Fire: Can we manage it for birds and for nature’s health?

Fire: Can We Manage it for Birds and Nature’s Health?

As another very active fire season winds down, the debate over how to live with fire in California rages on.

Wildfires are often described as “catastrophic” and “devastating,” and this is true when human life and property are lost. But for many birds, other wildlife, and plants, wildfire is necessary. Fire is a vital ecosystem process in the Sierra Nevada, essential to biodiversity and nature’s health.

Point Blue’s Sierra Nevada scientists are guiding land managers to help resolve the conflict between human needs and the need for fire to sustain healthy ecosystems.

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The Yosemite Rim Fire, third largest in California’s recorded history, burned about 100 Point Blue longterm study sites. With multiple years of pre-fire data there and in numerous other Sierra locations, we are now able to track changes in the bird community as a result of fire and study bird responses as indicators of nature’s health.

We are using this information to improve management of these areas for the wildlife that depends on them.

Post-fire management decisions have vital consequences for wildlife, including the rare Black-backed Woodpecker and other species that are now declining, such as the Chipping Sparrow and Lewis’s Woodpecker. Fire management decisions also shape the composition and structure of the forest well into the future, impacting myriad species beyond our lifetimes.

To ensure high quality post-fire habitat for a wide range of species, Point Blue scientists are partnering with Sierra forest managers. Our studies will add significantly to the scientific basis for managing these ecologically diverse, firedependent ecosystems.

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In recent decades, the size of fires in the Sierra has increased. However, the amount of area burned is still far less than before fire suppression policies were enacted in the early 20th century. Strict adherence to Smokey Bear’s motto of “only you can prevent forest fires” – so deeply ingrained in the Western psyche – has severely compromised forest ecosystem health.

Our forests are now filled with far more trees, especially small ones that are more susceptible to fire, as well as dead trees, branches, and other flammable vegetation on the forest floors. This build-up of fuels, combined with longer, drier summers – likely the result of climate change – means that when fires occur, they burn with greater intensity and kill more trees.

“Fuel reduction treatments” including mechanical thinning and prescribed fires are now the primary strategy being employed on National Forest lands in the Sierra to combat the dramatic increase in fuels.

The Yosemite Rim Fire, burning since August 17, 2013 (84% contained as of late September), sped through fully a third of its total area in just two days (August 22 and 23), with 200-foot-high walls of flame. But once it hit Yosemite National Park, where land managers have used fire (both wild and prescribed) to reduce fuel loads for the last 30 years, the fire’s pace and intensity dropped.

Point Blue recently completed a ten-year study assessing the effects of mechanical fuel reduction treatments on the breeding bird community in the Sierra Nevada. Our findings suggest that these treatments, which remove 25–40% of the existing trees, appear compatible with sustaining the current avian community in these forests.

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However, these fuel reduction treatments do not entirely fill the role that fire once did. Many species that reach their greatest abundance in recently burned areas, especially in areas that burned very hot, did not increase as a result of the thinning.

While fuel reductions appear to be a useful tool, we must also increase the use of fire to meet the needs of the full complement of species that depend on Sierra Nevada ecosystems.

The choice is not whether or not we want fire. The choice is: do we want fires that burn less intensely, in mosaic patterns, reducing forest fuels, or will we face a growing number of unstoppable, vast conflagrations during the hottest, windiest, driest days of the year?

Fire will play a critical role in aiding forest adaptation to a changing climate. By reducing tree densities, fire reduces competition for light, nutrients, and water, allowing forests to withstand more extremes in the future.

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Point Blue scientists are now working to incorporate our findings into every National Forest management plan in the Sierra Nevada. Working hand-in-hand with the USDA Forest Service and other partners, our goal is to ensure a balance between fire, fuel treatments, wildlife needs, and human needs.

Now more than ever, our scientific expertise is crucial to meeting diverse and often competing habitat management objectives. Thank you for your most generous gift to help ensure that healthy National Forests sustain birds and other wildlife well into the future.

Thank you for your ongoing support that makes Point Blue’s innovative conservation science possible!

Conservation Science News October 25, 2013

Focus of the WeekAgriculture, Climate Change and Carbon Markets









NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line by clicking here.  For more information please see

The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
You can sign up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.




Focus of the Week– California Agriculture, Climate Change and Carbon Markets


New CDFA Report Identifies Adaptation Strategies for California Agriculture (from CALCAN- California Climate and Agriculture Network)
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently released a new report outlining recommendations for agriculture’s ongoing adaptation to climate change. The report was based in large part on the input of a Climate Change Consortium comprised of stakeholders from the California agriculture community, including CalCAN. The report, titled “The Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops: Impacts and Strategies for Resilience (PDF)” identifies known challenges – such as higher overall temperatures, reduced water supply and quality, and unpredictable changes to pest and pollination dynamics – that farmers of specialty crops will increasingly confront due to climate change.



The Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops: Impacts and Strategies for Resilience, PDF

From the introduction:

California is the nation’s leading agricultural state in gross cash receipts; $43.5 billion in 2011. A large portion of the crops grown in the state are “specialty crops.” Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops including floriculture. In 2011, global exports of California’s specialty crops reached nearly $10.9 billion. California is the United States’ sole producer of several crops such as Clingstone peaches, olives, pistachios, walnuts, almonds and artichokes (California Department of Food and Agriculture 2013a). The state’s unique environmental zones and Mediterranean climate allow for a diversity of crops to be produced throughout the year for local, national, and global distribution. California’s specialty crop commodities are known for being a healthy, affordable, safe food source.


Impacts to agriculture from changes in weather will be felt differently in different parts of California. Temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind are some common weather variables. Long-term patterns of weather are referred to as the “climate,” and changes in weather patterns over time are defined as “climate change.” Climate is essentially the average pattern of weather for a region, which could be a county, state, continent, or the entire world. Climate change occurs when an area’s weather pattern, as indicated by weather variables, deviates significantly from the “average,” or from the historically observed “normal.” The severity of the impacts of climate change on food production will be variable and crop-specific. Growers should be made aware of adaptation measures available to them. Ensuring sustainable agricultural adaptation to climate change will require a concerted collaborative effort by growers, government agencies, and agricultural service organizations.


The importance of this effort is highlighted in the California State Board of Food and Agriculture report, California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability. Specifically, strategy nine is titled “Assure Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change” and has the following objective – “Assure that all sectors of California agriculture can adapt to the most likely climate-related changes in seasonal weather, water supply, pests and diseases, and other factors affecting agricultural production” (California Department of Food and Agriculture 2012). ….


To identify specific strategies to assure agricultural adaptation to climate change, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) convened the Climate Change Consortium workgroup in the fall of 2012 for two purposes:

1. To determine specific adaptation strategies that can be implemented now, and on-the-ground by specialty crop growers;

2. To provide direction and action measures to CDFA that can be initiated over the next several years, based on available resources, to help California agriculture adapt to climate change.


The Consortium includes representatives from several specialty crops commodity groups in California, growers from each of the top ten specialty crops in the state, scientists from the University of California and the California State University systems, University of California Extension Specialists, a member from the California Association Resource Conservation Districts, a member from the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association, and a certified crop/pest control advisor….



Paying Attention to Soil: Carbon Storage and Sequestration

September 27, 2013 CALCAN

The University of California magazine California Agriculture recently published a report that measured soil carbon levels in three perennial cropping systems across Northern California.  This study, which was funded by the USDA, brings California one step closer to realizing programs for agriculture that could incentivize sustainable soil management practices and provide financial benefits to farmers. With a focus on the lesser-understood “high-value specialty perennial crops,” such as walnuts, almonds and wine grapes, researchers in the study sought to develop baseline soil carbon estimates for a variety of agricultural land types and management systems. They gathered data by implementing long-term monitoring networks in perennial crop soils, using a research methodology that could serve as a model for future carbon storage studies. Why are these measurements so important? Establishing baseline carbon levels is necessary for determining how changes to a farming system – adding biomass, reducing tillage – may increase the carbon sequestering potential of a land area.  If such changes can be verifiably predicted and quantified, farms would be able to demonstrate carbon sequestration and could sell carbon credits or receive other financial incentives (such as the payments provided by NRCS conservation programs) on the basis of this data.

California’s cap-and-trade program does not currently regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of the agricultural industry. With adequate information on carbon levels in soils, however, it may be possible to systematically incentivize climate-friendly agricultural practices and support the state’s farmers and ranchers in contributing climate solutions by voluntarily reducing their emissions and/or sequestering carbon. Unfortunately, studies producing solid data on carbon reporting in soils remain rare. Increased investment in this kind of research, therefore, will be a crucial step in enabling farms to simultaneously benefit from the state’s climate policies and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. CalCAN continues to advocate that a portion of the revenue generated from cap-and-trade should be invested in climate-friendly farming practices, technical assistance and research such as that exemplified by this report.



Monitoring soil carbon will prepare growers for a carbon trading system

Emma C. Suddick, UC Davis, Woods Hole Research Center, Moffatt K. Ngugi, UC Davis, USAID USDA-FAS, Keith Paustian, Colorado State University, Johan Six, UC Davis, ETH Zurich

California Agriculture 67(3):162-171. DOI: 10.3733/ca.v067n03p162. July-September 2013.

ABSTRACT: California growers could reap financial benefits from the low-carbon economy and cap-and-trade system envisioned by the state’s AB 32 law, which seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions statewide. Growers could gain carbon credits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon through reduced tillage and increased biomass residue incorporation. First, however, baseline stocks of soil carbon need to be assessed for various cropping systems and management practices. We designed and set up a pilot soil carbon and land-use monitoring network at several perennial cropping systems in Northern California. We compared soil carbon content in two vineyards and two orchards (walnut and almond), looking at conventional and conservation management practices, as well as in native grassland and oak woodland. We then calculated baseline estimates of the total carbon in almond, wine grape and walnut acreages statewide. The organic walnut orchard had the highest total soil carbon, and no-till vineyards had 27% more carbon in the surface soil than tilled vineyards. We estimated wine grape vineyards are storing significantly more soil carbon per acre than almond and walnut orchards.
The data can be used to provide accurate information about soil carbon stocks in perennial cropping systems for a future carbon trading system.



Can ‘Carbon Ranching’ Offset Emissions In Calif.?

by December 07, 2011 5:01 AM NPR 4 min 1 sec [reprinting this story from 2011]

Second of a two-part series on California’s climate policies.

Tall grasses in the San Joaquin valley in California suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it in the soil. It’s one option that environmentalists are pursuing for greenhouse gas “offsets” that can be bought and sold in the state.Christopher Joyce/NPR

Climate experts are exploring the concept of growing dense fields of weeds to help soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. ….So if you run a power plant in California, you might reduce your footprint by buying new, cleaner equipment. But that can be expensive. Instead, you could help pay to protect a growing forest, because it sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. Or you could pay a farmer to capture methane from a pond of pig waste. The market for these so-called greenhouse gas “offsets” is growing, and people are angling to come up with new kinds of offsets. One potential bumper crop lies in the state’s huge agricultural heartland — the San Joaquin Valley, a place where biologist Whendee Silver spends a lot of time. “What we found was that this area was a really big source of greenhouse gases,” she says on a walk across some of the valley’s prime grazing land. Silver, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, measures greenhouse gases coming up out of the peat-rich soil — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. She’s looking for ways to reduce those gases, and that could create offsets that farmers and ranchers could sell to businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint. One way to cork up those gases is to flood the peatland and grow a tall grass called tule. Silver and Berkeley environmental scientist Dennis Baldocchi point to a field of densely packed reeds about 12 feet high, swaying in the wind. Over centuries, this stuff breaks down into peat soil.

The soil in the wetlands area is dark and rich in carbon. Flooding of the land traps carbon from the air in the reeds and soil. Christopher Joyce/NPR

“These things have grown in this region for about 10,000 years or so,” says Baldocchi, who grew up here on a walnut farm. “You can stick your hand down if you want to feel the stuff and see.”

He bends over and scoops a handful of black, stinking mud from the floods ground. “This is the stuff that will form the soils that are now being lost as this land is being drained.”

“Smell it,” Silver says. “Do you smell the sulfur? That tells you that the air is gone. Take a good sniff. It smells like rotten eggs.”

The flooded soil means there’s very little oxygen there. That keeps bacteria from chewing carbon from the soil and sending it up into the atmosphere. And as the reeds grow — and they grow fast — they suck carbon out of the atmosphere like a big sponge.

“I think it’s pretty clear when you can see this beautiful green swath of wetland growing next to the brown hills at this time of year, you can see, this is carbon,” Silver says. That’s carbon taken out of the air and sequestered in the reeds and the soil. Flooding would return the land to the way it used to be. However, that would reduce acreage for farmers and ranchers. But if they can get paid enough for the greenhouse gases they capture, it could be profitable. Local rice farmers are interested too, since they flood land to grow rice, and that could capture greenhouse gases too.

“Here we may have a small area, but it’s a very, very intense carbon sink, and that’s the strength of this project,” Baldocchi says.

But there are kinks to work out. For example, flooding land may reduce emissions of carbon and nitrous oxide — both greenhouse gases — but increase methane, another greenhouse gas.

“So that’s part of the reason we’re looking at this,” explains Silver. “How much methane comes out, how much carbon gets stored in, and is it sustainable? Can we keep that positive balance of carbon coming in?” Silver calls this “carbon ranching” — an alternative to expensive retrofits at factories. Derik Broekhoff is vice president for policy at Climate Action Reserve, which ensures that these offsets actually do what they’re supposed to do: lower emissions. “A lot of these emission reductions you can do that a lot more cheaply so it reduces the overall cost,” he says.

California officials are interested in carbon ranching in part because the state government needs to reduce emissions from its own facilities and vehicles. And it owns plenty of land in the delta.





Widespread Plague In Wildlife Threatens Western Ecosystems

by October 23, 2013 5:17 PM 5 min 18 sec

For most of us, plague is something that maybe we read about in history books. In the 14th Century, it wiped out half of Europe’s population. But the bacteria is busy killing wildlife now in the American West. By studying small mammals scientists have learned that plague is far more pervasive a killer than anyone thought…..Biggins has confirmed his theory in field experiments on other small mammals. Plague is killing various kinds of mice and ground squirrels in New Mexico and Mexican wood rats in Colorado. BIGGINS: The threat is to the ecosystems of the West. I think we could be having basically a Black Death type of episode occurring rather continuously in the United States that we haven’t even recognized….



Poorly camouflaged insects can kick off a cascade of ecological impacts
(October 21, 2013) — A California walking stick insect that has evolved to produce individuals with two distinct appearances — an all-green form that camouflages well with broader leaves and a form with a white stripe running down its back that blends better with needle-like leaves — can markedly affect its broader ecological community when the appearance of the bug is mismatched with the plant it’s living on. … > full story


For fish and rice to thrive in Yolo Bypass, ‘just add water’
(October 24, 2013)
From a fish-eye view, rice fields in California’s Yolo Bypass provide an all-you-can-eat bug buffet for juvenile salmon seeking nourishment on their journey to the sea. That’s according to a new report detailing the
scientific findings of an experiment that planted fish in harvested rice fields earlier this year, resulting in the fattest, fastest-growing salmon on record in the state’s rivers.. The report, provided to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, describes three concurrent studies from researchers at the University of California, Davis, nonprofit California Trout and the California Department of Water Resources. The scientists investigated whether rice fields on the floodplain of Yolo Bypass could be managed to help recover California’s populations of Chinook salmon, and if so, the ideal habitats and management approaches that could allow both fish and farms to thrive. “We’re finding that land managers and regulatory agencies can use these agricultural fields to mimic natural processes,” said co-author Carson Jeffres, field and laboratory director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “We still have some things to learn, but this report is a big step in understanding that.” Researchers found that the fish did not have a preference among the three rice field types tested: stubble, plowed and fallow. The food supply was so plentiful that salmon had high growth rates across habitats and management methods. “It’s like a dehydrated food web,” said Jeffres of the harvested rice fields. “Just add water. All of those habitats are very productive for fish.”

The salmon did demonstrate a preference for habitats with better water flow. Jeffres compared it to choosing among three good restaurants: Each offers good food with hearty portions, but one has better ambience and so is chosen above the others. In this case, the better water flow was the ambience the fish preferred.

Among the key findings:

  • Experimental flooding of Yolo Bypass rice fields during the winter can create productive aquatic food webs for salmon.
  • Average growth rates during the study’s 41 days were the highest recorded in freshwater in California. Growth of juvenile Chinook averaged 0.93mm per day, with growth of 1.5 mm per day observed during specific two-week intervals.
  • Mortality was greater than in the team’s previous 2012 study at Knaggs Ranch. In the 2013 study, between 0 and 29 percent of free-swimming fish survived, while 35-98 percent of fish in enclosures survived.
  • Lower survival rates were attributed to bird predation. The winter of 2013, when the study was conducted, was one of the driest on record in the Sacramento Valley, which may have drawn more birds to the inundated rice fields, and to the fish. The study plots were also relatively shallow, providing little escape for fish. A follow-up study planned for 2014 will explore the role of depth as a refuge for fish against avian predators.
  • Fish reared in plowed rice fields grew faster than those reared over stubble or weedy vegetation. However, all habitat types were beneficial to the fish, suggesting farm managers may have more flexibility in land treatment after harvest.

“These results are good news for the effort to rebuild salmon populations in California,” said lead author Jacob Katz, a biologist with California Trout. “We’ve always suspected that when we mimic natural flood processes in agricultural fields, we give these fish a food-rich habitat they recognize and thrive in. These findings support that theory and provide a strong path forward for California land use planners, conservationists and farmers alike. This is a win-win model that can be replicated around the state.” The Yolo Bypass is the Central Valley’s largest contiguous floodplain and provides critical fish and wildlife habitat, the report said. It is covered by floodway easement held by the state of California, making other land uses subservient to flood control. Agriculture is a major land use in the bypass, with rice the primary crop. More than 95 percent of Central Valley floodplain habitat that was historically used to rear juvenile Chinook salmon has been altered, primarily diked, and drained for agriculture conversion. Most former floodplain wetlands are now only inundated during major floods. The report said access to floodplain habitats and the high growth rates associated with them during even a limited time may be critical in improving return rates for Central Valley salmon populations... > full story


Can a Potentially Invasive Plant Bring a Positive Influence to a Region?

Oct. 25, 2013 — Can invasive species be beneficial for the region? A recent study, published in the open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research, aimed to obtain empirical data on the activity and distribution of the bee species Braunsapis puangensis in the Suva area of Fiji and examine its association with the invasive creeping daisy Sphagneticola trilobata. The paper suggests that the invasive creeping daisy could in fact have a positive influence on a wild bee pollinator species, thus benefitting crops and biodiversity on the islands….


Aboriginal hunting practice increases animal populations
(October 24, 2013) — In Australia’s Western Desert, Aboriginal hunters use a unique method that actually increases populations of the animals they hunt, according to a new study. The hunting method — using fire to clear patches of land to improve the search for game — also creates a mosaic of regrowth that enhances habitat. … > full story


RAT ISLAND RENAMED–Hawadax Island Recovery Exceeding Expectations

Rat Island makeover more than just a name change

Island Conservation October 23rd, 2013

“When I first landed on what was Rat Island in 2007, it was an eerily silent place. A typical Aleutian island is teeming with wildlife, swirling with noisy, pungent birds. Not this place. It was crisscrossed with rat trails, littered with rat scat, scavenged bird bones, it even smelled…wrong,” reports Stacey Buckelew, an Island Conservation biologist. Buckelew first visited the island to help document centuries of damage to native birds and plant species from introduced invasive Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus). Flash forward to today—five years after the successful removal of invasive Norway rats by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (The Service), The Nature Conservancy (The Conservancy) and Island Conservation (IC). Much has changed. “The island is hardly recognizable among the cacophony of birds calling everywhere; it’s alive with bird fledglings-teals, eiders, wrens, sparrows, eagles, peregrine falcons, gulls, sandpipers. The island is transforming,”says Buckelew, who has just returned from the now renamed Hawadax Island where she is helping document early stages of an extraordinary recovery. For the first time ever, breeding tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata) have been documented on the island in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Species thought to have been extirpated because of the rats, such as Leach’s storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) and fork-tailed storm-petrels (Oceanodroma furcate), have been recorded on-island.


Gulf ecosystem in crisis after BP spill

Three years after well blowout, declining seafood catches and deformities point to an environment in distress.

Dahr Jamail Last Modified: 20 Oct 2013 12:53

New Orleans, US – Hundreds of kilograms of oily debris on beaches, declining seafood catches, and other troubling signs point towards an ecosystem in crisis in the wake of BP’s 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s disturbing what we’re seeing,” Louisiana Oyster Task Force member Brad Robin told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any more baby crabs, which is a bad sign. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.”
Robin, a commercial oyster fisherman who is also a member of the Louisiana Government Advisory Board, said that of the sea ground where he has harvested oysters in the past, only 30 percent of it is productive now.
“We’re seeing crabs with holes in their shells, other seafood deformities. The state of Louisiana oyster season opened on October 15, and we can’t find any production out there yet. There is no life out there.”
According to Robin, entire sectors of the Louisiana oyster harvest areas are “dead or mostly dead”. “I got 10 boats in my fleet and only two of them are operating, because I don’t have the production to run the rest. We’re nowhere near back to whole, and I can’t tell you when or if it’ll come back.”….


Nitrogen fertilizer remains in soils, leaks towards groundwater for decades
(October 21, 2013) — Nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops lingers in the soil and leaks out as nitrate for decades towards groundwater — “much longer than previously thought,” scientists say in a new study. Thirty years after synthetic nitrogen fertilizer had been applied to crops in 1982, about 15 percent of the fertilizer still remained in soil organic matter, these scientists found. … > full story

Grazers, pollinators shape plant evolution
(October 21, 2013) — It has long been known that the characteristics of many plants with wide ranges can vary geographically, depending on differences in climate. But changes in grazing pressure and pollination can also affect the genetic composition of natural plant populations, according to a new study. … > 



Managing Rangelands to Benefit California Red-legged Frogs and California Tiger Salamanders. (PDF) 2013. Alameda County Resource Conservation District. (authors L.D. Ford, P.A. Van Hoorn, D.R. Rao, N.J. Scott, P.C. Trenham, and J.W. Bartolome; photography by Joe DiDonato; design and illustration by Katie Bertsche). Once common throughout central California, the California Red-legged Frog and California Tiger Salamander are now listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are rare, and their ranges have shrunk severely, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation associated with agricultural and urban development. Ranches and grazed public lands and the associated stewardship activities of ranchers and others are vital to the survival and recovery of these amphibians. Grazing as a land use is generally compatible. Livestock ponds have become crucial breeding habitats for both amphibians, and grazing significantly reduces the biomass of the exotic annual grasses that now dominate upland (terrestrial) habitat, lowering fire risk and preventing the degradation of habitat conditions that would occur if the grasses were left unm anaged. This document provides comprehensive recommendations for habitat management based on the best available scientific research and the expertise of individuals who study or manage these amphibians and their habitat. This publication was reviewed by over 40 experts (besides the authors), and sponsored by the Alameda County Resource Conservation District, California Coastal Conservancy, California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, East Bay Regional Park District, Joseph DiDonato Wildlife Consulting and Photography, LD Ford Rangeland Conservation Science, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, and United States Fish and Wildlife Service. We are pleased to present this new document without charge—click on this link to download. 


Why plants usually live longer then animals
(October 24, 2013) — Stem cells are crucial for the continuous generation of new cells. Although the importance of stem cells in fuelling plant growth and development still many questions on their tight molecular control remain unanswered. Plant researchers have now discovered a new step in the complex regulation of stem cells. … > full story


Focusing a lens on China’s environmental challenges.
Yale Environment 360 Traveling throughout China, from the Tibetan Plateau to the lush subtropical forests in the south, a photojournalist documents the vast scope of the country’s environmental challenges.


Second giant oarfish found off California coast

NY Daily News October 20, 2013 Southern California’s coastline is getting fishier and fishier. Less than a week after an extremely rare, 18-foot oarfish was discovered near Catalina Island a second has washed ashore at nearby Oceanside


Bugs not gay, just confused
(October 21, 2013) — Researchers have found that homosexual behavior in bugs is probably accidental in most cases. In the rush to produce offspring, bugs do not take much time to inspect their mates’ gender, potentially leading to same-sex mating. … > full story


Monkey That Purrs Like a Cat Is Among New Species Discovered in Amazon Rainforest

October 25, 2013 — At least 441 new species of animals and plants have been discovered over a four year period in the vast, underexplored rainforest of the Amazon, including a monkey that purrs like a … > full story





Highest Levels in Last 44,000 Years; Has Climate Change Finally Been Proven?

Posted by Russell Westerholm ( on Oct 24, 2013 04:16 PM EDT

The average summer over the last century in the Eastern Canadian Arctic has exceeded the same such average in any previous over the last 44,000 years, according to a University of Colorado at Boulder press release.

(Reuters) Scientists said Arctic Sea ice is becoming thinner and more broken apart, which encourages melting.

Lead author Gifford Miller and his colleagues conducted the first study, published Monday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, with direct evidence that the present warmth in the Eastern Canadian Arctic exceeds a previous high. In a period known as the Early Holocene, the sun’s energy reaching the Northern Hemisphere was during the summer was about nine percent stronger than it is today. The Holocene is a period some 12,000 years ago when a geological epoch began after the last glacial period ended. “The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is,” said Miller, also a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. “This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”…



NOAA’s State of the Climate Monthly Update

The State of the Climate is a collection of monthly summaries recapping climate-related occurrences on both a global and national scale. October, 2013 (pdf)

    • Contiguous U.S. has sixth warmest and 12th wettest September on record.  This was the warmest September in the U.S. since 2005.  
    • Drought conditions eased in parts of the Plains and West with record flooding along the Front Range of Colorado.  
    • Globally-averaged temperature across land and ocean surfaces tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest September since records began in 1880.



Pacific Ocean temperature influences tornado activity in US
(October 17, 2013)
Meteorologists often use information about warm and cold fronts to determine whether a tornado will occur
in a particular area. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found that the temperature of the Pacific Ocean could help scientists predict the type and location of tornado activity in the U.S. … …McCoy and Lupo found that the tornados that occurred when surface sea temperatures were above average were usually located to the west and north of tornado alley, an area in the Midwestern part of the U.S. that experiences more tornados than any other area. McCoy also found that when sea surface temperatures were cooler, more tornadoes tracked from southern states, like Alabama, into Tennessee, Illinois and Indiana. “Differences in sea temperatures influence the route of the jet stream as it passes over the Pacific and, eventually, to the United States,” McCoy said. “Tornado-producing storms usually are triggered by, and will follow, the jet stream. This helps explain why we found a rise in the number of tornados and a change in their location when sea temperatures fluctuated.”

In the study, McCoy and Lupo examined the relationship between tornadoes and a climate phenomenon called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). PDO phases, which were discovered in the mid-1990s, are long-term temperature trends that can last up to 30 years. According to NASA scientists, the current PDO phase has just entered into a “cool” state. “PDO cool phases are characterized by a cool wedge of lower than normal sea-surface ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific and a warm horseshoe pattern of higher than normal sea-surface temperatures extending into the north, west and southern Pacific,” McCoy said. “In the warm phase, which lasted from 1977 to 1999, the west Pacific Ocean became cool and the wedge in the east was warm.” …> full story


How climate change affects microbial life below the seafloor
(October 22, 2013) — Sediments from the deep sea give insight into the dynamics of the deep biosphere. This “Deep Biosphere”, reaching several hundred metres below the seafloor, is exclusively inhabited by microbes and is generally considered as stable. Nevertheless, only little is known about how this system developed over millennia and how this microbial life influences the cycling of carbon in the oceans. … > full story




Increasing toxicity of algal blooms tied to nutrient enrichment and climate change
(October 24, 2013) — Nutrient enrichment and climate change are posing yet another concern of growing importance: an apparent increase in the toxicity of some algal blooms in freshwater lakes and estuaries around the world, which threatens aquatic organisms, ecosystem health and human drinking water safety. … > full story


Iowa scientists: Climate change affecting farming.
Associated Press
More than 150 Iowa professors and climate researchers have signed on to a statement released Friday that says extreme weather patterns caused by climate change are affecting farming, and updated practices are needed to prevent soil erosion and adjust to the new reality.


Watering the forest for the trees: an emerging priority for managing water in forest landscapes: Widespread threats to forests resulting from drought stress are prompting a re-evaluation of priorities for water management on forest lands. In contrast to the widely held view that forest management should emphasize providing water for downstream uses, researchers argue that maintaining forest health in the context of a changing climate may require focusing on the forests themselves and on strategies to reduce their vulnerability to increasing water stress. Management strategies would need to be tailored to specific landscapes but could include thinning, planting and selecting for drought-tolerant species, irrigating, and making more water available to plants for transpiration. Hydrologic modeling reveals that specific management actions could reduce tree mortality due to drought stress. Adopting water conservation for vegetation as a priority for managing water on forested lands would represent a fundamental change in perspective and potentially involve trade-offs with other downstream uses of water. (Grant, Tague, and Allen, 2013, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 314–321.


Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Trends, Projections, and Implications: The ecological consequences of climate change will vary substantially among ecoregions because of regional differences in antecedent environmental conditions; the rate and magnitude of change in the primary climate change drivers, including elevated carbon dioxide (CO2), warming and precipitation modification; and nonadditive effects among climate drivers. Elevated atmospheric CO2 will directly stimulate plant growth and reduce negative effects of drying in a warmer climate by increasing plant water use efficiency; however, the CO2 effect is mediated by environmental conditions, especially soil water availability. Warming and drying are anticipated to reduce soil water availability, net primary productivity, and other ecosystem processes in the southern Great Plains, the Southwest, and northern Mexico, but warmer and generally wetter conditions will likely enhance these processes in the northern Plains and southern Canada. The Northwest will warm considerably, but annual precipitation is projected to change little despite a large decrease in summer precipitation. Reduced winter snowpack and earlier snowmelt will affect hydrology and riparian systems in the Northwest. Specific consequences of climate change will be numerous and varied and include modifications to forage quantity and quality and livestock production systems, soil C content, fire regimes, livestock metabolism, and plant community composition and species distributions, including range contraction and expansion of invasive species. Recent trends and model projections indicate continued directional change and increasing variability in climate that will substantially affect the provision of ecosystem services on North American rangelands. (Polley et al. (2013) Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Trends, Projections, and Implications. Rangeland Ecology & Management: September 2013, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 493-511. doi:

Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Assessment of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies:  
Recent climatic trends and climate model projections indicate that climate change will modify rangeland ecosystem functions and the services and livelihoods that they provision. Recent history has demonstrated that climatic variability has a strong influence on both ecological and social components of rangeland systems and that these systems possess substantial capacity to adapt to climatic variability. Specific objectives of this synthesis are to: 1) evaluate options to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and future climate change; 2) survey actions that individuals, enterprises, and social organizations can use to adapt to climate change; and 3) assess options for system transformation when adaptation is no longer sufficient to contend with climate change. Mitigation for carbon sequestration does not appear economically viable, given the small and highly variable carbon dioxide fluxes of rangeland ecosystems and the high transaction costs that would be incurred. In contrast, adaptation strategies are numerous and provide a means to manage risks associated with climate change. Adaptation strategies are diverse, including altered risk perception by individuals, greater flexibility of production enterprises, and modifications to social organizations that emphasize climatic variability, rather than consistency. Many adaptations represent “no regrets” actions because their implementation can be justified without emphasis on pending climate change. Adaptations specific to livestock production systems can include flexible herd management, alternative livestock breeds or species, innovative pest management, modified enterprise structures, and geographic relocation. Social-ecological systems in which adaptation is insufficient to counter the adverse consequences of climate change might undergo transformative change to produce alternative ecosystem services, production enterprises, and livelihoods. The rangeland profession is in a pivotal position to provide leadership on this global challenge because it represents the intersection of management and scientific knowledge, includes diverse stakeholders who derive their livelihoods from rangelands, and interacts with organizations responsible for rangeland stewardship. (Joyce et al. (2013) Climate Change and North American Rangelands: Assessment of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies. Rangeland Ecology & Management: September 2013, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 512-528. doi:



In Australia, raging early spring wildfires have rekindled a raging debate over climate change

Reporter Peter Thomson PRI The WORLD October 23, 2013 · 7:00 PM EDT

Roughly 60 blazes are still raging near Sydney, Australia, as the region enters its second week of intense wildfires.

Police say some of the fires in the Blue Mountains west of Australia’s largest city may have been started by children. Others apparently were started by power lines being buffeted by strong winds. One was even started by an army training exercise gone wrong.

But the biggest culprit has been the weather. It’s been dry, windy and unseasonably hot — in the upper 80s in Australia’s early spring. Taylor Auerbach, a reporter with Newscorp in Australia, says conditions on Wednesday were “a perfect storm” for bushfires.

The fires began last week and have consumed roughly 300,000 acres of land and more than 200 homes. They’ve closed schools and sent many local residents down the hills into Sydney to wait out the danger. Auerbach says they’ve also brought the largest-ever mobilization of emergency services in the state of New South Wales. “We’re talking maybe 3,000 volunteer fire fighters rolling out,” he says, from places as far afield as New Zealand. But even that hasn’t been up to the task. At last count 19 fires were still out of control. And Auerbach says new ones can start virtually without warning…. Abbott reserved special scorn for Christina Figueras, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who said this week that there was “absolutely a connection between wildfires and rising temperatures.” Abbot said Figueras was “talking through her hat.” But climate scientists say it’s Abbott who’s got the science wrong. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says he’s “on the side of Christina Figueras.” Trenberth says Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and that “the Australians ought to be very worried.”….


Map showing extent of wildfires near Sydney, as of October 20, 2013. (Source: Reuters)


Bushfires: Coalition deploys straw man against burning issue of climate change

Government is desperate to keep bushfires and climate change apart for fear its emissions reduction policy will be found wanting

Lenore Taylor, Thursday 24 October 2013 00.00 EDT


Risk of Amazon rainforest dieback is higher than IPCC projects, study suggests
(October 21, 2013) — A new study suggests the southern portion of the Amazon rainforest is at a much higher risk of dieback due to stronger seasonal drying than projections made by the climate models used in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. … > full story


« Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (October 1 – 15)

Novel Ecosystems: Not So Novel Anymore »Working with the Changing Shore

10/16/2013 by The Dirt Contributor

Sea levels are projected to rise dramatically over the next century, impacting coastal infrastructure that was never designed for these new conditions. In the face of this change, simply maintaining the status quo is an implausible prospect. At the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) conference in Madison, Wisconsin, a set of landscape architects and ecologists proposed ecological strategies for adapting to sea level rise. By harnessing previously ignored or repressed ecological systems, coastal settlements can more effectively respond to their changing landscapes.

Kristina Hill, Affiliate ASLA, a landscape architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, discussed strategies for beach restoration in the context of rising seas. Using Virginia Beach as a case study, she explored the potential of the Dutch zandmotor (or sand motor) method of beach restoration (see image above).

Virginia Beach claims to have the longest recreational beach in the world, and, therefore, an economic impetus to keep its beach in a static, predictable form, requiring periodic restoration work. Traditionally, beach restoration work, which was last completed in Virginia Beach in 2002, involves dumping large amounts of new sand on the shoreline and spreading it around with a bulldozer. This process is expensive and highly disruptive to beach ecology.

The zandmotor method involves harnessing wave action to distribute sand across the shoreline. Instead of applying sand directly to the beach with bulldozers, sand is dumped offshore. Over time, coastal currents move the sand and deposit it along the beach. This method is much cheaper and less disruptive than traditional beach restoration.

In order to be applied in Virginia Beach, however, cultural attitudes toward the beach must change. Hill stated that hotel owners are leery of the irregular beach arrangements that result from the Dutch method, desiring the predictability that is achieved through traditional methods. Still, Hill expressed hope that eventually people may embrace a changing beach as something “exciting and beautiful to check in to see every year.” [See more on the Dutch sand motor at Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM)]

Next, Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, SeArc – Ecological Marine Consulting LTD, spoke about retrofitting existing coastal infrastructure to support diverse marine ecosystems. Perkol-Finkel described how much existing construction consists of smooth concrete, a material that is not hospitable to marine growth. As an alternative to traditional concrete, she proposed the development of ecologically-active infrastructure that enhances ecological systems without compromising function. Enhanced biological buildup, including the proliferation of oysters and corals, can actually enhance the strength and durability of this infrastructure.

Speculating that concrete’s poor ecological performance has to do with its alkaline composition and smooth texture, Perkol-Finkel discussed a series of experiments with alternate concrete mixtures and arrangements. These experiments, which took place both in the lab and in the field, revealed that some concrete mixes perform significantly better ecologically than others. Furthermore, textured concretes proved to be far more conducive to marine life than smooth concretes. Slight modifications to the composition, texture, and design of marine infrastructure can lead to an enhanced ability to attract flora and fauna. This translates to an infrastructure that is biologically active, contributing to both ecological health and infrastructural function.

Peter Hummel, Anchor QEA, discussed strategies for integrating ecological restoration and infrastructure in Puget Sound. Much of the degradation to Puget Sound’s ecosystems has come not only from encroaching development, but also from coastal infrastructure itself. Using examples from rural, suburban, and urban settings, he presented case studies where coastal infrastructure was reconnected to ecological systems, enhancing resiliency to sea level change.

Whidbey Island in Puget Sound was given as a rural case study. Historically, the 600-acre site consisted of tidal marshes and mudflats. Most of this was lost with the introduction of a dyke and pump station, as well as a state highway and navel base. Recognizing that the pump station is extremely expensive to maintain, the restoration plan involves the wholesale removal of the levee and the replacement of the state highway with a bridge. By removing everything that limits the site’s hydrology, these modifications allow natural processes to rebuilt marshland – a process-based restoration plan.

Similarly, restoration efforts in Seahurst Park, a suburban setting, involve the removal of hard infrastructure to allow natural processes to function. In this case, a series of bulkheads have prevented landslide material from reaching the park’s beach, piling up uselessly only to be eventually hauled away by trucks. As a consequence, the beach has lowered 3 – 4 feet over 30 years. The restoration plan for the site involves the removal of these bulkheads, allowing landslide debris to reach the beach and rebuilt it over time.
In all of these examples, ecological processes are integrated into traditionally hard coastal infrastructures, benefiting both marine ecosystems and infrastructure. As sea levels rise, finding creative ways of harnessing ecological processes will be critical to coastal resiliency.

This guest post is by Ben Wellington, Master’s of Landscape architecture graduate, Louisiana State University and ASLA 2012 summer intern.


Near-term acceleration of hydroclimatic change in the western U.S. 
Using a high-resolution, hierarchical, five-member ensemble modeling experiment that includes a global climate model (Community Climate System Model), a regional climate model (RegCM), and a hydrological model (Variable Infiltration Capacity model), researchers find that increases in greenhouse forcing over the next three decades result in an acceleration of decreases in spring snowpack and a transition to a substantially more liquid-dominated water resources regime. These hydroclimatic changes are associated with increases in cold-season days above freezing and decreases in the cold-season snow-to-precipitation ratio. The changes in the temperature and precipitation regime in turn result in shifts toward earlier snowmelt, base flow, and runoff dates throughout the region, as well as reduced annual and warmseason snowmelt and runoff. The simulated hydrologic response is dominated by changes in temperature, with the ensemble members exhibiting varying trends in cold-season precipitation over the next three decades but consistent negative trends in cold-season freeze days, cold-season snow-to-precipitation ratio, and 1 April snow water equivalent. Given the observed impacts of recent trends in snowpack and snowmelt runoff, the projected acceleration of hydroclimatic change in the western U.S. has important implications for the availability of water for agriculture, hydropower, and human consumption, as well as for the risk of wildfire, forest die-off, and loss of riparian habitat. (Ashfaq,M., S. Ghosh, S.-C.Kao, L. C. Bowling, P. Mote,D. Touma, S. A. Rauscher, and N. S. Diffenbaugh (2013), Near-term acceleration of hydroclimatic change in the western U.S., J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 118, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50816.)


Raging Australian wildfires raise questions about climate change, emergency preparedness

Wildfires hitting Australia’s east coast are the worst in a decade and have struck unusually early in the season.

By John Zubrzycki, Correspondent / October 18, 2013

The worst fires to hit Australia’s east coast in more than a decade have raised questions about what if any lessons have been learned from previous bushfire tragedies and stoked controversy over the federal government’s climate change credentials. Firefighters in New South Wales admitted they were unprepared for the hot and windy conditions that led to Thursday’s inferno, which turned hundreds of houses into smoldering ruins and left at least one person dead. At the height of the emergency, 97 fires with a combined front of more than 400 kilometers were burning across Australia’s most populous state. More than 80 fires continue to burn across New South Wales, with over 20 blazes not yet contained, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. 


Loss and Damage from Climate Change

October 25, 2013 — New research outlines empirical evidence of loss and damage from climate change from the perspective of affected people in nine vulnerable countries. The articles show how climatic stressors affect … > full story

Scientists Develop New Method to Help Global Coasts Adapt to Sea-Level Rise

October 25, 2013 — Scientists have developed a new method to help the world’s coasts adapt to global sea-level rises over the next 100 years. Future sea-level rise seems inevitable, although the rates and geographical patterns of change remain uncertain. Given the large and growing populations and economic activity in coastal zones, as well as the importance of coastal ecosystems, the potential impacts of sea-level change are far-reaching. Current methods to assess the potential impact of sea-level rise have varied significantly and hindered the development of useful scenarios and in turn, suitable adaption policies and planning. A new study led by Professor Robert Nicholls from the University of Southampton, has combined the available data on a number of different climate and non-climate (such as uplift, subsidence and natural phenomena — earthquakes for example) mechanisms, which contribute to sea-level change, to create appropriate scenarios of sea-level rise at any location when policy-makers consider impacts and adaption. Professor Robert Nicholls says: “The goal here is not to ‘scare people’ but rather to encourage policy makers to think across the full range of possibilities. Hence, the problem can be addressed in a progressive and adaptive manner where sea-level rise is planned for now, and that plan includes monitoring and learning about sea-level change over the coming decades. This means that sea-level rise can be fully prepared for without over-adapting.

“Given that the uncertainties of sea-level rise are global, this approach will probably be widely applicable around the world’s coasts, especially in major coastal cities with high values and growing flood risk.”.. > full story


Who created the global warming ‘pause?’
Mother Jones How climate skeptics and the media – with a little inadvertent help from scientists themselves – forged a misleading narrative.



8 Tribes That Are Way Ahead of the Climate-Adaptation Curve

Terri Hansen 10/15/13

Much has been made of the need to develop climate-change-adaptation plans, especially in light of increasingly alarming findings about how swiftly the environment that sustains life as we know it is deteriorating, and how the changes compound one another to quicken the pace overall. Studies, and numerous climate models, and the re-analysis of said studies and climate models, all point to humankind as the main driver of these changes. In all these dire pronouncements and warnings there is one bright spot: It may not be too late to turn the tide and pull Mother Earth back from the brink. None of this is new to the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. Besides already understanding much about environmental issues via millennia of historical perspective, Natives are at the forefront of these changes and have been forced to adapt. Combining their preexisting knowledge with their still-keen ability to read environmental signs, these tribes are way ahead of the curve, with climate-change plans either in the making or already in effect…..

1. Swinomish Tribe: From Proclamation to Action

On the southeastern peninsula of Fidalgo Island in Washington State, the Swinomish were the first tribal nation to pass a Climate Change proclamation, which they did in 2007. Since then they have implemented a concrete action plan. … The tribe began a two-year project in 2008, issued an impact report in 2009 and an action plan in 2010, said project coordinator and senior planner Ed Knight. The plan identified a number of proposed “next step” implementation projects, several of them now under way: coastal protection measures, code changes, community health assessment and wildfire protection, among others. The tribe won funding through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Administration for Native Americans to support the $400,000 Swinomish Climate Change Initiative, of which the tribe funded 20 percent…. Since the Swinomish started work on climate issues, many tribes across the country have become active on these issues as they also realize the potential impacts to their communities and resources. The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) has been funded over the last few years to conduct climate adaptation training, Knight said, “and probably more than 100 tribes have now received training on this.”…


Check out “Facing Climate Change: Coastal Tribes” by Benjamin Drummond / Sara Steele on Vimeo.



Let’s play God: The scientific experiments that might save the world (or destroy it…)

Fake volcanoes, giant space mirrors, oceans of iron filings… One of these ideas might save our planet from the worst effects of global warming – or destroy it. Memphis Barker reports on the rise of geoengineering – and the rift it has opened in the scientific community

Memphis Barker Sunday 20 October 2013

Two years ago this month, in a disused Norfolk airfield, a small group of scientists were preparing to undertake one of the more controversial experiments in British scientific history. What little equipment it needed – a B&Q pressure washer, 1km of hydraulic hose and an 8m air balloon – had been bought or loaned. A truck was ready. Once in the air, the dirigible balloon would spray 120 litres of fine water droplets into the East Anglia sky, a miniaturised test for a much larger system that would eventually pump out chemical particles to reflect sunlight and, so the scientists calculated, cool the planet. It was to be a momentous day. Geoengineering – as defined by the Royal Society in 2009 – is the large-scale, technological manipulation of the climate (some call it “planet hacking”). After decades of theorising, the Cambridge group was going to be the first in the West to take research out of doors. But shortly before lift-off, they aborted. There was, they feared, no way of knowing who could use their research, or in what way, and the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (Spice) team did not want to open a door that might be impossible to close. Little has changed in practical terms since 2011. The Spice balloon has been shipped back to its owners; the pressure washer is back in use spraying down cars. Yet, since the end of last month, the prospect of geoengineering has cast a giant shadow over the world of environmental campaigners and climate scientists. On 27 September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most respected authority on global warming, acknowledged for the first time the need to consider it as a weapon against rising temperatures…..



To Fix Climate Change, Scientists Turn To Hacking The Earth


 – ‎October 21, 2013‎


Because some very mainstream scientists are saying that the climate change situation is so bad that saving life as we know it might require something radical: like shooting chemicals into the stratosphere to protect earth from the sun. In the summer of 2012, a small group of the Haida people, a native community in Canada, had a problem. The salmon they rely on were disappearing. So the Haida took matters into their own hands. They partnered with an American businessman, drew up plans and then took a boat full of iron dust into the waters off their home island and put the dust in the ocean. When they spread the iron dust, it created a big algae bloom. They hoped the algae would soak up carbon dioxide and bring back the fish. The reaction to the experiment was immediate and negative, and as the “world’s first rogue geoengineering project.” While it scared a lot of people and angered a lot of scientists, this event could be a sign of what’s to come. Because some very mainstream scientists are saying that the climate change situation is so bad that saving life as we know it might require something radical: like shooting chemicals into the stratosphere to protect earth from the sun. In essence, these scientists are talking about hacking the climate….. People get scared because a lot of these plans sound like mad scientist schemes. Ocean fertilization is just one of a wide array of climate-engineering techniques out there. One technique is to suck the carbon dioxide out from the atmosphere and put it somewhere else. “You might do that by planting lots of trees or setting up machines that draw down CO2 and store it somewhere, or generating ocean fertilization where you add iron to the ocean and that generates phytoplankton, which locks up carbon dioxide,” Watson tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “The whole point is that you’re trying to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and put it somewhere else.” A second technique is to try and reflect sunlight away from the earth to keep the earth cooler. You can do that, Watson says, by painting roofs white, through making natural clouds a little brighter or through volcanic aerosols.

In fact, there is evidence of volcanic eruptions that have dramatically lowered the temperature on earth. Scientists want to replicate that. But the catch is that scientists haven’t really tested either technique. “For the most part we’ve got more questions than answers,” Watson says. “It’s a very emotive subject and a divisive subject. I can think of academics who agree on almost everything else in terms of science who are diametrically opposed on geoengineering.” Watson says that some people see it as a necessary evil to protect the environment and some see it as retention of the status quo; just trying to techno-fix our way out of what is already a technological problem. If the schism in the science community weren’t enough, Watson points out there are serious questions about the basic feasibility of actually using any of these techniques. What is already a divisive problem in the sciences is quickly becoming a governance nightmare…..




Why We Don’t Care About Saving Our Grandchildren From Climate Change

A new study shows that human beings are too selfish to endure present pain to avert future climate change. That’s why we need win-win solutions now

By Bryan Walsh TIME @bryanrwalshOct. 21, 201318 Comments

Attila Kisbenedek / AFP / Getty Images Some 30,000 people demonstrate in the center of Copenhagen on Dec. 12, 2009 to turn up the heat on world leaders debating global warming at the U.N. climate conference

You want to know what the biggest obstacle to dealing with climate change is? Simple: time. It will take decades before the carbon dioxide we emit now begins to have its full effect on the planet’s climate. And by the same token, it will take decades before we are able to enjoy the positive climate effects of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions now. (Even if we could stop emitting all CO₂ today, there’s already future warming that’s been baked into the system, thanks to past emission.) But we will feel the economic effects of either emitting or restricting CO₂ right now, in real time. While we can argue about the relative cost of reducing CO₂ emissions now — just as we can argue about the economic effects of climate change in the future — it should be clear that any attempt to restrict CO₂ emissions enough to make a dent in future climate change will cause some present-day economic pain. The global economy is still so dependent on relatively inexpensive fossil fuels that a quick transition to renewable sources would likely be costly in the short term. (See Naomi Klein’s 2011 piece in The Nation for a fairly clear-eyed view of what truly radical climate policy would mean.. What that means, in effect, is that climate policy asks the present to sacrifice for the future. Human beings tend not to be very good at that kind of planning, even when their own future selves stand to benefit — a study this year found that just 10% of Americans have saved enough in a 401(k) or individual retirement account to put themselves on a track to retire. When it comes to climate change, the worst effects will be felt years after many people today are long gone. From a self-centered perspective, that makes strict climate policy like saving for a retirement you know you’ll never live to see. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a new study in Nature Climate Change confirms the fact that the kind of long-term cooperation demanded by effective climate policy is going to be even more challenging than we thought.

How Do You Get People to Give a Damn About Climate Change?

Posted by Chris Mooney on Friday, October 18, 2013  

Experts have come a long way in trying to figure out which messages can successfully open minds and move public opinion. There’s just one problem: They disagree about whether the message everyone’s using actually works.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are causing global warming. But does telling conservatives this actually make a difference? Skeptical Science


As two top researchers studying the science of science communication—a hot new field that combines public opinion research with psychological studies—Dan Kahan and Stephan Lewandowsky tend to agree about most things.

There’s just one problem. The little thing that they disagree on—whether it actually works to tell people that there’s a “scientific consensus” on climate change—is a matter of huge practical significance. After all, many scientists, advocates, and bloggers are doing this all the time. Heck, Barack Obama and Al Gore are out there doing it. And the central message that the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sought to convey with its latest report, that scientists are now 95-percent certain that humans are driving global warming, is a message about scientific consensus.

In this episode of Inquiring Minds (click above to stream audio), Kahan and Lewandowsky debate this pressing issue. The discussion begins with a paper published in Nature Climate Change last year by Lewandowsky and two colleagues, providing experimental evidence suggesting a consensus message ought to work quite well.


Dan Kahan of Yale (left) and Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol (right) slugged it out over science communication strategies on our latest Inquiring Minds podcast. (Er, not really. They agreed on some points and cordially disagreed on others.) Maggie Severns “We told people that 97 out of 100 climate scientists agree on the basic premise that the globe is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Lewandowsky, who is based at the University of Bristol in the UK. “And what we found was that that boosted people’s acceptance of the scientific facts relating to climate change by a significant amount, and it did so in particular for people of a free-market worldview or ideology.” (The 97 percent figure comes from a recent study surveying the scientific literature on climate change.)

But Kahan, a Yale law professor who has extensively researched how our ideological predispositions skew our acceptance of facts, isn’t so sure. It’s not that he doubts Lewandowsky’s basic finding. But, he says, “when people get that kind of message in the world, there are all kinds of other influences that are filtering, essentially, the credibility of that message. If that would work, I would have expected it to work by now.” The two researchers agree that political ideologyand in particular conservative fiscal or free market thinking—is an overwhelming factor preventing acceptance of climate science. “A position on climate change has become almost like a tribal totem,” says Lewandowsky. “I am conservative, therefore I cannot believe in climate change.” But the difference is that Lewandowsky thinks other factors can mitigate this reality—including a consensus message that works, in essence, through peer pressure. After all, who wants to fly in the face of what 97 percent of experts have to say?

“We know from my studies that if you can only tell people about the consensus, that it does make a huge difference to their belief,” Lewandowsky says.

At stake in this debate is much more than the practical question of how we get people to care about what’s happening to the planet. There’s a far deeper issue: Do facts actually work to change minds? Or should we simply resign ourselves to human irrationality, at least on issues where people have a deep emotional stake?

The “smart idiot” effect: Kahan’s research shows that with increasing levels of scientific literacy, liberals (“egalitarian communitarians”) and conservatives (“hierarchical individualists”) become more polarized over global warming. Dan Kahan

Kahan’s research provides an extensive documentation of how wildly biased we can be. After all, it’s not just that liberals and conservatives perceive completely different scientific realities on issues like climate change. It’s that as they grow more educated and scientifically literate, this problem becomes worse, rather than better, as the figure on the left demonstrates.

In response to such findings, many communications researchers have recommended framing strategies—in other words, placing potentially threatening information in a context that makes it more palatable to a particular person. Basically, it’s an acknowledgement of human irrationality and an attempted workaround. Thus, Kahan’s research suggests that you can make conservatives more accepting of climate science by framing it as supporting a free-market solution that they like for ideological reasons, such as nuclear power.

By contrast, what’s so striking about Lewandowsky’s “scientific consensus” message is that it isn’t really framed at all. There’s no sugar-coating present to make it go down easier on the political right. Rather, the message amounts to a blunt assertion of fact—in this case, the documented fact that climate scientists overwhelmingly agree. But in light of the research depicted aboveas well as some research suggesting that political conservatives double down and become stronger in their beliefs when incorrect views are subject to a factual correctionthere were plenty of reasons to fear this kind of approach would fail, at least in the face of strong ideology.

Image from the Consensus Project, a initiative that has taken up Lewandowsky’s climate communications strategy. Skeptical Science


Still, Lewandowsky insists that it isn’t an all or nothing issue—in large part because there are so many different kinds of people out there to reach, not all of whom are dogged conservative ideologues. “I think underscoring the consensus is an arguably successful strategy for most people,” he says. “I also think reframing is a very important thing.”

The implications of this debate extend far beyond the climate issue. On evolution, for instance, the scientific consensus is even stronger than it is on climate change—a fact that evolution defenders have sought to cleverly emphasize by listing scientists named “Steve” who support evolution (so far, they’re at over 1,200 Steves). And again, Lewandowsky suspects that highlighting the overwhelming consensus on evolution is a winning message. “The consensus message is going to fail with some people, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t also be effective overall,” he says.

So what’s the bottom line? Clearly, communications researchers have a lot of work to do to figure out how to reconcile the views of Lewandowsky and Kahan—both of whom, after all, are leading researchers in the field. So we can expect more studies aimed right at this central problem; in fact, they’re probably already in the works.

Meanwhile, both researchers agree that those going out and trying to communicate should test out different scientifically based approaches, trying to see which ones work in the real world. If anything, Kahan and Lewandowsky suggest that so far, those who actually practice communication aren’t relying on the latest science enough—or, in the case of many scientific institutions, aren’t investing enough in communications in the first place.

“It’s a mistake to assume that valid science will communicate itself,” says Kahan.

You can listen to the full interview with Kahan and Lewandowsky here…








Opinion: Taxing tar sands, chasing Goliath. In an essay, former NASA scientist James Hansen says an honest carbon tax and political pressure can undermine the global reach of Big Oil, hasten the transition to clean energy, and keep coal and tar sands deposits where they belong – in the ground. Daily Climate



Major Pension Funds Ask for Climate Change Study

PITTSBURGH October 24, 2013 (AP) By KEVIN BEGOS Associated Press

Some of the largest pension funds in the U.S. and the world are worried that major fossil fuel companies may not be as profitable in the future because of efforts to limit climate change, and they want details on how the firms will manage a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources.

In a statement released Thursday, leaders of 70 funds said they’re asking 45 of the world’s top oil, gas, coal and electric power companies to do detailed assessments of how efforts to control climate change could impact their businesses. “Institutional investors must think over the long term, which means that we must take environmental risks into consideration when we make investments,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told The Associated Press in a statement. The state’s Common Retirement Fund manages almost $161 billion of investments…. “The underlying question here is the billions of dollars that are being invested” in exploration for fossil fuels every year, and whether that’s a prudent investment, said Jack Ehnes, the head of the California’s State Teachers’ Retirement System, which has about $5.4 billion invested in major fossil fuel companies. Ehnes made clear that his fund is not seeking to punish the fossil fuel companies but rather work with them to study the issue and identify long-term options that will be good for shareholders, the environment and the firms. While the pension funds are concerned about climate change, their strategy is more moderate than a student-led movement that is asking schools around the country to divest from fossil fuels. “The scientific trajectory that we’re on is clearly in conflict” with the business strategy of the companies, Ehnes added, referring to the overwhelming consensus among top scientists from around the world that global warming is a man-made threat, that pollution from fossil fuels is the biggest problem and that many of the already-discovered fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground to avoid extreme climate change. The effort is being coordinated by Boston-based Ceres, a coalition of investors and companies that advocate for sustainable business practices, and the Carbon Tracker initiative, an effort to get companies to better explain to investors the value of their fossil fuel reserves…..



Congress turns a blind eye to global warming

By Editorial Board, Washington Post Editorial Published: October 20 2013

THIS WASN’T THE dramatic news that opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were hoping for: Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to consider a variety of challenges to the EPA’s effort to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

But the news wasn’t a total victory for environmentalists. The court announced it would hear one challenge to the agency’s regulations: The Justice Department will have to convince the court that the EPA has the power under the Clean Air Act to put carbon-dioxide limits on so-called stationary sources — power plants, cement mixers and the like — using a powerful permitting program. If the court disagrees, it could rip some teeth out of the agency’s greenhouse gas effort… The overriding problem is that Congress hasn’t faced up to the global-warming threat. Instead of updating clean air rules and building a policy that addresses the unique challenge of greenhouse emissions, it has left the EPA and the courts with a strong but sometimes ambiguous law that applies imperfectly to greenhouse emissions. In the absence of congressional action, the EPA’s approach — interpreting the confusing text of the Clean Air Act in light of its overriding purpose to combat threatening air pollution — is the right one.



The Conundrums of Business Adaptation to Climate Change: Why, and How Much?

IPCC scientist Mark Trexler explains scenario planning for business adaptation to global warming.

Submitted by: Guest Contributors Posted: Oct 21, 2013 – 09:30 AM EST By Dr. Mark C. Trexler
This post in the DōShorts series gives options to businesses for planning for climate change using scenario planning.

The Biggest Unarticulated Issue –In his classic study of business scenario planning, The Art of Strategic Conversation (2005), Kees van der Heijden notes that:

“[M]ost companies . . . have looming somewhere at the edge of their collective consciousness . . . the ‘big unarticulated issue.’ Everybody feels it, it is there, always present, the imminent threat or the un-seized opportunity . . . [S]o vast, so different from Business-As-Usual, that existing management thinking just can’t cope.” The implications of climate change are so large and so contrary to the “business-as-usual” course of society since the Industrial Revolution that climate change is probably the biggest “unarticulated issue” of them all…. Scenario Planning for Adaptation When companies do want to look farther ahead, the problem becomes “adapt to what?” Even pro-active companies are so unsure of what the future holds that they can remain stuck in neutral. That doesn’t have to be the case; corporate adaptation efforts can successfully advance even in the face of uncertainty. Unfortunately, business uncertainties keep many companies from seriously thinking about climate change at all. That’s where scenario planning comes in. As van der Heijden notes: “If properly developed and institutionalized, a set of scenarios can be the institutional ‘memories of the future’ to help organizations perceive their environment. … using multiple storylines to encapsulate learning is powerful.” Pioneered by Shell some 40 years ago, scenario analysis remains widely misunderstood and under-utilized in most business sectors. Scenarios help us escape from pre-conceived (and usually wrong) notions of what we “want to be,” or what we think “will be,” and instead consider what “could be.“…

Climate Risk Scenario 1: Business as Usual – Stay the Course

Climate change progresses as climate models currently anticipate. Average global temperatures rise by 1.5oC by 2050, and average global sea levels by .33 meters. The difficulties of achieving a coordinated international response to climate change prevail; the limited policy measures that are undertaken have little impact on climate trends.

Climate Risk Scenario 2: Accelerated Change – Lagging Policy

Climate change accelerates in line with recently observed trends. Average global temperatures rise by 2.5oC by 2050, and sea levels are .66 meters higher. Climate change “tipping points” including an ice-free Arctic have accelerated the rate of change. A coordinated policy response still fails to materialize, even as adaptation needs grow rapidly.

Climate Risk Scenario 3: 2020 Climate Policy Response

Climate change accelerates as per Scenario 2, but a steadily worsening series of climatic events led by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 causes the politics of climate change to shift. A material climate policy response takes hold in in 2020. Draconian emissions reduction measures are imposed to limit the possibility of runaway climate change by 2100. A carbon price of $75/ton CO2e is imposed in the electric sector, and $150/ton in the transportation sector.

Climate Risk Scenario 4: 2040 Climate Policy Response

Climate change progresses as per Scenario 1, but a global policy response is triggered in 2040 when it becomes obvious that climate change will have catastrophic impacts during the second half of the century. By 2040 GHG emissions have grown substantially from current levels, and significantly more climate change is “in the pipeline.” The policy response is therefore more draconian than in Scenario 3, with a carbon price of $125/ton being imposed in the electric sector, and $250/ton in the transportation sector. Geoengineering options are also fast-tracked.

Corporate Risk from Climate Change

These are just a few of the almost infinite range of potential climate change scenarios, but they seem to effectively book-end corporate risk….We can’t truly know the future when it comes to the rate of climate change, the degree of climate change impacts, or the nature of resulting domestic and international policy. But as long as GHG emissions remain an economic externality, and climate policy does not reflect the true risks of climate change, changing business contexts are inevitable. Integrating consideration of a range of climate change and climate policy scenarios into business strategic and risk management thinking is one way for companies to show stakeholders they’re taking the issue seriously, and to reduce the risk that stakeholders will be left holding the bag of the willful blindness that is so common right now.

About the Author:

Dr. Mark Trexler (@ClimateRoulette) has worked with companies around the world on climate change risk perception and management, from carbon markets to adaptation. He is widely published on these and other issues, and has served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. His latest book Adapting to Climate Change: 2.0 Enterprise Risk Management is part of the DōShorts Sustainable Business Collection published by Dō Sustainability (2013). CSRwire readers can use code CSR15 to save 15% when ordering from the publisher here.



A Fight Over Vineyards Pits Redwoods Against Red Wine

by Alastair Bland October 18, 2013 3:53 PM

Environmental groups are fighting to stop the leveling of 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines. Courtesy Friends of the Gualala River

In the California wine mecca of Sonoma County, climate change is pitting redwood lovers against red wine lovers. This Friday morning, a coalition of environmental groups are in a Santa Rosa, Calif., courtroom fighting to stop a Spanish-owned winery from leveling 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines. Redwoods in the relatively cool coastal region of Northern California and southern Oregon. Parts of this range, such as northwestern Sonoma County, have become increasingly coveted by winemakers. Chris Poehlmann, president of a small organization called , says the wine industry is creeping toward the coast as California’s interior valleys heat up and consumers show preferences for cooler-weather grapes like pinot noir.”Inexorably, the wine industry is looking for new places to plant vineyards,” says Poehlmann, whose group is among the plaintiffs. California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, approved the redwood-clearing project in May 2012….The project planners have even estimated this timber to represent 1.25 million board feet of “merchantable” lumber. Dennis Hall, a higher official with CalFire, says his department’s approval of Artesa’s project in 2012 came only after a lengthy review process found that it would not significantly damage the environment. “We did an [environmental impact report] for the project,” Hall says. “It was an extreme and exhaustive analysis of potential impacts to the environment.” The report deemed most of these potential impacts to be “less-than-significant.”…


Scotland to create ‘buffer zones’ for shale gas and onshore oil extraction. October 20, 2013 BBC Planning rules governing the extraction of shale gas and onshore oil in Scotland will be made tougher, the Scottish government has said….


Implementation Guide for Local Governments to Prepare for Climate Change in British Columbia is Released
[summary courtesy EPA Climate Change and Water News]: Local governments have a lead role to play in ensuring our communities will be resilient and sustainable in light of challenges such as rising sea levels in coastal areas, more extreme weather events, increased risk of flooding and forest fires, and the possibility of seasonal water shortages. “Preparing for Climate Change: An Implementation Guide for Local Governments in British Columbia” is a new resource developed by West Coast Environmental Law that looks at the tools available, and highlights useful experiences and good practices from around the province and elsewhere in Canada. This publication received a 2013 Gold Award for Excellence in Planning from the Planning Institute of British Columbia. It was a project of the British Columbia Regional Adaptation Initiative. To view the report, visit:


Britain looks to fracking as North Sea oil dwindles.

Andrew Testa for The New York Times A worker prepares a site for exploratory drilling in Barton, England. IGas Energy expects to get started before the end of the year.

By STANLEY REED Published: October 18, 2013 Inauspicious as it may look, what happens in the coming months on a bare patch the size of a soccer field at the edge of a peat bog in northwest England could help determine the future of Britain’s, and even Europe’s, approach to shale gas. …


Green investment bank profitable as Abbott axe looms, CEO Yates says

October 19, 2013

Clean Energy Finance Corp., Australia’s green development bank earmarked for closing by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is making a profit and prodding commercial banks to lend, according to its chief executive officer. “We’re operating profitably already, with our contracted investments expected to earn an average return of around 7 percent,” which is above the bank’s capital cost of about 3 percent, Oliver Yates, CEO of the bank founded less than four months ago by the previous government, told delegates at a conference in London. He declined to comment on Abbott’s plan to close CEFC, citing public-service rules.



California finds more instances of offshore fracking.
October 19 2013 AP–The oil production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and man-made islands near some of California’s most populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed.


Will fracking suck California dry?

New technologies have expanded oil production, but they’re adding another thirsty mouth to the state’s tight water market.

Oil pumps in operation near central Los Angeles.(Mark Ralston/Getty Images)

By Patrick Reis October 20 2013 National Journal—
In California, every drop of water counts, and every drop is contested.The state’s fishers and farmers have been at war over water for decades, battling over how to divide the water between river beds and farm fields. And Northern Californians—whose water supplies are more plentiful—live in fear of the desert neighbors to the south marching on the San Francisco Bay Delta with pipelines and straws. And then there are municipalities, which are all jockeying to secure supplies for California’s nearly 40 million residents. But now, they’ll all have a new contender to jostle with: the fracking boom. Oil shale development is taking off in California, thanks in large part to hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, technologies for oil and gas extraction that have opened previously inaccessible fields to development. In order to get at those deposits, however, fracking uses tremendous quantities of water. For oil developers, it’s an issue not to be taken lightly: Californians, hailing from a state known for its green ethos, are already nervous about the impacts of fracking, and if oil companies step on too many toes, it could derail the the energy boom they’re so eagerly anticipating…..California’s struggles reveal a darker aspect of America’s energy boom: Technologies have vastly expanded the country’s energy-development options, but they have not—in many cases—expanded the ability to deal with impacts from that development. They haven’t produced new infrastructure to carry hydrocarbons to market or new pollution-control technologies to reduce the effects on climate change, and above all, they haven’t found a way to maintain or increase water supplies for California.

So how do California’s developers intend to increase production without sucking the state dry? Fracking involves drilling deep below the surface and injecting chemicals and water to release oil and gas deposits trapped in geological formations. In North Dakota, at the heart of the country’s most recent energy boom, fracking wells accounted for 5.5 billion gallons worth of water usage last year, according to state estimates.But developers insist that fracking in California is different from the fracking done farther east. Much of the state’s drilling operations are aimed at accessing shale oil rather than natural gas, and because of the state’s geology less water is needed. Dave Quast, California director for oil and gas development advocate Energy in Depth, says that fracking wells in California on average use a little more than 100,000 gallons of water, compared with other wells to the east that guzzle gallons by the millions. And Hayes noted that there are ways for developers to cut down their water footprint, including programs that recycle some or all of the water used in operations. “But,” Hayes cautioned, “that’s not the customary approach yet where fracking is required.”

For now, the state’s regulators are taking a wait-and-see approach. SB 4, the California’s landmark fracking law signed last month by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, contains little in the way of restrictions on water usage. Instead, the law contains strict disclosure requirements. Under SB 4, drillers must publicly disclose their water usage starting in 2014.

California’s environmental community will be watching when the reports start going online. “One of the big problems is we don’t have a handle on how much water is being used. There’s a big data gap,” said Andrew Grinberg, an Oakland-based oil and gas policy expert for Clean Water Action. But once the information is publicly available, California residents will be better able to gauge how fracking impacts the state’s watersheds, aquifers, and reservoirs—and gauge how effectively their regulators are dealing with it, Grinberg said.

“There’s definitely a big role for the public and nonprofits,” he added. “If we see anything, we need to be prepared to take action.”





Groundwater testing near oil and gas wells: How much data is enough?

National Public Radio Stephanie Joyce October 18, 2013

Credit Geologicresources monitoring

A proposal to test water quality at oil and gas wells before and after drilling is making its way through the rulemaking process. The governor’s office and industry hope it will answer some of the questions surrounding groundwater contamination near oil and gas development, but as Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce reports, the rule may not actually be able to answer the question of who’s responsible, if contamination occurs, and that has some people questioning whether it’s valuable at all….









New device stores electricity on silicon chips
(October 22, 2013) — Solar cells that produce electricity 24/7. Cell phones with built-in power cells that recharge in seconds and work for weeks between charges: These are just two of the possibilities raised by a novel supercapacitor design invented by material scientists. … > full story


Train derailment, explosions force evacuation of Alberta community

CARRIE TAIT CALGARY — The Globe and Mail Published Saturday, Oct. 19 2013, 9:18 AM EDT

Tanker cars on a train carrying propane and oil derailed and caught fire outside of Edmonton on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of a small community.

The derailment caused explosions, through no injuries were reported. Fire and hazmat crews were on the scene, but firefighters have since opted to let the flames burn themselves out.


Heavy air pollution in Canadian area with cancer spikes
(October 22, 2013) — Levels of contaminants higher than in some of the world’s most polluted cities have been found downwind of Canada’s largest oil, gas and tar sands processing zone, in a rural area where men suffer elevated rates of cancers linked to such chemicals. … > full story

Shifting winds in turbine arrays
(October 22, 2013) — Researchers modeling how changes in air flow patterns affect wind turbines’ output power have found that the wind can supply energy from an unexpected direction: below. … > full story

Classification system proposed for green roofs
(October 22, 2013) — A proposed classification system aims to better identify the unique characteristics and benefits of green roofs amid a growing industry. … > full story


Scientists’ New Approach Improves Efficiency of Solar Cells

October 25, 2013 — Scientists have developed a new method to increase the efficiency of solar cells …full story


Eight states vow 3.3M zero-emission vehicles by 2025. October 24 2013 AP The governors of eight states including California and New York pledged Thursday to work together to create charging stations and other fueling infrastructure needed to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on those states’ roadways by 2025 to curb greenhouse gas pollution.


Ever Considered Biking Across the Bay to Work? Check Out this Water Bike

One Bay Area commuter is urging cities around San Francisco to invest in alternative commute methods, such as his water bike.

Posted by Lindsey Hickman (Editor) , October 19, 2013 at 10:18 AM













Making Shade Coffee Work: Challenges In Telling the Bird Friendly Story,

Wednesday, November 6, 10:10-10:45 PT Webinar–Scott Weidensaul and Bill Wilson, Birds and Beans

Bird Education Alliance for Conservation BEAC for our Post Federal Government Shutdown Extravaganza BEAC Call (AKA, the Rescheduled October Webinar/Call).  BEAC calls are open to ALL – new people are welcome to participate any time, so please share this invitation widely! Learn more here: For audio you will need to call in with your phone…..To call in: US/Canada 1-866-600-3050 Mexico: 001-517-466-5793 Passcode: 9124900# To join the web share






The 11th Biennial State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference
Oakland Marriott Hotel, October 29-30, 2013. 

This year’s theme, “20/20 Vision: Past Reflections, Future Directions,” both celebrates the 20th anniversary of SFEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, and focuses our attention on the many challenges ahead.  If you have not already registered, please register now.  The Pre-Registration deadline is October 23rd. Conference Updates ( On-Line registration is available through October 23rd:  An updated program is available on the conference web site:


Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation  Wednesday, November 13 – Friday, November 15, 2013  Registration Deadlines:  November 5, 2013
“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner 

From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world.  We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.




Friday, November 15, 2013 San Jose

Join Bay Area cities, counties, agencies, and environmental organizations for a day of presentations and discussion about trash reduction and prevention.

Agenda Highlights:

*Impacts of Litter on Aquatic Environments

*Tobacco Product Litter

*Engaging the Public in Trash Reduction

*Food and Beverage Packaging

Learn More and Register

Eleventh Annual Workshop: Habitat Conservation Planning from Tahoe to the Bay

November 20, 2013, Ulatis Community Center, Vacaville  Speakers and Presentations

The Conservation Planning Partners is an ad-hoc association of eight County and Sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans.

County and sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans are in preparation or being implemented in a number of counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Region.  These plans provide a means for the conservation of endangered species and contribute to the ir recovery, while allowing appropriate, compatible growth and development in the metropolitan areas.


The Future of the Concrete Channel

Thursday 21 November 2013, UC Berkeley

Ubiquitous in the urban landscape, concrete channels embody a mid-20th-century attitude of subduing nature and maximizing developable land.  Yet these optimistically-engineering structures have proven hard to maintain, and society increasingly regrets the loss of riparian ecosystems and the opportunity for human recreation and renewal once offered by the natural streams.  As concrete channels inevitably age and reach the end of their design lives, river managers confront the question of what to do with this deteriorating infrastructure?  Can the channels be rebuilt or modified to pass floods increasing due to urbanization and climate change?  Or is this an opportunity to implement alternative approaches that restore valuable functions of natural rivers?  These issues are highlighted in the San Francisco Bay Region, where multiple concrete channels suffer from sedimentation problems and one county has adopted a policy to replace them with natural channels where possible, and on the Los Angeles River, where the US Army Corps of Engineers has just released a draft Integrated Feasibility Study for ecosystem restoration of an 11-mile reach.  Scholars, practitioners, and managers will share ideas and experiences from California and elsewhere in the US, and look forward to the challenges and opportunities of rethinking the concrete channel.  The conference will wrap up with an exhibition of Concrete Channel Art. 

Speakers include Carol Armstrong (City of Los Angeles), Mitch Avalon (Contra Costa County Public Works), Josephine Axt (US Army Corps of Engineers – shutdown permitting), Jack Curley (Marin County Public Works), David Fowler (Milwaukee Metro Sewerage District), Jeff Haltiner (ESA-PWA), Ralph Johnson (Alameda County Public Works), Jim Fiedler (Santa Clara Valley Water District), Lewis MacAdams (Friends of Los Angeles River), Scott Nicholson (US Army Corps), Chip Sullivan (UC Berkeley), Phil Williams (ESA-PWA).  Conference organizers Matt Kondolf and Raymond Wong.  This conference is held as part of the centennial celebration of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, UC Berkeley.  For more information and to register, please visit the conference website:


Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience
December 12, 2013

9:30am – 4:30 pm David Brower Center, Kinzie Room 741 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710

Registration: To register, click here. Registration is limited to 41 participants and is expected to fill fast. The deadline to register is December 6, 2013.  

A workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center.  Green Infrastructure incorporates the natural environment and constructed systems that mimic natural processes in an integrated network that benefits nature and people. A green infrastructure approach to community planning helps diverse community members come together to balance environmental and economic goals. This day-long workshop will include a morning introductory course and afternoon panels by local experts. Who Should Attend: City and county officials, Engineers, Floodplain managers, Landscape Architects, NGO’s, Planners, and other Decision Makers involved in Coastal Management Issues 

This workshop is being developed in partnership by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center. In addition, an advisory committee have provided feedback on the training including participants from: San Francisco Estuary PartnershipBay Area Ecosystems Climate Change ConsortiumSan Francisco Bay Conservation and Development CommissionCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Institute. Questions? Contact Heidi Nutters,, 415-338-3511 Feel free to forward this message to others who might be interested. 


Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014  Oakdale, CA  Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez:



Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:


99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013




CA NRCS Announces Assistance for Catastrophic Fire Recovery

DAVIS, Calif., Oct. 18, 2013—The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced that applications will be accepted to assist private landowners in California affected by wildfires in the last 18 months. Financial assistance for implementing conservation practices may be available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for this initiative can be submitted for primary consideration and ranking through Nov. 15, 2013. “I encourage landowners who have private forestlands and rangelands that were damaged by the recent catastrophic fires to visit with their local NRCS field office about how this initiative can provide assistance to protect their natural resources,” said California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. The purpose of the Catastrophic Fire Recovery EQIP Initiative is to provide immediate resource protection in areas burned by catastrophic fires in the past 18 months. Priority concerns include immediate soil erosion protection, minimizing noxious and invasive plant proliferation, protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and bringing back forests and restoring livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management. Priority applications will include practices that are implemented within one year and provide immediate erosion protection, adequate livestock water, and habitat protection. Participants interested in implementing practices beyond the scope of this special and limited initiative are encouraged to apply under the regular EQIP funding opportunities. NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private land owners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935.


Proposal Deadline: 3 December 2013 – Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Grants 2014

The United States Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act established an annual, competitive grants program to support projects that promote the conservation of neotropical migratory birds and their habitats in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Because our Website was not available during the U.S. Federal government shutdown, the deadline for applying to the NMBCA program has been extended, and proposals are now due no later than 3 December 2013. All applications must be submitted through, a process that requires an active “Dun and Bradstreet number” (DUNS) and active registration in the “System for Award Management” (SAM). Start preparing soon if you have never applied through, and start NOW if you do not have a DUNS! Information to help you through this process is available online at






Sierra Nevada Alliance Executive Director Job Announcement

October 14, 2013
The Sierra Nevada Alliance seeks an innovative, resilient, and dynamic executive director to lead the organization at its 20th anniversary and beyond. The executive director will have primary responsibility for pursuing the Alliance’s long-range vision of success in concert with member organizations, partners, volunteers, staff and board.






Yellow-Fever Mosquito, Found In California, Is ‘Very Difficult To Control’

International Business Times Philip Ross October 20 2013 


Aedes aegypti, otherwise known as the yellow fever mosquito, is a dark mosquito with white markings and bands around its legs….


NASA boffins: 622 Mbps broadband FOUND ON MOON


October 24, 2013


NASA has successfully tested a broadband communications system built into its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) probe, firing data to and from the Moon at rates of up to 622Mbps.


Gravitational Wavelengths Could Crack the Black Hole Code

Guardian Express

 – ‎October 20, 2013‎


A paper published in the Science Journal details how a team of researchers is about to crack the mysterious black hole code. The research has been making waves within the science media community, with some claiming that the secret to how they grow has 


Status of US secondary Earth science education
(October 17, 2013) — A landmark report on the status of Earth Science education in US middle and high schools describes in detail significant gaps between identified priorities and lagging practice. The report offers baseline data on indicators of the subject’s status since the release of the Next Generation Science Standards in April 2013. … > full story







Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #50

National Geographic

 – ‎October 24, 2013‎








Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

707-781-2555 x318  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


Conservation Science News October 18, 2013

Focus of the WeekGeoengineering: IPCC and Perspectives









NOTE: Please feel free to pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) staff.  You can find these weekly compilations posted on line by clicking here.  For more information please see


The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
You can sign up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 



Focus of the Week– Geoengineering: IPCC and Perspectives



Latest IPCC Climate Report Puts Geoengineering in the Spotlight

A statement by the U.N.-convened group suggests that tinkering with the atmosphere could be necessary to meet climate goals

By Daniel Cressey and Nature magazine October 2, 2013

Attempts to counter global warming by modifying Earth’s atmosphere have been thrust into the spotlight following last week’s report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Mention of ‘geoengineering’ in the report summary was brief, but it suggests that the controversial area is now firmly on the scientific agenda. Some climate models suggest that geoengineering may even be necessary to keep global temperature rises to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Most geoengineering technologies generally either reflect sunlight — through artificial ‘clouds’ of stratospheric aerosols, for example — or reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The latter approach, described as ‘negative emissions’, involves capturing carbon dioxide with strategies that range from building towers to collect it from the atmosphere to grinding up rocks to react with CO2 and take it out of circulation. Critics say that the technologies are unproven, will have unforeseen impacts and could distract from attempts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. But advocates point to language in the summary for policy-makers produced by the IPCC working group that assessed the scientific evidence for climate change as evidence that reducing emissions will not be enough. The document notes that a “large fraction” of anthropogenic climate change is irreversible except with a “large net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere over a sustained period”. Under some climate models, keeping temperature rise below 2 °C will require negative emissions. The summary reads: “Methods that aim to deliberately alter the climate system to counter climate change, termed geoengineering, have been proposed. Limited evidence precludes a comprehensive quantitative assessment of both Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and their impact on the climate system.” Piers Forster, a climate-change researcher at the University of Leeds, UK, and one of the authors of the summary, says: “The policy relevance of the information is that if you do not start mitigating [ie reducing emissions] tomorrow we will have to start to consider these unattractive options.”…






Why has geoengineering been legitimised by the IPCC?

27 Sep 2013: Jack Stilgoe

… publication of the IPCC’s summary for policymakers tells a familiar and gloomy story of the science of climate change. The big surprise comes in the final paragraph, with a mention of geoengineering. In the scientific world, a final paragraph is often the place to put caveats and suggestions for further research. In the political world, a final paragraph is a coda, a big finish, the place for a triumphant, standing-ovation-inducing summary. The IPCC tries to straddle both worlds. The addition of the word “geoengineering” to the most important report on climate change for six years counts as a big surprise. There are many reasons to be worried about geoengineering. The idea is old. Countless inventions have been proposed as a technological fix to climate change, but scientists have only recently taken it seriously. Their previous reticence was largely due to a concern that talking about easy solutions would wobble the consensus on the need for a cut in emissions that had been painstakingly built over decades. Geoengineering was taboo – too seductive, too dangerous and too uncertain. It is now moving towards the mainstream of climate science. As the number of geoengineering studies published shoots up, it is now acceptable to discuss it in polite scientific company. There is an argument that the taboo has already been broken and that, like sex education, it therefore has to be discussed. Those of us interested in geoengineering were expecting it to appear in one or two of the main reports when they are published in the coming months. To bring it up front is to give it premature legitimacy. The description of geoengineering provided in the summary document is suitably critical. The report points to troubles with both carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere and solar radiation management (SRM) – reflecting a bit of sunlight back into space. In the case of CDR, the sheer scale of the clean-up makes it grotesquely expensive and difficult, and SRM would likely have unintended, unpredictable and disastrous effects on regional weather, among many other troubles (see this pdf for more). But the paragraph still states that: “Modelling indicates that SRM methods, if realizable, have the potential to substantially offset a global temperature rise.” This science is still very young. Climate science historian James Fleming describes such studies as “geo-scientific speculation”. To include mention of geoengineering, and its supporting “evidence” in a statement of scientific consensus, no matter how layered with caveats, is extraordinary. If I were one of the imagined policymakers reading this summary, sitting in a country whose politicians were unwilling to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions (ie any country), I would have reached that paragraph and seen a chink of light just large enough to make me forget all the dark data about how screwed up the planet is. And that scares me.


Why we’d be mad to rule out climate engineering

If climate change continues then all options to lessen its impact, including geoengineering, must be considered as a last resort

Matthew Watson, Tuesday 8 October 2013 10.07 EDT Dr. Matthew Watson is a researcher at the University of Bristol’s school of Earth sciences and blogs

Tests to see whether climate engineering work could see water droplets sprayed into the atmosphere.

The release of the report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last month threw into stark relief the clear message on anthropogenic global warming and sounded the direst of warnings against our continued inaction. For the first time, and to the alarm of some, discussion on geoengineering (or, more correctly, climate engineering) was included in the report. A single paragraph couched climate engineering in cautious terms, in bland language, and stated that deliberate intervention at large scale would be an imperfect solution with potentially serious negative side-effects. Even that level of caveating prompted consternation from some quarters who said, with limited legitimacy, that inclusion of climate engineering in the report somehow normalises it. There often appears to be no role for cautious moderates who see the value in careful, thoughtful and transparent research in this public debate. You are either to be damned for even thinking about climate engineering, and assumed to be in it for money or glory, or you are pandering to the anti-science, anti-technology eco-fascists. Most serious thinkers, however, sit somewhere between the two, broadly positive about careful research without severe climatological or societal impact but instinctively against deployment. Although the point is laboured, a distinction between research and deployment must be part of one’s personal framing….

Mine is simple. We are better off knowing everything we can about all our options, however unpalatable, while being mindful of undermining efforts on greening our energy sector and, more than that, our own lives. Deployment of technologies at global-scale with trans-boundary effects must be a last resort. Personally, I believe the IPCC should have gone further and stated that climate engineering deployment should only be considered under careful and robust global governance, only in time of great need, and only when it is clear that we are a long way down the path to decarbonisation…… Climate engineering research is vital to prevent misinformation and poor decision making. Humility and thoughtfulness among those researching climate engineering must be our leitmotif. Very few serious researchers are strongly in favour of deployment. Most, like me, would see it as tragedy; nothing less than a total abdication of our responsibility of planetary stewardship, were we to actually get to the point where deployment of global climate-altering technology was deemed necessary. The IPCC’s latest report clearly indicates that with every decision we make to value the economy more highly than the environment we make climate engineering more likely.


Has the Time Come to Consider Geoengineering?

Methods to adjust the planetary thermostat might prove necessary, sparking interest from researchers to government agencies

By Umair Irfan Climate Wire July 18 2013

Scientists are taking a hard look at tweaking the planet’s thermostat with geoengineering methods, which were once a taboo avenue for research, as a way to stave off some of the worst-case scenarios for the warming Earth. Earlier this week [July], the National Research Council convened a committee to review approaches that could cool the world, with the goal of creating a scientific foundation that could help resolve political, ethical and legal issues surrounding these controversial techniques. Geoengineering refers to techniques that deliberately change the climate at scale, like dispersing aerosols and sucking greenhouse gases straight out of the air. “We have no findings yet; we have no conclusions yet,” said Marcia McNutt, a former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, who leads the committee. She emphasized that the discussion was an exploration and would not reflect on what makes it into the committee’s final report.

“Geoengineering is not an easy subject to come to grips with,” said Richard Rosen, a climate researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of sponsors for the study. “Some are advocating for field experiments now, while others have called the idea of putting sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere ‘barking mad.’…

Robert Socolow, a professor at Princeton University and co-director of the school’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative, concurred. “The scrimmage line is not deployment; it’s research,” he said.

He explained that geoengineering strategies tend to center on either solar radiation management or carbon dioxide removal. Radiation management encompasses reflecting the sun’s energy into space with clouds and aerosols, while carbon removal includes industrial-scale capture devices, as well as planting trees and cultivating algae…..


Why geoengineering suits Russia’s carbon agenda

24 Sep 2013 The Guardian Opinion Clive Hamilton is the author of Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering (Yale University Press 2013).

News that Russia is calling for geoengineering be considered by the IPCC as a possible response to global warming makes a perverse kind of sense. No government, not even those of Canada and Australia, has been more eager to open up new sources of fossil energy than Russia’s. By offsetting the effects of global warming – by, for example, coating the Earth with a layer of sulphate particles to reduce the amount of sunlight – geoengineering promises to allow the world to have its carbon cake and eat it. The contradictions of geoengineering appear most starkly in the Arctic. Melting summer sea ice has made the Arctic global warming’s canary in the coal-mine, the place that most keeps climate scientists awake at night. Yet the Arctic, a large portion of which is controlled or claimed by Russia, is a new carbon El Dorado, holding up to a quarter of the globe’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. According to one energy industry insider: “Climate change is opening up one of the last frontiers for hydrocarbons on our planet. The Arctic … could be set for rapid change and development as exploration, production and infrastructure will have an inevitable, irreversible impact.”…


The Climate Fixers: Can Geoengineering Solve Climate Change

The New Yorkerby Michael Specter – May 2012

The best solution, nearly all scientists agree, would be the simplest: stop burning fossil fuels, which would reduce the amount of carbon we dump into the atmosphere… For years, even to entertain the possibility of human intervention on such a scale—geoengineering, as the practice is known—has been denounced as hubris. Predicting long-term climatic behavior by using computer models has proved difficult, and the notion of fiddling with the planet’s climate based on the results generated by those models worries even scientists who are fully engaged in the research. “There will be no easy victories, but at some point we are going to have to take the facts seriously,” David Keith, a professor of engineering and public policy at Harvard and one of geoengineering’s most thoughtful supporters, told me. “Nonetheless,” he added, “it is hyperbolic to say this, but no less true: when you start to reflect light away from the planet, you can easily imagine a chain of events that would extinguish life on earth.” There is only one reason to consider deploying a scheme with even a tiny chance of causing such a catastrophe: if the risks of not deploying it were clearly higher. No one is yet prepared to make such a calculation, but researchers are moving in that direction. To offer guidance, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) has developed a series of scenarios on global warming. The cheeriest assessment predicts that by the end of the century the earth’s average temperature will rise between 1.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius. A more pessimistic projection envisages a rise of between 2.4 and 6.4 degrees—far higher than at any time in recorded history. (There are nearly two degrees Fahrenheit in one degree Celsius. A rise of 2.4 to 6.4 degrees Celsius would equal 4.3 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit.) Until recently, climate scientists believed that a six-degree rise, the effects of which would be an undeniable disaster, was unlikely. But new data have changed the minds of many. Late last year, Fatih Birol, the chief economist for the International Energy Agency, said that current levels of consumption “put the world perfectly on track for a six-degree Celsius rise in temperature. . . . Everybody, even schoolchildren, knows this will have catastrophic implications for all of us.” ….

…Curtis Carlson, who, for more than a decade, has been the chairman and chief executive officer of S.R.I. and a leading voice on the future of American innovation. “These geoengineering methods will not be implemented for decades—or ever,” he said. Nonetheless, scientists worry that if methane emissions from the Arctic increase as rapidly as some of the data now suggest, climate intervention isn’t going to be an option. It’s going to be a requirement. “When and where do we have the serious discussion about how to intervene?” Carlson asked. “There are no agreed-upon rules or criteria. There isn’t even a body that could create the rules.” Over the past three years, a series of increasingly urgent reports—from the Royal Society, in the U.K., the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Government Accountability Office, among other places—have practically begged decision-makers to begin planning for a world in which geoengineering might be their only recourse. As one recent study from the Wilson International Center for Scholars concluded, “At the very least, we need to learn what approaches to avoid even if desperate.”

The most environmentally sound approach to geoengineering is the least palatable politically. “If it becomes necessary to ring the planet with sulfates, why would you do that all at once?” Ken Caldeira asked. “If the total amount of climate change that occurs could be neutralized by one Mt. Pinatubo, then doesn’t it make sense to add one per cent this year, two per cent next year, and three per cent the year after that?” he said. “Ramp it up slowly, throughout the century, and that way we can monitor what is happening. If we see something at one per cent that seems dangerous, we can easily dial it back. But who is going to do that when we don’t have a visible crisis? Which politician in which country?” Unfortunately, the least risky approach politically is also the most dangerous: do nothing until the world is faced with a cataclysm and then slip into a frenzied crisis mode. The political implications of any such action would be impossible to overstate. What would happen, for example, if one country decided to embark on such a program without the agreement of other countries? Or if industrialized nations agreed to inject sulfur particles into the stratosphere and accidentally set off a climate emergency that caused drought in China, India, or Africa? “Let’s say the Chinese government decides their monsoon strength, upon which hundreds of millions of people rely for sustenance, is weakening,” Caldeira said. “They have reason to believe that making clouds right near the ocean might help, and they started to do that, and the Indians found out and believed—justifiably or not—that it would make their monsoon worse. What happens then? Where do we go to discuss that? We have no mechanism to settle that dispute.”

Most estimates suggest that it could cost a few billion dollars a year to scatter enough sulfur particles in the atmosphere to change the weather patterns of the planet. At that price, any country, most groups, and even some individuals could afford to do it. The technology is open and available—and that makes it more like the Internet than like a national weapons program. The basic principles are widely published; the intellectual property behind nearly every technique lies in the public domain. If the Maldives wanted to send airplanes into the stratosphere to scatter sulfates, who could stop them? “The odd thing here is that this is a democratizing technology,” Nathan Myhrvold told me. “Rich, powerful countries might have invented much of it, but it will be there for anyone to use. People get themselves all balled up into knots over whether this can be done unilaterally or by one group or one nation. Well, guess what. We decide to do much worse than this every day, and we decide unilaterally. We are polluting the earth unilaterally. Whether it’s life-taking decisions, like wars, or something like a trade embargo, the world is about people taking action, not agreeing to take action. And, frankly, the Maldives could say, ‘*!@#! you all—we want to stay alive.’ Would you blame them? Wouldn’t any reasonable country do the same?”

Terraforming* Earth: Geoengineering megaplan starts now

09 October 2013 by Michael Marshall

THIS is how we will hold off disaster. To help us avoid dangerous climate change, we will need to create the largest industry in history: to suck greenhouse gases out of the air on a giant scale. For the first time, we can sketch out this future industry – known as geoengineering – and identify where it would operate.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now considers geoengineering to be respectable. The reason is simple. Unless our greenhouse gas emissions start falling soon, Earth will probably warm this century by more than 2 °C, at which point things get nasty – because human society might not be able to adapt. But emissions are still rising. The upshot is we urgently need ways to suck CO2 out of the air. This was the subject of the Oxford Conference on Negative Emission Technologies, held last month in the UK….


*(esp. in science fiction) transform (a planet) so as to resemble the earth, esp. so that it can support human life.





Point Blue highlights:

Whale Spotter app to help curb strikes by ships

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- September 30, 2013 Front Page

Whale Spotter app to help curb strikes by ships “We are trying to engage the community in this effort,” said Jahncke, who will be whales so that large ships traveling in and out of the Golden Gate can steer clear of them. The dead whales were all found near shipping lanes entering San Francisco Bay, 


A Scientific Basis for a Ross Sea Marine Protected Area

Grant Ballard, PhD, Point Blue’s Chief Science Officer, recently presented at Cornell Lab of Ornithology on our work to provide the scientific basis for a Ross Sea (Antarctica) marine protected area.  Co-authors include Dennis Jongsomjit, Sam Veloz, PhD, and David Ainley, PhD.  View Grant’s presentation.


Eyes Wide Shut-down
Mary Ellen Hannibal, Huffington Post, Author of “Spine of the Continent” Posted: 10/16/2013 11:11 am

I hated that Kubrick movie but I love the title. It’s pretty apt for what this government paroxysm is doing to science all over the world. Take stalled scientific expeditions to Antarctica, where expensive instruments tuned to the pulses of melting ice caps stand in danger of going unmonitored this year. This doesn’t represent just the waste of hundreds of hours of preparation and analysis. If the instruments aren’t repaired and tended to this year, they are likely to be lost in the snowy depths and rendered useless. Because the research is federally funded, it’s on ice, as it were. In Point Reyes, Calif., researchers from world-renowned Point Blue Conservation Science are caught at an ornithological impasse. Formerly known as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, this organization has been collecting data on songbirds since 1966. That’s 46 years of how many of which species are tweeting when and where, how well they are reproducing and how well they are surviving. In the world of natural science, long data sets are extremely rare. Until relatively recently, even if researchers had the ambition to collect the painstaking records that reveal the life histories of species, they weren’t able to easily collect it. Mobile technology, sophisticated statistical programming, and massive computing power have put Big Data at center stage in biodiversity studies. Point Blue has been at the forefront of this revolution and this year is the second they have deployed sophisticated miniature geolocator tabs to track birds that pass through Point Reyes. “It’s pretty much changed our lives,” says Tom Gardali of Point Blue’s Palomarin Field Station. “Before the geolocators, we didn’t really know where the birds went. Now we do.” Monitoring Swainson’s thrushes, Gardali and his team have discovered that after wintering here they go to western Mexico near Puerta Vallarta (of course they do). “This is incredibly important to conservation,” he explains. “Now we know that this landscape is connected to that landscape.” On the other hand, Golden Crowned sparrows that find Point Reyes to be their idea of a winter vacation go to Alaska to breed. “The amazing thing is that they spread out rather drastically,” Gardali says, the wonder of it all evident in his voice. “They break up and go to different spots along a 1300-km stretch of Alaskan coast. That ties our little West Marin place here with a vast geography.” Most of the shore line of North America is connected through these birds, conjoined at the special locus of Point Reyes….



Nutrient pollution threatens national park ecosystems, study says

Sequoia National Park is among dozens of parks nationwide where scientists found nitrogen deposition at or above a critical threshold for ecological damage. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times / July 12, 2005)

By Tony Barboza LA Times October 14, 2013, 4:39 p.m.

National parks from the Sierra Nevada to the Great Smoky Mountains are increasingly being fertilized by unwanted nutrients drifting through the air from agricultural operations, putting some of the country’s most treasured natural landscapes at risk of ecological damage, a new study has found. Thirty-eight of 45 national parks examined by scientists are receiving doses of nitrogen at or above a critical threshold that can harm sensitive ecosystems, such as lichens, hardwood forests or tallgrass prairie, scientists found. “Changes to lichen communities may signal the beginning of other ecosystem changes that can eventually alter the function and structure of the community as a whole,” the study says. Scientists looked at nitrogen oxides and ammonia that are released by vehicles, power plants and farms and carried on air currents into national parks, including those in some of the most remote areas of the West. Nitrogen deposition is worst in parks close to concentrated industry, agriculture or cars, the study found. Researchers pointed to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Sequoia National Park as among the most threatened. Although plants need nitrogen to grow, too much of it is harmful because it can disrupt the cycling of nutrients in the soil, lower the pH of water, promote algae blooms and give a competitive advantage to nutrient-loving exotic species. Air pollution regulations have been steadily reducing nitrogen oxides from fuel combustion, the study said. But emissions of ammonia, another nitrogen-based gas that comes from fertilizers and livestock, are not going down. “If anything, they’re going up,” said Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Harvard University and an author of the study, published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics….


Unregulated, agricultural ammonia threatens U.S. national parks’ ecology
(October 10, 2013) — Thirty-eight U.S. national parks are experiencing “accidental fertilization” at or above a critical threshold for ecological damage, according to a new study. Unless significant controls on ammonia emissions are introduced at a national level, they say, little improvement is likely between now and 2050. The environmental scientists, experts in air quality, atmospheric chemistry, and ecology, have been studying the fate of nitrogen-based compounds that are blown into natural areas from power plants, automobile exhaust, and — increasingly — industrial agriculture. Nitrogen that finds its way into natural ecosystems can disrupt the cycling of nutrients in soil, promote algal overgrowth and lower the pH of water in aquatic environments, and ultimately decrease the number of species that can survive.

“The vast majority, 85 percent, of nitrogen deposition originates with human activities,” explains principal investigator Daniel J. Jacob, Vasco McCoy Family Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “It is fully within our power as a nation to reduce our impact.” … > full story


Herbicide runoff reduced by 90 per cent in Great Barrier Reef sugarcane crops

October 15, 2013 CSIRO AUSTRALIA An innovative new approach to sugarcane plantation weed management trialled in select Great Barrier Reef (GBR) catchments have shown a dramatic 90 per cent reduction in runoff of highly soluble herbicides into waterways. In the lower Burdekin region of northern Australia, scientists from CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship trialled a new technique for applying herbicides to raised beds of furrow irrigated sugar cane by using a specially adapted shielded sprayer. The technique minimises the likelihood of PSII herbicides such as diuron, atrazine, ametryn and hexazinone coming into contact with irrigation water.  “The conventional application of herbicides in furrow-irrigated sugarcane production is to broadcast spray across the whole field using boom sprayers, which applies herbicides to both beds and furrows. Irrigation water then carries the herbicides with the tail water into the drainage channels, into nearby creeks and rivers and potentially into the GBR lagoon”, said CSIRO research leader, Dr Rai Kookana. CSIRO scientist Ms Danni Oliver said “The geography of the region means that almost the entire flow from the Burdekin River Irrigation Area in the dry season (from July to January) is made up exclusively of irrigation water from sugarcane and other cropping.” According to Jon Brodie of James Cook University, “the amount of some herbicides in creek and estuarine waters during this period regularly exceeds Australian water quality guidelines and could potentially affect, for example, coastal seagrass.” Many of the herbicides used in the region are PSII herbicides that are known to negatively impact reef ecosystems. These waters discharge into the internationally recognised Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and subsequently into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Improved farming techniques such as the shielded sprayer help keep herbicides on-farm have potential to have a significant and positive impact on water quality in the GBR.  “The trials show that while there will certainly be some herbicide loss following the first irrigation or rainfall event, the marked decreases in losses documented in this study – a reduction of to 90 per cent – could lead to significant improvements in off-site water quality, particularly during the dry season”, said Ms Oliver….


Oliver DP, Anderson JS, Davis A, Lewis S, Brodie J, Kookana R. 2013. Banded applications are highly effective in minimising herbicide migration from furrow-irrigated sugar cane. Science of the Total Environment 466-467 (2014) 841-848.


Flower research shows gardens can be a feast for the eyes – and the bees
(October 16, 2013)
Are our favorite garden flowers attractive to hungry visitors such as bees and butterflies to feed on? …
Researchers at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex have completed one of the first scientific studies to put the business of recommending pollinator-friendly garden flowers on a firmer scientific footing. The study’s findings are published today (17 October 2013) in the journal Functional Ecology. Gardens are more important than ever as a source of food for a wide variety of insects who feed on the nectar and pollen found in many flowers: pollinators such as bees and butterflies are in decline globally, with one of the main causes being the loss of flowers, especially in the countryside. As popular support for wildlife continues to grow, gardeners are increasingly looking for ways to help bees and other insects by providing attractive flowers in their gardens for insects to feed on. To do this, they often rely on “pollinator-friendly” plant lists. But these lists are generally based on opinion and experience rather than scientific research.  full story



Birds on repeat: Do birdwatchers playbacks hurt fowl?
(October 16, 2013) — Using the emphatic sounds of two bird species in Ecuador, a researcher has — for the first time in peer-reviewed research — examined the effects of birdwatchers’ “playbacks” in the wild. He shows that playbacks do have potentially negative consequences, especially in terms of birds’ energies. Birdwatchers often seek out rare and beautiful birds like the wren and antpitta using “playbacks” — or recordings of bird songs — to draw such them out from their hideaways. But does such babbling-on-repeat harm the birds?Using the emphatic sounds of both bird species, a Princeton University researcher has — for the first time in peer-reviewed research — examined the effects of birdwatchers’ “playbacks” in the wild. In PLOS One, he shows that playbacks do have potentially negative consequences, especially in terms of birds’ energies. “Playbacks would be harmful if a species becomes stressed, expends energy, or takes time away from other activities to respond to these recordings,” said J. Berton C. Harris, a postdoctoral fellow studying under Professor David Wilcove from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs’ Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. … > full story


J. Berton C. Harris, David G. Haskell. Simulated Birdwatchers’ Playback Affects the Behavior of Two Tropical Birds. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (10): e77902 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077902


Cuckoos impersonate hawks by matching their ‘outfits’
(October 16, 2013) — An evolutionary trick allows cuckoos to ‘mimic’ the plumage of birds of prey, and may be used to scare mothers from their nests — allowing cuckoos to lay eggs. Parasitism in cuckoos may be more much more widespread than previously thought. … > full story


Drones open way to new world of coral research
(October 16, 2013) — Camera-equipped flying robots promise new insights into climate change effects on important ecosystems. … > full story


Just ask the animals: Fishers with GPS sensors show animal movements
(October 16, 2013) — Many animals are adapting to human encroachment of their natural habitats. Carnivores in particular require territories of sufficient size and so are often forced to move between numerous small habitat patches. To date, scientists often use mathematical models to predict these important routes, but fishers fitted with GPS sensors are now showing that their calculations may be missing the mark if they ignore animal behavior. … > full story


Special Issue on Science and Policy in California’s Bay-Delta Vol 11 Iss 3  | Oct 2013

Essays on Science and Policy in the Bay-Delta
Samuel N. Luoma
Six Lessons Learned in Applying Science in Coastal Ecosystem Restoration
Donald F. Boesch
Using Science to Restore California’s Bay-Delta
Judith A. Layzer
Mutual Benefits: Linking Science and Policy in the Delta
Judy L. Meyer
We Can Do Better: Longin Smelt and a Case Study in Collaborative Science
Mark Cowin and Charlton H. Bonham
Its Time for Bold New Approaches to Link Science and Policymaking
James Cloern and Ellen Hanak
Leading Change: The Collaborative Science and Adaptive Management Program
Valerie Connor
Adaptive Management and Science for the Delta Ecosystem
Jay Lund and Peter B. Moyle
The Econocene and the Delta
Richard B. Norgaard
The Future of Suisun Marsh as Mitigation Habitiat
Peter B. Moyle, Amber D. Manfree, and Peggy L. Fiedler
Successes, Failures and Suggested Future Directions for Ecosystem Restoration of the Middle Sacramento River, California
Gregory H. Golet, et al. including Tom Gardali/Point Blue as co-author

Eastward Migration or Marshward Dispersal: Exercising Survey Data to Elicit an Understanding of Seasonal Movement of Delta Smelt
Dennis D. Murphy and Scott A. Hamilton


How is Climate Change Jeopardizing the Sounds of Nature?

By Kristen Rodman, Staff Writer October 15, 2013; 12:29 PM

Climate change has brought once lively and loud habitats to utter silence as their inhabitants of birds, frogs and insects have either vanished or drastically changed their migration patterns. A relatively new study known as biophony, or the signature of collective sounds that occur in any given habitat at any given time, has provided scientific evidence to show that the sounds of nature have been altered by both global warming and human endeavors. “Biophony is changing,” bioacoustician and founding father of the research, Bernie Krause, said. “What was present 20 years ago or so has changed so radically that you wouldn’t recognize the habitat from its voice of 20 years ago.” Krause has recorded soundscapes for 45 years in a variety of locations both in the U.S. and internationally. During a TED talk in Edinburg, Scotland, Krause stated that of these soundscapes, “50 percent of his archive comes from habitats so radically altered that they are altogether silent or can no longer be heard in their original form.” While soundscape research has not been fully developed, hypotheses for the causes of these changes have been formed. “My hunch from my work is that it has a lot to do with global warming,” Krause said. “Springtime is occurring almost two weeks earlier than it was even 20 years ago.” The early onset of spring has brought migratory species to their migration and breeding grounds much earlier than years before, according to research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. “The breeding and migration cycles are out of sync with what’s occurring in the natural habitats,” Krause said…..



How tiny organisms make a big impact on clean water
(October 15, 2013) — Nearly every body of water contains microscopic organisms that live attached to rocks, plants, and animals. These sessile suspension feeders are critical to aquatic ecosystems and play an important role in cleaning up environmental contaminants by consuming bacteria. A study reveals that by changing the angle of their bodies relative to the surfaces, these feeders overcome the physical constraints presented by underwater surfaces, maximize their access to fresh, nutrient-rich water, and filter the surrounding water. … > full story



Those Hazardous Flying Birds

By ERIC UHLFELDER NY Times Opinion Published: October 17, 2013

WHEN a US Airways jet leaving Reagan National for New York struck birds as it took off, it had to return to Washington. A JetBlue flight departing from Westchester County Airport was rerouted after colliding with birds. Ditto for another JetBlue flight leaving Kennedy Airport. Planes hit birds all the time… The Federal Aviation Administration says more than 9,000 birds are struck annually, a figure that’s increasing every year, with the total probably twice as large when unreported hits are included. Over the past 23 years, bird strikes have forced an average of one plane a day to land prematurely, according to the F.A.A. ….While we should always practice smart land-use and wildlife management, even the former national coordinator of the Agriculture Department’s Airport Wildlife Hazards Program, Richard Dolbeer, recently concluded, “management actions at and in the immediate vicinity of airports do little to mitigate the risk of off-airport strikes during departure and approach.” He said new technologies like avian radar should be more vigorously pursued.…. In Israel, the issue is a particularly urgent matter because the country sits in the middle of major intercontinental avian migratory routes that twice a year bring 500 million birds passing overhead. Avian radar combined with the study of migratory and weather patterns has helped reduce Israeli Air Force bird strikes by 76 percent over the past 30 years. Prof. Yossi Leshem, a senior researcher in Tel Aviv University’s zoological department, who spearheaded the effort to mitigate strikes, says avian radar can track very small birds 12 miles away and larger birds like geese 60 miles out. Once significant risk is determined, air traffic controllers could then temporarily delay takeoffs or redirect planes under 3,500 feet — the space in which virtually all bird strikes happen. …


Where Science Is Going

By JIM AL-KHALILI NY Times Published: October 14, 2013

PORTSMOUTH, England — By the final decade of the 19th century, many of the world’s leading physicists were brimming with self-congratulatory confidence, convinced that scientific knowledge was truly nearing completion, that the workings of nature had been revealed in all their glory. The laws of mechanics, thermodynamics and electromagnetism could explain all phenomena in the physical world, and it was just a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. But within the space of a decade, between 1895 and 1905, along came the discovery of X-rays, radioactivity, quantum theory and Einsteinian relativity, and physics was turned on its head….


Printable Biotechnology

Oct. 14, 2013 — Cells, biological circuits, and individual biomolecules organize themselves and interact with the environment. Use of these capabilities in flexible and economically efficient biotechnological production systems is in the focus of the “Molecular Interaction Engineering” (MIE) project. It is the objective to develop printed biological circuits and catalysts for biologico-technical hybrid systems. MIE will be funded with about EUR 3.5 million by the BMBF. The capabilities of biological systems are based on specific interactions of molecular components. Due to their molecular fitting accuracy, for instance, enzymes allow for certain chemical reactions only. Some proteins bind via specific molecular interfaces to the DNA or other proteins and control processes in complex organisms. Sensors respond to defined molecular signals from the environment. The MIE project focuses on interactions of molecules, technical interfaces, and surrounding solvents. “Transfer of complex biological mechanisms to printable systems may result in innovative biotechnologies that might be the basis of a number of industrial applications,” Professor Jürgen Hubbuch, project coordinator at KIT, explains. However, conventional, continuous evolution of biological molecules reaches its limits. The key to innovative developments is the specific, adjusted construction of the interaction of complex biomolecules and fusion of these units with technical interfaces. This requires close cooperation of biology, engineering, chemistry, and physics…..


5 Simple Tips for Communicating Science

Posted by Guest Blogger in Ocean Views on October 11, 2013 By Maddalena Bearzi, PhD

Many scientists have a bad tendency: they often speak in a way that is incomprehensible to the general public. I know what I am talking about because I am one of them. In our defense, traditional scientific training doesn’t typically prepare us to be effective communicators outside academic circles. Scientific peer-reviewed papers are frequently written in language that would require a translator to be grasped by a non-specialist and, even in everyday conversations, we can easily slip into speaking in technical terms as soon as the conversation turns anywhere toward our respective field of expertise. We often sound boring…..1. Be Simple and Straightforward…2. Don’t Be Condescending… or Pedantic….3. Tell Compelling Stories… 4. (When and if you can)
Use Illustrations….5. Be Apolitical….






Without plants, Earth would cook under billions of tons of additional carbon
(October 16, 2013)Enhanced growth of Earth’s leafy greens during the 20th century has significantly slowed the planet’s transition to being red-hot, according to the first study to specify the extent to which plants have prevented climate change since pre-industrial times. Researchers based at Princeton University found that land ecosystems have kept the planet cooler by absorbing billions of tons of carbon, especially during the past 60 years. Researchers found that Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems have absorbed 186 billion to 192 billion tons of carbon since the mid-20th century, which has significantly contained the global temperature and levels of carbon in the atmosphere. …Those “carbon savings” amount to a current average global temperature that is cooler by one-third of a degree Celsius (or a half-degree Fahrenheit), which would have been a sizeable jump, the researchers report. The planet has warmed by only 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since the early 1900s, and the point at which scientists calculate the global temperature would be dangerously high is a mere 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) more than pre-industrial levels. The study is the most comprehensive look at the historical role of terrestrial ecosystems in controlling atmospheric carbon, explained first author Elena Shevliakova, a senior climate modeler in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Previous research has focused on how plants might offset carbon in the future, but overlooked the importance of increased vegetation uptake in the past, she said. “People always say we know carbon sinks are important for the climate,” Shevliakova said. “We actually for the first time have a number and we can say what that sink means for us now in terms of carbon savings.” “Changes in carbon dioxide emissions from land-use activities need to be carefully considered. Until recently, most studies would just take fossil-fuel emissions and land-use emissions from simple models, plug them in and not consider how managed lands such as recovering forests take up carbon,” she said. “It’s not just climate — it’s people. On land, people are major drivers of changes in land carbon. They’re not just taking carbon out of the land, they’re actually changing the land’s capacity to take up carbon.”

… “I think this does have implications for policies that try to value the carbon saved when you restore or preserve a forest,” Saleska said. “This modeling approach could be used to state the complete ‘climate impact’ of preserving large forested areas, whereas most current approaches just account for the ‘carbon impact.’ Work like this could help forest-preservation programs more accurately consider the climate impacts of policy measures related to forest preservation.” Although the researchers saw a strong historical influence of carbon fertilization in carbon absorption, that exchange does have its limits, Saleska said. If carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue rising, more vegetation would be needed to maintain the size of the carbon sink Shevliakova and her colleagues reported. “There is surely some limit to how long increasing carbon dioxide can continue to promote plant growth that absorbs carbon dioxide,” Saleska said. “Carbon dioxide is food for plants, and putting more food out there stimulates them to ‘eat’ more. However, just like humans, eventually they get full and putting more food out doesn’t stimulate more eating.”….> full story


E. Shevliakova, R. J. Stouffer, S. Malyshev, J. P. Krasting, G. C. Hurtt, S. W. Pacala. Historical warming reduced due to enhanced land carbon uptake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; 110 (42): 16730 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1314047110



Wildebeests herd, Serengeti. Scientists found that a decline in wildebeest populations in the Serengeti-Mara grassland-savanna system decades ago allowed organic matter to accumulate, which eventually led to about 80 percent of the ecosystem to burn annually, releasing carbon from the plants and the soil, before populations recovered in recent years. (Credit: © photocreo / Fotolia)

Carbon cycle models underestimate indirect role of animals
(October 16, 2013)
Animal populations can have a far more significant impact on carbon storage and exchange in regional ecosystems than is typically r
ecognized by global carbon models, according to a new paper authored by researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). In fact, in some regions the magnitude of carbon uptake or release due to the effects of specific animal species or groups of animals — such as the pine beetles devouring forests in western North America — can rival the impact of fossil fuel emissions for the same region, according to the paper published in the journal Ecosystems. While models typically take into account how plants and microbes affect the carbon cycle, they often underestimate how much animals can indirectly alter the absorption, release, or transport of carbon within an ecosystem, says Oswald Schmitz, the Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology at F&ES and lead author of the paper. Historically, the role of animals has been largely underplayed since animal species are not distributed globally and because the total biomass of animals is vastly lower than the plants that they rely upon, and therefore contribute little carbon in the way of respiration. “What these sorts of analyses have not paid attention to is what we call the indirect multiplier effects,” Schmitz says. “And these indirect effects can be quite huge — and disproportionate to the biomass of the species that are instigating the change.” In the paper, “Animating the Carbon Cycle,” a team of 15 authors from 12 universities, research organizations and government agencies cites numerous cases where animals have triggered profound impacts on the carbon cycle at local and regional levels. … > full story

Oswald J. Schmitz, Peter A. Raymond, James A. Estes, Werner A. Kurz, Gordon W. Holtgrieve, Mark E. Ritchie, Daniel E. Schindler, Amanda C. Spivak, Rod W. Wilson, Mark A. Bradford, Villy Christensen, Linda Deegan, Victor Smetacek, Michael J. Vanni, Christopher C. Wilmers. Animating the Carbon Cycle. Ecosystems, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s10021-013-9715-7




Global warming will increase intensity of El Nino, scientists say

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

How the impact of El Nino is felt on sea height across the world

Scientists say they are more certain than ever about the impact of global warming on a critical weather pattern. The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) occurs in the Pacific Ocean but plays an important part in the world’s climate system. Researchers have until now been unsure as to how rising temperatures would affect ENSO in the future. But this new study suggests that droughts and floods driven by ENSO will be more intense.This study finds that both wet and dry anomalies will be greater in future El Nino years”
Dr Wenju Cai CSIRO ….
The ENSO phenomenon plays a complicated role in the global weather system. The El Nino part of the equation sees a warming of the eastern and tropical Pacific, while its cooler sister, La Nina, makes things chillier in these same regions. Like water in a bathtub, the warmer or cooler waters slosh back and forth across the Pacific Ocean. They are responsible for rainfall patterns across Australia and the equatorial region, but their effects are also felt much further away. During the Northern Hemisphere winter, for example, you can get more intense rainfall over the southern part of the US in a warmer El Nino phase. For years, scientists have been concerned about how this sensitive weather system might be changed by rising temperatures from global warming…..



World ocean systems undermined by climate change by 2100
(October 15, 2013)
An ambitious new study describes the full chain of events by which ocean biogeochemical changes triggered by humanmade greenhouse gas emissions may cascade through marine habitats and organisms, penetrating to the deep ocean and eventually influencing humans. Factoring in predictable synergistic changes such as the depletion of dissolved oxygen in seawater and a decline in productivity of ocean ecosystems, no corner of the world ocean will be untouched by climate change by 2100.
Previous analyses have focused mainly on ocean warming and acidification, considerably underestimating the biological and social consequences of climate change. Factoring in predictable synergistic changes such as the depletion of dissolved oxygen in seawater and a decline in productivity of ocean ecosystems, the new study shows that no corner of the world ocean will be untouched by climate change by 2100. “When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UH Mānoa). “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive — everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.” The human ramifications of these changes are likely to be massive and disruptive. Food chains, fishing, and tourism could all be impacted. The study shows that some 470 to 870 million of the world’s poorest people rely on the ocean for food, jobs, and revenues, and live in countries where ocean goods and services could be compromised by multiple ocean biogeochemical changes… Of the many marine habitats analyzed in the study, researchers found that coral reefs, seagrass beds, and shallow soft-bottom benthic habitats would experience the largest absolute changes in ocean biogeochemistry, while deep-sea habitats would experience the smallest changes.The impacts of climate change will be felt from the ocean surface to the seafloor. It is truly scary to consider how vast these impacts will be,” said co-author Andrew K. Sweetman, who helped to convene the original team of investigators and now leads the deep-sea ecosystem research group at the International Research Institute of Stavanger, Norway. “This is one legacy that we as humans should not be allowed to ignore.”full story


Mora C, Wei C-L, Rollo A, Amaro T, Baco AR, et al. ) Biotic and Human Vulnerability to Projected Changes in Ocean Biogeochemistry over the 21st Century.. PLoS Biol, 2013 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001682



Assessing the effect of climate change on upwelling ecosystems is essential to be able to predict the future of marine resources. (Credit: © Lichtspiel-IRD)

Ocean: Assessing the effect of climate change on upwelling ecosystems
Oct. 14, 2013 — Assessing the effect of climate change on upwelling ecosystems is essential to be able to predict the future of marine resources. The zones concerned by this upwelling of cold deep water, which is very rich in nutrients, provide up to 20 % of g
lobal production of fish. Since the 1990s, the theory adopted by the majority of the scientific community affirmed that these phenomena were intensifying. The rising temperatures of the air masses above the continents were expected to quicken the trade winds, which would in turn increase the upwellings, thereby cooling the surface water. But this theory has been contradicted by the recent work of researchers from the IRD and its partners. In their new study, led off the coast of North and West Africa, the scientists reviewed the wind measurements taken over the past 40 years and the data of the meteorological models along the Spanish and West African coastline, and discovered that they do not show an acceleration of the wind on a regional scale that would be likely to significantly cool the coastal waters. In fact, quite the opposite is true, since the satellite images and in situ measurements of the surface water temperature show a distinct upward trend in the temperature for the entire zone, at a rate of 1°C per century. These new findings contradict the hypothesis that the upwelling of the Canary Current is intensifyingfull story

E.D. Barton, D.B. Field, C. Roy. Canary current upwelling: More or less?
Progress in Oceanography, 2013; 116: 167 DOI: 10.1016/j.pocean.2013.07.007



Climate change moves Nemo current to south

EXCLUSIVE Simon Benson National Political Editor
The Daily Telegraph
October 15, 2013 6:25PM

THE ocean current off the coast of Australia made famous in Finding Nemo has moved 350km south and is accelerating toward the pole, a draft international climate change report has found.
And with it so too are moving some species of shark and large fish such as Tuna, it has warned. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s second and yet to be released report into the impact of climate change has claimed average climate zones in Australia have already shifted 200km southward along the north east coast. Australia and warming the Tasman Sea in northern New Zealand,” it claimed. “The rate of warming is even faster in south eastern Australia with a poleward advance of the East Australia current of 350km over the past 60 years.” The East Australia current is the largest and most powerful current acting on marine life and climate along the coast from the barrier Reef and along the NSW coastline. “Based on elevated rates of ocean warming south west and south east Australia are recognised as global warming hot spots.” The report of the IPCC’s Working Group II, due to be released next March in Yokohama, Japan, claims that the oceans off the south east of Australia, which would include NSW are warming faster than anywhere else – and could rise 10 per cent above the average expected for the rest of the world. It claimed that it was already having an impact on the distribution of coastal fish, and growth rates of some fish species. “Observed impacts on marine species have been reported from a range of trophic levels,” the report said. It cited changed growth rates of abalone, rock lobster, coastal fish with plankton levels and the life cycles of some species of sea birds also affected…..



Blizzard Catastrophe Kills Tens of Thousands of Cows; Shutdown Leaves Ranchers on Ice

—By Tim McDonnell Thu Oct. 10, 2013 1:06 PM PDT

A cow lies frozen to death following last weekend’s “historic” blizzard in South Dakota. KEVN News via YouTube

Last Wednesday, the weather was sunny and warm at Bob Fortune’s cattle ranch in Belvidere, S.D. On Thursday, it started raining. By Friday night, the rain had turned to snow. By the weekend, the snow turned to a blizzard with 60 mile an hour winds. By the weekend, Fortune says, “the cattle just couldn’t stand the cold anymore, and they just started dying.” Only a year after sweeping drought left ranchers across South Dakota desperate for feed, this week they’re just beginning to reckon with a freak early snowstorm, dubbed Winter Storm Atlas, that wiped out an estimated 10 percent of the cattle in the state’s western region, up to 100,000 animals. In the coming weeks they will dig through the mess to try to tally the damage to an industry worth $5.2 billion statewide, that also killed an unknown number of horses, sheep, and wildlife. Fortune, president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, says losses like this would be enough to cripple many ranchers even in the best of times, especially with the loss of future calves next spring whose would-be mothers were killed. But with the federal Department of Agriculture still shut down, ranchers are cut off from the livestock insurance that would normally keep them afloat following a disaster like this. “We have no idea if there’ll be federal aid for these ranchers,” Fortune says. After catastrophes, livestock producers typically turn to the federal Farm Service Agency’s livestock indemnity program, which offers compensation for lost cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, and other livestock. As long as the government stays shut, FSA offices nationwide will be shut too, leaving ranchers without support. …. The weekend blizzard, which dumped up to five feet of snow in some places, was “very historic,” according to meteorologist Darren Clabo at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology’s Institute of Atmospheric Sciences. Rapid City, the largest city in the state’s western half, received the most snowfall ever recorded in October, and the third-highest one-day snowfall for any time of year. While South Dakota residents and ranchers are accustomed to brutal winters, Clabo said, “we don’t get these kinds of storms in the first week of October.” That means that cattle were still covered in thin summer coats, and left out in exposed summer pastures.




Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists

Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune Mark Keech, right, a research biologist, and Tiffany Wolf, a veterinarian, fitted a moose with a radio collar and took samples as part of a Minnesota study of why the animals die. By JIM ROBBINS NY TIMES March 15, 2013 CHOTEAU, Mont. — Across North America — in places as far-flung as Montana and British Columbia, New Hampshire and Minnesota — moose populations are in steep decline. And no one is sure why. Twenty years ago, Minnesota had two geographically separate moose populations. One of them has virtually disappeared since the 1990s, declining to fewer than 100 from 4,000. The other population, in northeastern Minnesota, is dropping 25 percent a year and is now fewer than 3,000, down from 8,000. (The moose mortality rate used to be 8 percent to 12 percent a year.) As a result, wildlife officials have suspended all moose hunting. Here in Montana, moose hunting permits fell to 362 last year, from 769 in 1995. “Something’s changed,” said Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks who is counting moose in this part of the state — one of numerous efforts across the continent to measure and explain the decline. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them.” What exactly has changed remains a mystery. Several factors are clearly at work. But a common thread in most hypotheses is climate change.




Cloudy with a chance of… climate change: Discovery that agricultural practices help form clouds could change the way we calculate global warming

By Ian Johnston Independent UK Sunday October 13 2013

A team of scientists led by a British academic has solved a long-standing enigma to explain how up to half the clouds in the sky are formed. And in finally cracking the problem of how planet-cooling clouds are conjured from what might seem to be thin air, the researchers found that humans play a significant role. It is a discovery that could fundamentally change our understanding of climate change, and may even mean experts have underestimated just how warm the planet will get over the next century. The mystery was that many clouds appeared in the sky even though there were no “seeds” – often just specks of dust – that must be present for water droplets to form in the air. But, writing in the journal Nature last week, researchers from the Cern laboratory in Switzerland described for the first time how a chemical soup of gas vapours can react to form the necessary tiny particles…..”This is the first time that atmospheric particle formation has been reproduced with complete knowledge of the participating molecules,” said Professor Jasper Kirkby, leader of the research team. “This is an important step forward, but we still have a long way to go before we fully understand the processes of aerosol formation and their effects on clouds and climate.” The research showed that gases called amines – produced in large quantities as a result of farming cattle and other animals – can help form the seed particles when combined with sulphuric acid in the air. …The lack of knowledge about aerosols – particles suspended in the atmosphere – and their effect on clouds is widely recognised as the major source of uncertainty in predictions about global warming. “We have to understand how clouds have been changed by human activity or natural activity if we are to understand climate change in the 20th century and therefore have reliable projections in the 21st century,” Professor Kirkby said….



Nature CLOUD Study Author: ‘The Climate May Be More Sensitive Than Previously Thought’

By Joe Romm on October 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

New research from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland suggests that the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide may be higher than expected.

CERN is the world’s leading particle physics laboratory. In 2011, we reported on their Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD) experiment, which used a special cloud chamber to examine whether their was a link between galactic cosmic rays and cloud formation. This and other research show “cosmic rays play a minor role in cloud formation, and have not contributed in any significant way to the global warming over the past 50 years.”

The CERN news release explains that the new research looked into how “aerosols – tiny solid or liquid particles suspended in the air” form, which matters because “aerosols cause a cooling effect by reflecting sunlight and by seeding cloud droplets.” The two key findings:

  • “minute concentrations of amine vapours combine with sulphuric acid to form aerosol particles at rates similar to those observed in the atmosphere.”
  • “ionising radiation such as the cosmic radiation that bombards the atmosphere from space has negligible influence on the formation rates of these particular aerosols.”

Amines are atmospheric vapors that are closely related to ammonia and emitted by natural sources and human activities such as farming cattle and other animals (aka animal husbandry). They are “responsible for odours emanating from the decomposition of organic matter that contains proteins.” The release notes: The measured sensitivity of aerosol formation to amines came as a surprise, and points to a potentially significant climate cooling mechanism.

Why does this matter? The UK Independent talked to research team leader Jasper Kirkby: The global average temperature on land and sea rose by 0.85C from 1880 to 2012, the IPCC said in a major report last month. The fact that amines are produced by animal husbandry means that humans are responsible for a previously unknown cooling effect on the planet. So the overall man-made “forcing” of the climate -– once greenhouse gases are taken into account -– may actually be less than thought. And that could be bad news because, Professor Kirkby said, it suggested “the climate may be more sensitive than previously thought”. “If there’s been more cooling from aerosols than thought at the moment then this temperature rise will have resulted from a smaller forcing – or change – than previously thought,” he said. “That would mean the projected temperatures this century for a doubling of carbon dioxide may be bigger than current estimates.”

Notwithstanding some research that has suggested climate sensitivity is on the low side, considerable research suggests that the Earth system’s actual sensitivity to CO2 is on the high side:

  • Hansen Study (9/13): Climate Sensitivity Is High, Burning All Fossil Fuels Would Make Most Of Planet ‘Uninhabitable’
  • Science Stunner (11/12): Observations Support Predictions Of Extreme Warming And Worse Droughts This Century

The full Nature study is open access here.



Climate Change Creates Complicated Consequences for North America’s Forests

Oct. 15, 2013 — Climate change affects forests across North America — in some cases permitting insect outbreaks, plant diseases, wildfires and other problems — but Dartmouth researchers say warmer temperatures are also making many forests grow faster and some less susceptible to pests, which could boost forest health and acreage, timber harvests, carbon storage, water recycling and other forest benefits in some areas. The Dartmouth-led study, which appears in the journal Ecological Monographs, reviewed nearly 500 scientific papers dating to the 1950s, making it the most comprehensive review to date of climate change’s diverse consequences for forests across the United States, Canada and the rest of North America. Tree-killing insects and plant diseases are natural elements of healthy forest ecosystems, but climate change is rapidly altering the distribution and magnitude of forest pestilence and altering biodiversity and the ecosystem. For example, pine bark beetles have recently killed trees over more area of U.S. forests than wildfires, including in areas with little previous experience managing aggressive pests. “One of our prominent challenges is to adapt forest management tactics and generalize the underlying theory to cope with unprecedented changes in pest pressure,” the authors say. Results show that over the last 50 years, the average global air temperature has increased about 1 ̊ F, while the coldest winter night averages about 7 ̊ F warmer. That has permitted population explosions of tree-killing bark beetles in forests that were previously shielded by winter cold and made it easier for invasive species to become established. But tree growth rates in many regions are increasing due to atmospheric change, which may increase resilience to pests. Also, pest populations in some regions may decline, allowing those forests and their environmental and economic benefits to expand.


Aaron S. Weed, Matthew P. Ayres, Jeffrey Hicke. Consequences of climate change for biotic disturbances in North American forests. Ecological Monographs, 2013; : 130211092805008 DOI: 10.1890/13-0160.1



Does the global warming ‘pause’ mean what you think it means?

The slowed warming is limited to surface temperatures, two percent of overall global warming, and is only temporary

In their study of media coverage of the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Media Matters for America found that nearly half of print media stories discussed that the warming of global surface temperatures has slowed over the past 15 years. While this factoid is true, the question is, what does it mean? Many popular climate myths share the trait of vagueness. For example, consider the argument that climate has changed naturally in the past. Well of course it has, but what does that tell us? It’s akin to telling a fire investigator that fires have always happened naturally in the past. That would doubtless earn you a puzzled look from the investigator. Is the implication that because they have occurred naturally in the past, humans can’t cause fires or climate change? The same problem applies to the ‘pause’ (or ‘hiatus’ or better yet, ‘speed bump‘) assertion. It’s true that the warming of average global surface temperatures has slowed over the past 15 years, but what does that mean? One key piece of information that’s usually omitted when discussing this subject is that the overall warming of the entire climate system has continued rapidly over the past 15 years, even faster than the 15 years before that.

Energy accumulation within distinct components of Earth’s climate system from 1971 to 2010. From the 2013 IPCC report.

The speed bump only applies to surface temperatures, which only represent about 2 percent of the overall warming of the global climate. Can you make out the tiny purple segment at the bottom of the above figure? That’s the only part of the climate for which the warming has ‘paused’. As the IPCC figure indicates, over 90 percent of global warming goes into heating the oceans, and it continues at a rapid pace, equivalent to 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second. Another important piece of oft-omitted information: while the warming of surface temperatures was relatively slow from 1998 to 2012, it was relatively fast from 1990 through 2006. Over longer time frames, for example from 1990 to 2012, average global surface temperatures have warmed as fast as climate scientists and their models expected. So what’s changed over the past 10 to 15 years? The IPCC attributes the recent slowing of surface temperatures to a combination of external and internal climate factors. For example, solar activity has been relatively low and volcanic activity has been relatively high, causing less solar energy to reach the Earth’s surface. At the same time, we’re in the midst of cool ocean cycle phases, for example with a preponderance of La Niña events since 1999. A number of recent studies have suggested that most of the recent slowing of surface warming is due to these ocean cycles. What does that mean for the future? It means more global warming….


Greenhouse Gas Abatement and Carbon Storage in Land Use Systems

The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is developing science, technology, measurement and management systems to help reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from Australian lands while increasing the storage of new carbon in our lands.

Updated 14 October 2011 CSIRO Australia

Research in this theme is helping Australia to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to store or sequester carbon within agricultural, forestry and land use systems. Tackling GHG emissions is considered to be one of the most serious national and international challenges of our time. Through this research the Flagship aims to sustain the economic viability of agricultural industries while reducing these emissions. The key ways in which the Flagship’s research will support emissions reduction are through:

  • measuring carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions from Australian lands 
  • predicting changes in carbon stocks over time
  • identifying and demonstrating emission reduction practices and associated social, economic and environmental benefits and interactions
  • developing new technologies and practices for emissions reduction and generation of carbon sinks
  • assisting adoption of mitigation options and the institutional arrangements that support them.

With this research and development Australia will be able to provide reliable estimates of emission sources and carbon sinks from agricultural and forestry lands, be able to design permanent and measurable greenhouse gas offsets, and be able to scale-up from the animal, plant or paddock level to regional and continental scales. The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship has five key areas of research and a wide range of projects targeting emission reductions and offsets in land use systems:

1. Reducing methane emissions from livestock systems: Aims to reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock per unit of product and reduce net emissions of CO2-e from ruminant production systems while maintaining the viability of farming enterprises that include livestock production.

Research example: Mitigating methane emissions from our northern beef herd CSIRO is developing reliable methods for measuring methane emissions from Australia’s northern beef herd.

2. Carbon balance in native ecosystems: Aims to protect and enhance carbon stocks in forests and savannas while maximising co-benefits to the environment and society.

Research example: Tiwi Carbon Study: managing fire for Greenhouse gas abatement Tiwi Islanders and CSIRO are working together to examine the biophysical and economic potential of fire management for Greenhouse gas abatement on the Tiwi Islands, as a basis for possible livelihood opportunities for Tiwi people.

3. New forests as carbon sinks and feedstocks for bioenergy production: Aims to contribute to GHG mitigation by establishing new woody vegetation on agricultural land, by substituting forest products for more greenhouse intensive products, and by provision of feedstocks for bioenergy that displaces use of fossil fuels. Research example: Carbon and rural land use: key findings This report brings together much of the latest research on emission reduction and offsets in rural land, including the potential of forests as carbon sinks.

4. Soil carbon and nitrogen balance in agricultural lands: Aims to develop and identify management strategies that maximise productive capacity of Australian agricultural soils while minimising greenhouse gas emissions and resource degradation.

Research examples: The Soil Carbon Research Program: assessing soil carbon across Australia The Soil Carbon Research Program will provide data from which realistic sequestration options and targets for Australia can be formed.

Biochar as a soil amendment in agriculture The Sustainable Agriculture Flagship is leading national collaborative research analysing the properties and potential of a variety of biochars to sequester carbon, reduce nitrous oxide emissions, and alter soil functions in order to improve plant productivity.

5. Adoption pathways for carbon pollution reduction: Aims to provide information and decision support that encourages and informs policy resulting in adoption of profitable land-use and management practices that reduce carbon pollution.

Research example: Reforestation under a Carbon Market: Key Findings This report examines the likely effects of a carbon market on the supply and demand for tree plantings to sequester carbon in agricultural lands in South Australia.

Find out more about the Sustainable Agriculture Flagship.



The Bay of Bengal, in Peril From Climate Change

By SUNIL S. AMRITH NY Times Op-Ed October 13, 2013

LONDON — NEARLY one in four people on earth live in the countries that border the Bay of Bengal. The region is strategically vital to Asia’s rising powers. Its low-lying littoral — including coastal regions of eastern India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra — is home to over half a billion people who are now acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels. Storms are a constant threat; over the weekend, a cyclone, Phailin, swept in from the bay to strike the coastal Indian state of Odisha, leading to the evacuation of some 800,000 people….



With Great Lakes stuck at historic lows, talk turns to adapting

By Nick Manes and Joe Boomgaard October 17, 2013

Harbor towns across West Michigan are dealing with the impact of low water levels on Lake Michigan. The low water impacts a range of water users, from recreational boaters to commercial users.

In 1998, …also the last year that Lake Michigan water levels were at their long-term average height. In September, Lake Michigan’s average water level was 577.56 feet, or 18 inches below its long-term average for the month, according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 14 years of below-average levels on Lake Michigan is “the longest in its period of record,” the corps said in its September Great Lakes Water Level Summary. Earlier in January, Lake Michigan dropped to its lowest average level ever recorded. The implications of lower water levels are numerous for Michigan. The Great Lakes provide much of the state’s drinking water and are used for commerce ranging from shipping to fishing, recreational boating and tourism…. A mix of evaporating water and minimal ice cover due to warmer temperatures over the winter has contributed to the record-low levels, according to the corps. Heavy rainfall throughout April, which resulted in significant flooding in downtown Grand Rapids, as well as water flowing in from Lake Superior, has helped raise Lake Michigan, Steinman said…. The city of Grand Rapids embraced climate adaptation as part of the five-year sustainability plan it passed in 2010. Each year, the city tracks, measures and reports data related to progress on the plan. Specific to water resources, the city has reduced its consumption of water, which it draws from Lake Michigan, and has focused on removing pollution from combined sewer overflows into the Grand River, a Lake Michigan tributary. It’s also looking at water conservation measures, such as reducing losses in the city’s water system, updating plumbing and reusing gray water for irrigation, said Haris Alibasic, director of the city’s office of energy and sustainability…..



Australian wineries hit by coldest October morning ever. October 18 2013 Canberra Times
Canberra, Australia, winemakers were reeling from the heavy frost overnight on Thursday, Canberra’s coldest October morning on record, which wiped millions of dollars from the industry. ….


First evidence that dust and sand deposits in China are controlled by rivers
(October 14, 2013) — New research has found the first evidence that large rivers control desert sands and dust in Northern China. … > full story


Foliage Season Under Fire from Climate Change

Published: October 14th, 2013 By Brian Kahn

Clocks aren’t the only things falling back at this time of year. The start to foliage season is also on the move, with the season starting later and later in the U.S. since 1982. Other threats from climate change could also cost states that rely on the billions from leaf peepers in lost tourism revenues and have ecological impacts that extend well beyond the season. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that fiery foliage in the Berkshires and Green and White Mountains generates $8 billion in tourism revenue annually for New England alone. Foliage season is so important to Vermont that the state employs a leaf forecaster. States in other parts of the country also depend on foliage season to bring in tourism dollars, though specific numbers are harder to come by. Warmer weather is contributing to a later ending to the growing season in the U.S. according to research from Seoul National University. The end of the season is marked by the point when satellites see the overall greenness of foliage start to decline, was over two weeks later in 2008 compared to 1982.

The end of the growing season in the continental U.S. has become roughly two weeks later from 1982-2008.

A later onset to fall isn’t the only issue affecting foliage season, though. The financial benefits of leaf tourism are reaped in the fall, but they’re sown in spring and mature through summer. The climate during all three seasons affects how vibrant foliage actually is. A warm, wet spring followed by a Goldilocks summer followed by a fall with warm days and cool nights create the most ideal conditions for eye-catching colors. Climate change is causing warming across all seasons, and while that might be a boon in spring, warmer and more extreme heat during the summer could negate those benefits. The stress from warm weather can knock leaves off the trees before they’ve even had a chance to change. Nighttime temperatures are also generally rising faster than daytime highs, which means cool fall nights are likely to become shorter in supply. All these shifts could work to reduce the brilliance of fall foliage over time, but they also create openings for other threats to trees and their leafy assets. “A lengthening growing season could open up the door for invasive species, particularly invasives that are adaptable to different climates,” said Carolyn Enquist, science coordinator for the National Phenology Network. “We could see more invasives or invasives (that) are more active in the fall.”….



Three Startling Ways Climate Change Could Affect Your Health

October 14, 2013; 3:56 PM

While debates over climate change’s existence and causes continue, researchers around the world are postulating the possible health risks a changing climate poses to humanity. Wide-ranging health dangers are being predicted, including increased deaths due to carbon emissions, exposure to carcinogens in lakes and increased infections of certain diseases…..





Supreme Court to review EPA rules on curbing global warming gases from factories, power plants …

Minneapolis Star Tribune

 – ‎ October 15, 2013‎


WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether to block key aspects of the Obama administration’s plan aimed at cutting power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming. The justices said they will review a unanimous federal appeals court ruling that upheld the government’s unprecedented regulation of carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases. The question in the case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate automobile emissions of greenhouses gases as air pollutants, which stemmed from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, also applies to power plants and factories. The court’s decision essentially puts on trial a small but critical piece of President Barack Obama’s toolbox to tackle global warming — a requirement that companies expanding existing industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release, as well. For many industrial facilities, this is the only way heat-trapping gases will be regulated, until the EPA sets national standards. That’s because the administration’s plans hinge on the high court’s 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA which said the EPA has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles. Two years later, Obama’s EPA concluded that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases endangered human health and welfare, a finding the administration has used to extend its authority beyond automobiles to develop national standards for large stationary sources. The administration currently is at work setting first-time national standards for new and existing power plants, and will move on to other large stationary sources. But in the meantime, the only way companies are addressing global warming pollution is through a permitting program that requires them to analyze the best available technologies to reduce carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas. The president gave the EPA until next summer to propose regulations for existing power plants, the largest unregulated source of global warming pollution. “From an environmental standpoint, it is bad, but not catastrophic,” said Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia University and director of its Center for Climate Change Law. Gerrard said it would have been far worse if the court decided to question the EPA’s conclusion that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare. Environmental groups generally breathed a sigh of relief that the court rejected calls to overrule its 2007 decision or review the EPA’s conclusion about the health effects of greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s a green light for EPA to go ahead with its carbon pollution standards for power plants because the court has left standing EPA’s endangerment finding,” said Joanne Spalding, the Sierra Club’s senior managing attorney. But a lawyer for some of the business groups involved in the case said the court issued a more sweeping ruling….



New Sea Level Rise Executive Order in Delaware.
Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, a Democrat, has signed an executive order requiring all state agencies to take sea-level rise into account when designing and locating state projects. The order also requires agencies to develop strategies ( ) to make state facilities and operations better prepared to deal with climate change and sea-level rise.



Another Dry Winter Could Mean More Water Cutbacks For Californians

By Jeff Spross on October 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

An aqueduct in Southern California. CREDIT: AP Photo / MWD of Southern California

Another round of water shortages will likely come to California next year, if this winter sees less precipitation than usual. The L. A. Times reports that state officials are not prepared to declare another drought, but current water supplies only cover one more year. If precipitation this winter is sufficiently low, California residents will face mandatory cutbacks in their water use. As of this past May, California’s snowpack amounts were only at 17 percent of their normal levels for this time of year. Snowpack supplies one third of the state’s fresh water, and up to three-fourths for western California. The state’s water reservoirs are already low thanks two previous years of drought: Lake Shasta is at 66 percent of its average level for this time of year, and Lake Oroville is at 73 percent. Approximately one quarter of Southern California’s water also comes courtesy of the Colorado River basin, and Colorado’s last two years were among the driest in nearly a century. Two of the state’s major reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — are less than half full…..


An Unprecedented Antarctic Disaster, Unfolding in Darkness

Posted: 10/11/2013 11:47 am

The largest scientific research station in Antarctica, the United States’ McMurdo Station, will experience 17 hours of daylight today. Meanwhile a scientific disaster of unprecedented proportions is unfolding due to fallout from the U.S. government shutdown. But with communication networks essentially severed, even the scientists involved find themselves in the dark, struggling to comprehend the magnitude of what is happening. Hubert Staudigel, a senior researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography who has spent five seasons in Antarctica, explains the basic situation: “Antarctic researchers and McMurdo station are being instructed to shift operations into ‘caretaker’ mode. Effectively, this means that science is stopped, because McMurdo goes into ‘winter-over’ mode, just keeping the station alive.” As a consequence, an entire season of Antarctic research will be lost. Because of the harsh weather, “we have to cram all our science into three months of the year,” Staudigel says. And due to the extremely complicated logistics of working in Antarctica, it will be difficult or impossible to meet the deadlines for this year’s research season, no matter how soon the shutdown is resolved. “You can get everybody home in two weeks,” Staudigel tells me, “but then you can’t just get started again.”

Scientists I spoke to are estimating thousands of researchers in the U.S. and thousands more abroad will be directly impacted. But with program managers and other key players unavailable, it’s impossible to be more precise. “Everybody who you would contact as a reporter is furloughed,” Staudigel says….


For operations on U.S. land, it’s not open and shut

Carl Nolte SF Gate Updated 12:45 pm, Friday, October 11, 2013

The government shutdown is having a patchwork effect in the Bay Area, with some public areas open while others are closed – a confusing and complex situation that is causing economic hardship to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the historic Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco is closed because it is owned by the National Park Service and operated by a private concessionaire. But the luxurious Cavallo Point lodge, spa and restaurant on national parkland at Fort Baker in Marin County is open because it is leased to an operator under a different set of federal rules. And while the vast Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which stretches from Tomales Bay to the Santa Cruz Mountains, is closed to the public, the Presidio of San Francisco surrounded by the recreation area operates under a separate federal law and is open…The difference, as explained by Alexandra Picavet, a National Park Service spokeswoman, is that the Cliff House and other park concession operators run under one legal arrangement and Cavallo Point under another….


US Shutdown Threatens Hopes for Antarctic Reserve

WELLINGTON, New Zealand October 16, 2013 (AP) By NICK PERRY Associated Press

The U.S. government shutdown is threatening a long-awaited deal to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in Antarctica. Americans are among the most enthusiastic proponents, but they might not make it to the negotiating table. The U.S., New Zealand and other countries have sought a sanctuary in the pristine waters of the Ross Sea for the past decade, and there are hopes that previous objectors Russia and Ukraine will agree to a new, smaller proposal when the nations that regulate Antarctic fishing meet next week in Hobart, Australia. On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry joined his counterparts from other nations in calling for the sanctuary to proceed. But the U.S. apparently has suspended travel plans for its delegation. If they don’t make it, the proposal probably will be held until next year at least. Gerry Leape, a senior international policy expert at Pew Charitable Trusts, said he’s spoken to members of the U.S. delegation and he understands that their travel has been suspended because of the shutdown…..Leape said the suspension could be lifted on short notice, either if the shutdown ends or if the delegation gets special permission to travel. Under normal circumstances, he said, the delegation would already be in Australia and working its diplomatic channels in pre-meetings. “It would be a real missed opportunity if the U.S. isn’t able to go,” he said. “I hope the situation changes, but they haven’t come to an agreement yet.”….


Shutdown a setback for Bosque del Apache birds

ABQ Journal (blog) 

 – ‎October 14, 2013‎ 


The Bosque del Apache, the iconic bird refuge run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along the Rio Grande south of Socorro, is closed because of the partial federal government shutdown….October is the critical time in which refuge staff prepares wetlands for the winter. Wetlands are typically dry at this time and are being disced, plowed, or mowed to optimize feeding conditions before they are flooded in late October. When the government shut down on October 1, over 95% of the refuge habitat was not ready for the birds. Over the past few years these wetlands have become critical for one iconic Bosque del Apache Refuge species, the greater sandhill crane. These birds have experienced successive years of poor reproduction and their population is in decline. Proper wintering habitat is critical for survival and reproductive success.


Sustainability & Climate Change Emerging Priorities At World Bank

Posted on October 12, 2013 by Gary Chandler

Under the new leadership of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank Group continues to reinvent itself to meet the challenges of global development. That reinvention will continue this Saturday, when the Board of Governors is expected to endorse a new strategy for the institution. If properly implemented across the Group, the strategy could help boost the institution’s contribution to equitable and sustainable development. Two areas of focus will be especially important, including how the Group handles its work on climate change and selects its investments…..


Environmentalists threaten lawsuit as drilling continues despite shutdown

Posted on October 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Politics/Policy

A sign blocks off the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park in early October, before it was reopened to visitors using state funds. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff, File) WASHINGTON — Environmentalists on Tuesday accused the Obama administration of illegally allowing oil companies to keep drilling on public lands during the government shutdown, even as officials erect barricades around national monuments and close park gates to visitors. Continuing to allow oil and gas drilling on federal lands violates the Anti-Deficiency Act, said the Phoenix-based Center for Biological Diversity, citing a 19th century law that bars the government from incurring new financial obligations in the absence of congressionally appropriated funding. Federal agencies have cited the law in decision to furlough workers, close national parks and cut off energy data streams. At the Interior Department, the Bureau of Land Management has stopped issuing new and revised permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands. Offshore permits are still flowing out of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which is tapping non-appropriated funds to keep the work going….



Global panel seeks economic solutions to climate change


 – ‎ October 11, 2013‎


Energy efficiency has more potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any other single current option, the World Bank’s former chief economist Lord Nicholas Stern said Friday in co-launching a global panel to find cost-effective solutions to …


Fighting climate change, with crowd funding and Google Hangouts

10.11.13 – 2:27 pm | Rebecca Bowe |

A young San Francisco couple, Ryan Kushner and Amanda Ravenhill, are trying out a new approach to climate change activism that they hope will ultimately reach thousands of people via online videos and interactive web-based trainings. Called Hero Hatchery, the ambitious project launched earlier this week. Celebrity-status environmentalists such as Bill McKibben, head of, and Tim DeChristopher, who made headlines for throwing a monkey wrench into a Bureau of Land Management auction, will lead free weekly online trainings on climate change, administered via Google Hangout, as part of the effort…..


Big win on arsenic in meat
October 15 2013

In a major win for public health, the FDA has announced that it would withdraw approval of three of the four arsenicals in animal feed for poultry and hog production….






EBay, Ellison Embrace Microgrids in Threat to Utilities

By Ken Wells & Mark Chediak Oct 17, 2013 6:34 AM PT

Microgrids are emerging as a credible threat to the dominance of America’s 100-year-old-plus utility monopoly, possibly making these electricity power transmission lines obsolete. Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison plans to build one to power the Hawaiian island he bought last year. EBay Inc. has one to run a data center. The University of California at San Diego and the federal government have invested tens of millions of dollars in the technology. Microgrids are emerging as a credible threat to the dominance of America’s 100-year-old-plus utility monopoly. The small-scale versions of centralized power systems, once just used against blackouts, are now gaining thousands of customers as homeowners in states with high power costs turn to them as a way to manage rooftop solar systems, cut electricity bills and, in some cases, say goodbye to their power companies. The systems use computer software and remote measuring devices to control energy sources such as rooftop solar panels and natural gas-fueled power generators. They allow a home or business owner, a college systems engineer or a farmer on a mountainside to generate, distribute and regulate their locally produced power with an ease and sophistication that only utilities had a few years ago. Not much of a factor a decade ago, microgrids are expected to explode into a $40 billion-a-year global business by 2020, according to Navigant Research, a clean-technology data and consulting company. In the U.S., about 6 gigawatts of electricity — enough to power as many as 4.8 million homes — will flow through microgrids by 2020, Navigant said. …



California adopts first-in-nation energy storage plan

Dana Hull 10/17/2013 12:48:22 PM

PG&E’s Yerba Buena battery energy storage project, seen here Tuesday morning Oct. 15, 2013, in the hills above Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. A California law that requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind is widely credited …

In a bold move being closely watched by utilities, environmentalists and the clean technology industry, California on Thursday adopted the nation’s first energy storage mandate. State regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission, meeting in Redding, unanimously approved Commissioner Carla Peterman’s groundbreaking proposal that requires PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to expand their capacity to store electricity, including renewable energy generated from solar and wind. “The decision lays out an energy storage procurement policy guided by three principles: optimization of the grid, integration of renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Peterman, a rising star who was appointed to the agency by Gov. Jerry Brown in late 2012. The state’s three investor-owned utilities must collectively buy 1.3 gigawatts — or 1,325 megawatts — of energy storage capacity by the end of 2020. That is roughly enough energy to supply nearly 1 million homes….



The Solar Robots

NY Times October 15 2013 A California company thinks robots that can install and clean thousands of solar panels may make solar energy competitive with fossil fuels.


Lac-Mégantic blast leaves impact on town, rail industry.
October 14 2013 NPR -All Things Considered
Three months ago, a train carrying American crude oil derailed and exploded in the heart of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Industry experts say the accident could change the way oil and other dangerous chemicals are transported on trains in North America. ….


In North Dakota, New Concerns Over Mixing Oil and Wheat

By JOHN ELIGON NY Times Published: October 17, 2013

ROSS, N.D. — While three generations of the Sorenson family have made their livelihood growing wheat and other crops here, they also have learned to embrace the furious pace of North Dakota’s oil exploration. After all, oil money helped the Sorensons acquire the land and continue to farm it. But more oil means more drilling, resulting in tons of waste that is putting cropland at risk and raising doubt among farmers that these two cash crops can continue to coexist. A private company is trying to install a landfill to dispose of solid drilling waste on a golden 160-acre wheat field across the road from Mike and Kim Sorenson’s farmhouse. Although the engineers and regulators behind the project insist that it is safe for the environment, the Sorensons have voiced concern that salt from the drilling waste could seep onto their land, which would render the soil infertile and could contaminate their water, causing their property value to drop. “I’m concerned not if it leaks, it’s when it’s going to leak over there,” Ms. Sorenson, 42, said. Oil companies in North Dakota disposed of more than a million tons of drilling waste last year, 15 times the amount in 2006, according to Steven J. Tillotson, the assistant director of the Division of Waste Management for the state’s Health Department. Seven drilling waste landfills operate in the state, with 16 more under construction or seeking state approval. ….


After Sparking Outrage In Detroit, Koch Brothers’ Tar Sands Waste Now Piling Up In Chicago

By Kiley Kroh on October 15, 2013 at 9:35 am

Petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands refining, is building up along Chicago’s Calumet River and alarming residents, reported Midwest Energy News.

Petroleum coke is a high-carbon, high-sulfur byproduct of Canadian tar sands that are shipped from Alberta to the U.S. to be refined and is rapidly becoming a cause for concern in Chicago. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Southeast Environmental Task Force member Tom Shepherd, told Midwest Energy News. “It’s coming at a breathtaking rate.”…


California’s alternative-energy program under scrutiny

Billions spent on wind, hydrogen, cow manure projects are questioned after some investments go bust, but the program is expected to grow. It could surpass current state support for the UC system.

By Ralph Vartabedian and Evan Halper October 13, 2013, 7:59 p.m.

California is spending nearly $15 million to build 10 hydrogen fueling stations, even though just 227 hydrogen-powered vehicles exist in the state today. It’s a hefty bet on the future, given that government officials have been trying for nine years, with little success, to get automakers to build more hydrogen cars. The project is part of a sprawling but little-known state program that packs a powerful financial punch: It spent $1.6 billion last year on a myriad of energy-efficiency and alternative-energy projects. Even as California has scaled back education, law enforcement and assistance to the disabled in this era of financial stress, the energy program has continued unrestrained and is expected to grow significantly in coming years. State agencies have invested in milk trucks that run on cow manure, power plants fueled by ocean tides and artificial photosynthesis for powering vehicles and buildings. The spending is drawing increasing scrutiny. Some of the energy investments have gone bust, electricity costs have soared, and some economists have disputed the benefits. The legality of some consumer fees that fund the programs also is being challenged in court. The alternative-energy projects are largely financed by small charges on electricity bills or obscure consumer fees that are seldom noticed.
The hydrogen fueling stations, for example, will be financed by a $3 fee on license plates. Proponents of this spending say the funds are working the way they were designed. The money is helping position the state as an international leader in energy-conservation technology, said Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission…..


Fine dining in the lunch line at Marin City school

Julian Guthrie SF Chronicle Updated 7:14 pm, Sunday, October 13, 2013

The lunch menu was quinoa macaroni and cheese, a garden salad with shaved beets and radishes, warm flatbread, an organic, green-colored juice drink, and a berry and wild fennel trifle dessert. The setting was a cafeteria in Marin City, where students returned for seconds – not only of the mac ‘n’ cheese, but also of the salad. A new program called Conscious Kitchen is bringing organic and seasonal food to a group of students who were more accustomed to soda and Cheetos than granola and arugula. The pilot program – spearheaded by chef Justin Everett of Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito – serves a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack to 120 students at the Bayside Martin Luther King Academy every school day. Through donations and collaborations, the food costs $5 per day per child.
“This started because I was taking my son out to the tide pools in Marin and I saw a group of kids who were pulling out lunches of Coke and Cheetos,” said Everett. “I said, ‘Oh, you have a special lunch today.’ They were throwing away the sandwiches and just having that. And the kids said, ‘This is what we have every day.’ “
Everett worked with Teens Turning Green founder Judi Shils to create the healthy food program for the school in the Sausalito-Marin City School District – a school in which nearly all of the children in kindergarten through eighth grade qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Together, the two brought in a range of food purveyors and community supporters who helped them find ways to keep the meals healthy and low-cost.
“When we first set out to make a lunch with quinoa macaroni and cheese, the total meal ended up costing over $8,” Everett said, standing in the cafeteria at MLK Academy as students finished lunch. “Instead of trying to go for cheaper products, we found local food purveyors to donate ingredients.”

Working with companies including Cavallo Point and Good Earth Natural Foods, as well as local chefs, farmers and foundations, Everett said, “Not only were they willing to donate, but they asked how they could continue to help.”

Shils, whose student-led Teens Turning Green organization is about raising awareness around environmental issues, said, “After months of observing the Marin City school food program, we set out to break the cycle of unhealthy, prepackaged and over-processed food and start serving fresh, local organic options for breakfast and lunch.”….







Cows saving the planet? Why not? An idea that sounds preposterous begins to make sense when you take a soil’s-eye view of our current ecological predicament. Cattle, like all grazing creatures, can, if appropriately managed, restore land and help build soil. Rebuilding soil is only one aspect of this important, paradigm-shifting book. Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil’s pivotal role in our ecology and economy and an antidote to those awash in despairing environmental news. It is also an important call to action on behalf of the soil—and, by extension, those of us who benefit from it. Please  click here for a review of Cows Save the Planet.  You can go to the HMI store to take advantage of our featured book sale.






  • For those who might be interested, next week an online class on the Science of Climate Change is beginning. More information about the class is available in this article at RealClimate.


  • The California Coastal Commission has released Draft Sea-Level Rise Policy Guidance and now seeking comments. To download the document, please visit: The document provides an overview of best available science on sea-level rise for California and recommended steps for addressing sea-level rise in Coastal Commission planning and regulatory actions. Comments can be submitted via email to, by U.S. mail to the address below, or orally at Commission public hearings in November, December 2013 and/or January 2014. Please send your comments as soon as possible, and no later than Wednesday, January 15, 2014. 



Parks: The New Climate Classroom

The Institute at the Golden Gate is pleased to announce our premier workshop on climate change communication and education, Parks: The New Climate Classroom, November 7-8, 2013 at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito.

Parks: The New Climate Classroom is a two-day workshop to accelerate and deepen climate change communications and education and link organizations, public lands, formal and in-formal educators, and related fields to fundamentally shifting the public dialogue on climate change.

Attendees will learn from leading thinkers and share knowledge and practices across agencies, organizations, and geographies to strengthen programs, build partnerships, and align for greater impact.

Please visit the Agenda page for a full program listing, updated as the program is confirmed.








**Incorporating Birds into Tools for Measuring Ecosystem Services: A case study from Central California.   Tuesday, October 22, 2 PM Eastern, 11 AM Pacific

NRCS WEBINAR featuring Nat Seavy, PhD, Point Blue Conservation Science and Kelli McCune, Sustainable Conservation. To join, register here:

Abstract: Landowners and the agricultural community are facing increased pressure to demonstrate measurable gains in environmental quality, while at the same time working to replace income from cuts in conservation funding. Payment for ecosystem service programs can help conservation groups and agencies target scarce conservation investments and achieve more strategic outcomes from restoration projects on working lands. The presenters will provide an overview of the concept and discuss a current Conservation Innovation Grant-supported pilot in California to develop mutually beneficial partnerships that reward watershed restoration and achieves tangible benefits to investors. They also will discuss assessment tools developed for California riparian areas that quantify bird habitat quality as a measure of environmental benefit from restoration.





Establishing Functional California Native Grasslands – Thursday, Oct. 24th

Save the date for CA Native Grassland Associatio’s popular “how-to” workshop for native grassland restoration & revegetation projects.
WHEN:  Thursday October 24th   8:00am – 4:30pm WHERE: Lake Solano Nature Center and field visit to upland restoration site west of Winters, CA
WHO: course led by CNGA expert instructors Bryan Young, J.P. Marie, Chris Rose, Emily Allen of Hedgerow Farms, assisted by Jon O’Brien and Kurt Vaughn.
QUESTIONS: Contact our Admin. Director or drop us a note via our Contact us link. Hope to see you in October!  Early bird registration extends through October 14th.


The 11th Biennial State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference
Oakland Marriott Hotel, October 29-30, 2013. 

This year’s theme, “20/20 Vision: Past Reflections, Future Directions,” both celebrates the 20th anniversary of SFEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, and focuses our attention on the many challenges ahead.  If you have not already registered, please register now.  The Pre-Registration deadline is October 23rd. Conference Updates ( On-Line registration is available through October 23rd: An updated program is available on the conference web site:


Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation  Wednesday, November 13 – Friday, November 15, 2013  Registration Deadlines:  November 5, 2013
“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner 

From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world.  We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.


Eleventh Annual Workshop: Habitat Conservation Planning from Tahoe to the Bay

November 20, 2013, Ulatis Community Center, Vacaville
Speakers and Presentations

The Conservation Planning Partners is an ad-hoc association of eight County and Sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans.

County and sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans are in preparation or being implemented in a number of counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Region. These plans provide a means for the conservation of endangered species and contribute to the ir recovery, while allowing appropriate, compatible growth and development in the metropolitan areas.


The Future of the Concrete Channel

Thursday 21 November 2013, UC Berkeley

Ubiquitous in the urban landscape, concrete channels embody a mid-20th-century attitude of subduing nature and maximizing developable land.  Yet these optimistically-engineering structures have proven hard to maintain, and society increasingly regrets the loss of riparian ecosystems and the opportunity for human recreation and renewal once offered by the natural streams.  As concrete channels inevitably age and reach the end of their design lives, river managers confront the question of what to do with this deteriorating infrastructure?  Can the channels be rebuilt or modified to pass floods increasing due to urbanization and climate change?  Or is this an opportunity to implement alternative approaches that restore valuable functions of natural rivers?  These issues are highlighted in the San Francisco Bay Region, where multiple concrete channels suffer from sedimentation problems and one county has adopted a policy to replace them with natural channels where possible, and on the Los Angeles River, where the US Army Corps of Engineers has just released a draft Integrated Feasibility Study for ecosystem restoration of an 11-mile reach.  Scholars, practitioners, and managers will share ideas and experiences from California and elsewhere in the US, and look forward to the challenges and opportunities of rethinking the concrete channel.  The conference will wrap up with an exhibition of Concrete Channel Art. 

Speakers include Carol Armstrong (City of Los Angeles), Mitch Avalon (Contra Costa County Public Works), Josephine Axt (US Army Corps of Engineers – shutdown permitting), Jack Curley (Marin County Public Works), David Fowler (Milwaukee Metro Sewerage District), Jeff Haltiner (ESA-PWA), Ralph Johnson (Alameda County Public Works), Jim Fiedler (Santa Clara Valley Water District), Lewis MacAdams (Friends of Los Angeles River), Scott Nicholson (US Army Corps), Chip Sullivan (UC Berkeley), Phil Williams (ESA-PWA).  Conference organizers Matt Kondolf and Raymond Wong.  This conference is held as part of the centennial celebration of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, UC Berkeley.  For more information and to register, please visit the conference website:


Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience
December 12, 2013

9:30am – 4:30 pm David Brower Center, Kinzie Room 741 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710

Registration: To register, click here. Registration is limited to 41 participants and is expected to fill fast. The deadline to register is December 6, 2013.  

A workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center.  Green Infrastructure incorporates the natural environment and constructed systems that mimic natural processes in an integrated network that benefits nature and people. A green infrastructure approach to community planning helps diverse community members come together to balance environmental and economic goals. This day-long workshop will include a morning introductory course and afternoon panels by local experts. Who Should Attend: City and county officials, Engineers, Floodplain managers, Landscape Architects, NGO’s, Planners, and other Decision Makers involved in Coastal Management Issues 

This workshop is being developed in partnership by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center. In addition, an advisory committee have provided feedback on the training including participants from: San Francisco Estuary PartnershipBay Area Ecosystems Climate Change ConsortiumSan Francisco Bay Conservation and Development CommissionCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Institute. Questions? Contact Heidi Nutters,, 415-338-3511 Feel free to forward this message to others who might be interested. 


Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014  Oakdale, CA  Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez:


Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:


99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013




Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist (Madera, CA) –  Point Blue Conservation Science
The Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist is a partnership position between the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Point Blue Conservation Science that will focus on providing value added delivery of wildlife conservation programs on working lands through Farm Bill and other federal and state funding programs.  The Partner Biologist will actively participate with NRCS Field Conservationists, working lands producers, and other resource professionals in the development of ranch and farm conservation plans, including resources assessments, conservation practice design and implementation.  The Partner Biologist will also be involved with assessment and monitoring of conservation practices that have been applied on those working lands.  Email resumes to: by October 18, 2013.  Please include a 1 page cover letter explaining your interest and qualifications.  Please put “Madera RWI Partner Biologist” in the subject line.  No calls please. Equal Opportunity Employer.  For additional information about Point Blue and highlights of current programs, see




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Prehistoric Cave Paintings Largely Made By Women, Not Men: The First Artists Were Women, Archeologists Say

Researchers have assumed men made cave art. They assumed wrong.

October 15, 2013 4:17 PM EDT |

Hand Stencil Cave Art

The first artists were women, archeologists now say. Most early cave drawings were by women, not men. The assumption has long been that the first painters who made cave art were men. Most scientists surmise that the purpose of cave art had to do with luck in hunting, and that hunters were mostly men. “The assumption that most people made was it had something to do with hunting magic,” Penn State archaeologist Dean Snow said. She’s been studying hand prints in cave art for over a decade. However, a new analysis of the ancient handprints found in France and Spain indicates that most of the early artists were female. Based on the overall size of the hand and finger length, the artists were likely women. This common assumption may have to do with the fact that male archeologists were the first to find the handprints. “[M]ale archaeologists were doing the work,” Snow said. It may be that modern gender roles “had something to do with it,”  she said.



October 15th, 2013, New York City – The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) is proud to announce the five finalists selected for the 2013 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. After a long day of deliberation on October 7th, the distinguished jury narrowed the 19 semi-finalists down to five top contenders for the $100,000 prize. The jury is comprised of leading innovators from a variety of expertise who bring distinct viewpoints to the deliberation process, and the group of finalists clearly reflects that diversity. “Every year we are impressed by the areas of work in which we find creative whole systems thinkers, and this year was no exception,” said Program Manager, Sharifah Taqi. “Being able to support and showcase comprehensive designs in areas of education, citizen science, materials innovation, architecture and financing systems is what makes this prize program truly unique.”
The 2013 Finalists Are:

  • Echale a tu Casa, an elegantly integrated model that combines community empowerment, local technical capacity building, a novel, affordable financing system, and cutting-edge but culturally appropriate “green” building techniques to improve housing conditions for otherwise underserved populations in Mexico.
  • Ecovative has developed a new class of home-compostable bio-plastics made from living organisms, mushroom mycelia, developed by Ecovative. Their high-performance, environmentally responsible alternatives to traditional plastic foam packaging, insulation, and other synthetic materials offer a revolutionary, truly sustainable alternative to the current toxic plastic foam materials that pollute and burden the modern world.
  • The Green Chemistry Commitment, an initiative to get university chemistry departments to commit to integrating Green Chemistry into their academic curricula and transform how chemistry is taught and practiced in order to eliminate the numerous devastating neurotoxic and carcinogenic chemicals that characterize modern life and damage the global ecosystem, replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  • PITCHAfrica: Waterbank Schools, a building prototype in Laikipia, Kenya, is a working demonstration of the remarkable leveraging power of water catchment as a socially integrated resource awareness and community engagement tool.
  • Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science collaboratively develops inexpensive, open-source monitoring tools and techniques in order to ‘democratize’ science and empower a grassroots network of ‘citizen scientists’ to be able to accurately measure environmental problems, and, when necessary, challenge inaccurate government and industry environmental health data in order to demand accountability.


Climbing Beyond Boehner’s Reach

By FREDDIE WILKINSON OP ED NY TIMES Published: October 15, 2013 67 Comments

YOSEMITE WEST, Calif. — THE limit of John Boehner’s reach is defined by a line of orange traffic cones and a forest green and white S.U.V. that’s parked, lights flashing, beneath a stand of ponderosa pines on the edge of a scenic meadow in Yosemite Valley. Directly overhead lies the southeast face of El Capitan, also known as the Dawn Wall — a monolith of cleaved gray granite rising more than 2,800 feet that is, for legions of rock climbers around the world, without peer. …. Even if one lacks official exemption, there are numerous solutions for those still wishing to climb in Yosemite. The chief challenge lies in not leaving a vehicle parked at the trailhead. With the aid of a bicycle, or a friendly drop-off, it takes only a few moments to dash off the pavement. After a hundred feet, the granite boulders and pine forest of the high Sierra swallow you, and vertical realms await. It’s doubtful anyone will pursue. Crossing this threshold onto publicly held wilderness that’s closed down by our government, I was reminded of an adage, from the American frontier: “When freedom is outlawed, only outlaws will be free.”



Coffee and the consumer: can McDonald’s mainstream sustainability?

McDonald’s is marketing certified espresso and fish for the first time in the US. Why? Because consumers are finally starting to show they care

Marc Gunther, Tuesday 24 September 2013 00.00 EDT

McDonald’s is marketing Rainforest Alliance-certified espresso and Marine Stewardship Council-labeled fish for the first time. Photograph: AP

Across the US, McDonald’s last week introduced pumpkin spice lattes made with Rainforest Alliance-certified espresso. No such assurance comes with McDonald’s drip coffee. Why? Because consumers haven’t yet shown Mickey D’s that they care. That’s gradually changing, says Bob Langert, the vice president of sustainability for McDonald’s, and not a moment too soon. As the world’s biggest fast-food chain, which has 34,000 restaurants in 118 countries, seeks to make its supply chain more environmentally friendly, McDonald’s is trying to enlist its customers as allies. That’s why the pumpkin lattes marketing features the little green frog seal of approval from the Rainforest Alliance. That’s also why McDonald’s fish sandwiches, for the first time, feature a blue ecolabel from the Marine Stewardship Council certifying that the pollock inside comes from better-managed fisheries. …


Analysis of herbal products shows contamination is common
(October 10, 2013) — Most herbal products, available to buy as alternative medicines, may be contaminated. Researchers demonstrate the presence of contamination and substitution of plant species in a selection of herbal products using DNA barcoding. … > full story


Compound in grapes, red wine could help treat multiple types of cancer
(October 11, 2013) — A recent study by a University of Missouri researcher shows that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins and red wine, can make certain tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment. The next step is for researchers to develop a successful method to deliver the compound to tumor sites and potentially treat many types of cancers. … > full story

Calorie burner: How much better is standing up than sitting?

Studies have claimed major health benefits for standing for much of the day as opposed to sitting. The difference is marked, explains Michael Mosley.

Guess how many hours a day you spend sitting? Fewer than eight? More than 10? A recent survey found that many of us spend up to 12 hours a day sitting on our bottoms looking at computers or watching television. If you throw in the seven hours we spend sleeping then that adds up to a remarkable 19 hours a day being sedentary.

Sitting down as much as this is clearly bad for us and some studies suggest that those who sit all day live around two years less than those who are more active. Most of us are guilty of excess sitting. We sit at work, in the car and at home, moving only to shift from one seat to another.

Even if you exercise on a regular basis that may not be enough. There is mounting evidence that exercise will not undo the damage done by prolonged sitting. Our technology has made us the most sedentary humans in history. …


Injuries exploding as youths focus on one sport

Ron Kroichick Updated 8:05 am, Wednesday, October 16, 2013

….Barely a month later, at age 16, he had reconstructive surgery on his ulnar collateral ligament, better known in baseball circles as Tommy John surgery. The procedure has long been common for major-league pitchers with years of wear and tear on their arms, but Billinger’s case offers a stark reminder: Teenagers are vulnerable, too. It’s just one of the many side effects of specialization in youth sports. As more and more kids play the same sport year-round from an early age, they are increasingly vulnerable to injury. This trend toward focusing on one sport can sharpen skills and even set young athletes on the path to scholarships and college success. But it also means more repetition, more strain and more injuries. …. There has been a five-fold increase since 2000 in the number of serious elbow and shoulder injuries among youth baseball and softball players, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. The organization helped launch, a website devoted to educating parents and young athletes about sports injuries. Among the sobering statistics: Overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle school and high school students. Specialization is a logical culprit. A report this year by the sports medicine department at Loyola University of Chicago found that “kids are twice as likely to get hurt if they play just one sport as those who play multiple sports.”… There’s no foolproof formula, though Safran warned of the danger of playing some sports, such as golf, tennis or baseball, year-round at young ages. Those are what he called “unilateral arm-dominant sports,” making proper technique and proper rest all the more essential. “You’re always using the arms or body in the same way, and you’re not getting that cross-training experience,” Safran said. “That is ultimately an issue.”….







Climate change moves Nemo current to south



Wildlife photographer of the year 2013 – in pictures
October 15 2013

The results of the wildlife photographer of the year 2013 competition have been announced at London’s Natural History Museum. The overall winner is South African photographer Greg du Toit for his picture Essence of Elephants, a portrait of elephants in Botswana. Here is a selection of some of the winning images…

Behaviour, birds winner: Sticky Situation by Isak Pretorius (South Africa)
In May the seafaring lesser noddies head for land to breed. Their arrival on the tiny island of Cousine in the Seychelles coincides with peak web size for the red-legged golden orb-web spiders. The female spiders, which can grow to the size of a hand, create colossal conjoined webs up to 1.5m in diameter in which the tiny males gather. These are woven from extremely strong silk and are suspended up to six metres above the ground, high enough to catch passing bats and birds, though it’s flying insects that the spiders are after. Noddies regularly fly into the webs. Even if they struggle free the silk clogs up their feathers so they can’t fly. This noddy was exhausted, said Pretorius, ‘totally still, its fragile wing so fully stretched that I could see every feather’

















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

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Antarctica, Palomarin and the US Government Shutdown October 16, 2013

Adélie penguins. Photo by Viola Toniolo

Grant Ballard, PhD, Point Blue‘s Chief Science Officer, recently presented on our collaborative Antarctic research at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Grant’s in-depth and highly-recommended briefing is available for viewing here.

Tracking changes in Adélie penguins and the Ross Sea ecosystem since 1972, Point Blue is contributing to the scientific basis for a marine protected area in the Ross Sea, the world’s last near-pristine ocean.  

In a poignant turn of events, our Ross Sea studies for this austral spring and summer have been put on hold due to the US government shutdown. As one Antarctic scientist remarked (see yesterday’s New York Times), “It’s like the biography of the earth with a couple of pages in the middle torn out.”

Additionally, our bird ecology studies at the Palomarin Field Station (in Point Reyes National Seashore) are suspended for now. Click here to read today’s excellent Huffington Post column about the shutdown’s impact on our research.

Point Blue’s long-term bird ecology studies are vital to understanding growing environmental threats and to developing solutions that benefit wildlife as well as people. Thank you for your continued support that makes our vital work possible!

For more information,!

Conservation Science News October 11, 2013

Highlight of the WeekTerrestrial Ecosystems at Risk, Increasing Water Scarcity (new Potsdam studies), and Earth’s Impending Tipping Point









NOTE: Please feel free to pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff.  The information contained in this update was drawn from, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of articles and other information available on line, which were not verified and are not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  Please email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at if you want your name added to or dropped from this list.  You can also receive this through the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium list.   Also, we are starting to experiment with blog posting at

We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO).  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We work collaboratively to reduce the impacts of climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see




Focus of the WeekTerrestrial Ecosystems at Risk, Increasing Water Scarcity (new Potsdam studies), and Earth’s Impending Tipping Point


Terrestrial Ecosystems at Risk of Major Shifts as Temperatures Increase

Oct. 8, 2013 — Over 80% of the world’s ice-free land is at risk of profound ecosystem transformation by 2100, a new study reveals. “Essentially, we would be leaving the world as we know it,” says Sebastian Ostberg of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. Ostberg and collaborators studied the critical impacts of climate change on landscapes and have now published their results in Earth System Dynamics, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). The researchers state in the article that “nearly no area of the world is free” from the risk of climate change transforming landscapes substantially, unless mitigation limits warming to around 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Ecosystem changes could include boreal forests being transformed into temperate savannas, trees growing in the freezing Arctic tundra or even a dieback of some of the world’s rainforests. Such profound transformations of land ecosystems have the potential to affect food and water security, and hence impact human well-being just like sea level rise and direct damage from extreme weather events.

The new Earth System Dynamics study indicates that up to 86% of the remaining natural land ecosystems worldwide could be at risk of major change in a business-as-usual scenario (see note). This assumes that the global mean temperature will be 4 to 5 degrees warmer at the end of this century than in pre-industrial times — given many countries’ reluctance to commit to binding emissions cuts, such warming is not out of the question by 2100. “The research shows there is a large difference in the risk of major ecosystem change depending on whether humankind continues with business as usual or if we opt for effective climate change mitigation,” Ostberg points out. But even if the warming is limited to 2 degrees, some 20% of land ecosystems — particularly those at high altitudes and high latitudes — are at risk of moderate or major transformation, the team reveals.


More Than 500 Million People Might Face Increasing Water Scarcity

ScienceDaily Oct. 8, 2013 — Both freshwater availability for many millions of people and the stability of ecosystems such as the Siberian tundra or Indian grasslands are put at risk by climate change. Even if global warming is limited to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, 500 million people could be subject to increased water scarcity — while this number would grow by a further 50 percent if greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut soon. At five degrees global warming almost all ice-free land might be affected by ecosystem change. “We managed to quantify a number of crucial impacts of climate change on the global land area,” says Dieter Gerten, lead-author of one of the studies. Mean global warming of 2 degrees, the target set by the international community, is projected to expose an additional 8 percent of humankind to new or increased water scarcity. 3.5 degrees — likely to occur if national emissions reductions remain at currently pledged levels — would affect 11 percent of the world population. 5 degrees could raise this even further to 13 percent. “If population growth continues, by the end of our century under a business-as-usual scenario these figures would equate to well over one billion lives touched,” Gerten points out. “And this is on top of the more than one billion people already living in water-scarce regions today.” Parts of Asia and North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East are particularly vulnerable.


Even greater changes ahead for the green cover of our planet

For the green cover of our planet, even greater changes are in store. “The area at risk of ecosystem transformation is expected to double between global warming of about 3 and 4 degrees,” says Lila Warszawski, lead author of another study that systematically compared different impact models — and the associated uncertainties — in order to gain a fuller picture of the possible consequences of climate change for natural ecosystems. This is part of the international Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP). A warming of 5 degrees, likely to happen in the next century if climate change goes on unabated, would put nearly all terrestrial natural ecosystems at risk of severe change. “So despite the uncertainties, the findings clearly demonstrate that there is a large difference in the risk of global ecosystem change under a scenario of no climate change mitigation compared to one of ambitious mitigation,” says Sebastian Ostberg, lead author of the third study. The regions at risk under unabated global warming include the grasslands of Eastern India, shrublands of the Tibetan Plateau, the forests of Northern Canada, the savannas of Ethiopia and Somalia, and the Amazonian rainforest. Many of these are regions of rich and unique biodiversity. The combined changes to both water availability and ecosystems turn out to be nonlinear. “Our findings support the assertion that we are fundamentally destabilizing our natural systems — we are leaving the world as we know it,” says Wolfgang Lucht, one of the authors and co-chair of PIK’s Research Domain of Earth System Analysis.


“This is not about ducks and daisies, but the very basis of life”

The studies use a novel methodological approach, introducing new measures of risk based on changes of vegetation structure and flows and stores of carbon and water. To this end, biosphere simulation models were used to compare hundreds of climate change scenarios and highlight which regions may first face critical impacts of climate change. “The increase in water scarcity that we found will impact on the livelihoods of a huge number of people, with the global poor being the most vulnerable,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the co-authors and director of PIK. This might get buffered to some extent through adaptation measures such as expanding of irrigated cropland. However, such an expansion would further increase the pressure on Earth’s ecosystems and water resources. “Now this is not a question of ducks and daisies, but of our unique natural heritage, the very basis of life. Therefore, greenhouse-gas emissions have to be reduced substantially, and soon.”

  • Dieter Gerten, Wolfgang Lucht, Sebastian Ostberg, Jens Heinke, Martin Kowarsch, Holger Kreft, Zbigniew W Kundzewicz, Johann Rastgooy, Rachel Warren, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. Asynchronous exposure to global warming: freshwater resources and terrestrial ecosystems. Environmental Research Letters, 2013; 8 (3): 034032 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034032


Water Shortage Seen Worsening on Climate Change in Potsdam Study

By Rudy Ruitenberg – Oct 8, 2013 9:03 AM PT

Water scarcity will increase around the world due to climate change, with more than 500 million people affected if mean global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), based on modeling studies by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, or PIK. An additional 8 percent of humankind may face new or worse water scarcity with 2 degrees warming, the target set by international climate negotiators, the German government-funded institute wrote in a news release today. That could reach 13 percent in the case of a 5-degree-Celsius rise, which is probable if climate change goes on unchecked, PIK said. Two degrees warming would cause “substantial” ecosystem changes in regions that cover 1 percent of the unique habitat of higher plant species, while at 5 degrees warming that would rise to 74 percent, according to the research. About 1.3 billion people already live in water-scarce regions, according to the institute. The institute calculated 152 scenarios using 19 climate change models, and said the projections for the affected population by 2100 carry a greater than 50 percent confidence. “Our findings support the assertion that we are fundamentally destabilizing our natural systems,” Wolfgang Lucht, one of the study co-authors, was cited as saying in the statement. “We are leaving the world as we know it.” A business-as-usual scenario modeled by the institute, with 5 degrees warming and a continued increase in the global population, would result in more than 1 billion additional people affected, PIK wrote. “The findings clearly demonstrate that there is a large difference in the risk of global ecosystem change under a scenario of no climate change mitigation compared to one of ambitious mitigation,” Sebastian Ostberg, one of the study authors, was cited as saying. …



Scientists Uncover Evidence of Earth’s Impending Tipping Point

By Steve Carr — June 07, 2012 Image courtesy of Cheng (Lily) Li.

A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that could have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation. “It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” said Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature. “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life including for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”

The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where.The Nature paper, in which the scientists, including University of New Mexico Distinguished Professor of Biology James H. Brown, compares the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes currently underway and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the paper, 22 internationally known scientists describe an urgent need for better predictive models based on a detailed understanding of how the biosphere has reacted to rapidly changing conditions, including climate and human population growth, in the distant past. “There are seven billion people worldwide and a giant global economy,” said Brown. “We have the data and if you do the arithmetic, the current situation is unsustainable” said Brown. “We have created a giant bubble of population that must either be deflated gradually or it will burst catastrophically with deprivation and misery everywhere. No one will be immune.”

How Close Is a Global Tipping Point?
The authors of the Nature review – biologists, ecologists, complex-systems theoreticians, geologists and paleontologists from the United States, Canada, South America and Europe – argue that although many warning signs are emerging, no one knows how close to a global tipping point Earth is, or whether it is inevitable. The scientists urge focused research to identify early warning signs of a global transition and acceleration of efforts to address the root causes. “We really do have to be thinking about these global scale tipping points, because even the parts of Earth we are not messing with directly could be prone to some very major changes,” Barnosky said. “And the root cause, ultimately, is human population growth and how many resources each one of us uses.” “What we’ve done as a society,” said Brown, “is to create a bubble of population and economy, which is totally dependent on non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and metals on unsustainable use of renewable resources such as water and fisheries. Flows of these resources to support local and regional economies must come from the global system, where they are simply running out.”

Coauthor Elizabeth Hadly from Stanford University thinks that “We may already be past these tipping points in particular regions of the world. I just returned from a trip to the high Himalayas in Nepal where I witnessed families fighting each other with machetes for wood…wood that they would burn to cook their food in one evening. In places where governments are lacking basic infrastructure, people fend for themselves and biodiversity suffers. We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth.” The authors note that studies of small-scale ecosystems show that once 50-90 percent of an area has been altered, the entire ecosystem tips irreversibly into a state far different from the original in terms of the mix of plant and animal species and their interactions. This is typically accompanied by species extinctions and a loss of biodiversity. Currently, to support a population of seven billion people, about 43 percent of Earth’s surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use, with roads cutting through much of the remainder. The population is expected to rise to nine billion by 2045; at that rate, current trends suggest that half Earth’s land surface will be disturbed by 2025. To Barnosky, this is disturbingly close to a global tipping point. “Can it really happen? Looking into the past tells us unequivocally that yes, it can really happen. It has happened. The last glacial/interglacial transition 11,700 years ago was an example of that,” Barnosky said, noting that animal diversity still has not recovered from extinctions during that time. “I think that if we want to avoid the most unpleasant surprises, we want to stay away from that 50 percent mark.”
Global Change Biology
The paper emerged from a conference held at UC Berkeley in 2010 to discuss the idea of a global tipping point, how we’d recognize it and how we could avoid it. Twenty-two of the attendees eventually summarized available evidence of past global state-shifts, the current state of threats to the global environment and what happened after past tipping points. They concluded that there is an urgent need for global cooperation to reduce world population growth and per-capita resource use, replace fossil fuels with sustainable sources, develop more efficient food production and distribution without taking over more land, and better manage the land and ocean areas not already dominated by humans as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services.



Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere

Barnosky, et al Nature 486, 52–58 (07 June 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11018 Published online 06 June 2012 ABSTRACT: Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning signs of critical transitions on global as well as local scales, and by detecting feedbacks that promote such transitions. It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.

Short VIDEO with Tony Barnosky








Is a Constructive Conservation the Last Chance for Biodiversity? Pragmatic Approach to Saving What Can Be Saved

Oct. 10, 2013 — How can biodiversity be preserved in a world in which traditional ecosystems are increasingly being displaced by “human-made nature”? Biologists at the TU Darmstadt and ETH Zurich have developed a new concept for conservation measures that incorporates current landscapes formerly considered ecologically “of little value.” Numerous experiences from islands have shown that this concept has a positive effect on biodiversity. Now the authors are proposing  applying these lessons learned to other landscapes. In a human-dominated world that contains only little “historical” nature, the term ecosystem can no longer be a synonym for unspoilt nature. The term “novel ecosystems” was coined a few years ago to describe disturbed ecosystems in which biodiversity has been significantly altered as the result of human intervention. “In our new conservation framework we argue that this strict distinction between historic and novel ecosystems should be reconsidered to aid conservation,” pollination biologist Dr. Christopher Kaiser-Bunbury describes the approach, which is not without controversy.

On continents with vast natural parks, such as the USA and Africa, critics fear that the new concept could weaken the protection of historic nature by, for instance, redirecting financial resources towards more active intervention and design of ecosystems. The team of Darmstadt and Zurich biologists, however, propagates a reconciling approach. “Our framework combines strategies that were, until now, considered incompatible. Not only historic wildlands are worth protecting, but also designed cultural landscapes. Given the increased anthropogenic pressure on nature, we propose a multi-facetted approach to preserve biodiversity: to protect historic nature where ecologically viable; to actively create new, intensively managed ecosystems; to accept novel ecosystems as natural, wild landscapes; and to convert agricultural and other cultivated landscapes while generally maintaining land-use priorities.” New ecosystems may also include maize fields and banana plantations, as agricultural land can be used to preserve biodiversity. In fact, necessary measures are relatively easy to implement and comparatively inexpensive. Trials in Europe involving hedges and meadow strips along fields, for example, have shown that many animal species use these areas for feeding and nesting. Such modifications also create corridors between habitats that are traditionally worth protecting. “The individual measures proposed here are not novel but what is needed is an overall concept that combines these measures on a landscape level. And this is something that has been tested on many oceanic islands — with considerable success.”… On the Seychelles, for instance, the combined conservation measures include the strict protection of natural cloud forest on a few mountain tops, the management of abandoned cinnamon plantations, and green urban areas such as gardens. The recovery of threatened species and a halt to the decline of native biodiversity are indicators of the success of these conservation strategies. “At the same time, though, we need to know more about how invasive species influence biodiversity,”…


Christoph Kueffer, Christopher N Kaiser-Bunbury. Reconciling conflicting perspectives for biodiversity conservation in the Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2013; : 130909062254005 DOI: 10.1890/120201



Wetland restoration in the northern Everglades: Watershed potential and nutrient legacies
(October 10, 2013) — To most people, restoration of Florida’s Everglades means recovering and protecting the wetlands of south Florida. What many don’t realize is how intimately the fortunes of the southern Everglades are tied to central Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and lands even further north. … But this natural path of water has been greatly altered by people, leading to a host of environmental problems that state and federal scientists, policy makers, conservationists, and private landowners are now trying to solve. ….One of the big challenges is nutrient pollution. Land in the northern Everglades is mostly privately owned, and urbanization and agriculture now send runoff laden with fertilizers and other contaminants into Lake Okeechobee. This nutrient-contaminated water would damage the delicate southern Everglades should it reach them. So, much of the water that historically flowed south from Lake Okeechobee is now diverted to estuaries on Florida’s east and west coasts. As a result, the southern Everglades are somewhat starved for water, while the coastal estuaries receive far too much from the lake. Although a connection hasn’t been definitively made, heavy flows of nutrient-rich freshwater into the estuaries are suspected in die-offs of eelgrass, manatees and pelicans; huge blooms of algae; and zones of oxygen-starved water, Bohlen says…Cattle ranching is the main land use directly north of the lake. So, one restoration practice is to pay ranchers to restore wetlands or create ponds to hold water on their lands. This way, water from the northern Everglades doesn’t flow as quickly or in as large amounts into Lake Okeechobee, taking pressure off the lake, its dike, and the estuaries. It may also be cheaper to store water in this manner, rather than in huge public works projects. Plus, by holding back some water in restored marshes or ponds “in theory, at least, you’ll also be holding back some of the nutrients,” Bohlen says. Restored wetlands are generally very good, in fact, at removing nitrogen from the system…..full story



Migrating birds fly nonstop for more than six months

The Alpine swift stays aloft for 200 days while migrating between Africa and Europe, a study has found. (Daniele Occhiato / August 29, 2010)

By Monte Morin LA TIMES October 8, 2013, 2:29 p.m. Talk about a red-eye flight! After attaching electronic monitors to half a dozen Alpine swifts,
researchers say they were shocked to discover that migrating birds flew nonstop for 200 days. That’s right, the birds remained airborne for more than six months, eating, drinking and sleeping on the fly, so to speak. Swiss scientists recently published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. Since the 1970s, ornithologists have speculated that the Alpine swift’s smaller cousin, the common swift, stayed airborne for much of the year, although that concept is based mostly on short-term radar data. In fact, only aquatic animals like dolphins have been proven capable of such long-term locomotion. (Unlike humans, dolphins sleep by resting one half of their brain at a time.) Recently however, researchers at the Swiss Ornithological Institute and the Bern University of Applied Sciences, captured six Alpine swifts prior to their epic migration to Western Africa. Each of the birds was harnessed with an electronic monitor that was slightly smaller than a postage stamp. The devices used sunlight to track the bird’s location, and also measured changes in their body position and movement. When the birds returned to Switzerland six to seven months later, three of them were recaptured and their data downloaded. (Monitors with radio transmitters would have been too heavy for the birds.) At first, lead study author and ornithologist Felix Liechti said he did a double-take when he looked at the data. From late September until about early spring, it appeared the birds did not stop moving. “It seemed to me unlikely that they did not rest somewhere on trees or cliffs,” Liechti said. “I was very surprised.”

What Liechti and colleagues found was that during the daytime, the birds activity and pitch measurements showed that they were not resting on the ground. Also, at night the birds greatly reduced their wing flapping and appeared to be gliding for long distances. 

And how did they eat and drink? Swifts feed on so-called aerial plankton, bugs and spiders that are swept into the sky by high winds. Scientists believe they get much of their water from this prey, however they are able to skim ponds and lakes while in flight, like swallows, Liechti said. The epic flight began just after mating season in Europe and seemed to last throughout their wintering time in Africa. Only when the birds began to return to Europe in the spring, and had crossed the Sahara Desert, did they appear to take rest breaks. “I think this might have had to do with limited food resources in the air,” Liechti said. It remains unclear why the birds would choose to expend so much energy on long-haul flights. “We can only speculate as to what the profit is of staying airborne all the time,” Liechti said. “Is it avoiding predation? Parasites? We don’t know.”


The logger that was attached to the birds to collect light and acceleration data over the course of the Avian swift’s yearlong migration cycle.
Credit: Swiss Ornithological Institute




Early bird catches the worm…for dinner


October 10, 2013


( —Birds, such as great and blue tits, scout for food in the morning but only return to eat it in late afternoon to maximise their chances of evading predators in the day without starving to death overnight, Oxford University research has


Longer Life for Humans Linked to Further Loss of Endangered Species

ScienceDaily October 9, 2013 As human life expectancy increases, so does the percentage of invasive and endangered birds and mammals, according to a new study. …  > full story



Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?


At the Solvay Conference on Physics in 1927, the only woman in attendance was Marie Curie (bottom row, third from left). Mondadori Portfolio, via Getty Image

By EILEEN POLLACK NYTIMES Published: October 3, 2013 933 Comments

Last summer, researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts. The new study goes a long way toward providing hard evidence of a continuing bias against women in the sciences. Only one-fifth of physics Ph.D.’s in this country are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American; of all the physics professors in the United States, only 14 percent are women. The numbers of black and Hispanic scientists are even lower; in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics. The reasons for those shortages are hardly mysterious — many minority students attend secondary schools that leave them too far behind to catch up in science, and the effects of prejudice at every stage of their education are well documented. But what could still be keeping women out of the STEM fields (“STEM” being the current shorthand for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics”), which offer so much in the way of job prospects, prestige, intellectual stimulation and income? As one of the first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics from Yale — I graduated in 1978 — this question concerns me deeply. I attended a rural public school whose few accelerated courses in physics and calculus I wasn’t allowed to take because, as my principal put it, “girls never go on in science and math.” Angry and bored, I began reading about space and time and teaching myself calculus from a book. When I arrived at Yale, I was woefully unprepared. The boys in my introductory physics class, who had taken far more rigorous math and science classes in high school, yawned as our professor sped through the material, while I grew panicked at how little I understood. The only woman in the room, I debated whether to raise my hand and expose myself to ridicule, thereby losing track of the lecture and falling further behind….


Related Video:

Two Anthropology Professors Discuss Barriers for Female Scientists



Plastic Waste Is a Hazard for Subalpine Lakes Too

Oct. 7, 2013 — Many subalpine lakes may look beautiful and even pristine, but new evidence suggests they may also be contaminated with potentially hazardous plastics. Researchers say those tiny microplastics are likely finding their way into the food web through a wide range of freshwater invertebrates too… the problem of plastic pollution isn’t limited to the ocean. “Next to mechanical impairments of swallowed plastics mistaken as food, many plastic-associated chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, or acutely toxic,” said Christian Laforsch of the University of Bayreuth in Germany. “Moreover, the polymers can adsorb toxic hydrophobic organic pollutants and transport these compounds to otherwise less polluted habitats. Along this line, plastic debris can act as vector for alien species and diseases.”….


Evolutionary question answered: Ants more closely related to bees than to most wasps
(October 8, 2013) — Genome sequencing and bioinformatics resolves a long-standing, evolutionary issue, demonstrating that ants and bees are more closely related to each other than they are to certain wasps. … > full story


20-million-year-old bird had two tails

Published October 09, 2013

A reconstruction of a two-tailed 120-million-year-old Jeholornis. (Aijuan Shi/National Geographic)

120-million-year-old bird sported not one, but two tails, paleontologists found. The discovery alludes to a complicated evolutionary path in the tails of birds we see today, National Geographic reported. The second-oldest known bird, Jeholornis, lived in what is today China along with other feathered prehistoric animals. Fossils show the Jeholornis was the size of a turkey, had claws on its winged forelimbs with three small teeth in its lower jaw. Now, paleontologists are looking at the rear end of the large birds. They not only possess a long-fan feathered tail but also a second tail frond. “The ‘two-tail’ plumage of Jeholornis is unique,” according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was led by Jingmai O’Connor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.


Zoos Aim to Ward Off a Penguin Killer

Penguins at the London Zoo. Last year, six penguins died of malaria at the zoo. Ben Stansall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. NYTIMES Published: October 6, 2013

Zoos all around the world love penguins. They’re cute, they don’t require much space, they never eat zookeepers. And children adore watching them, especially at feeding time. But as carefree as they might look, torpedoing through the water or rocketing into the air like a Poseidon missile, zoo penguins are stalked by an unrelenting killer: malaria.
“It’s probably the top cause of mortality for penguins exposed outdoors,” said Dr. Allison N. Wack, a veterinarian at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, which is building a new exhibit that will double its flock to 100 birds. If left untreated, the disease would probably kill at least half the birds it infected, though outbreaks vary widely in intensity.
The avian version is not a threat to humans because mosquitoes carrying malaria and the parasites are species-specific; mosquitoes that bite birds or reptiles tend not to bite mammals, said Dr. Paul P. Calle, chief veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs New York City’s zoos. And avian malaria is caused by strains of the Plasmodium parasite that do not infect humans.
But for penguins in captivity, the threat is so great that many zoos dose their birds in summer with pills for malaria, said Dr. Richard Feachem, director of global health at the University of California, San Francisco.
Last year, six Humboldt penguins in the London Zoo died of malaria.
London is also where the first case of penguin malaria was diagnosed almost a century ago; it was found in a King penguin in 1926.

Since then, there have been many outbreaks of avian malaria, including at zoos in Baltimore, South Korea, Vienna and Washington, D.C….



All dried up.
October 11, 2013 Economist

China is running out of water, but the government’s remedies are potentially disastrous. One-third of Yellow River and its tributaries are unfit even for agriculture. Four thousand petrochemical plants line its banks. China hopes to follow America into a shale-gas revolution. But each well needs 15,000 tonnes of water a year to run. And then there are the coal plants. ….



Oct. 04, 2013 Science Friday

‘Countdown’ Explores the Effects of Our Overpopulated Planet



The global population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. In his new book, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, author Alan Weisman asks how we got here, how many people the planet can support, and what we can do to stabilize growth. Weisman tells SciFri how cultural, scientific, and political communities across the globe are tackling these issues.



Low water and high hopes – KLAMATH BASIN

By DEVAN SCHWARTZ H&N Staff Reporter Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013 11:45 pm

Summer has turned to fall in the Klamath Basin, the salmon are filling the Klamath River, and many are reflecting on a difficult and dramatic water year marked by drought and water shutoffs. Some irrigators barely got by; others have been dry for months. Klamath Basin residents started expecting trouble when winter skies dried up and precipitation slowed in the early weeks of 2012. Ample rain and snowfall are important factors in filling Upper Klamath Lake and tributary rivers that provide water for irrigation, stream health and other uses. A unique confluence of factors brought water resource issues to the surface in the Klamath Basin this year.

  • First, extreme drought conditions created a premium on water supplies and highlighted many competing water needs.
  • Second, a new joint biological opinion crafted by federal agencies changed the mandates for amounts of water required to be kept in Upper Klamath Lake for endangered sucker and to flow down the Klamath River for endangered coho salmon.
  • Third, the first enforceable year of state water rights came into effect after a 38-year legal battle.
  • Fourth, calls for water made by senior water rights holders set into motion water regulation in the upper Klamath Basin. The spigots were turned off for many farmers and ranchers for the first time. About 110,000 irrigated acres were affected.
  • Fifth, a lack of water largely dried up the area’s national wildlife refuges. Lower Klamath Lake, an important refuge for waterfowl and other species, reached its driest point in 70 years, according to the refuge complex manager.
  • Sixth, low water on the Klamath River created a tense situation for groups with a big interest in salmon runs. Central Valley Project farmers sued to block the release of water from the Trinity River (the Klamath River’s largest tributary) intended to prevent a likely fish kill. A judge ruled the releases should resume.
  • Finally, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., recognized these issues and assembled a task force to address regional water issues and seek long-term solutions for the Klamath Basin. Their work is ongoing and may be delayed by the federal government shutdown.

All of these factors, and others, reinforce the complexity of the Klamath Basin and the call of many stakeholders to seek common solutions to natural resource challenges.




By 2047, Coldest Years May Be Warmer Than Hottest in Past

A new paper based on top climate models says that by about 2047, average temperatures across the globe will be higher than any highs recorded previously, with tropics hit earlier.

By JUSTIN GILLIS October 9, 2013 NY Times

If greenhouse emissions continue their steady escalation, temperatures across most of the earth will rise to levels with no recorded precedent by the middle of this century, researchers said Wednesday. Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa calculated that by 2047, plus or minus five years, the average temperatures in each year will be hotter across most parts of the planet than they had been at those locations in any year between 1860 and 2005. To put it another way, for a given geographic area, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature. Unprecedented climates will arrive even sooner in the tropics, Dr. Mora’s group predicts, putting increasing stress on human societies there, on the coral reefs that supply millions of people with fish, and on the world’s greatest forests. “Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced,” Dr. Mora said in an interview. “What we’re saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.” The research comes with caveats. It is based on climate models, huge computer programs that attempt to reproduce the physics of the climate system and forecast the future response to greenhouse gases. Though they are the best tools available, these models contain acknowledged problems, and no one is sure how accurate they will prove to be at peering many decades ahead. The models show that unprecedented temperatures could be delayed by 20 to 25 years if there is a vigorous global effort to bring emissions under control. While that may not sound like many years, the scientists said the emissions cuts would buy critical time for nature and for human society to adapt, as well as for development of technologies that might help further reduce emissions. Other scientists not involved in the research said that slowing emissions would have a bigger effect in the long run, lowering the risk that the climate would reach a point that triggers catastrophic changes. They praised the paper as a fresh way of presenting information that is known to specialists in the field, but not by the larger public. “If current trends in carbon dioxide emissions continue, we will be pushing most of the ecosystems of the world into climatic conditions that they have not experienced for many millions of years,” said Ken Caldeira, a climate researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. The Mora paper is a rarity: a class project that turned into a high-profile article in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals….


Urgent new time frame for climate change revealed by massive analysis
(October 9, 2013) — The seesaw variability of global temperatures often engenders debate over how seriously we should take climate change. But within 35 years, even the lowest monthly dips in temperatures will be hotter than we’ve experienced in the past 150 years, according to a new and massive analysis of all climate models. The tropics will be the first to exceed the limits of historical extremes and experience an unabated heat wave that threatens biodiversity and heavily populated countries with the fewest resources to adapt. … > full story

Camilo Mora, Abby G. Frazier, Ryan J. Longman, Rachel S. Dacks, Maya M. Walton, Eric J. Tong, Joseph J. Sanchez, Lauren R. Kaiser, Yuko O. Stender, James M. Anderson, Christine M. Ambrosino, Iria Fernandez-Silva, Louise M. Giuseffi, Thomas W. Giambelluca. The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability. Nature, 2013; 502 (7470): 183 DOI: 10.1038/nature12540


Tropics first region on globe to hit a new climate era, research finds.
Daily Climate Forget, for the moment, melting Arctic ice and polar bears. The tropics – and the 5.5 billion people living there – will be the first region on the globe to experience a “radically different” climate


Inconvenient Uncertainties– NY TIMES Opinion

By GERNOT WAGNER and MARTIN L. WEITZMAN OPINION NY TIMES Published: October 10, 2013 Gernot Wagner is a senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Martin L. Weitzman is a professor of economics at Harvard University. They are co-authors of the forthcoming book “Climate Shock.”

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — THE headline in The New York Times yesterday was succinct. “By 2047, Coldest Years May Be Warmer Than Hottest in Past, Scientists Say.” Not, say, “around 2050” or “within our lifetime.” The specificity makes the crisis feel real, imminent and terrible. Call it a convenient truth. The story was about a new study published this week in the journal Nature that calculated that by 2047, the average temperature will be hotter across most parts of the planet than it had been at those locations in any year between 1860 and 2005.

In truth, attention to the year 2047 is misguided. Climate around the world has already changed to a point where we can perceive humanity’s fingerprint. Extreme weather events like the two hurricanes that hit New York City in the past two years are going to be only more intense in the future.

The study’s authors acknowledged the uncertainties, adding a margin of error of five years to the 2047 estimate. The date will occur at different times in different places, with the tropics being the most immediately vulnerable.

Their caveats underscored the uncertainties inherent in making predictions about our climate future. Specificity can help reduce the numbing complexity of climate change to something that we can all understand — and fear. And perhaps that is the first step in mobilizing to fix the problem. But scientists speak in probabilities. They can measure where we are and venture predictions of where we are going; they cannot tell us precisely where temperatures will end up, what the impacts will be, and where important tipping points lie along the way.

Global atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million earlier this year — higher than at any time in the last three million years. Even at these concentrations, we are facing enormous uncertainties. Roughly three million years ago, global sea levels were 50 to 80 feet higher than today, and camels lived in Canada, which just goes to show how large the uncertainties truly are. We aren’t anywhere close to turning this around. The atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are still going up, and that increase is still accelerating.

What this will mean for future temperatures is hard to pinpoint with precision, but we estimate that without further action to reduce emissions, the planet is on track to see the eventual global average rise by at least 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. This is most likely past the point when we will see the melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica, raising sea levels by dozens of feet. But putting too much emphasis on one particular temperature figure is like zeroing in on the year 2047. What is scarier still is the uncertainty about the truly extreme outcomes. Our own calculations estimate that there is a roughly 5 percent to 10 percent chance that the eventual average temperature could be 6 degrees Celsius higher, rather than 3. What this would mean is outside anyone’s imagination, perhaps even Dante’s. We can obsess about all of these scenarios.

A rise of three degrees would be bad enough. But when you factor in the uncertainty, there is even more reason to put global warming on an even more sharply decreasing path.

The best way to do that would be to put a global price on carbon dioxide pollution. Making it more expensive to pollute would redirect the ingenuity, effort and money from a high-carbon, low-efficiency economy to creating a new, low-carbon, high-efficiency one. The world is a messy place. The scientific method imposes some order, but in the case of climate change, that order is probabilistic. For the sake of science and the planet, we should not become distracted by a false sense of certitude. Imprecise truths are the most inconvenient ones. We know enough to act now. What we don’t know should prompt us to even more decisive action.



PETM Shocker: When CO2 Levels Doubled 55 Million Years Ago, Earth May Have Warmed 9°F In 13 Years

By Joe Romm on October 8, 2013 at 5:32 pm

The Paleoeocene’s 40-foot Titanoboa

The Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) and associated carbon pulse “are often touted as the best geologic analog for the current” manmade rise in CO2 levels, as a new study notes.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, “Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum,” concludes that sediment data indicates the carbon was released in the geologic blink of an eye. As the news release explains, Rutgers geologists Morgan Schaller and James Wright argue that:

… following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years. Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years. “We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically — as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,” Wright said. “The oceans become acidic and the world warms up dramatically. Note that if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we are headed for a tripling or quadrupling of CO2 concentrations from preindustrial levels. The nature of the PETM carbon burst has been a puzzle to scientists for a long time, but “Wright and Schaller’s contention that it happened so rapidly is radically different from conventional thinking, and bound to be a source of controversy, Schaller believes.” Still, any study offering new answers on the PETM merits attention, given the prospect that we might be doing something similar today….


James D. Wright and Morgan F. Schaller. Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum. PNAS 2013 110 (40) 15908-15913; published ahead of print September 16, 2013 (subscription required)



Plant Diversity May Affect Climate–vegetation Interaction

October 7, 2013 — Biologists have analyzed to what extent plant diversity influences the stability of climate–vegetation interaction… On the one hand, some plant types in their model are sensitive to changes in precipitation, leading to an unstable “vegetation-climate” system i.e. abrupt changes in vegetation cover and precipitation may occur if only these plants are prevalent. On the other hand, other plant types that are more drought-resistant and more resilient to minor changes in precipitation are considered in their model. If both plant types interact with the climate simultaneously, then plant diversity tends to attenuate the instability of the interaction between climate and vegetation. The system shows strong fluctuations, as can be seen from Kroepelin’s data, but abrupt changes do not occur anymore. Interestingly enough, the “vegetation-climate” system also stabilizes if sensitive plant types, distinguishing themselves only by different thresholds are mixed in the model. Some plant types are sensitive to minor changes in precipitation in humid climate while others can survive on a limited amount of water, but react rapidly with the onset of aridity. However, this system is only seemingly stable and may hide instability: If some plant types were removed or introduced, an abrupt shift in vegetation cover and precipitation may occur as a surprise…. > full story


M. Claussen, S. Bathiany, V. Brovkin, T. Kleinen. Simulated climate–vegetation interaction in semi-arid regions affected by plant diversity. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1962


As Sea Level Rises, Everglades’ Freshwater Plants Perish

October 10, 2013 — Satellite imagery over the southeastern Everglades confirms long-term trends of mangrove expansion and sawgrass habitat loss near the … > full story


The tundra: A dark horse in planet Earth’s greenhouse gas budget
(October 10, 2013)
— There are huge amounts of organic carbon in the soil beneath the tundra that covers the northernmost woodless areas of the planet. New research findings show that the tundra may become a source of CO2 as the climate becomes warmer. .. We can see that the annual release of CO2 from living organisms increases linearly as the temperature increases, measured as the average temperature in July. However, it seems that the ability of the photosynthesis to assimilate carbon stops increasing when the temperature in July rises above approx. seven degrees Celsius, which has occurred several times in past years. This means that the tundra may become a CO2 source if the current strong climate warming continues as expected,” says Magnus Lund, before pointing out that the fear that the tundra can develop into a source of CO2 is based on a very limited number of measurements. “It’s a problem in the Arctic that we don’t perform measurements at enough locations. The variation between locations is substantial both for CO2 and not least for methane….Magnus Lund emphasises that, in decades to come, from an Arctic perspective, methane will remain the primary contributor to Earth’s greenhouse gas budget. In 2007, researchers from the Zackenberg research station in Northeast Greenland made a surprising discovery: In autumn, when the surface of the tundra freezes and ice is formed, large quantities of the powerful greenhouse gas methane are released. In fact, the quantities released were so large, that the annual methane emissions had to be doubled in the calculation of the tundra’s methane budget. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, its effect is 20-25 times as strong as that of CO2. Methane, therefore, still plays a central role for the research performed at Zackenberg. Recent studies have shown that the formation of methane is closely linked to the tundra’s water content — as implied by the term “swamp gas.” The more water is present in the tundra, the more methane is formed. And vice versa, where there is less water, the presence of oxygen will provide the basis for formation of CO2.
In this way, the soil’s water content plays an important role in determining what will happen with the carbon below the tundra. Areas that become drier will give rise to increased CO2 emissions, whereas areas that become more moist will cause the emissions of methane to increase. The water balance is affected by the temperature and precipitation, but also by the soil’s content of ice…..full story


Massive Spruce Beetle Outbreak in Colorado Tied to Drought

October 10, 2013 — A new University of Colorado Boulder study indicates drought high in the northern Colorado mountains is the primary trigger of a massive spruce beetle outbreak that is tied to long-term changes in sea-surface temperatures from the Northern Atlantic Ocean, a trend that is expected to continue for decades….The new study also puts to rest false claims that fire suppression in the West is the trigger for spruce beetle outbreaks, said Veblen…..The strongest climate correlation to spruce beetle outbreaks was above average annual values for the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, or AMO, a long-term phenomenon that changes sea-surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. Believed to shift from cool to warm phases roughly every 60 years, positive AMO conditions are linked to warmer and drier conditions over much of North America, including the West.… The area of high-elevation forests affected by spruce beetles is growing in the West, Hart said. “In 2012, U.S. Forest Service surveys indicated that more area was under attack by spruce beetles than mountain pine beetles in the Southern Rocky Mountains, which includes southern Wyoming, Colorado and northern New Mexico,” she said. “The drought conditions that promote spruce beetle outbreak are expected to continue.”…. full story

Sarah J. Hart, Thomas Thorstein Veblen, Karen S. Eisenhart, Daniel Jarvis, Dominik Kulakowski. Drought induces spruce beetle(Dendroctonus rufipennis)outbreaks across northwestern Colorado. Ecology, 2013; : 130915103518007 DOI: 10.1890/13-0230.1


Hurricane Sandy’s Impact On New Jersey Coastal Wetlands, One Year Later

Oct. 7, 2013 — Hurricane Sandy landed right on top of Dr. Tracy Quirk’s wetland monitoring stations — but it wasn’t all bad news. Quirk, an assistant professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science at Drexel University, had been performing wetland research for several years at monitoring sites in Barnegat and Delaware Bays in New Jersey. Recording devices installed at these sites continuously measured water level and salinity for a wide range of wetland studies at Drexel and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

….There was some good news from the marshes: Although some water-level recorders were over-topped and stopped recording (making it difficult to use direct measures of the water height), there was evidence of marsh swelling during the storm. That swelling is an indication of marshes’ ability to absorb some of the storm surge — which, in hard-hit urban areas, had resulted in high water marks up to seven feet during Hurricane Sandy. Quirk points out that resilient, healthy wetlands near coastal areas have a key role in protecting local communities from hurricane-induced storm surges and flooding.

“Imagine having a marsh in front of your house instead of concrete,” Quirk said. “Paved areas make flooding worse because water has nowhere to go.” In her post-Sandy research, Quirk was interested in finding out whether the storm affected how the marshes sustain themselves. The disturbance of an intense storm could alter the delicate equilibrium between flooding, vegetation growth and sediment deposits in wetland ecosystems — either temporarily or long-term. That’s where the bad news comes in. As she works through the data analysis this fall, Quirk said she hasn’t found much sign of sediment deposits, before or after the hurricane struck. Sandy had the potential to deposit a lot of sediments, fast, which would have been good for building up wetlands. Hurricane Irene in 2011 had been associated with a bump up in wetland accretion by several millimeters at a number of locations in the region — a bonus growth equivalent to the amount that typically accrues in an entire year. “Sediment-limited systems like coastal lagoon marshes largely depend on deposition by storms to vertically adjust elevation, so they don’t sink relative to sea level,” Quirk said. “In places where we have ongoing monitoring, the evidence suggests that some sites are subsiding — sinking below the surface — rather than increasing elevation at a rate similar to local sea level rise. Surface deposition would be a good thing for these marshes.” Any number of reasons could explain why those hoped-for sediment deposits didn’t materialize, she said. Maybe the unusually high tide during Hurricane Sandy caused less suspension of sediments in the storm-surge waters. Or maybe the storm water did carry sediments and plant debris, but dropped them on the barrier island or inland along the tree line and not at her sampling sites in the marsh interior….Whatever the reason, Quirk’s findings point to cause for continued concern over the coastal marshes’ future.These salt marshes provide a number of extremely valuable ecosystem services and benefits to society,” she said. Storm surge protection is just one of these. Coastal marshes also provide excellent habitat for commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish, especially as a nursery ground for these animals. They’re also important for storing, transforming and removing nutrients that can be harmful to the aquatic ecosystems….



A Katrina-Sized Cyclone Is Hurtling Toward India

By Joanna M. Foster on October 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Cyclone Phailin

As the U.S. east coast prepares to mark the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the east coast of India is bracing for what is rapidly becoming a potentially catastrophic cyclone.

Meteorologists monitoring Cyclone Phailin in the Bay of Bengal have recorded an alarming recent increase in the storm’s intensity over the course of the day. The cyclone’s maximum sustained wind speeds have doubled to a terrifying 160 mph, easily upgrading the storm to a Category 5 Hurricane. In addition to being powerful, Phailin is massive, similar in size to hurricane Katrina — approximately half the size of India. A category 4 hurricane that formed in the Bay of Bengal in 1999 battered the Indian state of Odisha for over 30 hours and killed 15,000 people. The Indian government has begun evacuating low-lying areas in two states and has advised farmers to harvest whatever they can salvage from their fields before the cyclone sweeps in. The army, navy, and air force have been placed on standby. …


Cyclone Phailin: Mass evacuations in eastern India

BBC NEWS October 11, 2013 More than 200,000 people in India are being evacuated as a massive cyclone is sweeping through the Bay of Bengal towards the east coast.



In [Yosemite] Rim fire’s aftermath, controversy over the recovery effort

Calls for salvage logging, restoration and reforestation projects in scarred wilderness spark controversy over how to proceed.

By Louis Sahagun LATIMES October 6, 2013, 6:37 p.m. BUCKHORN MEADOWS, Calif. — Calls for massive salvage logging, restoration and reforestation projects in the 257,000 acres of public wilderness scarred by the Rim fire have ignited controversy over how to proceed with the largest recovery effort undertaken in the Sierra Nevada. “We’re hoping to negotiate our way through this, but we need the infrastructure and personnel,” said Jerry Snyder, a spokesman for the Stanislaus National Forest. “This effort will be huge, so we’ll also need additional help from Washington.” But time is running out. The fire left behind about 1 billion board feet of salvageable timber, much of which could be rendered worthless by fungus and wood-boring beetles within a matter of months. At least 200 miles of roads are endangered by collapsing trees and fallen power poles. Existing culverts are no match for mudslides expected to choke Sierra streams after winter rains hit the fire-stripped slopes. Then there is the federal government shutdown, which could hamper firefighters’ efforts to mop up hot spots smoldering since the fire — touched off in August by a hunter’s illegal campfire — burned across the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park and private holdings. Although no one disagrees with the need for safety in an area so badly damaged by fire that much of it will remain closed for a year or more, there are disagreements about everything else.

On one side are those — mostly federal land managers and timber industry advocates — who want to get large-scale salvage logging approved before snow starts to fall. Reforestation projects later in the year, they say, would also boost economic activity in a region with only 30% of the mills it had a decade ago. “No doubt there’s more timber out there than can be absorbed by the mills,” said Mike Albrecht, president of the Calaveras County forest products firm Sierra Resource Management. “But I want to see that become the problem, not that we can’t get the wood to the rails.”

A week ago, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) introduced a controversial measure that would expedite salvage logging in the national forest and Yosemite by suspending environmental reviews and forestalling litigation by environmentalists, which, he said in an interview, “run the clock out on recovery of fire-killed timber.” But critics argue that such proposals — coupled with global warming, inadequate federal funding to manage replanted forests and unnaturally dense vegetation resulting from strict fire suppression policies — would only set the stage for more catastrophic blazes. Beyond that, salvage logging operations and tree plantings do not always go as planned.

In 2011, Forest Service crews planted nearly a million pine and fir trees to try to reclaim land scorched clean by the devastating Station fire in Los Angeles County. Most died within months.

Funding for federal reforestation efforts typically includes proceeds from salvaged timber sales, such as those that followed the Stanislaus Complex fire in 1987. However, millions of pine trees planted over 145,000 acres damaged by that blaze 26 years ago were consumed by the Rim fire.

Logs salvaged from last year’s 1,150-acre Ramsey fire remain unsold, forest service officials said.

Justin Augustine, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, argues that high-severity fire is a natural component of healthy Sierra Nevada forests. Claims about excessive fire severity are often used to justify and hasten what he described as “unnecessary salvage logging operations.”

“Salvage logging for other than safety concerns is barbaric,” Augustine said.

Malcolm North, a scientist at the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station in Davis, Calif., would not go that far.

Post-fire salvage doesn’t help the environment because snags are important to wildlife and influence how the forest recovers,” North said. “But it’s a tough situation for the Forest Service, which has more houses embedded in the forests they manage. As a result, their approach to fire is containment, which can have negative consequences for the natural environment.”….



Rising number of U.S. homes at risk from wildfires -report

Shasta County firefighters Zach Lacy (L) and Bob Baker spray water on a home burnt by the Clover Fire in Happy Valley, California September 10, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Max Whittaker

By Laura Zuckerman Thu Oct 10, 2013 10:09pm EDT (Reuters) – The number of homes at risk from wildfires in western U.S. states jumped 62 percent in the past year as more properties were developed in fire-prone areas, according to a report released on Thursday. About 1.2 million homes valued at more than $189 billion are at high to very high risk from wildfires in California and a dozen other Western states, according to CoreLogic Inc, a data and analytics company. The study comes near the close of a 2013 fire season that saw the most destructive fire in Colorado history, marked one of the largest burns on record in California, caused the deaths of 33 firefighters and strained U.S. Forest Service firefighting resources.

The report highlighted a boom in construction in areas located between towns and hinterlands as a key new risk factor that drove the number of homes at risk up sharply from last year when the report estimated 740,000 homes worth $136 billion were threatened. “As cities grow in population, they tend to expand outward into formerly undeveloped wild land areas,” Thomas Jeffery, senior hazard scientist for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions said in a statement. “Wind-blown embers can travel … and ignite homes located far away from an actual fire,” he said.

From 1990 to 2008, there were close to 17 million new homes built in the United States. About 10 million were located in areas “potentially exposed to higher wildfire-risk zones,” the report said…


Rim Fire scenes evoke heartbreak, joy (photos)

(Tom Stienstra/The Chronicle) John Fauls and Sally Anderson, on vacation from Australia, said they were touched by view from Rim of the World Vista — everything in their view burned in Rim Fire

Tom Stienstra SF Chronicle October 6, 2013 Groveland, Tuolumne County – From the interior of the Rim Fire, charred, dead trees stretch for miles down the canyon and across to a bare mountain face incinerated into a moonscape. Yet across the blackened earth, gray ash and tanged scent of burned wood, a bracken fern sprouted last week and stretched skyward, as life emerged anew. Amid downed trees and charred ground, a lone deer found a small, fresh patch of grass that pushed up from the ash. In areas where oaks were charred by ground fires but yet survived, chipmunks and squirrels searched and found acorns for their winter stashes. The land’s rebirth has started, campgrounds and recreation facilities have been largely protected, and the landscape has begun to heal after the Rim Fire reached 92 percent containment. Ground fires still consume brush in the Yosemite Wilderness south of remote Kibbie Lake. In the interior of Stanislaus National Forest, fires burn toward each other to eventual collision and flameout. Across the range, some stumps still smolder, smoke and burn into their root systems. The Rim Fire will end as the third largest in California history (since 1932, when records became verifiable): 257,135 acres and 402 square miles. It is also one of the best-known wildfires in the world, with its location overlapping the western boundary of Yosemite National Park in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.



After The Flood: How Climate Change Changed One Colorado Community Forever

By Kiley Kroh on October 10, 2013 at 9:03 am


Driving down Fourmile Canyon after severe flooding and mudslides. CREDIT: Kiley Kroh

….It began raining in the Boulder area on September 9, 2013. But, unlike most rainstorms this year, it didn’t stop. Mike Chard, Director of Boulder County’s Office of Emergency Management remembers the exact moment he realized they were facing a catastrophic event. His office had prepared for serious flood risk in the region and was closely monitoring the weather, but sometime around 5:00p.m. on September 11, he knew something was different: “We had never seen that many storm gauges popping into alarm that quickly.”

Around the same time, Gibson had his own moment of realization. “We knew that we were in for a major, major event when we were getting reports out of El Dorado Canyon, Fourmile Canyon, Twomile Creek, St. Vrain … [It] literally covered 100 linear miles along the Front Range.” And then, says Chard, “All heck just broke loose and everything was flooding.” In one week, Boulder received 17.15 inches of rain — an unprecedented amount, given the average for an entire year in the area is just under 21 inches. The 9.08 inches of rain Boulder received on September 12 set an all-time single-day record, smashing the previous high mark by nearly 800 percent. The floods impacted 17 counties, covering an area of 4,500 square miles — roughly the size of Connecticut. ….



Toxic Algal Blooms And Warming Waters: The Climate Connection

Sept. 30, 2013 | KUOW

…The mussels the Willifords ate around the campfire that night were indeed poisoned. But it was a natural type of poison. The shellfish had sucked up a toxin produced by a certain type of algae called dinophysis. Dinophysis has been found around the world and documented in Northwest waters for decades. But scientists think it’s becoming more toxic as ocean conditions change, in part due to climate change….


‘Stadium Waves’ Could Explain Lull in Global Warming

Science Daily (press release)

 – ‎October 10, 2013‎


Oct. 10, 2013 – One of the most controversial issues emerging from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is the failure of global climate models to predict a hiatus in warming of global surface  A new paper published in the journal Climate Dynamics suggests that this ‘unpredictable climate variability’ behaves in a more predictable way than previously assumed. The paper’s authors, Marcia Wyatt and Judith Curry, point to the so-called ‘stadium-wave’ signal that propagates like the cheer at sporting events whereby sections of sports fans seated in a stadium stand and sit as a ‘wave’ propagates through the audience. In like manner, the ‘stadium wave’ climate signal propagates across the Northern Hemisphere through a network of ocean, ice, and atmospheric circulation regimes that self-organize into a collective tempo. The stadium wave hypothesis provides a plausible explanation for the hiatus in warming and helps explain why climate models did not predict this hiatus. Further, the new hypothesis suggests how long the hiatus might last….



UN climate change panel: two graphs that tell the real story of the IPCC report

The sensitivity of the climate is not as important as how much carbon we can ‘safely’ emit, as these graphs show

October 7, 2012 The Guardian UK

Millions of words have been written about the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But for me, two key messages stand out – one for its importance, the other for its lack of importance, relative to the attention that it has received. Since our interactive graph about temperatures in your lifetime has generated so much interest, I thought I’d do a graph to explain each of these two points too….



Former Wall Street Journal Meteorologist Explains Why He Decided Never To Fly Again

By Rebecca Leber on October 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm

CREDIT: Shutterstock

For a meteorologist like Eric Holthaus, the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is something like waiting for the Super Bowl for six years. Holthaus, who writes for Quartz and formerly for the Wall Street Journal, was awake at 4 a.m. on a Friday morning reading through the summary that made it clear the world is running out of time to act. Boarding a plane home to Wisconsin, he broke down in tears. He determined to stop flying, a decision that has gained national attention. “It’s not worth the climate,” one of his tweets said.

IPCC’s conclusion, in short, is that scientists are unequivocally certain that the Earth is warming and that humans are the dominant cause. Without immediate action to curb emissions, the world has little chance to limit warming to 2°C. We only need to burn 10 percent of fossil fuels reserves to blow past that upper limit.

But Holthaus’ biggest moment of disillusionment was reading what scientists had to say about geoengineering that attempts to reverse climate change by changing the climate system. These last-ditch concepts can resemble costly sci-fi-like schemes and carry their own severe risks, like massive aerosol injection into the atmosphere. He knew this already, but it meant something different to see it in a document approved by 195 member countries.

In an interview with Climate Progress, Holthaus said he thought, “Well, that’s it,” as he read the report. “There’s no way we can wait anymore for world leaders to take action on this.” That’s what made him decide, as a as a meteorologist who has covered climate change for more than 10 years, to stop flying. He doesn’t consider it a drastic change, but leading by example.

“I do everything, I recycle, I don’t own a car, I’m a vegetarian, all of the things that are reducing my carbon footprint. But I also fly 75,000 miles a year,” he said. “So when I plugged that in a carbon calculator, it’s like, wow, I have double the emission of the average American and here I am every day telling people to take action and I’m not doing it myself.”

Conservative media have treated Holthaus with as much respect as they treat mainstream climate science. Drudge linked to it, while Fox News’ The Five ridiculed him, calling him, “a kook.” In that case, Holthaus said at least he’s glad he successfully got Fox to discuss climate change on air for 4 minutes. Otherwise, he says he’s had overwhelmingly positive reaction, from colleagues and people who have looked at their carbon footprint of daily activities like shopping or meat consumption. For people who don’t drive much but fly often, planes can account for three-quarters of a person’s emissions.



Around The Arctic, Frozen Earth Is Thawing And Creating ‘Drunken Forests’

By Joanna M. Foster on October 9, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Trees sinking into thawing permafrost are called “drunken forests” in Alaska.

On September 18, just a few days before the IPCC released its 5th assessment report on the state of the warming planet, the Alaskan city of Fairbanks was dusted with the year’s first snow, a full two weeks earlier than expected. Those who claimed that the premature winter wonderland was evidence that the planet is as chilly as ever must have overlooked all the trees in Alaska which tilt an odd angles, the cracked and pothole-ridden roads, and the houses that appear to be sliding downhill on level ground….. New research released this week has shown that another once icy area, the Hudson Bay lowlands, is also becoming decidedly less frozen. Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers from Queen’s University report that this area of rivers, lakes and peat bogs, long considered an ecological refuge of steady temperatures, in the especially climate-sensitive Arctic, has been warming at alarming rates since the 1990s. Over the last two decades, the Hudson Bay Lowlands have warmed by about three degrees Celsius, which has pushed the once ice-choked bay over a tipping point and on a path toward accelerated warming in the years to come. Sediment core samples from the bottom of lakes in the region show that the animal and plant life that form the foundation of the ecosystem have already changed dramatically, which will cause cascading effects higher up the food chain.



Alaska sinks as climate change thaws permafrost video and photos

As temperatures rise, more of Alaska’s land — known as permafrost, because it’s perennially frozen underground — is thawing and causing billions of dollars in damages, reports USA TODAY’s Wendy
Koch. The thawing of permafrost — frozen ground covering most of Alaska — doesn’t just damage roads, buildings and airport runways. It also releases vast amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Wendy Koch, USA TODAY 9:41 a.m. EDT October 9, 2013 NORTH POLE, Alaska — Up the road from Santa Claus Lane, past the candy cane-striped streetlamps, Cathy Richard’s backyard has a problem that not even elves — or the big guy in red — could fix. The wood deck moves up and down, like a slow-motion sleigh. “You leave for work and when you come home, it can be 7 inches higher,” says Richard, 36, a married bookkeeper and mom of three children. She knows the Grinch involved. Her home in this Fairbanks suburb, built in 2007, sits on land that thaws and refreezes so the concrete pillars holding up her deck have crumbled. The front walkway and garage floor are also cracking, and the lumpy lawn has fissures. Bad news for Richard — and, for the rest of us. Warmer temperatures are thawing the surface layer of land that covers most of Alaska and is known as permafrost (frozen below for at least two years in a row.) This thawing not only damages roads, buildings and airport runways, but also releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases that further warm the atmosphere — not just over Richard’s house but worldwide. The nation’s last frontier is — in many ways — its ground zero for climate change. Alaska’s temperatures are rising twice as fast as those in the lower 48, prompting more sea ice to disappear in summer. While this may eventually open the Northwest Passage to sought-after tourism, oil exploration and trade, it also spells trouble as wildfires increase, roads buckle and tribal villages sink into the sea.

On Aug. 26, a worker with the Alaska Department of Transportation secures sheets of polystyrene insulation to a road in Fairbanks, Alaska, that was damaged by permafrost thawing and will be repaved on top of the insulation. The sheets will minimize thawing in the future.(Photo: Wendy Koch, USA TODAY)

USA TODAY traveled to the Fairbanks area, where workers were busy insulating thaw-damaged roads this summer amid a record number of 80-degree (or hotter) days, as the eighth stop in a year-long series to explore how climate change is changing lives. The pace of permafrost thawing is “accelerating,” says Vladimir Romanovsky, who runs the University of Alaska’s Permafrost Laboratory in Fairbanks. He expects widespread degradation will start in a decade or two. By mid-century, his models suggest, permafrost could thaw in at least a third of Alaska and by 2100, in two-thirds of the state.

“This rapid thawing is unprecedented” and is largely due to fossil-fuel emissions, says Kevin Schaefer of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. He says it’s already emitting its own heat-trapping carbon dioxide and methane, but the amount will skyrocket in the next 20 to 30 years. “Once the emissions start, they can’t be turned off.”….


Climate change and how NZ cities are preparing for it

By Andy Kenworthy 11:52 PM Sunday Oct 6, 2013 NZ Herald

Element takes a look at what authorities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are expecting, how they are trying to minimise damage and preparing for the worst. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that the battle for global sustainability will be won or lost in the world’s cities. Cities and urban areas are estimated to account for 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and more than half of the world’s population live in them, so what we do in our urban centres will, to a large extent, define the future of our world. Governments are struggling to agree on action against climate change, but thankfully many city authorities are just getting on with tackling the problem as best they can. Element takes a look at what authorities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are expecting, how they are trying to minimise the damage and preparing for the worst, and how their plans shape up against those elsewhere….. Then there’s Auckland’s iconic coastline. Last year the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research predicted sea level rises of 0.5m to 1.5m by 2100. Another study by the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington warned that the rate of sea level rise is likely to increase towards the second half of this century, meaning action cannot be delayed. The Institute even goes so far as to suggest a retreat from sea-front homes and businesses in Mission Bay, Kohimarama and Kawakawa Bay, although it acknowledged that the unpopularity of such an approach means it is unlikely to be pursued. Auckland Council has set a target to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, based on 1990 levels. According to the Plan: “This will require a transformation from a fossil fuel-dependent, high energy-using, high-waste society to an ‘eco – or liveable – city’. This is typified by sustainable resource use, a quality compact form, an eco-economy, and transport and energy systems that are efficient, maximise renewable resources and minimise reliance on fossil-based transport fuels.”… Wellington’s City Council’s Climate Change Action Plan, regularly updated since it was first created back in 2007, prepares for sea-level rise, storm-surges, flooding, slips, and extreme storms, but also for the difficulty in maintaining water supply in the summer months due to reduced rainfall, higher temperatures and increased demand. ..To adapt to what’s coming, the city has commissioned a large amount of research on the potential impacts, including possible sea-level-rise scenarios from 0.5 to 2.5 metres. The authority is using that to inform everything from the design of stormwater drain systems to entire coastal dune landscapes.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has said: “Cities, rather than countries, are taking the lead on climate change issues. We need to take a climate change lens to all of Council’s activities and programmes.







US Antarctic research season is in jeopardy

Shutdown may force evacuation of US research stations.

Lauren Morello 04 October 2013

The South Pole’s Amundsen–Scott station would be left with only a skeleton crew if funding is not restored. Peter Rejcek, National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is likely to cancel the US Antarctic programme’s upcoming field season if the US government shutdown persists through mid-Octoberjeopardizing hundreds of scientists’ work in glaciology, ecology and astrophysics. ….Also affected would be the study of Antarctica’s subglacial lakes, pristine environments that have been isolated for millions of years. Ross Powell, a geologist at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, had planned to continue his study of Lake Whillans, a body of water trapped 800 metres under a glacier. Earlier this year, a drilling expedition reached the lake, and researchers found communities of bacteria. Powell is now trying to understand how isolated the lake is — whether it connects to nearby subglacial streams, and how that network of water affects the glacier’s flow into the Ross Sea. But the project has already been forced to cut eight scientists, and the planned number of days for field research this year was cut in half, to 10, because sequestration reduced the NSF’s Antarctic science budget. Now, Powell says, “it’s all up in the air.” Like other researchers, Powell says that he has not heard from the NSF directly about the possibility that the Antarctic season will be cancelled. Mahlon Kennicutt, a retired oceanographer and a former president of the 31-nation Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, says the shutdown complicates an already unstable funding situation for US Antarctic science. Last year, a blue-ribbon panel commissioned by the NSF warned that logistical costs — including transportation and support personnel — now consume 85–90% of the US Antarctic programme’s budget. That is partly a consequence of operating on the coldest, driest and highest continent on Earth, and partly a consequence of the country’s crumbling polar infrastructure, the panel warned. Now, sequestration and the shutdown are magnifying that problem, Kennicutt says. “Science will inordinately bear the brunt of these fiscal problems. This is a long-term issue. You have to wonder if there is a point at which this just can’t function.”



The widening impact of the US government shutdown


09:08 Gregory Valliere, Chief Political Strategist of Potomac Research Group and Grant Ballard, chief science officer at Point Blue Conservation Science.


For operations on U.S. land, it’s not open and shut

Carl Nolte SF Chronicle Updated 11:06 pm, Thursday, October 10, 2013

The government shutdown is having a patchwork effect in the Bay Area, with some public areas open while others are closed – a confusing and complex situation that is causing economic hardship to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the historic Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco is closed because it is owned by the National Park Service and operated by a private concessionaire. But the luxurious Cavallo Point lodge, spa and restaurant on national parkland at Fort Baker in Marin County is open because it is leased to an operator under a different set of federal rules. And while the vast Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which stretches from Tomales Bay to the Santa Cruz Mountains, is closed to the public, the Presidio of San Francisco surrounded by the recreation area operates under a separate federal law and is open.

Louis’ Restaurant, a diner just up the street from the Cliff House, is on national parkland, has a lease and is still serving. It’s complicated. ….The federal government is by far the largest single landowner in the Bay Area, and also in California – 45 percent of the state is owned by the federal government, including nine national parks and 15 national forests. The land is administered under a number of very different laws. The Cliff House, along with big and small operations in national parks, was closed as of Oct. 1, when Congress shut off federal money for many government operations. Everything shut down, from the ferry service that takes tourists to the Statue of Liberty to the boats that go to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Yosemite and all the other national parks were closed. Since the parks were closed, so were the famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite and even the not-so-famous snack bar at Stinson Beach in Marin County. However, there are exceptions: The Cavallo Point Lodge in Marin, a high-end destination resort, stayed open. It is taking reservations for rooms ranging from $470 a night to $779 for a special Girlfriends’ Getaway package, including valet parking, spa, credit and a yoga class. Business is “very good,” said Euan Taylor, Cavallo Point’s general manager. At San Francisco’s Cliff House, meanwhile, Hountalas, who owns the business with his wife, Mary, said they have suffered “considerable financial loss.” The difference, as explained by Alexandra Picavet, a National Park Service spokeswoman, is that the Cliff House and other park concession operators run under one legal arrangement and Cavallo Point under another.

The 150-year-old Cliff House was privately owned until the National Park Service bought it from George Whitney for $3.8 million in 1977. The building was then renovated and run under a concession contract by the Hountalas family. …Cavallo Point, part of the old Fort Baker military reservation, was leased to a resort operator under what Picavet calls “a different legal agreement.”

Taylor said the resort hotel and spa, which advertises itself as being “in the center of the Golden Gate National Parks,” has a long-term lease. It is operated by Passport Resorts under an agreement described as “a public-private partnership.”….



State Agency Appeals After Judge Calls Air a Natural Resource

By NEENA SATIJA Published: October 10, 2013 NY Times

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is appealing a lawsuit that it has already won — one that was filed by children. Environmental advocates say the appeal shows that the state will go to any lengths to fight the suggestion that it address climate change. As part of a national environmental movement, a group of young people in 2011 demanded that the commission enact steps to reduce greenhouse gases. The agency refused, and the young people’s parents sued on their behalf. A year later, District Judge Gisela D. Triana of Travis County ruled in the agency’s favor, saying it could use its own discretion and decide not to institute greenhouse gas regulations. But the commission still appealed, insisting that the court did not have jurisdiction over the case to begin with and that Judge Triana had made an “improper declaratory judgment” — that Texas is responsible for protecting “all natural resources of the state including the air and atmosphere.” Judge Triana agreed with the plaintiffs that a tenet of United States common law known as the public trust doctrine required the government to protect the atmosphere as a resource for public use. The agency had disagreed, saying Texas’ duty to protect resources under public trust were “limited to the waters of the state.” State lawyers late last month argued in front of the Texas Third Court of Appeals that Judge Triana’s comments were beyond the scope of the case and should be vacated. “Isn’t it a little disconcerting to have the state want that wiped off the books?” said Adam Abrams, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “Is it really so far-fetched to think that the air and the atmosphere belong to all of us?” Mr. Abrams called the appeal “a waste of taxpayer dollars.” Terry Clawson, an agency spokesman, said its costs associated with the case were mostly “internal.” “The T.C.E.Q. has concerns with how the district court opinion addressed the matter of public trust doctrine,” Mr. Clawson added. “The scope of this doctrine is a very important issue, which deserves to be fully vetted.” But David Spence, a professor of business and law at the University of Texas at Austin, said the scope of public trust was more symbolic than practical. “In a sense it’s a kind of low-stakes argument,” Mr. Spence said. “The public trust doctrine in the U.S. is a fairly weak thing.” (The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune.) Each state applies the principle differently, and few have used it with much force. The doctrine has generally been successful only at protecting open beaches for public use, Mr. Spence said. Still, even if Judge Triana’s statement does not mean much in practice, the environmental movement has seen it as symbolic — and the state has seen that as a threat. …



Citizens Climate Lobby advocates carbon tax to fight global warming

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune Posted: 10/08/13, 6:09 PM PDT | Updated: 19 hrs ago

Robert Haw says solving the problem of global warming is easy. No, really. He’s dead serious. Haw has a bona fide plan and he’s taking it to each of the 535 members of Congress. As president of the Pasadena-Foothills Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, the JPL scientist from Altadena says his group is creating a buzz in Washington with a rebate version of a revenue-neutral carbon tax that combines market forces with consumerism to drive up the cost of fossil fuels and make renewable energy more affordable. So far, the plan has picked up endorsements from former Secretary of State George Schultz and supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, who was an adviser to Ronald Reagan. But the most important person to convince is the ordinary American, Haw said. His group is succeeding on that front, too. When Haw started the Pasadena-Foothills chapter a year ago, there were 33 chapters. Today there are 108 chapters. “We’ve been doubling in size every year,” he said. Citizens Climate Lobby aims to convert Americans to the belief that the problem of rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, more droughts and melting glaciers is indeed fixable in our lifetime. “We want to explain this to people, so they will know that there is a solution,” Haw said calmly while sipping coffee at a local Starbucks. “People go off and wail to themselves. But they don’t have to. We can solve this. It is surprisingly easy.”

Here’s how CCL’s plan would work: Congress would enact a carbon tax starting at $25 per ton of carbon dioxide that would rapidly rise about $10 each year. The tax would be applied upstream — to oil wells, natural gas sites, coal mining. These are sources that produce carbon dioxide and methane, greenhouse gases which are contributing to global warming. The goal is to limit the temperature rise to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, about half the rise that’s expected by the United Nations by the year 2100. The tax most likely would raise gasoline prices by 10 to 12 cents per gallon, and electricity rates would rise between one-half and 1 cent per kilowatt hour. The tax money collected would go to Americans in the form of a rebate check every month or every year. Each adult would receive $270 in the first year, and $1,630 annually after 10 years. Children would get half a share, or about $815 a year, up to two children per household. The maximum rebate per household would be $4,890 a year…..



Delaying climate policy would triple short-term mitigation costs

Potsdam Institute October 9, 2013 Further delay in the implementation of comprehensive international climate policies could substantially increase the short-term costs of climate change mitigation. Global economic growth would be cut back by up to 7 percent within the first decade after climate policy implementation if the current international stalemate is continued until 2030 — compared to 2 percent if a climate agreement is reached by 2015 already, a study by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) shows. Higher costs would in turn increase the threshold for decision-makers to start the transition to a low-carbon economy. Thus, to keep climate targets within reach it seems to be most relevant to not further postpone mitigation, the researchers conclude. Read more…


Why Your Hunting Trip Might Be Ruined By The Shutdown

By Jessica Goad, Guest Blogger and Matt Lee-Ashley, Guest Blogger on October 4, 2013

Many of the nation’s best places to hunt and fish are closed, including the 329 national wildlife refuges where hunting is permitted and the 271 refuges that are open to fishing….


Roadkill permits? There will be an app for that

Salvaging roadkill for the dinner table is not only legal starting this month in Montana, but state officials plan to let drivers who accidentally kill big game to simply print out permits at home that allow them to harvest the meat.

Article by: MATT VOLZ , Associated Press Updated: October 10, 2013 – 11:45 AM HELENA, Mont. — Salvaging roadkill for the dinner table is not only legal starting this month in Montana, but state officials plan to let drivers who accidentally kill big game to simply print out permits at home that allow them to harvest the meat.

Later on, there will be an app for that. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved regulations Thursday that allow people to go online for permits to salvage for food the animals they hit and kill within 24 hours of the fender-bender. No need to present the carcass to a law-enforcement official in person within a day of a crash, as was originally planned. Now drivers will be able to apply on a website and print out permits from their own computers. And a request for bids is being issued to develop a smartphone application for roadkill permits, said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency….Montana lawmakers earlier this year passed the bill allowing motorists to salvage deer, elk, moose and antelope struck by vehicles. Supporters who didn’t want to see the meat go to waste won out over skeptics who wondered whether the meat would be safe for human consumption. Other doubters stewed over whether drivers would intentionally gun their engines whenever they spotted an animal in the road….

The Legislature left it to the state agency to sort out the details and how to issue roadkill permits. FWP released its proposed rules this summer, among them: the salvaged meat has to be eaten, not used


They own the house, but not what lies beneath. October 9, 2013 Reuters Across the United States, thousands of families are moving into new houses where, amid an unprecedented energy boom – and often unbeknownst to them, their builders or developers have kept the mineral rights for themselves. …the phenomenon is rooted in recent advances in extracting oil and gas from shale formations deep in the earth, fueling the biggest energy boom in modern U.S. history. Horizontal drilling and the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” have opened vast swaths of the continental United States to exploration. As a result, homebuilders and developers have been increasingly – and quietly – hanging on to the mineral rights underneath their projects, pushing aside homeowners’ interests to set themselves up for financial gain when energy companies come calling. This is happening in regions far beyond the traditional American oil patch, which has a long history of selling subsurface rights. “All the smart developers are doing it,” says Lance Astrella, a Denver lawyer who represents mineral-rights owners, including homebuilders, in deals with energy companies.

Among the smart ones are private firms like Oakwood Homes in Colorado, the Groce Companies in North Carolina, Wynne/Jackson in Texas, and Shea Homes, which builds coast to coast. Publicly traded companies that engage in the practice include the Ryland Group, Pulte Homes and Beazer Homes, according to oil and gas attorneys and public land records.


Europe votes to tighten rules on fracking. October 10, 2013 New York Times
European Union lawmakers voted narrowly on Wednesday to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits before they deploy a technique known as fracking to recover natural gas from shale rock. The technique involves shooting a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals under pressure into shale to break it up and release the gas. France has already banned the technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing. And it has produced protests in Britain. The rules were narrowly approved by the European Parliament, which is meeting this week in Strasbourg, France, and still must undergo another round of voting in the Parliament once an agreement on final language is reached with European Union governments. Shale gas projects that do not use fracking would not be covered by the rules, which update environmental legislation in Europe. Even so, the result is a setback for the shale-gas industry in Europe, where it is far less developed than in the United States and where many citizens are more concerned about the environmental impact of recovering the gas than about finding new sources of hydrocarbons as a way of combating stubbornly high energy prices. .. But the concerns about shale gas exploitation in Europe run deep, particularly in some of the more populated parts of Europe including southern England, where the opposition to fracking has prompted protests. In addition to using significant amounts of water, the process may lead to leakages of significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to climate change. According to the rules approved Wednesday, the shale gas and infrastructure projects would need audits based on “the direct and indirect significant effects” on human health, species and their habitats, land, water and climate.



Keystone battle inspires effort to tame process

Houston Chronicle
October 6, 2013 at 6:00 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy

WASHINGTON — Inspired by the five-year fight over Keystone XL, U.S. Rep. Gene Green is pushing legislation that would smooth the approval process for pipelines and power lines that cross U.S. borders.

But the success of that bill depends on divorcing it from the high-profile Keystone XL pipeline fight. “We have to get past Keystone,” said Green, D-Houston. “This does nothing to Keystone XL. This is for the future.” The bill introduced by Green and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., aims to write new rules for the federal government’s review of border-crossing energy infrastructure projects that have yet to be proposed, effectively replacing an ad hoc presidential permit process created by a smattering of executive orders. For instance, the State Department is tasked with vetting proposed oil pipelines, like TransCanada’s Keystone XL project, under an executive order issued by former President George W. Bush in 2004. But when it comes to natural gas pipelines that would cross U.S. borders, a 60-year-old presidential directive gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the responsibility for issuing or denying presidential permits. And for electric transmission infrastructure, the presidential permit decision rests with the Energy Department, under executive orders signed in 1954 and 1978. Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, called the current approach a “not-very-coherent process that has grown up over the last 50 or 60 years without a lot of thought to it.” Some energy analysts and industry representatives warn that presidential permit reviews could bog down even more, as companies look to build new pipelines and power lines moving North American electricity, oil and gas across Mexico, Canada and the United States. “We’re trying to bring some certainty to the process,” Green said, noting that Keystone XL showed that “the process for cross-border pipelines is pretty confusing.” He predicts more pipelines and power lines in the future.
We are going to see these cross-border pipelines and electricity grow,” he said. “If we really are going to have a North American energy market, we need to be able to easily move that product back and forth.”
The demand for infrastructure to move more oil, gas and power could be fed by greater production across North America, as energy companies use hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to extract newly accessible fossil fuels from dense rock formations. Energy reforms in Mexico also could spur more activity. Bill co-sponsor Upton says the continent’s expanding energy potential requires a new “architecture of abundance.” “As energy production grows across the United States, building the infrastructure to move these supplies to consumers is emerging as the real challenge of the 21st century,
” he said.

TransCanada to finish southern Keystone line by end of month



One Thing Obama Can Do: Decide The Fate Of The Keystone Pipeline

October 09, 2013 1:10 PM 37 min 23 sec Fresh Air interview with Ryan Rizzo who wrote
The President and the Pipeline in the New Yorker September 16, 2013 on Tom Steyer


U.S. climate credibility getting fracked: scientists.
October 11, 2013 Climate Central As fracking catapults the United States to the top of the list of the world’s largest crude oil and natural gas producers, climate scientists worry that the nation’s booming fossil fuels production is growing too quickly with too little concern about its impact on climate change, possibly endangering America’s efforts to curb global greenhouse gas emissions…..


Some anti-drilling activists change tactics, sign leases and try to work with industry

By KEVIN BEGOS and MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press October 7, 2013 – PITTSBURGH

For years, activists have warned that fracking can have disastrous consequences _ ruined water and air, sickened people and animals, a ceaseless parade of truck traffic.Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas. In one northeastern Pennsylvania village that became a global flashpoint in the debate over fracking, the switch has raised more than a few eyebrows. A few weeks ago, Victoria Switzer and other activists from Dimock endorsed a candidate for governor who supports natural gas production from gigantic reserves like the Marcellus Shale, albeit with more regulation and new taxes. Dimock was the centerpiece of “Gasland,” a documentary that galvanized opposition to fracking, and Switzer was also featured in this summer’s “Gasland Part II,” which aired on HBO. “We had to work with the industry. There is no magic wand to make this go away,” said Switzer, who recently formed a group that seeks to work with drillers on improved air quality standards. “Tunnel vision isn’t good. Realism is good.” For Switzer, the endorsement was a nod to reality; for some of her onetime allies, a betrayal. Either way, it was a sign that anti-drilling activism is evolving, with some opponents shifting tactics to reflect that shale gas is likely here to stay….





Full Extent Of Oil And Gas Spills From Colorado Floods Remains Unknown

By Tom Kenworthy on October 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Flood waters swamped well pads and in some cases dislodged storage tanks in Weld County. CREDIT: AP Photo/Ecoflight, Jane Pargiter

Last month’s widespread and unprecedented flooding in Colorado caused the release of more than 43,000 gallons of oil and more than 18,000 gallons of so-called “produced water” that flows back during the oil and gas development process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Those totals are likely to rise, as state oil and gas commission inspectors have yet to evaluate about a fifth of the areas affected by flooding. “I think if we have another week of good weather we’ll be able to say we’ve been through all of it,” said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Natural Resources…..



In remote field, North Dakota oil boom suffers first big spill. October 10, 2013 Reuters
A Tesoro Logistics LP pipeline has spilled more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil into a North Dakota wheat field, the biggest leak in the state since it became a major U.S. producer. The six-inch pipeline was carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale play to the Stampede rail facility outside Columbus, North Dakota. The affected part of the line has been shut down, Tesoro said. Farmer Steven Jensen discovered the leak on September 29 while harvesting wheat on his 1,800-acre farm, about nine miles northeast of Tioga, North Dakota…..


In a Hot, Thirsty Energy Business, Water Is Prized

Tom Pennington for The Texas Tribune Drought has caused shortages of water for cooling at Martin Lake, a coal-fired plant in East Texas, according to the Department of Energy.

By JIM WITKIN NY Times Published: October 8, 2013

WITH so much focus on carbon emitted from the nation’s power plants, another environmental challenge related to electricity generation is sometimes overlooked: the enormous amount of water needed to cool the power-producing equipment. In the United States almost all electric power plants, 90 percent, are thermoelectric plants, which essentially create steam to generate electricity. To cool the plants, power suppliers take 40 percent of the fresh water withdrawn nationally, 136 billion gallons daily, the United States Geological Survey estimates. This matches the amount withdrawn by the agricultural sector and is nearly four times the amount for households. Battles for water among these competing interests are becoming more common, and power plants are not always winning. A recent analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed many examples from 2006 to 2012 of plants that had temporarily cut back or shut down because local water supplies were too low or too warm to cool the plant efficiently. Proposals to build new plants are also under increased scrutiny, especially in water-stretched regions. The proposed White Stallion coal plant in Texas drew opposition in part because of the plant’s water demands. The project was abandoned this year. Making homes and buildings more energy efficient and using more renewable energy would reduce some of the strain on freshwater supplies. Still, about 84 percent of the nation’s electricity will most likely come from thermoelectric plants by 2040, according to the Energy Information Administration. Ensuring that there is enough water for all competing needs will require better technology and better policy, industry watchers say.



How Denmark turned an efficiency obligation into opportunity.
Oct 8 2013 Midwest Energy News
COPENHAGEN—In the U.S., there’s rising anxiety and speculation about how flat or falling electricity demand could affect utilities’ long-term business models. Here in Denmark, though, electric companies have long operated in a slow- or no-growth market, and they continue to invest in further lowering customers’ energy use. The Danish efficiency scheme has become the model for a new European Union efficiency law currently being implemented, and it could offer ideas and inspiration for U.S. policymakers, too, as they attempt to design incentives that can convince electric utilities to take a lead role in helping customers use less of the very product they sell. Denmark has steadily invested in energy conservation ever since the 1970s energy crisis, when an Arab oil embargo caused fuel shortages and skyrocketing prices. As President Reagan was pulling solar panels off the White House roof, Denmark continued to spend money improving its building and power plant efficiency. The country’s conservation commitment recently increased with a 2012 agreement that’s expected to cut energy use 12 percent by 2020 compared to 2006. The pact has also generated demand for energy efficiency services, prompting several utilities to launch new businesses to capitalize on the opportunity. “A lot of the companies now as see this as a potential to increase their market in advising on energy savings,” says Tina Sommer Kristensen, administrator for Denmark’s Department of Buildings and Energy Efficiency….



Energy efficiency: How the Internet can lower your electric bill

Energy efficiency – revolutionized by cyber networks – may carry the same impact as a new oil boom. Electricity users are seeing power in their ‘negawattage’ as they cut their bills by 90 percent.

By David J. Unger, Staff writer / October 6, 2013

The old metal-halide fixtures cast a sour yellow hue on the stacks of cardboard boxes inside the storage facility. They hummed incessantly and burned out well before their due. So Mr. Raymond, the landlord, replaced them with a brighter, smarter Web-enabled lighting system. He hoped it would help attract and retain tenants in the increasingly competitive warehouse market on Chicago’s Southwest Side. But when the next utility bill arrived, something looked very wrong. The bill appeared to show only partial electricity use, and the bottom line was a tenth of what it normally was. The tenant thought the new lights might be broken, but as far as Raymond knew, they worked just fine. The local utility couldn’t believe it either. Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) dispatched an engineer to double-check that the meter was operating properly, Raymond recalls, and later hired a consultant to monitor the lights.

Everything checked out. The meter worked. The lights shone. The partial electricity use wasn’t a result of the “intelligent” lighting system working improperly. It was a result of it working exactly as designed – and better. “We were amazed,” Raymond says. “We thought it’d be around 80 to 90 [percent savings], and it turned out to be more than 90.” Annual electricity costs at the 177,413-square-foot warehouse dropped from about $50,000 a year to less than $5,000, and ComEd awarded Raymond a $65,176.90 efficiency rebate. Today, Raymond walks under a cool, white glow in Warehouse No. 5, extolling those lights with the intimate reverence typically reserved for the latest smart phone or luxury car. Forklifts beep past as he strolls through rows of boxes filled with the empty plastic bottles made in an adjoining plant. Twenty feet above his head, networked clusters of light-emitting-diode (LED) bulbs brighten as he moves near them and dim as he walks away. “I assure you, you’ve never seen anything like this on a lighting system before,” Raymond says back in an office where he demonstrates the lights’ online interface, which tracks consumption data. Laughing, he adds, “This is the type of thing you’d see on ‘Star Trek.’ ”

Call it “intelligent efficiency,” or “cleanweb.” Call it the “soft grid,” or the “enernet.” There’s a host of buzzwords to describe the growth of Internet-enabled efficiency, and they all mean slightly different things. But they all pose the same underlying question: How can we harness the power of the Web to consume less energy? Their end goal is identical: a resource as clean as wind or solar, but as light and gossamer as a cloud. Internet communications, inexpensive sensors, and data analytics are enabling a high-tech, holistic approach to energy efficiency. In the past it was, “How do I design an efficient light?” Now it’s, “How do I design a whole network of efficient lights that talk to one another via Web communications, adjust output automatically, and report back through online data portals that optimize performance?”
This mash-up of energy industry and information technology gives efficiency a shiny interactivity that expands the conversation beyond “eat-your-vegetables” lectures about insulation and compact fluorescent light bulbs. It promises an energy reduction boom to parallel the oil and gas production boom that has transformed the global energy landscape…..



How You Can Earn Money By Investing In Solar Projects

September 14, 2013 | Filed under: Climate & The Environment,Energy,Uncategorized | Posted by: Ann Werner

In what has to be one of the most innovative ideas to come along in the solar energy industry, an Oakland, CA company has hit upon crowdsourcing as a way to fund solar energy projects and turn a profit for investors. So now you can put your money where your mouth is regarding green energy, help to fund projects that will benefit the environment and earn money while doing so. It’s a uniquely American approach that combines the best traditions of activism and capitalism all wrapped up in a smart, sustainable package.

Mosaic’s solar roof project atop an Oakland, CA building.

The company, Mosaic, connects people with solar projects and offers some great returns on investments. First launched in January of this year, Mosaic has quickly gathered steam. Unlike Wall Street, you don’t need a big hunk of cash to get started. For as little as $25, you can invest in solar projects offered on the company’s website. Here’s how it works. First thing you do is sign up at the Mosaic site. Then you browse the available investment opportunities. Investments are actually notes – you are holding a loan (referred to as a Note) on a particular project, along with other investors. The projects are listed with information regarding how long the note will be in force, how much has already been funded, and the rate of interest that will be paid over the course of the loan. Funding is limited to a 90 day window. Once the loan is funded and the projects begin to generate revenue by selling the power generated, the investors begin receiving monthly repayments, which include part of the principal as well as interest payments. The repayments are kept in an account that is FDIC insured and you can either invest in new projects or transfer the money into your checking or savings accounts.

So how much can you earn? The interest rates paid to investors range from 4% to 6%, depending on the project. That’s quite a rate of return, particularly when compared to the interest paid on regular savings accounts or Certificates of Deposit. It even beats the returns on a lot of stocks. Exxon (XOM), the filthy fossil fuel company that rakes in profits hand over fist, pays an annualized dividend of 2.85%…


Explained in 90 Seconds: Your Fridge Is Accelerating Climate Change—But It Doesn’t Have To

—By James West
VIDEO | Thu Sep. 12, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

The outward statecraft of the recent G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, was dominated by disagreements over Syria. But behind the scenes, leaders were busy agreeing on something they rarely find common ground on: climate change. Thirty-five nations and the European Union decided to curb hydrofluorocarbons, a set of powerful heat-trapping gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning, heat pumps, and insulation. This follows a deal earlier this year between China and the United States, in which President Obama and President Xi agreed to limit these greenhouse gases. So, what are HFCs and why are they important to climate change? Yes, carbon dioxide is the big culprit when it comes to climate change. HFCs represent only a small fraction of total greenhouse gasesand they are short-lived compared to CO2but they pack a real punch in terms of what scientists call “global warming potential,” which they rate as many hundred times more powerful than that of carbon dioxide. Bucking the general international trend in climate talks, there’s actually a history of agreement about limiting these types of gases. When scientists discovered the hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s, the world came together to sign the Montreal Protocol, phasing out the use of ozone-killing chlorofluorocarbons; that treaty is now universally ratified, and the ozone layer is recovering. Their industrial replacements were HFCs, and while these gases didn’t attack the ozone layer—Earth’s precious protective shield—they still trap a lot of heat, adding to global warming. Scientists say that if HFCs aren’t curbed in the same way as their CFC cousins, this whole family of gasescalled halocarbonscould accelerate the next century’s expected warming by about 20 years.




5 Totally Rad Car-Free Towns

October 2, 2013 Salvatore Cardoni

Photos: Francis Demange/Getty Images

Vauban, Germany– One of Europe’s most successful experiments in green living, Vauban, Germany, a suburb of Freiburg, is virtually motor vehicle-free. Yes, it’s 5,300 residents are technically allowed to own cars, but there are only two spots to park—”large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home,” reports the New York Times. That exorbitant price tag is an effective deterrent: 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not even own a car, and 57 percent sold a car to move there.



SIERRA CLUB: As of October 3rd, over 1,000 Sierra Club supporters have gone solar!
We’re celebrating this solar victory by offering you a special deal this month when you go solar with the Sierra Club and Sungevity:

October Only: Go solar with the Sierra Club and Sungevity and get $1,000 and send $1,000 back to your local Sierra Club chapter….


Electric Car Sales For 2013 Are Up Over 440 Percent From This Time In 2012

By Jeff Spross on October 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm

CREDIT: Nissan / Engadget

The amount of electric cars sold in America is up over 447.95 percent over where it was at this time last year. Those are the latest numbers as reported by EVObsession, which also show that combined sales of all-electric cars and hybrids is up 30.11 percent….

Domestically, there is negative news as well. Honda’s electric and hybrid sales are down a slight 5.5 percent, but GM’s combined sales are down a larger 9.3 percent. GM’s raw numbers are also bigger: a drop from 42,446 sales to 38,498 sales. But the company may be able top turn that around in the future. It’s planning the release of a new electric car with an overhauled battery, a 200 mile range, and for a price of less than $30,000…..



Turning Floodwaters Into Liquid Assets

By Ari Phillips on October 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

CREDIT: Gensler

AUSTIN, TX — With the recent devastating floods in Colorado washing away communities, ruining expensive infrastructure, and causing untold environmental harm, it’s hard to see what benefit could come from such a treacherous event.

This week, a SXSW Eco presentation by Rives Taylor suggested that floodwaters could be used as assets to address water shortages during drought. Rives is a principal in the Houston office of Gensler, member of the Houston Mayor’s Water Conservation Task Force, and architecture teacher at the University of Houston and Rice University.

Floods now affect an estimated 520 million people annually, causing global economic losses between $50 and $60 billion, according to data from the 5th International Conference on Flood Management.

In the talk Taylor argued that while our immediate response to getting rid of offending flood or storm water as fast as possible is natural in the face of disaster, there are ways to better design cities to redirect and leverage the power of this water, and even turn it into an amenity.

“We overbuild our cities with concrete, asphalt, and buildings that get rid of what used to be nature, which is what used to take the water and make it a positive thing,” Taylor said. “We now look at rainwater — stormwater — as a bad, negative thing. Something to get rid of really really quickly. But doesn’t it make sense that we turn that water into gold and look at it as something we should harvest and celebrate?”









Cows saving the planet? Why not? An idea that sounds preposterous begins to make sense when you take a soil’s-eye view of our current ecological predicament. Cattle, like all grazing creatures, can, if appropriately managed, restore land and help build soil. Rebuilding soil is only one aspect of this important, paradigm-shifting book. Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil’s pivotal role in our ecology and economy and an antidote to those awash in despairing environmental news. It is also an important call to action on behalf of the soil—and, by extension, those of us who benefit from it. Please  click here for a review of Cows Save the Planet.  You can go to the HMI store to take advantage of our featured book sale.




Can We Finally Have a Serious Talk About Population?

Posted by Chris Mooney on Friday, September 27, 2013

Alan Weisman, bestselling author of The World Without Us, tackles the world’s exploding human population in his new book, Countdown.

“Population is a loaded topic, and people who otherwise know better, great environmentalists, often times are very, very timid about going there,” Weisman explains on the podcast. “And I decided as a journalist, I should go there, and find out, is it really a problem, and if so, is there anything acceptable that we can do about it?”

The World Without Us imagined a planet rapidly returning to a natural state in the absence of humans. Where that book represented an ambitious thought experiment, Weisman’s new book is an experience. He traveled to 21 countries—from Israel to Mexico, and from Pakistan to Niger—to report on how different cultures are responding to booming populations and the strain this is putting on their governments and resources.

Strikingly, he found that countries are coping (or not coping) with this problem in vastly different ways. For instance:

* Pakistan: Current population: 193 million. “By the year 2030, they’re going to have about 395 million people,” Weisman says. “And they’re the size of Texas.” (Texas’s population? 26 million.)

* The Philippines: Current population: nearly 105 million. “As the rest of the planet’s population quadrupled in a century, the head count here quintupled in half that time,” Weisman writes in Countdown * Iran: Current population: nearly 80 million. Yet unlike Pakistan and the Philippines, Weisman says, Iran managed its population growth with “probably the most humane program ever in the history of the planet. They got down to replacement rate a year faster than China, and it was a totally voluntary program. No coercion at all.” (Note, though, that as Weisman explains in his book, there was one Iranian government “disincentive” to having a large number of children: “elimination of the individual subsidity for food, electricity, telephone, and appliances for any child after the first three.”)….    




Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience
December 12, 2013

9:30am – 4:30 pm David Brower Center, Kinzie Room 741 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710

A workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center. 

Green Infrastructure incorporates the natural environment and constructed systems that mimic natural processes in an integrated network that benefits nature and people. A green infrastructure approach to community planning helps diverse community members come together to balance environmental and economic goals. This day-long workshop will include a morning introductory course and afternoon panels by local experts. The morning course, led by NOAA Coastal Services Center staff, will introduce participants to the fundamental green infrastructure concepts that play a critical role in making coastal communities more resilience to natural hazards. Through lectures, group discussion, and exercises, participants will identify natural assets in their communities that improve coastal resilience and will identify key stakeholders and planning processes that can support green infrastructure design and protection. During the afternoon, we will delve into the nuts and bolts of green infrastructure projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. We will hear from local experts who are implementing green infrastructure on the ground at multiple scales, from street projects to watersheds. The afternoon panels will be moderated for lively discussion. Who Should Attend: City and county officials, Engineers, Floodplain managers, Landscape Architects, NGO’s, Planners, and other Decision Makers involved in Coastal Management Issues 

Registration: To register, click here. Registration is limited to 41 participants and is expected to fill fast. The deadline to register is December 6, 2013.  
This workshop is being developed in partnership by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center. In addition, an advisory committee have provided feedback on the training including participants from: San Francisco Estuary PartnershipBay Area Ecosystems Climate Change ConsortiumSan Francisco Bay Conservation and Development CommissionCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Institute. Questions? Contact Heidi Nutters,, 415-338-3511 Feel free to forward this message to others who might be interested. 



National One Water Leadership Summit
September 23-26, 2013

Community Conservation Solutions showcased the Green Solution for transforming our water pollution problem into a sustainable source of clean, usable water at the National One Water Leadership Summit
in Los Angeles, hosted by the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation. Click here to read more.
CCS’ metrics-driven Green Solution tool provides a prioritized “road map” showing where – and in what order – to implement “smart” stormwater capture projects to maximize water quality, water supply, conservation, and park-poor urban communities….



Middle East and Birds

1. See enclosed a lovely school program for thousands of schools throughout North America, accompanied by articles and educational activities. The program was developed by a leading website (a 3 minutes animation is included) specializing in programs intended to encourage students to follow in the footsteps of researchers and promote enthusiasm and interest in research. This time “my story” was presented:

2. A Seminar on The use of Barn Owls and Kestrels as biological Pest control agents in agriculture was held in Sde Eliyahu . 70 Arab farmers from Beit Netofa Valley, Galilee, Israel,  from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority participated in what was a very successful day:

Yours truly,

Prof. Yossi Leshem






The Social Science Explaining Why More Climate Science Hasn’t Led to Greenhouse Action


Earlier this year, I took part in a fast-paced tour of the science of climate change at the Seattle Science Festival. I posted on the event at the time, but the Pacific Science Center has uploaded better video versions.

Richard Alley of Penn State talked about the hunt for “climate zombies” and explained why climate science is solid. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research dug into the physical science underpinning knowledge of the human role in global warming.

My job was to describe the empirical social science that, in part, explains why more climate science hasn’t led to more climate-smart energy action, but also hints at paths forward even in an era of intense political polarization.

I started by examining the deeply divergent climate change views of four Nobel laureates in physics and reviewed the valuable work on “cultural cognition” by Dan Kahan and others. Read on for a few transcribed moments, starting with my admission that, on some points, I am a climate denier:

We’ve heard this term climate denier. There are actually professional deniers whose job is to cast doubt on global warming. No question about it. But I was in denial on climate for decades. I expected more information would change the world, just as many scientists do…. And then there’s this idea out there that if you just clear away the disinformation, we’ll magically decarbonize…. I show a slide of a cartoon illustrating why the problem is not nearly that simple….



The Higgs Boson, Part I (short explanation- worth watching!)

minutephysics·102 videos
Published on Jul 5, 2012 The Higgs Boson. What more need be said? Two more Higgs videos coming soon. Also, explore a map of the big bang!


Air Pollution and Psychological Distress During Pregnancy

October 7, 2013 — Maternal psychological distress combined with exposure to air pollution during pregnancy have an adverse impact on children’s behavioral development. The study shows that maternal demoralization, a … > full story

Two genes linked to increased risk for eating disorders
(October 8, 2013) — Scientists have discovered — by studying the genetics of two families severely affected by eating disorders — two gene mutations, one in each family, that are associated with increased risk of developing eating disorders. … > full story

3-D printed microscopic cages confine bacteria in tiny zoos for the study of infections
(October 7, 2013) — Researchers have used a novel 3-D printing technology to build homes for bacteria at a microscopic level. Their method uses a laser to construct protein “cages” around bacteria in gelatin. The resulting structures can be of almost any shape or size, and can be moved around in relationship to other structures containing bacterial microcommunities. … > full story

Alzheimer’s breakthrough hailed as ‘turning point’

BBC News

October 10, 2013


The discovery of the first chemical to prevent the death of brain tissue in a neurodegenerative disease has been hailed as the “turning point” in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.








Sean Gallagher’s ‘Meltdown’ Photos Show China’s Environment in Crisis

Wall Street Journal October 7, 2013 (a sampling below- click on link above to see the full set)

British photographer Sean Gallagher spent the past seven years casting the spotlight on China’s environmental crises. Here, a man walks over rocks near to a glacial lake that has formed at the base of the Dagu Glacier on the southeast edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The glacier has been…






Conservation Science News October 4, 2013

Highlight of the Week









NOTE: Please feel free to pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff.  The information contained in this update was drawn from, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of articles and other information available on line, which were not verified and are not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  Please email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at if you want your name added to or dropped from this list.  You can also receive this through the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative ListServe or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium list.   Also, we are starting to experiment with blog posting at

We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO).  Our 140 Point Blue
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Highlight of the Week



London – October 3rd 2013: An international panel of marine scientists is demanding urgent remedies to halt ocean degradation based on findings that the rate, speed and impacts of change in the global ocean are greater, faster and more imminent than previously thought.

Results from the latest International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO)/IUCN review of science on anthropogenic stressors on the ocean go beyond the conclusion reached last week by the UN climate change panel the IPCC that the ocean is absorbing much of the warming and unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide and warn that the cumulative impact of this with other ocean stressors is far graver than previous estimates.

Decreasing oxygen levels in the ocean caused by climate change and nitrogen run-off, combined with other chemical pollution and rampant overfishing are undermining the ability of the ocean to withstand these so-called ‘carbon perturbations’, meaning its role as Earth’s ‘buffer’ is seriously compromised.


Read the full press release


Researchers Find Historic Ocean Acidification Levels: ‘The Next Mass Extinction May Have Already Begun’

By Katie Valentine on October 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm

The oceans are more acidic now than they’ve been at any time in the last 300 million years, conditions that marine scientists warn could lead to a mass extinction of key species.

Scientists from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) published their State of the Oceans report Thursday, a biennial study that surveys how oceans are responding to human impacts. The researchers found the current level of acifification is “unprecedented” and that the overall health of the ocean is declining at a much faster rate than previously thought.

“We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure,” the report states. “The next mass extinction may have already begun.”….






Where’s My Flower? Diesel Throws Honeybees Off the Trail

By Laura Poppick, LiveScience Contributor   |   October 03, 2013 09:00am ET

Diesel pollution snuffs out floral odors, interfering with honeybees’ ability to find and pollinate flowers, new research suggests. Honeybees use both visual and olfactory cues to recognize flowers that produce nectar in return for insect pollination. Not all flowers produce nectar, and bees avoid those that don’t by learning to recognize the odors of nectar-bearing flowers. But these floral odors— which consist of reactive chemicals called volatiles — react with other substances in the atmosphere; in the presence of certain pollutants, these scents can chemically transform into undetectable forms, researchers from the University of Southampton report today (Oct. 3) in the journal Scientific Reports. …


Fear of predators drives honey bees away from good food sources
(October 2, 2013) — Honey bees live in a world filled with danger in which predators seize them from the sky and wait to ambush them on flowers. Such fear drives bees to avoid food sources closely associated with predators and, interestingly, makes colonies of bees less risk-tolerant than individual bees, according to a new study. … > full story

Wave of jellyfish shuts down Swedish nuke reactor. October 3, 2013 Associated Press It wasn’t a tsunami but it had the same effect: A huge cluster of jellyfish forced the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southeastern Sweden, one of the world’s largest nuclear reactors, to shut down – a phenomenon that marine biologists say could become more common. .. Nuclear power plants need a constant flow of water to cool their reactor and turbine systems, which is why many such plants are built near large bodies of water. Marine biologists, meanwhile, say they would not be surprised if more jellyfish shutdowns occur in the future. “It’s true that there seems to be more and more of these extreme cases of blooming jellyfish,” said Lene Moller, a researcher at the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment. “But it’s very difficult to say if there are more jellyfish, because there is no historical data.” The species that caused the Oskarshamn shutdown is known as the common moon jellyfish. “It’s one of the species that can bloom in extreme areas that . . . are overfished or have bad conditions,” said Moller. “The moon jelly likes these types of waters. They don’t care if there are algae blooms, they don’t care if the oxygen concentration is low. The fish leave . . . and (the moon jelly) can really take over the ecosystem.”



Accurate maps of streams could aid in more sustainable development of Potomac River watershed
(October 3, 2013) — Where a stream ends is clear, but where it begins can be more difficult to discern. Researchers have now developed a new method to solve this problem, resulting in a new map of the Potomac River watershed stream network that significantly improves the information needed for assessing the impact of urbanization on aquatic ecosystems. … > full story


Improving Water Security With Blue, Green, and Gray Water

Oct. 3, 2013 — Agriculture is one of the most insatiable consumers of dwindling water resources around the world. And food production will need to increase by about 70% over the next 35 years to meet the needs of a growing population. Crops aren’t creating the only demands; agriculture will face competition for water from cities, industries, and recreation. With limited water and the increasing number of people depending on it, water security is tenuous. But integrated water management plans using “blue,” “green,” and “gray” water can increase water security. What do these colors mean and why are these waters vital? Those are the central questions behind the symposium “Blue Waves, Green Dreams, and Shades of Gray: Perspectives On Water” being held Nov. 5. The symposium is part of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America Annual Meetings, Nov. 3-6 in Tampa, Florida.

  • Blue water is found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, or aquifers. It is used for many purposes such as drinking water, water for homes and businesses, and irrigation water for agriculture. Freshwater stores are limited, and what’s left of blue water must be protected and used sparingly.
  • Green water is the water available in the soil for plants and soil microorganisms. It can be absorbed by roots, used by the plants to grow, and released back to the atmosphere. The use of green water by crops must be optimized to better utilize this often overlooked resource.
  • Gray water is water that has been previously used and may contain some impurities. It can come from cities, households, or industries, and it is waste water that is usually treated and discharged. The reuse of gray water for agriculture can decrease the amount of blue water withdrawn from stores and increase the green water available for plants to use.

These three water sources — blue, gray, and green — have to be protected and optimized if agriculture is to rise to the challenge of feeding over 9 billion people by 2050 while leaving enough water for other uses. After all, says Rattan Lal, presider of the symposium, “There is no substitute for water.”



Meadow Restoration

American Rivers

Download the Meadow Publication PDFs below:

  • Evaluating and Prioritizing Meadow Restoration in the Sierra.  American Rivers and colleagues introduce tools to assess meadow condition, prioritize
    meadows for restoration, and monitor
    the effects of restoration.  Data are presented for meadows in the Yuba and Mokelumne Watersheds.
  • Meadow Scorecard: A Rapid Assessment Tool.  Science staff from American Rivers and colleagues developed a rapid method for scoring meadow condition.  The method is both rigorous and accessible to landowners and others without specialized experience.  See also: “Evaluating and Prioritizing Meadow Restoration in the Sierra”.

Mercury increasing in birds downstream of Canada’s oil sands

Oct 04, 2013 Synopsis by Brian Bienkowski

Pete Myers

Ring-billed Gull.  Mercury is increasing in eggs of gulls and terns in waters downstream of Alberta’s oil sands region.

Mercury levels are increasing in the eggs of water birds that nest downstream of Canada’s oil sands region, according to a new study.

Eggs of Ring-billed Gulls collected from northern Alberta’s Mamawi Lake in 2012 had 139 percent more mercury than in 2009. Also, smaller increases in mercury were found in three species of gulls and terns at Egg Island. Both Mamawi Lake and Egg Island are located in the receiving waters of the Athabasca River, which drains the oils sands region of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Meanwhile, eggs of California Gulls collected at the Langdom Reservoir, which is in southern Alberta and not affected by oil sands development, had a 57 percent decline in mercury levels from 2008 to 2012. The oil sands contain an estimated 1.84 trillion barrels of crude bitumen, a thick, tar-like petroleum that can be turned into crude oil, according to the Alberta Energy Department. Oil and gas investment in the oil sands has increased from $4.2 billion in 2000 to about $26.9 billion in 2012. The petroleum industry is the largest domestic source of mercury emissions to Alberta’s air, according to a national inventory. The mercury in the birds might have come from global sources, such as coal-burning plants in Asia. However, since the levels increased in two types of birds that live in different places in northern Alberta, and since the gull eggs in southern Alberta had decreasing mercury levels, the study authors reported that it’s more likely to be a local source. The scientists from Environment Canada and Parks Canada wrote that “there is the possibility that changes in oil sands-related sources of mercury could be responsible for the egg mercury trends” but they added that more research is needed to conclusively identify the sources….


Hebert, CE, D Campbell, R Kindopp, S MacMillan, P Martin, E Neugebauer, L Patterson, J Shatford. 2013. Mercury trends in Colonial waterbird eggs downstream of the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada. Environmental Science & Technology. DOI: 10.1021/es402542w.



Light at Night, Melatonin and Bird Behavior

October 2, 2013 — Low light levels, similar to those found in urban areas at night, can have a significant effect on melatonin production in birds at night. This suggests that melatonin could be mediating changes in bird behaviour at night. Reporting in BioMed Central’s open access journal Frontiers in Zoology, the researchers suggest that altered melatonin production may cause birds to interpret increased light during the night as shorter nights…. > full story

Davide M Dominoni, Wolfgang Goymann, Barbara Helm, Jesko Partecke. Urban-like night illumination reduces melatonin release in European blackbirds (Turdus merula): implications of city life for biological time-keeping of songbirds. Frontiers in Zoology, 2013; 10 (1): 60 DOI: 10.1186/1742-9994-10-


Fooled by a Sharpie! Cheating birds steered to fidelity with red marker


Oct. 1, 2013 at 6:59 PM ET

Daniel Baldassarre– Not a natural red-back: A coat of non-toxic marker on an orange-backed fairy-wren (right) makes it as attractive to females as the naturally scarlet subspecies (left).

Out in the Australian scrubland, scientists are using Sharpies to trick promiscuous female fairy-wrens from mating outside their subspecies, an “extra-marital” behavior that may be stalling evolution in its tracks.  Two groups of fairy-wrens live in Northeastern Australia: You can tells the males apart easily — one group has an orange band of feathers on their backs and the others are crimson red

Females find partners within their subspecies — orange to orange and red to red — to nest and raise their brood with. But they also seek out other mates, aside from their “social” fathers-to-be, and that’s when they look for a bit of variety, Daniel Baldassarre and Michael Webster, ornithologists at Cornell University have found: They recorded how female birds from the orange group had a clear preference for red males outside their main relationships…..





60 New Species Discovered in Suriname Forest Located in South America


 – October 4, 2013‎


A team of 16 biologists went on a three week expedition in an uninhabited region of Suriname near the border with Brazil in South America and cataloged 1,378 plants, ants, fish, insects, birds, mammals and amphibians.


Bechtel gift to help transform Presidio

John King SF Chronicle Published 8:57 am, Friday, September 27, 2013

(09-27) 08:54 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — The largest cash gift in national parks history is intended to be the catalyst to create 10 acres of parkland connecting the heart of the Presidio to Crissy Field and the bay.

The $25 million from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation will fund more than half the estimated budget for what is being called Tunnel Top Parkland. A new bluff will cover the rebuilt Doyle Drive, allowing for an unbroken landscape from Crissy Field’s marsh inland to the Main Post of the former military base, which now is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Bechtel gift, announced Friday, will also be used for youth programs at the Crissy Field Center, which sits where the bluff and landscape will emerge in 2016 after the new Presidio Parkway opens.

“It’s an amazing act of generosity that makes possible the completion of one of the most amazing park transformations in the world,” said Craig Middleton, executive director of the Presidio Trust, which manages the forested historic military landscape where the Golden Gate Bridge touches down in San Francisco. The recipient of the gift is the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit that has helped restore land within the GGNRA since 1981. The conservancy led the fundraising and planning efforts for the 100-acre restoration of Crissy Field that premiered in 2001 and has become a cherished part of the city. In recent years, the conservancy also has raised funds for an ambitious network of trails and overlooks within the 1,491-acre Presidio…..





Caribou may be indirectly affected by sea-ice loss in the Arctic
(October 1, 2013) — Melting sea ice in the Arctic may be leading, indirectly, to lower birth and survival rates for caribou calves in Greenland, according to scientists. They have linked the melting of Arctic sea ice with changes in the timing of plant growth on land, which in turn is associated with population declines in caribou herds. … > full story


Warmer Oceans Could Raise Mercury Levels in Fish

October 3, 2013 ScienceDaily Rising ocean surface temperatures caused by climate change could make fish accumulate more mercury, increasing the health risk to people who …  > full story


Jennifer A. Dijkstra, Kate L. Buckman, Darren Ward, David W. Evans, Michele Dionne, Celia Y. Chen. Experimental and Natural Warming Elevates Mercury Concentrations in Estuarine Fish. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (3): e58401 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058401



Human influence on climate clear, IPCC report says
(September 27, 2013) — Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe, a new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models. … > full story



Alarming IPCC Prognosis: 9°F Warming For U.S., Faster Sea Rise, More Extreme Weather, Permafrost Collapse

By Joe Romm on September 27, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Humanity’s choice (via IPCC): Aggressive climate action ASAP (left figure) minimizes future warming. Continued inaction (right figure) results in catastrophic levels of warming, 9°F over much of U.S.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now says we are as certain that humans are dramatically changing the planet’s climate as we are that smoking causes cancer.
So perhaps the best way to think about the IPCC, which has issued a summary of its latest report reviewing the state of climate science, is as a super-cautious team of brilliant diagnosticians and specialists (who, like many doctors, aren’t the greatest communicators). They are the best in the world at what they do — the climate equivalent of the Cleveland Clinic or Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins — where you and the rest of humanity have just gone through a complete set of medical tests and are awaiting the diagnosis, prognosis, and recommended course of treatment. (It has a big waiting room — called planet Earth.)
The diagnosis is that humans are suffering from a fever (and related symptoms) caused by our own actions — primarily emissions of carbon pollution. Indeed, team IPCC is more certain than the last time we came in 6 years ago and ignored their advice. They are 95% to 100% certain we are responsible for most of the added fever since 1950. They explain: The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.


To clarify the diagnosis, the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. You may ask why team IPCC buried this bombshell at the end of a paragraph on page 12 of their report in very dry language. You might think that with a patient who has as serious a condition as we do but who has simply refused the obvious treatment for two decades (!), they might be a tad blunter. But like I said, communications is not their strong suit and I am afraid that is a terminal condition. After all, they made you get up at 4 in the morning on a Friday to get this diagnosis! Yes, their bedside manner isn’t that great either. So what is the prognosis? As they told us 6 years ago (and 6 years before that), if we keep ignoring their recommended course of treatment, then, on average, total warming from preindustrial levels by 2100 is headed toward 4°C (7°F).

And although they don’t come out and directly say so, team IPCC shows you a figure (top) that upon close examination reveals Americans face warming in the range of 5°C (9°F) [by 2100]. Again, it’s kind of big news to bury in a chart at the end of a report that you are supposed to read while you are anxiously (and groggily) awaiting your diagnosis. Note that the figure at the top is average temperature change from 1986-2005 to 2081-2100. For some reason these doctors like to tell us how much higher our fever will get rather than simply tell us what our total fever will be. You can add about 1°F to get the total fever. Like I said, they are brilliant doctors but lousy communicators.


There is other alarming news in the report: Sea level rise is speeding up and it’s going to be bigger in the future than they told us last time. This is true even though the doctors are so super-cautious they have thrown out some of the reports they were given that suggest we may suffer even higher levels of sea rise. To be even more cautious, they have included some highly contested reports that suggest our sensitivity to carbon pollution may be slightly lower than they had thought. As the NY Times explains: “The I.P.C.C. is far from alarmist — on the contrary, it is a highly conservative organization,” said Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, whose papers on sea level were among those that got discarded. “That is not a problem as long as the users of the I.P.C.C. reports are well aware of this. The conservatism is built into its consensus structure, which tends to produce a lowest common denominator on which a large number of scientists can agree.” So even though the IPCC is not alarmist, its prognosis still is. Rahmstorf explains on RealClimate: This is perhaps the biggest change over the 4th IPCC report: a much more rapid sea-level rise is now projected (28-97 cm by 2100). This is more than 50% higher than the old projections (18-59 cm) when comparing the same emission scenarios and time periods. With unabated emissions (and not only for the highest scenario), the IPCC estimates that by the year 2300 global sea levels will rise by 1-3 meters. Already, there are likely more frequent storm surges as a result of sea level rise, and for the future this becomes very likely. A great many of the glaciologists I talk to expect one meter (39 inches) of sea level rise (or more) by 2100 in the no-action case.The report also warns that dry areas are likely to get drier and wet areas wetter. More intense deluges are very likely.


Buried on page 18 is another alarming prognosis: It is virtually certain that near-surface permafrost extent at high northern latitudes will be reduced as global mean surface temperature increases. By the end of the 21st century, the area of permafrost near the surface (upper 3.5 m) is projected to decrease by between 37% (RCP2.6) to 81% (RCP8.5) for the model average (medium confidence). In the no-action case, the top 10 feet of permafrost are headed towards oblivion. Given that the permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the atmosphere does today, you’d think team IPCC would warn us about this more bluntly. You’d certainly think that they would factor in some of that carbon in their prognosis. But, like I said, they are super-cautious (see “IPCC’s Planned Obsolescence: Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback”).

Last fall, a major study found that the carbon feedback from thawing permafrost will likely add 0.4°F to 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100. All team IPCC does is make a broad statement that “Climate change will affect carbon cycle processes in a way that will exacerbate the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (high confidence). Further uptake of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification.” That is, our fever is making our body release toxins that will make our fever even worse — but the doctors are not going to factor that into their prognosis.

A study from August found “Ocean Acidification May Amplify Global Warming This Century Up To 0.9°F.” But then team IPCC takes so long to work that they have a stated policy of completely ignoring the most recent studies (don’t worry, you signed a waiver years ago agreeing to all this, assuming you read the fine print). Of course, for two decades, their patients (humanity) have completely ignored the recommended treatment even though it is quite inexpensive relative to the cost of dealing with the ever-worsening symptoms, many of which are going to be irreversible.

So we have a super-conservative team of doctors who are bad communicators and a patient who, like most addicts, is self-destructive, very bad at listening, and focused on short-term pleasure over long-term health. That is a prescription for disaster.



More Bad News For Fracking: IPCC Warns Methane Traps Much More Heat Than We Thought

By Joe Romm on October 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

Methane leaks in Boston area. Yellow indicates methane levels above 2.5 parts per million. Via NY Times.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that methane (CH4) is far more potent a greenhouse gas than we had previously realized. This matters to the fracking debate because methane leaks throughout the lifecycle of unconventional gas. Natural gas is, after all, mostly methane (CH4).  We learned last month that the best fracked wells appear to have low emissions of methane, but that study likely missed the high-emitting wells that result in the vast majority of methane leakage. Back in August, a NOAA-led study measured a stunning 6% to 12% methane leakage over one of the country’s largest gas fields — which would gut the climate benefits of switching from coal to gas. We’ve known for a long time that methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), which is released when any hydrocarbon, like natural gas, is burned. But the IPCC’s latest report, released Monday (big PDF here), reports that methane is 34 times stronger a heat-trapping gas than CO2 over a 100-year time scale, so its global-warming potential (GWP) is 34. That is a nearly 40% increase from the IPCC’s previous estimate of 25….



‘Cows Save The Planet’: Soil’s Secrets For Saving The Earth

June 17, 2013 NPR Journalist Judith Schwartz believes that the key to addressing carbon issues and climate change lies beneath our feet. In her book Cows Save The Planet, she argues that proper management of soil could solve a long list of environmental problems.


Warming Lake Superior prompts a tribe to try a new fish. October 3, 2013 Daily Climate On the shore of Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Bay Indians are raising walleye in addition to the traditional trout at their hatchery. They need to keep pace with their changing lake. A ‘Climate at your Doorstep’ story.



Yosemite’s largest ice mass is melting fast

Lyell Glacier has shrunk 62% over the past century and hasn’t moved in years. It’s a key source of water in the park, and scientists say it will be gone in 20 years.

The photo on the left of Lyell Glacier in Yosemite National Park was taken by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1883; the one on the right was taken by park geologist Greg Stock in late September. (U.S. Geological Survey; Greg Stock)

By Louis Sahagun LATIMES October 1, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

Climate change is taking a visible toll on Yosemite National Park, where the largest ice mass in the park is in a death spiral, geologists say.

During an annual trek to the glacier deep in Yosemite’s backcountry last month, Greg Stock, the park’s first full-time geologist, found that Lyell Glacier had shrunk visibly since his visit last year, continuing a trend that began more than a century ago. Lyell has dropped 62% of its mass and lost 120 vertical feet of ice over the last 100 years. “We give it 20 years or so of existence — then it’ll vanish, leaving behind rocky debris,” Stock said. The Sierra Nevada Mountains have roughly 100 remaining glaciers, two of them in Yosemite. The shrinkage of glaciers across the Sierra is also occurring around the world. Great ice sheets are dwindling, prompting concerns about what happens next to surrounding ecological systems after perennial rivulets of melted ice disappear….


Maine lobstermen threatened by climate change and Canada

2 October 2013 Last updated at 00:20 BST

Plenty is not normally a problem for those who harvest the seas; decks and holds full of fish generally gladden the hearts of fishermen everywhere. But for the lobstermen of the US state of Maine, the abundance of lobsters has turned into a headache. The catch is up six-fold in just over a decade as climate change warms the waters and encourages huge hauls. Yet the price the lobstermen receive for their crustacean catch has fallen steadily. The BBC spoke to two veterans about the impact the changes are having on their livelihoods and communities.

Produced by Maria Byrne, Jonny Dymond, Dave Hopper and Bill McKenna.



A steel wall — 4 miles long and 16 feet above sea level — proposed for Mantoloking and Brick beaches would resemble this one along Route 35. / Asbury Park Press photo/DOUG HOOD

$40 million steel curtain proposed to protect New Jersey shore highway.
Sept 27 2013 Vineland Daily Journal It would be a buried Iron Curtain: a vertical steel bulwark, four miles long, cresting 16 feet above sea level, but mostly unseen under a continuous sand dune at the back of the beach, a last line of defense to preserve a rebuilt Route 35. … At a cost of $40 million, the Federal Highway Administration is offering New Jersey protection for the $260 million reconstruction of Route 35, where Superstorm Sandy punched a new ocean inlet through Mantoloking and across the highway on Oct. 29. The cost would be split: $32 million from the feds, $8 million from the state. The wall is proposed as a final, backstop protection to the thinnest, most vulnerable stretch of the upper Barnegat barrier beach peninsula — a place where charts from the 1700s showed Herring Inlet in almost the same place as the 2012 breakthrough. The project is slated for Mantoloking and the Brick beaches in Ocean County. “You don’t want history to repeat itself,” said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. “The Federal Highway Administration stepped forward and provided the funding for this.” But there are some coastal experts who are worried that while the idea sounds good, the wall will create the danger of even more beach erosion in big storms….




Thumb-Sized Hornets Are Getting More Aggressive — And Fatal — As China Warms

By Ryan Koronowski on September 28, 2013

Attacks by giant hornets, most likely the 5-centimeter (2-inch) Vespa mandarinia, have left hundreds injured and 28 people dead.


Native Tribes’ Traditional Knowledge Can Help US Adapt to Climate Change

October 3, 2013 — New England’s Native tribes, whose sustainable ways of farming, forestry, hunting and land and water management were devastated by European colonists four centuries ago, can help modern America adapt … > full story

The whitewashing of the environmental movement

By Katie Valentine

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress

Ryan Rodrick Beiler / ShutterstockVan Jones.

The traditional environmental movement has a diversity problem.

That’s according to Van Jones, founder of Green for All and environmental and civil rights advocate. But Jones says it’s not just that the staffs of many large, mainstream environmental organizations have been historically mostly white – it’s that most of the smaller environmental justice groups are getting a fraction of the funding that the big groups receive.

Jones says for the environmental movement as a whole to succeed, that needs to change. Environmental justice groups are the ones serving populations that are often most vulnerable to climate change and affected most by pollution — Americans who are low-income, live in cities, and are often people of color.

“The mainstream donors and environmental organizations could be strengthened just by recognizing the other ‘environmentalisms’ that are already existing and flourishing outside their purview,” Jones said.

These environmental justice groups work on a smaller scale than the major mainstream groups like the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund – they’re groups like the Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles and West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) in New York City, groups that are working towards improving the environmental health of their communities. Danielle Deane, Energy and Environment Program Director at the Joint Center, said the groups don’t always get the credit they deserve for their support of environmental issues.

“For whatever reason, often the innovation, the hard work by community leaders that’s happening to help prepare their cities as they expect extreme weather events like Sandy, often those leaders don’t get the level of attention they deserve even though they’ve been working on some of these issues for decades,” she explained. “I think that’s slowly changing, but I think there’s a lot more activity by a wide range of folks that isn’t yet getting its due.”

One of the biggest reasons for that, as Jones said, is the funding gap that exists between the small-scale environmental justice groups and the large, mainstream environmental organizations. A recent report [PDF] from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found from 2007 to 2009, just 15 percent of environmental grants went towards benefiting marginalized communities, and only 11 percent went towards advancing “social justice” strategies.





How to convince global warming skeptics

Take it from this guy. The results are in, and scientists are convinced: Global warming is real, and it’s our fault.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fifth report this morning, and it did not mince words. Global warming is “unequivocal”: Each of the past three decades has been warmer than the last, and each was hotter than any ten-year period since 1850. Scientists are more confident than ever that “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming” for over sixty years, the IPCC said. If we don’t act now, the report added, runaway climate change will cause parts of the planet to heat up by over 10 degrees Celsius. Sweltering, prolonged heat waves will become commonplace, along with severe rainstorms — ensuring widespread forest fires and flooding. The Arctic Ocean will shed almost all of its ice during the summer, causing sea levels to rise by as much as three feet by the end of the century.

Although it might seem like a new climate change report comes along every month, this is actually the first report released by the IPCC since 2007; the last one won the Nobel Peace Prize. And it’s not just the work of a bunch of faceless U.N. bureaucrats; the panel is made up of the world’s pre-eminent scientists in the field of climatology.

This particular bunch is worth listening to, says Eric Holthaus at Quartz:

What makes the IPCC so important is simple: They are required to agree. Last night, the group pulled an all-nighter to ensure that representatives from all 195 member countries agreed on every single word of the 36-page “summary for policymakers” (pdf). That instantly makes the report the world’s scientific and political authority on what is happening to the climate, what will happen in the future, and what needs to be done to avoid the worst impacts. [Quartz]

Sounds pretty conclusive, right? But just as melting icebergs crash into each other in the tepid Antarctic, the IPCC’s rigid analysis will butt up against hidebound skepticism. “Belief in global warming has taken on the trappings of traditional religion,” scoffs Michael Barone at National Review.

Alarmists like to say the science is settled — which is nonsense, since science is a series of theories that can be tested by observations. When Einstein presented his theory of relativity, he showed how it could be tested during astronomical events in the next decade. The theory passed. Saying the science is settled is like demanding what religions demand — that you have faith. [National Review]

What the skeptics say is this: The rate at which global temperatures have increased hasn’t accrlerated over the past decade and a half, despite the dire warnings of the climate change crowd. So why should we believe anything they say?

Well, climatologists counter that while surface warming has apparently slowed down, it’s because the heat is disappearing beneath the surface. “About 30 percent of the heat is going deeper into the ocean,” said Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research at
Mother Jones.

Still skeptical? That’s ok! Scientists love skepticism — it’s what makes them extra careful to ensure their results can withstand the mere whisper of a doubt. “Good science inherently involves skepticism,” Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, wrote
at CNN. But if that skepticism comes as reflexively as a knee jerk — and shrugs off the weight of scientific consensus — it’s fair to ask “is it skepticism, or bias?”

Science requires time to sort out the truth from fiction, for theories to be tested or challenged. It is not well suited for tweets and blogs, which allow “zombie theories” — ideas that have been debunked but continue to live on. [CNN]

Perhaps advocates for global warming can help by keeping things civil. Too often, the facts of the climate change debate are delivered along with paternalistic name-calling. Skeptics are no stranger to petty insults either — see the comment section beneath every article on global warming ever written — but those who believe the facts speak for themselves should let them do so. “Deep-six the term ‘denier’ and abandon ‘alarmist.’ Let’s get ‘warmist’ out of the way, too,” says Jason Samenow at The Washington Post.

I completely understand that some people use these terms to cast light on individuals they feel are close-minded, unwilling to learn, and/or completely blind to data and facts. But, in my view, it would be far more productive to simply point out those who perpetuate bad ideas, flawed arguments, and outright falsehoods through example(s), rather than call them names. [Washington Post]

— Dan Stewart






Calvin And Hobbes Would Call It: Scientific Progress Goes ‘Boink’

By Ari Phillips on October 2, 2013

The government shutdown has sent many scientists and researchers into a state of paralyzed chaos after an already tough year of sequestration cuts.


National Parks Shutting Down Costs Local Communities $76 Million Per Day

By Matt Lee-Ashley on October 2, 2013 at 10:57 am

Millions of tourists today are finding locked gates and closed roads at America’s national parks and monuments as a result of House Republicans’ demand that the federal government be shut down unless Obamacare is defunded, delayed, or repealed. Not only are these closures disrupting people’s lives by forcing them to cancel weddings and vacations, they are dealing an immediate blow to the local economies that benefit from the 300 million visitors who come to national parks each year and who, together, help support America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy.

The National Park Service put out a press release Tuesday noting that the government shutdown of national parks alone will result in total economic losses of $76 million per day to local communities. National parks provide economic benefits in a variety of ways, including tourists’ purchases of gasoline, food, lodging, and gear in “gateway communities” near national parks.

Additionally, Climate Progress analyzed the most recent National Park Service data on the economic impacts of national parks in every state, and found that the top ten states whose communities will lose the most money from the government shutdown of national parks are:

Click to see all 50 states.



Are Antarctica’s Southern Ocean Ecosystems Doomed to Death by Diplomatic Paralysis?

By Jillian Keenan | October 2, 2013 |   Scientific American

The story of Antarctic marine conservation efforts often feels like the myth of Sisyphus, the Greek king who was condemned to spend eternity struggling to roll a boulder up a hill. For more than 50 years, nations have successfully worked together under the Antarctic Treaty System to protect Antarctica as a peaceful forum for scientific research and environmental preservation. But the Southern Ocean, which encircles Antarctica and is home to some of the most pristine marine ecosystems on earth, hasn’t been so lucky.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the organization responsible for managing and protecting the Southern Ocean, has struggled to fulfill the mission of its name and establish meaningful protections of Antarctic marine ecosystems. Like Sisyphus, eternally pushing his boulder towards the summit, the Antarctic marine preservation movement seems doomed to repeat its campaign cycle forever, always in sight of the finish line but never able to cross it. Most recent concerns have focused on CCAMLR’s failed attempts to establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in critical Southern Ocean regions. In 2002, The World Summit on Sustainable Development set the goal of establishing a global network of MPAs in Antarctica by 2012—a deadline that CCAMLR formally adopted in 2009. After that deadline came and went without new protected zones, however, CCAMLR convened a special meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany, in July 2013, to consider two specific proposals for new MPAs: One in the Ross Sea area, which was proposed by New Zealand and the United States, and one in East Antarctica, which was concurrently proposed by Australia, France, and the European Union. CCAMLR operates on a consensus model, which means that any one of its 25 member states can unilaterally veto a proposal—and that’s exactly what happened in Bremerhaven, when Russia and the Ukraine stunned the international community by blocking the proposals with little explanation. In anticipation of CCAMLR’s upcoming meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, from October 23 to November 1, New Zealand and the United States released a revised (and, some argue, significantly reduced) version of their Ross Sea proposal, but hopes remain low that the forthcoming meeting will result in much meaningful action. The organization’s repeated failures to live up to its own name and mandate raise blunt but inevitable questions: Has CCAMLR’s paralytic consensus model transformed the conservation body into little more than a marginally effective fisheries management organization? If so, just what will it take to successfully and effectively protect Antarctica’s marine ecosystems? “Those are serious questions that CCAMLR will have to ask itself if things remain at this stalemate, especially if we have countries that seem increasingly willing to isolate themselves,” said Andrea Kavanagh, the director of the Southern Ocean Sanctuaries Campaign at Pew Charitable Trusts. “I don’t think it was ever envisioned that the consensus model would serve as a means for someone to block progress on something that everyone had already agreed was important. To use consensus against CCAMLR itself—well, it seems like bad faith negotiations.” The ingredients required to establish meaningful, effective protection of these fragile ecosystems are a complex cocktail of science and policy, Kavanagh said. She emphasized that for protections to be effective, the MPAs must be “permanent or indefinite”—that is, they cannot have a firm expiration date. (The current revised proposal has a “soft review” clause that would go into effect after 25 years, although Kavanagh expressed concerns that New Zealand has indicated a willingness to negotiate on that aspect of the proposal.) To be effective, she added that the protected areas must also be large enough to cover a diverse range of species and ecosystems—also cause for concern, since the newly revised proposal reduced the size of the proposed MPA by 40 percent, from roughly the size of Alaska to roughly twice the size of Texas. “When it comes to MPAs, size does matter,” said Kavanagh. “In the Ross Sea area, for example, you have a lot of different ecosystems: the shelf and slope, sea mounts, and an area they suspect is a breeding and spawning ground for toothfish. It was a disappointment to us that the revised proposal lost some of the diversity of ecosystems they had protected, especially when we still don’t know where Russia and the Ukraine stand. We have no idea if they’ll be satisfied by this.”…



We need climate-change risk assessment

By Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson and Tom Steyer, Thursday, October 3, 5:42 PM  Washington Post Opinion

Michael Bloomberg, an independent, is mayor of New York. Hank Paulson, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs and Treasury secretary in the George W. Bush administration, is chairman of the Paulson Institute, which promotes sustainable economic growth. Tom Steyer is the founder of Farallon Capital Management and co-founder of Next Generation.

If the United States were run like a business, its board of directors would fire its financial advisers for failing to disclose the significant and material risks associated with unmitigated climate change.

Managing risk is necessary for individuals, investors, businesses and governments. As individuals, we buy insurance for our homes, vehicles and health because the future is unpredictable. Businesses take similar actions and save, when they can, for the next economic downturn. Investors diversify their portfolios and hedge their bets for the same reason. And for governments, managing risk can mean anything from maintaining a standing army (in case of war) to filling a strategic petroleum reserve (to protect against severe shocks in oil prices).

As businessmen and public servants, we are intimately familiar with the systems used to manage risk. They are central to informed decision-making. But today, the world faces one of the greatest humanitarian and economic challenges of our time: the threat of global climate change. And in this arena, our risk-assessment systems have broken down. This ignorance cannot be allowed to continue.

Government officials, economists, financiers and everyone else in the business community need to ask: How much economic risk do we face from unmitigated climate change? Answering this question would go a long way toward helping us all prepare for the extreme weather and related economic effects that are most likely coming our way.

That’s why the three of us have joined together to lead a new effort designed to do just that. Our Risky Business initiative ( will look across the U.S. economy and assess the potential impacts of climate change by region and by sector. Our analysis, when complete, will arm decision-makers with the information they need to determine how much climate risk they are comfortable taking on.

The reality is that we don’t yet know everything there is to know about climate change, and we don’t know its full potential impact. That’s exactly why we need to assess the risks. What will changes in temperature and precipitation mean for farmers and livestock producers? How will higher sea levels affect the value of coastal property? What might stronger and more frequent storms mean for the infrastructure that is the bedrock of our national economy?

These are not theoretical questions. We already know that extreme weather events cost a lot of money. In recent years, these costs have added up after such events as Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina; the wildfires and epic floods in Colorado; the die-off of pine trees across the Rocky Mountains; devastating, historic floods across the Midwest; deepening drought in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma; record heat waves across Alaska and the Northeast; and the slow but intractable death of the coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.

While it is difficult to attribute any single weather event to climate change, world climate scientists agree that climate change makes these types of events both more likely to occur and more catastrophic in scope. Even under the best-case climate scenarios, we are likely to experience more extreme weather, more droughts and heat waves, more destructive storms and floods.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York City created a comprehensive resilience blueprint that measures climate risk across all major vulnerable areas, from the power grid to hospitals to the coastline. Our nation needs the same blueprint. It is essential that our national exposure to climate risk be understood so all Americans can make informed decisions about the future.

We believe the Risky Business initiative will bring a critical missing piece to national conversations about climate change and help business leaders, elected officials and others make smart, well-informed, financially responsible decisions. Ignoring the potential costs could be catastrophic. That is a risk we cannot afford to take.


Risky Business adds up climate change costs

David R. Baker Updated 5:21 pm, SF Chronicle Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tom Steyer’s (left) climate change project is a joint effort with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Photo: Steve Helber, Associated Press

Tom Steyer certainly knows how to keep his name in circulation. The hedge fund billionaire turned climate activist has a knack for picking projects that keep him in the public eye. Whether he’s pushing through a tax-reform ballot initiative in California or bankrolling a controversial ad against the Keystone XL pipeline, Steyer rarely drops out of sight for long. Now he has teamed with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on a typically ambitious effort – counting up the economic costs of climate change.The new project, dubbed Risky Business, will try to forecast just how much money climate change could cost the United States in years to come. It will use a combination of existing data and new research to produce its risk assessment, planned for release next summer. Steyer hosted President Obama for a fundraiser in his Pacific Heights home this spring, and he’s considered a rising force in California Democratic politics. But Risky Business will try to straddle America’s political spectrum. Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary under George W. Bush and a Republican, has signed on as co-chairman. Bloomberg, meanwhile, is an independent. Risky Business will operate as a joint initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Paulson’s office and San Francisco think tank Next Generation. Steyer sits on Next Generation’s board. Granted, Steyer, Paulson and Bloomberg could have picked a better time to announce their project. Risky Business’ launch this week caused barely a stir, as the federal government shutdown shoved most every other news story to the sidelines. We’ll see if the project’s results get more notice, when they finally arrive. Here’s betting they will.



The Next Thing We Need To Do About Carbon

New Yorker (blog)

 – ‎Oct 2, 2013‎


Lawrence Krauss

This week, in its long awaited 2013 report, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made the bold proposal that no more than a trillion tons of carbon should be burned and released into the atmosphere by humanity—with about a half trillion tons already having done so, and the remaining half trillion expected, at current rates, to be burned by 2040. Unfortunately, this bold proposal, already vilified by climate-change deniers, is not bold enough.

The current problem is two-fold: First, the carbon we burn now will stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Stopping the burning of all fossil fuels today would not remove the cumulative carbon burden that has already raised CO2 abundance in the atmosphere to a level not seen on earth in the past five hundred thousand years, a span over which we have direct data. Second, because we continue to burn carbon, every year that we delay significant reductions would require even more extreme reductions in the following year.

For example, current estimates suggest that to have a sixty-seven per cent chance of attaining the I.P.C.C.’s goal of keeping global warming to less than 3.6 degrees, it would have required 3.7 per cent reductions per year, had reductions begun in 2011….As the I.P.C.C. report underscores, the climate emergency we face in this century is real. If social, political, and economic stresses mean that the world will not likely make the reductions necessary to avoid this emergency by mid-century, we need to explore every other possible technical means to do so. Carbon capture from the atmosphere may not be practical in the end. But exploring possibilities like it with the same kind energy that we are devoting to extracting fossil fuels should be an ethical global imperative, given everything we now know about humanity’s impact on our climate…..



IPCC report: The financial markets are the only hope in the race to stop global warming . September 27 2013 The Independent The financial markets are humanity’s only hope in the battle against global warming, the world’s top climate expert declared today as he presented the most overwhelming case ever made that humans are responsible for rapidly increasing the Earth’s temperature. Rajenda Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said his organisation’s latest report provided “unequivocal” evidence that since 1950 the atmosphere and oceans had warmed, and that scientists were now “95 per cent certain” that humans were the “dominant cause”. These patterns had been replicated across the climate system, as the amount of snow and ice had diminished, the mean global sea level had risen and concentrations of greenhouse gases had increased, he added. The report says many of the observed changes are unprecedented in recent millennia and without extreme action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, global warming is likely to exceed 2C by the end of this century. This is the level at which the consequences become even more devastating and which world governments have agreed to try to avoid. But Dr Pachauri warned that unless a price could be put on carbon emissions that was high enough to force power companies and manufacturers to reduce their fossil-fuel use, there seemed to be little chance of avoiding hugely damaging temperature increases. “An extremely effective instrument would be to put a price on carbon. It is only through the market that you can get a large enough and rapid enough response,” he said, calling on policymakers around the world “to see what’s required”. Dr Pachauri said the IPCC was working on “mechanisms” through which the market could be used to reduce carbon emissions. These are likely to be announced in April next year when the IPCC releases the third part of its assessment, which deals with climate change mitigation. Today’s installment dealt with the science. The second section, released in March, will cover impact and adaptation.


Who cares about Kyoto? California and Quebec create their own transnational carbon market.
Efforts to create a national carbon market in the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions may be deader than bipartisanship in Washington. But California today took another step to globalize its cap-and-trade program by signing an agreement with the Canadian province of Quebec.

October 3, 2013 Quartz Efforts to create a national carbon market in the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions may be deader than bipartisanship in Washington. But California today took another step to globalize its cap-and-trade program by signing an agreement with the Canadian province of Quebec to integrate their two carbon markets as of January 2014.

The deal is another sign that any efforts to fight climate change are likely to be spearheaded by cities and states rather than nation-states, given the utter failure to reach a global consensus on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions. California launched its carbon trading market in November 2012 to comply with a state law that requires greenhouse gas emissions to fall to 1990 levels by 2020. The market currently covers power plants, oil refineries and other industrial polluters that must reduce their carbon emissions by a set amount each year or buy credits from those that have exceeded their reduction quotas. Every year the carbon vice tightens as the emissions limits fall and companies are forced to devise new ways to cut their greenhouse gas spew or purchase more and more credits. The idea is that eventually even those polluters that prefer to buy their way out of the cap will be forced to clean up their act to be competitive with less carbon-instensive rivals.

Quebec instituted a similar market to cut emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. But with a population of just eight million it’s a rather tiny market. By joining 38 million Californians, Quebec hopes to give its industrial polluters more options to offset their emissions. For California, the transnational carbon market is just the first step in leapfrogging borders that have proven to be barriers to attacking global warming. The California legislature authorized the governor to link the state’s carbon market to others. And in a 2012 report, the agency responsible for overseeing the cap-and-trade program recommended approving a regulation allowing California to integrate its market with Quebec’s.

“Climate change is a global problem that requires action by states, provinces, and nations,” stated the report. “The proposed regulation furthers California’s effort to address climate change through coordinated sub-national efforts.” It’s a trend embraced elsewhere. But as the recent election in Australia shows, politics can derail such good intentions. Australia was set to convert its carbon tax to a cap-and-trade program in July 2014 and then link that market to the European carbon market. In September, however, a conservative government took power in Australia, vowing to scuttle the carbon tax.




Radical solutions urged to beat growing climate threat. September 27 2013 Times of London Techniques for sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as artificial trees, must be urgently developed to prevent catastrophic global warming, according to the Government’s chief scientific adviser on climate change.


Climate report puts geoengineering in the spotlight

IPCC statement suggests tinkering with the atmosphere could be necessary to meet climate goals.

Daniel Cressey 02 October 2013 NATURE

Advocates of geoengineering argue that as emissions keep rising their technology will come into its own. Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Attempts to counter global warming by modifying Earth’s atmosphere have been thrust into the spotlight following last week’s report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Mention of ‘geoengineering’ in the report summary was brief, but it suggests that the controversial area is now firmly on the scientific agenda. Some climate models suggest that geoengineering may even be necessary to keep global temperature rises to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Most geoengineering technologies generally either reflect sunlight — through artificial ‘clouds’ of stratospheric aerosols, for example — or reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The latter approach, described as ‘negative emissions’, involves capturing carbon dioxide with strategies that range from building towers to collect it from the atmosphere to grinding up rocks to react with CO2 and take it out of circulation. Critics say that the technologies are unproven, will have unforeseen impacts and could distract from attempts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. But advocates point to language in the summary for policy-makers produced by the IPCC working group that assessed the scientific evidence for climate change as evidence that reducing emissions will not be enough.

Related stories



‘Climate change refugee’ fights to stay in New Zealand

Immigrant from Pacific island of Kiribati hopes to convince court he is a refugee at risk from rising sea levels

Associated Press, Tuesday 1 October 2013 08.44 EDT

Kiribati has been identified by scientists as among the nations most vulnerable to climate change. Photograph: Katsumi Kasahara/AP

A man from one of the lowest-lying nations on Earth is trying to convince New Zealand judges that he is a refugee – suffering not from persecution, but from climate change.

The 37-year-old and his wife left their remote atoll in the Pacific nation of Kiribati six years ago for higher ground and better prospects in New Zealand, where their three children were born. Immigration authorities have twice rejected his argument that rising sea levels make it too dangerous for him and his family to return to Kiribati.

So on 16 October, the man’s lawyer, Michael Kidd, plans to argue the case before New Zealand’s high court. Kidd, who specialises in human rights cases, told Associated Press he will appeal the case all the way to the country’s supreme court if necessary.

Legal experts consider the man’s case a long shot, but it will nevertheless be closely watched, and might have implications for tens of millions of residents in low-lying islands around the world. Kiribati, an impoverished string of 33 coral atolls about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, is home to about 103,000 people and has been identified by scientists as among the nations most vulnerable to climate change….


The man who made sea-level rise go away. October 1, 2013 Daily Climate

Armed with a 168-slide PowerPoint and a message that resonates with North Carolina’s conservative Legislature, John Droz has notched a remarkable record fighting sea-rise science, coastal development limits and renewable energy plans. …



Governor approves 6 laws encouraging electric cars

Michael Cabanatuan
Published 6:54 pm, Saturday, September 28, 2013

One of the new laws makes it easier for drivers of electric cars to use charging stations, such as this one in Santa Monica. Photo: Monica Almeida, New York Times











The Climate Commons offers a starting point for discovery of climate change data and related resources, information about the science that produced it, and the opportunity to communicate with others about applying climate change science to conservation in California.

Tools for Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change


OREGON Climate change Research Institute


Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference

Conference Description—held September 5th-6th, 2013

Download –links to some presentation videos


California Salmon Snapshots

How Many Salmon Return to Our Coastal Watersheds? The Nature Conservancy’s California Salmon Snapshots is a collaborative information-sharing effort, critical to the on-going recovery of the state’s salmon species. For the first time ever, population data — from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and others — are compiled to show the number of salmon in our coastal California watersheds….






Managing Coastal Watersheds to Address Climate Change: Vulnerability and Adaptation in the Middle Patuxent Subwatershed

Space is limited.

Thursday, October 3, 2013 


1:00 PM – 2:30 PM EDT   11 AM- 12:30 PT 


The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) received funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Restoration Center to help set the stage for addressing climate change impacts in the Chesapeake Bay, focusing on how to integrate climate change in coastal restoration and conservation activities. This webinar provides an overview of how to address climate change (both vulnerability and adaptation) through a case study at a subwatershed level in the Chesapeake Bay. The focus will be on using a case study to show how to determine the vulnerability of a subwatershed to potential climate change impacts as well as providing a suite of potential adaptation options to address those vulnerabilities.
Although the case study is specific to the Chesapeake Bay the information from the project will be useful to those working within this watershed and beyond. The process and approach used for this effort is one that managers can replicate to help them conduct a vulnerability assessment and develop actionable adaptation options efficiently and effectively.






Analytical Frameworks for Wetland and Riparian Buffers in Agricultural Settings

October 4, 2013 8:30 – 5:00

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve  Including field site training at ALBA’s Triple M Ranch, Las Lomas;  Carlie Henneman- POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE, Dale Huss, Marc Los Huertos, and Paul Robins, Instructors

This one-day workshop trains participants in how to improve their analyses in consideration of the use of buffers for wetland and riparian areas in agricultural settings.  During an in-depth field training session , participants will also have opportunities to discuss farming operations and buffers with Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) affiliated Francisco Serrano (Serrano Organic Farm), Hector Mora (Hector’s Organic Farm), and Guilebaldo Nuñez (Nuñez Farms) as well as Kaley Grimland- ALBA’s Triple M Ranch Wetland Restoration Project Manager.  To register and for more information:




Working for Conservation ConferenceActive Engagement in Forest and Woodland Sustainability

Thursday, October 10, 2013   —  Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, 1230 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 916-341-401

University of California Forestry and Outreach

California’s forests and woodlands provide a tremendous array of values for society, including diverse habitats, water supply, carbon storage, energy, building products, aesthetics, outdoor recreation. With a population approaching 38 million people and 14 million international visitors, there is no area of the state not touched by humans. This conference will focus on what we can learn from innovative and novel strategies that seek to achieve desired outcome in natural systems that have been historically altered and will continue to be altered. We have scores of risk avoidance strategies that these new approaches can be compared to. We will discuss new policies and management strategies that recognize the realities of these impacts, and encourage active approaches to ensure that these values continue into the future.  This one day conference will provide a series of presentations illustrating the trajectory of our fingerprints across the state’s 40 million acres of forest and woodlands and consider novel approaches being implemented to get ahead of challenges where ‘no action’ approaches may not work. A series of case studies will be presented on how hybrids of restoration ecology , silviculture, and conservation biology are being combined in innovative conservation strategies. The response panelists will highlight the risks and opportunities of innovative approaches and will also ask questions that are submitted from participants. A wrap-up reception and poster session will be held to encourage discussion of the topics developed in the formal presentations.

Intended Audience: Resource managers, governmental, industry and NGO leaders, the interested general public. A list of useful background reading is provided at this LINK. Registration is $100, and includes breaks, lunch, and a reception. Early registration is due by October 1, 2013. Register by clicking HERE


Agenda Updates, Final Bootcamp Schedule and New Plenary Speakers
Hotel Room Reservation Deadline is Thursday, September 26

The updated program agenda is now posted at:

About the Forum

The Climate Strategies Forum provides education and training aligned with the Core Competences for Climate Change Professionals, which will serve as the foundation for the CCO CertificationTM to be launched in 2014. 

The program will feature a suite of keynote conversations in plenary format complemented by more than 15 climate bootcamps — the bootcamps are technical, deep-dive programs taking place in half-day sessions.  Attendees will bank foundational or continuing education credits for the CCO CertificationTM.

A list of current participating organizations is now available.



Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk

Tuesday Oct. 22, 2013 9am to 5pm    Sumner Auditorium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

8625 Discovery Way, San Diego, CA , 92037   Register Here

FREE! Space is limited Registration is required by October 4, 2013  Dress comfortably for afternoon walking tour   This intensive one-day training will introduce the “Roadmap” assessment approach designed to help communities characterize their exposure to current and future hazard and climate threats. This participatory assessment process is designed to:

• Engage key staff members and stakeholders in a comprehensive assessment of local vulnerabilities;

• Evaluate potential hazard and climate impacts using existing information resources;

• Collaborate across disciplines to better understand and plan for impacts; and

• Identify opportunities for improving resilience to current and future hazard risks.

NOAA’s Coastal Services Center expert training staff will lead instruction, with participants spending the morning being trained in the classroom, followed by an afternoon field experience.

Who should attend? Professionals interested in: (1) increasing their understanding of, and skills in, coastal hazard mitigation, and (2) networking among other professionals. Specifically: program administrators, land use planners, public works staff members, floodplain managers, hazard mitigation planners, emergency managers, community groups, and coastal resource managers. For further information contact:  John Sandmeyer at  


Establishing Functional California Native Grasslands – Thursday, Oct. 24th

Save the date for CA Native Grassland Associatio’s popular “how-to” workshop for native grassland restoration & revegetation projects.
WHEN:  Thursday October 24th   8:00am – 4:30pm WHERE: Lake Solano Nature Center and field visit to upland restoration site west of Winters, CA
WHO: course led by CNGA expert instructors Bryan Young, J.P. Marie, Chris Rose, Emily Allen of Hedgerow Farms, assisted by Jon O’Brien and Kurt Vaughn.
QUESTIONS: Contact our Admin. Director or drop us a note via our Contact us link. Hope to see you in October!  Early bird registration extends through October 14th.



Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation  Wednesday, November 13 – Friday, November 15, 2013  Registration Deadlines:  November 5, 2013
“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner 

From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world.  We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.


Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014  Oakdale, CA  Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez:



The Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey are co-sponsors of the upcoming

Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA

Purpose of Conference:  Soils provide provisioning and regulating ecosystem services relevant to grand challenge areas of 1) climate change adaptation and mitigation, 2) food and energy security, 3) water protection, 4) biotechnology for human health, 5) ecological sustainability, and 6) slowing of desertification. The purposes of this conference will be to evaluate knowledge strengths and gaps, encourage cross-disciplinary synergies to accelerate new learning, and prioritize research needs.

More info is available here:



99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013





Deadline 2103-12-01: SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund 

Grants support projects in 4 key categories: Species Research, Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation, Habitat Protection, and Conservation Education. Application deadline is December 1 each year for grants beginning the following year.  Past programs have supported projects in the range of 5-25K for a one-year term.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program at San Francisco Bay  The program’s focus is on the San Mateo and Marin Counties’ outer Coast and is also available to projects in watersheds draining into San Francisco Bay. The mission of the Coastal Program at San Francisco Bay is to conserve coastal ecosystems by engaging external partners and other Service programs in activities that restore, enhance and protect fish and wildlife habitats and habitat forming processes. Funding Available: about $100,000 to $200,000 annually. There is no rigid application format or deadline to apply. However, our money is available on a Federal fiscal year basis (October 1 to September 30), and we encourage you to contact us as early as possible so that we can explore potential partnership opportunities for your project. We would like to hear from you starting in January each year, cooperative agreements for each year are generally finalized by June.  


NOAA Announces Solicitation for the U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observation Network
This funding opportunity invites proposals for projects that demonstrate how an operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network could be developed for the nation by establishing one or more prototype networks in U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and the EEZ. Applications are due on December 2, 2013.

For more information, click here







Assistant to the General Manager- Marin Municipal Water District Vacancy No. 2005

You may apply online at: or you may complete and submit an application packet. An application packet may be obtained by calling 415-945-1433, or in person at MMWD/HR, 220 Nellen Avenue, Corte Madera, CA 94925. Faxes and electronic submissions will be accepted up until 4:30 p.m. on the filing deadline however the originals of the application must be mailed and post marked by the deadline date.





US rises to no. 1 energy producer October 2 2013 Wall Street Journal US is overtaking Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, a startling shift that is reshaping markets and eroding the clout of traditional energy-rich nations. U.S. energy output has been surging in recent years, a comeback fueled by shale-rock formations of oil and natural gas that was unimaginable a decade ago. A Wall Street Journal analysis of global data shows that the U.S. is on track to pass Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas combined this year—if it hasn’t already.

The U.S. ascendance comes as Russia has struggled to maintain its energy output and has yet to embrace technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that have boosted American reserves.

“This is a remarkable turn of events,” said Adam Sieminski, head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “This is a new era of thinking about market conditions, and opportunities created by these conditions, that you wouldn’t in a million years have dreamed about.”… See countries’ average daily output of oil and gas since 1984. View Graphics



Streams below fracking wastewater treatment show elevated salts, metals, radioactivity
(October 2, 2013) — Elevated levels of radioactivity, salts and metals have been found in river water and sediments at a site where treated water from oil and gas operations is discharged into a western Pennsylvania creek. … > full story


With returns from dry land diminishing, Russian oilmen look to Arctic waters.
October 3, 2013 NY Times The Arctic push is happening because the Russian oil industry is looking offshore as its staple fields in the marshes of west Siberia peter out, just as falling output on land in Texas sent American oil companies into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1970s.


Tesla stock drops after Model S catches fire
By Mike Baker and Tom Krisher, Associated Press / October 3, 2013

Tesla stock falls 6 percent after Internet video captures Model S in flames. Tesla says a large metallic object hit a battery pack, causing a fire that firefighters struggled to put out. Tesla stock is up more than 400 percent this year.


Roadmap to reducing solar PV ‘soft costs’ by 2020
(October 1, 2013) — A new report charts a path to achieve SunShot soft-cost targets of .65/W for residential systems and .44/W for commercial systems by 2020. … > full story







Lessons From a Famous Bet

By DAVID LEONHARDT NY Times October 2, 2013

A conversation with Paul Sabin, author of a new book on a storied 1980 wager over the prospect of overpopulation — and the applications for the current debate over global warming.


Obamacare 101: Your Questions Answered

Last week we asked listeners for their questions, and you’ve sent them. Jay Hancock of Kaiser Health News joins us to give you some answers.


Red wine chemical, resveratrol, remains effective against cancer after the body converts it
(October 2, 2013) — A chemical found in red wine remains effective at fighting cancer even after the body’s metabolism has converted it into other compounds. … > full story











Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week #48

NatGeo News Watch (blog)

 – ‎October 3, 2013‎