon Hates Your Children’ ad, which was ordered off the air just hours before it was supposed to be broadcast on Fox News during the State of the Union. (photo credit: The Other 98%)

Exxon Mobil gave a cease-and-desist order to Comcast, forcing the cable provider to pull an ad about climate change from Fox News’ coverage of the State of the Union address in some areas Tuesday night, according to emails provided to The Huffington Post by one of the groups responsible for the ad.

The satirical spot, which is brazenly titled “Exxon Hates Your Children” and urges Congress to eliminate fossil fuel industry subsidies, was produced by progressive advocacy groups Oil Change International, The Other 98% and Environmental Action. Having already aired on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Up With Chris Hayes”, the video has also been viewed more than 170,000 times on YouTube. The ad was scheduled to air Tuesday in Houston, Texas, and Denver, Colo., during Fox’s State of the Union coverage. However, a few hours before the event began, a senior vice president of Universal McCann, which handles global media duties for Exxon, fired off an email to Comcast, which provides Fox programming
in those areas…..



Common chemicals linked to osteoarthritis
(February 14, 2013) — A new study has linked exposure to two common perfluorinated chemicals with osteoarthritis. The study is the first to look at the associations between perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, and osteoarthritis, in a study population representative of the United States. PFCs are used in more than 200 industrial processes and consumer products including certain stain- and water-resistant fabrics, grease-proof paper food containers, personal care products, and other items. Because of their persistence, PFCs have become ubiquitous contaminants of humans and wildlife. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to look at the associations between perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), and osteoarthritis, in a study population representative of the United States…. > full story



Will global warming drive us extinct? A review of Peter Ward’s “Under a Green Sky”

Posted on October 13, 2011 by energyskeptic A review of: Ward, Peter D. 2007. Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future.

There’ve been five major extinctions where 50-95% of life died.  Below is a list of the mass extinctions Ward believes were caused by global warming – and he wrote this book to explain why human-caused global warming is probably going to cause another major extinction, probably the second worst in Earth’s history (the worst being the Permian).  Major extinctions are in capitals…



Review: Under a Green Sky

Alex Steffen, 27 Apr 07

….Ward takes us into the deep past, to the end of the Triassic, as a guide to what atmospheric carbon of 1,000 ppm (a concentration we will hit within the century if we don’t change our ways) might be like if we believe the paleontological record:

“Waves slowly lap on the quiet shore, slow-motion waves with the consistency of gelatin. Most of the shoreline is encrusted with rotting organic matter, silk-like swathes of bacterial slick now putrefying under the blazing sun… [W]e look out on the surface of the great sea itself, and as far as the eye can see there is a mirrored flatness, an ocean without whitecaps. Yet that is not the biggest surprise. From shore to the horizon, there is but an unending purple color — a vast, flat, oily purple. No fish break its surface, no birds or any other kind of flying creatures dip down looking for food. The purple color comes from vast concentrations of floating bacteria, for the oceans of Earth have all become covered with a hundred-foot thick veneer of purple and green bacterial soup. …There is one final surprise. We look upward, to the sky. … We are under a pale green sky, and it has the smell of death and poison. We have gone to Nevada of 200 million years ago only to arrive under the transparent atmospheric glass of a greenhouse extinction event, and it is poison, heat and mass death that are found in this greenhouse.”

In other words, despite what some conservative pundits have written, you might not want to vacation in an extreme greenhouse world, after all. Forget “breeding couples” camping out in the Arctic, we may not have flowering plants or any but the toughest insects left (the cockroaches from my first apartment will almost certainly make it). The basic take away? Climate can go crazy, and when it does, you don’t want to be in the room (or on the planet). As Wallace Broecker says, “”The climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks” Or, as Ward tells it:”Our world is hurtling toward carbon dioxide levels not seen since the Eocene epoch of 60 million years ago, which, importantly enough, occurred right after a greenhouse extinction.”

This could begin to happen as soon as 2100, Ward says. Many babies today will be alive then. This is not some woo-woo future: this is the world we may be cooking up for our children.

Which is not to say that we are certain to bake our planet into a nearly lifeless, anoxic swamp. We have the time and capacity for innovation and mobilization to create one planet lives with a carbon footprint of 400 ppm or less — which is the baseline standard around which a new consensus seems to be emerging. Even if we are too greedy and stupid to change, we might get lucky and dodge the bullet of a climate extinction. Scientists have been wrong before (though since we’re looking at an ice-free world with massive sea-level rise, I wouldn’t buy any beach-front property).

The warnings are ever-clearer, and ever-more-dire. We can now see catastrophe drawing near: but we can see, too, a new day at hand. Forewarned is fore-armed. We know how much we have to change, and we know such change is possible: what we don’t yet know is how to get there. That voyage, from catastrophic stupidity to ecological intelligence in a few short decades, is the greatest adventure upon which humanity has embarked since we captured fire, learned to gossip and set out to see the world. We know the cost of failure. Let’s find the bounty of success. With a grim understanding of the costs of defeat, let’s imagine victory.



How Many People Have Been Killed by Guns Since Newtown?

Slate partners with @GunDeaths for an interactive, crowdsourced tally of the toll firearms have taken since Dec. 14.

By Chris Kirk and Dan Kois Posted Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at 12:00 AM

The answer to the simple question in that headline is surprisingly hard to come by. So Slate and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths are collecting data for our crowdsourced interactive. This data is necessarily incomplete. But the more people who are paying attention, the better the data will be. You can help us draw a more complete picture of gun violence in America. If you know about a gun death in your community that isn’t represented here, please tweet @GunDeaths with a citation. (If you’re not on Twitter, you can email And if you’d like to use this data yourself for your own projects, it’s open. You can download it here.


New clues to Epstein-Barr virus
(February 21, 2013) — Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) affects more than 90 percent of the population worldwide and was the first human virus found to be associated with cancer. Now, researchers have broadened the understanding of this widespread infection with their discovery of a second B-cell attachment receptor for EBV. … > full story



Effects of human exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals examined in landmark United Nations report
(February 19, 2013) — Many synthetic chemicals, untested for their disrupting effects on the hormone system, could have significant health implications according to the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO. … > full story



Great Backyard Bird Count goes global, shatters records
(February 21, 2013) — Bird watchers from 101 countries made history in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 15 to 18. In the largest worldwide bird count ever, bird watchers set new records, counting more than 25 million birds on 116,000 checklists in four days — and recording 3,138 species, nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species. … > full story

Organic tomatoes accumulate more vitamin C, sugars than conventionally grown fruit
(February 20, 2013) — Tomatoes grown on organic farms accumulate higher concentrations of sugars, vitamin C and compounds associated with oxidative stress compared to those grown on conventional farms, according to new research. … > full story








Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (February 18, 2013) MCCLATCHY Read more here:



Energy Tomorrow is brought to you by the American Petroleum Institute (API),” in case you were wondering.

We all need to “imagine life without fossil fuels,” since that is where we will are going to end up this century one way or another:

Either we will make the decision by choice fast enough to stabilize near  2°C (3.6°F) warming to avoid the very worst impacts — and that means the rich countries in particular will be essentially off fossil fuels by mid-century (see “Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy.”

Or we will be forced off fossil fuels soon after that by the ever-worsening reality of climate change — when we realize that we are headed toward 10+°F warming and a planet with a carrying capacity far below 9 billion (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts“).

Conservation Science News February 15, 2013

Highlight of the WeekNetherlands: “controlled flow” working with nature instead of sea barriers









Special Section: Keystone XL Pipeline- perspectives


Highlight of the Week– Netherlands: “controlled flow” working with nature instead of sea barriers


Going With the Flow

By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN NY Times February 13, 2013

The Netherlands has held back the sea for centuries; now it is letting it in, as the Dutch realize they are facing a losing battle…. It has been to the Netherlands, not surprisingly, that some American officials, planners, engineers, architects and others have been looking lately. New York is not Rotterdam (or Venice or New Orleans, for that matter); it’s not mostly below or barely above sea level. But it’s not adapted to what seems likely to be increasingly frequent extreme storm surges, either, and the Netherlands has successfully held back the sea for centuries and thrived.

After the North Sea flooded in 1953, devastating the southwest of this country and killing 1,835 people in a single night, Dutch officials devised an ingenious network of dams, sluices and barriers called the Deltaworks. Water management here depends on hard science and meticulous study. Americans throw around phrases like once-in-a-century storm. The Dutch, with a knowledge of water, tides and floods honed by painful experience, can calculate to the centimeter — and the Dutch government legislates accordingly — exactly how high or low to position hundreds of dikes along rivers and other waterways to anticipate storms they estimate will occur once every 25 years, or every 1,000 years, or every 10,000.

And now the evidence is leading them to undertake what may seem, at first blush, a counterintuitive approach, a kind of about-face: The Dutch are starting to let the water in. They are contriving to live with nature, rather than fight (what will inevitably be, they have come to realize) a losing battle. Why? The reality of rising seas and rivers leaves no choice. Sea barriers sufficed half a century ago; but they’re disruptive to the ecology and are built only so high, while the waters keep rising. American officials who now tout sea gates as the one-stop-shopping solution to protect Lower Manhattan should take notice. In lieu of flood control the new philosophy in the Netherlands is controlled flooding.

….Another way to phrase it is that hard decisions need to be made to cope with rising waters and severe weather. Notwithstanding the obvious difference between a group of farmers on a Dutch polder and communities in the Rockaways or Coney Island, good government makes those decisions while giving affected residents adequate knowledge and agency: the ability to make choices, and the responsibility to live by them. Politically that may be trickier than commissioning sea barriers or making dikes into boardwalks or redesigning waterfronts and neighborhoods to accommodate floods and storms. But it’s necessary. And it may be the most important lesson that the Netherlands has to offer at the moment.







PRBO in the news:


Second grade students James Thebaut, front, and Jonah Denison from Pleasant Valley Elementary in…

Novato students help bring old runway back to nature

By Mark Prado Marin Independent Journal Posted:   02/14/2013 04:33:33 PM PST

More than 80 second graders from Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Novato got their hands dirty for a good cause Thursday morning as they worked to put plants on top of what once was an Air Force landing strip.

The effort was part of ongoing wetlands restoration work at the old Hamilton Airfield, a 760-acre tract the military decommissioned in 1974. The work is being led by the state’s Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

PRBO Conservation Science — formerly the Point Reyes Bird Observatory — sponsored the Thursday event through its Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed — or STRAW program. Toyon, California rose, coyote brush, mugwort, coast live oaks and buckeye were some of the plantings put in soil that now covers the old airstrip. That sand and soil was pulled from the bottom of the Port of Oakland and piped to Marin over the past few years.



Ecosystem Services May Shape Regulations, Report Finds February 11, 2013

Ecosystem services – benefits provided by functioning ecosystems – may shape future policy and regulations as well as government expectations of the private sector, particularly on public lands, according to a report by BSR. The report, “Global Public Sector Trends in Ecosystem Services, 2009-2012,” is based on four years of research by BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group. It documents government action, voluntary programs formed, administration decisions issued and new regulations that have passed. The report is especially relevant to companies that have, or are in the midst of crafting, internal policies on biodiversity and ecosystem services, BSR said. BSR identified several emerging trends, such as national governments that are considering expanding GDP measures to include natural capital. The report also found that public-sector exploration of ecosystem services valuation is on the rise and governments are interested in attracting investment in the concept, through eco-compensation mechanisms and payments for ecosystem services


Study: Fish
drugtainted water
suffer reaction

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- February 15, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — What happens to fish that swim in waters tainted by traces of drugs that people take? When it’s an anti-anxiety drug, they become hyper, anti-social and aggressive, a study found. They even get the munchies. It may sound funny, but it could threaten the fish population and upset the delicate dynamics of the marine environment, scientists say. The findings, published online Thursday in the journal Science, add to the mounting evidence that minuscule amounts of medicines in rivers and streams can alter the biology and behavior of fish and other marine animals. “I think people are starting to understand that pharmaceuticals are environmental contaminants,” said Dana Kolpin, a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey who is familiar with the study. Calling their results alarming, the Swedish researchers who did the study suspect the little drugged fish could become easier targets for bigger fish because they are more likely to venture alone into unfamiliar places. “We know that in a predator-prey relation, increased boldness and activity combined with decreased sociality … means you’re going to be somebody’s lunch quite soon,” said Gregory Moller, a toxicologist at the University of Idaho and Washington State University. “It removes the natural balance.”…


Under The Label: Sustainable Seafood

Is Sustainable-Labeled Seafood Really Sustainable?

NPR Feb 11, 2013 Industry demand for the “sustainable seafood” label, issued by the Marine Stewardship Council, is increasing. But some environmentalists fear fisheries are being certified despite evidence showing that the fish population is in trouble — or when there’s not enough information to know the impact on the oceans.



Marsh plants actively engineer their landscape
(February 13, 2013)
Marsh plants, far from being passive wallflowers, are “secret gardeners” that actively engineer their landscape to increase their species’ odds of survival, say scientists. …
But this team found intertidal marsh plants in Italy’s famed Venetian lagoon were able to
subtly tune, or adjust, their elevations by producing different amounts of organic soil, and trapping and accumulating different amounts of inorganic sediments as part of a complex interplay with the environment. “Our study identifies the visible signature of a two-way feedback occurring between the vegetation and the landscape,” said Marco Marani, professor of ecohydrology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Pratt School of Engineering. “Each species builds up the elevation of its substrate to within a favorable range for its survival, much the way corals in the animal kingdom do.” The finding may help scientists better predict marsh ecosystems’ resilience to climatic changes such as sea level rise…. Scientists have long known that biodiversity plays an important role in a marsh ecosystem’s long-term health and survival, “but this paper provides a clear causal link suggesting how and why,” he said. “The take-home message is that the more species you have colonizing different levels within a marsh, the more resilient to abrupt change the marsh as a whole will be.” He said that marshes in which an invasive species, such as cordgrass, has pushed out other species will be less resilient to climatic changes.full story


M. Marani, C. Da Lio, A. D’Alpaos. Vegetation engineers marsh morphology through multiple competing stable states. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1218327110



Q&A With Kemba Shakur on Urban Reforestation
In 1990, when Kemba Shakur moved to Oakland, there was not a single tree on her block. So she began to plant them herself. Now her organization, Urban Releaf, has planted over 15,000 trees throughout East Bay communities, working to improve the quality of life in ecologically disadvantaged neighborhoods and at the same time enhance community involvement and employment, especially amongst at-risk youth. Sierra Magazine sat down with Shakur, locally known as “Tree Lady,” at her quaint neighborhood office in Oakland.



Geologists quantify, characterize sediment carried by Mississippi flood to Louisiana’s wetlands
(February 13, 2013) — The spring 2011 flood on the Mississippi was among the largest floods ever, the river swelling over its banks and wreaking destruction in the surrounding areas. But a new study also shows that the floods reaped environmental benefits — transporting and laying down new sediment in portions of the Delta — that may help maintain the area’s wetlands. … > full story

Large, Ancient Landslides Delivered Preferred Upstream Habitats for Coho Salmon



February 11, 2013 ScienceDaily— A study of the Umpqua River basin in the Oregon Coast Range helps explain natural processes behind the width of valleys and provides potentially useful details for river restoration efforts designed … > full story

Oregon: Large, Ancient Landslides Delivered Preferred Upstream Habitats for Coho Salmon
A study of the Umpqua River basin in the Oregon Coast Range helps explain the natural processes behind various widths of valleys and provides potentially useful details for river restoration efforts designed to improve habitats for coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). While geologists and hydrologists long ago documented how river-channel width and depth varies, little had been done to understand how valleys beyond the channels form, and why they may be narrow or wide. The study — appearing online ahead of print in the journal Geology — combined on-the-ground observations and a remote-sensing technology known as airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR).


TEEB: For Water and Wetlands
Wetlands are a fundamental part of local and global water cycles and are at the heart of this nexus, providing numerous ecosystem services to humankind. Nonetheless, wetlands continue to be degraded or lost and, in many cases, policies and decisions do not sufficiently take into account these interconnections and interdependencies. This report presents insights on critical water-related ecosystem services in order to encourage additional policy momentum, business commitment, and investment in the conservation, restoration, and wise use of wetlands. It presents recommendations on how the value of water and wetlands can be translated into solid decision making processes.


Amphibian study shows how biodiversity can protect against disease
(February 13, 2013) — The richer the assortment of amphibian species living in a pond, the more protection that community of frogs, toads and salamanders has against a parasitic infection that can cause severe deformities, including the growth of extra legs, according to a new study. … > full story



How Birds Got Their UV Vision

Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer Date: 11 February 2013 Time: 07:52 AM ET

If optimists see the world through rose-colored lenses, some birds see it through ultraviolet ones. Avians have evolved ultraviolet vision quite a few times in history, a new study finds. Birds depend on their color vision for selecting mates, hunting or foraging for food, and spotting predators. Until recently, ultraviolet vision was thought to have arisen as a one-time development in birds. But a new DNA analysis of 40 bird species, reported Feb. 11 in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, shows the shift between violet (shorter wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum) and ultraviolet vision has occurred at least 14 times. “Birds see color in a different way from humans,” study co-author Anders Ödeen, an animal ecologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, told LiveScience. Human eyes have three different color receptors, or cones, that are sensitive to light of different wavelengths and mix together to reveal all the colors we see. Birds, by contrast, have four cones, so “they see potentially more colors than humans do,” Ödeen said. Birds themselves are split into two groups based on the color of light (wavelength) that their cones detect most acutely. Scientists define them as violet-sensitive or ultraviolet-sensitive, and the two groups don’t overlap, according to Ödeen. Birds of each group would see the same objects as different hues. [Vision Quiz: What Can Animals See?]


Fish and Wildlife Service The greater sage grouse.

Ouster Sharpens Debate on the Sage Grouse

By NATE SCHWEBER February 5, 2013, 6:22 pm12 Comments

The ouster of a Nevada wildlife official has fanned a debate over whether the sage grouse can best be kept off the Endangered Species List by protecting its habitat or by killing more of its predators.

Kenneth Mayer, who had been the director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and serves on regional and national committees that deal with sage grouse conservation, startled environmentalists and many Nevadans last week by announcing that Gov. Brian Sandoval had demanded his resignation.

The federal Fish and Wildlife Service is assessing sage brush populations throughout the country and is expected to decide by the end of 2015 whether the bird should be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Mr. Mayer maintained that it was his top priority to keep sage grouse populations healthy enough not to need federal protection. Many Nevadans fear that endangered status for the bird could mean restrictions on agriculture, development and energy production.

Mr. Mayer’s supporters had praised his ability to navigate the often-conflicting interests of ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, miners, energy developers and hunters in seeking to keep the sage grouse off the list. But critics said that his steps to protect its habitat went too far and risked hurting the economy. In one of his last acts, Mr. Mayer’s department mapped nine million acres of remaining sagebrush ecosystems in Nevada and identified core areas of the birds’ most vital habitat, as well as places with sparse numbers of sage grouse that it considered better candidates for development.


New owl species discovered in Indonesia is unique to one island
(February 13, 2013) — A new owl is the first endemic bird species discovered on the island of Lombok, Indonesia, according to new research. … > full story

Kids teach parents to respect the environment
(February 12, 2013) — A child can directly influence the attitude and behavior of their parents towards the environment without them even knowing it. Researchers have, for the first time, provided quantitative support for the suggestion that environmental education can be transferred between generations and that it can actually affect behavior. … > full story

AP Photo/Daily Inter Lake, Karen Nichols, File

Controversial coyote hunt under way in Modoc Co.

By John S. Marshall Associated Press Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:04 p.m.

FILE – A coyote stands in a field in this undated file photo. Hunters are tromping through the countryside of a remote Northern California county Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, as they compete in a controversial contest to see who can kill the most coyotes. Organizers of the hunt have not said how many hunters are taking part in the weekend hunting contest in rural Modoc County, but opponents estimate about 200 people have signed up for the hunt. (AP Photo/Daily Inter Lake, Karen Nichols, File)

SAN FRANCISCO — Hunters were tromping through the countryside of a remote Northern California county over the weekend as they competed in a controversial contest to see who could kill the most coyotes.

Organizers of the hunt remain secretive of the event, but opponents estimate about 200 hunters were taking part in the seventh annual hunting contest near tiny Adin in Modoc County.

Opponents of the hunt — which began Friday evening and was scheduled to run through Sunday afternoon — said the contest is inhumane and that the killing of what’s expected to be dozens of coyotes contradicts wildlife management practices.


San Mateo Creek: Water leak kills fish

Peter Fimrite and Kevin Fagan February 11, 2013

A broken pipe sent thousands of gallons of drinking water cascading into San Mateo Creek over the weekend, killing scores, possibly thousands, of fish from chlorine poisoning. The dead fish began floating to the surface Saturday when a thousand gallons a minute of chlorinated water flowed down a forested hillside into the creek about a half-mile below Crystal Springs Reservoir, according to utility officials and residents…..The exact death toll has not yet been determined, but at least 30 fish could be seen lying on the bottom and floating along a 100-yard section of the creek, which rolls past stately homes beneath towering oak trees. Rare steelhead trout, which have been listed as threatened along the Central Coast under the Endangered Species Act since 1997, were believed to have been killed….


US$8.17 Billion Spent in 2011 to Safeguard Drinking Water & Supplies by Protecting Watersheds

The number of initiatives that protect and restore forests, wetlands, and other water-rich ecosystems has nearly doubled in just four years as governments urgently seek sustainable alternatives to costly industrial infrastructure, according to a new report from Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace. The report entitled “State of Watershed Payments 2012”, is the second installment of the most comprehensive inventory to date of initiatives around the world that are paying individuals and communities to revive or preserve water-friendly features of the landscape. Such features include wetlands, streams, and forests that can capture, filter, and store freshwater.





Creating science-based tools for on-the-ground climate change planning and adaptation — 9 tales of change February 2013 Ariel Rubissow Okamoto

It’s been the hottest year on record, and California’s long past questioning the science on climate change and hell bent on developing electric cars, building bullet trains, trading carbon, and designing the habitats of the future, both human and wild. We’re not running from the idea that temperatures may rise by 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, and sea level by more than five feet. “Climate change is real, it’s now, and it can’t be ignored. If land and resource managers stay stuck in the day-to-day, they could really miss the boat as far being prepared, and conducting actions now that are going to set them up for success in the future,” says Rebecca Fris of the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Inside this special issue on Left Coast climate change, you’ll read about tools for bay marshes to adapt to accelerating sea level rise, ideas for managed retreat, acid ocean effects on oyster shells, flood control channels as sediment sources for restoration, and more, including a 12-page progress report from the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative. ….


Busy beavers give Canada geese a lift, study shows
(February 13, 2013)
A new study shows that busy beavers are helping Canada geese get an earlier start when the birds fly home and begin spring nesting. ..
Ponds in Alberta where beavers were active tended to result in earlier thaw of winter snowpack, giving the geese a better chance at reproductive success, according to the study, published recently in Mammalian Biology. The study is the first to link beavers to early season nesting habits of Canada geese in a Northern climate….. > full story


As permafrost ice melts, the soil collapses and either creates an erosional hole in the tundra or a landslide such as this one. These features are called thermokarst failures. Exposure to “sunlight may act as an amplification factor in the conversion of frozen C [carbon] stores to C gases in the atmosphere.” Picture: George Kling.

Sunlight Stimulates Release of Climate-Warming Gas from Melting Arctic Permafrost

Feb. 11, 2013 — Ancient carbon trapped in Arctic permafrost is extremely sensitive to sunlight and, if exposed to the surface when long-frozen soils melt and collapse, can release climate-warming carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere much faster than previously thought.

University of Michigan ecologist and aquatic biogeochemist George Kling and his colleagues studied places in Arctic Alaska where permafrost is melting and is causing the overlying land surface to collapse, forming erosional holes and landslides and exposing long-buried soils to sunlight.

They found that sunlight increases bacterial conversion of exposed soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas by at least 40 percent compared to carbon that remains in the dark. The team, led by Rose Cory of the University of North Carolina, reported its findings in an article to be published online Feb. 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …”What we can say now is that regardless of how fast the thawing of the Arctic permafrost occurs, the conversion of this soil carbon to carbon dioxide and its release into the atmosphere will be faster than we previously thought,” Kling said. “That means permafrost carbon is potentially a huge factor that will help determine how fast the Earth warms.” Tremendous stores of organic carbon have been frozen in Arctic permafrost soils for thousands of years. If thawed and released as carbon dioxide gas, this vast carbon repository has the potential to double the amount of the heat-trapping greenhouse gas in the atmosphere on a timescale similar to humanity’s inputs of carbon dioxide due to the burning of fossil fuels….Already, the melting of ground ice is causing land-surface subsidence features called thermokarst failures. A thermokarst failure is generated when ice-rich, permanently frozen soils are warmed and thawed. As the ice melts, the soil collapses and either creates an erosional hole in the tundra or — if the slope is steep enough — a landslide…..

Rose M. Cory, Byron C. Crump, Jason A. Dobkowski, and George W. Kling. Surface exposure to sunlight stimulates CO2 release from permafrost soil carbon in the Arctic. PNAS, February 11, 2013 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1214104110

Melting ‘Permafrost’ Releases Climate-Warming CO2 Even Faster Than We Thought

By Climate Guest Blogger on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:35 am

We’ve known for a while that “permafrost” was a misnomer (see Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s” and links below). The defrosting permamelt will likely add 0.4°F – 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100. A new study, “Surface exposure to sunlight stimulates CO2 release from permafrost soil carbon in the Arctic” suggests the process may happen even faster than we thought…..


GAO: Climate change poses big financial risk to US government (blog)   Feb 15 2013‎

The report said the federal government faces financial challenges from climate change, including the costs of weather-related damage to property it owns, losses through flood insurance and crop support programs, and costs of emergency aid in disasters.


Warming Effect of Urban Activities Felt Widely

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA (NYT) February 12, 2013 Compiled: 12:58 AM

Scientists studying weather and energy consumption have found that activities from urban areas can warm the air by nearly 2 degrees as far as 1,000 miles away.


Security Risks of Extreme Weather and Climate Change



February 11, 2013 — A new study, conducted specifically to explore the forces driving extreme weather events and their implications for national security planning over the next decade, finds that the early ramifications of climate extremes resulting from climate change are already upon us and will continue to be felt over the next decade, directly impacting U.S. national security interests. “Lessons from the past are no longer of great value as a guide to the future,” said co-lead author Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies at Harvard University. “Unexpected changes in regional weather are likely to define the new climate normal, and we are not prepared.”

Changes in extremes include more record high temperatures; fewer but stronger tropical cyclones; wider areas of drought and increases in precipitation; increased climate variability; Arctic warming and attendant impacts; and continued sea level rise as greenhouse warming continues and even accelerates. These changes will affect water and food availability, energy decisions, the design of critical infrastructure, use of the global commons such as the oceans and the Arctic region, and critical ecosystem resources. They will affect both underdeveloped and industrialized countries with large costs in terms of economic and human security. The study identifies specific regional climate impacts — droughts and desertification in Mexico, Southwest Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean, and increased flooding in South Asia — that are of particular strategic importance to the United States.

The report concludes that the risks related to extreme weather require that the U.S. sustain and augment its scientific and technical capacity to observe key indicators, monitor unfolding events, and forewarn of impending security threats as nations adapt to a changing climate. The study recommends a national strategy for strategic observations and monitoring — including greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions, ocean temperatures, and satellite observations of the Arctic — and improved forecast models. …The report grew out of a series of workshops with an international group of leading climate scientists held at the National Academy of Sciences, Columbia University, and the Harvard University Center for the Environment. The study was conducted with funds provided by the Central Intelligence Agency. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the CIA or the U.S. Government…..

Report: Climate Extremes: Recent Trends with Implications for National Security at

Tree Die-Off Triggered by Hotter Temperatures



February 11, 2013 — Scientists have determined that the recent widespread die-off of Colorado trembling aspen trees is a direct result of decreased precipitation exacerbated by high summer temperatures. The die-off, … > full story


Moose photo by Rick Libbey

Climate Crisis Deepens for America’s Moose

from Wildlife Promise NWF 2/6/2013

Alarming news from Minnesota today about the health of the state’s moose population being driven to the brink by climate change. Today, officials revealed the northeast Minnesota population of the iconic animal has fallen a shocking 35 percent just since last year and they’re canceling the 2013 fall hunting season entirely:


Arctic Ocean is on thin ice: European satellite confirms numbers
(February 13, 2013) — The September 2012 record low in Arctic sea-ice extent was big news, but a missing piece of the puzzle was lurking below the ocean’s surface. What volume of ice floats on Arctic waters? And how does that compare to previous summers? These are difficult but important questions, because how much ice actually remains suggests how vulnerable the ice pack will be to more warming. New satellite observations confirm an analysis that for the past three years has produced widely quoted estimates of Arctic sea-ice volume. Findings based on observations from a European Space Agency satellite show that the Arctic has lost more than a third of summer sea-ice volume since a decade ago, when a U.S. satellite collected similar data. … > full story


Thinning Ice Is Turning Arctic into an Algae Hotspot

Lauren Morello February 14th, 2013

Shrinking, thinning Arctic sea ice appears to be accelerating the growth of algae in polar waters, a new study finds, a development that could alter the region’s ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Scientists cruising central Arctic waters last summer aboard the research ship Polarstern were stunned to discover dense, shaggy deposits of the algae Melosira arctica clinging to the bottom of sea ice…



Wetland trees a significant overlooked source of methane
(February 13, 2013) — Wetland trees are a significant overlooked source of the potent greenhouse gas methane, according to a new study. The study may help to resolve an ongoing controversy about the origins of methane in the tropics. … > full story


NOAA: February 2012 to January 2013 Warmest on Record

By Lauren Morello
Published: February 14th, 2013

January was warmer and wetter than average in the contiguous U.S., despite the persistent drought in the nation’s heartland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. The average temperature in the lower 48 states reached 32.0°F last month. At 1.6°F above the 20th century average, January 2013 ties 1958 as the 39th-warmest January on record….


Drought expands in key U.S. farm states

Reuters 2:20 p.m. CST, February 7, 2013

* Severe drought still grips 87 pct of High Plains

* Conditions worsen in Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado

* Nebraska remains most drought-stricken state

Harsh drought conditions expanded in key farm states in the nation’s midsection over the last week, climate experts said on Thursday.

There has been some recent precipitation through the Plains region but the frozen ground did not allow for much moisture to penetrate into parched soils, according to the Drought Monitor report, a weekly analysis of drought conditions put together by a consortium of state and federal climate experts. …..Fully 100 percent of the land area in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma remained engulfed in severe drought or worse, according to the Drought Monitor. Oklahoma did see some easing of drought over the last week thanks to storms through the state in late January…..


It’s Cold and My Car is Buried in Snow. Is Global Warming Really Happening?

Union of Concerned Scientists February 9, 2013

For years, climate contrarians have pointed to snowfall and cold weather to question the scientific reality of human-induced climate change. Such misinformation obscures the interesting work scientists are doing to figure out just how climate change is affecting weather patterns year-round. Understanding what scientists know about these effects can help us adapt. And, if we reduce the emissions that are driving climate change, we can dramatically reduce the pace of change and better prepare for the consequences in the future.

What is the relationship between weather and climate?

Weather is what’s happening outside the door right now; today a snowstorm or a thunderstorm is approaching. Climate, on the other hand, is the pattern of weather measured over decades. NASA and NOAA plus research centers around the world track the global average temperature, and all conclude that Earth is warming. In fact, the past decade has been found to be the hottest since scientists started recording reliable data in the 1880s. These rising temperatures are caused primarily by an increase of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere created when we burn coal, oil, and gas to generate electricity, drive our cars, and fuel our businesses. Hotter air around the globe causes more moisture to be held in the air than in prior seasons. When storms occur, this added moisture can fuel heavier precipitation in the form of more intense rain or snow. At the same time, because less of a region’s precipitation is falling in light storms and more of it in heavy storms, the risks of drought and wildfire are also greater. Ironically, higher air temperatures tend to produce intense drought periods punctuated by heavy floods, often in the same region. These kinds of disasters may become a normal pattern in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue to rise.

The United States is already experiencing more intense rain and snowstorms. The amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest one percent of storms has risen nearly 20 percent, averaged nationally—almost three times the rate of increase in total precipitation between 1958 and 2007. Some regions of the country have seen as much as a 67 percent increase in the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest storms — and an updated version of this figure from the draft National Climate Assessment suggests this increase may have risen to 74 percent between 1958 and 2011.

Overall, it’s warming, but we still have cold winter weather.

The seasons we experience are a result of the Earth’s tilted axis as it revolves around the Sun. During the North American winter, our hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun and its light hits us at a different angle, making temperatures lower. While climate change won’t have any impact on Earth’s tilt, it is significantly shifting temperatures and causing spring weather to arrive earlier than it used to. Overall, spring weather arrives 10 days earlier than it used to, on average. “Spring creep” is something scientists projected would happen as the globe continues to warm.

The Arctic connection.

Winters have generally been warming faster than other seasons in the United States and recent research indicates that climate change is disrupting the Arctic and ice around the North Pole. The Arctic summer sea ice extent broke all records during the end of the 2012 sea ice melt season. Some researchers are pointing to a complex interplay between Arctic sea ice decline, ocean patterns, upper winds, and the shifting shape of the jet stream that could lead to extreme weather in various portions of northern mid-latitudes — such that some places get tons of snow repeatedly and others are unseasonably warm. In the Arctic, frigid air is typically trapped in a tight loop known as the polar vortex. This super-chilled air is not only cold, it also tends to have low barometric pressure compared to the air outside the vortex. The surrounding high-pressure zones push in on the vortex from all sides so the cold air is essentially “fenced in” above the Arctic, where it belongs. As the Arctic region warms faster than most other places, however, the Arctic sea ice melts more rapidly and for longer periods each year, and is unable to replenish itself in the briefer, warmer winter season. This can destabilize the polar vortex and raises the barometric pressure within it.

For two winter seasons (2009/2010 and 2010/2011), the polar vortex was notably unstable. In addition, another measurement of barometric pressure—the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)—was in negative mode, weakening part of the barometric pressure “fence” around the polar vortex. This instability allows the cold Artic air to break free and flow southward, where it collides with warmer, moisture-laden air. This collision can produce severe winter weather in some regions and leave milder conditions in other parts of the northern hemisphere. The winter of 2009/2010 recorded the second lowest negative phase of the NAO since the 1970s, which helps to explain the record snowfalls across the northeastern United States. The 2010/2011 winter also trended toward a strong negative phase. During the 2011/2012 winter, there was a shift in the position of the jet stream, which separates cold arctic air from warmer air. Typically New England, the Great Lakes, and parts of the Great Plains sit north of the jet stream and remain cold in the winter season. However, the 2011/2012 winter jet stream position meant these regions were south of it for most of the winter, which helped produce the fourth warmest U.S. winter on record. It’s not clear how much impact this trend will have in the future, especially as the Arctic ice continues to lose mass.

It’s not too late.

The choices we make today can help determine what our climate will be like in the future. Putting a limit on heat-trapping emissions, encouraging the use of healthier, cleaner energy technologies, and increasing our energy efficiency are all ways to help us to avert the worst potential consequences of global warming, no matter what the season.


Boulder NCAR scientist says climate change worsens Northeast storm

Warmer ocean, moisture in atmosphere to boost accumulations up to 10 percent

By Charlie Brennan Camera Staff Writer Updated:   02/08/2013 09:30:10 PM MST

Climate change will likely add to the final snowfall totals from the monster winter storm lashing the Northeast by 5 to 10 percent, according to a leading expert on climate change at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at NCAR, said Friday that snowfall totals from the storm are being influenced by both warmer air temperatures, leading to the atmosphere retaining more moisture, and a 1-degree increase in ocean temperatures since 1970.

That will give you about 5 to 10 percent more snow than if you would have had the same snow back in 1980,” Trenberth said.

“This relates to the idea that out here, there’s the saying, ‘It’s too cold to snow.’ You freeze-dry the snow. The biggest snowfalls occur when the temperatures are just below freezing — not when it’s really cold.” That is why, Trenberth said, the Rocky Mountain region tends to see its highest snowfalls in March and April, when temperatures are higher.

In fact, he said, even the timing of this storm can also likely be somewhat attributed to climate change. A storm of this nature, historically, would be more likely to savage the Northeast coastal states in March, when it’s typically somewhat warmer, than in mid-February.


Epic Blizzard Poised to Strike New England: What Role Is Climate Change Playing?

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 09:33 AM PST

An epic blizzard is bearing down on New England — fed in part by relatively warm coastal waters.

I asked Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to comment on the role climate change has on this storm. He explained:

This is a perfect set up for a big storm, with the combination of two parts: a disturbance from the Gulf region with lots of moisture and a cold front from the west.

Ingredients for a big snow storm include temperatures just below freezing. In the past temperatures at this time of year would have been a lot below freezing but the ability to hold moisture in the atmosphere goes down by 7% per degree C (4% per deg F), and so in the past we would have had a snow storm but not these amounts.

The moisture flow into the storm is also important and that is enhanced by higher than normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs). These are higher by about 1 deg C [almost 2°F] than a normal (pre-1980) due to global warming and so that adds about 10% to the potential for a big snow.

Every storm and “event” is unique. It always has unique ingredients. So it is hard if not impossible to take apart, because any piece missing means the storm behaves differently. So event attribution is not well posed. Instead we look for the environment in which the storm is occurring and how that has changed to make conditions warmer and moister over the oceans.

As Trenberth wrote in his must-read analaysis, “How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change,” the “answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”

On the warmer SSTs, Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman explains:

As was the case when Hurricane Sandy struck in late October, sea-surface temperatures are running a couple degrees above average off the East Coast, which according to climate scientists may reflect both natural climate variability and the effects of manmade global warming.

The presence of unusually warm waters could aid in the rapid development of the storm system, and infuse it with additional moisture, thereby increasing snowfall totals.

Heavy precipitation events in the Northeast, including both rain and snowstorms, have been increasing in the past few decades, in a trend that a new federal climate report links to manmade global climate change. As the world has warmed, more moisture has been added to the atmosphere, giving storms additional energy to work with, and makingprecipitation extremes more common in many places.

Trenberth’s second point is an important one — warmer than normal winters favor snow storms (See “We get more snow storms in warm years“). A 2006 study, “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States” found we are seeing more northern snow storms and that we get more snow storms in warmer years:

The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000…. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity….

Assessment of the January-February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%-80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years….  a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more snowstorms than in 1901-2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) U.S. Climate Impacts Report from 2009 reviewed that literature and concluded, “Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.

So it is no surprise that a 2012 study found extreme snowstorms and deluges are becoming more frequent and more severe. Freedman points out:

For the northern hemisphere as a whole, winter storms have become more common and intense during the past 50 years, according to the draft federal report. Observed changes in winter air circulation in the northern hemisphere, possibly related to Arctic sea ice loss, has been linked to large swings in seasonal snowfall from one winter to the next in the Northeast. Other studies indicate that as global warming continues, nor’easters such as the one about to hit New England may become more frequent in this region, and less common in the Mid-Atlantic states, as storm tracks shift closer to the poles.

…People should take the weather forecasts of this storm seriously and act accordingly.

Similarly, the nation should take seriously the climatic projections of ever worsening storms from global warming — and act accordingly.

Jane Goodall on climate change: ‘We’ve just been stealing, stealing, stealing from our children, and it’s shocking’

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, February 10, 2013 0:15 EST

….She spoke of the explosion in the planet’s human population, of the ever greater need for land, food and housing, and evoked the scarcity of water as well as global warming.

“When I first came to Africa and I flew over Kilimanjaro, even in the height of the summer there was a great cap of snow. The snows of Kilimanjaro,” she recalled.

“I just read the other day that we should rather be talking about the dusts of Kilimanjaro. That is just one signal and this is all around the world that the glaciers are melting,” she went on. For Goodall, one of the world’s leading chimpanzee experts, “something has gone wrong” in the relationship between man and the planet. “We’ve just been stealing, stealing, stealing from our children, and it’s shocking. But is it true that there’s nothing that can be done? No absolutely not,” she goes on, explaining how her latest project, Roots and Shoots, began. The project, which now spans 132 countries, began in Tanzania, where Goodall, the first scientist to name the animals she was studying — a practice that sparked controversy, started observing chimpanzees, with just 12 students from nine different high schools. Roots and Shoots is aimed at sensitising young people to the importance of the environment and fauna….







SER (Society for Ecological Restoration) Urges Obama to Hold a National Summit on Climate Change
On February 8th SER’s Executive Director, Steven Bosak, joined with the leaders of the Society for Conservation Biology, American Fisheries Society, The Wildlife Society, American Meteorological Society, and the Ecological Society of America in order to ask President Obama to hold a national summit on climate change. In a letter to the White House, our organizations – representing thousands of scientists and professional members – urged the President to consider a summit to identify policies and actions that federal agencies, state and local governments can implement to address the causes and effects of climate change. To read our full letter to President Obama, click here.


GOP bills target ‘overreaching’ EPA

By Ben Goad – 02/14/13 03:25 PM ET

A series of new bills introduced this week in the Senate seek to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory reach and would subject the agency to penalties for missing reporting deadlines. Offered by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), the legislation reflects the latest in a series of Republican attempts to rein in an EPA that GOP lawmakers say has run amok and must be held accountable.  Johanns took to the Senate floor Wednesday, saying the people of his home state are fed up with the EPA’s actions during the Obama administration. “And their message is very loud, clear, and unmistakable,” he said. “EPA is overreaching, overbearing, and overstepping boundaries that have long existed.”… Johanns introduced four separate bills. The first targets EPA’s use of guidance documents, rather than formal rules, to enforce actions. Such guidance is not subject to congressional oversight, but Johanns’s bill would remedy that by bringing them under the scope of the Congressional Review Act, he said. The second would require the EPA’s Inspector General to report to Congress twice a year on the agency’s progress toward meeting deadlines that, Johanns said, are now being skirted. The third measure would reduce EPA’s budget by $20,000 every week until the agency meets its agenda setting deadlines. The last bill would force EPA to provide timely information and technical assistance to states working to comply with federal mandates…


Insider Emerges as Top Contender for EPA Job


WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama is moving toward naming a veteran clean-air expert to head the Environmental Protection Agency, in a signal of his intent to make climate change a priority in his second term.

Gina McCarthy, a 58-year-old Boston native who once worked for Gov. Mitt Romney, has emerged as the top contender to take over the EPA, according to people familiar with the matter. She would formally succeed Lisa Jackson, who officially left the agency’s top post Thursday.

A McCarthy nomination would likely face opposition from Republicans, over the agency’s actions in general and the role she played in directing …


Oregon Land Use Bills Aim to Limit Wetland Restoration
Three Oregon legislators have introduced bills on behalf of the Oregon Farm Bureau that will require the retention of land use permits for wetland restoration on farmland. As noted in this article, the Farm Bureau believes that this legislation is necessary to prevent restoration activities from taking land out of agricultural production. House Bill 2173 and Senate Bill 338 would make “creation, restoration or enhancement of wetlands” a conditional use in the Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) zone.


Be persuasive. Be brave. Be arrested (if necessary)

A resource crisis exacerbated by global warming is looming, argues financier Jeremy Grantham. More scientists must speak out.

14 November 2012 NATURE

I have yet to meet a climate scientist who does not believe that global warming is a worse problem than they thought a few years ago. The seriousness of this change is not appreciated by politicians and the public. The scientific world carefully measures the speed with which we approach the cliff and will, no doubt, carefully measure our rate of fall. But it is not doing enough to stop it. I am a specialist in investment bubbles, not climate science. But the effects of climate change can only exacerbate the ecological trouble I see reflected in the financial markets — soaring commodity prices and impending shortages. ….. …

The damaging effects of climate change are accelerating. James Hansen of NASA has screamed warnings for 30 years. Although at first he was dismissed as a madman, almost all his early predictions, disturbingly, have proved conservative in relation to what has actually happened. In 2011, Hansen was arrested in Washington DC, alongside Gus Speth, the retired dean of Yale University’s environmental school; Bill McKibben, one of the earliest and most passionate environmentalists to warn about global warming; and my daughter-in-law, all for protesting over a pipeline planned to carry Canadian bitumen to refineries in the United States, bitumen so thick it needs masses of water even to move it. From his seat in jail, Speth said that he had held some important positions in Washington, but none more important than this one.

President Barack Obama missed the chance of a lifetime to get a climate bill passed, and his great environmental and energy scientists John Holdren and Steven Chu went missing in action. Scientists are understandably protective of the dignity of science and are horrified by publicity and overstatement. These fears, unfortunately, are not shared by their opponents, which makes for a rather painful one-sided battle. Overstatement may generally be dangerous in science (it certainly is for careers) but for climate change, uniquely, understatement is even riskier and therefore, arguably, unethical.

It is crucial that scientists take more career risks and sound a more realistic, more desperate, note on the global-warming problem. Younger scientists are obsessed by thoughts of tenure, so it is probably up to older, senior and retired scientists to do the heavy lifting. Be arrested if necessary. This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence. I implore you to be brave.

Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA – Members of the Sierra Club, and Committed Citizens, including actress Daryl Hannah, demonstrate in front of the White House against the Keystone XL pipeline on Feb.

Activists arrested at White House protesting Keystone pipeline

By Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 1:11 PM When President Obama spoke about climate change in the State of the Union on Tuesday night, he failed to mention the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which aims to transport heavy crude oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast and which needs his approval for a construction permit. But that controversial project — which ranks as one of the top climate decisions the president will have to make this year — took center stage Wednesday as 48 activists engaged in civil disobedience at the gates of the White House. Shortly after noon, D.C. police began arresting the protesters, who included actress Daryl Hannah as well as prominent climate scientist James E. Hansen, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune and civil rights veteran Julian Bond. Some of the activists tied themselves to the gates with plastic handcuffs; others sat and refused to budge despite officers’ repeated requests. Bill McKibben, co-founder of, which has helped galvanize significant grass-roots opposition to the plan, said Obama cannot ignore that the carbon-intensive process of extracting crude from Alberta’s oil sands will destabilize the planet.

February 13th, 2013

Activists arrested at WH over climate change protest

Posted by CNN Political Reporter Shannon Travis Feb 13, 2013

Washington (CNN) – Dozens of environmental activists – including Bobby Kennedy Jr. and actress Daryl Hannah – cuffed themselves to a White House gate on Wednesday in a climate change protest that ultimately resulted in their arrests…

For more information, visit

Tons of Californians arrested at White House climate change protest

Joe Garifoli Feb 13 2013 SF Gate

Shortly before 1 p.m. West Coast time Wednesday, 48 environmental activists — including a ton of Bay Area residents including San Franciscans like Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune and Adam Werbach, St. Mary’s College professor Brenda Hillman and her husband UC-Berkeley professor and former poet laureate Bob Haas — were arrested after chaining themselves to a fence outside the White House to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline…. On Sunday there will be a mass demonstration in Washington — and here in San Francisco — on the same topic. The details are here. The DC gig is expected to be the largest climate change demonstration ever, featuring tens of thousands of folks.




A groundswell on climate change

Social action, rather than government edict, may break policy logjam, panel says

By Alvin Powell

Harvard Staff Writer

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Activism for climate change has been a disappointment compared with other social movements, the panelists said.

By Alvin Powell Harvard Staff Writer Thursday, February 14, 2013

If you seek change — as today’s climate change activists do — you can’t shrink from conflict, because the two go hand-in-hand in a democracy, according to a Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) authority on social organizing.

Marshall Ganz, an HKS senior lecturer in public policy, drew on his decades of experience in the Civil Rights Movement and as a community organizer to offer lessons for those seeking change.

“The idea that democracy is about consensus, I don’t know where that idea came from,” Ganz said. “Democracy is about contention, about constructive contention.”

Ganz was among panelists considering social activism on climate change during “Climate Change and Social Action,” a discussion Monday at Sanders Theatre sponsored by the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Other panelists included Theda Skocpol, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology; Government Professor Stephen Ansolabehere; McArthur University Professor Rebecca Henderson; and Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan. The moderator was Daniel Schrag, director of the Center for the Environment, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, and professor of environmental science and engineering. Harvard President Drew Faust offered comments at the program’s end.

The panelists gave the climate change movement low marks compared with major social movements of the past, such as those that ended slavery, fostered civil rights, fought tobacco use, and abolished apartheid.


Climate Change: Congress Warned By GAO That Weather Is Changing

Huffington Post

Feb 14, 2013

Written by

Michael McAuliff

“Limiting the federal government’s fiscal exposure to climate change is one of the new areas we have on the list,” Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the head of the GAO, told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference.


Climate Change Battle Heats Up Again

By Keith Johnson February 14, 2013, 1:41 PM

Just two days after President Barack Obama challenged Congress to act on climate change in his State of the Union address, the political battle has begun.

Sens.  Barbara Boxer (D., Calif) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) introduced legislation Thursday that would put a price on carbon emissions and use the proceeds to roll out more clean energy and pay down some debt. It won’t go anywhere—and leading Republican lawmakers were quick to explain why—but that’s not the point. The two were responding to Mr. Obama’s ultimatum. “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said Tuesday night. “I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy. Congress last took a serious stab at climate legislation in 2009, when the House, then controlled by Democrats, passed the Waxman-Markey bill, which would have created a cap-and-trade scheme to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. That bill died in the Senate, thanks to bipartisan opposition; plenty of Democrats from coal-friendly and manufacturing-heavy states were leery of what the bill would do to the U.S. economy…..


Major Climate Change Bill Coming to the Senate

George Zornick on February 12, 2013 – 8:06 PM ET

Only an hour before President Obama is expected to deliver his State of the Union address—in which he might “go big” on the issue of combating climate change—two Senators announced they will introduce comprehensive climate change legislation this week, presenting a possible vehicle in the Senate for Obama’s ambitions.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer will outline the legislation on Thursday morning. Details are scant, though it’s being billed as “major” and “comprehensive” legislation, and will have a carbon tax, per a statement from Sanders’ office:

Under the legislation, a fee on carbon pollution emissions would fund historic investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices.

Boxer is the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, so this is not a fringe effort by any means. And some heavy environmental and institutional groups will be on hand Thursday, including Bill McKibben of and representatives from the Center for American Progress, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and the National Community Action Foundation.

We reported last month that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Henry Waxman launched a Congressional task force, which aims to push the executive branch on new regulations, and to serve as a laboratory for new legislation—and while it’s not clear if Boxer is acting through this working group, the legislation is clearly ready to go.


Climate Hawk Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will’

By Joe Romm on Feb 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

President: Warming-Driven Extreme Weather Demands We “Act Before It’s Too Late.” Below are Obama’s extensive remarks on energy and climate in his State of the Union address. The President has expanded on his strong remarks in his Second Inaugural, asserting “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

Below the jump is the energy portion of his just-released “Plan for A Strong Middle Class & A Strong America.”  There’s a call for doubling renewable electricity (yet again!) by 2020 — and for doubling energy productivity by 2030 (“a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top for states”). But who knew he’d call for Congress to pass cap-and-trade?

Here is the key part of the speech (as delivered):

Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

Now the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be a part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

Wow! Looks like I’ll be needing a stomach pump — after drinking all this beer, Hurricanes, Damn-The-Weather cocktails, espressos, energy drinks, and, I’m afraid, fracking fluid from Haliburton.

His remarks on climate are very strong. So is his plan for action. Yes, both are four years late, but still….

UPDATE: Carol M. Browner, CAP Distinguished Senior Fellow and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said:

“Tonight’s speech is a big win for those who want action on climate change and believe now is the time to act.  The president was clear about the magnitude of the challenge and resolute in his determination to use his executive authority to take action, especially if Congress won’t.  He pledged to build on the achievements of his first term, including historic standards for clean cars and energy efficiency, and he laid down a strong marker that he intends to continue investments in clean energy technology as part of our economic recovery.”

Comparing the texts with the actual speech, Obama ad-libbed “That’s got to be a part of an all-of-the-above plan.” Sad. “All of the above” is not a plan. It is more of the same — literally….


It’s Not Easy Being Green

By DAVID LEONHARDT (NYT Washington Bureau Chief) February 10, 2013

The strongest argument for a major government response to climate change is the obvious argument: climate change….. The most intriguing choice facing Mr. Obama is whether to resuscitate a version of the centerpiece of the Democrats’ failed 2009 climate push: a cap-and-trade program. He has little chance of creating such an economy wide program, because Republicans and some coal-state Democrats oppose it. But he may be able to create a scaled-down version specifically for power plants — no small thing, given that power plants produce about one-third of the country’s carbon emissions. To economists, the best climate policies are those that allow market incentives to work, and the most damaging tend to be those heavy on mandates. “Telling companies they have to install this or that equipment is the more expensive way to proceed,” says Michael Greenstone, an M.I.T. economist and former Obama administration adviser. “Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, you should allow companies to find the least-cost solution.” Mandating that every power plant use turbines with a minimum efficiency, for instance, is likely to impose large costs on some. Perhaps the plants are designed in a way that makes it easier — and cheaper — for them to use their old turbines and reduce emissions another way. A turbine mandate could force them to raise prices for consumers more than necessary to achieve the same climate benefit. A cap-and-trade system works differently. It requires companies to buy permits for their emissions and allows the companies to decide how best to meet their targets. A company that finds inexpensive ways to reduce emissions can sell its unused permits to companies that would have had to spend large sums to reduce emissions, lowering prices for everyone. In previous decades, the United States reduced acid rainfall and the levels of lead in gasoline through similar approaches, both at lower costs than predicted. …

….Beyond a market-based system, financing for research is a second major way Washington can try to slow climate change without harming economic growth. The federal government will spend $3.8 billion this year on clean-energy research and development, according to the Brookings Institution. It is a tiny sum relative to the $30 billion for medical research or the $15 billion for agriculture subsidies, let alone the $800 billion for Social Security. A cross-ideological report, from the American Enterprise Institute, the Breakthrough Institute and the Brookings Institution, has recommended an additional $25 billion a year for alternative energy. …. In the end, the strongest economic argument for an aggressive response to climate change is not the much trumpeted windfall of green jobs. It’s the fact that the economy won’t function very well in a world full of droughts, hurricanes and heat waves.


Washington Post On Climate: Obama Must ‘Discuss The Science, The Real Reason To Cut Carbon Emissions’

Posted: 11 Feb 2013 09:28 AM PST Joe Romm

Obama surprised almost everyone when he channeled his inner climate hawk in his powerful second inaugural address. Now everyone is wondering what he will say in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

This weekend, the Washington Post editorial board weighed in:

President Obama will deliver his 2013 State of the Union address on Tuesday, and expectations are high that he will devote significant time to climate change. We hope that he adopts a different approach to explaining the need for action than he did in much of his first term.

In past addresses, talking about green jobs didn’t work, nor did talking about energy independence. The credible way to justify fighting climate change is to discuss the science, the real reason to cut carbon emissions. There is overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming. The widespread burning of fossil fuels, meanwhile, pumps heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every second….



SOURCE: AP/Mel Evans Rough surf of the Atlantic Ocean breaks over the beach and across Beach Avenue, Monday, October 29, 2012, in Cape May, New Jersey, as high tide and superstorm Sandy begin to arrive.

Going to Extremes: The $188 Billion Price Tag from Climate-Related Extreme Weather

By Daniel J. Weiss and Jackie Weidman | February 12, 2013

The United States was subjected to many severe climate-related extreme weather over the past two years. In 2011 there were 14 extreme weather events—floods, drought, storms, and wildfires—that each caused at least $1 billion in damage. There were another 11 such disasters in 2012. These extreme weather events reflect part of the unpaid bill from climate change—a tab that will only grow over time. CAP recently documented the human and economic toll from these devastating events in our November 2012 report “Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle- and Lower- Income Americans.” Since the release of that report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, has updated its list of “billion-dollar”-damage weather events for 2012, bringing the two-year total to 25 incidents. From 2011 to 2012 these 25 “billion-dollar damage” weather events in the United States are estimated to have caused up to $188 billion in total damage.[1] The two costliest events were the September 2012 drought—the worst drought in half a century, which baked nearly two-thirds of the continental United States—and superstorm Sandy, which battered the








EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator

Other Calculators — There are a number of other web-based calculators that can estimate greenhouse gas emission reductions for

individuals and households, waste, and transportation. For basic information and details on greenhouse gas emissions, visit the Emissions section of EPA’s climate change site.

UPDATED October 2012. Most of the equivalency conversion factors have been updated with newer or revised values. See the revision history page for more details.

Did you ever wonder what reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 1 million metric tons means in everyday terms? The greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator can help you understand just that, translating abstract measurements into concrete terms you can understand, such as “equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions of 183,000 cars annually.”

This calculator may be useful in communicating your greenhouse gas reduction strategy, reduction targets, or other initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions….






American Geophysical Union (AGU):

Impact Lives on a National Scale: Become a Presidential Innovation Fellow

In his inaugural address President Obama said “We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government,” and the Presidential Innovation Fellows program is a way to do just that. The program pairs innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government in order to develop solutions to national issues.
Presidential Innovation Fellows serve 6-12 month “tours of duty” during which they collaborate with their team and a community of interested citizens on one of nine potential projects.  Whether you’re interested in disaster response or empowering patients through systems that allow them to own and track their health histories, there is a project for you!
Applications for the second round of fellowships are being accepted until 17 March 2013. Becoming a Presidential Innovation Fellow is an amazing opportunity to serve the nation and have an impact on a massive scale. To learn more about the projects and apply, visit the website today!



Excellent resources: including smart phone apps and weekly news highlights



California Tiger Salamander Workshop 2013

April 25, 8:30-3:30

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville

Field session: April 25, 4:30-8:30 or April 26, 9:00-1:00

Workshop Objectives: To provide participants a working understanding of the complex biology of California tiger salamanders (CTS), including discussion of research studies focused on this species. Participants should also gain an appreciation for how this information can be applied to habitat management for this species. The information conveyed will be useful in large-scale and local conservation planning efforts. Topics: The geographic distribution of California tiger salamanders and hybrid populations, upland and aquatic habitats and their management, movements, population and community ecology, survey methods, and methods for assessing potential project impacts and approaches for avoidance and minimization. Participants will receive field training in species identification, sampling techniques, and habitat requirements of the California tiger salamander. Please visit our website now to register yourself (we discourage 3rd party registrations to avoid errors) and learn more about this exciting training:


Igniting the Green Fire: Finding Hope in Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic

March, 15, 16 & 17, 2013
The Father of the Modern Conservation Movement Inspires Weekend Gathering in West Marin

Point Reyes Books presents the 2013 Geography of Hope Conference, “Igniting the Green Fire: Finding Hope in Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic,” on March 15, 16, and 17, 2013, in Point Reyes Station. It is the first West Coast gathering of the world’s foremost Aldo Leopold experts and the only opportunity to meet and hear from the creators and stars of Green Fire, the 2012 Emmy Award-winning film about Aldo Leopold‘s life and conservation legacy which will be screened at the conference.

In the tradition of past Geography of Hope conferences, the weekend features spirited conversations and presentations by prominent authors, naturalists, and conservation leaders, including: Aldo Leopold biographer Curt Meine; Aldo Leopold Foundation director Buddy Huffaker; former Natural Resources Conservation Service chief Paul Johnson; Center for Humans and Nature president Brooke Hecht; Quivira Coalition executive director Courtney White; Leopold scholars Susan Flader and J. Baird Callicott; geologist and author Lauret Savoy; U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon; poet Robert Hass; author Gary Nabhan and “Planet Walker” John Francis; and Center for Whole Communities founder Peter Forbes (partial list).

They’ll examine Leopold’s legacy as a foundation for hope and for future conservation ideas and action. Naturalist-led field trips to Point Reyes National Seashore will allow participants to experience Leopold’s land ethic firsthand on some of the 71,000 acres of wilderness and ranchlands that comprise the park. Additional field trips go to privately owned farms and ranches in West Marin. Meals served during the weekend will feature food from Marin’s farms and ranches.


April 2-4: National Adaptation Forum, Denver, CO.  This is an inaugural convening of climate change adaptation practitioners and experts from around the country focused on moving from adaptation planning to adaptation action. FWS R1 employees: please contact David Patte ASAP regarding conference approval requirements.

April 15-18: 2013 Western Division of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting , Boise, ID features a
climate-aquatics symposium organized by Dan Isaak and colleagues, titled “New information regarding climate effects on aquatic resources: how do we use this information?”  A 1-day workshop on spatial statistical model for stream networks will be a held in conjunction with the meeting.  Jay Ver Hoef (NOAA) and Erin Peterson (CSIRO in Australia), who will conduct the workshop, have developed the statistical theory for these models over the last decade and have recently developed freeware statistical software for the R environment to make implementation of the models convenient. The spatial statistical models are applicable to a wide variety of data types commonly collected from streams (water quality parameters, habitat conditions, biological attributes), provide improved estimation relative to traditional statistical models, and even enable new types of analyses that were not previously possible for streams. Contact Dan Isaak for online participation if you cannot attend or for more info:


Fifth International Partners in Flight Meeting Set for Utah, August 25 – 28



American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference

Communicating Climate Science: A Historic Look to the Future June 8-13, 2013, Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby, CO, USA

The AGU Chapman Conference (AGUCC) will focus on communication about climate science to all sectors of society.  The Climate Change Community must move forward on multiple pathways to convey climate change research, mitigation and adaptation plans and policies and technologies to policy makers, planners, and society at all levels.  As climate science has developed over time, there has been a significant shift in relations between the science and political aspects thereof; where previously the development of the science was exclusively prioritized, now the focus lies in communicating the science to society. It is imperative that we determine an appropriate balance between these two elements, ensuring that neither is too shallow or deep.

….The abstract submission deadline is February 5, 2013.  To submit an abstract and/or register please visit the conference website:








California oil fields don’t all meet standard

David R. Baker San Francisco Chronicle February 11, 2013

Environmentalists often call oil from Canada’s tar sands the dirtiest fuel on Earth, because the complex process of extracting it spews huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. […] California refineries might also have to stop using somemore »



The boom in U.S. oil drilling hasn’t lowered gas prices

Posted by Brad Plumer on February 11, 2013 at 10:58 am Washington Post

Last year, the world  pumped more oil out of the ground than ever before in history, and nearly half of that increase came from new drilling in the United States. Yet Brent crude is still trading for around $120 per barrel, higher than it was two years ago….


Carbon Sponge Could Soak Up Coal Emissions



February 12, 2013 ScienceDaily Emissions from coal power stations could be drastically reduced by a new, energy-efficient material that adsorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, then releases it when …  > full story


Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes

JASON DEAREN, Associated Press Associated Press February 10, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Homeowners on the hunt for sparkling solar panels are lured by ads filled with images of pristine landscapes and bright sunshine, and words about the technology’s benefits for the environment — and the wallet… The records also show several other Silicon Valley solar facilities created millions of pounds of toxic waste without selling a single solar panel, while they were developing their technology or fine-tuning their production. While much of the waste produced is considered toxic, there was no evidence it has harmed human health. The vast majority of solar companies that generated hazardous waste in California have not been cited for waste-related pollution violations, although three had minor violations on file. In many cases, a toxic sludge is created when metals and other toxins are removed from water used in the manufacturing process. If a company doesn’t have its own treatment equipment, then it will send contaminated water to be stored at an approved dump. According to scientists who conduct so-called “life cycle analysis” for solar, the transport of waste is not currently being factored into the carbon footprint score, which measures the amount of greenhouse gases produced when making a product. Life cycle analysts add up all the global warming pollution that goes into making a certain product — from the mining needed for components to the exhaust from diesel trucks used to transport waste and materials. Not factoring the hazardous waste transport into solar’s carbon footprint is an obvious oversight, analysts said. “The greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting this waste is not insignificant,” Mulvaney said…..

Tesla’s Elon Musk slams New York Times review

By Hayley Tsukayama, Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 6:19 AM Washington Post

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk is taking the New York Times to task for what he says is an unreasonable review of the Tesla Model S.

The prominent entrepreneur, also known for founding SpaceX and PayPal, said that a Times reviewer did not follow instructions during his review of the Tesla Model S and did not include important portions of the trip in the resulting article — accusations the paper calls “flatly untrue.”

The electric car, which is supposed to offer the ride of a high-end sedan, is advertised with a 265-mile range per charge. The company says that can get up to 300 miles, in ideal conditions. But the New York Times reviewer had several problems completing the journey between the company’s two East Coast charging stations. In fact, the car actually shut down on him during the drive after he repeatedly called Tesla personnel for help, forcing him to coast off the highway and call a tow service.

Musk questioned the reviewer’s actions, however. He said diagnostic data from the test model shows the article left out several key points, including the fact that the reviewer reportedly took an undisclosed detour through city traffic instead of the more fuel-efficient highway.

The executive also said that the reviewer didn’t properly charge the car, and drove too fast.

“He did not charge up the car to full capacity; not even close,” Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg West.

He said that the company was able to check the newspaper’s review by checking diagnostic data from the car. Generally speaking, Musk said, the company only turns on the tracking tool by request, but always keeps the tool on during press reviews.


Renewables now cheaper than coal and gas in Australia

By Giles Parkinson on 7 February 2013

A new analysis from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance has concluded that electricity from unsubsidised renewable energy is already cheaper than electricity from new-build coal and gas-fired power stations in Australia. The modeling from the BNEF team in Sydney found that new wind farms could supply electricity at a cost of $80/MWh –compared with $143/MWh for new build coal, and $116/MWh for new build gas-fired generation. These figures include the cost of carbon emissions, but BNEF said even without a carbon price, wind energy remained 14 per cent cheaper than new coal and 18 per cent cheaper than new gas.

“The perception that fossil fuels are cheap and renewables are expensive is now out of date”, said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.



Cool steps help fight global warming

James Temple San Francisco Chronicle February 10, 2013

When it comes to high-tech possibilities for counteracting climate change, the headlines tend to focus on the seemingly sci-fi stuff: brightening clouds, pumping particles into the stratosphere and launching giant mirrors into space. But there are down-to-earth versions of the same basic concept, approaches as simple as painting roofs white or using light-colored pavement to cast away more heat from the Earth. A group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories is exploring how big an impact this approach could have on global warming, as well as developing next-generation building materials that could reflect more light. Compared with more unconventional strategies, the advantages of white roofs and related concepts are that they’re proven, cheap and relatively noncontroversial. Indeed, the basic idea has been employed in sweltering parts of the world since at least the time of the pharaohs….. But making roofs white can be done today, without the risks and uncertainties associated with more audacious approaches.

Moreover, what’s abundantly clear to anyone studying climate change is that there are no silver bullets. Effectively confronting the enormous challenge of global warming will demand a wide range of responses: aggressively expanding clean-energy options, rapidly developing more efficient alternatives, enacting laws that discourage greenhouse gas emissions and quite possibly using “geoengineering” options for sucking greenhouse gases out of the sky or reflecting away heat. “Almost every potential step we take is a partial solution,” said Ronnen Levinson, the staff scientist who leads the Heat Island Group. “White roofs can by no means reverse global warming, but the cooling benefit is substantial and it’s something that’s easily within reach.” An important caveat: Whitening roofs doesn’t directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so other dangerous consequences of rising greenhouse gases levels remain, notably ocean acidification. The CO{-2} dissolved in oceans, lakes and rivers can harm critical components of underwater ecosystems, including coral reefs and plankton…..


The New Sustainable Energy Factbook: A Strong Case for Consistent Policy

Posted: 10 Feb 2013 06:06 AM PST

By Rebecca Lefton and Julius Fischer

Easy to read, reliable and current data can be hard to come by. The new Sustainable Energy in America 2013 Factbook produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), and commissioned by the Business Council on Sustainable Energy (BCSE), provides detailed information on topics ranging from US energy consumption, to the boom in natural gas and renewable energies, the diversification of our energy sector, improved efficiency, and better air quality. The report provides a detailed account of the energy market for investors and policymakers making a strong case for the role of stable policies in leveling the playing field for clean energy technologies in the evolving energy landscape.



Birds of Prey Delay Polish Fracking Boom

By Bloomberg – Feb 11, 2013 4:04 AM PT

Poland’s path to energy independence through shale gas is being delayed by skylarks, red kites and local farmers hesitant to grant access to their land. The nation is sitting on the European Union’s biggest reserves of the fuel, enough to last at least 50 years and free it from dependence on Russia, according to the Polish Geological Institute… Poland imports about two-thirds of its gas from Russia’s OAO Gazprom, and plans to double domestic production by 2019…









REMARKS AT THE WHITE HOUSE 15 January 2013 James Hansen

Let us return for a moment to election night 2008. As I sat in our farm house in Pennsylvania, watching Barack Obama’s victory speech, I turned my head aside so my wife would not see the tears in my eyes. I suspect that millions cried. It was a great day for America.

  • We had great hopes for our new President. It is appropriate, it is right, in a period honoring Martin Luther King, to recall the hopes and dreams of that evening, and the hopes and dreams that we…will…never – give up.
  • We have a dream – that our President will understand the intergenerational injustice of human-made climate change – that he will recognize our duty to be caretakers of creation, of the land, of the life on our planet – and that he will give these matters the priority that our young people deserve.
  • We have a dream – that our President will understand the commonality of solutions for energy security, national security and climate stability – and that he will exercise hands-on leadership, taking the matter to the public, avoiding backroom crippling deals with special interests.
  • We have a dream – that the President will stand as firm as Abraham Lincoln when he faced the great moral issue of slavery – and, like Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill, he will speak with the public, enlisting their support and reassuring them.

It is not easy to find an Abraham Lincoln or a Winston Churchill. But we are here today looking to find that in you, Mr. President. And until you summon it within yourself, let me assure you that we will return, and our numbers will grow.

Mr. President, we will be here until the promise of a safe world for our children and grandchildren, and your children and grandchildren – is not a dream. We will be here until we are assured that the history books will rightfully record – that you were the person we were looking for – the person who turned these dreams…into reality.


2012 U.S. Shark Attacks Highest Since 2000



February 11, 2013 — Shark attacks in the U.S. reached a decade high in 2012, while worldwide fatalities remained average, according to a new … > full story


‘This Clement World,’ a Play About Climate Change

By JASON ZINOMAN (NYT) February 10, 2013 Compiled: 1:05 AM Works like “This Clement World,” a new play at St. Ann’s Warehouse, could start to transform the theater world’s attitude about climate change.

‘This Clement World’ at St. Ann’s Warehouse

By CHARLES ISHERWOOD (NYT) ebruary 11, 2013 Compiled: 12:47 AM Chythia Hopkins’s latest piece, “This Clement World,” includes original songs and video footage that she shot during a three-week Arctic expedition.


Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Pollutocrat Kochs

Posted: 11 Feb 2013 12:49 PM PST

By Brendan DeMelle via DeSmogBlog

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption. The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke. Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:

“Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry’s anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.”

The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now “supporting the tobacco companies’ political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws.” Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.


Nearly 1000 injured as meteor falls in Russia
Feb 15 2013




Special Section: KEYSTONE PIPELINE Analyses


Photo montage by Peter Gleick 2013. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Keystone XL Pipeline: Red herring, symbol, or a piece of a puzzle?

Posted by Peter Gleick on February 10, 2013

It is time we just said “no.” There is growing attention to climate change in the media; and there is a growing realization that decisions we make today will have a lasting effect on the world’s climate tomorrow. But there is still a gap – a chasm really – between the reality of climate change and our day-to-day choices, investments, and public debates about water, energy, food, and resources.

Here is the reality: the burning of fossil fuels is the leading contributor of gases that are already changing the planet’s delicate climate, and the climate will continue to change in an exponentially increasing and worsening way unless we reduce emissions.

Here is the gap: we continue to make decisions in every phase of our lives ignoring the reality of climate change. Incrementally, each of our decisions might be, or at least appear to be, minor in the grand scheme of things. Combined, they propel us forward on a path to disaster.

This kind of gap is inevitable and understandable: the problem over global climate change is complicated and unprecedented; there is a massive well-funded effort to confuse the public about basic facts by those vested in the status quo (as there was in the tobacco debate and is in the gun safety debate); and the global or even national transitions needed require political courage that seems to be in short supply. This doesn’t bode well for the ability of society to make short-term choices that are in our own long-term interest.

A key, timely example: The Keystone XL Pipeline.

What is the Keystone XL pipeline? For those who haven’t been following the news in this area, very simply, this is a proposed large pipeline project to expand the capacity to bring fossil fuels derived from the Athabasca oil sands region in Alberta, Canada south through the United States to refineries and transportation hubs along the Texas Gulf Coast.

There are important and complex pros and cons to the project and these have been and continue to be argued in local, state, and national forums. Many in the environmental community are lobbying hard for President Obama and the State Department to withhold permission to expand the pipeline. In August 2011, a group of climate scientists sent a letter urging the President to reject the pipeline. A second letter was sent in early 2013. There have been public protests at the White House, along the proposed route, and by landowners in Texas. The state of Nebraska originally opposed the pipeline because of concerns about the threat of groundwater contamination and accidents.

The fossil fuel industry, major Republicans (and some Democrats), Texas politicians, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and many others are urging quick approval.

Like most complicated environmental issues, this one is, well, complicated. Supporters argue that the oil sands in Canada will be exploited no matter whether US markets open or not, that pipelines can be built and operated safely, and that the incremental threat to global climate is small. Opponents cite concerns about pipeline spills and safety, major water contamination and consumption during production and transportation, greenhouse gas emissions, and expanded dependence on fossil fuels. Even the science and environmental communities are split. Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, who has long expressed concern about climate change, recently suggested that the major focus on the pipeline “seems somewhat misguided” (“At best, [the Keystone XL pipeline] is a bit of a sideshow. At worst, it’s a distraction from the bigger issues that contribute to climate change”]. He goes on to argue that the President has other ways to be effective on the issue of climate change and should “stay focused on real and immediate emissions reductions, and not get distracted by his friends or foes into playing Washington games.”

In some ways, this is a good point. The Keystone XL Pipeline, considered in isolation, is not a game changing or planet-threatening project. According to some estimates, obtaining and using oil from tar sands produces 14 to 20 percent greater greenhouse gas emissions than the average oil now used in the U.S. for transportation. In a report to Congress, the estimated effect of the pipeline on the U.S. greenhouse gas footprint would be an increase of 3 million to 21 million metric tons of GHG emissions annually – less than one percent of U.S. emissions. The tar sands in Canada are an environmental disaster in other ways, but the incremental emissions of greenhouse gases are small compared to the far greater threat of massive coal expansion in China, or potential fugitive emission of methane from fracking, or massive deforestation in Indonesia and Latin America, or any number of other major sources of greenhouse gases. In that sense, arguments that the Keystone pipeline is just a “distraction” or “red herring” have some merit.


But. But. But. Here’s my problem: when do we finally just say “no more?”  When are we and our elected officials going to look at the complete picture created by our individual choices and decisions?

How can we read the relentless and convincing news from scientists about climate change, and then turn to the financial pages and read arguments to accelerate investment in old-style technologies, fossil fuels, and land developments along coasts that ignore climate factors? How can we suffer the devastating impacts of a Superstorm Sandy and then just turn around and rebuild the same vulnerable infrastructure in exactly the same places without addressing future sea-level rise? How can we cheer at the profits being made by energy companies in our investment portfolios or institutional endowments when those profits come at the expense of our own and our children’s planetary health?

Every individual choice, every long-term development project, every purchase we make, every financial investment in infrastructure or technology may, in isolation, be relatively innocent and modest. But our choices are additive. Society’s decisions must no longer be divorced from the recognition of the threats of climate change.

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with a thousand pieces. Each little piece might tell us almost nothing about the full picture; every little piece is a tiny, almost unimportant part of that full picture. But every piece added builds up to an inevitable end. The Keystone XL Pipeline may be just a minor puzzle piece of a far larger picture, but that picture, when all the pieces are combined, is one of potential planetary disaster.

The pipeline is just a piece in a much larger puzzle. It is time to stop putting these pieces together and work on a different picture all together. That is the decision facing the President, and each of us. It is time we just said “no.”



An Updated Look at What Keystone XL and Alberta Tar Sands Mean for the Climate
Posted on 8 February 2013 by dana1981

We have twice
previously examined the various environmental (including climate) impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to American refineries at the Gulf of Mexico, where it would then be distributed internationally.  Pressure has been ratcheting up for the Obama Administration to both approve and reject the pipeline.

In support:

In opposition:    

  • 18 of the nation’s top climate scientists, with some impressive names (James Hansen, Michael Mann, Richard Somerville, Jason Box, Raymond Pierrehumbert, Ken Caldeira, John Abraham, Michael Oppenheimer, Mauri Pelto, Ralph Keeling, Terry Root, David Archer, Michael MacCracken, Ted Scambos, James McCarthy, George Woodwell, John Harte, and Alan Robock)

There is also a climate/anti-Keystone XL rally scheduled at the National Mall in Washington D.C. at noon on Sunday February 17th.  Given these events, it seems a fitting time to re-examine the climate impacts associated with the Keystone XL pipeline. The calls for approval of the pipeline have generally been supported with political arguments, whereas the objections generally express concern about the pipeline’s implications for climate change.  There are other environmental concerns as well, because these types of pipelines frequently leak and cause significant impacts to local environmental and human health.  However, here we will focus on the climate impacts of Keystone XL and tar sands oil in general. What is the Potential Climate Impact of Keystone XL?

….But the oil flowing through the pipeline won’t be 100% bitumen, so overall 7 billion metric tons of CO2-equivalent from the Keystone XL pipeline over the next 40 years is a reasonable estimate. To put that in context, according to the Potsdam Institute and Australian Climate Commission, in order to remain below the 2°C warming “danger limit”, we likely have a remaining ‘carbon budget’ [globally] of less than 700 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2050 [~16-17 billion metric tons per year on average].  So it could be argued that the Keystone XL pipeline represents a relatively small fraction, at just over 1% of our overall budget. Additionally, as Andrew Leach notes, this 7 billion metric ton estimate is in an ideal world where the oil transported by Keystone XL would not otherwise be either shipped elsewhere or replaced with some other source.  The EPA has estimated that the “extra” emissions associated with Keystone XL as compared to a no-Keystone XL world with realistic assumptions is in the range of 1 billion metric tons of CO2 over 50 years.  If these assumptions are correct, constructing Keystone XL only represents closer to 0.2% of our carbon budget.

…..If these assumptions are correct, constructing Keystone XL only represents closer to 0.2% of our carbon budget. However, Keystone XL is really a problem from a big picture perspective.  Given our remaining budget, we can only emit around 15 to 16 billion metric tons of CO2 per year, on average between now [2013] and 2050, in order to remain within our budget.  We are currently emitting CO2 at double that rate, at over 30 billion metric tons per year
and rising (Figure 1).

We need to turn this around fast and start reducing our overall emissions, or we will blow through our budget and into the realm of very dangerous climate change.  Doing so will require leaving as much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground as possible.  On the contrary, Keystone XL and the tar sands involve exploiting not only conventional fossil fuel reserves, but also unconventional sources.  It is a completely backwards approach and takes us on the wrong path.

…The Costs of Keystone Carbon

We can also examine the tar sands from a purely economic perspective via the social cost of carbon (how much economic damage our emissions cause via climate change, or how much it will cost us to adapt to climate change).  Various US government agencies including the EPA have a central estimate of the social cost of carbon at $21 per metric ton, although Johnson and Hope (2012) argues that it should be closer to $100 per metric ton. Thus the net cost of CO2 emissions from Keystone XL is probably in the range of $3.6 billion to $17.5 billion per year.  If we just look at the added cost as compared to the realistic non-Keystone XL world as estimated by the EPA (approximately 1 billion metric tons of CO2 over 50 years), the cost is $420 million to $2 billion per year in climate damage from the associated carbon emissions.  Of course, those external costs are spread across the global population, but they are nevertheless an immense cost which is completely ignored by those who argue for the economic importance of exploiting the tar sands.  From a purely economic global perspective, we would be better off leaving the tar sands in the ground.

Keystone XL is a Litmus Test

Ultimately, as a Reuters article noted, “The pipeline is also a litmus test for what you think is the most important problem in the early 21st century.” If Keystone XL is approved, it is an indicator that the United States is still not taking climate change remotely as seriously as it needs to.  It would be a step along the wrong path, exploiting as much of the world’s conventional and unconventional fossil fuel reserves as possible rather than looking for ways to leave as much as possible in the ground. The tar sands present an even bigger test of Canada.  If they continue with their efforts to maximize the tar sands extraction, they will cripple any efforts to reduce their own country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and also become an enabler for the rest of the world to continue increasing overall emissions. Continuing to develop Keystone XL and the tar sands in general will keep us on a path towards a future with very dangerous and potentially catastrophic climate change.  It’s time for the USA to take a climate leadership role and signal that the world needs to take a different path by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline project.



Keystone XL: Game over?
— raypierre @ 2 November 2011

The impending Obama administration decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would tap into the Athabasca Oil Sands production of Canada, has given rise to a vigorous grassroots opposition movement, leading to the arrests so far of over a thousand activists. At the very least, the protests have increased awareness of the implications of developing the oil sands deposits. Statements about the pipeline abound.

Jim Hansen has said that if the Athabasca Oil Sands are tapped, it’s “essentially game over” for any hope of achieving a stable climate. The same news article quotes Bill McKibben as saying that the pipeline represents “the fuse to biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” Others say the pipeline is no big deal, and that the brouhaha is sidetracking us from thinking about bigger climate issues. David Keith, energy and climate pundit at Calgary University, expresses that sentiment here, and Andy Revkin says “it’s a distraction from core issues and opportunities on energy and largely insignificant if your concern is averting a disruptive buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”. There’s something to be said in favor of each point of view, but on the whole, I think Bill McKibben has the better of the argument, with some important qualifications. Let’s do the arithmetic.

There is no shortage of environmental threats associated with the Keystone XL pipeline. Notably, the route goes through the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska, a decision opposed even by some supporters of the pipeline. One could also keep in mind the vast areas of Alberta that are churned up by the oil sands mining process itself. But here I will take up only the climate impact of the pipeline and associated oil sands exploitation. For that, it is important to first get a feel for what constitutes an “important” amount of carbon.

That part is relatively easy. The kind of climate we wind up with is largely determined by the total amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere as CO2 in the time before we finally kick the fossil fuel habit (by choice or by virtue of simply running out). The link between cumulative carbon and climate was discussed at RealClimate here when the papers on the subject first came out in Nature. A good introduction to the work can be found in this National Research Council report on Climate Stabilization targets, of which I was a co-author. Here’s all you ever really need to know about CO2 emissions and climate:

  • The peak warming is linearly proportional to the cumulative carbon emitted
  • It doesn’t matter much how rapidly the carbon is emitted
  • The warming you get when you stop emitting carbon is what you are stuck with for the next thousand years
  • The climate recovers only slightly over the next ten thousand years
  • At the mid-range of IPCC climate sensitivity, a trillion tonnes cumulative carbon gives you about 2C global mean warming above the pre-industrial temperature.

Assuming a 50-50 chance that climate sensitivity is at or below this value, we thus have a 50-50 chance of holding warming below 2C if cumulative emissions are held to a trillion tonnes. Including deforestation, we have already emitted about half that, so our whole future allowance is another 500 gigatonnes….

So yes, the Keystone XL pipeline does tap into a very big carbon bomb indeed.

…..But comparison of the Athabaska Oil Sands to an individual coal deposit isn’t really fair, since there are only two major oil sands deposits (the other being in Venezuela) while coal deposits are widespread. Nehring (2009) estimates that world economically recoverable coal amounts to 846 gigatonnes, based on 2005 prices and technology. Using a mean carbon ratio of .75 (again from Table 6 here), that’s 634 gigatonnes of carbon, which all by itself is more than enough to bring us well past “game-over.” The accessible carbon pool in coal is sure to rise as prices increase and extraction technology advances, but the real imponderable is how much coal remains to be discovered. But any way you slice it, coal is still the 800-gigatonne gorilla at the carbon party.

Commentators who argue that the Keystone XL pipeline is no big deal tend to focus on the rate at which the pipeline delivers oil to users (and thence as CO2 to the atmosphere). To an extent, they have a point. The pipeline would carry 500,000 barrels per day, and assuming that we’re talking about lighter crude by the time it gets in the pipeline that adds up to a piddling 2 gigatonnes carbon in a hundred years (exercise: Work this out for yourself given the numbers I stated earlier in this post). However, building Keystone XL lets the camel’s nose in the tent. It is more than a little disingenuous to say the carbon in the Athabasca Oil Sands mostly has to be left in the ground, but before we’ll do this, we’ll just use a bit of it. It’s like an alcoholic who says he’ll leave the vodka in the kitchen cupboard, but first just take “one little sip.”

So the pipeline itself is really just a skirmish in the battle to protect climate, and if the pipeline gets built despite Bill McKibben’s dedicated army of protesters, that does not mean in and of itself that it’s “game over” for holding warming to 2C. Further, if we do hit a trillion tonnes, it may be “game-over” for holding warming to 2C (apart from praying for low climate sensitivity), but it’s not “game-over” for avoiding the second trillion tonnes, which would bring the likely warming up to 4C. The fight over Keystone XL may be only a skirmish, but for those (like the fellow in this arresting photo ) who seek to limit global warming, it is an important one. It may be too late to halt existing oil sands projects, but the exploitation of this carbon pool has just barely begun. If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, it surely smooths the way for further expansions of the market for oil sands crude. Turning down XL, in contrast, draws a line in the oil sands, and affirms the principle that this carbon shall not pass into the atmosphere.

* Note added 4/11/2011: Prompted by Andrew Leach’s comment (#50 below), I should clarify that the working paper cited refers to recovery of bitumen-in-place on a per-project basis, and should not be taken as an estimate of the total amount that could be recovered from oil sands as a whole. I cite this only as an example of where the technology is headed.




SIERRA CLUB: YOU Can Make History On President’s Day Weekend

Tens of thousands of citizens will converge on Washington, D.C., on February 17 for the Forward on Climate rally to tell the president we need his ambition to meet the scale of the challenge in transitioning to a clean-energy economy. “There’s only one thing that will defeat the tar sands pipeline and ignite a clean-energy revolution in this country,” says Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in this video. “It’s not another symposium, think tank, or government study — it’s you.”  Buses are coming from over 20 states. RSVP, then find a ride near you.   Check out our new Make History video!  Watch this clip of Sierra Club youth ambassador Nolan Gould, star of the smash sitcom Modern Family, telling Ellen DeGeneres why he’ll be at the rally.  Read this impassioned piece by syndicated columnist Javier Sierra about how the actions we take now will shape the world our children and grandchildren will inherit….
Thunderclap is a new social media tool for “amplifying your Tweet into a sonic boom.” You can join a virtual “hurray” by scheduling a Thunderclap post from Facebook or Twitter to show your support for those on the ground. Every Thunderclap post will go up at the same time on February 17, creating one of the biggest joint social media posts ever. Schedule your Thunderclap today — the climate needs the noise!  The Sierra Club is also hosting Solidarity Rallies on February 17 — mostly in the far West — for those who want to participate but simply cannot make it to the nation’s capital.

Recognizing the imminent danger posed by climate disruption, and the fact that President Obama will soon decide on the fate of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the Sierra Club will participate in a one-time act of peaceful civil disobedience for the first time in the organization’s 120-year history. “For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest,” says Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  “The burning of dirty tar sands crude is a battle we can’t afford to lose — this is something Obama simply must reject.” “This decision is not one we take lightly,” says Sierra Club President Allison Chin. “Allowing the production, transport, and burning of the dirtiest fuel on earth now would be a giant leap backwards. We are answering the urgency of this threat



On Sunday, February 17, the largest climate rallies in U.S. history will take place in Washington, DC; San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Monterey; Seattle and Olympia, Washington; Medford, Oregon;  Denver; Chicago;  Ames, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa; Fenton, Michigan; Bozeman and Missoula, Montana; and Austin, Texas. That is of today, and the number grows daily.  We hope you will join us in San Francisco, at Justin Herman Plaza, right across from the ferry terminal, from 1-3 PM. We plan to take the Larkspur Landing ferry at 11:45 AM and return on the 3:45 PM.  We could plan a late lunch rendezvous at the Marin Brewing Company for those who have become dehydrated.  Please join us! Let us know if you are coming. Let the organizers know here. Get your ferry tix early and BE early since it may be (hopefully) crowded with folks like us. If you care to make a sign expressing your concerns, some suggestions can be found here, along with the event logistics. Evidently there will be some marching but not far.

Why you should do this:

President Obama vowed to “slow the rising of the seas and heal the planet” on the night he won in 2008. Not much happened. He omitted mention of climate change from his campaign.

Then something big did happen: Superstorm Sandy. His good performance as CEO probably swung some voters in his direction. Half of Peter’s home town of Freeport, Long Island, was severely impacted.

President Obama again vowed to take significant action in his second Inaugural Address. Now something really significant needs to happen, because we’re quickly running out of time to control runaway carbon emissions and the threat of catastrophic climate change. We need to “Make him do it,” to paraphrase FDR.  We need to show President Obama that the public wants climate action and will back him up when he gets in the face of the powerful forces behind inaction. We must be his tailwind as he faces ferocious headwinds. The same message needs to be heard in Congress, where good people are waiting for the winds to shift. (We are writing this before the SOTU speech, which might well be a make-or-break moment for him. We are holding our breath.)  Since we have children and grandchildren we love and cherish, we do not allow ourselves to feel hopeless. Our hope is that the power of a united citizenry of the United States of America can actually make an impact on the course of history. It’s time for our country to lead the way, and time, alas, is not on our side.








CO2 and Ocean Acidification

Posted by Greg Laden on February 11, 2013 This graphic is from GRID-Arendal, a Norwegian Foundation collaborating with the UN Environment Programme. It shows CO2 concentrations in the ocean going up over a period of 20 years, and the corresponding drop in pH over the same time period. Ocean acidification is a serious effect of climate change.

As carbon concentrations in the atmosphere increase, so do concentrations in the ocean, with resultant acidification as a natural chemical process.There are more climate change related graphics HERE.






A greener, greater New York Bruce McCall


Hungover Energy Secretary Wakes Up Next To Solar Panel The Onion

NEWS IN BRIEF • Science & Technology • ISSUE 49•06 • Feb 7, 2013

WASHINGTON—Sources have reported that following a long night of carousing at a series of D.C. watering holes, Energy Secretary Steven Chu awoke Thursday morning to find himself sleeping next to a giant solar panel he had met the previous evening. “Oh, Christ, what the hell did I do last night?” Chu is said to have muttered to himself while clutching his aching head and grimacing at the partially blanketed 18-square-foot photovoltaic solar module whose manufacturer he was reportedly unable to recall. “This is bad. I really need to stop doing this. I’ve got to get this thing out of here before my wife gets home.” According to sources, Chu’s encounter with the crystalline-silicon solar receptor was his most regrettable dalliance since 2009, when an extended fling with a 90-foot wind turbine nearly ended his marriage.




Conservation Science News February 8, 2013

Highlight of the Week









Highlight of the Week


A future of purple seas and green skies?—worth reading… and knowing that we do today can make a huge difference for our kids’ future….


Will global warming drive us extinct? A review of Peter Ward’s “Under a Green Sky”
Posted on
October 13, 2011

Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., is a paleontologist and professor in the Departments of Geology and Biology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also serves as an adjunct professor of zoology and astronomy. His research specialties include the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event and mass extinctions generally. His books include the best-selling “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe” (co-author Donald Brownlee, 2000), “Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future” (2007), and “The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?” (2009).…..Here is Ward’s description of what “life” was like during the Triassic greenhouse mass extinction [with 1000 ppm CO2] to give you an idea of where Earth is headed for again:

Review: Under a Green Sky

Alex Steffen, 27 Apr 07

Ward takes us into the deep past, to the end of the Triassic, as a guide to what atmospheric carbon of 1,000 ppm (a concentration we will hit within the century if we don’t change our ways) might be like if we believe the paleontological record:

Waves slowly lap on the quiet shore, slow-motion waves with the consistency of gelatin. Most of the shoreline is encrusted with rotting organic matter, silk-like swathes of bacterial slick now putrefying under the blazing sun… [W]e look out on the surface of the great sea itself, and as far as the eye can see there is a mirrored flatness, an ocean without whitecaps. Yet that is not the biggest surprise.

From shore to the horizon, there is but an unending purple color — a vast, flat, oily purple. No fish break its surface, no birds or any other kind of flying creatures dip down looking for food. The purple color comes from vast concentrations of floating bacteria, for the oceans of Earth have all become covered with a hundred-foot thick veneer of purple and green bacterial soup. …There is one final surprise.

We look upward, to the sky. … We are under a pale green sky, and it has the smell of death and poison. We have gone to Nevada of 200 million years ago only to arrive under the transparent atmospheric glass of a greenhouse extinction event, and it is poison, heat and mass death that are found in this greenhouse.”

….. As Wallace Broecker says, “”The climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks”
Or, as Ward tells it: “Our world is hurtling toward carbon dioxide levels not seen since the Eocene epoch of 60 million years ago, which, importantly enough, occurred right after a greenhouse extinction.” This could begin to happen as soon as 2100, Ward says. Many babies today will be alive then. This is not some woo-woo future: this is the world we may be cooking up for our children

BIG THINK SMARTER FASTER- PETER WARDshort videosThe Seas Could Turn to Sulfur, Feeling the Heat….

And a fascinating TED talk and other links:

Peter Ward on Earth’s mass extinctions | Video on

TED Talks Asteroid strikes get all the coverage, but “Medea Hypothesis” author Peter Ward argues that most of Earth’s mass extinctions were caused by lowly







PRBO in the News:


He Flew Away

Posted: 02/06/2013 3:25 pm Glen Martin Huffington Post

A blog is hardly the most felicitous venue for an obituary, but I’m compelled to make an exception for Rich Stallcup, the co-founder of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (known these days as PRBO Conservation Science). Stallcup, one of the great ornithologists of his generation, died in December from leukemia at the age of 67. ….

Condors preening / Photo by William H. Majonis

The condor recovery debate, 30 years later
February 7, 2013
Posted by GGAS in Birding, Conservation
By Burr Heneman

Rich Stallcup was the giant of birding in Northern California and beyond. There is so much to miss about him now that he’s no longer with us in person. To be with him in the field and glimpse the “feathered nation” — or snakes or salamanders or butterflies — was to fall in love with them for life. Rich could also write beautifully, and from the heart. He wrote most of all about birding, but there were occasional thoughtful and thought-provoking pieces on hard issues that he couldn’t remain silent about.

Rich wrote “Farewell Skymaster” (below) in 1981 for a special 20-page Point Reyes Bird Observatory Newsletter devoted entirely to the California Condor. Today, with more than 400 condors in the skies over California, Arizona, and northern Baja, it’s hard to imagine the controversy and deep divisions within the ornithological and birding communities caused by the condor recovery program 30 years ago…..

…..We might ask, Are we saving the condor, or are we operating a very large, free-range condor zoo?
And do they have the dignity that Rich argued for? The question that Rich and the other authors debated in the Newsletter is not just of historic interest. At a time when climate change is endangering more species, we increasingly need to decide which to save, which to abandon, and what criteria to use, both scientific and philosophical, to make those god-like decisions. I’ll miss Rich’s voice in those debates.

Bay Nature (blog)

Making the Most of Mud

Bay Nature (blog)  – ‎Feb 1, 2013‎

These two mudrakers are among several dozen scientists from the USGS, the University of San Francisco, PRBO Conservation Science, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and other organizations who have contributed research papers to a forthcoming

Marin Independent-Journal  – ‎Feb 2, 2013‎

Melissa Pitkin, spokeswoman for PRBO Conservation Science– the former Point Reyes Bird Observatory – said decades of research led to this designation.




Fire study finds landscapes vulnerable to ‘ecosystem collapse’ February 6, 2013

Ecologists have long suggested that ecosystems disturbed and managed by humans are prone to abrupt environmental collapse. To test the theory Andrew MacDougall and his colleagues took their torches to small plots of grasslands on Vancouver Island.


Diversity loss with persistent human disturbance increases vulnerability to ecosystem collapse 
A. S. MacDougall, K. S. McCann, G. Gellner & R. Turkington NATURE Feb 7 2013
Persistent anthropogenic disturbance is shown simultaneously to drive plant species loss and stabilize some attributes of ecosystem function, analogous to a high-yield, low-diversity agricultural system, but increase the likelihood of irreversible collapse after sudden environmental change.


ABSTRACT: Long-term and persistent human disturbances have simultaneously altered the stability and diversity of ecological systems, with disturbances directly reducing functional attributes such as invasion resistance, while eliminating the buffering effects of high species diversity1, 2, 3, 4. Theory predicts that this combination of environmental change and diversity loss increases the risk of abrupt and potentially irreversible ecosystem collapse1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, but long-term empirical evidence from natural systems is lacking. Here we demonstrate this relationship in a degraded but species-rich pyrogenic grassland in which the combined effects of fire suppression, invasion and trophic collapse have created a species-poor grassland that is highly productive, resilient to yearly climatic fluctuations, and resistant to invasion, but vulnerable to rapid collapse after the re-introduction of fire. We initially show how human disturbance has created a negative relationship between diversity and function, contrary to theoretical predictions3, 4. Fire prevention since the mid-nineteenth century is associated with the loss of plant species but it has stabilized high-yield annual production and invasion resistance, comparable to a managed high-yield low-diversity agricultural system. In managing for fire suppression, however, a hidden vulnerability to sudden environmental change emerges that is explained by the elimination of the buffering effects of high species diversity. With the re-introduction of fire, grasslands only persist in areas with remnant concentrations of native species, in which a range of rare and mostly functionally redundant plants proliferate after burning and prevent extensive invasion including a rapid conversion towards woodland. This research shows how biodiversity can be crucial for ecosystem stability despite appearing functionally insignificant beforehand, a relationship probably applicable to many ecosystems given the globally prevalent combination of intensive long-term land management and species loss.



Plant Biodiversity Shields Natural Ecosystems From Man-Made Perils

February 7, 2013

April Flowers for – Your Universe Online

A new study led by integrative biologists at the University of Guelph warns of the perils inherent in an ecosystem breakdown. The findings of the study, which appeared as the cover story in today’s issue of the journal Nature, suggest that resource managers and farmers should not rely on single crop monocultures, no matter how stable they may appear to be. The team suggests instead that farmers should cultivate the growth of more kinds of plants in fields and woods as a buffer against sudden ecosystem disturbances.

Based on a ten-year study, the team’s findings lend scientific weight to moral and esthetic arguments for preserving species biodiversity and confirm that greater species diversity in an area helps ecosystems avoid irreversible collapse after human disturbances.

“Species are more important than we think,” said Professor Andrew MacDougall. “We need to protect biodiversity.”


Peru’s anchovy yield plummets

Associated Press Updated 10:37 pm, Monday, February 4, 2013 Callao, Peru

The ocean off Peru boasts the world’s richest fishing grounds, but Taurino Querevalu is returning to port empty again after a hunt for Peruvian anchovy, cursing his empty nets and an increasingly stingy sea. …..Querevalu’s frustrated search for the silvery, stiletto-size fish reflects a voracious, growing global demand for the protein-rich fish meal, and oil, into which nearly Peru’s entire anchovy catch is converted. It also reflects unremitting cheating by commercial fleets on quotas and other regulations designed to protect the species. Not only has overfishing of the Peruvian anchovy, or anchoveta, battered the industry that makes Peru far and away the world’s No. 1 fish-meal exporter, it has also raised alarm about food security in a nation that had long been accustomed to cheap, abundant seafood. The drop in the anchoveta population has over the years affected the food chain, as stocks of hundreds of bigger wild fish and marine animals that eat it have also thinned.

Anchoveta thrives in the cold, plankton-saturated Humboldt Current along the coast of Peru and Chile and accounts for about a third of the global fish-meal industry used to fatten farmed seafood and livestock, from salmon in Norway to pigs in China. Like other small “forage fish” that account for more than a third of the world’s wild ocean fish catch, nearly the entire anchoveta catch gets ground up into feed and rendered into oil. It is the “the most heavily exploited fish in world history,” according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization….


11,000 elephants slaughtered in national park once home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population
(February 6, 2013) — The Wildlife Conservation Society has just announced that a national park, once home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population, has lost a staggering 11,100 individuals due to poaching for the ivory trade. The shocking figures come from Gabon’s Minkebe Park, where recent surveys of areas within the park revealed that two thirds of its elephants have vanished since 2004. The majority of these losses have probably taken place in the last five years. … > full story


Waste dump at the end of the world: Ecologists propose managing strategies to protect the Antarctic
(February 7, 2013) — Ecologists have found out that the environment of the Antarctic is far less intact than many people might think. The German ecologists make specific suggestions for the management of this sensitive region: The crucial point is the designation of the Fildes Peninsula as an ‘Antarctic Specially Managed Area’ (ASMA). … > full story

How new corals species form in the ocean
(February 6, 2013) — Biological sciences professors have investigated how corals specialize to particular environments in the ocean. They propose that the large dispersal potential of coral larvae in open water and the proximity of different species on the ocean floor creates a mystery for researchers who study speciation, asking, “How can new marine species emerge without obvious geographic isolation?” … > full story


Nitrogen from pollution, natural sources causes growth of toxic algae, study finds
(February 6, 2013)Nitrogen in ocean waters fuels the growth of two tiny but toxic phytoplankton species that are harmful to marine life and human health, warns a new study. Researchers found that nitrogen entering the ocean — whether through natural processes or pollution — boosts the growt
h and toxicity of a group of phytoplankton that can cause the human illness amnesic shellfish poisoning.
Researchers from San Francisco State University found that nitrogen entering the ocean — whether through natural processes or pollution — boosts the growth and toxicity of a group of phytoplankton that can cause the human illness Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. Commonly found in marine waters off the North American West Coast, these diatoms (phytoplankton cells) of the Pseudo-nitzschia genus produce a potent toxin called domoic acid. When these phytoplankton grow rapidly into massive blooms, high concentrations of domoic acid put human health at risk if it accumulates in shellfish. It can also cause death and illness among marine mammals and seabirds that eat small fish that feed on plankton. “Regardless of its source, nitrogen has a powerful impact on the growth of phytoplankton that are the foundation of the marine food web, irrespective of whether they are toxic or not,” said William Cochlan, senior research scientist at SF State’s Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. “Scientists and regulators need to be aware of the implications of both natural and pollutant sources of nitrogen entering the sea.” … > full story

Maureen E. Auro, William P. Cochlan. Nitrogen Utilization and Toxin Production by Two Diatoms of thePseudo-nitzschia pseudodelicatissimaComplex:P. cuspidataandP. fryxelliana. Journal of Phycology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12033

Mercury contamination in water can be detected with a mobile phone
(February 6, 2013) — Chemists have manufactured a sheet that changes color in the presence of water contaminated with mercury. The results can be seen with the naked eye but when photographing the membrane with a mobile phone the concentration of this extremely toxic metal can be quantified. … > full story


FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2011 file photo, solar panels are seen at the NRG Solar and Eurus Energy America Corp.’s 45-megawatt solar farm in Avenal, Calif. There’s a land rush of sorts going on across the nation’s most productive farming region, but these buyers don’t want to grow crops. Instead developers are looking to plant solar voltaic cells to generate electricity for a state mandated to get 33 percent from renewables by the end of the decade. Photo: The Sentinel, Apolinar Fonseca

Solar development absorbing Calif. farmland

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press
Updated 3:13 pm, Saturday, February 2, 2013

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — There’s a land rush of sorts going on across the nation’s most productive farming region, but these buyers don’t want to grow crops. They want to plant solar farms.

With California mandating that 33 percent of electricity be generated from renewables by the end of the decade, there are 227 proposed solar projects in the pipeline statewide. Coupled with wind and other renewables they would generate enough electricity to meet 100 percent of California’s power needs on an average summer day, the California Independent System Operator says….


Amazon freshwater ecosystems are vulnerable to degradation
(February 1, 2013) — Broadening of forest-centric focus to river catchment-based conservation framework is required: A new study found that freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. River, lake and wetland ecosystems —- encompassing approximately one-fifth of the Amazon basin area — are being increasingly degraded by deforestation, pollution, construction of dams and waterways, and over-harvesting of plant and animal species. … > full story


Preserving biodiversity can be compatible with intensive agriculture
(February 6, 2013) — Preserving genetically diverse local crops in areas where small-scale farms are rapidly modernizing is possible, according to a geographer, who is part of an international research project investigating the biodiversity of maize, or corn, in hotspots of Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. … > full story

Biodiversity helps protect nature against human impacts
(February 6, 2013) — New research suggests farmers and resource managers should not rely on seemingly stable but vulnerable single-crop monocultures. Instead they should encourage more kinds of plants in fields and woods as a buffer against sudden ecosystem disturbance. … > full story


British moths in calamitous decline

The Guardian  – ‎February 1, 2013‎

Moths are vanishing from our skies at night, declining in southern Britain by 40% over 40 years, a major new report published on Friday reveals.


Birds May Use ‘Sound Maps’ To Navigate Huge Distances

NPR February 1, 2013

BirdsMay Use ‘Sound Maps’ To Navigate Huge Distances. February 01, 2013 3:00 PM. Audio for this story from All Things Considered will be available at approximately 7:00 p.m.


A domestic cat carrying a dead American Coot. Photo: Debi Shearwater

No. 1 bird killer is outdoor cats

Mike Lynes SF CHRONICLE OPINION Published 8:15 pm, Monday, February 4, 2013

Everyone knows that cats are hunters. But even wildlife experts were stunned by a new report last week that as many as 3.7 billion birds are killed by outdoor cats in the contiguous United States each year. That’s far more than the 1 billion that previously had been estimated, and more than are killed by any other single source such as collisions or oil spills.

This peer-reviewed study – by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – must serve as a wake-up call to people who care both about cats and about wildlife.

The implication for domestic cats is clear: Owners need to keep them inside. This protects not just birds and other wildlife but the cats themselves, keeping them safe from hazards such as traffic, dogs and poison.The implication for unowned or feral cats is more complicated. Last week’s study indicated that unowned cats are responsible for the vast majority of bird deaths – 70 percent. Yet policies in cities like San Francisco do little to address the gruesome toll of feral cats on wildlife. San Francisco SPCA operates a trap-neuter-release program that stops some feral cats from reproducing but does nothing to stop them from hunting and devouring birds. The city also countenances feral cat feeding colonies, where well-meaning citizens provide food for large numbers of outdoor cats.

But this study documents that even well-fed cats are killers. Feeding and maintaining large feral cat populations may seem humane for the cats – but it is a death warrant for birds and other wildlife.

It’s time for San Franciscans and other animal lovers to expand their definition of “humane animal care” to include the needs of wildlife as well as domestic pets. We have many opportunities to do so. First, we can strengthen efforts to educate cat owners about keeping their cats indoors and not abandoning them in parks if they need to give them up…..

Animal magnetism: First evidence that magnetism helps salmon find home
(February 7, 2013) — When migrating, sockeye salmon typically swim up to 4,000 miles into the ocean and then, years later, navigate back to the upstream reaches of the rivers in which they were born to spawn their young. Scientists, the fishing community and lay people have long wondered how salmon find their way to their home rivers over such epic distances. … > full story


Solving big-data bottleneck: Scientists team with business innovators to tackle research hurdles
(February 7, 2013) — Researchers have demonstrated that a crowdsourcing platform pioneered in the commercial sector can solve a complex biological problem more quickly than conventional approaches — and at a fraction of the cost. Partnering with TopCoder, a crowdsourcing platform with a global community of 450,000 algorithm specialists and software developers, researchers identified a program that can analyze vast amounts of data, in this case from the genes and gene mutations that build antibodies and T cell receptors. Since the immune system t
akes a limited number of genes and recombines them to fight a seemingly infinite number of invaders, predicting these genetic configurations has proven a massive challenge, with few good solutions. The program identified through this crowdsourcing experiment succeeded with an unprecedented level of accuracy and remarkable speed.”This is a proof-of-concept demonstration that we can bring people together not only from different schools and different disciplines, but from entirely different economic sectors, to solve problems that are bigger than one person, department or institution,” said Eva Guinan, HMS associate professor of radiation oncology at Dana-Farber… > full story



California in Winter? It’s for the Birds

KQED February 4, 2013

The Central Valley is bird-central these days. Every winter, millions of migratory birds head from Northern Canada down the Pacific Flyway, stopping at their favorite watering holes from southern Oregon to the San Joaquin Valley. The numbers in January are not what they were at the tail end of December. But you’d still be hard-pressed to count how many tricolor blackbirds, geese, ducks, egrets, owls, hawks, vultures — even gulls — stop for a meal and avian companionship in Northern California. Since the vast majority of the state’s marshland habitat has been drained and paved or plowed over, birds have adapted and set down in rice fields instead. But they also seem to mark places like the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area on their internal Pacific Flyway maps. Many of the Central Valley bird celebrations designed for humans have already happened, but next weekend, the 17th Annual Flyway Festival on Vallejo’s Mare Island promises to deliver 60 bird-lover events, like guided hikes and workshops.


Biodiversity exploration in the 3-D era
(February 4, 2013) — A group of marine biologists from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Crete are testing computed tomography as a tool to accurately document the anatomy of biological specimens. The resulting 3-D models can be instantly accessed and interactively manipulated by other researchers, thus promoting rapid dissemination of morphological data useful to biodiversity research. … > full story


Coyote hunt brings chorus of protest

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle February 3, 2013

A coyote hunt scheduled this month in Modoc County has triggered outrage from conservation groups that launched a statewide campaign this week to stop what they characterize as a bloodthirsty canine killing contest held for no other reason than… more »








2012 global temperatures 10th highest on record
(February 6, 2013) — The globally-averaged temperature for 2012 marked the 10th warmest year since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 36th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average annual temperature was 1976. Including 2012, all 12 years to date in the 21st century (2001-2012) rank among the 14 warmest in the 133-year period of record. Only one year during the 20th century — 1998 — was warmer than 2012. … > full story

2012 warmest and second most extreme year on record for the contiguous United States
(February 6, 2013) — In 2012, the contiguous United States (CONUS) average annual temperature of 55.3°F was 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and was the warmest year in the 1895-2012 period of record for the nation. The 2012 annual temperature was 1.0°F warmer than the previous record warm year of 1998. … > full story


The reduction in climate pollution – even as Congress failed to act on climate change – brings America more than halfway towards Barack Obama’s target. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

US carbon emissions fall to lowest levels since 1994

Energy-saving technologies and a doubling in renewables led to the reduction in climate pollution, new figures show

Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent, Friday 1 February 2013 06.34 EST

America’s carbon dioxide emissions last year fell to their lowest levels since 1994, according to a new report. Carbon dioxide emissions fell by 13% in the past five years, because of new energy-saving technologies and a doubling in the take-up of renewable energythe report compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) said.

The reduction in climate pollution – even as Congress failed to act on climate change – brings America more than halfway towards Barack Obama’s target of cutting emissions by 17% from 2005 levels over the next decade, the Bloomberg analysts said. By the end of last year, America’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had fallen 10.7% from the 2005 baselines.

That drop puts Obama in a better position to defend his environmental achievements, which have often gone overlooked in the bitter rows over climate science.

It may also buoy up America’s standing in the global climate negotiations. “There have certainly been some solid results on the board in the US as a result of all these changes,” Ethan Zindler, a BNEF analyst said. A report last year by the independent thinktank Resources for the Future
also suggested America was on course to meet those targets.


Power Plant Carbon Pollution Declined In 2011 Thanks To Less Coal Burning, EPA Reports

AP  |  By By MATTHEW DALY Posted: 02/05/2013 2:59 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/05/2013 6:51 pm EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heat-trapping gases from U.S. power plants fell 4.6 percent in 2011 from the previous year as plants burned less coal, the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, according to a new government report. The report, released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency, said power plants remain the largest stationary source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that trigger global warming. Power plants were responsible for 2.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2011. The reduction from 2010 reflects a relative decline in the use of coal, the dominant U.S. energy source, and an increase in natural gas and renewable sources that produce lower amounts of greenhouse gases, the report said. Power plants produced roughly two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, the EPA said, with petroleum and natural gas systems a distant second and refineries the third-largest carbon pollution source…..


Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier may be receding

David Perlman SF Chronicle Updated 9:15 pm, Monday, February 4, 2013

Yosemite’s famed Lyell Glacier has stopped moving downhill and may actually be shrinking – another probable sign that the world’s climate is warming, scientists report.

“It appears to have stagnated, and we strongly suspect that it has thinned to less than half the size that would keep it moving,” said Greg Stock, Yosemite National Park’s geologist who has been measuring the Lyell and nearby Maclure Glacier for the past four years with Robert Anderson of the University of Colorado. The Lyell is small by world standards – only about a quarter of a mile wide and less than that long – but it stands atop the headwaters of the Tuolumne River, which feeds San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir. The glacier is the largest of 14 in the High Sierra that have shrunk by more than half during the past century, according to a recent survey by geologists at Portland State University in Oregon. “The most logical reason for the shrinking is because of more loss from melting snow as the climate warms,” Stock said…..



Climate Change and Wetlands: The IPCC Weighs In

Posted February 8, 2013

Climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, air, water and marine pollution, deforestation and loss of biodiversity all transcend geopolitical boundaries and pose serious threats to sustaining a level of material comfort and quality of life that many have come to take for granted and to which many others desperately aspire. Forging global governance agreements and international standards, such as the UN International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (NGGI), for factors and forces driving these transboundary processes hence is critical if we are to have any chance of leaving future generations healthy, sustainable societies and ecosystems. Faced with having to develop new scientific methodologies and technology — as well as change our ingrained attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior — at the same time, these transboundary issues related to global governance rank among the greatest collective challenges in human history.

Taking an important step down the path to global governance of transboundary challenges, the IPCC on January 31 announced the second order draft of the “2013 Supplement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Wetlands” has moved into its government expert review. A total of 127 experts participated in the review of the first order draft, which also included reviewing 5,055 comments. The second order NGGI: Wetlands Supplement is expected to be completed this October, according to the IPCC. Though we continue to lose them at a rapid rate, the world’s wetlands are significant sinks for carbon sequestration, one of the many ecosystem services they provide societies and humanity. It’s estimated that half or more of the world’s wetlands were lost during the 20th century, primarily due to human activity. Omitted from the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for NGGIs, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010 asked the IPCC to expand its work to develop methodologies for wetlands. In May, 2011, the IPCC, in turn, set its Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories the task of developing “additional national-level inventory methodological guidance on wetlands to address the gaps identified in the 2006 IPCC Guidelines.”….


Lungs of the planet reveal their true sensitivity to global warming
(February 6, 2013) — The amount of carbon dioxide that rainforests absorb, or produce, varies hugely with year-to-year variations in the climate. Climate scientists have shown that these variations reveal how vulnerable the rainforest is to climate change. … > full story


Birds may need a hand to weather climate change

EurekAlert (press release)  – ‎ February 4, 2013‎

A new study led by Durham University and BirdLife International, shows that many bird species are likely to suffer under future climate change, and will require enhanced protection of important sites, better management of the wider countryside, and in


Global worming: how worms are accelerating climate change

The Guardian (blog)  – February 5, 2013‎

It may not be all about us humans – earthworms could be contributing to climate change too, according to a new study. What’s more, the research warns worm populations are set to boom in the next few decades….


Tiny marine creature spreading through ocean, stabilizing reefs and islands with calcareous shells
(February 6, 2013) — The climate is getting warmer, and sea levels are rising — a threat to island nations. As a group of researchers found out, at the same time, tiny single-cell organisms are spreading rapidly through the world’s oceans, where they might be able to mitigate the con
sequences of climate change. Amphistegina are stabilizing coastlines and reefs with their calcareous shells.
The study’s results have now appeared in the international online journal PLOS ONE. Countless billions of tiny, microscopic shelled creatures known as foraminifera inhabit the oceans of our planet: some of which look like little stars, others like Swiss cheese, and yet others like tiny mussels. They are extremely plentiful and exceptionally diverse in shape. Most of the approximately 10,000 foraminifera species live on the bottom of tropical and sub-tropical oceans, are surrounded by a calcareous shell, and do not even reach the size of a grain of sand. And yet, these tiny organisms are capable of enormous tasks. “Foraminifera are ecosystem engineers,” says Prof. Dr. Martin Langer from the Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und Paläontologie at the University of Bonn. “With their shells, these protozoa produce up to two kilograms of calcium carbonate per square meter of ocean floor. This often makes them, after corals, the most important producers of sediment in tropical reef areas.”… > full story


Polar bear researchers urge governments to act now and save the species
(February 4, 2013) — Polar bear researchers are urging governments to start planning for rapid Arctic ecosystem change to deal with a climate change catastrophe for the animals. … > full story

Sandy’s wake leaves shore birds in dire straits

By MARY ESCH Associated Press February 2, 2013

When red knots descend on the beaches of Delaware Bay this spring famished from their marathon flight toward the Canadian Arctic from the tip of South America, the rosy-breasted shorebirds may find slim pickings instead of the feast of horseshoe crab eggs they count on to fuel the rest of their migration. Superstorm Sandy scrubbed away almost all the sand the crabs need to spawn upon. Restoring it in time is a top priority of wildlife groups beginning to repair Sandy’s massive damage to dunes, beaches and salt marshes along the Eastern Seaboard that support a diverse population of birds, fish, marine organisms and other wildlife. A recent report by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
predicts that the storm — which across the region washed away sand and vegetation that many species spawn in or call home, or polluted habitats with oil, sewage and other contaminants — is almost certain to have lasting effects on the recovery of the red knot. The Delaware Bay could be called the Serengeti of the mid-Atlantic for the staggering numbers of birds there, said Eric Stiles, executive director of New Jersey Audubon. In addition to providing a wintering area for waterfowl that breed in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, the estuary also provides a winter range for large numbers of raptors, including bald eagles….


Super Storm Sandy Restores Habitat in Sunken Meadow Park

2013 February 5 NY EPA BLOG By Mark Tedesco

The storm surge associated with Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on coastal communities, altering both human and natural structures.  However, coastal ecosystems have evolved with, and have been shaped by, the forces of coastal storms over the centuries. Periodic storms can even have beneficial effects on certain aspects of the natural ecosystem.  One such example is the restoration of intertidal flow and habitat in Sunken Meadow Creek at Sunken Meadow State Park, New York. The storm surge associated with Hurricane Sandy destroyed a man-made berm across Sunken Meadow Creek that was constructed as part of the development of Sunken Meadow State Park in the early 1950s.  The berm created a road and walkway to nearby woodland for park visitors, but the undersized culverts that were installed restricted the natural tidal flow to the creek from Long Island Sound.  As a result, saltwater fish were prevented from swimming and spawning upstream, and an invasive form of the common reed, Phragmites, proliferated along the now freshwater creek.  Using EPA funding provided through the Long Island Sound Study, New York State Parks was planning to remove the berm to restore tidal flushing to the creek. But on October 29-30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy decided that Mother Nature knows best, impatiently breaching and eroding away portions of the berm. As a result, Sunken Meadow Creek has returned to its natural state, an estuary where fresh and salt water mix.  The fresh water common reed, Phragmites, will most likely die back and be replaced by saltmarsh grasses.  Saltwater species cut off from the creek, including alewife, striped bass, juvenile bluefish, winter flounder, weakfish, silverside, killifish, American eel and various shellfish, waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds will all benefit.  Although intertidal exchange has been restored by the force of Sandy, planning is now underway to control bank erosion and restore access to the other side of the creek for park visitors.


Steven Meister / Mt. Taylor Hotshots via Reuters Burned terrain in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico, is seen in a photo supplied by the United States Forest Service on May 30. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire was the largest fire ever in New Mexico, burning about 300,000 acres.

Climate change shaking up forest management, federal report says

By Jeff Barnard, The Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Big changes are in store for the nation’s forests as global warming increases wildfires and insect infestations, and generates more frequent floods and droughts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns in a new report. The study released Tuesday is part of the National Climate Assessment and will serve as a roadmap for managing national forests across the country in coming years.

It says the area burned by wildfires is expected to at least double over the next 25 years, and insect infestations often will affect more land per year than fires.

Dave Cleaves, climate adviser to the chief of the U.S. Forest Service, said
climate change has become the primary driver for managing national forests, because it poses a major threat to their ability to store carbon and provide clean water and wildlife habitat.
“One of the big findings of this report is we are in the process of managing multiple risks to the forest,” Cleaves said on a conference call on the report. “Climate revs up those stressors and couples them. We have to do a much better job of applying climate smartness … to how we do forestry.”
The federal government has spent about $1 billion a year in recent years combating wildfires. Last year was the warmest on record in the lower 48 states and saw 9.2 million acres burned, the third-highest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
Insect infestations widely blamed on warming temperatures have killed tens of millions of acres of trees. 


Report: Climate change could devastate agriculture

USA TODAY  – ‎ February 5, 2013‎

A comprehensive USDA study concludes rising temperatures could cost farmers millions as they battle new pests, faster weed growth and get smaller yields as climate change continues. A n analysis released by the Agriculture Department said that although U.S. crops and livestock have been able to adapt to changes in their surroundings for close to 150 years, the accelerating pace and intensity of global warming during the next few decades may soon be too much for the once-resilient sector to overcome.

“We’re going to end up in a situation where we have a multitude of things happening that are going to negatively impact crop production,” said Jerry Hatfield, a laboratory director and plant physiologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and lead author of the study. “In fact, we saw this in 2012 with the drought.”… In the report, researchers said U.S. cropland agriculture will be fairly resistant to climate change during the next quarter-century.

Farmers will be able to minimize the impact of global warming on their crops by changing the timing of farming practices and utilizing specialized crop varieties more resilient to drought, disease and heat, among other practices, the report found. Crops also may benefit by increasing the use of irrigation when possible and shifting production areas to regions where the temperature is more conducive for better output. Depending on where they live, some farmers could benefit financially at the expense of others.

By the middle of the century and beyond, adaptation becomes more difficult and costly as plants and animals that have adapted to warming climate conditions will have to do so even more — making the productivity of crops and livestock increasingly more unpredictable. Temperature increases and more extreme swings in precipitation could lead to a drop in yield for major U.S. crops and reduce the profitability of many agriculture operations. The reason is that higher temperatures cause crops to mature more quickly, reducing the growing season and yields as a result. Faster growth could reduce grain, forage, fiber and fruit production if the plants can’t get the proper level of nutrients or water…..

The entire USA is likely to warm substantially during the next 40 years, increasing 1-2 degrees Celsius over much of the country, according to the study. The warmth is likely to be more significant in much of the interior USA where temperatures are likely to increase 2-3 degrees Celsius. The USDA review said climate change will affect livestock by throwing off an animal’s optimal core body temperature, which could hurt productivity and limit the production of meat, milk or eggs. A warmer and more humid weather pattern is likely to increase the prevalence of insect and diseases, further diminishing an animal’s health and output. The 146-page report, written by a team of 56 authors from the federal government, universities, the private sector and other groups, stopped short of providing answers on how to stop or curtail global warming. The analysis was done by reviewing more than 1,400 publications that looked at the effect of climate change on U.S. agriculture.

In a separate report, the USDA looked at literature reviewing the impact of climate change on the country’s forests. The data indicated the most visible and significant short-term effects on forests will be caused by fire, insects, invasive species or a mix of these occurring together. Wildfires are likely to increase throughout the USA, causing at least a doubling of area burned by the mid-21st century. “That’s the conservative end,” said Dave Cleaves, a climate change adviser with the USDA’s Forest Service. “We can’t just stand back and let these natural conditions occur.”



New protocol recommendations for measuring soil organic carbon sequestration
(February 1, 2013) — Increased levels of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, have been associated with the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, cultivation of grasslands, drainage of the land, and land use changes. Concerns about long-term shifts in climate patterns have led scientists to measure soil organic carbon (SOC) in agricultural landscapes and to develop methods to evaluate how changes in tillage practices affect atmospheric carbon sequestration. “Many experiments comparing no-till to conventional tillage on similar soils have shown no-till to have higher levels of soil organic carbon,” Olson said. “So we know in general that no-till is often better than conventional tillage at building or retaining more of the organic matter in the soil, which is important to crop productivity. However, this does not mean that no-till is necessarily sequestering atmospheric carbon. It is often just losing carbon at a lower rate than conventional tillage.” This unexpected discovery was the result of Olson’s use of a pre-treatment SOC measurement method that compares change in soil organic carbon over time on the same plots using the same tillage methods. “This protocol does not assume that soil carbon pools are at steady state (remain the same over time), but measures SOC at the beginning of an experiment, at intervals during, and at the end of the experiment,” Olson said.

Comparison studies with one treatment as the baseline (usually conventional tillage) or control and other tillage such as no-till as the experimental treatment should not be used to determine SOC sequestration if soil samples are only collected and tested once during or at the end of the study,” Olson said. The comparison method assumes the conventional tillage baseline to be at a steady state and having the same amount of SOC at the beginning and at the end of the long-term study, and this may not be true. No-till as the experiment treatment needs to be compared to itself on the same soils over time to determine if SOC sequestration has really occurred….

There were three major reasons why the comparison study approach was the wrong method for measuring C sequestration on the Dixon Springs plot area.

  • First, the conventional tillage plots were not at steady state and actually lost 30 percent of the C in 20 years due to erosion and SOC-rich sediment being transported off the plots. Second, when the no-till and conventional tillage plots were sampled only once, it was not possible to determine the rate of change over time. Last, the effect of tillage equipment breaking down the soil aggregates increased the carbon available to microbial decomposition and the release of C to the atmosphere as CO₂.”Field experiments must be designed to more carefully measure, monitor, and assess internal and external inputs,” Olson said. “The amount of SOC loss from soil storage during the time of the experiment needs to be subtracted from SOC gains to determine the change in net SOC storage. Further, soil laboratory and field methods for quantifying SOC concentration must be refined to reduce under- and over-estimation bias.”
  • Olson also recommends that the definition of SOC sequestration include a reference to the land unit. “Soil organic carbon sequestration is currently defined as the process of transferring CO₂ from the atmosphere into the soil through plants, plant residues, and other organic solids that are stored or retained as part of the soil organic matter (humus). The retention time of sequestered carbon in the soil (terrestrial pool) can range from short-term (not immediately released back to the atmosphere) to long-term (millennia) storage,” Olson said. The SOC sequestration process should increase net SOC storage during and at the end of a study to above the previous pre-treatment baseline levels and result in a net reduction in the atmospheric CO₂ levels. I believe that the phrase ‘of a land unit’ needs to be added to the definition to add clarity and to exclude the loading or adding of organic C derived naturally or artificially from external sources,” Olson suggested.
  • Olson concluded by saying that carbon not directly from the atmosphere and from outside the land unit should not be counted as sequestered SOC. The definition of SOC sequestration as defined with borders would mean any C already in storage and transported or redistributed to the plot area or field would have to be accounted for and does not qualify as sequestered SOC.”Any manure from outside the plot area or SOC-rich sediments transported and deposited from adjacent upland are just redistributed or transported C and not really sequestered SOC,” Olson said. “That C was already in storage and may in fact be released back to the atmosphere if applied to the plot. For example, decomposing manure loaded on a land unit increases the return of CO₂to the atmosphere and does not result in a depletion of atmospheric CO₂, which is the real goal. Because we often lack the ability to directly measure the total change in the atmospheric CO₂ as a result of C loading on a plot or field, we indirectly estimate it by measuring the change in amount of SOC being stored in the land unit….… > full story


Kenneth R. Olson. Soil organic carbon sequestration, storage, retention and loss in U.S. croplands: Issues paper for protocol development. Geoderma, 2013; 195-196: 201 DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2012.12.004

Can Sea Urchins Show Scientists How To Capture Carbon Affordably?

By Jeff Spross on Feb 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm

According to a story in Gizmag yesterday, a group of researchers at Newcastle University in the U.K. may have accidentally stumbled on a solution to the problems that have bedeviled carbon capture and sequestration — by studying sea urchins. “We had set out to understand in detail the carbonic acid reaction, which is what happens when CO2 reacts with water, and needed a catalyst to speed up the process,” Dr. Lidija Šiller, the leader of the team, said in a press release. “At the same time, I was looking at how organisms absorb CO2 into their skeletons and in particular the sea urchin which converts the CO2 to calcium carbonate.” The use of calcium carbonate to grow shells and other bony parts is a trait urchins share with other marine animals. And when the team examined the urchin larvae, they found a high concentrations of nickel on their exoskeleton. Working off that discovery, they added nickel nanoparticles to their carbonic acid test. The result was the complete removal of the CO2 as it was converted into calcium carbonate. According to Gaurav Bhaduri, a PhD student in Newcastle University and the lead author of the team’s paper, the methodology they derived — and have now patented — is simpler and much cheaper than the traditional enzyme-based approaches:

“The beauty of a Nickel catalyst is that it carries on working regardless of the pH and because of its magnetic properties it can be re-captured and re-used time and time again. It’s also very cheap – 1,000 times cheaper than the enzyme. And the by-product – the carbonate – is useful and not damaging to the environment.”

The research team developed a process to capture CO2 from waste gas by passing it directly from a chimney top through a water column rich in nickel nanoparticles. The solid calcium carbonate can then be recovered at the bottom of the column….



Northeast Braces for a Major Snowstorm

National Weather Service A satellite image taken at 4:45 p.m. Eastern time Thursday. Areas in blue indicate colder cloud tops or deeper cloud cover. The system over the Midwest and the system spread across the East are expected to merge on Friday.

By MARC SANTORA NY TIMES Published: February 7, 2013 73 Comments

As a major winter storm made its way up the Atlantic Coast on Thursday, local authorities from New York City to Maine began to make preparations for what forecasters said could be the heaviest snowfall for some cities in the Northeast in a century. Airlines began announcing the suspension of flights out of New York and Boston airports starting Friday night, as thousands of workers readied their plows, checked their stocks of salt and braced for what will most likely be a cold, wet weekend. Amtrak announced that it would suspend northbound service out of Penn Station in New York and southbound service out of Boston beginning early Friday afternoon. On Long Island, where some forecasts said there could be more than 18 inches of snow, the power company, which has received heavy criticism for its response to Hurricane Sandy, promised customers that they were prepared. The city of Boston, where forecasts called for more than two feet of snow to fall by Saturday, announced that it would close all schools on Friday, joining other localities in trying to get ahead of the storm and keep people off the roads. “We are taking this storm very seriously and you should take this storm very seriously,” said Jerome Hauer, the New York State Commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, at an afternoon news conference. “If you don’t have to go to work tomorrow, we suggest that you do not,” he said. “If you do, we suggest that you plan for an early departure.” The latest forecasts, he said, called for between 12 and 20 inches of snow in the New York City region and wind gusts that could exceed 60 miles per hour. However, with the storm still some distance away, forecasters warned that predictions could change. The first sign of the storm will be a dusting of light snow that is expected to start falling across the region Friday morning. At some point Friday night, the arctic jet stream will drop down from Canada and intersect with the polar jet stream, which usually travels through the lower 48 states…Mr. Hauer said that coastal areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island could see flooding and should be prepared to seek alternative shelter. While the storm surge is only expected to be 3 to 5 feet — well below the 14-foot surge that Hurricane Sandy delivered — he said large waves could bring water inland.


Extreme Rainfall Linked to Global Warming

Science Daily (press release)  – ‎February 1, 2013‎

Feb. 1, 2013 – A worldwide review of global rainfall data led by the University of Adelaide has found that the intensity of the most extreme rainfall events is increasing across the globe as temperatures rise.



Stanford scientists have developed a tool that reveals pools of underground meltwater where decomposing organic matter generates a greenhouse gas. Photo: John McConnico, AP

New Stanford Arctic thawing detection tool

David Perlman Updated 4:28 pm, Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stanford geophysicist and his colleagues have developed a new system that should aid scientists trying to map the Arctic’s thawing permafrost, where greenhouse gases are escaping into the atmosphere from deep beneath the frozen soil. Those gases speed the pace of global warming, and climate scientists working in the Arctic’s icy ground need to understand their sources and how those sources are spreading as the world’s climate changes. The Stanford scientists report that the water-detecting tool they’ve created can reveal how the thawing permafrost creates deep pools of underground meltwater where organic matter has long been decomposing and generating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Arctic veterans say the new technique will prove a valuable addition to their toolkit as they try to understand more details of what contributes to the planet’s changing climate. Andrew Parsekian, a Stanford geophysicist, and his team of scientists have adapted a widely used hospital imaging system for their technique, and successfully used it to map hidden pools of meltwater inside the permafrost beneath two small Arctic lakes. Their report is published online in the current issue of Geophysical Research Letters…..

Climate change clues from tiny marine algae — ancient and modern
(February 4, 2013) — Microscopic ocean algae called coccolithophores are providing clues about the impact of climate change both now and many millions of years ago. The study found that their response to environmental change varies between species, in terms of how quickly they grow. … > full story


Volcano location: Greenhouse-icehouse key? Episodic purging of ‘carbonate capacitor’ drives long-term climate cycle
(February 7, 2013) — A new study suggests that Earth’s repeated flip-flopping between greenhouse and icehouse climates during the past 500 million years may have been caused by an episodic flare-up of volcanoes at key locations where enormous amounts of carbon dioxide were poised for release into the atmosphere. … > full story


Study: Global Warming Causes Most Monthly Heat Records Today

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 05:22 AM PST

by Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science

A new paper published in Climatic Change by Coumou, Robinson, and Rahmstorf (CRR13) examines the increased frequency of record-breaking monthly temperature records over the past 130 years, finding that these records are now five times more likely to occur due to global warming, with much more to come.

“…worldwide, the number of local record-breaking monthly temperature extremes is now on average five times larger than expected in a climate with no long-term warming. This implies that on average there is an 80% chance that a new monthly heat record is due to climatic change … Under a medium global warming scenario, by the 2040s we predict the number of monthly heat records globally to be more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming.”


Climate change threatens wolverines; protections proposed

Los Angeles Times Feb 1 2013

Citing shrinking mountain snowpacks as a result of climate change, federal wildlife officials are proposing to list wolverines as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.



Climate Sensitivity Single Study Syndrome

Posted on 28 January 2013 by dana1981

A press release from a Norwegian project attempting to estimate the Earth’s climate sensitivity (generally measured as how much the planet’s surface will warm in response to the energy imbalance caused by the increased greenhouse effect from a doubling of atmospheric CO2) has drawn quite a bit of attention in the media as suggesting that global warming may be “less extreme than feared.”  Carbon Brief has confirmed that the press release discusses several projects from a Norwegian group, including focusing on a not-yet-published (and not yet accepted by a scientific journal) follow-up paper to Aldrin et al. (2012).  Andrew Revkin has further details. Regardless, there is a large body of scientific research investigating the question of the Earth’s climate sensitivity.  Perhaps the most comprehensive review of this research is Knutti and Hegerl (2008), which found that the various methodologies used to estimate climate sensitivity are generally consistent with the range of 2–4.5°C (Figure 1)…..



When mangroves no longer protect the coastline
(February 1, 2013) — The mangrove forests in the Guyanas (French Guiana, Surinam and Guyana), which spread across the Orinoco and Amazon deltas, are among the most extensive in the world. This particular ecosystem, between earth and the sea, plays a major role in protecting the particularly unstable muddy coastline against erosion. However, most of the Guyana mangroves have been destroyed to develop the coastal plain. The retreating mangrove wall will result in large-scale coastal erosion, threatening populations and their economic activities, as demonstrated in a new study. … > full story



VIDEO with Jason Box on GreenlandPublished on Jan 31, 2013 Glaciologist Jason Box describes a post-warming world that you won’t even be able to recognize– By Chris Mooney


Humans Have Already Set in Motion 69 Feet of Sea Level Rise

Glaciologist Jason Box describes a post-warming world that you won’t even be able to recognize.

January 31, 2013 3:00 AM PDT Last week, a much-discussed new paper in the journal Nature seemed to suggest to some that we needn’t worry too much about the melting of Greenland, the mile-thick mass of ice at the top of the globe. The research found that the Greenland ice sheet seems to have survived a previous warm period in Earth’s history—the Eemian period, some 126,000 years ago—without vanishing (although it did melt considerably). But Ohio State University glaciologist Jason Box isn’t buying it. At Monday’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, DC, Box, who has visited Greenland 23 times to track its changing climate, explained that we’ve already pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide 40 percent beyond Eemian levels. What’s more, levels of atmospheric methane are a dramatic 240 percent higher—both with no signs of stopping. “There is no analogue for that in the ice record,” Box said. And that’s not all. The present mass scale human burning of trees and vegetation for clearing land and building fires, plus our pumping of aerosols into the atmosphere from human pollution, weren’t happening during the Eemian. These human activities are darkening Greenland’s icy surface, and weakening its ability to bounce incoming sunlight back away from the planet. Instead, more light is absorbed, leading to more melting, in a classic feedback process that is hard to slow down. “These giants are awake,” said Box of Greenland’s rumbling glaciers, “and they seem to have a bit of a hangover.”

Greenland marine-terminating glacier area changes. Chart courtesy of Jason Box*
To make matters worse, there’s also Antarctica, the other great planetary ice sheet, which contains 10 times as much total water as Greenland—much of which could also someday be translated into rising sea level. While Greenland is currently contributing twice as much water to sea level rise as Antarctica, that situation could change in the future. It’s kind of as though we’re in a situation of “ice sheet roulette” right now, wondering which one of the big ones will go first.

Box also provided a large-scale perspective on how much sea level rise humanity has already probably set in motion from the burning of fossil fuels. The answer is staggering: 69 feet, including water from both Greenland and Antarctica, as well as other glaciers based on land from around the world.

Scientists like Box aren’t sure precisely when, or how fast, all that water will flow into the seas. They only know that in past periods of Earth’s history, levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases and sea levels have followed one another closely, allowing an inference about where sea level is headed as it, in effect, catches up with the greenhouse gases we’ve unleashed. To be sure, the process will play out over vast time periods—but it has already begun, and sea level is starting to show a curve upward that looks a lot like…well, the semi-notorious “hockey stick.

So what can we do? For Box, any bit of policy helps. “The more we can cool climate, the slower Greenland’s loss will be,” he explained. Cutting greenhouse gases slows the planet’s heating, and with it, the pace of ice sheet losses. In the meantime, to better understand where we’re headed, Box has launched a scientific project called “Dark Snow,” which seeks to crowdfund a Greenland expedition to help determine just how much our darkening of the great ice sheet in this unprecedented “Anthropocene” era will push us well beyond Eemian territory. The video for that project is below. If the remote, dangerous science of ice sheets intrigues you enough (or scares you enough), then you definitely will want this research to succeed…..DARK SNOW video:


Icy contenders weigh in

Posted on 5 February 2013 by Jason Box Guest post by Jason Box from

Dahl-Jensen et al. (2013)[i] suggest that the Greenland ice sheet was more stable than previously thought[ii], enduring ~6k years of temperatures 5-8 C above the most recent 1000 years during the Eemian interglacial 118-126k years before present, its loss at the time contributing an estimated 2 m (6.6 ft) of global sea level compared to a total of 4-8 m (13-26 ft)[iii], implying Antarctica was and will become the dominant source of sea level change. Consequently, environmental journalist Andrew Revkin writes: “The dramatic surface melting [in Greenland], while important to track and understand has little policy significance.”

Given the non-trivial complexity of the issue and that Greenland has been contributing more than 2:1 that of Antarctica to global sea level in the recent 19 years (1992-2010)[iv], let’s not consider Greenland of neglible policy relevance until that ratio is 1:1 if not reversed, say, 0.5:1. Greenland, currently the leading contender with surface melting dominating its mass budget[v], the positive feedback with surface melting and ice reflectivity doubling Greenland’s surface melt since year 2000[vi]. Professor Richard Alley weighs in again: “We have high confidence that warming will shrink Greenland, by enough to matter a lot to coastal planners.”….



Lakes Michigan, Huron sink to lowest level ever

Governor expected to call Thursday for $11M to dredge harbors

By Jim Lynch Detroit News February 5, 2013

In the nearly 100 years researchers have catalogued the rise and fall of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Huron have never seen a month like January. The two-lake system recorded its lowest-ever level for a month, a mean of 576.02 feet above sea level. It’s a number that dips below the all-time low for January — 576.12 feet — as well as the all-time low for any month, 576.05 feet in March 1964. For those who live along or play in the waters of the Great Lakes, the news is disturbing but unsurprising. Each of the lakes has lingered below its long-term averages for years as the region endured drought-like conditions. When the 2011-12 winter produced less-than-expected snowfall and the ensuing spring produced little rainfall, the seeds were sown for records….




Warm Weather Forces Changes Ahead of Iditarod Race

By MARY PILON (NYT) February 5, 2013

Temperatures in the 30s and 40s mean several dog-sledding events before the Iditarod have been rerouted, postponed or canceled.



Study: Global Warming Can Be Slowed By Working Less

U.S. News & World Report  – ‎ February 4, 2013‎

Want to reduce the effects of global warming? Stop working so hard. Working fewer hours might help slow global warming, according to a new study released Monday by the Center for Economic Policy and Research. A worldwide switch to a “more European” work schedule, which includes working fewer hours and more vacation time, could prevent as much as half of the expected global temperature rise by 2100, according to the analysis, which used a 2012 study that found shorter work hours could be associated with lower carbon emissions.

The Center for Economic Policy and Research is a liberal think tank based in Washington.

“The relationship between [shorter work and lower emissions] is complex and clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” writes economist David Rosnick, author of the study. Rosnick says some of that reduction can be attributed to fewer operating hours in factories and other workplaces that consume high levels of energy….


Predicting a low carbon future for Toronto
(February 6, 2013) — Cities are major players in the climate change game. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and over 70 percent of global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions can be attributed to cities. A case study of Toronto demonstrates alternative strategies for how the city can implement a low carbon urban infrastructure plan by 2031. … > full story


Study Turns Cell Phone Towers Into Rain Gauges

Published: February 4th, 2013 By Andrew Freedman

…. According to a new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there is another use for cell phone technology, and it is one that could bring vital information at low cost to water resource managers, farmers, and climate researchers, particularly in the developing world. The study, by researchers based in the Netherlands, demonstrated that it is possible to use cellular telephone networks — namely the electromagnetic radio waves that pass between microwave antennas located atop cell phone towers — to estimate the amount of rainfall that falls between those two points. In fact, national rainfall maps can be generated by tapping into data gathered throughout a country’s cell phone network. The study did that by producing a 12-day rainfall map of …..Monitoring rainfall through cell phone towers promises to have the greatest benefit in nations that lack a robust weather monitoring infrastructure, particularly in Africa, where the World Meteorological Organization has been working to try to improve weather and climate monitoring. Climate studies have shown that as the climate has warmed, extreme precipitation events have become more likely in many parts of the globe, since warmer air and ocean temperatures add more moisture to the atmosphere. This adds a sense of urgency to the task of accurately monitoring precipitation, since a scarcity of observations in Africa and other areas hinders researchers’ abilities to measure and predict climate change-related impacts….


Fault lines in views on climate change revealed: Divided by cause, united by effect
(February 5, 2013) — Climate change is a hotly debated issue, but a new study shows geoscientists and engineers also become embroiled in the issue — and for some, it can get surprisingly personal. Younger, female engineers employed in government seemed to support the Kyoto Protocol, whereas their older, male counterparts — largely employed by oil and gas companies — tended to take a fatalistic response to climate change, labeling nature as the culprit. … > full story

Blowing hot and cold: U.S. belief in climate change shifts with weather
(February 5, 2013) — A study of American attitudes toward climate change finds that local weather — temperature, in particular — is a major influence on public and media opinions on the reality of global warming. … > full story





IMF Chief: ‘Unless We Take Action On Climate Change, Future Generations Will Be Roasted, Toasted, Fried And Grilled’

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 03:25 PM PST

Another day, another icon of the global financial system becomes a climate hawk. You may recall World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said of the climate crisis: “If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak.” Turns out IMF managing director Christine Lagarde is also a climate hawk — and she’s the former conservative finance minister of France.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, she said, “the real wild card in the pack” of economic pivot points is “Increasing vulnerability from resource scarcity and climate change, with the potential for major social and economic disruption.” She called climate change “the greatest economic challenge of the 21st century.”

Ms. Lagarde concluded with a call for a new kind of economic growth. “So we need growth, but we also need green growth that respects environmental sustainability. Good ecology is good economics. This is one reason why getting carbon pricing right and removing fossil fuel subsidies are so important.” In response to a question from the audience, she said: “Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”….



Secretary of State Nominee John Kerry on Climate Change– Video


Obama to nominate CEO of outdoor gear retailer REI to become interior secretary

By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Wednesday, February 6, 10:52 AM

President Obama on Wednesday will nominate Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) chief executive Sally Jewell to head the Interior Department, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified because the public announcement has not yet been made. The choice of Jewell, who began her career as an engineer for Mobil Oil and worked as a commercial banker before heading a nearly $2 billion outdoors equipment company, represents an unconventional choice for a post usually reserved for career politicians from the West. But while she boasts less public policy experience than other candidates who had been under consideration, Jewell, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate, has earned national recognition for her management skills and support for outdoor recreation and habitat conservation.

In 2011 Jewell introduced Obama at the White House conference on “America’s Great Outdoor Initiative,” noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs.

Jewell, who is being nominated to succeed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, would take over at a time when many conservationists are pressing Obama to take bolder action on land conservation. Salazar devoted much of his tenure to both promoting renewable energy on public land and managing the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. On Tuesday former interior secretary Bruce Babbitt gave a speech at the National Press Club calling on the president to set aside one acre permanently for conservation for every acre he leases for oil and gas development. “It’s that simple: one to one,” Babbitt said. “So far, under President Obama, industry has been winning the race as it obtains more and more land for oil and gas. Over the past four years, the industry has leased more than 6 million acres, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected. In the Obama era, land conservation is again falling behind.”….



More Americans convinced of climate change, poll finds

USA TODAY  – ‎ February 8 2013‎

The share of Americans who say climate change is occurring – 50% say definitely and 34% say probably – has rebounded, reaching what may be its highest level in national polls since 2007, according to the survey of 1,089 adults conducted Jan. 16-22.



Video: Keystone XL The ‘Lynchpin Enabling The Climate Intensive Tar Sands Industry To Grow Unimpeded’

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 07:27 AM PST By Kevin Grandia via DeSmogBlog

A new video featuring four energy experts, outlines the issues surrounding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the Alberta tar sands and climate change.

The video describes the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as a “lynchpin enabling the climate intensive tar sands industry to grow unimpeded.”

Watch it:

The video features Dr. Danny Harvey, a Climatologist at the University of Toronto, Dr. John Abraham, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of St. Clair, Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International and Nathan Lemphers, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Pembina Institute. The four experts recently traveled to Washington, DC for an event at the National Press Club to send a message to political leaders that any response by the US government to reduce climate change pollution must include the rejection of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

On February 17, tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the Forward on Climate Rally that will call on US President Barack Obama to “move forward on climate action.” Rally organizers say that, “from rejecting the toxic Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to moving beyond coal and natural gas and firing up our clean energy economy, Barack Obama’s legacy as president will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis.”



EPA to issue climate change plan Friday

The Hill (blog) Feb 7 2013

The draft EPA Climate Change Adaptation Plan, to be published for public consideration in Friday’s edition of the Federal Register, is meant to guide the agency’s response to global warming, which it says is occurring at a rapidly increasing rate


New Report Says White House Has The Tools To Combat Climate Change

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 06:53 AM PST A new report from the World Resources Institute has concluded that while the U.S. is not currently on track to meet its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, the Obama Administration has the tools to reach that target. [WRI]

  • Without new action by the U.S. Administration, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will increase over time. The United States will fail to make the deep emissions reductions needed in coming decades, and will not meet its international commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
  • The U.S. EPA should immediately pursue “go-getter” emissions reductions from power plants and natural gas systems using its authority under the Clean Air Act. These two sectors represent two of the top opportunities for substantial GHG reductions between now and 2035.
  • The U.S. Administration should pursue hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) reductions through both the Montreal Protocol process and under its independent Clean Air Act authority. Eliminating HFCs represents the biggest opportunity for GHG emissions reductions behind power plants.
  • U.S. states should complement federal actions to reduce emissions through state energy efficiency, renewables, transportation, and other actions. States can augment federal reductions.
  • New federal legislation will eventually be needed, because even go-getter action by federal and state governments will probably fail to achieve the more than 80 percent GHG emissions reductions necessary to fend off the most deleterious impacts of climate change.



Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in 2011 (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Energy Secretary Chu steps down, blasts climate-change skeptics

By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News | The Ticket – Yahoo News February 1, 2013

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist frequently the target of Republican criticism, announced Friday that he was stepping down in the latest shake-up of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Chu, who disclosed his decision in a letter to Energy Department staff, frequently clashed with GOP lawmakers over gas prices as well as government backing for green-energy companies like the failed firm Solyndra.

In his letter, Chu took aim directly at his critics, saying the clean-energy efforts were a success—and blasted climate-change skeptics as trapped in “the Stone Age.” “While critics try hard to discredit the program, the truth is that only one percent of the companies we funded went bankrupt,” he wrote. “That one percent has gotten more attention than the 99 percent that have not.” Chu added: “The test for America’s policy makers will be whether they are willing to accept a few failures in exchange for many successes. America’s entrepreneurs and innovators who are leaders in the global clean energy race understand that not every risk can—or should—be avoided. Michelangelo said, ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.'”

He also scolded climate-change skeptics and urged a shift from fossil-fuels to other sources of energy. “The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity has had a significant and likely dominant role in climate change,” Chu warned in his letter. “There is also increasingly compelling evidence that the weather changes we have witnessed during this thirty year time period are due to climate change.”


Biden vows climate change action in meeting with French president

The Hill (blog)  – ‎February 4, 2013‎

“I was impressed in the discussion we had relative to climate change – and I mean this sincerely, Mr. President – I could have been sitting in a private meeting with President Obama,” Biden said in joint remarks with Francois Hollande following their ..



Mining tar sands to generate oil* is already decimating Canadian landscapes. Now the U.S. is weighing whether to approve a pipeline that would allow this fuel to flow to Gulf Coast refineries along a path that could imperil important Midwest water sources. On top of all that is what the project would mean for the climate. Photo by: NWFblogs on Flickr.

Obama and Keystone XL: The Moment of Truth?

01/30/2013 2:45 pm Bill Chameides Dean, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment

President Obama will soon have to decide whether he will be the “all of the above” president or the “respond to climate change” president.

In Pursuit of Hydrocarbons

Last year on the campaign stump, Obama presented himself as the “all of the above” guy on energy. Here’s an example from a speech delivered at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland:

“We need an energy strategy for the future — an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” — President Obama, March 15, 2012.

The operative words are “every source.” Sure, he touts and has funded the development of green energy, but he has also favored a ramp-up in production of domestic hydrocarbons — specifically oil and natural gas. At any number of occasions last year Obama trotted out the fact that under his watch domestic drilling and production were up, imports were down. Similar boasts appear on as well:

“Domestic oil and natural gas production has increased every year President Obama has been in office. In 2011, American oil production reached the highest level in nearly a decade and natural gas production reached an all-time high.”

The Climate Change Pledge

While energy was a campaign issue, it was obvious (painfully so for many) that climate change was not. No major policy speeches by either candidate and not a single question in the debates.

But after the election climate change reentered the president’s ambit. First came his acceptance speech on election night:

“We want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

Then came an inaugural address that got the environmental community all atwitter — climate change receiving more attention than any other single issue? Could it be that Obama was positioning himself to go after climate change in a big way?

You Can’t Have ‘All of the Above’ and Address Climate Change

But here’s the problem: an “all of the above” energy policy that encourages the development and production of oil and gas flies in the face of a “climate change” pledge to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

And the stakes are too high to ignore. Greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric greenhouse gases are at an all-time high. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. And there is increasing concern that we may be seeing an uptick in extreme weather events as a result of global warming.

Responding to climate change requires that production and use of hydrocarbon fuels be ramped down, not up.

So sooner or later the Obama administration will face a moment of truth — a choice between following an “all of the above” path or responding to “the threat of climate change.” And that moment could be just down the road.

The Looming Keystone XL Decision

The Keystone XL project would put into place a pipeline system that would allow oil imports to flow from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. (For more, see my post here, this New York Times explainer, and this Washington Post Keystone XL interactive graphic.)

It’s been a rallying cry for both the “drill, baby drill” crowd and the environmentally minded, albeit from different positions. For the pro-drillers the pipeline is a no-brainer — a job-creating project that will bring a new, unconventional, (almost) domestic source of oil to American refineries.

For many environmentalists, stopping the pipeline is also a no-brainer — it’s a landscape-decimating proposition whose oil is among the most carbon-intensive out there. (More here, here and here.)

There’s also the issue of the pipeline itself. The initial plan had routed it through highly sensitive lands in Nebraska’s Sand Hills, which sit above the all-important Ogallala aquifer — a critical source of drinking water and irrigation for a huge swath of the United States. The potential risk to the aquifer was so grave that Dave Heineman, the Republican governor of Nebraska, urged Obama to deny TransCanada (the pipeline company) the greenlight for the project.

And finally there is the climate concern. While there is still some debate about how the size of the Alberta resource — and how much carbon dioxide would be released if it were completely exploited (see here and here) — there is little argument that on a BTU-to-BTU basis, tar sands oil is about as dirty and carbon-intensive as it comes. And so sure, if you’re an “all of the above” president, you might approve the pipeline. But if you’re a “respond to climate” one? I don’t think so.

Decision Day Approaches

The Keystone XL project has had its ups and downs, its starts and stops. (See timeline.) Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the project must be reviewed by the State Department and approved by the president. In January 2012, the State Department rejected TransCanada’s application because of concerns about environmental impacts but invited the company to re-apply with a new route that would avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

TransCanada has now submitted a new proposal whose newly proffered path for the pipeline avoids some — but not all — of the ecologically sensitive areas in Nebraska and its surrounds: It still passes over the Ogallala but avoids the Sand Hills.

Gov. Heineman has approved the new plan, with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality finding that the pipeline’s construction and operation along the new route would result in “minimal environmental impacts” and that any oil released “should be localized and Keystone would be responsible for any cleanup.”

So now it’s up to Obama and his administration.

The State Department is said to be studying the new plan and a decision is expected this spring. So what will they do? Just-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry was cagey and non-committal on the subject during his confirmation hearings last week, promising only to make “appropriate decisions.” (Hey, at least he didn’t say he would decide for it then against it.)

Ultimately, though, the decision is in the hands of President Obama. That decision will be revealing indeed.

End Note

* Oil sands produce bitumen, a thick tarry hydrocarbon that is either “upgraded” into a synthetic blend or diluted so it flows like oil.

Crossposted with TheGreenGrok | Join us on Facebook


John Podesta: Conservation Deserves Equal Ground On Public Lands

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 09:30 AM PST By John Podesta

In his inaugural address, President Obama laid out a clear commitment to “our children and future generations,” saying that as a nation we must “maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.” This includes the more than 700 million acres of public lands—national parks, monuments, forests and wildernesses—that belong to all Americans.

Indeed, it is one of the great responsibilities and joys of a president to uphold and maintain the uniquely American commitment to conservation. One of my proudest accomplishments from my time with President Clinton was working with Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to protect the national treasure of our public lands. Together, we helped President Clinton protect more land in the lower 48 states than any president since Teddy Roosevelt.

Since then, however, conservation has all too often taken a back seat to issuing energy leases for development of public lands. That’s why today, Secretary Babbitt introduced a bold new idea for America’s public lands that will put conservation on equal ground with energy development. Secretary Babbitt, in remarks at the National Press Club, proposes that President Obama adopt a simple “One-to-One” principle: for every acre of land leased for energy development, another acre of public land will be protected for future generations….



CEQA overhaul fight begins



Wyatt Buchanan San Francisco Chronicle February 3, 2013 What could be the most contentious issue considered at the Capitol this year already has proponents and opponents hiring lobbyists and media strategists to start public campaigns – and there hasn’t even been a bill introduced. Working… more »







Department of the Interior’s recently published Climate Change policy
– provides guidance to bureaus and offices for addressing climate change impacts upon the Department’s mission, programs, operations, and personnel.






Feb 8 Webinar: Land-use Models for Willamette Water 2100, Friday, 12-1 pm, Pacific Time, Kidder 202 and streaming, Andrew Plantinga, Professor of Environmental Economics.  This is part of the Willamette Water 2100 Project seminar/webinar series Click here for online streaming.  Seminars archives can be found at: http:/

Monday, February 11, 4:00 PM EST Northeast Climate Science Center presents,

“A Case Study for Identifying Climate Change Refugia”

Toni Lyn Morelli, NE CSC Program Manager

To join this webinar, visit:
With a look to the mammals of the California mountains, Toni Lyn Morelli will highlight her research on how to capitalize on the concept of climate change refugia in natural resource management.  Historical survey data, occupancy modeling, species distribution modeling, and downscaled climate data demonstrate that a montane meadow specialist previously considered common has been extirpated from nearly half its California range, correlated with increasing temperature and precipitation.  Climate projections indicate this species, and potentially the meadows in which it is found, will continue to disappear. However, populations are persisting in areas that have been transformed by humans, which Morelli has dubbed “anthropogenic refugia”.  Further insights are revealed from genetic analysis of the species across its range and comparison to other montane mammals. This research will be presented as an opportunity to examine one of the tools that can be used by natural resource managers to help species adapt to climate change.


Feb 13 GN LCC Webinar: Wildlife issues for transportation planning on federal lands, 11:00-noon Pacific Time, Rob Ament, Tony Clevenger, and Marcel Huijser – Western Transportation Institute of Montana State University. This webinar will focus on wildlife-transportation conflicts and solutions.

Feb. 14 FWS Webinar: Communicating climate change: Perspectives from federal agencies, 2-3:00 p.m. Pacific Time WebEx info at: or contact

Feb 22 Workshop: Willamette Water 2100 Learning Action Network Workshop, Salem.  This project is evaluating how climate change, population growth, and economic growth will alter the availability and the use of water in the Willamette River Basin on a decadal to centennial timescale. The National Science Foundation funded project seeks to create a transferable method of predicting where climate change will create water scarcities and where those scarcities will exert the strongest impacts on human society. The five year project began in October 2010, and is a collaborative effort of faculty from Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

April 2-4: National Adaptation Forum, Denver, CO.  This is an inaugural convening of climate change adaptation practitioners and experts from around the country focused on moving from adaptation planning to adaptation action. FWS R1 employees: please contact David Patte ASAP regarding conference approval requirements.

April 15-18: 2013 Western Division of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting , Boise, ID features a
climate-aquatics symposium organized by Dan Isaak and colleagues, titled “New information regarding climate effects on aquatic resources: how do we use this information?”  A 1-day workshop on spatial statistical model for stream networks will be a held in conjunction with the meeting.  Jay Ver Hoef (NOAA) and Erin Peterson (CSIRO in Australia), who will conduct the workshop, have developed the statistical theory for these models over the last decade and have recently developed freeware statistical software for the R environment to make implementation of the models convenient. The spatial statistical models are applicable to a wide variety of data types commonly collected from streams (water quality parameters, habitat conditions, biological attributes), provide improved estimation relative to traditional statistical models, and even enable new types of analyses that were not previously possible for streams. Contact Dan Isaak for online participation if you cannot attend or for more info:



Rangeland Coalition Summit and Rustici Science Symposium

On Jan 24-25 2013, ranchers, researchers, managers, agency representatives and conservationists gathered to network and discuss contemporary challenges and opportunities in managing rangelands. The 2nd Rangeland Science Symposium and 8th annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit were held on January 24-25, 2013 at the University of California, Davis – Freeborn Hall and drew 389 attendees. The event was themed, “Partnerships Among Ranchers, Conservationists and Scientists Provides the Most Relevant Knowledge for Managing Rangelands.” Click here to view event highlights.



Climate Change Science for Effective Resource Management and Public Policy in the Western United States

University of Nevada, Las Vegas – Student Union     March 27-28, 2013

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), and the EPSCoR Western Tri-State Consortium invite you to attend —
The conference and breakout sessions will address important issues relevant to climate change adaptation and the research needed to address this need.




Excellent resources on climate change at including smart phone apps and weekly news highlights:

Smartphone Apps



The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism




Climate Change | Marin’s Response 

 SIGN UP NOW and join us this Saturday!

Saturday, February 9th
9am-12N Hospice by the Bay
This 3 hour session will focus on what Marin is doing to
address the causes and impacts of climate change on a local level. Marin has a countywide target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 15% below 1990 levels by 2020. Come find inspiration from what cities, non-profits, government agencies and utilities are doing to meet this target. And lastly, learn about what you can do to address climate change in your home, workplace and community.

Environmental Forum of Marin | 415-484-8336 | |

PO BOX 151546

San Rafael, CA 94915



SIERRA CLUB: YOU Can Make History On President’s Day Weekend

Tens of thousands of citizens will converge on Washington, D.C., on February 17 for the Forward on Climate rally to tell the president we need his ambition to meet the scale of the challenge in transitioning to a clean-energy economy. “There’s only one thing that will defeat the tar sands pipeline and ignite a clean-energy revolution in this country,” says Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in this video. “It’s not another symposium, think tank, or government study — it’s you.” Buses are coming from over 20 states. RSVP, then find a ride near you.  Check out our new Make History video!  Watch this clip of Sierra Club youth ambassador Nolan Gould, star of the smash sitcom Modern Family, telling Ellen DeGeneres why he’ll be at the rally.  Read this impassioned piece by syndicated columnist Javier Sierra about how the actions we take now will shape the world our children and grandchildren will inherit….
Thunderclap is a new social media tool for “amplifying your Tweet into a sonic boom.” You can join a virtual “hurray” by scheduling a Thunderclap post from Facebook or Twitter to show your support for those on the ground. Every Thunderclap post will go up at the same time on February 17, creating one of the biggest joint social media posts ever. Schedule your Thunderclap today — the climate needs the noise! The Sierra Club is also hosting Solidarity Rallies on February 17 — mostly in the far West — for those who want to participate but simply cannot make it to the nation’s capital.

Recognizing the imminent danger posed by climate disruption, and the fact that President Obama will soon decide on the fate of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the Sierra Club will participate in a one-time act of peaceful civil disobedience for the first time in the organization’s 120-year history. “For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest,” says Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  “The burning of dirty tar sands crude is a battle we can’t afford to lose — this is something Obama simply must reject.” “This decision is not one we take lightly,” says Sierra Club President Allison Chin. “Allowing the production, transport, and burning of the dirtiest fuel on earth now would be a giant leap backwards. We are answering the urgency of this threat






Saudi Arabia focuses on renewable energy



Janine Zacharia Updated 5:28 pm, Friday, February 1, 2013

President Obama warned in his inaugural address that America can’t resist the “long and sometimes difficult” transition to renewable energy.

“We must lead it,” he urged the nation. “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries.” But it already could be too late.

While the United States still searches for a coherent national energy policy, countries you wouldn’t expect are at the forefront of a green transformation. China, Saudi Arabia and other nations are working in earnest today to achieve the goals Obama outlined for our future. China has concrete plans to shift to renewables on a national scale and is manufacturing solar panels so cheaply it’s hard for American companies to compete. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer – led by octogenarians rarely associated with swift societal change – is moving at lightning speed to transform its electricity grid from near zero to 100 percent renewable sources. It’s not that the Saudis suddenly have become environmentalists. In September, Citigroup issued a chilling, though not surprising, warning that Saudi Arabia could run out of crude for export by 2030. The Saudis, of course, knew this. And this is why even before Citigroup published its analysis, the Saudi government announced that it would spend more than $100 billion to develop 41 gigawatts of solar energy, enough to power one-third of the sun-drenched country, by 2032. In October, Saudi Arabia’s 68-year-old Prince Turki Al Faisal told an economic forum in Brazil he would like to see the kingdom go entirely renewable within his lifetime. In contrast, the United States has no federally mandated renewable energy target…..



Can America’s Regulators Reinvent Fire?

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 07:56 AM PST

By Adam James

This week the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners heard from Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, about his new book “Reinventing Fire.” One of his key messages was that the vast majority of changes that need to occur in transforming the energy system lie at the state regulatory level. Amory had an excellent summary as to what such a regulatory wish list would look like:

  • Equality in interconnection: Ensuring that renewables have an opportunity to compete on equal footing by accessing the grid.
  • Supporting entrepreneurial activities at the edge of the grid: Regulations allowing new market entrants to creatively compete with incumbent utilities.
  • Moving ahead on net metering 2.0: Net metering is absolutely essential to capturing the true value of renewables. However, there are very real problems with compensation to utilities and cost-shifting to other customers that do need to be addressed. Integration with dynamic pricing and behind-the-meter PV will require regulatory innovation.
  • Aligning rate structuring and business models: On the topic of regulatory innovation…







Fate of the Earth Takes Center Stage

By JASON ZINOMAN NY TIMES Published: February 7, 2013

Where is the great American play about climate change? Is there even a good one

Say what you will about the potential end of civilization as we know it, but there’s no denying it is dramatic stuff. That’s why it’s odd that as climate change finally moves forward in the national conversation, with President Obama making it a centerpiece of his inauguration speech, New York theater has mostly avoided…


New evidence suggests comet or asteroid impact was last straw for dinosaurs
(February 7, 2013) — While many assume that a comet or asteroid impact killed off the dinosaurs, the actual dates of the impact and extinction are imprecise enough that some have questioned the connection. Scientists have now dated the extinction with unprecedented precision and concluded that the impact and extinction where synchronous. While global climate change probably brought dinosaurs and other creatures to the brink, the impact likely was the final blow. … > full story


Blame it on Barney: Student perceptions of an upright tyrannosaurus rex remain obsolete
(February 7, 2013) — Ask a college student to sketch a Tyrannosaurus rex, and he or she will probably draw an upright, tail-dragging creature with tiny arms. An 8-year-old will draw something similar. They’re wrong, of course. The terrible T. rex, an agile, dynamic predator, never went upright. In fact, T. Rex tarried horizontal. So why are students’ perceptions of the T. rex stalled in the early 1900s? A research team sought answers after years of anecdotally observing students drawing the T. rex incorrectly. … > full story



Taking a bite at the shark bite
(February 1, 2013) — Researchers are studying the bacteria of a shark’s mouth in order to improve medical treatment for shark bite victims. … > full story


Flame retardants
now seen as health risk

San Francisco Chronicle February 4, 2013

it turns out, those chemicals may also be leaching from the walls that surround you. Because of laws passed in the 1970s, many homes and


Vanis Buckholz is only ten, but he spends a large portion of his free time picking up his neighbors’ recycling. (Photo: My ReCycler)

Why This 10-Year-Old Will End Up Running The World

Vanis Buckholz is an eco-entrepreneur who’s owned a recycling business since he was seven years old.

By Andri Antoniades January 31, 2013

Everyone knows that recycling is necessary, but not everyone does something about it. While it’s a little hard to swallow that a fourth grader is doing a better job caring for the environment than most adults, it’s clear this 10-year-old has a lot to teach us.

Vanis Buckholz cares about the environment—a lot. For the past three years, he’s owned and operated his own recycling business in Newport Beach, Calif., which recently earned him the praise of his city’s mayor as well as the local charity he helps support.

The business is called My ReCycler, and it might just make Vanis the youngest eco-entrepreneur in the nation. According to his website, he was inspired by an Earth Day presentation at his school when he was just seven years old. Determined to pitch in, the grammar school student began to recycle his family’s bottles and cans, but soon his home operation morphed into a community-based one; now friends, neighbors and businesses save their recyclables for the fourth grader, who rides his bike around town picking them up by the bagful.

While it may be difficult to believe, Vanis does most of the work on his own. With a trailer hitched to his bicycle, he can ride safely around town making multiple pickups that he temporarily stores at his house. Every few weeks, his parents help him load the goods onto a truck to take to the local recycling plant, where the ten-year-old earns about $200 per visit.






Earth’s CO2 Home Page
The 2012 average annual concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (Mauna Loa Observatory) is 393.84 parts per million (ppm).   The 2011 average is 391.65 ppm.  For the past decade (2003-2012) the average annual increase is 2.1 ppm per year.  The average for the prior decade (1993-2002) is 1.7 ppm per year.    Annual data for 2012 was first posted January 3, 2013, by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the United States.  Since the 1958 start of precision CO2 measurements in the atmosphere, the annual mean concentration of CO2 has only increased from one year to the next.   Read more…



Atmospheric CO2 for December 2012

Preliminary data dated January 3, 2013

(Mauna Loa Observatory: Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

CO2 Data Set:

Original Scripps data file dated Wednesday December 5, 2012

Measuring Location:

Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii







Conservation Science News February 1, 2013

Highlight of the Week Major Climate Changes Looming—and Green “Infrastructure” –Nature-based Solutions









Highlight of the Week– Major Climate Changes Looming—and Green “Infrastructure” –Nature-based Solutions


Excellent overview (front page SF Chronicle):


Major climate changes looming

Carolyn Lochhead Updated 11:10 pm, Sunday, January 27, 2013

Greenhouse gases rise from a coal-burning plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, contributing to warming. Photo: Martin Meissner, Associated Press


Washington — In his inaugural address last Monday, President Obama made climate change a priority of his second term. It might be too late. Within the lifetimes of today’s children, scientists say, the climate could reach a state unknown in civilization. In that time, global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are on track to exceed the limits that scientists believe could prevent catastrophic warming. CO{-2} levels are higher than they have been in 15 million years. The Arctic, melting rapidly and probably irreversibly, has reached a state that the Vikings would not recognize. “We are poised right at the edge of some very major changes on Earth,” said Anthony Barnosky, a UC Berkeley professor of biology who studies the interaction of climate change with population growth and land use. “We really are a geological force that’s changing the planet.”

Wholesale shift needed

The Arctic melt is occurring as the planet is just 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) warmer than it was in preindustrial times. At current trends, the Earth could warm by 4 degrees Celsius in 50 years, according to a November World Bank report. The coolest summer months would be much warmer than today’s hottest summer months, the report said. “The last time Earth was 4 degrees warmer than it is now was about 14 million years ago,” Barnosky said. Experts said it is technically feasible to halt such changes by nearly ending the use of fossil fuels. It would require a wholesale shift to renewable fuels that the United States, let alone China and other developing countries, appears unlikely to make, given that many Americans do not believe humans are changing the climate.

Science is not opinion, it’s not what we want it to be,” said Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian and climatologist at Texas Tech University who was lead author of a draft report on U.S. climate change issued this month by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, which was created by the federal government.

You can’t make a thermometer tell you it’s hotter than it is,” said Hayhoe, who with her husband, a linguist and West Texas pastor, has written a book on climate change addressed to evangelicals.

And it’s not just about thermometers or satellite instruments,” she said. “It’s about looking in our own backyards, when the trees are flowering now compared to 30 years ago, what types of birds and butterflies and bugs that … used to be further south.” Robins are arriving two weeks early in Colorado. Frogs are calling sooner in Ithaca, N.Y. The Sierra Nevada snowpack is melting earlier. Cold snaps, like the one gripping the East, still happen, but less often. The frost-free season has lengthened 21 days in California, nine days in Texas and 10 in Connecticut, according to the draft climate report.


Extreme weather

Scientists are loath to pin a specific event, such as Hurricane Sandy, to global warming. But “the risk of certain extreme events, such as the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Russian heat wave and fires, and the 2011 Texas heat wave and drought has … doubled or more,” said Michael Wehner, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of the climate report. “Some of the changes that have occurred are permanent on human time scales.” Last year, the continental United States was the hottest it has ever been in the 118 years that records have been kept. Globally, each of the first 12 years of the 21st century were among the 14 warmest ever. Connecticut was 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average. At current rates of CO{-2} emissions, scientists expect New England to have summers resembling the Deep South within decades. The pine bark beetle, held in check by winter freezes, is epidemic over millions of acres of forests from California to South Dakota. Oceans, which absorb CO2, have increased in acidity, damaging coral reefs, shellfish and organisms at the bottom of the food chain. Washington state shellfish growers have seen major failures in oyster hatcheries because the larvae don’t form shells. A report this month by the National Research Council, a public policy branch of the National Academies, said such changes in ocean chemistry in the geologic past were accompanied by “mass extinctions of ocean or terrestrial life or both.”

Tipping point

A key question is when greenhouse gas emissions might reach a point where changes become self-reinforcing and out of human control. Arctic sea ice reflects the sun. As it melts, the dark ocean absorbs more solar heat, raising temperatures. Similarly, the Greenland ice sheet is melting rapidly, reducing reflectivity and heating the Earth faster, possibly speeding up the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet. The northern permafrost is thawing, with the potential to release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and CO{-2} stored in soils. These can produce sudden changes that are hard to predict.”We could be at a tipping point where the climate just abruptly warms,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s atmosphere/energy program.

Changes over time

UC Berkeley’s Barnosky said tipping points could come earlier than anticipated when factoring in population growth and land use. More than 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface has been covered by farms and cities. Much of the rest is cut by roads. By 2025, that footprint could reach 50 percent, a level that on smaller scales has led to ecological crashes, such as a fisheries collapse or an ocean dead zone. “It’s just sort of simple math: The more people, the more footprint,” Barnosky said. “If we’re still on a fossil fuel economy in 50 years, there is no hope for doing anything about climate change. It will be here in such a dramatic way that we won’t recognize the planet we’re on.” Not all climate scientists are so gloomy. Ashley Ballantyne, a bioclimatologist at the University of Montana who studies paleoclimate records, said the climate has always changed, with ice ages, warmings and mass extinctions. At current CO{-2} concentrations, the Arctic and Greenland are likely to become ice free, as they were 4 million years ago, he said. Polar bears are poorly adapted to such conditions, he said, “but it wasn’t bad for boreal trees. They were quite happy.” An international political consensus set as a danger zone a global temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), which is expected in 25 years based on current trends and when atmospheric concentration of CO{-2} reaches 450 parts per million. It is now almost 400 parts per million.

Two degrees Celsius is “an arbitrary number,” said Alan Robock, director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University. “On our current path, we will go zooming way past that.”

Climatologist James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and activist Bill McKibben, founder of, believe the only way to preserve the Holocene climate humans are used to is to cut CO{-2} concentrations to 350 parts per million, last seen around 1988.

Ballantyne dismissed the 350 goal: “That’s like a 70-year-old alcoholic saying, ‘I’m going quit drinking when I’m 60 years old.’ “

McKibben and Hansen propose a tax on fossil fuels at their source, to be reimbursed to all U.S. residents, as Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent-Vt., plans to propose in a “fee and dividend” scheme modeled on Alaska’s oil royalty rebates to state residents.


Carbon tax unlikely

White House press secretary Jay Carney, asked Wednesday about the Sanders bill, said: “We have not proposed and have no intention of proposing a carbon tax.”

It would have to be a big tax, McKibben said, “that drives up the price quickly. Maybe you go to the pump someday and you’re paying what people in Europe pay for gasoline, which is good, because then it reminds you every time you go to the pump that you don’t really need a semi-military vehicle to go to the grocery store.” Stanford’s Jacobson maintains that wind and solar could power the world many times over. He calculated that the world would need to install 1.7 billion solar rooftops and 4 million wind turbines. Jane Long, chair of the California Council on Science and Technology, said any such conversion would be costly and difficult at best. Still, she said, “one way to get out of the hole is to stop digging.”


Carolyn Lochhead is The San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent. E-mail:



Green vs. Gray Infrastructure: When Nature Is Better than Concrete

Submitted by John Talberth and Craig Hanson on June 19, 2012

Infrastructure is essential for economic growth. But as governments debate the future of sustainable development at the Rio+20 conference, there is one infrastructure solution that can provide a good return on investment: nature.
People often don’t think of forests, wetlands, coral reefs, and other natural ecosystems as forms of infrastructure. But they are. Forests, for instance, can prevent silt and pollutants from entering streams that supply freshwater to downstream cities and businesses. They can act as natural water filtration plants. As such, they are a form of “green infrastructure” that can serve the same function as “gray infrastructure,” the human-engineered solutions that often involve concrete and steel. This example is not alone (see Table 1).



Examples of public and private investments in green infrastructure already exist. For instance, Bogotá, Columbia is pursuing upstream landscape conservation and restoration as an alternative to more conventional water treatment technologies. Ho Chi Minh City restored mangroves instead of building dikes in order to protect shorelines from storm damage. And a chemical facility in Texas built a wetland instead of using deep well injection to treat wastewater.

Costs of Green vs. Gray Infrastructure — What should be of particular interest to finance ministers, CFOs, and conservationists alike is that, in many instances, investments in green infrastructure can be much less expensive than those in gray infrastructure. For instance, New York City evaluated two schemes to manage its stormwater flows. One was a green infrastructure plan that emphasized stream buffer restoration, green roofs, and bio-swales , landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. The other was a gray infrastructure plan involving tunnels and storm drains. The green infrastructure option presented a cost savings of more than $1.5 billion. Decision-makers in Idaho and North Carolina found similar cost savings through green infrastructure (see Figure 1).

If green infrastructure can provide comparable benefits to gray infrastructure at reduced costs, then the financial case can be made for investing in the conservation, sustainable management, and/or restoration of natural ecosystems to achieve development goals.

Analyzing Green Infrastructure’s Costs and Benefits- To help make this financial case, we need a method for evaluating green and gray costs in a manner that compares apples-to-apples and focuses on incurred expenses. Working with a number of partners, WRI developed such a “Green-Gray Analysis” approach and applied it in the Sebago Lake watershed, which provides water to Portland, Maine (check out our issue brief, Insights from the Field: Forests for Water). The Portland Water District (PWD) currently qualifies for filtration avoidance under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1989 Surface Water Treatment Rule. This rule waives public water systems from needing to install water filtration systems so long as beneficial land use practices keep concentrations of particulates and contaminants at or below regulatory baselines. However, recent upstream development, forest clearing, and population growth may jeopardize the filtration waiver, potentially forcing PWD to install a conventional membrane filtration system–an expensive proposition…..

Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Development- The lesson here is that instead of automatically defaulting to dikes and pipes to control flooding, we first should look at restoring wetlands. Rather than building sea walls, we need to think about conserving sand dunes and coral reefs. And before building more water filtration systems, we could first consider rehabilitating upstream watersheds. Although green infrastructure may not always be the most cost-effective approach, with a robust methodology in hand, planners can compare green to gray and identify new opportunities for investing in nature.
As planners—especially those at Rio+20— look to meet infrastructure demands of the 21st century, the lesson is clear: Think about green before investing in gray.








PRBO in the News:

Mid-Valley rice farmers can provide habitat for waterbirds

By Michael Hatamiya/Appeal-Democrat January 27, 2013

Mid-Valley rice growers can take part in a program to improve habitat for waterbirds on their land and receive federal assistance toward that end. The Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program is conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“To help wildlife resources — that’s the whole reason for the program,” said Paul Buttner, manager of environmental affairs for the California Rice Commission. “Our industry holds wildlife habitat dear, and we appreciate these types of programs that give us an opportunity to expand these practices,” he said last week.

The Central Valley is an integral part of the Pacific Flyway, which serves as seasonal or year-round breeding and wintering grounds for waterfowl from ducks and geese to egrets, herons and shorebirds such as plovers and sandpipers. Since the Gold Rush, the Central Valley’s 4 million acres of wetlands have been reduced to 5 percent of that total, or 200,000 acres, according to Monica Iglecia, Audubon California conservation project director who is involved with the Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program.

“In the Sacramento Valley, 80 percent of flooded habitat consists of rice fields and 20 percent is managed wetlands,” she said at a workshop in Yuba City last week to educate rice growers about the program.The tailwater from rice fields drained before harvest plays a major role in sustaining wetlands, and the flooded paddies themselves serve as habitat. “The program is designed to change what growers are doing in order to provide habitat on a working landscape for waterbirds,” said Tim Hermansen, a wildlife biologist with the NRCS in Colusa. “The practices were made available through research and analysis.”

The practices, which are intended to provide shallow-water wetlands, mudflats and nesting areas, include maintaining flooded fields at specific levels and releasing water at specified times of the year, keeping stubble at a certain height, building islands in paddies for birds to rest on, creating ponds, cultivating ground cover by seeding native vegetation in hedgerows, between fields or on retired land, and erecting nesting boxes. Growers sign contracts for one to three years and are monitored by NRCS officials. ….With the California Rice Commission as the industry partner, the scientific team includes Audubon California, PRBO Conservation Science and The Nature Conservancy.

In 2011, the program was implemented on a small scale with a pilot program in the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. In 2012, it was widened to six counties in the Sacramento Valley. Now, in its third year, eight counties are included in the program: Yuba, Sutter, Colusa and Butte as well as Glenn, Sacramento, Yolo and Placer. About 125 rice growers on 45,000 acres participated in the program in 2012. “We got involved because Montna Farms is involved in a lot of conservation work, and this was a program that can help with practices on the ground and enhance the population of shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl,” said Jon Munger, operations manager and rice farmer with Montna Farms. “We enjoy seeing the variety of birds that visit our fields.”

Montna Farms, with rice holdings in the Dingville area of Sutter County, has employed the water management regime, modified equipment to create optimum checks for nesting, cultivated cover along ditches, and set up nesting boxes in line with the program. The deadline for rice growers to file applications for 2013 is Feb. 15; they are encouraged to turn in paperwork well before the rush at the deadline. For more information and application materials, prospective participants should contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in their respective counties.




A project of PRBO Conservation Science—Interview with Laurette Rogers



San Francisco Bay named ‘wetland of importance’

ASSOCIATED PRESS Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 4:50 p.m. SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Bay estuary has been added to a list of protected wetlands under a 1971 international treaty among 163 countries meant to limit damaging development along ecologically important waterways. Ramsar Convention officials on Friday announced the U.S. government had added the bay as the nation’s 35th “wetland of importance” under the treaty. The designation means the country is committed to not promoting projects that alter designated ecosystems.

The San Francisco Bay estuary is the largest on the U.S. Pacific coast, and comprises 77-percent of California’s remaining wetland areas. It is home to more than 1,000 animal species.

Melissa Pitkin, spokeswoman for PRBO Conservation Science, said decades of research informed this designation, and while it doesn’t come with new regulations, it helps bolster local conservation efforts through international pressure.

Least sandpiper. Photo: Steve Tucker

The Smallest Sandpipers

by Joe Eaton on January 15, 2013 in Wildlife: Birds, Mammals, Fish

They’re known as peeps for their high-pitched voices. They’re the runts of the Scolopacidae, the shorebird family that includes sandpipers, yellowlegs, willets, turnstones, curlews, godwits, dowitchers, and phalaropes. The aptly named least sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) is sparrow-size and weighs about three-quarters of an ounce (equal to a dollar in quarters); the western sandpiper (C. mauri) is only a bit larger. Those two species are by far our most common peeps. But it can be a challenge to tell them apart. Westerns tend to forage at the water’s edge, leasts on drier ground, but they frequently overlap and mixed flocks are not uncommon. “Leasts are more likely to be back in the tidal channels, in more vegetated areas,” says PRBO Conservation Science biologist Dave Shuford. “They tend to occur in smaller flocks and are less prone to flush, more likely to freeze when a raptor goes over.” Both engage in dazzling synchronized flight, often provoked by a passing raptor.  William L. Dawson (Birds of California) describes the flight of a western sandpiper flock: “[T]hey weave and twist about, now flashing in the sunlight, now darkening to invisibility, charge and recharge, feint and flee, all as a single bird.”….



The number of eagles, kestrels, burrowing owls and red-tailed hawks killed each year by flying into the wind generators at Altamont Pass in Alameda County has fallen roughly 50 percent since 2005, a study shows. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Altamont Pass turbines kill fewer birds

David R. Baker San Francisco Chronicle January 29, 2013

For decades, wind turbines straddling the Altamont Pass have generated clean electricity for California – at the cost of killing thousands of birds. The tall, grassy hills, raked by stiff winds in spring and summer, offer prime hunting territory… But efforts to curb the bloodshed may be starting to work. A new study suggests that the number of eagles, kestrels, burrowing owls and red-tailed hawks killed at Altamont each year has fallen roughly 50 percent since 2005. Reaching that level has been a long-term goal of local environmentalists and government officials, as well as the energy companies running turbines in the pass. “We’re pretty pleased with the results,” said Sandra Rivera, assistant planning director for Alameda County. “It’s a fine balance between having the renewables we all want to have in California and keeping the wildlife safe. That’s what we’ve all been trying to achieve.” Bird lovers who sued both the county and the wind companies in 2006 say they’re encouraged by the numbers, although they don’t want to declare victory yet. The steps taken to protect birds at Altamont – shutting down turbines for several months in the winter, replacing small, fast-spinning older models with larger ones that are easier for birds to avoid – appear to be working. But Michael Lynes, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, said he wants to keep pushing the numbers lower. “We’re not celebrating, put it that way,” said Lynes, whose Audubon chapter was one of four filing the suit. “Because as long as wind turbines are operating out there, there’s going to be mortality to wildlife. We see this as a good step toward reducing mortality.”
The study comes from consulting firm ICF International and examines bird deaths from 2005 to 2010. It focuses in particular on four species that were at the heart of the lawsuit – American kestrels, burrowing owls, golden eagles and red-tailed hawks.
At the start of the study period, deaths of all those species combined averaged 1,245 per year. By the end, the total had fallen to 625. (Those numbers represent three-year, rolling averages, considered useful because the number of birds in the pass can vary from one year to another for reasons that have nothing to do with turbines.)….more »



James Morton A domestic cat with a European rabbit. Domestic and feral cats are significant predators of a wide range of prey species, including rabbits.

That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think

By NATALIE ANGIER NY TIMES Published: January 29, 2013 752 Comments

….In a report that scaled up local surveys and pilot studies to national dimensions, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States — both the pet Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it —[cats] kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat. The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes. Peter Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and an author of the report, said the mortality figures that emerge from the new model “are shockingly high.” ….. “The number of free roaming cats is definitively growing,” Dr. Fenwick of the bird conservancy said. “It’s estimated that there are now more than 500 TNR colonies in Austin alone.”

They are colonies of subsidized predators, he said, able to survive in far greater concentrations than do wild carnivores by dint of their people-pleasing appeal. “They’re not like coyotes, having to make their way in the world,” he said.

Yet even fed cats are profoundly tuned to the hunt, and when they see something flutter, they can’t help but move in for the kill. Dr. Fenwick argues that far more effort should be put into animal adoption. “For the great majority of healthy cats,” he said, “homes can be found.” Any outdoor colonies that remain should be enclosed, he said. “Cats don’t need to wander hundreds of miles to be happy,” he said.

Irrigation in California’s Central Valley intensifies rainfall, storms across the Southwest
(January 28, 2013)Agricultural irrigation in California’s Central Valley doubles the amount of water vapor pumped into the atmosphere, ratcheting up rainfall and powerful monsoons across the interior Southwest, according to a new study by UC Irvine scientists..
Moisture on the vast farm fields evaporates, is blown over the Sierra Nevada and dumps 15 percent more than average summer rain in numerous other states. Runoff to the Colorado River increases by 28 percent, and the Four Corners region experiences a 56 percent boost in runoff. While the additional water supply can be a good thing, the transport pattern also accelerates the severity of monsoons and other potentially destructive seasonal weather events. “If we stop irrigating in the Valley, we’ll see a decrease in stream flow in the Colorado River basin,” said climate hydrologist Jay Famiglietti, senior author on the paper, which will be published online Jan. 29, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The basin provides water for about 35 million people, including those in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. But the extra water vapor also accelerates normal atmospheric circulation, he said, “firing up” the annual storm cycle and drawing in more water vapor from the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Central Valley…..full story

Min-Hui Lo and James S. Famiglietti. Irrigation in California’s Central Valley Strengthens the Southwestern U. S. Water Cycle. Geophysical Research Letters, 12 JAN 2013 DOI: 10.1002/grl.50108

How plant communities endure stress
(January 30, 2013) — The Stress Gradient Hypothesis holds that as stress increases in an ecosystem, mutually supportive interactions become more significant and negative interactions, such as competition, become less so. The idea has been hotly debated but is now backed by a review of hundreds of studies co-authored in Ecology Letters by Mark Bertness, professor of biology at Brown, who first formally proposed the hypothesis in 1994. The time has come, he said, to test its application and predictive value. … > full story


Ancient Caribbean Tsunami Likely Altered Ecosystems

Yahoo! News (blog)  – ‎Jan 30, 2013‎

An ancient tsunami caused dramatic long-term ecological changes in the Caribbean more than 3,000 years ago, new research suggests.



Most Pigeons Came From Escaped Racing Birds

Discovery News Jan 31 2013

Much of the world’s pigeon population descends from escaped racing birds from the Middle East, confirms one of the most extensive DNA studies on the now ubiquitous bird. The study, published in the journal Science, decoded the genetic blueprint of the ..


Publication Number: 8488 M. J. SINGER,H. A. GEORGE, ET AL.
Inventory Type: PDF File
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1-60107-827-8
Copyright Date: 2012
Length: 3 pp

pH is a system for rating acidity and alkalinity. It is a critical factor in farming, gardening, natural resource work, and many other fields. Here is a brief, straightforward explanation of what pH is, what it means, and why it matters to all of us.

Invasive Bug puts San Diego Ecosystems in Peril

KPBS Jan 23, 2013 Written by Katie Euphrat

An invasive bug the size of a grain of rice is wiping out thousands of acres of oak trees in San Diego County. KPBS reporter Susan Murphy tells us exotic insect invasions are a growing problem in our region.

Cultural evolution changes bird song
January 29, 2013) — Thanks to cultural evolution, male Savannah sparrows are changing their tune, partly to attract “the ladies.” According to a study of more than 30 years of Savannah sparrows recordings, the birds are singing distinctly different songs today than their ancestors did 30 years ago — changes passed along generation to generation, according to a new study. … > full story


Penicillin’s kin found in ocean ‘dead’ spot

Futurity: Research News  – ‎Jan 24 2013‎

“We were amazed that these fungi were alive and they could possibly be 100 million years old,” says oceanographer Heath Mills.


Tomorrow’s life-saving medications may currently be living at the bottom of the sea
January 29, 2013) — Two new research articles demonstrate how the next class of powerful medications may currently reside at the bottom of the ocean. In both cases, the researchers were focused on ocean-based mollusks – a category of animal that includes snails, clams and squid and their bacterial companions. … > full story


Study discovers high levels of air-cleansing compound over ocean

Phys.Org Jan 25 2013

The research aircraft flies over the Pacific Ocean with its wing-mounted instrument. Credit: Rainer Volkamer. (—Researchers have detected the presence of a pollutant-destroying compound iodine monoxide in surprisingly high levels high above …


Stable fisher population found in the Southern Sierra Nevada
(January 28, 2013) — After experiencing years of population decline on the West Coast, a recent study examining fisher populations found that — at least in the southern Sierra Nevada — the animal’s numbers appear to be stable. … > full story


Depression-era drainage ditches emerge as sleeping threat to Cape Cod salt marshes
(January 25, 2013) — Cape Cod, Massachusetts has a problem. The iconic salt marshes of the famous summer retreat are melting away at the edges, dying back from the most popular recreational areas. The erosion is a consequence of an unexpected synergy between recreational over-fishing and Great Depression-era ditches constructed by Works Progress Administration in an effort to control mosquitoes. … > full story


Dung Beetles Navigate Via Milky Way

Indian Country Today Media  – ‎Jan 25 2013‎

Human beings have long navigated by the stars. A new study shows that at least one member of the animal kingdom, the dung beetle, does so as well—using the Milky Way, as it turns out.



Bugs in the atmosphere: Significant microorganism populations found in middle and upper troposphere
(January 28, 2013) — In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, researchers used genomic techniques to document the presence of significant numbers of living microorganisms — principally bacteria — in the middle and upper troposphere, that section of the atmosphere approximately four to six miles above Earth’s surface. … > full story



Almost 500 new species discovered at Senckenberg: Newly discovered species in 2011 and 2012
January 25, 2013) — In the last two years scientists at the Senckenberg research institutes have discovered and described almost 500 new species. … > full story


Why are there redheads? Birds might hold the clues
(January 28, 2013) — Biologists examined the survival rates and chestnut feather coloration of barn swallows and other species of birds, to unearth factors favoring the evolution of pheomelanin in spite of its costs. They found that under conditions of low stress, birds with larger amounts of pheomelanin survived better, suggesting the pigment may serve a beneficial role. … > full story


Owl mystery unravelled: Scientists explain how bird can rotate its head without cutting off blood supply to brain
(January 31, 2013) — Medical illustrators and neurological imaging experts have figured out how night-hunting owls can almost fully rotate their heads — by as much as 270 degrees in either direction — without damaging the delicate blood vessels in their necks and heads, and without cutting off blood supply to their brains. … > full story


Disappearing homing pigeon mystery solved
(January 30, 2013) — Homing pigeons are remarkable navigators. Although they are able to find their loft from almost any location, they do get lost occasionally. The reason why had been a mystery until a scientist wondered if the birds use the loft’s infrasound signature as a homing beacon to get their bearings. He discovered that the atmosphere misdirected the loft’s infrasound signal on days when pigeons were lost, preventing them from finding the correct bearing home. … > full story


Giant Squid: Still a Deep Mystery

Discovery News  – ‎Jan 25 2013‎

The recent unprecedented video footage of a giant squid filmed in its deep ocean habitat has renewed interest in the enormous — and yet still mysterious — species


Measuring the consequence of forest fires on public health
(January 27, 2013) — Pollution from forest fires is impacting the health of people with asthma and other chronic obstructive lung diseases, finds a new study. This study uses data from pharmacies and dispensaries to measure the increase in drugs needed to alleviate symptoms associated with pollution. … > full story


Microsoft Builds Global Ecosystem Computer Model
January 18, 2013

Microsoft Research is building a giant computer model for terrestrial and marine ecosystems, which the scientists hope policy makers will use to better manage natural resources.

Company researchers describe the general ecosystem model (GEM) in the Microsoft Green blog and also have published an article in the journal Nature (paid access) arguing for other scientists to get involved in a project they say will better support conservation and biodiversity. A global data-gathering program is expensive, and Microsoft Research says it and other GEM supporters are calling on governments worldwide to support programs that collect and manage ecological and climate data.

A general circulation model (GCM), the blog explains, is a mathematical model that imitates the earth’s land, ocean and atmosphere, and can be used for weather forecasting as well as understanding and predicting climate change. A GEM takes the technology a step further and uses computer modeling to help scientists and policy makers understand terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Microsoft Research and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) have spent the past two years developing a prototype GEM. It’s called the Madingley Model, and it builds on the group’s recently finished global carbon cycle model, and mimics all animal life on land and in the sea. According to Drew Purves, head of Microsoft’s Computational Ecology and Environmental Science Group, the end goal is to enable conservationists to use data from GEMs and other models to guide global conservation policy…..



New Science-Policy Platform Takes Big Steps for Biodiversity and Ecosystem …

Ecoseed – ‎Jan 29, 2013‎

Bonn – A new international science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystems, set up to assist governments and citizens to better understand the state, trends and challenges facing the natural world and humanity in the 21st century, has today put .



Vegetation changes in cradle of humanity: Study raises questions about impact on human evolution
(January 31, 2013) — What came first: the bipedal human ancestor or the grassland encroaching on the forest? A new analysis of the past 12 million years’ of vegetation change in the cradle of humanity is challenging long-held beliefs about the world in which our ancestors took shape — and, by extension, the impact it had on them. … > full story






Groundwater depletion linked to climate change
(January 28, 2013) — Climate change may be exacerbating many countries’ experience of water stress, according to new research. Experts explain how several human-driven factors, if not rectified, will combine with climate change to significantly reduce useable groundwater availability for agriculture globally.
The authors note that inadequate groundwater supply records and mathematical models for predicting climate change and associated sea-level-rise make it impossible to forecast groundwater’s long-range fate globally. “Over-pumping of groundwater for irrigation is mining dry the world’s ancient Pleistocene-age, ice-sheet-fed aquifers and, ironically, at the same time increasing sea-level rise, which we haven’t factored into current estimations of the rise,” says Allen. “Groundwater pumping reduces the amount of stored water deep underground and redirects it to the more active hydrologic system at the land-surface. There, it evaporates into the atmosphere, and ultimately falls as precipitation into the ocean.”….full story

Ground water and climate change



ABSTRACT: As the world’s largest distributed store of fresh water, ground water plays a central part in sustaining ecosystems and enabling human adaptation to climate variability and change. The strategic importance of ground water for global water and food security will probably intensify under climate change as more frequent and intense climate extremes (droughts and floods) increase variability in precipitation, soil moisture and surface water. Here we critically review recent research assessing the impacts of climate on ground water through natural and human-induced processes as well as through groundwater-driven feedbacks on the climate system. Furthermore, we examine the possible opportunities and challenges of using and sustaining groundwater resources in climate adaptation strategies, and highlight the lack of groundwater observations, which, at present, limits our understanding of the dynamic relationship between ground water and climate.



Climate vulnerability assessments may fall short for migratory bird species

Nature Climate Change, 2013. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1810 (About DOIs).

Ars Technica  – ‎ January 30, 2013‎

It’s been estimated that up to one in ten species could go extinct by the end of this century as a result of climate change. Conservation professionals are working hard to understand how climate change will influence species and to develop strategies to manage the risks, but migratory species pose a particular challenge. These long-distance migrants spend parts of their annual cycle in different habitats, at different latitudes, and often cross geopolitical boundaries. Migration is an adaptive response to geographic and seasonal variation in resources, but climate change may disrupt the longstanding, and sometimes impeccably timed, relationships between migratory species and their environment. Changes in ecological conditions may be taking place on both ends of a migratory route, making it difficult to predict how climate alterations will affect a species or affect it across its range.

Current assessments fall short in predicting the vulnerability of migratory species to climate change, neglecting to look at the species’ migratory status or consider factors that impact the species outside of their breeding grounds. …By overlooking a significant portion of a species’ annual cycle, key aspects of their biology are overlooked, leading to climate-risk scenarios that are oversimplified. These shortcomings could fail to detect risk to species or population and mislead conservation efforts. The authors note that although current efforts to assess species’ vulnerability to climate change are commendable, efforts must be taken to update the methods so that they better capture the full annual cycle for migratory species. “We fear that getting it wrong will have enormous costs—the foremost being missed opportunities to take conservation action at the right times and places for those species most likely to be vulnerable.”

Stacy L. Small-Lorenz, Leah A. Culp, T. Brandt Ryder , Tom C. Will, & Peter P. Marra. A blind spot in climate change vulnerability assessments. Nature Climate Change 3, 91–93 (2013) doi:10.1038/nclimate1810 Published online 27 January 2013


In beef production, cow-calf phase contributes most greenhouse gases
(January 30, 2013)A new study shows that nursing cows are a major source of methane in beef production. By better understanding cattle nutrition and methane emissions, the beef industry could reduce environmental impact. They show that, depending on which production system farmers used, beef production has a carbon footprint ranging from 10.7 to 22.6 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kg of hot carcass weight. According to study co-author Frank Mitloehner, an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, one source of greenhouse gases was surprising. “If you look at everything that contributes to greenhouse gases through the beef supply chain, then it is the cow-calf that produces the greatest greenhouse gases,” Mitloehner said. In the cow-calf phase, the cow gives birth and nurses the calf until the calf is six to 10 months old. During this time, the cow eats rough plants like hay and grasses. The methane-producing bacteria in the cow’s gut thrive on these plants. “The more roughage is in the diet of the ruminant animal, the more methane is produced by the microbes in the gut of the ruminant, and methane comes out the front end,” Mitloehner said. In feedlots, by contrast, cattle eat mostly corn and grains, which the methane-producing bacteria cannot use as effectively.

Methane is one of the most important greenhouse gases. Methane has a greater capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The beef industry has been paying close attention to greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. “We are doing a lot to measure and mitigate our impact,” said Chase Adams, director of communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. In a 2011 paper for the Journal of Animal Science, researcher Jude Capper showed that the beef industry today uses significantly less water and land than 30 years ago. The industry has also reduced its carbon footprint by 16.3 percent per billion kilograms of beef produced. According to Mitloehner, beef producers can further reduce their carbon impact by using new technologies like growth promotants. However, consumers are often uncomfortable with these methods, and they choose organic beef or beef with reduced amounts of growth promotants. “The technologies many consumers are critical of are those that help us receive the greatest environmental gains,” Mitloehner said.…. > full story

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by American Society of Animal Science, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


Spring forecast: Drought to persist in Plains

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY8:18a.m. EST February 1, 2013

Winter will hold on the longest, well into March, across the Northeast and Northwest.

The catastrophic drought in the central USA — which has cost the nation at least $35 billion, according to a report last week — shows no signs of abating as the nation enters the final full month of winter and moves toward spring. Parts of every state west of the Mississippi River — except for Washington — are enduring drought conditions, according to Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor, a government website that tracks drought and is updated weekly.
“The drought is firmly entrenched as we roll toward February,” climatologist Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center writes in the monitor.
A warm, dry spring seems likely: “Unfortunately for the western Plains and eastern Rockies, I think the drought is going to persist, and it is going to be strong going into the springtime,” AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Pastelok says. “In the heart of the drought, it doesn’t look good right now.”



Report: Climate change a threat to wildlife

USA TODAY  – ‎20 hours ago‎

Climate change is the biggest threat wildlife will face this century,” says the report released today by the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental group based in Reston, Va.

Download full report at:


Why Climate Scientists Have Consistently UNDERestimated Key Global Warming Impacts

By Joe Romm on Jan 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Climate Scientists Erring on the Side of Least Drama

by Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science

A paper recently published in Global Environmental Change by Brysse et al. (2012)
examined a number of past predictions made by climate scientists, and found that that they have tended to be too conservative in their projections of the impacts of climate change.  The authors thus suggest that climate scientists are biased toward overly cautious estimates, erring on the side of less rather than more alarming predictions, which they call “erring on the side of least drama” (ESLD). In this paper, Brysse et al. examined research evaluating past climate projections, and considered the pressures which might cause climate scientists to ESLD. While we have recently shown that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) temperature projections have been exceptionally accurate, several other projections in the IPCC reports have been far too conservative. For example, Rahmstorf (2007) and more recently Rahmstorf et al. (2012) showed that sea level is rising at a rate inconsistent with all but the highest IPCC scenarios (Figure 1).  Rahmstorf et al. (2012) concluded….


Cities affect temperatures for thousands of miles
(January 27, 2013) — Even if you live more than 1,000 miles from the nearest large city, it could be affecting your weather. New research shows that the heat generated by everyday activities in metropolitan areas influences major atmospheric systems, raising and lowering temperatures over thousands of miles. In a new study that shows the extent to which human activities are influencing the atmosphere, scientists have concluded that the heat generated by everyday activities in metropolitan areas alters the character of the jet stream and other major atmospheric systems. This affects temperatures across thousands of miles, significantly warming some areas and cooling others, according to the study this week in Nature Climate Change.

The extra “waste heat” generated from buildings, cars, and other sources in major Northern Hemisphere urban areas causes winter warming across large areas of northern North America and northern Asia. Temperatures in some remote areas increase by as much as 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the research by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of California, San Diego; Florida State University; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

At the same time, the changes to atmospheric circulation caused by the waste heat cool areas of Europe by as much as 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F), with much of the temperature decrease occurring in the fall. The net effect on global mean temperatures is nearly negligible — an average increase worldwide of just 0.01 degrees C (about 0.02 degrees F). This is because the total human-produced waste heat is only about 0.3 percent of the heat transported across higher latitudes by atmospheric and oceanic circulations.

However, the noticeable impact on regional temperatures may explain why some regions are experiencing more winter warming than projected by climate computer models, the researchers conclude. They suggest that models be adjusted to take the influence of waste heat into account…. > full story


U.S. urban water supply not as threatened as believed, study finds
(January 30, 2013) — A research study adds a new twist to previous studies of the nation’s water supplies. The study finds that when infrastructure is included in the mix (reservoirs, dams, etc.), water vulnerability is less of a threat than previously believed. … A website that ranks the 225 largest U.S. urban areas based on water availability and vulnerability can be found at The list is a combination of results of where each city falls on a 0-to-100 water-accessibility scale as well as a water-vulnerability rating of low, medium or high….”As population growth increases, we don’t have more resources to tap — we can’t just find another lake or another river to dam,” she said. “It’s going to come down to sharing, conservation and efficiency.” Rob McDonald, senior scientist for sustainable land use with The Nature Conservancy, said the study adds to what scientists know about urban water use in the U.S. and raises intriguing questions about whether large cities’ infrastructure will be ready for conditions brought on by climate change. “To me, it shows that infrastructure matters,” he said. “Do cities go out even further for water? If a city is dependent on snow melts from the mountains for its water, what happens if it gets warm enough that there isn’t a snowpack?”


How climate change spells disaster for UK fish industry

The Guardian  – ‎January 26 2013‎

When Graham Hall started out as a trawlerman, the port of Grimsby was crammed with so many boats that local legend had it you could walk from deck to deck across the entire harbour.


Planting trees may not reverse climate change but it will help locally

EurekAlert (press release)  – ‎January 31 2013‎

Afforestation, planting trees in an area where there have previously been no trees, can reduce the effect of climate change by cooling temperate regions finds a study in BioMed Central’s open access journal Carbon Balance and Management. Afforestation


Cyclone Did Not Cause 2012 Record Low for Arctic Sea Ice



January 31, 2013 — It came out of Siberia, swirling winds over an area that covered almost the entire Arctic basin in the normally calm late summer. It came to be known as “The Great Arctic Cyclone of August 2012,” and … > full story

Ozone Thinning Has Changed Ocean Circulation



January 31, 2013 ScienceDaily– A hole in the Antarctic ozone layer has changed the way that waters in the southern oceans mix, a situation that has the potential to alter the …  > full story


New evidence highlights threat to Caribbean coral reef growth: Many Caribbean coral reefs are starting to erode
(January 29, 2013) — Coral reefs build their structures by both producing and accumulating calcium carbonate, and this is essential for the maintenance and continued vertical growth capacity of reefs. Researchers have discovered that the amount of new carbonate being added by Caribbean coral reefs is now significantly below rates measured over recent geological timescales, and in some habitats is as much as 70 percent lower. …
“It is most concerning that many coral reefs across the Caribbean have seemingly lost their capacity to produce enough carbonate to continue growing vertically, whilst others are already at
a threshold where they may start to erode. At the moment there is limited evidence of large-scale erosion or loss of actual reef structure, but clearly if these trends continue, reef erosion looks far more likely. Urgent action to improve management of reef habitats and to limit global temperature increases is likely to be critical to reduce further deterioration of reef habitat.”…. They discovered that declines in rates of carbonate production were especially evident in shallow water habitats, where many fast growing branching coral species have been lost. The study compared modern day rates with those measured in the region over approximately the last 7,000 years. In key habitats around the Caribbean, the findings suggested that in waters of around five metres in depth, reef growth rates are now reduced by 60-70% compared to the regional averages taken from historical records. In waters of around 10 metres in depth, the rates are reduced by 25%….full story


Chris T. Perry, Gary N. Murphy, Paul S. Kench, Scott G. Smithers, Evan N. Edinger, Robert S. Steneck, Peter J. Mumby. Caribbean-wide decline in carbonate production threatens coral reef growth. Nature Communications, 2013; 4: 1402 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms240

Antarctic lake beneath the ice sheet tested
(January 29, 2013) — In a first-of-its-kind feat of science and engineering, scientists have successfully drilled through 800 meters (2,600 feet) of Antarctic ice to reach a subglacial lake and retrieve water and sediment samples that have been isolated from direct contact with the atmosphere for many thousands of years. … > full story


Climate change projected to alter Indiana bat maternity range
(January 28, 2013) — Scientists have forecast profound changes over the next 50 years in the summer range of the endangered Indiana bat. Researchers now discuss the findings of one of the first studies designed to forecast the responses of a temperate zone bat species to climate change. … > full story

Shedding light on role of Amazon forests in global carbon cycle
(January 28, 2013) — Scientists have devised an analytical method that combines satellite images, simulation modeling and painstaking fieldwork to help researchers detect forest mortality patterns and trends. This new tool will enhance understanding of the role of forests in carbon sequestration and the impact of climate change on such disturbances. … > full story


Climate change impacts to U.S. coasts threaten public health, safety and economy, report finds
(January 28, 2013) — According to a new technical report, the effects of climate change will continue to threaten the health and vitality of US coastal communities’ social, economic and natural systems. … > full story

Spring may come earlier to North American forests, increasing uptake of carbon dioxide
(January 29, 2013) — Trees in the continental US could send out new leaves in the spring up to 17 days earlier in the coming century than they did before global temperatures started rising, according to a new study. . These climate-driven changes could lead to changes in the composition of northeastern forests and give a boost to their ability to take up carbon dioxide. … > full story



The Biggest Carbon Sin: Air Travel

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL (NYT) January 27, 2013 Compiled: 1:04 AM

With President Obama declaring climate change a part of his second-term agenda, all eyes are on the United States on the matter of airlines’ carbon emissions.


Enjoying Snow, While We Still Have It

By MARK VANHOENACKER (NYT) January 27, 2013

Scientists warn that future winters may be less white.







Al Gore: Very Significant Obama Put Climate Change in his Inaugural Address

MSNBC  – ‎Jan 31 2013‎

Former Vice President Al Gore, arguably the loudest voice on the issue of climate change, told Andrea Mitchell that he thinks there is still time to avoid the worst effects of the changing climate.


Why John Kerry Needs to Treat Climate Change as a National Security Priority

The incoming secretary of State understands the security risk that climate change poses. He will be uniquely positioned to broker action through diplomacy.

By Coral Davenport National Journal January 31, 2013 | 8:15 p.m.

For centuries, the glaciers of the Western Himalayas have fed the Indus River, which flows down the mountains through India and into Pakistan, where it runs the length of the country to the Arabian Sea. In both countries, the river is a crucial source of water for livestock, irrigation, drinking—essential to life and livelihood for millions of people.

But as climate change causes global temperatures to rise, the glaciers that feed the Indus are receding. A series of scientific reports indicates that in the coming decades, the river’s water levels could drop by as much as 40 percent. Already, some Indian policymakers are raising the idea of damming that water off for their own country. That could save the lives of millions of Indians, while threatening millions of Pakistanis. Pakistan lacks the economic, political, or conventional military leverage to retaliate against India if that happens; it matches its neighbor only in nuclear weapons.

National security agencies around the world, including the Pentagon and the CIA, are watching the situation closely, nervous that climate change could one day ignite a nuclear face-off between these two volatile neighbors. That’s exactly the type of event John Kerry, who is set to be sworn in shortly might want to update thisas secretary of State, was referring to during his Senate confirmation hearing, when he called climate change a “life-threatening issue” of national security. Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, has long been a so-called climate hawk, framing his drive to stop global warming in terms of curbing a force that inflames conflicts around the world to the detriment of U.S. safety. In an impassioned Senate floor speech in August, Kerry compared the potential peril from climate change to the threat of war. “I believe that the situation we face [with climate change] is as dangerous as any of the sort of real crises that we talk about” in Iran, Syria, and other trouble spots, he said.



3 States Are Pushing a Bill to Require Teaching Climate Change Denial in Schools

PolicyMic  – ‎ January 31, 2013‎

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” – has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems. January hasn’t


Charities’ Funnel Millions to Climate-Change Denial

By Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor | – January 28, 2013

A British newspaper claims to have discovered the convoluted way oil billionaires in the United States can funnel huge amounts of cash toward climate change-denial campaigns, while reaping tremendous tax advantages in the process. A shadowy group called the Donors Trust is largely funded by billionaire Charles Koch and his wife Liz, according to an investigation by The Independent. The trust indirectly receives millions of dollars in funding from a third-party group called the Knowledge and Progress Fund, which the Koch family operates, the paper claims…“Climate-change denial, despite the great degree of funding and organization behind it, is simply no longer credible to the vast majority of the public,” Mann said. “It is my hope — and my expectation — that we will soon transition from the unworthy debate about whether the problem even exists to the worthy debate to be had about what to do about it.”


The U.S. has some of the lowest energy taxes in the developed world

Posted by Brad Plumer on January 31, 2013 at 1:56 pm Washington Post

Economists often argue that there’s an elegant solution to all the pollution caused by our energy use — just tax the stuff.

Everyone does it. Sort of. A well-designed tax on fossil fuels could, in theory, help curb wasteful use and allow society to recoup the damages wrought by, say, heat-trapping carbon pollution. It’s also a way to raise revenue. That’s the argument, at least. But when countries try to put this idea into practice, the reality is often much messier. big new report from the OECD looks at how developed countries actually tax their energy use and carbon emissions. Here are three notable takeaways:

1) The United States taxes fossil fuels less than just about every other developed country:

Congress does impose an 18.4-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline and a similar tax on diesel fuel. But that’s about it at the federal level. For every ton of fossil-fuel carbon that’s emitted inside the United States, the federal government collects just $6.50 in tax revenue….


Cities Lead Over Feds on Climate Change Adaptation  – ‎ January 28 2013‎

Superstorm Sandy offered another reminder of how vulnerable communities around the world are – and will be – to the impacts of climate change. So it’s hardly surprising that cities are being more proactive than federal governments – in fact, two-thirds of cities around the world are actively planning for the impacts of global warming, says the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Unfortunately, cities in the US lag on this, despite the fact that the weather was the most extreme ever in 2012, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The most active cities are in Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but ICLEI’s analysis shows that planning is just getting started in general. 59% of US cities are developing climate adaptation strategies, just 13% have even completed a risk assessment of their vulnerabilities. Athough cities outside the US are further ahead, with 68% in the planning stage, a modest 19% of them have gotten beyond the risk assessment stage. …


Read ICLEI’s report, Urban Climate Adaption Planning:


ICLEI highlights the efforts of 20 US communities that are taking the leading in building more resilient communities.

Some of the examples are ones we have written about, such as New York City’s wide-ranging PlaNYC, which includes $2.4 billion in green infrastructure that captures rainwater using natural methods before it can flood. The city requires climate risk assessments for new developments in vulnerable areas, and is restoring 127 acres of wetlands that serve as a natural storm barrier.
Similar efforts are underway in Chicago, such as the greenest street in America. It boasts the most green roofs of any US city, since that’s become mandatory for all new buildings.

  • Atlanta is finalizing a climate action plan that responds to the rise in temperature it’s experiencing year-round. To counter the urban heat island effect, the plan includes measures to “cool” the city, such as cool roofs and other energy efficient features for buildings, the use of “cool pavement,” and planting 10,000 trees this year.
  • Eugene, Oregon‘s Community Climate and Energy Action plan addresses the trend toward very dry conditions and the threat of wildfires, through water conservation, increased energy efficiency, and promoting climate-adapted trees for public spaces.
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan‘s goal is to source 100% of the city’s power from renewables by 2020, increase tree cover substantially and dramatically improve efficiency in buildings.
  • Houston‘s plan emphasizes water conservation and the city has invested in 17 mobile solar generators for emergency disaster relief purposes.
  • Washington, DC, is building a flood gate on the National Mall to prevent flooding in the city core, and it is also encouraging  installation of green roofs to cool the city and slow stormwater runoff.


Nicholas Stern: ‘I got it wrong on climate change – it’s far, far worse’

Author of 2006 review speaks out on danger to economies as planet absorbs less carbon and is ‘on track’ for 4C rise

By Heather Stewart and Larry Elliott
The Observer, UK, Saturday 26 January 2013 15.24 EST

Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more “blunt” about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures. In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.” The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are “on track for something like four “. Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, “I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise.”

He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies. “This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.

Stern said he backed the UK’s Climate Change Act, which commits the government to ambitious carbon reduction targets. But he called for increased investment in greening the economy, saying: “It’s a very exciting growth story.”…..Stern’s comments came as Jim Yong Kim, the new president of the World Bank, also at Davos, gave a grave warning about the risk of conflicts over natural resources should the forecast of a four-degree global increase above the historical average prove accurate. “There will be water and food fights everywhere,” Kim said as he pledged to make tackling climate change a priority of his five-year term. Kim said action was needed to create a carbon market, eliminate fossil-fuel subsidies and “green” the world’s 100 megacities, which are responsible for 60 to 70% of global emissions.
He added that the 2012 droughts in the US, which pushed up the price of wheat and maize, had led to the world’s poor eating less. For the first time, the bank president said, extreme weather had been attributed to man-made climate change. “People are starting to connect the dots. If they start to forget, I am there to remind them.

“We have to find climate-friendly ways of encouraging economic growth. The good news is we think they exist”. Kim said there would be no solution to climate change without private sector involvement and urged companies to seize the opportunity to make profits: “There is a lot of money to be made in building the technologies and bending the arc of climate change.”





Obama faces angry liberals over pipeline

Joe Garofoli SF Chronicle Updated 10:45 pm, Thursday, January 31, 2013

As he begins his second term, President Obama is barreling toward what one Bay Area activist predicts could be “all out warfare” with environmentalists who want him to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, the transcontinental conduit for tar sands fuel from Canada that many scientists say could expedite climate change. Obama’s political dilemma lies in the pipeline’s potential upside: The State Department projects that it could deliver 6,000 temporary jobs to the U.S., where 12.2 million people are unemployed. Bay Area liberals leading the Keystone opposition say Obama has only one choice.

“If he doesn’t reject it,” said Piedmont attorney Guy Saperstein, a former Sierra Club Foundation president and prominent liberal donor, “then I think it should be all out warfare for the next four years.”

Environmentalists are drawing a line in the tar sands with a series of high-profile demonstrations planned this month in Washington. The timing of the protests is crucial because sometime before April, Obama will receive the State Department’s recommendation on whether to green-light the 1,700-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline, forcing him to make a decision he delayed
during last year’s presidential campaign to avoid alienating his liberal base. Liberals who bided their time through four years of little action from the White House on climate change, and who bit their tongues during the 2012 campaign, expect payback.

Civil disobedience

Obama will feel heat from them in the nation’s capital, where the Sierra Club, based in San Francisco, plans to participate in civil disobedience for the first time in its history to call attention to the issue.

Saperstein has contributed $50,000 toward the protests, which include a Feb. 17 demonstration on climate change that is expected to be the largest of its kind in U.S. history. The nonviolent civil disobedience, which will occur on an undisclosed date, will involve only a couple of dozen invited participants, organizers said. The nature of the action hasn’t been revealed. Among those participating will be Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, club board President Allison Chin, and Michael Kieschnick, the president and co-founder of Credo Mobile, the San Francisco cellular phone company that has given more than $75 million to progressive causes over a couple of decades…..


Recommended reading (excerpts below):

The Second Term of the Obama Administration

Posted on January 27, 2013 by Robert Stavins Harvard Kennedy School of Govt.

In his inaugural address on January 21st, President Obama surprised many people – including me – by the intensity and the length of his comments on global climate change.  Since then, there has been a great deal of discussion in the press and in the blogosphere about what climate policy initiatives will be forthcoming from the administration in its second term.

Given all the excitement, let’s first take a look at the transcript of what the President actually said on this topic:

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.  The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition.  We must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries.  We must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure, our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow capped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.”

Strong and plentiful words.  Although I was certainly surprised by the strength and length of what the President said in his address, I confess that it did not change my thinking about what we should expect from the second term.  Indeed, I will stand by an interview that was published by the Harvard Kennedy School on its website five days before the inauguration (plus something I wrote in a previous essay at this blog in December, 2012).  Here it is, with a bit of editing to clarify things, and some hyperlinks inserted to help readers:


The Second Term: Robert Stavins on Energy and Environmental Policy

January 16, 2013
By Doug Gavel, Harvard Kennedy School Communications

…..We spoke with Robert Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, and Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, about energy and environmental policy issues the president will face in the next four years…..

….environmental and energy debates from the 1970s through much of the 1990s typically broke along geographic lines, rather than partisan lines, with key parameters being degree of urbanization and reliance on specific fuel types, such as coal versus natural gas. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 89-11 with 87 percent of Republican members and 91 percent of Democrats voting yea, and the legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 401-21 with 87 percent of Republicans and 96 percent of Democrats voting in support. But, 20 years later when climate change legislation was receiving serious consideration in Washington, environmental politics had changed dramatically, with Congressional support for environmental legislation coming mainly to reflect partisan divisions. In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), often known as the Waxman-Markey bill, that included an economy-wide cap-and-trade system to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The Waxman-Markey bill passed by a narrow margin of 219-212, with support from 83 percent of Democrats, but only 4 percent of Republicans….

….What remains most likely to happen is what I’ve been saying for several years, namely that despite the apparent inaction by the Federal government, the official U.S. international commitment — a 17 percent reduction of CO2 emissions below 2005 levels by the year 2020 – is nevertheless likely to be achieved!  The reason is the combination of CO2 regulations which are now in place because of the Supreme Court decision [freeing the EPA to treat CO2 like other pollutants under the Clean Air Act], together with five other regulations or rules on SOX [sulfur compounds], NOX [nitrogen compounds], coal fly ash, particulates, and cooling water withdrawals. All of these will have profound effects on retirement of existing coal-fired electrical generation capacity, investment in new coal, and dispatch of such electricity. Combined with that is Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32) in the state of California, which includes a CO2 cap-and-trade system that is more ambitious in percentage terms than Waxman-Markey was in the U.S. Congress, and which became binding on January 1, 2013.  Add to that the recent economic recession, which reduced emissions. And more important than any of those are the effects of developing new, unconventional sources of natural gas in the United States on the supply, price, and price trajectory of natural gas, and the consequent dramatic movement that has occurred from coal to natural gas for generating electricity.  In other words, there will be actions having significant implications for climate, but most will not be called “climate policy,” and all will be within the regulatory and executive order domain, not new legislation…..

…..Nearly all our major environmental laws were passed in the wake of highly publicized environmental events or “disasters,” including the spontaneous combustion of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1969, and the discovery of toxic substances at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, in the mid-1970s. But note that the day after the Cuyahoga River caught on fire, no article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer commented that the cause was uncertain, that rivers periodically catch on fire from natural causes. On the contrary, it was immediately apparent that the cause was waste dumped into the river by adjacent industries. A direct consequence of the observed “disaster” was, of course, the Clean Water Act of 1972. But climate change is distinctly different. Unlike the environmental threats addressed successfully in past U.S. legislation, climate change is essentially unobservable to the general population. We observe the weather, not the climate.  Notwithstanding last year’s experience with Super Storm Sandy, it remains true that until there is an obvious, sudden, and perhaps cataclysmic event – such as a loss of part of the Antarctic ice sheet leading to a dramatic sea-level rise – it is unlikely that public opinion in the United States will provide the tremendous bottom-up demand that inspired previous congressional action on the environment over the past forty years.

That need not mean that there can be no truly meaningful, economy-wide climate policy (such as carbon-pricing) until disaster has struck.  But it does mean that bottom-up popular demand may not come in time, and that instead what will be required is inspired leadership at the highest level that can somehow bridge the debilitating partisan political divide.

Bay Conservation and Development Commission Executive Director Larry Goldzband (left) and Chairman Zachary Wasserman. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Rising seas shift bay agency’s mission

John King Published 9:38 pm, Sunday, January 27, 2013

Leadership changes in regional agencies rarely attract attention, so it wasn’t a big story last year when new people stepped into the top two posts at the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

But this is an era when the commission’s original reason for being – to keep vast portions of San Francisco Bay from being filled by subdivisions and land-hungry local governments – is less of a threat than the rising sea levels that almost certainly lie ahead. This ecological shift demands a response, said the commission’s new chairman and executive director, and it could place the 48-year-old agency back in the public spotlight. “The challenge isn’t to stand and fight but to figure out how to stand and where to retreat,” said Larry Goldzband, who stepped into the post of executive director in July after serving seven years on the 27-member commission. “We also need to frame the issue in a regional way, rather than take a city-by-city or county-by-county approach.”


Yale Poll Finds Climate Change Action Is A Political Winner

ThinkProgress  – ‎January 29, 2013‎

Climate change is a political winner, recent polls make clear (see links below). It is a wedge issue that divides Tea Party extremists from Democrats, independents, and even moderate/liberal Rebuplicans.








February 2013 issue of ESTUARY News 

a special issue on local and Northern California climate change planning. Inside, you will find nine fascinating stories – some of these projects are yours – about sea level rise impacts on San Francisco Bay’s tidal marshes, habitat connectivity in the Sierras, fire impacts on native shrubs, the work of BAECCC, testimony by our vice-chair Ellie Cohen, and much more.

Please forward this issue to your friends and colleagues who may be interested.  



Today the Air Resources Board announced that it will hold three workshops in late February to take public input on the development of a draft 3-year investment plan for Cap & Trade auction proceeds. In addition, ARB will accept written comments until 5 pm on March 8, 2013. CSG will strategize with you on how to best engage in the public comment process. Once ARB and Department of Finance have completed the draft investment plan, a second round of public workshops will take place.  The second round of workshops are tentatively scheduled for late April.  The final investment plan is due to the Legislature in May 2013. The first round of workshops are scheduled as follows:





Effects of climate change on California’s working forests and rangelands –from Thursday, January 10, 2013

CalFire’s Forest and Rangeland Assessment Plan– Meeting notes, speaker presentations and extra materials on our website. Our next meeting will be Thursday, April 4th, 2013 in Davis, California. The topic is wildland fire. Please check our website for current information: .

Panel Speaker Presentations and Discussion

  • Ellie Cohen (President and CEO, PRBO Conservation Science)
  • Dave Graber (Chief Scientist, Pacific Western Region of the National Park Service)
  • Chrissy Howell (Regional Wildlife Program Leader, US Forest Service Region 5)
  • Klaus Scott/TBD (California Air Resources Board, Forest Sector GHG inventory)



Third National Climate Assessment Report- DRAFT

January 11, 2013 Today, the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee (NCADAC), the federal advisory committee for the National Climate Assessment, approved their draft of the Third National Climate Assessment Report for release for public comment. The draft report is available for download – both as a single document and by chapter – at . The public comment period for the report will run January 14 – April 12, 2013. All comments must be submitted via the online comment tool that will be available from beginning on January 14. The draft will be undergoing review by the National Research Council at the same time. The draft report is a product of the NCADAC and is not a product of the federal government. The authors of the report will use the comments received during the public comment period to revise the report before submitting it to the government for consideration…..



The National Climate Assessment Report:  A briefing on the Public Review Draft with a focus on Ecosystems and Biodiversity


Wednesday, February 06, 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern

  • Dr. Virginia Burkett, Chief Scientist, Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey 
  • Dr. Michelle D. Staudinger, Postdoctoral Fellow, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and
    USGS National Climate Change & Wildlife Science Center

Description:  This webinar will provide participants with an overview of 1,100+ page National Climate Assessment report that was posted for 90-day public review on January 14, 2013. The scenarios used for the assessment and the approach for assessing impacts on U.S. sectors and regions will be presented, as well as the mechanism for providing comments. The second part of the webinar will be devoted to a presentation of the key findings of a report by 60 co-authors that was written to underpin the Ecosystems, Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services chapter of the National Climate Assessment.


1)      Before the webinar test your connection at:

a.      Note: You do not have to send your test results

2)      At the start of the webinar please go to:

3)      Click Enter as “Guest”

a.      Note: “Guests are not admitted into this meeting” will appear until the start of the webinar

4)      In the Name box-please enter your “full name” – “your agency” – “# of people watching with you”.

       For example: Ashley Fortune-FWS-1

This webinar will be recorded  If you cannot attend the webinar it will be recorded, edited, and posted approximately 2 weeks after the presentation is given and posted on our Climate Change website:

Safeguarding Wildlife from Climate Change Web Conference Series (ALC3209)-A partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service





Call for Abstracts: The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER)

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), a non-profit professional organization with members in more than 70 countries, is now accepting abstracts for oral and poster presentations at its 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration, to be held October 6-11, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. We welcome abstracts from restoration practitioners, researchers, and advocates addressing any aspect of ecological restoration, especially those that directly relate to the conference theme, Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future.  The final deadline for abstract submissions is May 1, 2013. Program space is limited, however, and the Scientific Program Committee will review submissions on a rolling basis. We therefore encourage you to submit your abstract as soon as possible.  Please visit the conference website for more information and a link to the online submission form:


 Fact Sheet on Local Governments, Extreme Weather and Climate Change 2012



ICLEI has developed a fact sheet detailing how 20 leading cities and counties have experienced extreme weather in 2012—as well as the past several years—and what actions they are taking to protect their community members, infrastructure, and economic assets. Click to view examples from Norfolk and Broward County to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Eugene, OR.
Get the Fact Sheet (pdf)


31st Annual Salmonid Restoration Conference
The Salmonid Restoration Federation is pleased to host the 31st Annual Salmonid Restoration Conference at the River Lodge in Fortuna, California on March 13-16, 2013. This conference promises to be an exciting one, with some especially interesting field tours and great line-up for our Plenary Session, including Chuck Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. SRF would greatly appreciate your help in getting the word out about the conference by including a small blurb (pasted below) about the conference in your event calendar or enewsletter. I am also including a longer article in case you have the space.
The link to the SRF conference information is:


Nevada: Resilient Landscapes: Planning for Floor, Drought & Fire July 21-24, 2013

2013 International Congress for Conservation Biology July 21-25, 2013

5Th National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER)- July 9- Aug 2, 2013

SER2013: 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration– October 6-11, 2013
SER will hold its 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, on October 6-11, 2013. This event marks the 25th Anniversary of SER and will celebrate the conference theme of “Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future.”







Barge hits Mississippi
bridge, spills oil

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- January 28, 2013

A barge carrying 80,000 gallons of oil hit a railroad bridge in Vicksburg on Sunday, spilling light crude into the Mississippi River and closing the waterway for 8 miles in each direction, the Coast Guard said. A second barge was damaged. Investigators did not know how much oil had spilled, but a sheen was reported as far as 3 miles downriver from Vicksburg after the 1:12 a.m. accident, said Coast Guard Lt. Ryan Gomez. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the second barge also hit the bridge or if it ran into the first barge, he said. The first barge was still leaking Sunday night, and emergency workers set out booms to absorb and contain the oil, Gomez said. The river’s closure halted at least five northbound and two southbound vessels….


The cost of not using renewable energy

By David Roberts GRIST January 31, 2013

A clever new study [PDF] from the World Future Council attempts to do something I haven’t seen before: quantify the cost of not using renewables. The idea is pretty simple. When we use finite fossil fuels to generate energy, rather than the inexhaustible, renewable alternatives, we make those fossil fuels unavailable for non-energetic uses (think petrochemicals) in the future. In other words, when we burn fossil fuels for energy, we are needlessly destroying valuable industrial capital stock.

You can read the paper for more on methodology and assumptions. The paper uses current market values for fossil fuels rather than attempting to predict future prices, so the estimates are likely conservative.

Here’s the conclusion:

Protecting the use of increasingly valuable fossil raw materials for the future is possible by substituting these materials with renewables. Every day that this is delayed and fossil raw materials are consumed as one-time energy creates a future usage loss of between 8.8 and 9.3 billion US Dollars. Not just the current cost of various renewable energies, but also the costs of not using them need to be taken into account. [my emphasis]

Got that? Every day we use fossil fuels for energy, we steal $9 billion from future people who will need those fossil fuels for non-substitutable industrial uses….


Study: Energy Industry Water Use Set To Double By 2035

By Jeff Spross on Jan 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm

The International Energy Agency concluded that freshwater use is becoming an increasingly crucial issue for energy production around the world in its 2012 World Energy Outlook.

Between steam systems for coal plants, cooling for nuclear plants, fracking for natural gas wells, irrigation for biofuel crops, and myriad other uses, energy production consumed 66 billion cubic meters (BCM) of the world’s fresh water in 2010. That is water removed from its source and lost to evaporation, consumption, or transported out of the water basin — as opposed to water withdrawn, used, and then returned to its source for further availability, which is a far larger amount.

According to figures it shared with National Geographic, IEA anticipates this water consumption will double from 66 BCM now to 135 BCM by 2035 with most of the growth accounted for by coal and biofuels: If today’s policies remain in place, the IEA calculates that water consumed for energy production would increase from 66 billion cubic meters (bcm) today to 135 bcm annually by 2035.

That’s an amount equal to the residential water use of every person in the United States over three years, or 90 days’ discharge of the Mississippi River


New ‘Rock Candy’ Process To Manufacture Silicon Could Make Solar Power Even Cheaper

Posted: 25 Jan 2013 11:18 AM PST

By Tina Casey Via Clean Technica

Researchers at the University of Michigan have come up with a low-cost way to manufacture high-grade silicon, based on a concept familiar to anyone who has tried to make rock candy at home. If the breakthrough can be translated into a commercially viable process, it would make ultra-cheap solar tech like V3Solar’s Spin Cell (which we were just raving about the other day) even cheaper.






NASA Retirees Who Have No Climate Expertise Try To Debunk NASA Scientists Who Do

Posted: 28 Jan 2013 11:51 AM PST

by Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science

In April of 2012, 49 former NASA employees sent a letter to the current NASA administrator requesting that he effectively muzzle the climate scientists at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). None of those former NASA employees have conducted any climate science research, but based on their own lack of understanding of the subject, they objected to the conclusions drawn by the climate experts at NASA GISS. This letter drew media attention because folks who have worked at NASA are well-respected (and rightly so), but there was really no substance to it, or any particular reason to lend it credence. Astronauts and engineers are not climate experts. Now in January of 2013, a group of 20 “Apollo era NASA retirees” has put together a rudimentary climate “report” and issued a press release declaring that they have decided human-caused global warming is not “settled” and is nothing to worry about. This time around they have not listed the 20 individuals who contributed to this project, but have simply described the group as being: “…comprised of renowned space scientists with formal educational and decades career involvement in engineering, physics, chemistry, astrophysics, geophysics, geology and meteorology. Many of these scientists have Ph.Ds.” The project seems to be headed by H. Leighton Steward, a 77-year-old former oil and gas executive. The press release also links the NASA group to his website, “co2isgreen”, which also has an extensive history of receiving fossil fuel industry funding……


Eating deep-fried food linked to increased risk of prostate cancer
(January 28, 2013) — Regular consumption of deep-fried foods such as French fries, fried chicken and doughnuts is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, and the effect appears to be slightly stronger with regard to more aggressive forms of the disease, according to a new study. … > full story


New device traps particulates, kills airborne pathogens
(January 31, 2013) — A new device called a soft X-ray electrostatic precipitator protected immunocompromised mice from airborne pathogenic bacteria, viruses, ultrafine particles, and allergens, according to a new article. … > full story


SF Climate Change Rally, on Sunday 2/17 at 1 pm Embarcadero Plaza in support of/solidarity with the Sierra Club DC rally.

Hope, Faith and Fighting Climate Change

An evening with noted journalist and author, Mark Hertsgaard

Tuesday March 5th 2013 – 7 till 9 pm

290 Dolores Street, San Francisco


Climate change is often seen as a political or economic issue, but for many of us this is also the primary moral and spiritual issue of our time. Please join us for an evening with Mark Hertsgaard, whose book Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth is both a heartfelt call for all of us to make a difference and a guidebook for how we can do so. Mark has covered politics, culture, and the environment for many years in his six books and publications including the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and the Nation, where he is the environment correspondent. He has co-founded a group called Climate Parents. Please follow this link to learn more and watch a short video by clicking on “About”: The enormity of the climate problem inspires our faith communities to band together, and this free event is sponsored by Congregation Sha’ar Zahav and the First Mennonite Church of San Francisco, who share a building. Please feel free to invite others in the Bay Area faith communities to this important evening.



Super Bowl Teams and Fans Blitz Global Warming

Discovery News Jan 31 2013

Currently, football fans have pledged to save approximately 22,500,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. New Orleans fans are proving to be saints by pledging the most so far.













500 Million Migrating Birds Can’t Be Wrong
Bird watchers in Israel can never cry fowl
By Adam Chandler|January 28, 2013 11:17 AM|1comment

In case you didn’t know (or perhaps you have such acute ornithophobia that you’ve blocked it out), Israel–at the crossroads of three continents–boasts one of the largest bird migrations IN THE WORLD.

Each year, one billion birds soar above this tiny stretch of ancient land, where Africa, Europe and Asia meet. Second only to Panama, this geographical intersection is one of the world’s largest bird migration paths, with more than 540 species traversing the airspace each autumn and spring. Dr Yossi Lesham, director of Israel’s International Centre for the Study of Bird Migration, explained that per square mile, the country has one of the highest concentrations of bird traffic in the world. “In one morning, we can see maybe 10,000 eagles. Just in one morning,” he said. In other words, bird migration in the Levant would make Alfred Hitchcock blush. The above picture of the great migration was taken over the weekend.

Where birds know no borders [BBC]


 Rox Chast