Focus of the Week
– Two degrees: How the world failed on climate change— the 2° Celsius goal…
1–ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED
2–CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS (with special DROUGHT section)
5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED
RESOURCES and REFERENCES
7–OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
8–IMAGES OF THE WEEK
NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff. You can find these weekly compilations posted on line by clicking here. For more information please see www.pointblue.org.
The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration, http://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes 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 Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list.
Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, 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. We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future. Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.
Focus of the Week– the 2° Celsius goal…
Two degrees: How the world failed on climate change
by Brad Plumer on April 22, 2014
It was the early 1990s. Climate scientists had long known that humans were warming up the planet. But politicians were just beginning to grasp that it would take a huge coordinated effort to get nations to burn fewer fossil fuels and avoid sharp temperature increases in the decades ahead. Those policymakers needed a common goal — a way to say, Here’s how bad things will get and This is what we need to do to stop it. And that posed a dilemma. No one could really agree on how much global warming was unacceptable. How high did the seas need to rise before we had a serious problem? How much heat was too much Around this time, an advisory council of scientists in Germany proposed a stunningly simple way to think about climate change. Look, they reasoned, human civilization hasn’t been around all that long. And for the last 13,000 years, Earth’s climate has fluctuated within a narrow band. So, to be on the safe side, we should prevent global average temperatures from rising more than 2° Celsius (or 3.6° Fahrenheit) above what they were just before the dawn of industrialization. Critics grumbled that the 2°C limit seemed arbitrary or overly simplistic. But scientists were already compiling evidence that the risks of global warming became especially daunting somewhere above the 2°C threshold: rapid sea-level rise, the risk of crop failure, the collapse of coral reefs. And policymakers loved the idea of a simple, easily digestible target. So it stuck.
The idea that the world can stay below 2°C looks increasingly delusional
By 2009, nearly every government in the world had endorsed the 2°C limit — global warming beyond that level was deemed “dangerous.” And so, every year, the world’s leaders meet at UN climate conferences to discuss policies and emissions cuts that they hope will keep us below 2°C. Climate experts churn out endless papers on how we can adapt to 2°C of warming (or less). Two decades later, there’s just one major problem with this picture. The idea that the world can stay below 2°C looks increasingly delusional. Consider: the Earth’s average temperature has already risen 0.8°C since the 19th century. And if you look at the current rapid rise in global greenhouse-gas emissions, we’re on pace to blow past the 2°C limit by mid-century — and hit 4°C or more by the end. That’s well above anything once deemed “dangerous.” Getting back on track for 2°C would, at this point, entail the sort of drastic emissions cuts usually associated with economic calamities, like the collapse of the Soviet Union or the 2008 financial crisis. And we’d have to repeat those cuts for decades. The climate community has been slow to concede defeat. Back in 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report noting that the world could stay below 2°C — but only if we started cutting emissions immediately. The years passed, countries did little, and emissions kept rising. So, just this month, the IPCC put out a new report saying, OK, not great, but we can still stay under 2°C. We just need to act more drastically and figure out some way to pull carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. (Never mind that we still don’t have the technology to do the latter.)
We’re on track for 4°C of global warming — and 2°C is increasingly unlikely
Predicted temperature increases under various emissions scenarios:
On our current course, the world will put enough carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere by mid-century to breach the 2°C target.
Emissions would need to decline dramatically (and then go negative) for a good shot at staying below 2°C.
Source: Sanford et al. (2014)
“At some point, scientists will have to declare that it’s game over for the 2°C target,” says Oliver Geden, a climate policy analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “But they haven’t yet. Because nobody knows what will happen if they call this thing off.” The 2°C target was one of the few things that everyone at global climate talks could agree on. If the goal turns out to be impossible, people might just stop trying altogether.
Recently, then, some scientists and policymakers have been taking a fresh look at whether the 2°C limit is still the best way to think about climate change. Is this simple goal actually making it harder to prepare for the warming that lies ahead? Is it time to consider other approaches to climate policy? And if 2°C really is so dangerous, what do we do when it’s out of reach?
The murky origins of the 2°C limit
Back in the 1970s, climate scientists understood that the carbon dioxide that humans had been emitting since the Industrial Revolution — from cars, power plants, factories — was intensifying the greenhouse effect that warms the planet. They also knew that man-made emissions were increasing each year as the global economy grew. So how hot would it get? Early calculations suggested that if we doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over pre-industrial levels, the Earth would warm somewhere between 1.5°C and 4.5°C. In the decades since, scientists have amassed more evidence for this estimate of “climate sensitivity,” but they haven’t really narrowed the range. The next step was to figure out how much warming humans could safely tolerate. There were a variety of ideas for defining “dangerous” interference with the Earth’s climate in the early 1990s. Maybe we should try to limit the rate of warming per decade, for instance. Eventually, the 2°C limit won out — endorsed by, among others, a council of German scientists advising Angela Merkel, the nation’s environment minister at the time. Their thinking: human civilization had developed in a period when sea levels remained stable and agriculture could flourish. Staying within that bound — and preventing global average temperatures from rising more than 2°C — seemed like a reasonable rule of thumb. “We said that, at the very least, it would be better not to depart from the conditions under which our species developed,” recalls Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the scientists on that German advisory panel who helped devise the 2°C limit. “Otherwise we’d be pushing the whole climate system outside the range we’ve adapted to.”
Over time, researchers gravitated toward this limit. An influential 2001 report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change detailed a number of reasons to worry about climate change: increased heat waves and storms, the threat of mass extinctions, severe economic losses. Many of these so-called “reasons of concern” were projected to get much worse as global warming climbed past 2°C. Now, there are good arguments that the 2°C limit is arbitrary. Any limit would be. For instance, subsequent research has found that plenty of worrisome impacts actually happen well before we hit 2°C: Arctic sea ice could collapse, coral reefs could die off, tiny island nations like Tuvalu could get swallowed by the rising seas. Conversely, other worrisome changes, such as crop damage in the United States, might not happen until we go above the 2°C threshold. Deciding where to draw this line is a political judgment as much as a scientific one. (To put it another way, no climate scientist thinks we’ll be totally fine if we hit 1.9°C of warming but totally doomed if we hit 2.1°C.) Economists, meanwhile, have often criticized the 2°C limit for not taking costs into account. After all, we don’t just burn oil, gas, and coal for fun. We use them to power our cars and homes and factories. And cutting back won’t be painless. William Nordhaus, an economist at Yale, has argued that we should aim for a temperature limit where the costs of reducing fossil fuels matches the climate benefits. In his book The Climate Casino, he pegs this limit at 2.5°C or possibly higher, depending on how easily we can switch to clean energy sources. Still, despite the criticisms, the 2°C limit has maintained its dominant position for more than a decade — in part because it created an easy focal point for international negotiations. UN climate talks start by assuming the need to stay below 2°C and then work backward to hash out how each country should cut emissions. The European Union’s energy policies consistently reference this limit. The Obama administration’s upcoming rules to restrict carbon-dioxide emissions from US coal plants can be traced back to a pledge President Obama made in 2009 to help stay below 2°C. That raises a question: what will happen if it becomes apparent that the 2°C limit is out of reach? Will we settle on a new limit? Or just give up altogether?
Why the 2°C limit looks increasingly impossible
Here’s how climate experts often think about the 2°C limit. Estimates of climate sensitivity tell us that the Earth will eventually warm somewhere between 1.5°C and 4.5°C if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over pre-industrial levels. And we’re almost halfway to doubling.
So, if we want reasonable odds of staying below 2°C, there’s only so much more additional carbon dioxide we can put in the atmosphere. That’s our “carbon budget” — around 485 billion metric tons. There’s not a lot of wiggle room left. Humans added the equivalent of 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2012, and that amount is rising every year, as fast-growing countries like China and India build new factories, drive new cars, and burn lots of fossil fuels. At current rates, the world will exhaust its carbon budget in roughly three decades, setting the stage for 2°C of warming. (If climate sensitivity turns out to be low, that only buys us an extra decade or so.) If we want to stay within the budget and avoid 2°C, then, our annual emissions need to start declining each year. Older, dirtier coal plants would need to get replaced with cleaner wind or solar or nuclear plants, say. Or gas-guzzling SUVs would need to get replaced with new low-carbon electric cars. But the longer we put this off, the harder it gets — the carbon budget gets smaller, and there are more coal plants and SUVs to replace.
The longer we wait on cutting emissions, the harder it gets
If we want a reasonable shot at staying below 2°C, there’s only so much more carbon-dioxide we can load into the atmosphere. If the world had started back in 2005, emissions could have decreased gently each year. If we wait until, say, 2020, the cuts have to be much sharper to catch up.
By now, countries have delayed action for so long that the necessary emissions cuts will have to be extremely sharp. In April 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that if we want to stay below the 2°C limit, global greenhouse-gas emissions would have to decline between 1.3 percent and 3.1 percent each year, on average, between 2010 and 2050. “If you’re serious about 2°C, the rates of change are so significant, it begs the way we see the world” To put that in perspective, global emissions declined by just 1 percent for a single year after the 2008 financial crisis, during a brutal recession when factories and buildings around the world were idling. We’d potentially have to triple that pace of cuts, and sustain it year after year.
Some climate experts are skeptical that countries can do this while maintaining their historical rates of economic growth. The fastest that any country has ever managed to decarbonize its economy without suffering a crushing recession was France, when it spent billions to scale up its nuclear program between 1980 and 1985. That was a gargantuan feat — emissions fell 4.8 percent per year — but the country only sustained it for a five-year stretch.
To stay within the 2°C budget, every country would have to keep up that pace for decades, decarbonizing not just power plants, but factories, and homes, and cars, and airplanes. That goes far beyond even the most ambitious climate proposals currently being considered, including Obama’s big plan to curb emissions from US coal plants. “If you’re serious about 2°C, the rates of change are so significant that it begs the way we see the world. That’s what people aren’t prepared to embrace,” says Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. “Essentially you’d have to start asking questions about our current society and how we develop and grow.”
Anderson, for one, has argued that wealthy countries may need to sacrifice economic growth, at least temporarily, to stay below 2°C. In December, the Tyndall Centre hosted a conference on “radical emissions reductions” that offered some eye-popping suggestions: Perhaps every adult in wealthy countries could get a personal “carbon budget” tracked through an electronic credit card. Once they hit their limit, no more vacations or road trips. Other attendees suggested shaming campaigns against celebrities with outsized homes and yachts.
Not everyone is ready to go radical. The IPCC’s latest report suggested that an ambitious push on clean energy might only put a modest dent in global economic growth rates (a mere 0.06 percentage points per year). That’s partly because the cost of solar and wind power has been dropping far faster than anyone expected.
But even when you account for that, the IPCC figured that staying below 2°C would depend on a series of long-shot maneuvers: all nations would need to act right this second, ramp up wind and solar and nuclear power massively, and figure out still-nascent technologies to capture and bury emissions from coal plants. Crucially, we’d also have to invent some method of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — something that may never work on a large scale. If any of those assumptions falter, the IPCC noted, costs start rising. And, as the years go by and the world’s nations put off cutting emissions, the odds of staying below 2°C look vanishingly unlikely. “Ten years ago, it was possible to model a path to 2°C without all these heroic assumptions,” says Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But because we’ve dallied for so long, that’s no longer true.” In February, Frumhoff co-authored a paper in Nature Climate Change arguing that policymakers need to take the prospect of breaching the 2°C limit far more seriously than they’re currently doing. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves unprepared for what comes next.
What’s so bad about 3°C or 4°C?
If 2°C looks increasingly out of reach, then it’s worth looking at what happens if we blow past that and go to, say, 3°C or 4°C. Four degrees (or 7.2° Fahrenheit) may not sound like much. But the world was only about 4°C to 7°C cooler, on average, during the last ice age, when large parts of Europe and the United States were covered by glaciers. The IPCC concluded that changing the world’s temperature in the opposite direction could bring similarly drastic changes, such as “substantial species extinctions,” or irreversibly destabilizing Greenland’s massive ice sheet.
In 2013, researchers with the World Bank took a look at the science on projected effects of 4°C warming and were appalled by what they found. A growing number of studies suggest that global food production could take a big hit under 3°C or 4°C of warming. Poorer countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, and parts of Africa could see large tracts of farmland made unusable by rising seas. But what seemed to unnerve the authors of the World Bank report most was all of the stuff we don’t know. Most climate models currently make predictions in a linear fashion. That is, they basically assume that the impacts of 4°C of warming will be twice as bad as those of 2°C. But that might be wrong. Impacts may interact with each other in unpredictable ways. Current agriculture models, they noted, don’t have a good sense for what will happen to crops if heat waves, droughts, new pests and diseases all combine together.
“If we keep assuming we can stay below 2°C as a matter of course, then we aren’t being honest about the adaptation challenges”
Here’s an analogy that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who helped compile some of the research for the World Bank, likes to use. “Take the human body. If your temperature rises 2°C, you have a significant fever. If it rises 4°C or 6°C you can die. It’s not a linear change. You’re pushing a complex system outside the range it’s adapted to. And all our assessments indicate that once you do that, the system’s resilience gets stretched thin.” Perhaps most significantly, the World Bank report wasn’t even sure if humanity could adapt to a 4°C world. At the moment, the large lender is helping poorer countries prepare for global warming by building seawalls, conducting crop research, and improving freshwater management. But, as an internal review found, most of these efforts are being done with relatively small temperature increases in mind. The bank wasn’t planning for 3°C or 4°C of global warming — because no one really knew what that might entail. “[G]iven that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts,” the report said, “there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.” And its conclusion was stark: “The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur.” Only very recently have scientists even started trying to fill in those gaps in knowledge. Here’s a telling anecdote: back in 2011, the European Commission put out a call for papers exploring the impacts of a 2°C rise in temperature. Two years later, the call went out for impacts of warming greater than 2°C. What was once unthinkable is quickly becoming thinkable.
“If we keep assuming we can stay below 2°C as a matter of course, then we aren’t being honest about the adaptation challenges,” says Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. For example, he notes, California might need to completely overhaul its water-planning efforts for the coming century if 3°C or 4°C becomes a serious possibility. But so far, these sorts of planning efforts are scant — because few policymakers are prepared to admit that we’re going beyond 2°C.
The frantic search for alternatives to 2°C
The impossibility of staying below 2°C could also shake up the politics of climate change. After all, the UN climate talks are structured around this overarching goal. What will happen if everyone realizes it’s unreachable?
Last year, Geden, the German Institute researcher, broached this topic in a paper titled “Modifying the 2°C Target.” Then, in October, 11 researchers at the Tyndall Centre published a paper in Climate Policy exploring further alternatives to the 2°C limit. Here are a few options on offer:
- Geoengineering: We could try to stay below 2°C through last-ditch “geoengineering” efforts. Some scientists have pointed out that we could, in theory, cool the Earth by putting sulfate particles into the atmosphere that reflect the sun. The downside? This could have all sorts of gruesome side effects, such as messing up global rainfall patterns. And it wouldn’t alleviate other dire impacts of our carbon-dioxide emissions, such as ocean acidification.
- Accept (slightly) higher temperatures: Alternatively, policymakers could concede that 2°C is unworkable and instead work to stay below a slightly higher limit like 2.5°C or 3°C. This sounds easy: we simply accept that we’re going to face higher climate risks and try to adapt. And even if 3°C of warming is riskier than 2°C, it’s less risky than 4°C. But there’s a hitch. As Geden points out, relaxing the limit might make global climate talks even less productive than they already are. The temperature limits themselves would suddenly be open to negotiation and endless squabbling. The Tyndall researchers worried that this could allow the world to drift into a situation where 4°C or 6°C is accepted as inevitable.
- Reframe the problem: Alternatively, the world could rephrase its goals in more appealing terms. Some experts have argued that 2°C was never a particularly useful limit because it was so difficult to translate into action. The University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. has suggested that we could focus on easier-to-grasp goals like increasing the proportion of carbon-free energy that the world uses — say, going from 13 percent today to 90 percent. That would achieve similar ends, but it’s a vastly different way of framing the problem.
“It puts you in a different intellectual space, where your answers are focused on the deployment of vast amounts of clean energy,” Pielke told me earlier this year. “It’s a politics of possibility and opportunity where innovation is at the center. We may end up no better off than we are now. But the path we’re on now is going nowhere.” Similarly, David Victor of the University of California, San Diego has long argued that starting with an agreed-upon temperature limit and then brow-beating countries into adopt the required cuts is doomed to failure. Instead, it might be more productive for countries to focus on taking individual steps on climate and slowly building up toward an agreed-upon target.
In their Climate Policy paper exploring these alternatives, the Tyndall Centre researchers noted that all of the approaches carry drawbacks — reframing the problem, for instance, could divert attention away from the dangers of higher temperatures. Ultimately, they couldn’t let go of the idea that recommitting to the 2°C limit might just be the “least unattractive course of action.” But, they noted, the world would have to take the problem much, much more seriously than it’s currently doing. Whatever the right answer here is, the authors wrote, it’s at least something that needs to be discussed more fully. “There’s a real danger that the 2°C goal will become discredited,” says the Tyndall Centre’s Tim Rayner, one of the co-authors of the paper. “We think it’s important to begin the debate before that eventuality hits.”
Costa Rican farmlands can support much more wildlife than previously thought, according to Stanford research on bat populations.
Researchers rethink ‘natural’ habitat for wildlife
(April 18, 2014) — Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach nine billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to researchers. A new study finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks. … A new study, published April 16 in the journal Nature and co-authored by three Stanford scientists, finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks. Current projections forecast that about half of Earth’s plants and animals will go extinct over the next century because of human activities, mostly due to our agricultural methods. “The extinction under way threatens to weaken and even destroy key parts of Earth’s life-support systems, upon which economic prosperity and all other aspects of human well-being depend,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment But that grim future isn’t a foregone conclusion. “Until the next asteroid slams into Earth, the future of all known life hinges on people, more than on any other force,” Daily said.
Conservationists have long assumed that once natural landscapes are fractured by human development or agriculture, migration corridors for wildlife are broken, blocking access to food, shelter and breeding grounds. A scholarly theory was developed to estimate the number of species in such fractured landscapes, where patches of forest surrounded by farms resemble islands of natural habitat. The “equilibrium theory of island biogeography” is a pillar of biological research — its elegant equation to estimate the number of species in a habitat has almost reached the status of a scientific law, according to Chase Mendenhall, a Stanford doctoral student in biology and the study’s lead author. The theory drives the default strategy of conserving biodiversity by designating nature reserves. This strategy sees reserves as “islands in an inhospitable sea of human-modified habitats” and doesn’t adequately account for biodiversity patterns in many human-dominated landscapes, according to the Stanford study. “This paper shows that farmland and forest remnants can be more valuable for biodiversity than previously assumed,” said Daniel Karp, who earned his PhD in biology at Stanford in 2013 and is currently a NatureNet postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. “If we’re valuing coffee fields and other human-made habitats at zero, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and wildlife,” Mendenhall said….
The reason for the discrepancies, according to the study’s authors, is that island biogeographic theory was originally based on actual islands surrounded by water, and does not account for factors such as a countryside landscape’s ability to support more species and slow extinction rates compared to true island ecosystems. Especially in the tropics, island biogeographic theory’s application is “distorting our understanding and conservation strategies in agriculture, the enterprise on which the future of biodiversity most critically hinges,” the study’s authors wrote. “Not only do more species persist across the ‘sea of farmland’ than expected by island biogeographic theory, novel yet native species actually thrive there,” said co-author Elizabeth Hadly, the Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “This indicates that human-altered landscapes can foster more biological diversity than we anticipated.”
The fate of much of the world’s wildlife is playing out in human-altered landscapes that are increasingly threatened by chemical inputs such as herbicides and pesticides. Biodiversity is not the only loser. People are losing many of nature’s benefits such as water purification provided by forests and wetlands and pest control provided by birds and bats. The study’s findings point to the need for new approaches that integrate conservation and food production, to make agricultural lands more hospitable to wildlife by reducing chemical inputs, preserving fragments of forest and other natural habitats and rewarding farmers and ranchers for the benefits that result. “A theory of countryside biogeography is pivotal to conservation strategy in the agricultural ecosystems that comprise roughly half of the global land surface and are likely to increase even further in the future,” the researchers wrote…. > full story
Chase D. Mendenhall, Daniel S. Karp, Christoph F. J. Meyer, Elizabeth A. Hadly, Gretchen C. Daily. Predicting biodiversity change and averting collapse in agricultural landscapes. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13139
Scientists identify source of mysterious sound in the Southern Ocean
(April 23, 2014) — Scientists have conclusive evidence that the source of a unique rhythmic sound, recorded for decades in the Southern Ocean and called the ‘bio-duck,’ is the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis). First described and named by submarine personnel in the 1960s who thought it sounded like a duck, the bio-duck sound has been recorded at various locations in the Southern Ocean, but its source has remained a mystery, until now. … > full story
Citizen scientists match research tool when counting sharks: Dive guides monitoring sharks on coral reef at similar level to telemetry
(April 23, 2014) — Shark data collected by citizen scientists may be as reliable as data collected using automated tools. Shark populations are declining globally, and scientists lack data to estimate the conservation status of populations for many shark species. Citizen science may be a useful and cost-effective means to increase knowledge of shark populations on coral reefs, but scientists do not yet know enough about how data collected by untrained observers compares to results from traditional research methods. To better understand the reliability of datasets collected by citizen science initiatives, researchers in this study compared reef shark sightings counted by experienced dive guides (citizen scientists), with data collected from tagged reef sharks by an automated tracking tool (acoustic telemetry). … > full story
Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species
(April 18, 2014) — Seeds that sprout as soon as they’re planted may be good news for a garden. But in the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More than just an insurance policy against late frosts or unexpected dry spells, it turns out that seed dormancy has long-term advantages too: plants whose seeds put off sprouting until conditions are more certain give rise to more species. … > full story
The drastic drop in population is probably due to an unexplained disappearance of sardines from the boobies’ diet, said Dave Anderson, a professor of biology and the study’s principal investigator. : David Anchundia
Lack of breeding threatens blue-footed boobies’ survival
(April 21, 2014) — Blue-footed Boobies are on the decline in the Galápagos. A new study indicates numbers of the iconic birds, known for their bright blue feet and propensity to burst into dance to attract mates, have fallen more than 50 percent in less than 20 years. Scientists started noticing a strange trend at the Galápagos’ 10 or so blue-footed booby breeding colonies in 1997. The colonies were simply empty. The researchers suspect a lack of sardines, a highly nutritious and easy to find source of food, is the culprit behind the birds’ nose-diving population for a number of reasons. … The researchers suspect a lack of sardines, a highly nutritious and easy to find source of food, is the culprit behind the birds’ nose-diving population for a number of reasons. Previous studies conducted at booby colonies on Española show successful breeding occurs only when the birds had an almost 100 percent sardine diet. Over the course of the recent Galápagos study sardines represented less than half of the Boobies’ diet. This suggests the birds find their current, low sardine diet sufficient to live but insufficient to breed successfully. “We think the main factor behind the decline is a scarcity of food,” Huyvaert said. “Whether that’s natural or linked to anthropogenic change, we aren’t sure.” So now the question is, where are the sardines, said Johannah Barry, president of the Galápagos Conservancy, which provided funding for the study. “Are they being overfished, are they leaving Galapagos waters due to climate change or other pressures?” she said. “If they are leaving what other fauna might be impacted?”… > full story
David Anchundia, Kathryn P. Huyvaert, David J. Anderson. Chronic lack of breeding by Galápagos Blue-footed Boobies and associated population decline. Avian Conservation and Ecology, 2014; 9 (1) DOI: 10.5751/ACE-00650-090106
World’s Top Serial Bird Killers- Buildings and Windows- Put Infamous Windmills to Shame
By Tom Randall Apr 21, 2014 9:39 AM PT Bloomberg
Pity the birds. As if cats weren’t bad enough, humans have invented all sorts of torture devices for our winged friends. We’ve paved over their nesting sites to make room for Olive Gardens and have broken up their skyscapes with glass buildings and radio towers. Then came the most infamous bird killer of all: the wind turbine. As you can see in the chart below, these sky blenders top the list.
Source: U.S. Forest Service
Just kidding. Windmills aren’t the biggest serial killer, but are instead the smallest threat to birds worthy of mention, on par with airplanes. Turbines are responsible for as little as one percent of the deaths caused by the next smallest killer, communications towers. You would hardly know this by reading Twitter or scanning the comments on any news article about wind power. Here’s a sampling from the gaggle of bird commenters on the story I wrote a few weeks ago about broken records in U.S. wind power…. No matter whose estimates you use, deaths by turbine don’t compare to cats, cars, power lines or buildings. It’s almost as if there’s been a concerted effort to make people think wind turbines are more menacing than they actually are. This perception can delay project permitting. An expansion of the world’s largest offshore wind farm was recently scrapped after the U.K. would have required a three-year bird study. Only recently did the U.S. Interior Department loosen restrictions on wind farms, which according to the Wildlife Society kill dozens of federally protected eagles and about 573,000 birds a year. Other manmade killers take out almost a billion. Be warned: bird deaths from wind turbines are likely to increase as wind power continues to break new records. Also, turbines keep getting bigger, and as you might expect, a massive bird of prey like the Bald Eagle is more likely to get into a tangle with a 700-foot-tall turbine than a housecat. Bald Eagles, for goodness sake! It’s nice for wind-farm planners to take migration patterns and endangered habitats into account. But even if wind turbines were to double in size and provide 100 percent of our energy needs (both of which defy the laws of physics as we currently understand them), they still wouldn’t compare to the modern scourges of high-tension power lines or buildings with glass windows. Not even close. The alternative to renewable energy sources like wind and solar is to burn ever more fossil fuels. Animals are threatened by those, too, including North America’s most common hairless mammal: the human. Roughly 20,000 of these moderately-intelligent animals die prematurely each year from air pollution from coal and oil, according to a study ordered by Congress.
Pity the humans.
Secretary Jewell Announces Mitigation Strategy that Offers Hope for Threatened Birds
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a new strategy to avoid and mitigate the impact of energy projects on federal lands that should benefit imperiled species such as the Greater Sage-Grouse. The “Strategy for Improving the Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of the Interior” stems from Secretarial Order Number 3330 issued by DOI Secretary Jewell in October 2013, which seeks to shift from project-by-project mitigation to landscape-level planning.
Conservation priorities released for several protected areas along U.S.-Mexico border
(April 23, 2014) — The CEC releases its conservation assessment for priority conservation areas in a region straddling the United States-Mexico border that includes 11 different protected areas in the states of Texas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua. This region features highly diverse arid and semi-arid habitats inhabited by endangered plants and animals, and provides a vital migratory stopping point for many species of birds and animals. … > full story
Political ravens? Ravens notice the relationships among others, study shows
(April 23, 2014) — Cognitive biologists have revealed that ravens do understand and keep track of the rank relations between other ravens. Such an ability has been known only from primates. Like many social mammals, ravens form different types of social relationships — they may be friends, kin, or partners and they also form strict dominance relations. From a cognitive perspective, understanding one’s own relationships to others is a key ability in daily social life (“knowing who is nice or not”). Yet, also understanding the relationships group members have with each other sets the stage for “political” maneuvers (“knowing who might support whom”). … > full story
Best practices in communication for animal world
(April 22, 2014) — Effective communication is not just about the signaler, according to a new study. The receiver also needs to assess the signaler efficiently. For instance, one of the most effective strategies from the perspective of female birds is assessing groups of males called leks, where females can assess multiple males in a short period of time. … > full story
Cougars’ diverse diet helped them survive the mass extinction that wiped out the saber-tooth cat, American lion
(April 22, 2014) — Cougars may have survived the mass extinction that took place about 12,000 years ago because they were not particular about what they ate, unlike their more finicky cousins the saber-tooth cat and American lion who perished, according a new analysis of the microscopic wear marks on the teeth of fossil cougars, saber-tooth cats and American lions. … > full story
Introducing A Divorce Rate For Birds, And Guess Which Bird Never, Ever Divorces?
by Robert Krulwich NPR April 22, 2014 7:10 AM ET
There is love. And then there’s albatross love. In his new book, The Thing with Feathers, Noah Strycker says albatrosses have a knack for coupling. “These globe trotters, who mate for life and are incredibly faithful to their partners, just might have the most intense love affairs of any animal on our planet,” he writes. Noah knows “love” is a word normally reserved for humans. Technically, what albatrosses do is “pair bond.” But call it what you will, he says — “to see what real devotion is like, you need to spend some quality time with an albatross.”They are seabirds. They spend 95 percent of their time sailing through the air for thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of miles. They fish. They rest on the oceans’ surface. They can go for years never seeing land. But they are born on dry land. The chick’s parents build a nest near the place where they, in turn, had been born. Albatrosses lay one egg at a time. Once the chick’s feathers grow in so it can stay warm, its parents fly off, coming back for occasional food deliveries. But typically the chick “spends a full nine months sitting alone … in its nest, most of the time in quiet contemplation of its surroundings since it has no siblings.” It grows slowly. Then, one day, when it feels ready, it picks up, and with no instruction, it flings itself into the air and flies out to sea. It will stay out there for six years until it feels the urge to mate. Then all the albatrosses from its generation head back, one by one, to their native island — usually to a spot alongside the ocean where they land, gather and, one by one, they begin — to dance. Noah writes, the “two birds face each other, patter their feet to stay close as they move forward and backward, each testing the other’s reflexes, and point their beaks at the sky.” “Then, as they simultaneously utter a chilling scream, the albatrosses each extend their wings to show off the full 12-foot span, facing off while continuing to jockey for position. They touch beaks, throw their heads back again and scream.” For a long while they will dance with several partners, but gradually — it can take years to pick the right partner — they will find a particular favorite. Together those two continue to refine their steps, until, having “spent so much time dancing with that specific bird … that pair’s sequence of moves is as unique as a lover’s fingerprint.” Now they are ready to mate. It has taken 15 years to decide on a partner, but having decided, albatrosses don’t switch. “It will generally stick faithfully with its mate until one of them dies, which might not be for another fifty years.” This is not true of most birds….Flamingos, it turns out, are embarrassing. They break up 99 percent of the time. The divorce rate for piping plovers is 67 percent. Ducks do better than humans. Human marriages (American ones) fail at a rate of roughly 40 percent (which is ). Mallard marriages are 91 percent successful. The big shock was swans. Everybody, , figured swans would be at the top of the Most Faithful list. But they’re not. They have a 5 percent divorce rate. So who’s the champ? Do I need to say? Albatrosses are 100 percent faithful…….
Pavement Cracks And Chain-Link Fences Are the New Ecosystems of the Anthropocene
The “natural” world is gone, and it’s not coming back
By Colin Schultz
smithsonian.com April 23, 2014 5:52PM
Yesterday was Earth Day, a celebration of our planet and all of its natural splendor. There’s a problem, though, with this conception of environmentalism, which, like Earth Day, was invented in the 1970s. And it’s a big one: there is literally no such thing as “nature” anymore. As Christopher Mims wrote for Motherboard a couple years ago, the natural world—independent of us—simply no longer exists. [A]ny attempt to talk about the 21st century without acknowledging that every living thing on the planet will be altered by humans is intellectually bankrupt. There is no “nature” left — only the portion of nature that we allow to live because we imagine it serves some purpose — as a thing to eat, a place to reprocess our waste, or an idea that fulfills our dwindling desire to maintain “the natural” for aesthetic or ideological reasons. Whether bulldozed or clear-cut, fished, farmed or warmed by greenhouse gases, every ecosystem on Earth is currently being shaped by humans and human technology. That’s true now, and it’s been true—to an ever-increasing extent—for thousands of years. At this point, believing that it’s possible to restore a place to its original state by removing a dam, restoring a marsh or culling some deer requires a naïve interpretation of how ecosystems work. In his assessment, Mims noted that the ecosystems of the future will not consist of the world, plus us, plus our technology. Rather, the global ecosystem will increasingly be guided, shaped and supported by us and our technology. This shift can already been seen in humanity’s most prominent constructions: cities. Writing for the Design Observer, Peter Del Tredici, a botanist and author, explores how cities are giving rise to novel growing conditions, and new, wholly anthropogenic ecosystems. Instead of rivers, marshes or forests, Earth now has chain-link fences, abandoned lots, highway medians and cracks in the pavement. These aren’t devoid of life; they are new human-made ecosystems, and different types of life—what Del Tredici calls “spontaneous urban vegetation”—thrive in those environments.
Most people have a different word for “spontaneous urban vegetaition”—weeds. But these urban plants, Del Tredici says, are the symptom of change, not the cause. Instead of blaming weeds for existing and trying to restore a place to its original state, engineers working in ecological restoration focus on restoring “ecosystem services.” These are jobs that keep an ecosystem working, and getting those positions filled is what matters most—something needs to keep the soil from being washed out by the rain (even if it is a “weed”). So, here’s Del Tredici’s idea: Instead of longing for some more “natural” ecosystem that is long-since lost, we should work with these new species to design ecosystems that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Rather than trying to fight the infiltration of plants in cracks and vines on fences, we can acknowledge and embrace the changes we’ve wrought.
Yurok Tribe to release condors in California
Published April 25, 2014 Associated Press
Yurok tribal tradition holds the California condor as sacred, with ancient stories saying the giant birds fly closest to the sun and are the best messengers to carry prayers. Now, after five years of research, the far northern California-based tribe has received permission to release captive-bred condors into the Redwood Coast, where the giant bird hasn’t soared for more than a century. Yurok officials signed a memorandum of understanding last month with state and federal agencies and a condor conservation group, allowing for test releases as a final assessment of whether the region can support the endangered birds.
The first releases could come in the next one to three years, tribal biologist Chris West said. Meetings will begin in July to work out protocols and select a release site.
Seven sites are under consideration on Redwood National and State Parks and private land within about 50 miles of each other, primarily south of the Klamath River….
Ocean Farm Technologies
The New, Innovative And More Efficient Way Of Feeding People
By Annie-Rose Strasser April 21, 2014 at 9:07 am Updated: April 21, 2014 at 11:44 am
Don Kent, President of the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, was standing in the seafood aisle of a Whole Foods in the affluent San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla recently when he took out his phone and snapped a photo of a fresh-looking branzino. “Branzino is European sea bass,” Kent explained. “It’s grown in the Mediterranean. And it’s flown 6,900 miles from Greece to here and then it’s put on ice in La Jolla.” Kent, whose organization studies the intersection of nature and human activity and offers solutions on how the two can co-exist, is one of the people who believes there’s a different way to approach how we get our protein here in the United States. He insists that there’s a new, innovative, and more efficient method of feeding people — not just in La Jolla, but all over the world. Aquaculture. Or, as it’s known to most people, fish farming. “We spend 130 million dollars a year on air freight for the 300,000 metric tons of salmon that get flown into the U.S. from Chile. Think of the carbon footprint associated with that,” he says. “There’s absolutely no reason why that brazino shouldn’t be a white sea bass grown three miles off the coast. And then imagine the carbon footprint that’s saved in doing that.” ….. “Aquaculture, not the Internet, represents the most promising investment opportunity of the 21st century.” “The salmon farming industry over the last couple of decades has gone from a series of small mom and pop operations to a major global industry with a few huge corporate players,” explained George Leonard, Chief Scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, a group that has long regarded aquaculture with some skepticism. “There is an ongoing debate around things like genetically engineered salmon, which is an aquaculture product. There’s an ongoing debate about whether organic aquaculture should exist and what it means.” A longstanding concern about how to feed fish is also being met with a Big Ag answer. Since fish in nature actually eat smaller fish to get their omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients, and since that depletes already-strained wild resources, fish farming is requiring a new look at how to feed the animals. One alternative is using seaweed feeds, since they contain many of the elements that fish require. Another is using old carcasses from fish that have already gone through production. A third and newer innovation is soy-based feeds, similar to what’s currently used to feed land farm animals. But the other big question looming over aquaculture is how to parcel out land where the farming could occur and in the U.S., the Ocean Conservancy and other conservation groups worry that we aren’t looking holistically at a solution for mapping out the sea and preempting the overcrowding on the horizon. Otherwise, they say, you can run into a situation where an illness among fish quickly spreads from one farm to another. Chile, for example, suffered a massive outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISA) on its farms, which hurt fish production and employment prospects in the country. It’s a double-edged sword, but no antibiotics are currently permitted in the U.S. for aquaculture. “What we want to avoid is a case-by-case, permit-by-permit approach to aquaculture. That’s what’s gotten others in trouble, because fish farms are connected to each other depending on how close they are, because of the flow of water from one farm to the next,” said Leonard. “So if you don’t take into consideration your neighbors, you can get yourself in a world of hurt, which is what happened in Chile and their salmon farming industry when the ISA virus spread like wildfire there a number of years ago. It was basically too many fish in too many cages too close to each other.” ….
Earth Week: Bark beetles change Rocky Mountain stream flows, affect water quality
(April 21, 2014) — On Earth Week — and in fact, every week now — trees in mountains across the western United States are dying, thanks to an infestation of bark beetles that reproduce in the trees’ inner bark. In Colorado alone, the mountain pine beetle has caused the deaths of more than 3.4 million acres of pine trees. What effect do all these dead trees have on stream flow and water quality? Plenty, according to new research findings reported this week. … > full story
Improving understanding of valley-wide stream chemistry
(April 21, 2014) — Understanding the chemistry of streams at a finer scale could help to identify factors impairing water quality and help protect aquatic ecosystems. A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components. … > full story
KIVA Zip innovative, crowdsourcing loans for rarmers and others
Kiva, which is a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs access loans that are crowdfunded on their website. They have traditionally helped entrepreneurs in developing countries, but recently launched a US pilot program called Kiva Zip. Kiva Zip is really excited to support local farmers, who are really popular on the site. Doniga of Markegard Family Grass Fed recently participated in Kiva Zip and successfully raised $5,000 to purchase irrigation equipment. To see all the farmers fundraising on Kiva Zip right now, click here. A few points on the program:
- These loans can be up to $10,000 at a 0% interest rate with no fees. They can be paid back between 10-36 months and have optional grace periods up to 6 months. Once you repay the first loan you can then take out larger loans of $15,000 and then $20,000.
- Our program aims to empower local communities. Loans are funded by individuals around the world who invest as little as $5 each. These lenders can be potential customers and advocates.
- Farmers typically raise funds in less than 10 days. 100% of farmers have successfully raised funds on Kiva Zip.
- You can use these loans for any business purpose.
Josh used a $10,000 loan to invest in a new irrigation system Alan used a Kiva Zip loan to purchase a truck and fencing for his farm Eddie used a $5,000 Kiva Zip loan to purchase seed and fertilizer in bulk and hire a new employee If you want to learn more visit this page or contact Justin Renfro (CC’d) who leads the Kiva Zip program.
Ask yourself: Will you help the environment?
(April 22, 2014) — Whether it’s recycling, composting or buying environmentally friendly products, guilt can be a strong motivator — not just on Earth Day. Now, research proves that even just asking ourselves, or predicting, whether we will engage in sustainable shopping behavior can increase the likelihood of following through — especially when there’s an audience. … > full story
- CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS
Running Out of Time
By THE NE YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD April 20, 2014
There are years, not decades, left to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and American leadership is urgently needed.
Next year, in December, delegates from more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to take another shot at completing a new global treaty on climate change. This will be the 21st Conference of the Parties under United Nations auspices since the first summit meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. For the most part, these meetings have been exercises in futility, producing just one treaty — in Kyoto in 1997 — that asked little of the big developing countries and was never ratified by the United States Senate. But if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report is to be taken seriously, as it should be, the Paris meeting may well be the world’s last, best chance to get a grip on a problem that, absent urgent action over the next decade, could spin out of control.
The I.P.C.C., composed of thousands of the world’s leading climate scientists, has issued three reports in the last seven months, each the product of up to six years of research. The first simply confirmed what has been known since Rio: global warming is caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels by humans and, to a lesser extent, by deforestation. The second, released in Japan three weeks ago, said that profound effects were already being felt around the world, including mounting damage to coral reefs, shrinking glaciers and more persistent droughts, and warned of worse to come — rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields. The third report, released last week, may be the most ominous of the three. Despite investments in energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources in the United States, in Europe and in developing countries like China, annual emissions of greenhouse gases have risen almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century. This places in serious jeopardy the emissions target agreed upon in Rio to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial level. Beyond that increase, the world could face truly alarming consequences.
Avoiding that fate will require a reduction of between 40 percent and 70 percent in greenhouse gases by midcentury, which means embarking on a revolution in the way we produce and consume energy. That’s daunting enough, but here’s the key finding: The world has only about 15 years left in which to begin to bend the emissions curve downward. Otherwise, the costs of last-minute fixes will be overwhelming. “We cannot afford to lose another decade,” says Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”
The report does not tell governments what to do — presumably, that’s for them to decide in Paris — but it lists approaches, mostly familiar, some technologically advanced. The most obvious, and probably the most difficult to negotiate, is to put a global price on carbon, either through a system of tradable permits like that adopted by Europe (and rejected by the United States Senate) or through a carbon tax of some sort, thus driving investments to cleaner fuels. A more plausible pathway is to get each country to adopt binding emission reduction targets and then allow them to choose how to get there — ramping up nuclear energy, phasing out coal-fired plants in favor of cleaner natural gas (though natural gas itself would have to someday give way to low-carbon alternatives), and vastly increasing renewable sources like wind and solar, which still supply only a small fraction of the world’s energy (less than 5 percent for wind and solar combined in the United States). All this will require a huge shift in investment, both private and public, from fossil fuels. Governments have an enormous amount of work to do in devising emission reduction strategies by next year. As always, American leadership will be required, meaning leadership from the top. Confronted with a hostile Congress, President Obama has commendably moved on his own to reduce emissions through regulations, first with cars and now with coal-fired power plants. And he has done so without a great deal of public support. However compelling the science, global warming has not generated the kind of public anxiety and bottom-up demand for change that helped win the big fights for cleaner air and water in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This makes his job harder but no less urgent.
Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change
(April 24, 2014) — New research has found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change. This research challenges our previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2 accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.
Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. “Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”… > full story
Kees Jan van Groenigen, Xuan Qi, Craig W. Osenberg, Yiqi Luo, and Bruce A. Hungate. Faster Decomposition Under Increased Atmospheric CO2 Limits Soil Carbon Storage. Science, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1249534
Does El Niño Plus Global Warming Equal Global Temperature Records In 2014 And 2015?
By Joe Romm on April 22, 2014
An El Niño appears increasingly likely according to NOAA and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. If it starts soon, 2014 could well be the hottest year on record, but if it is a strong El Niño, as many currently expect, then 2015 would likely break all previous global records. The BOM’s biweekly ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) Wrap-Up begins: The likelihood of El Niño remains high, with all climate models surveyed by the Bureau now indicating El Niño is likely to occur in 2014. Six of the seven models suggest El Niño thresholds may be exceeded as early as July. The latest weekly ENSO report from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) puts the chances of an El Niño by the end of the year at almost 2 out of 3: An El Niño is marked by unusually warm ocean temperatures for a period of several months in the Equatorial Pacific, as I discussed in March. In contrast, a La Niña has cooler than normal temps in the same region. Both tend to drive extreme weather worldwide. The following chart from NASA shows that El Niños are generally the hottest years on record — since the regional warming adds to the underlying man-made global trend — whereas La Niña years are usually below the global warming trend line.
Chart of global temperature since 1950, also showing the phase of the El Niño-La Niña cycle. Via NASA.
The El Niño event of 1997-1998 “was so powerful, it created a +0.2 degrees Celsius temperature anomaly (on top of the 30-year average trend),” as BitsOfScience pointed out earlier this month. That event “started somewhere in May of 1997 and ended almost a full year later, around April 1998. Globally 1997 indeed turned out to be relatively warm (>0.05C above average)” but 1998 was nearly four times as hot. When the El Niño forms and then peaks is crucial to whether 2014 or 2015 (or both) will be the hottest year on record. A 2010 NASA study found the 12-month running-mean global temperature tends to lag the temperature in the key Niño 3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific “by 4 months.” Because 1997/1998 was a “super El Niño,” and because we haven’t had one of those since — or indeed any El Niño at all since 2010 — it can appear as if global warming has slowed (if you cherry-pick a relatively recent start year). But in fact several recent studies have confirmed that planetary warming continues apace everywhere you look, especially the ocean…..
Wildlife response to climate change is likely underestimated, experts warn
(April 22, 2014) — Analyzing thousands of breeding bird surveys sent in by citizen scientists across the western United States and Canada over 35 years, wildlife researchers report that most of the 40 songbird species they studied shifted either northward or toward higher elevation in response to climate change, but did not necessarily do both. This means that most previous studies of potential climate change impacts on wildlife that looked only at one factor or the other have likely underestimated the effects of environmental warming, say research wildlife biologists David King at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Sonya Auer of the University of Glasgow, U.K. Their study appears in the current issue of Global Ecology and Biogeography. As King explains, “In research on the effects of climate change, studies have shown birds and other organisms shifting north in latitude and others show that species are moving up in elevation, but we’re not aware of any others that have looked at both simultaneously.” He and Auer analyzed data collected by thousands of volunteers for the North American Breeding Bird Survey to determine shifts in northern latitude and upper elevation boundaries of 40 songbird species that occurred between two time periods, 1977 to 1981 and 2006 to 2011. The 25-year gap is an adequate time over which climate change effects can be observed, King points out. Across the 40 species studied, northern boundaries shifted northward about 21 miles (35 km) and about 216 feet (66 m) up in elevation, the authors report. “We found that if you only look at latitude or elevation, you might interpret the lack of latitude shift as a lack of response. You might even conclude that the species is not sensitive to climate change, but in fact our results indicate that some birds are following their climate niches in elevation and not latitude. So failure to consider both might cause you to miss or underestimate the effect. We strongly feel that new studies should consider both elevation and latitude. And especially if they observe no shift in latitude, researchers should consider adding the other dimension.”
… They found that “generally speaking, birds with smaller clutch sizes showed greater shifts in latitude, but greater clutch size showed more shift in elevation,” King says. “A more satisfying marker is the diet breadth, where we found birds with narrower diet breadth shifted farther up in latitude and elevation than birds with wider diet breadths, which is what we expected to see.”> full story
Sonya K. Auer, David I. King. Ecological and life-history traits explain recent boundary shifts in elevation and latitude of western North American songbirds. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/geb.12174
Are Observational Networks Missing a Decline in Precipitation?
Pacific NW Climate Impacts Research Consortium
In the Western United States, some 75 percent of the precipitation falls in the mountains. Not surprisingly, then, researchers and managers count on accurate precipitation measures from their high-altitude weather stations. But the mountains themselves could be preventing accurate measures. That’s because the distribution of stations is inadequate to measure certain important climatic changes. That’s the conclusion of Michael Dettinger’s recent note in the journal Nature Geoscience. The paper, “Impacts in the Third Dimension,” provides an overview of research into a unique problem: In the late 2000s, climate scientists diagnosed a decline in the Pacific Northwest’s streamflows, yet the region’s mountain observational network didn’t register a corresponding decline in precipitation. Dettinger references the paper of Charles Luce and colleagues in Science [featured in the January 2014 issue of the CIRCulator]. Luce’s paper ties the low steamflows to a “climate-change-induced slowdown in the westerly winds that normally bring mountain rain and snow,” writes Dettinger. Luce concluded that these westerly winds declined enough to noticeably affect the amount of mountain precipitation and, consequently, streamflow. So how did this differ from observations collected at weather stations? According to Dettinger, the difference was noticeble and originates because there are so few mountain weather stations. If Luce is right, Dettinger concludes, then a 15 percent decline in mountain, or “orographic,” precipitation must have eluded the region’s high-altitude, observational network. However, this makes sense. Getting high-quality precipitation observations at high altitudes can be difficult, so there are very few long-term weather stations at high altitudes. Dettinger ties the missed precipitation measurements to the difficulties many stations face, including harsh weather, complex topography, and the sheer distances of mountain weather stations from towns and cities. However, Dettinger was not entirely convinced by Luce’s methodology. He writes,”[It] is not yet clear how much the decline in high-altitude precipitation change in the Pacific Northwest can be generalized [to other parts of the world].” Dettinger ends his paper with a call for better observational data and climate modeling that can account for mountain ranges’ complex topography, a move he refers to as paying “more attention to the crucial third dimension.”
Dettinger, Michael (2014). Climate change: Impacts in the third dimension, Nature Geoscience, 7, 166–167, doi:10.1038/ngeo2096
Today’s Antarctic region once as hot as California, Florida
(April 21, 2014) — Parts of ancient Antarctica were as warm as today’s California coast, and polar regions of the southern Pacific Ocean registered 21st-century Florida heat, according to scientists using a new way to measure past temperatures. … > full story
B31: huge Antarctic iceberg headed for open ocean
Iceberg that calved from the Pine Island glacier last year is headed for the open ocean, scientists say
theguardian.com, Thursday 24 April 2014 10.26 EDT
In early November 2013, a large iceberg separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier. Photograph: Modis/Aqua/Nasa
An enormous iceberg half the size of Greater London that broke off an Antarctic glacier last year is headed for the open ocean, scientists said on Wednesday. B31, which calved from Pine Island glacier last November, is large enough at 33km long and 20km wide to lead Nasa to monitor its movements via satellite. It is up to 500 metres thick. Nasa glaciologist Kelly Brunt said: “It’s one that’s large enough that it warrants monitoring,” noting that US agencies monitored several dozen icebergs at any one time…
Watch a 20-Mile Long Iceberg Drift Into the Southern Ocean
A huge iceberg 6 times larger than Manhattan and more than 1,500 feet thick is drifting toward the Southern Ocean, a telltale sign of Antarctica’s increasing melt related to global warming and other factors….
Odds of storm waters overflowing Manhattan seawall up 20-fold
(April 23, 2014) — Maximum water levels in New York harbor during major storms have risen by nearly two and a half feet since the mid-1800s, making the chances of water overtopping the Manhattan seawall now at least 20 times greater than they were 170 years ago, according to a new study. … > full story
No-till soil organic carbon sequestration rates published
(April 18, 2014) — For the past 20 years, researchers have published soil organic carbon sequestration rates. Many of the research findings have suggested that soil organic carbon can be sequestered by simply switching from moldboard or conventional tillage systems to no-till systems. However, there is a growing body of research with evidence that no-till systems in corn and soybean rotations without cover crops, small grains, and forages may not be increasing soil organic carbon stocks at the published rates. … > full story
Microscopic organism plays a big role in ocean carbon cycling
(April 24, 2014) — Scientists have taken a leap forward in understanding the microscopic underpinnings of the ocean carbon cycle by pinpointing a bacterium that appears to play a dominant role in carbon consumption. … > full story
Happy Earth Day. We Just Reached Another Scary Climate Change Milestone– 400 PPM CO2 since Mid-March
Posted: 04/22/2014 9:26 am EDT Updated: 04/23/2014 9:59 am EDT
In May 2013, it was big news when, for the first time, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. Now, researchers say that number has been consistently above 400 for the last month. “This is higher than it’s been in millions of years,” said Pieter Tans, a senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory. Parts per million, or ppm, is a measure of the ratio of carbon dioxide to other gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is just one type of greenhouse gas that has been found to trap heat, but it is the primary one emitted from human activities and it lingers in the atmosphere for a very long time. There is typically seasonal fluctuation in the parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, according to scientists who track the levels. That explains why, after hitting 400 for the first time in recorded history last May, the levels declined soon after. But they hit 400 ppm again in mid-March, and have stayed above that level for all of April.
As of April 20, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 401.17 ppm. That figure is based on readings from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The scientists who monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide levels expect that levels will stay above 400 ppm until late June or July. Tans said that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is now increasing at a rate that is at least 100 times faster than it has been at any time since record-keeping began. At some point next year or the year after, based on current rates, carbon dioxide levels will rise above 400 ppm and will not be likely to fall below that mark again.
The amount of carbon dioxide that gets naturally absorbed from the atmosphere varies according to the time of year, said Tans. During late spring and early summer in the northern hemisphere, trees and plants take in more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But as emissions generated by human activities rise, those cycles can no longer offset them. “We are basically overwhelming natural uptake processes,” said Tans…..
Climate Discussion Echoes Tobacco Debate (pdf)
SCIENCE Letter 18 APRIL 2014 VOL 344 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org
ROBERT J. GOULD AND EDWARD MAIBACH
IN 1962, LUTHER TERRY, THE SURGEON GENERAL OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, ESTABLISHED the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. On 11 January 1964, he released the committee’s report, “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (1), which reviewed the existing science and concluded that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally linked to cigarette smoking. This landmark report marked a critical pivot in our national response to tobacco products, leading to packet warning labels, restrictions on cigarette advertising, and anti-tobacco campaigns. But it by no means ended the debate about what we now know to be horrifically negative public health impacts of tobacco use. Instead, it galvanized the tobacco companies, through their industry-funded Tobacco Institute, to publish a large number of “white papers” to rebut scientifi c reports critical of tobacco (2). The demise of the Tobacco Institute came in 1998, as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, where 46 state attorneys general obtained $206 billion dollars over 25 years from the tobacco industry for its culpability in creating a public health crisis (3). This bit of history has important parallels to our national discussion of climate change. On 18 March, AAAS released a report produced by a panel of 13 prominent experts chaired by the Nobel prize–winning scientist Mario Molina, titled “What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change” (http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts). As was the case when Luther Terry issued his tobacco report in 1964, no new science is being offered in the climate report. Instead, it presents a brief review of the key relevant scientific conclusions. Just as the 1964 report included discussion of the possibility that tobacco caused cardiovascular disease, the “What We Know” paper speaks to the possibility of abrupt climate change risks. Another important parallel is that the 1964 report was issued under the imprimatur of a highly trusted and authoritative source. AAAS, as the largest general membership society of scientists in the world, holds a similar position of trust. Yet another important parallel between the AAAS “What We Know” report and the 1964 Surgeon General’s report is the political and social context into which it is launched. As historians Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway depict in their book Merchants of Doubt (4), the tobacco issue created an industry playbook for running misinformation campaigns to mislead the public and deny well established scientific conclusions. As the authors document, the industry misinformation campaign on climate change is in high gear and achieving results: Many Americans think that climate experts still have much disagreement about whether human-caused climate change is happening (5 ). Today it’s inconceivable that an American decision-maker would risk the public opprobrium that would result from expressing skepticism that tobacco causes cancer. We believe that it is an obligation of all scientists to hasten the day when the same is true for climate change, where the stakes are even higher.
1. L. Terry et al “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (U-23 Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service Publication No. 1103, 1964).
2. Tobacco Smoke and the Nonsmoker: Scientific Integrity at the Crossroads (Tobacco Institute, Washington, DC, 1986); http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/documentStore/w/a/l/wal03e00/Swal03e00.pdf.
3. Master Settlement Agreement (National Association of Attorneys General, 1998).
4. N. Oreskes, E. M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010).
5. A. Leiserowitz et al “Climate change in the American mind: Americans’ global warming beliefs” (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, 2013); http://environment.yale.edu/climate- communication/fi les/Climate-Beliefs-April-2013.pdf.
Climate change is the fight of our lives – yet we can hardly bear to look at it
We’re products of an industrial project, a project linked to fossil fuels. But humans have changed before and can change again
theguardian.com, Wednesday 23 April 2014 03.00 EDT Jump to comments (1005)
This is a story about bad timing. One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses. The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, with a number of possible long-term impacts on survival. Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures. That is leaving female caribou with less energy for lactation, reproduction and feeding their young, a mismatch that has been linked to sharp decreases in calf births and survival rates. Scientists are studying cases of climate-related mistiming among dozens of species, from Arctic terns to pied flycatchers. But there is one important species they are missing – us. Homo sapiens. We too are suffering from a terrible case of climate-related mistiming, albeit in a cultural-historical, rather than a biological, sense. Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude – that moment being the tail end of the go-go 80s, the blast-off point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world.
Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis….
The Great Dithering
The waters are rising, and cities can’t move out of the way. Can we act decisively enough to avert catastrophic climate change?
By Gabriel Metcalf April 10, 2014 SPUR
How much higher will the oceans rise? No one knows, in part because of scientific uncertainty, but mostly because of political uncertainty. We don’t know if humanity will be capable of changing course, which really amounts to leaving a lot of fossil fuels in the ground, unburned.
Everyone knows the basic science by now: Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the air. Greenhouse gases cause climate change. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other heat-trapping gases. As we emit more of these noxious gases, global temperatures will rise. The concentration of these gases in the atmosphere today is higher than it’s been in the last 3 million years. The climate is already changing. The oceans have not risen much yet, just about 8 inches over the last century. But the rate of increase is speeding up as the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases. Current estimates for the year 2100 range from 1 to 6 feet of increase, with the current consensus falling in the middle of that range. But after 2100, the seas will keep going up. We are locked in to several centuries of sea level rise because of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere and the warming that has already taken place in the ocean………How likely is it that we will reduce our emissions in time to avoid the worst outcomes? How much more carbon are we going to emit? The international community has set a goal of limiting global warming to fewer than 4 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the current consensus of the upper limit to avoid catastrophic climate change. Achieving it would require the total cessation of emissions once we have spirited 800 gigatons of carbon out of the ground and into the air. By 2011, we were already two-thirds of the way to this threshold, and global emissions rates continue to increase. One way of thinking about the problem is that it comes down to how much fossil fuel we can leave in the ground. To keep warming below 4 degrees Fahrenheit, the International Energy Agency has found that we need to leave two-thirds of all known remaining reserves of coal, oil and gas in the ground, unburned. But will we be able to do that? There is a name for the new geological epoch we have entered: the Anthropocene, the era in which humans have caused profound changes to the outer layer of the earth….
AT&T Park Today AT&T Park Under 25 Feet
of Sea Level Rise
Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans
SETH BORENSTEIN and JENNIFER AGIESTA Associated Press April 21, 2014
Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But as we get farther from our own bodies and the present, a new AP-GfK poll shows Americans have much more doubts in other concepts that scientists say are basic truth: global warming, evolution, and their largest question mark was in the Big Bang that created the universe. (Dave Martin / AP)
Washington — Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they express bigger doubts as concepts that scientists consider to be truths get further from our own experiences and the present time, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.
Americans have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 billion years ago.
Rather than quizzing scientific knowledge, the survey asked people to rate their confidence in several statements about science and medicine.
On some, there’s broad acceptance. Just 4 percent doubt that smoking causes cancer, 6 percent question whether mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain and 8 percent are skeptical there’s a genetic code inside our cells. More — 15 percent — have doubts about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccines. About 4 in 10 say they are not too confident or outright disbelieve that the Earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old or that life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection, though most were at least somewhat confident in each of those concepts. But a narrow majority — 51 percent — questions the Big Bang theory.
Those results depress and upset some of America’s top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who vouched for the science in the statements tested, calling them settled scientific facts.
“Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts,” said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.
The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication…..
Study connects man-made global warming to ongoing California drought, winter’s polar vortex
Associated Press April 24, 2014 By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer WASHINGTON (AP) — While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it’s not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought and the polar vortex blamed for a harsh winter that mercifully has just ended in many places. The Utah State University scientists involved in the study say they hope what they found can help them predict the next big weird winter. Outside scientists, such as Katharine Hayhoe at Texas Tech University, are calling this study promising but not quite proven as it pushes the boundaries in “one of the hottest topics in climate science today.” The United States just came out of a two-faced winter — bitter cold and snowy in the Midwest and East, warm and severely dry in the West. The latest U.S. drought monitor says 100 percent of California is in an official drought. The new study blames an unusual “dipole,” a combination of a strong Western high pressure ridge and deep Great Lakes low pressure trough. That dipole is linked to a recently found precursor to El Nino, the world-weather changing phenomenon. And that precursor itself seems amplified by a build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the study says. It’s like a complex game of weather dominos that starts with cold water off China and ends with a devastating drought and memorable winter in the United States, said study author Simon Wang, a Utah State University climate scientist. Wang was looking at colder water off China as a precursor to an El Nino. The colder water there triggers westerly winds in the tropical Pacific. Those westerly winds persist for several months and eventually push warmed up water and air to the central Pacific where an El Nino forms, Wang said. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns. Wang saw the precursors and weather event coming months before federal weather officials issued an official El Nino watch last month. Then Wang noticed the connection between that precursor — cold water off China, Vietnam and Taiwan — and the recent wild winter. He tracked similar combinations of highs and lows in North America. And he found those combination extremes are getting stronger. Wang based his study, soon to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, on computer simulations, physics and historical data. It is not as detailed and doesn’t involve numerous computer model simulations as more formal attribution studies. Still, Wang said his is a proper connection. Wang compared computer simulations with and without gases from the burning of fossil fuels. When he included carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use, he got a scenario over the past few decades that mirrored what has happened, including this past weird winter and other worsening dipole conditions. When he took out the greenhouse gases, the increasing extremes actually went down — not what happened in real life…..
Probable causes of the abnormal ridge accompanying the 2013-14 California drought: ENSO precursor and anthropogenic warming footprint†
S.-Y. Simon Wang1,2,*, Lawrence Hipps2, Robert R Gillies1,2 and Jin-Ho Yoon3 Geophysical Research Letters DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059748 ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
The 2013-14 California drought was accompanied by an anomalous high-amplitude ridge system. The anomalous ridge was investigated using reanalysis data and the Community Earth System Model (CESM). It was found that the ridge emerged from continual sources of Rossby wave energy in the western North Pacific starting in late summer, and subsequently intensified into winter. The ridge generated a surge of wave energy downwind and deepened further the trough over the northeast U.S., forming a dipole. The dipole and associated circulation pattern is not linked directly with either ENSO or Pacific Decadal Oscillation; instead it is correlated with a type of ENSO precursor. The connection between the dipole and ENSO precursor has become stronger since the 1970s, and this is attributed to increased GHG loading as simulated by the CESM. Therefore, there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.
Drought Now Covers Every Last Inch Of California
By Jeff Spross April 25, 2014 at 11:02 am Updated: April 25, 2014 at 11:58 am
According to the April 22 release of the U.S. Drought Monitor, every last inch of California is in a state of “moderate” to “exceptional” drought — the first time in the monitor’s 15-year history that’s occurred. Indeed, the vast majority of California’s territory is now either at “extreme” or “exceptional,” which are the two most severe levels. The total amount of drought covering the U.S. also increased, from 37.9 percent of the country last week to 38.4 percent this week. The southwestern United States once again saw almost no precipitation. Forecasts for the next two weeks also anticipate drier-than-normal conditions across the Southwest, the Great Plains and the Midwest. In northern California, the city of Montague requested that all outside watering be reduced until further notice — the first time it’s done that in 80 years, as the community risks running out of water by the end of the summer. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that half the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack melted in one week, thanks to temperatures that went as high as 12 degrees above average. In an indication of how much damage the ongoing drought has already done, the agency said all the melt gave just a slight boost to reservoir levels. California’s crops and agriculture are also taking a pounding. Mike Wade, the California Farm Water Coalition’s executive director, told USA Today that the direct and indirect economic costs of the drought are already estimated at $7.48 billion, including 800,000 acres of farmland left idle and 20,000 job losses. On top of all this, a recent study out of Utah State University has linked both the drought in the western U.S. and the frigid winter that just hit the eastern U.S. to climate change. The author of the work, climate scientist Simon Wang, looked at a twin set of pressure systems — one of unusually high pressure off America’s Pacific coast, and one of unusually low pressure over the Great Lakes — called a “dipole.” The combined effect is to drive warm and severely dry weather across the southwest, and unusually cold and snowy weather across the northeastern United States. Wang found the difference between the two system’s extremes has been increasing over the last few decades. And after drawing on a number of computer models and historical data sets, he also found the severity of the increase could not be explained without the influence of humanity’s carbon emissions. Previous research has also shown that the affect of climate change on the North Pole’s temperatures could alter the jet stream, pulling colder air farther south more often. Good news was not entirely absent, however. The expansion of the drought on the state-wide level does not mean no precipitation anywhere, and several communities in California that were in danger of running out of water within 60 days back in February were lucky enough to see some rain. Between that and intervention by the state government, the number of towns at risk dropped from 17 in January to 3 now….
Drought — and neighbors — press Las Vegas to conserve water
Lake Mead, the reservoir that supplies 90% of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain.
By John M. Glionna LA Times April 20, 2014, 9:48 p.m.
LAS VEGAS — Deep beneath Lake Mead, a 23-foot-tall tunnel-boring machine grinds through stubborn bedrock in a billion-dollar effort to make sure water continues flowing to this thirsty resort city. For six years, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been building an intake straw below the reservoir’s two existing pipes. Due for completion in fall 2015, critics say it may not provide a long-term solution. An ongoing drought and the Colorado River’s stunted flow have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations. The reservoir, which supplies 90% of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain. By mid-April, Lake Mead’s water level measured just 48 feet above the system’s topmost intake straw. Future droughts and a warming climate change could spell trouble for the city’s 2 million residents — and its 40 million annual visitors. Those people “better hope nothing goes wrong with the last intake,” said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis. “But if something does go wrong,” he added, “we’re in the business of making contingency plans.”… Although this spring’s snowmelt could temporarily replenish Lake Mead, the city’s future still looks drier than ever, a prospect that has prompted the water authority to eye such long-term plans as a desalinization plant in California and a $15-billion pipeline to move water here from other parts of the state. Environmentalists blast the proposed pipeline from central Nevada as irresponsible, calling it a resource grab comparable to William Mulholland’s move that created an aqueduct to transport water south from California’s Owens Valley to help expand Los Angeles a century ago. They say the city has been cavalier about looming water shortages, pointing to projects such as Lake Las Vegas, a 320-acre artificial oasis built with man-made rivers and waterfalls amid the high-end homes and luxury resorts…..
Rio Grande may hit 40-year low. April 24, 2014 Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico
Without good summer rains, the Rio Grande through Albuquerque could see its lowest sustained levels since the 1970s, water managers said Wednesday….
Four Bad Things We Learned About The Epic California Drought This Week
By Joe Romm on April 19, 2014
Those concerned about California’s record-breaking drought received four pieces of bad news this week: The drought is as bad as ever, the snowpack is melting rapidly, the drought is projected to persist or worsen in the next three months, and climate change appears partly to blame…..
In drought dilemma, water district cuts off growers to ensure supply for homes
Ken Todd, co-owner of Todd Brothers Vineyards, walks along a row of vines at one of his vineyards in Redwood Valley on Saturday. Also a board member of the Redwood Valley County Water District, Ken Todd voted with other board members Thursday to shut off the water supply to nearly 200 agricultural customers due to a lack of water. ((Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat))
By GLENDA ANDERSON THE PRESS DEMOCRAT Santa Rosa, Ca April 20, 2014, 3:00 AM
A small water district in Mendocino County will be shutting off the valves Monday that supply irrigation to more than 2,000 acres of vineyards and other crops, leaving nearly 200 farming customers without their main source of water, a shortfall that likely foreshadows what’s ahead statewide for many growers as the drought stretches on. There just isn’t enough water in Lake Mendocino, the main reservoir in the upper Russian River basin, to supply all water users, officials said. For the Redwood Valley County Water District, that means prioritizing deliveries to its 5,000 residential customers over its farmers, as required by state law. “We had no choice. It’s the last thing we wanted to do,” said Ken Todd, a Redwood Valley water board member who owns 150 acres of vineyards and manages another 150 acres for others in the valley, located about 8 miles north of Ukiah.
Under the best of circumstances, Todd said he expects to lose 20 percent of the winegrape crops on about half the vineyards he oversees — the ones with only small reservoirs to make it through the growing season. At worst, it could be a total loss this year for those vineyards, he said. The 50-year-old Redwood Valley water district is in a pinch because it has a limited right to water from Lake Mendocino. In dry years, that right is practically non-existent. The district has operated under a decades-long moratorium for new hookups because of the situation. On Thursday night, however, district officials said they made an unprecedented springtime decision, voting 3 to 1, with one abstention, to cut off water supplies to all of their growers. The move looks to be the first instance of a water supplier halting deliveries on the North Coast amid the current drought. It comes after California last year recorded its driest year on record, and as farmers in the Central Valley, the state’s main agricultural region, and agencies serving more than 25 million residents are facing drastically lower deliveries, with just 5 percent of their requested allotment expected from the State Water Project this season….
Fields And Farm Jobs Dry Up With California’s Worsening Drought
NPR April 22, 2014 3:26 AM ET
Recent rains kept Suzanne and Mike Collins’ orange grove alive, but the rainy season is ending. If they don’t get federal irrigation water by this summer, their trees will start dying. Kirk Siegler/NPR
On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Grove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gather on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart. One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans. If there is no water, there’s no work, he says in Spanish. Perez was laid off when the citrus farmer he worked for ran out of water. He has five kids to support, and though the family is on unemployment, it’s about to run out. So he’s been hanging out here hoping to hear of some work. Perez says he and his family have been living here since 1983 and have never seen a drought this bad. A man next to him says he may head back to Mexico soon. He has heard the farms there have more water right now.
You hear a lot of these stories up and down California’s Central Valley. Everything that everyone has been warning about over the past few months is starting to happen. Workers are getting laid off as prized fruit and nut trees are going unwatered, and fields are going fallow. As droughts have worsened in recent years, federal authorities have released less and less water from a web of reservoirs and canals in northern California that feeds farms and cities in the arid south. For the first time in six decades, most farmers on the east side of this valley have been told they will get no federal irrigation water.
Brushing teeth with sewer water next step as Texas faces drought
April 23, 2014 Bloomberg
Wichita Falls, a city of more than 104,000, suffering the worst drought on record, is about to become the first place in the U.S. to treat sewage and pump it directly back to residents….
Some corals adjusting to rising ocean temperatures
(April 24, 2014) — Scientists have revealed how some corals can quickly switch on or off certain genes in order to survive in warmer-than-average tidal waters. To most people, 86-degree Fahrenheit water is pleasant for bathing and swimming. To most sea creatures, however, it’s deadly. As climate change heats up ocean temperatures, the future of species such as coral, which provides sustenance and livelihoods to a billion people, is threatened. … > full story
Climate-change adaptation: Designer reefs
Biologists are directing the evolution of corals to prepare them to fight climate change.
Amanda Mascarelli NATURE 23 April 2014 Article tools PDF
Floris van Breugel/Naturepl.com Reefs thrive in the hot waters of American Samoa that would kill other corals.
Off the coast of American Samoa, the tropical sun beats down on a shallow tidal lagoon, heating the water to a sizzling 35 °C for a few hours each day. Such temperatures would kill off most coral reefs, and yet the Samoan lagoon hosts courtyards of antler-like branching corals and mound corals the size of refrigerators. “The fact that they’re there means they’ve adapted to survive,” says Steve Palumbi, a marine biologist at Stanford University in California. “The real question is: how did they do that and can all corals do that?” Palumbi is just starting to understand how these Samoan corals thrive in such extreme conditions. And he thinks he might be able to harness that ability to create a reef of hardy coral with a chance of surviving the hot seas that are expected to result from climate change. Starting in August, he and his team are going to try to plant “the smartest future reef we can imagine”. Palumbi is part of a small group of coral researchers around the world tackling such issues to throw threatened reefs a lifeline. Their ultimate intent is to launch a programme of ‘human-assisted evolution’, creating resistant corals in controlled nurseries and planting them in areas that have been — or will be — hard-hit by changing conditions. “It’s a brave new world of working with corals in this way,” says Ruth Gates, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who, along with coral geneticist Madeleine van Oppen at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, is helping to pioneer the field. The work is not without controversy. Although no one is yet attempting to create genetically modified corals, some researchers are concerned that human-assisted evolution goes too far down the slippery slope of altering natural systems. “If you’re basically farming a reef, you’ve taken a natural habitat and you’ve converted it,” says Steve Vollmer, a coral geneticist at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts, who feels that more needs to be known before embarking on such programmes. “It’s like going to the Midwest and taking grasslands and making it into soy. There are huge implications to doing this.”……
Great American Adaptation Road Trip
Uncovering stories of people and places using their wits and resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change
Taking Action on Sea Level Rise– San Francisco
SPUR takes a look at some of the efforts to build resilience and to adapt our shoreline to future sea levels.
Laura Tam April 10, 2014
Photo of Arrowhead Marsh courtesy The Art Project.
Setbacks Aside, Climate Change Is Finding Its Way Into the World’s Classrooms
By BETH GARDINERAPRIL 20, 2014
LONDON — From Mauritius to Manitoba, climate change is slowly moving from the headlines to the classroom. Schools around the world are beginning to tackle the difficult issue of global warming, teaching students how the planet is changing and encouraging them to think about what they can do to help slow that process.
Strapped school budgets, concerns about overburdening teachers and political opposition to what in some places is a contentious subject have complicated the spread of lessons on climate change. Nonetheless, many nations are adding or expanding such offerings, convinced that young people must learn about a phenomenon likely to have a big impact on their lives.
Schools, advocates say, can play an important role in fighting climate change by teaching young people greener habits and creating a generation of voters who will back measures to cut carbon dioxide pollution.
To slow dangerous warming, “we need an overall change of mind and a change of action that relates to everything that we think and do,” said Alexander Leicht, of Unesco, the agency overseeing the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, which ends this year.
“We need every individual’s understanding to do something about that, every individual’s motivation,” he said. “How else do you reach them than through education?”
Not everyone agrees, however, and in some places the question of how and whether to teach the subject is politically charged. Britain’s education secretary has zigzagged, with changes that environmental advocates say will reduce climate’s prominence in the national curriculum there.
In the United States, new science standards drawn up by 26 states and scientists’ and teachers’ groups call for introducing climate change to students in middle school and exploring it in greater detail in high school. That has stirred opposition in states like Wyoming, a coal and oil producer. Lawmakers there last month blocked funding for the standards, saying teaching climate change could hurt the local economy.
The New Abolitionism
Averting planetary disaster will mean forcing fossil fuel companies to give up at least $10 trillion in wealth.
Christopher Hayes The Nation April 22, 2014
Before the cannons fired at Fort Sumter, the Confederates announced their rebellion with lofty rhetoric about “violations of the Constitution of the United States” and “encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States.” But the brute, bloody fact beneath those words was money. So much goddamn money. The leaders of slave power were fighting a movement of dispossession. The abolitionists told them that the property they owned must be forfeited, that all the wealth stored in the limbs and wombs of their property would be taken from them. Zeroed out. Imagine a modern-day political movement that contended that mutual funds and 401(k)s, stocks and college savings accounts were evil institutions that must be eliminated completely, more or less overnight. This was the fear that approximately 400,000 Southern slaveholders faced on the eve of the Civil War. Today, we rightly recoil at the thought of tabulating slaves as property. It was precisely this ontological question—property or persons?—that the war was fought over. But suspend that moral revulsion for a moment and look at the numbers: Just how much money were the South’s slaves worth then? A commonly cited figure is $75 billion, which comes from multiplying the average sale price of slaves in 1860 by the number of slaves and then using the Consumer Price Index to adjust for inflation. But as economists Samuel H. Williamson and Louis P. Cain argue, using CPI-adjusted prices over such a long period doesn’t really tell us much: “In the 19th century,” they note, “there were no national surveys to figure out what the average consumer bought.” In fact, the first such survey, in Massachusetts, wasn’t conducted until 1875…. In 2012, the writer and activist Bill McKibben published a heart-stopping essay in Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” I’ve read hundreds of thousands of words about climate change over the last decade, but that essay haunts me the most. The piece walks through a fairly straightforward bit of arithmetic that goes as follows. The scientific consensus is that human civilization cannot survive in any recognizable form a temperature increase this century more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Given that we’ve already warmed the earth about 0.8 degrees Celsius, that means we have 1.2 degrees left—and some of that warming is already in motion. Given the relationship between carbon emissions and global average temperatures, that means we can release about 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by mid-century. Total. That’s all we get to emit if we hope to keep inhabiting the planet in a manner that resembles current conditions. Now here’s the terrifying part. The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a consortium of financial analysts and environmentalists, set out to tally the amount of carbon contained in the proven fossil fuel reserves of the world’s energy companies and major fossil fuel–producing countries. That is, the total amount of carbon we know is in the ground that we can, with present technology, extract, burn and put into the atmosphere. The number that the Carbon Tracker Initiative came up with is… 2,795 gigatons. Which means the total amount of known, proven extractable fossil fuel in the ground at this very moment is almost five times the amount we can safely burn.
Proceeding from this fact, McKibben leads us inexorably to the staggering conclusion that the work of the climate movement is to find a way to force the powers that be, from the government of Saudi Arabia to the board and shareholders of ExxonMobil, to leave 80 percent of the carbon they have claims on in the ground. That stuff you own, that property you’re counting on and pricing into your stocks? You can’t have it…..
Given the fluctuations of fuel prices, it’s a bit tricky to put an exact price tag on how much money all that unexcavated carbon would be worth, but one financial analyst puts the price at somewhere in the ballpark of $20 trillion. So in order to preserve a roughly habitable planet, we somehow need to convince or coerce the world’s most profitable corporations and the nations that partner with them to walk away from $20 trillion of wealth. Since all of these numbers are fairly complex estimates, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we’ve overestimated the total amount of carbon and attendant cost by a factor of 2. Let’s say that it’s just $10 trillion. The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865—and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought. It is almost always foolish to compare a modern political issue to slavery, because there’s nothing in American history that is slavery’s proper analogue. So before anyone misunderstands my point, let me be clear and state the obvious: there is absolutely no conceivable moral comparison between the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans and the burning of carbon to power our devices. Humans are humans; molecules are molecules. The comparison I’m making is a comparison between the political economy of slavery and the political economy of fossil fuel. More acutely, when you consider the math that McKibben, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) all lay out, you must confront the fact that the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth. It is impossible to point to any precedent other than abolition.
Japan to launch reduced Pacific whale hunt next week
April 18, 2014 BBC
Japan can still catch whales in the Pacific despite a ban on its whaling in the Southern Ocean
Japan says it will begin hunting whales in the Pacific Ocean next week, after cancelling whaling off Antarctica in line with an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling. Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the target would be 210 Pacific whales – about half the current catch.
Japan’s defiance of a worldwide ban on whaling has angered environmentalists. Last month the ICJ ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling was commercial, not scientific as Tokyo had argued….
Proposed Expansion for Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries released a proposal to expand the boundaries of Gulf of the Farallones (GFNMS) and Cordell Bank (CBNMS) national marine sanctuaries, two of 14 sites managed by NOAA, located off north-central California. The agency is accepting public and stakeholder comments on the proposal and related regulations through June 30. The proposal is intended to protect the distinctive marine ecosystem north and west of the sanctuaries’ current boundaries. It would include waters and submerged lands off of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, including North America’s most intense “upwelling” site offshore of Point Arena. The nutrients brought to the surface during upwelling events at Point Arena are carried south into the sanctuaries by the prevailing California Current; these nutrients fuel an incredibly productive ocean area protected by GFNMS and CBNMS. The sanctuaries are destination feeding areas for endangered blue whales and humpback whales, sharks, salmon, and seabirds like albatrosses and shearwaters that travel tens of thousands of miles. Food that results from the Point Arena upwelling center also supports the largest assemblage of breeding seabirds in the contiguous United States on the Farallon Islands. Established in the 1980s, the sanctuaries together protect more than 2,000 square miles of ocean near the coast of San Francisco. Under the proposal, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary would be extended north and west from Bodega Bay in Sonoma County to a few miles north of Point Arena lighthouse in Mendocino County, including state and federal waters. Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary expansion would be extended west and slightly north to protect important subsea features such as Bodega Canyon.
During a review of both sanctuaries’ management plans, NOAA received comments from the public in 2001 expressing interest in expanding the boundaries north and west. In response, the revised management plans published in 2008 included a public process to consider possible expansion. Also, California Senator Barbara Boxer and former U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, whose district included areas near the sanctuaries, both introduced legislation several times in Congress between 2004 and 2011 to expand the sanctuaries’ boundaries. In 2012, under the authority of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA began considering the boundary expansion.
Public hearings are planned for the public to learn more about the proposal and comment on the proposal. These comments will be considered when preparing the final rule. For more information on the scheduled meetings and the expansion proposal, click here.
Eating less beef seen way for farming to reduce carbon emissions.
Carbon emissions from farming can be cut by as much as 90 percent by 2030, equivalent to removing all cars in the world, by steps including eating less beef and better use of fertilizer, according to a report by Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates…
Fixing farming without breaking food.
With the recent rise of locavore cuisine and its promise of sustainably sourced produce, dairy and meat, you might be tempted to think that farms are increasingly Earth-friendly places.
Divestment campaigns struggle against stock market, profits
Posted on April 21, 2014 at 7:14 am by Ryan Holeywell in Environment, Finance/Earnings
College students and supporters hold up signs at a rally to support fossil fuel divestment outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
HOUSTON — Environmental advocates across the country are urging foundations and universities to sell their investments in oil and gas companies, arguing they have a responsibility to withhold support from companies whose activities contribute to climate change.
Whether the strategy is effective is another question. Earlier this year, a group of 17 foundations with nearly $1.8 billion in assets announced plans to rid their portfolios of investments in fossil fuels companies. “We’re all mission-driven organizations,” said Brian Depew, executive director of the Granary Foundation, a Nebraska-based foundation associated with a nonprofit concerned with farm and rural issues. “If we own fossil fuel, we own climate change.” Meanwhile, activist groups are sprouting up on college campuses across the country, urging schools to divest from oil and gas companies. So far, the movement has had limited success — only a handful of schools have agreed to divest, and those that have aren’t big names — but it’s a movement that administrators are noticing. Despite pressure from some students, Harvard University President Drew Faust announced in October that the school wouldn’t divest from fossil fuel companies. But this month, she said, the school would sign a voluntary agreement to integrate “environmental, social and governance factors” into its investment analyses…..
White House Delays Decision on Keystone Pipeline Until After Midterms
Published: April 21st 2014, 11:31am
An estimated crowd of 35-50,000 gathers near the Washington Monument on Feb 17, 2013 to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and support action on climate change. Image via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Obama administration announced Friday that it is once again delaying a decision to approve or reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline – a $5.4 billion project that would carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast – likely until after the 2014 midterm elections. “On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.” “In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014,” the department added. The Nebraska Supreme Court is expected to hear an appeal to a February ruling where a judge overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path to go through the state. The court will not hear the case until September or October, making it unlikely that the Obama administration will make a decision on the project until after the midterms. The decision to delay may be smart politics on the part of the White House because it insulates Obama from criticism from environmentalists in the Democratic base if he approves the pipeline, and it gives vulnerable Senate Democrats in red states the opportunity to distance themselves from the administration, a posture that will be politically beneficial to them in November…..
Tom Steyer’s Keystone Victory
The pipeline delay lets Senate Democrats have it both ways.
April 20, 2014 5:21 p.m. ET
The Koch brothers may get the media attention, but the billionaire getting the most political bang for his buck is Tom Steyer. The hedge-fund politico has pledged to raise $100 million to help Democrats keep the Senate, and on Friday he received a major return on his investment when the State Department again delayed its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. State’s excuse is that it wants to wait on the outcome of a legal challenge in Nebraska, but that’s no reason for the federal government not to declare itself. Earlier this year State’s latest environmental review found no net climate harm from the pipeline, which would take oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. State found that the oil sands will be developed even if the Keystone XL isn’t built. The real reason for the delay is Democratic politics. Mr. Steyer and the party’s liberal financiers are climate-change absolutists who have made killing Keystone a non-negotiable demand. But the White House doesn’t want to reject the pipeline before November because several Senate Democrats running for re-election claim to favor it. We say “claim” because Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and others can’t even get Majority Leader Harry Reid to give them a vote on the floor.
A run for his money
Tom Steyer is betting that campaigning on climate change can win elections. Is the verdant billionaire right?
Apr 12th 2014 | SAN FRANCISCO The Economist
DEMOCRATS have often feared big money in American politics, perhaps because most of it doesn’t go their way. When the Supreme Court struck down the caps on aggregate campaign donations last week, Republicans, broadly speaking, cheered and Democrats jeered. In the 2012 election cycle, four of the five biggest donors to superPACs—independent groups that raise money, often from the extremely rich, and spend it on outlandish political advertising—were Republicans. Tom Steyer, a San Francisco-based billionaire who worries about climate change, is doing his best to help his fellow Democrats get over their qualms.
Perhaps best known for his opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Mr Steyer, a former hedge-fund investor, was the biggest superPAC spender last year, dropping $11.1m into his two groups. This year he looks likely to repeat that feat, hinting that he will invest at least $50m in one of them, the NextGen Climate Action Committee (NGCA), and that he will be seeking the same amount from other donors. The money will be spent to help elect politicians who share Mr Steyer’s environmental views, or kick out those who do not. In November’s mid-term elections, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 in the Senate will be up for grabs. So will 36 governorships and countless state legislative seats. For NGCA to spend on any given race, says Mr Steyer, three conditions must apply. First, the leading candidates must have differing views on climate change (so Democratic fans of Keystone should be safe; their Republican opponents probably agree with them). Second, “something substantive” must have a chance of happening if the NGCA-backed candidate wins. Third, the race should have the potential to affect the national climate debate. That conversation has been stalled since a Democratic cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate in 2010. Nor is major environmental legislation likely in the next Congress (although Barack Obama is pursuing various emissions-reduction schemes through the Environmental Protection Agency). That is why Mr Steyer expects state races to occupy “the bulk” of his efforts this year….On top of his political adventuring, Mr Steyer offers a full portfolio of climate-policy services. Next Generation, which shares an office with its near-namesake in downtown San Francisco, is a policy outfit; it is finalising a detailed analysis of the potential costs to business of climate change, which should be published in June. AEE, which Mr Steyer co-founded three years ago, is a clean-energy trade association. What all the groups share, says Mr Steyer, is a belief in the importance of involving the private sector in discussions about policy.
At present, though, the focus is political. Many of the elections that have attracted the attention of Mr Steyer’s team this year are in states likely to matter in the 2016 presidential election, including Iowa, Florida and New Hampshire. That is no coincidence. Candidates hoping to court such states will pay attention if Mr Steyer can demonstrate that campaigning on climate can win elections there. By that time, whisper some, Mr Steyer may be mulling a run for office himself. In 2018 the race to be California’s governor is likely to be open; the Senate is another possibility. Neither campaign would come cheap, but that should not present difficulties.
What Was Tom Steyer Doing In This Isolated Canadian Town?
By Emily Atkin on April 25, 2014
Of all the places in the world, the First Nations community of Fort Chip is not the first place one might envision a California billionaire…..
- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED
Increased infrastructure required for effective oil spill response in U.S. Arctic
(April 23, 2014) — A changing climate is increasing the accessibility of U.S. Arctic waters to commercial activities such as shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism, raising concern about the risk of oil spills. The Arctic poses several challenges to oil spill response, including extreme weather and environmental settings, limited operations and communications infrastructure, a vast geographic area, and vulnerable species, ecosystems, and cultures. … > full story
Koch brothers and big utilities campaign to unplug solar power
The role of coastal vegetation in climate change mitigation and adaptation Monday April 28th, 2014 12:00 – 1:00 PM Pacific
Water Institute Distinguished Scholar Seminar series! University of Florida —
Carlos Duarte, Research Professor with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA) in Mallorca, Spain, and Director of the Oceans Institute at The University of Western Australia
Dr. Duarte’s research focuses on understanding the effects of global change on aquatic ecosystems, both marine and freshwater. He has conducted innovative and insightful research across Europe, South-East Asia, the broad Caribbean region, México, Australia, Amazonia, the United States of America and all of the world’s oceans including those in the polar latitudes. He has carried out research in most of the marine ecosystem types, from nearshore to the deep sea and worked also in lake and riverine systems, including the spring systems of Florida. Dr. Duarte is recognized internationally for his leadership abilities and has led numerous international scientific campaigns. He currently leads the Malaspina 2010 Expedition, a Spanish circumnavigation expedition that sailed the world’s oceans to examine the impacts of global change on ocean ecosystems and explore their biodiversity (see http://www.expedicionmalaspina.es). Professor Duarte served as President of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography between 2007 and 2010. In 2009, he was appointed member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC), the highest-level scientific committee at the European Level. He has published more than 450 scientific papers and two books, and was editor-in-chief of Estuaries and Coasts, as well as associate editor for several other leading international journals. This seminar will be video-streamed for those who are off-campus: http://mediasite.video.ufl.edu/Mediasite/Play/8dd3c80df5bd4a9fa003af3a2e6392821d
Building climate-ready fisheries: lessons from the rapidly changing Gulf of Maine
Wed., April 30, 2014, 9-10 AM Pacific Time
Speakers: Andrew J. Pershing, Chief Scientific Officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute (firstname.lastname@example.org), Katherine E. Mills, Associate Research Scientist, Gulf of Maine Research Institute (email@example.com)
Over the last 10 years, the Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99.8% of the global. This warming has led to direct impacts on the ecosystem and on the fisheries that depend upon it. The impact of rising water temperatures was especially acute during the “ocean heat wave” of 2012. During this year, mid-Atlantic species such as longfin squid and black sea bass moved rapidly into the Gulf of Maine. The inshore migration of lobsters occurred a month earlier than expected, leading to a price collapse in one of the region’s most important fishery. This event highlighted limitations in the adaptive capacity in both the fisheries and fisheries management in the region, but also helped bring into focus opportunities to increase climate-readiness. We are developing a coupled socio-ecological framework to assess the vulnerability of fisheries to climate variability and climate change. We have also identified key steps that fisheries managers can use to build resilience into fish populations. Finally, we highlight opportunities to use observing system assets to support forecasts and other information tools to enable adaptive decisions within fisheries.
Remote access: Please register now to receive remote access information. https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7825064084186021890 After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Call in: 1-888-577-8993 Seminar sponsor: NOAA Fisheries Service, Office of Science and Technology
The National Climate Assessment Recommendations and Implications
May 9, 2014 11:30 to 1:00 PM EST
The panel includes
- Kathy Jacobs: Director, Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, University of Arizona. Formerly, Director of the National Climate Assessment, and Assistant Director for Climate Assessments and Adaptation, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.
- Emily Cloyd. Public Participation and Engagement Coordinator for the National Climate Assessment, USGCRP.
- Jim Buizer: Director, Climate Adaptation and International Development, Institute of the Environment; Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona. Member, Executive Committee, National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee
- Anne Waple. Director of Resilience Initiatives at Second Nature, Inc. Formerly, Program Specialist for the Global Change Information System, USGCRP
Habitat Restoration Webinars June 10-19, 2014
If you know anyone who might be interested in a very cost-effective way to learn about planning and/or implementing a habitat restoration project, please forward this on to them. Sustainable City Network has partnered with the Northwest Environmental Training Center to provide habitat restoration training in online courses offered June 10 through 19. Instructor Larry Lodwick will conduct the 6-hour habitat restoration planning course in three 2-hour webinars June 10, 11 and 12 for those with limited to moderate experience in natural area management, natural resource management or environmental permitting. The 6-hour habitat restoration implementation course will be presented in three 2-hour webinars on June 17, 18 and 19. Continuing education certificates will be provided, and each session will be recorded, so missing live sessions won’t be a problem.
Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay
Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January. Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium
US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD
US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:
Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel. Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.
Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia
This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.
Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.
Headwaters to Ocean “H20” Conference May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA
Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)
29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA
North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.
July 21-23, Washington, DC.
First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
“United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places“
99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014 http://www.esa.org/sacramento
California Adaptation Forum
August 19-20, 2014. SACRAMENTO, CA
This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference. To register go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449
International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015
Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.
California LCC Seeks Proposals for Place-Based Projects
The CA LCC has $400,000-$500,000 to support 2-4 collaborative place-based projects that lead to climate-smart conservation actions by natural resource managers. Place-based projects develop adaptation strategies and actions in a CA LCC ecoregion or landscape within an ecoregion that can be implemented by the partners. This request for proposals aims to fill Objective 1 of the recently completed CA LCC Science-Management Framework. This Framework provides the strategic direction for the CA LCC. Details in the Framework identify the process by which the CA LCC provides scientific support for natural resource managers to incorporate climate-smart conservation strategies into their management actions.
Click here for further details.
— Proposal due date: May 12, 2014 5:00 PM PST
— Information webinar: April 30, 2014 12:00 – 1:00 PM PST
To join the online meeting
1. Go to https://mmancusa.webex.com/mmancusa/j.php?MTID=md355e0a194e3804bc35d3883083332dd
2. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc
3. Click “Join”.
To join the teleconference
Call-in number: 1-866-737-4154
Attendee access code: 287 267 0
JOBS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)
POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE
Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet. Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials. Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world. At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.
Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future.
This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come. Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation. Read more at www.pointblue.org.
POST Stewardship Project Manager
Ideal candidate would have a strong fundamentals in conservation and natural resource management with specific direct experience in ag.
EDF – Project Manager- CA Habitat Markets
Please spread the word about an exciting opportunity at EDF to help us develop the Central Valley Habitat Exchange and pursue other opportunities to bring habitat markets to scale. If you have any questions about the position, let me know. And if you have networks where you can post this, it would be much appreciated.
US Postal Service unveils new Earth Day stamp celebrating NOAA climate science
Aril 22, 2014….the U.S. Postal Service celebrates Earth Day by unveiling a new Forever international rate stamp
inspired by a simulation of sea surface temperatures from a NOAA model of the Earth’s climate. The round stamp depicts the globe with North America in the center, surrounded by vivid bands of blue, green and red, signifying the varying temperatures of sea surface waters. “This stamp is a fabulous tribute to the NOAA scientists and partners who develop models that help us understand changes in our climate and weather,” said Mark Schaefer, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management and NOAA deputy administrator. “These global models are key to understanding changes in our dynamic planet over both the short- and long-term, and they are major sources of the environmental intelligence NOAA provides each day. Armed with this kind of information, decision makers can help communities plan for and take action to become more resilient in the face of Earth’s changing climate.” The image was chosen through the Postal Service’s public process that begins with suggestions from citizens to the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee. “Our citizen stamp advisory committee looks to the public for stamp subjects that celebrate people, ideas and events that are important to American history and culture,” said Joshua Colin, Eastern Area vice president for the U.S. Postal Service. “This year’s Earth Day stamp celebrates the important role that science is playing in our understanding of the Earth, the oceans and our climate.” Several months ago, Postal Service representatives contacted scientists at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., to ask about a sea surface temperature animation on NOAA’s Science On a Sphere website. Science On a Sphere was invented by NOAA scientist Alexander MacDonald to help the public view dynamic scientific information projected on a giant sphere. The sea surface temperature image came from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., where teams of scientists have been modeling the behavior of the oceans and atmosphere since the 1960s. A writer from the Postal Service recently spoke with GFDL climate scientists Tom Delworth and Keith Dixon to learn more about how climate models are created and used. Here’s some of what Delworth and Dixon shared with the writer. The article is online at uspsstamps.com…..
Our Planet’s Future Is in the Hands of 58 People
by Roberto Savio (rome) Thursday, April 17, 2014 Inter Press Service
ROME, Apr 17 (IPS) – In case you missed it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third and final part of a report on Apr. 13 in which it says bluntly that we only have 15 years left to avoid exceeding the “safe” threshold of a 2°C increase in global temperatures, beyond which the consequences will be dramatic. And only the most myopic are unaware of what these are – from an increase in sea level, through more frequent hurricanes and storms (increasingly in previously unaffected areas), to an adverse impact on food production. Now, in a normal and participatory world, in which at least 83 percent of those living today will still be alive in 15 years, this report would have created a dramatic reaction. Instead, there has not been a single comment by any of the leaders of the 196 countries in which the planet’s 7.5 billion “consumers” reside. It’s just been business as usual.
Anthropologists, who study human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals, concluded a long time ago that humans are not superior in every aspect. For instance, human beings are less adaptable than many animals to survive in, for example, earthquakes, hurricanes and any other type of natural disaster. You can be sure that, by now, other animals would be showing signs of alertness and uneasiness. The first part of the report, released in September 2013 in Stockholm, declared with a 95 percent or greater certainty that humans are the main cause of global warming, while the second part, released in Yokohama at the end of March, reported that “in recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans”.
The IPCC is made up of over 2,000 scientists, and this is the first time that it has come to firm and final conclusions since its creation in 1988 by the United Nations.
The main conclusion of the report is that to slow the race to a point of no return, global emissions must be cut by 40 to 70 percent by 2050, and that “only major institutional and technological changes will give a better than even chance” that global warming will not go beyond the safety threshold and that these must start at the latest in 15 years, and be completed in 35 years.
It is worth noting that roughly half of the world’s population is under the age of 30, and it is largely the young who will have to bear the enormous costs of fighting climate change.The IPCC’s main recommendation is very simple: major economies should place a tax on carbon pollution, raising the cost of fossil fuels and thus pushing the market toward clean sources such as wind, solar or nuclear energy. It is here that “major institutional changes” are required.
Ten countries are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution, with the United States and China accounting for over 55 percent of that share. Both countries are taking serious steps to fight pollution.
U.S. President Barack Obama tried in vain to obtain Senate support, and has used his authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from vehicles and industrial plants and encourage clean technologies. But he cannot do anything more without backing from the Senate.
The all-powerful new president of China, Xi Jinping, has made the environment a priority, also because official sources put the number of deaths in China each year from pollution at five million.
But China needs coal for its growth, and Xi’s position is: “Why should we slow down our development when it was you rich countries that created the problem by achieving your growth?” And that gives rise to a vicious circle. The countries of the South want the rich countries to finance their costs for reducing pollution, and the countries of the North want them to stop polluting.
As a result, the report’s executive summary, which is intended for political leaders, has been stripped of charts which could have been read as showing the need for the South to do more, while the rich countries put pressure on avoiding any language that could have been interpreted as the need for them to assume any financial obligations. This should make it easier to reach an agreement at the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Lima, where a new global agreement should be reached (remember the disaster at the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009?).
The key to any agreement is in the hands of the United States. The U.S. Congress has blocked any initiative on climate control, providing an easy escape for China, India and other polluters: why should we make commitments and sacrifices if the U.S. does not participate?
The problem is that the Republicans have made climate change denial one of their points of identity.
They have mocked and denied climate change and attacked Democrats who support carbon taxing as waging a war on coal. The American energy industry financially supports the Republican Party and it is considered political suicide to talk about climate change. The last time a carbon tax was proposed in 2009, after a positive vote by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the Republican-dominated Senate shot it down. And in the 2010 elections, a number of politicians who voted for the carbon tax lost their seats, contributing to the Republican takeover of the House. The hope now for those who want a change is to wait for the 2016 elections, and hope that the new president will be able to change the situation – which is a good example of why the ancient Greeks said that Hope is the last Goddess. And this brings us to a very simple reality. The U.S. Senate is made up of 100 members, and this means that you need 51 votes to kill any bill for a fossil fuels tax. In China, the situation is different, but decisions are taken, in the best of hypotheses, not by the president alone, but by the seven-member Standing Committee of the Central Committee, which holds the real power in the Communist Party. In other words, the future of our planet is decided by 58 persons. With the current global population standing at close to 7.7 billion people, so much for a democratic world! (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
Mantis shrimp stronger than airplanes: Composite material inspired by shrimp stronger than standard used in airplane frames
(April 22, 2014) — Inspired by the fist-like club of a mantis shrimp, researchers have developed a design structure for composite materials that is more impact resistant and tougher than the standard used in airplanes. The peacock mantis shrimp, or stomatopod, is a 4- to 6-inch-long rainbow-colored crustacean with a fist-like club that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-calibur bullet. … > full story
Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to U.S. obesity epidemic, particularly among children
(April 23, 2014) — In response to the ongoing policy discussions on the role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on weight and health, The Obesity Society (TOS) concludes that SSBs contribute to the United States’ obesity epidemic, particularly among children. Based on an in-depth analysis of the current research, TOS’s position statement provides several recommendations for improving health, including that children minimize their consumption of SSBs. … > full story
Sleeping away infection: Researchers find link between sleep, immune function in fruitflies
(April 21, 2014) — When we get sick it feels natural to try to hasten our recovery by getting some extra shuteye. Researchers found that this response has a definite purpose, in fruitflies: enhancing immune system response and recovery to infection. “These studies provide new evidence of the direct and functional effects of sleep on immune response and of the underlying mechanisms at work. The take-home message from these papers is that when you get sick, you should sleep as much as you can — we now have the data that supports this idea,” researchers conclude. … > full story
Edible flowers may inhibit chronic diseases
(April 21, 2014) — Common edible flowers in China are rich in phenolics and have excellent antioxidant capacity, research has shown. Edible flowers, which have been used in the culinary arts in China for centuries, are receiving renewed interest. Flowers can be used as an essential ingredient in a recipe, provide seasoning to a dish, or simply be used as a garnish. Some of these flowers contain phenolics that have been correlated with anti-inflammatory activity and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. … > full story
Ginseng can treat, prevent influenza, RSV, researcher finds
(April 21, 2014) — Ginseng can help treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages, according to research findings. Seasonal influenza is a serious respiratory disease that causes annual epidemics in humans worldwide, resulting in about three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. … > full story
Increasing consumption of coffee associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, study finds
(April 24, 2014) — Increasing coffee consumption by on average one and half cups per day over a four-year period reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 11 percent, research shows. Coffee and tea consumption has been associated with a lower type 2 diabetes risk but little is known about how changes in coffee and tea consumption influence subsequent type 2 diabetes risk, until now. … > full story
Ellie Cohen, President and CEO
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)
3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954
www.pointblue.org | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!
Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.