Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Archive: Dec 2012

  1. Conservation Science News December 28, 2012

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    Highlight of the Week- Making a Difference

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3-POLICY

    4-RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

    7-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

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    Highlight of the Week- Making a difference…

     

    The Heart Of The Jungle

    Jane Goodall left secretarial school, moved in with the chimps and revolutionised the conservation movement. At 78, her field work is different — and more urgent.

    By Kit GilletNovember 9, 2012

    Hair pulled in a tight ponytail that highlights every line on her face, 78-year-old environmental campaigner Jane Goodall looks thoroughly worn out. Shawl draped loosely around her delicate shoulders, a small tumbler of whiskey in her hand, she admits, “At the end of most days I feel totally exhausted.” She is in a hotel lounge in Shanghai, just off a plane from Hong Kong; she spends some 300 days a year on the road, and has done for the past quarter of a century. “Since 1986 I haven’t been anywhere for more than three weeks at a stretch, except when I hurt my ankles,” she says. Goodall spends most of her time in hotels in big cities around the world, giving lectures, talking to school groups and meeting with fundraisers — sharing with as many people as possible her stories of living in the forests with the chimpanzees, and passing on her concerns about the state of the planet. The message is always the same: that we need to correct the damage humankind has done to this world, before it is too late.

    Jane Goodall on “Hope”

    “Our brains are the things that differentiate us from chimps. Yet our amazing intellect has done so much damage,” she tells me, between sips of whiskey.

    When Goodall starts talking, the passion in her eyes and the welcoming smile instantly recall many of the hundreds of photographs taken of her over the past 50 years.

    In person, her body seems much more fragile than in those images, as if it is gradually acknowledging that it can’t go on defying time indefinitely. But Goodall is determined to use all her remaining strength to push on with her environmental mission.

    “Roots & Shoots is what I dedicate my life to. It is changing lives all over the world,” she says, referring to the youth-focused environmental organisation she formed back in 1991.

    Now with a presence in 131 countries, Roots & Shoots has tens of thousands of volunteers, and every year corporate sponsors around the world contribute resources to help make Goodall’s vision a reality. Yet at the centre of it is this one small woman…..

     

    —–

    Rich Stallcup (1944-2012)
    Champion for Conservation and All Things Wild


    Rich’s family will be planning a memorial service in the future and we will share plans for that with the community. PRBO will also hold a public tribute to Rich’s remarkable life at our Bird-A-Thon annual awards event on Saturday, January 26, 2013. RSVPs required—email to Eve Williams (ewilliams@prbo.org).

    >>
    Share Your Memories (guestbook)
    >> Press Release
    >> Selected Observer Columns by Rich

    And more at www.prbo.org ……

     

     

     

    • ECOLOGY

     

     

    Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction
    (December 21, 2012) — The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct.   … > full story

     


    California wraps up undersea park network

    Los Angeles Times Published 4:33 pm, Monday, December 24, 2012

    Los Angeles — Surviving budget cuts, mobs of angry fishermen, and death threats, California officials have completed the largest network of undersea parks in the continental United States – 848 square miles of protected waters that reach from the Oregon line to the Mexican border. The final segment of marine reserves, along the state’s North Coast, reflect an unusual consensus reached between American Indian tribes, conservation groups, and fishermen to preserve tribal traditions while protecting marine life from exploitation. All told, the dozen-year effort has set aside 16 percent of state waters as marine reserves, including 9 percent that are off limits to fishing or gathering of any kind. State officials got to work shortly after the Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999. It directed them to consider a statewide network of protected waters, modeled after a familiar strategy on land – setting up parks and refuges to conserve wildlife, said Michael Sutton, a California Fish and Game commissioner. “It’s not rocket science,” Sutton said. “If you protect wildlife habitat and you don’t kill too many, wildlife tends to do well. We’ve done that on land with the waterfowl population. Now, we’ve done it in the ocean for fish.” Marine reserves have proliferated in the past decade, particularly in remote areas such as the northwest Hawaiian Islands, the Phoenix Islands and the Northern Marianas Islands. Yet California’s network of reserves is the only one established near a heavily populated coastline. The state issues 2 million fishing licenses a year.

    The American Sportfishing Association, the Virginia-based trade association of the tackle and sportfishing industry, hired Sacramento lobbyists, public relations companies and organized anglers by the busload to derail the process. The organization was delighted when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in 2004 that budget shortfalls required an indefinite postponement, said the association’s vice president, Gordon Robertson. What happened next, he said, outflanked the sportfishing industry. Michael Mantell, a Sacramento lawyer who coordinates philanthropy and conservation, organized the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Marisla Foundation and two others to pick up the state’s costs, including paying for panels of local leaders to take testimony and make recommendations. So far, the foundations have spent more than $23 million. “The environmental community poured far more resources than the recreational fishing did,” Robertson said. He vowed to not let this happen in other states.

    Richard B. Rogers, a lifelong recreational fisherman and scuba diver, said the science won him over on the issue. After Schwarzenegger appointed him to the Fish and Game Commission, his work to help establish the reserves was, as he put it, “the single most important thing I’ve done in life, other than marrying my wife and raising my five kids.”…..

    Amazon deforestation brings loss of microbial communities
    (December 26, 2012) — An international team of microbiologists has found that a troubling net loss in diversity among the microbial organisms responsible for a functioning ecosystem is accompanying deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. This is important because the combination of lost forest species and the homogenization of pasture communities together signal that this ecosystem is now a lot less capable of dealing with additional outside stress. … > full story

    Bumblebees do best where there is less pavement and more floral diversity
    (December 26, 2012) — Landscapes with large amounts of paved roads and impervious construction have lower numbers of ground-nesting bumblebees, which are important native pollinators, a new study shows. … > full story



    Recall of the Wild
    December 24 2012 The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert (subscription required)

    For most of the past several millennia, Flevoland, a province which sits more or less at the center of the Netherlands, lay at the bottom of an inlet of the North Sea. A massive drainage project in the nineteen-fifties allowed Flevoland to emerge out of the muck of the former seafloor. Now, Flevoland is home to the Oostvaardersplassen, a wilderness that was also constructed, Genesis-like, from the mud. The reserve occupies fifteen thousand almost perfectly flat acres, and biologists have stocked it with the sorts of animals that would have inhabited the region in prehistoric times, had it not at that point been underwater. In many cases, the animals had been exterminated, so they had to settle for the next best thing; for example, in place of the aurochs, a large and now extinct bovine, they brought in Heck cattle, a variety specially bred by Nazi scientists. The cattle grazed and multiplied, along with red deer, horses, foxes, geese, egrets, and other animals. With a certain amount of squinting, the herds of large mammals could be said to resemble the great migratory herds of Africa. Visitors now pay up to forty-five dollars each to take safari-like tours of the park. Such is the success of the Dutch experiment that it has inspired a new movement. Dubbed Rewilding Europe, the movement takes the old notion of wilderness and turns it inside out. Perhaps it’s true that genuine wilderness can only be destroyed, but new “wilderness,” what the Dutch call “new nature,” can be created. Every year, tens of thousands of acres of economically marginal farmland in Europe are taken out of production. Why not use this land to produce “new nature” to replace what’s been lost? Writer visits the Oostvaardersplassen to learn more about rewilding, and tours the preserve with Frans Vera, one of the biologists who argued for its creation. Mentions some of the surprising ways in which the animals have behaved since settling there, and discusses the concerns raised by animal-welfare activists, who have objected to the widespread starvation that has occurs in the preserve, and which provides gruesome images for Dutch TV. (Often the dying animals are shown huddled up against the fences of the Oostvaardersplassen, a scene that inevitably leads to comparisons with the Holocaust.) Describes the efforts to “back-breed” today’s cows, creating a new animal that approximates, in its physical characteristics, the now-extinct aurochs. Describes the origins of the idea of rewilding in a paper written by Michael Soulé and Reed Noss, two American professors, and the ways in which Europeans have adopted and changed the meaning of the term. (Among other things, the idea of rewilding has become more gastronomically appealing: it is expected that visitors to the continent’s rewilded regions will be able to enjoy not just the safari-like tours but also the local cuisine.) Writer visits a rewilded preserve in Spain, the Campanarios de Azaba, where she encounters vultures….


    Pot farm boom slams Northern Calif. environment

    San Francisco Chronicle  - ‎December 23, 2012

    EUREKA, Calif. (AP) – From water-siphoning to pesticide-spraying to just plain littering, a flowering of pot farms driven by the rise of medical marijuana is battering Northern California’s wilderness areas, natural resources and endangered species …

    How do flocking birds move in unison?

    EarthSky (blog)  - ‎Dec 27, 2012 ‎

    We’ve all seen flocks of birds wheeling and swooping in unison, as if choreographed. How do they do this? Zoologists say they aren’t simply following a leader, or their neighbors.

     

    Researchers in Australia found that when they removed mistletoe from large sections of forests, vast numbers of birds left. BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

    Birds Hang Around Mistletoe For More Than A Kiss

    by Sabri Ben-Achour December 27, 2012 1:40 PM fromWAMU Audio for this story from All Things Considered will be available at approximately 7:00 p.m. ET.

    For the druids, mistletoe was sacred. For us, it’s a cute ornament and maybe an excuse to steal a kiss. And of course it’s a Christmas tradition.

    But for a forest, mistletoe might be much more important. It’s a parasite, shows up on tree branches and looks like an out of place evergreen bush hanging in the air.

    Its seeds drill through bark with a thread-like probe and then grow by sapping the energy of its host. And certain types can be nasty pests, especially dwarf mistletoe in the American West.

    But it may actually be useful, and more than just as an excuse to make out with someone.

    David Watson, an ecologist at Charles Sturt University in Australia, had long suspected this. But nobody had really proven it experimentally. So he did an experiment in an Australian forest.

    He just took the mistletoe out. “Me and a team of 12 volunteers in cherry pickers — ” he recalls, ” — we removed just over 41 tons of mistletoe.” It took 5 months and then another visit the next season to get it all out.

    Three Years Later… “The simple act of removing mistletoe led to losses of over a third of the woodland dependent species [of bird],” Watson says. All these birds just left. And weirdly, the birds that took the biggest hit were insect-eating birds.

     

     

    Birdsong study pecks theory that music is uniquely human
    (December 27, 2012) — A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows. The new study found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like. … > full story

     

     

    Endangered butterfly making a comeback

    The restoration of prairie habitat in the Fern Ridge Lake area (Western Oregon) is improving the colorful insect’s chances

    By Christian Wihtol The Register-Guard: December 28, 2012

    The effects of climate change may be ravaging the earth.The Amazon jungle and the African rain forest may be succumbing to the chainsaw.

    But if you want a sign of hope, look no further than the lands alongside Fern Ridge Lake west of Eugene.

    There, the lowly but rare and endangered Fender’s blue butterfly — that’s icaricia icarioides fenderi, to the initiated — is staging a comeback, new surveys show. On small tracts of protected upland prairie to the north and east of the lake, the butterfly’s numbers are rising, apparently largely due to human intervention. Controlled burns of prairie lands curb vegetation that would otherwise choke out the plants the butterfly needs in order to survive — including the threatened Kincaid’s lupine and Nelson’s checker-mallow, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist Wes Messinger said. Plus, in protected areas, the Corps is planting those needed species, along with, for example, onions that the butterfly enjoys, he said….

     

     

    Russian River (California) Watershed To Get Special Attention

    Patch.com  - ‎Dec 27, 2012‎

    The Russian River watershed was selected as California’s Habitat Focus Area within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Habitat Blueprint.  NOAA’s habitat conservation experts felt that the Russian River offered the greatest opportunities for NOAA-wide collaboration on habitat conservation among the 17 candidate areas identified by the staff this fall. “I have been impressed with the work being conducted in the Russian River watershed to protect, conserve, and maintain our salmon and steelhead populations,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, who made the announcement last week. “For years, I have promoted, supported, and advocated for this incredible collaborative effort to restore our native fisheries populations and I am pleased that NOAA has recognized the work of this community,” Thompson said.  “I am proud that over the next several years, the Russian River Watershed will be a focal point in salmon restoration, habitat science, and conservation within the United States” said Thompson.

    “This designation recognizes the Russian River watershed as one of the most promising regions in the nation for real improvements in fish habitat. Stakeholders should be proud of the efforts they’ve made, whether it’s volunteering at river clean-up days, adopting fish-friendly farming practices or creating habitat on their property,” said Sonoma County Water Agency and Sonoma County Chairwoman Shirlee Zane. “The community-wide focus on the watershed is one of the aspects that made this region attractive to the National Marine Fisheries Service.” The Russian River drains 1,485 square miles, including much of Sonoma and Mendocino counties and is home to three fish on the endangered and threatened species lists: coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout.  For years, the Sonoma County Water Agency and other stakeholders have worked tirelessly to enhance the fish and wildlife resources of the Russian River, and have developed sound science technology to protect, preserve and restore the threatened and endangered fish species….

     

    Official: Endangered Whale Beached in NYC Is Dead

    An emaciated 60-foot finback whale beached itself in the Breezy Point neighborhood of the Rockaways in New York, Dec. 26, 2012. Biologist Mendy Garron says it’s unclear what caused the whale to beach itself, but its chances of survival appear slim. (Kathy Willens/AP Photo)

    By TOM HAYS Associated Press NEW YORK December 27, 2012 (AP)

    A 60-foot whale was found dead on Thursday after getting stranded on a beach in a coastal enclave of New York City that was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.

    The animal — part of an endangered species known as finback or fin whales — was severely emaciated but clinging to life when it was discovered Wednesday stranded on the bay side of Breezy Point. Volunteer firefighters sprayed water on the whale as it sat halfway out of the water.

    At high tide, the whale drifted away and out of sight before washing ashore again on Thursday morning, this time having stopped breathing, said Mendy Garron of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

    Marine experts later confirmed the animal was dead. They planned to perform a necropsy to determine a cause of death before burying the giant carcass, said Kimberly Durham of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research….

     

    Hungry salmon a problem for restoration efforts

    By Sandra Hines November 28, 2012

    Food webs needed by young salmon in the Columbia River basin are likely compromised in places, something that should be considered when prioritizing expensive restoration activities aimed at rebuilding endangered runs. Right now there are probably too many young fish and not enough food in places. Taking hatchery fish and wild fish together, there are twice as many young salmon in the system today as there were before major hatchery and dam construction, say scientists in an article that went online (Nov. 28) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition.

    Aquatic nonnative species – those found in the water but not including those on land alongside rivers and streams – are just one example of invasive species that can effect young salmon and foodwebs in the Columbia River Basin. The food web also is under assault from chemical contaminants as well as invasive species – and even a few native ones – that gang up on young salmon because of the way the river is managed…..

     

     

    Landscape Restoration Movement Reaches 50 Million Ha With El Salvador & Costa Rica Commitments
    The global movement to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020 – the “Bonn Challenge” – gained further momentum at the UN Climate Talks in Doha, as Costa Rica and El Salvador each commit up to 1 million hectares. The 50 million hectare mark – or one third of the target – is now within reach, amid broad acknowledgement that the largest restoration initiative in history is truly underway….

     

    Restoration calms troubled waters Oregon

    Johnson Creek work holds back floods, opens land for park

    Portland Tribune Dec 27, 2012 ‎ ‎

    Ever since the 1920s, the major creek flowing through Portland’s east side was known mostly for flooding.

    Johnson Creek spilled over its banks about once every other year, deluging nearby homes and businesses in the Lents neighborhood and rendering Southeast Foster Road impassable.

    By year end, the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services expects to wrap up a $20 million floodplain restoration that should ease flooding, restore wildlife habitat and boost Lents’ chances of luring jobs.
    The bureau is restoring 70 acres to its natural role accommodating flood waters — after clearing 60 homes in the path of those waters.

    Bureau Director Dean Marriott, who led a tour of the complex project last week, hopes to hand the site to the parks bureau around Earth Day 2013, delivering a new natural area to parks-deficient East Portland that’s more than twice the size of Laurelhurst Park. Decades in the making, the East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project passed its first big test last January, when Johnson Creek crested at two feet above flood stage. “We sat there waiting for Foster Road to flood,” recalls Lents Neighborhood Association Chairman Nick Christensen, “and it didn’t top the berms.”

    Coho salmon have already been spotted returning to Johnson Creek, and Christensen expects to see eagle’s nests eventually…..

     

     

    Tigers roar back: Great news for big cats in key areas
    (December 26, 2012) — Biologists have reported significant progress for tigers in three key landscapes across the big cat’s range due to better law enforcement, protection of habitat, and strong government partnerships. … > full story

     

     

    Evidence contradicts idea that starvation caused saber-tooth cat extinction
    (December 26, 2012) — The latest study of the microscopic wear patterns on the teeth of the American lions and saber-toothed cats that roamed North America in the late Pleistocene found that they were living well off the fat of the land in the period just before they went extinct. That is the conclusion of the latest study of the microscopic wear patterns on the teeth of these great cats recovered from the La Brea tar pits in southern California. Contrary to previous studies, the analysis did not find any indications that the giant carnivores were having increased trouble finding prey in the period before they went extinct 12,000 years ago. The results, published on Dec. 26 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, contradicts previous dental studies and presents a problem for the most popular explanations for the Megafaunal (or Quaternary) extinction when the great cats, mammoths and a number of the largest mammals that existed around the world disappeared. “The popular theory for the Megafaunal extinction is that either the changing climate at the end of the last Ice Age or human activity — or some combination of the two — killed off most of the large mammals,” said Larisa DeSantis, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt, who headed the study. “In the case of the great cats, we expect that it would have been increasingly difficult for them to find prey, especially if had to compete with humans. We know that when food becomes scarce, carnivores like the great cats tend to consume more of the carcasses they kill. If they spent more time chomping on bones, it should cause detectable changes in the wear patterns on their teeth.”…. “The net result of our study is to raise questions about the reigning hypothesis that “tough times” during the late Pleistocene contributed to the gradual extinction of large carnivores,” DeSantis summarized. “While we can not determine the exact cause of their demise, it is unlikely that the extinction of these cats was a result of gradually declining prey (due either to changing climates or human competition) because their teeth tell us that these cats were not desperately consuming entire carcasses, as we had expected, and instead seemed to be living the ‘good life’ during the late Pleistocene, at least up until the very end.”> full story

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

     

    West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought

    By JUSTIN GILLIS NY TIMES December 24, 2012

    New research suggests that West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists have thought over the last half century, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea level.

    paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience found that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.
    The surprises keep coming,” said Andrew J. Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who took part in the study. “When you see this type of warming, I think it’s alarming.”

    Of course, warming in Antarctica is a relative concept. West Antarctica remains an exceedingly cold place, with average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.

    But the temperature there does sometimes rise above freezing in the summer, and the new research raises the possibility that it might begin to happen more often, potentially weakening the ice sheet through surface melting. The ice sheet is already under attack at the edges by warmer ocean water, and scientists are on alert for any fresh threat. A potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is one of the long-term hazards that have led experts to worry about global warming. The base of the ice sheet sits below sea level, in a configuration that makes it especially vulnerable. Scientists say a breakup of the ice sheet, over a period that would presumably last at least several hundred years, could raise global sea levels by 10 feet, possibly more. The new research is an attempt to resolve a scientific controversy that erupted several years ago about exactly how fast West Antarctica is warming. With few automated weather stations and even fewer human observers in the region, scientists have had to use statistical techniques to infer long-term climate trends from sparse data. A nearby area called the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts north from West Antarctica and for which decent records are available, was already known to be warming rapidly. A 2009 paper found extensive warming in the main part of West Antarctica, but those results were challenged by a group that included climate change contrarians…..

     

    West Antarctica warming more than expected

    December 23, 2012 NCAR

    BOULDER—In a finding that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study finds that the western part of the continent’s ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought.

    Researchers have determined that the central region of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is experiencing twice as much warming as previously thought. Their analysis focuses on the  temperature record from Byrd Station (indicated by a star), which provides the only long-term temperature observations in the region. Other permanent research stations with long-term temperature records (indicated by black circles) are scattered around the continent. On this map, the color intensity indicates the extent of warming around Antarctica. (Image by Julien Nicolas, courtesy of Ohio State University.)

    David H. Bromwich, Julien P. Nicolas, Andrew J. Monaghan, Matthew A. Lazzara, Linda M. Keller, George A. Weidner, Aaron B. Wilson. Central West Antarctica among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. Nature Geoscience, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1671

     

    Update of Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Loss. Pdf– James Hansen Dec. 26, 2012: Discussion of how the loss rate is changing.

    …. Greenland has been losing mass at a faster and faster rate over the past decade, with the recent rate corresponding to ~1 mm sea level per year (1 mm sea level = 360 Gt ice). The linear fit to the Shepherd et al. data in Fig. 1 yields a Greenland contribution to global sea level of about 30 cm by 2100.

    the increasing Greenland mass loss in Fig. 1 can be fit just as well by exponentially increasing annual mass loss, a behavior that Hansen (2005, 2007) argues could occur because of multiple amplifying feedbacks as an ice sheet begins to disintegrate. A 10-year doubling time would lead to 1 meter sea level rise by 2067 and 5 meters by 2090. The dates are 2045 and 2057 for 5-year doubling time and 2055 and 2071 for a 7-year doubling time. However, exponential ice loss, if it occurs, would encounter negative (diminishing) feedbacks. Our simulations (Hansen and Sato, 2012) suggest that a strong negative feedback kicks in when sea level rise reaches meter-scale, as the ice-melt has a large cooling and freshening effect on the regional ocean. Such a slowdown in the rate of sea level rise would be little consolation to humanity, however, as the high latitude cooling would increase latitudinal temperature gradients, thus driving powerful cyclonic storms (Hansen, 2009), and coastlines would be continually moving landward for centuries.

    West Antarctic ice is probably more vulnerable to rapid disintegration than Greenland ice, because the West Antarctic ice sheet rests mainly on bedrock below sea level (Hughes, 1972). The principal mechanism for mass loss from West Antarctica is warming of the ocean…. The several analysis methods compared by Shepherd et al. (2012) concur that the West Antarctic ice sheet mass imbalance has grown since 2005 from an annual mass loss of 0-100 Gt ice to a recent annual mass loss of 100-200 Gt ice (Fig. 4 of Shepherd et al.). So, what are the shapes of the ice sheet mass loss curves for Greenland and West Antarctica? Is there evidence that they may be exponential? It’s too early to tell, as shown by Fig. 1 above. The picture may begin to be clearer within the next several years. The problem is, by the time the data record is long enough to be convincing, it may be exceedingly difficult or impossible to prevent sea level rise of many meters.

    Obviously we need to continue to monitor the ice sheets as well as practical, especially with the gravity and input-output methods, which appear to be the most promising. Also, given the fact that we could reduce the dangers of climate change greatly by putting an honesthttp://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2012/20121213_StormsOfOpa.pdf), it would make good sense to slow down the climate change experiment by placing such a fee on carbon. 3 gradually rising price on carbon emissions, and there would be many other merits of doing that (

     

     

    How shrubs are reducing the positive contribution of peatlands to climate
    (December 23, 2012) -
    - Peatlands (bogs, turf moors) are among the most important ecosystems worldwide for the storage of atmospheric carbon and thus for containing the climate warming process. In the last 30 to 50 years the peat (Sphagnum) mosses, whose decay produces the peat (turf), have come under pressure by vascular plants, mostly small shrubs. …
    Although peatlands are estimated to cover only 3% of the world land surface, they store about 30% of all soil organic matter, an amount equivalent to about 50% of the atmospheric CO2. On global scale, peatlands stock an amount of carbon which is twice the carbon stock of all forest biomass. In this sense, peatlands can be considered as “hot spots” of carbon accumulation and they have contributed, over millennia, to cool the climate by retrieving greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.full story

     

    Top Ten U.S. Weather Events of 2012

    Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 5:04 AM GMT on December 21, 2012 +64

    It was another year of incredible weather extremes unparalleled in American history during 2012. Eleven billion-dollar weather disasters hit the U.S., a figure exceeded only by the fourteen such disasters during the equally insane weather year of 2011. I present for you now the top ten weather stories of 2012, chosen for their meteorological significance and human and economic impact.

    VIDEO 1. Hour-by-hour animation of infrared satellite images for 2012. The loop goes in slow-motion to feature such events as Hurricane Sandy, the June Derecho, Summer in March, and other top weather events of 2012. The date stamp is at lower left; you will want to make the animation full screen to see the date. Special thanks to wunderground’s Deb Mitchell for putting this together!
    1) Superstorm Sandy

    Hurricane Sandy was truly astounding in its size and power. At its peak size, twenty hours before landfall, Sandy had tropical storm-force winds that covered an area nearly one-fifth the area of the contiguous United States. Sandy’s area of ocean with twelve-foot seas peaked at 1.4 million square miles–nearly one-half the area of the contiguous United States, or 1% of Earth’s total ocean area. Most incredibly, ten hours before landfall (9:30 am EDT October 29), the total energy of Sandy’s winds of tropical storm-force and higher peaked at 329 terajoules–the highest value for any Atlantic hurricane since at least 1969, and equivalent to five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. At landfall, Sandy’s tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been larger…..

     

     

    Smaller Colorado River projected for coming decades, study says
    (December 23, 2012)
    Some 40 million people depend on the Colorado River Basin for water but warmer weather from rising greenhouse gas le
    vels and a growing population may signal water shortages ahead. In a new study in Nature Climate Change, climate modelers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory predict a 10 percent drop in the Colorado River’s flow in the next few decades, enough to disrupt longtime water-sharing agreements between farms and cities across the American Southwest, from Denver to Los Angeles to Tucson, and through California’s Imperial Valley. … > full story


    Climate change could cut Western water runoff by 10%

    Lake Powell’s “bathtub ring” of mineral salts shows the drop in water level caused by an ongoing drought in the Colorado River Basin. In the foreground is Glen Canyon Dam. (Bettina Boxall / Los Angeles Times )

    By Bettina Boxall December 26, 2012, LAT TIMES Another climate change study is projecting declines in runoff in many parts of the West, a scenario that would put more pressure on the region’s water supplies. Using new model simulations, scientists at Columbia University‘s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory expanded on 2007 research that predicted a drier future for the Southwest. The reasons involve more than a drop in precipitation — which is actually expected to increase in some areas that are critical to Western water supplies. Rather, rising temperatures will cause greater evaporation from plants and the ground, reducing soil moisture and water runoff into rivers and streams. Researchers concluded that average annual runoff will fall by about 10% in the three regions examined in the study: California-Nevada, the Colorado River headwaters and Texas. The 10% drop in Colorado River flows would be on a par with the worst droughts recorded on the river in the last century, though it is less severe than the 12th century megadrought revealed by tree-ring studies. “It may not sound like a phenomenally large amount, except the water and the river is already over-allocated,” said climate scientist Richard Seager, the paper’s lead author. The Colorado’s flows have proven to be less than thought when the river’s supplies were divvied up among California and the other six basin states in 1922…..

     

     

    SPECIAL SERIES

    Cities hold half the world’s population and produce more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While they have heightened risks from floods, storms and sea level rise, they are often left out of national and global warming talks. This series shows how some are beginning their own plans to deal with a more hostile climate.

    ADAPTATION: Rising San Francisco Bay threatens the Silicon Valley high-tech mecca

    Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Thursday, December 20, 2012 MENLO PARK, Calif. — The headquarters of Facebook sits on a sprawling campus beside San Francisco Bay, a scenic location with water bordering three sides.

    The 57-acre site features two- and three-story office buildings in shades of red and orange, outdoor basketball hoops, and sofa-sized benches on large lawns. Just outside the property, however, is a reminder that this location has a major drawback.

    A roughly 8-foot levee curves next to Facebook’s land. Built when Sun Microsystems owned the spot in the 1970s, the grass-covered buttress holds back water from the east. Another barricade on the north blocks the daily high tide.

    As seas rise because of climate change, however, those barriers won’t be enough, said those studying options to protect California’s Silicon Valley.

    Facebook’s site at 1 Hacker Way “is pretty much surrounded by tidal waters,” said Eric Mruz, manager of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which abuts the social media giant’s campus.

    “Facebook is going to have to deal with sea level rise,” Mruz said. “It’s going to be a huge threat, with sea level rise projections skyrocketing now. They will definitely have to do something with their levees to protect their property.”

    Facebook is just one of the well-known companies in Silicon Valley’s technology mecca that will face the effects of climate change in years ahead. Others located near the water here include Google, Yahoo, Dell, LinkedIn, Intuit, Intel, Cisco, Citrix and Oracle. Scientists predict seas will climb as much as 16 inches by midcentury and 65 inches by 2100. Storms are expected to intensify and occur more often. Both pose dangers for businesses and homes near the bay.

    Yet Silicon Valley, a place that in many ways creates the future through technological advances, largely has yet to tackle the repercussions that climate change will bring in years ahead, several people said.

    ‘They don’t think long-term’ The life cycle of products made in Silicon Valley is “so short they don’t think long-term,” said Will Travis, senior adviser to the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee, which coordinates regional planning. It’s a conflict some are working to change. The region will have to start addressing the coming threats, Mruz said. “It’s imminent,” Mruz said. “There’s no question in my mind; everybody around the bay, we’re going to have to do something, at every spot around the bay.”…..

     

     

     



    Polar Express by Keith Gessen

     

     

    The New Yorker December 21, 2012

    A voyage across a melting Arctic. A REPORTER AT LARGE about the writer’s journey through the Arctic seas aboard a cargo ship. The ice-class bulk carrier Nordic Odyssey docked at the port of Murmansk, Russia, on July 5, 2012. It had come to pick up sixty-five thousand tons of iron ore and take it to China via the Northern Sea Route—through the ice of the Arctic seas and then down through the Bering Strait. The Odyssey is owned by a Danish shipping company called Nordic Bulk. In 2010, the company was asked to get a load of ore from Norway to China. The company’s co-chairman, Mads Petersen, decided that the Northeast Passage was the shortest route. He made a deal to send his cargo through the Arctic with an icebreaker escort. Mentions the Odyssey’s captain, Igor Shkrebko, and its chief mate, Vadim Zakharchenko. At its maximum extent, ice covers the entire Arctic Ocean and most of its marginal seas for about fifteen million square kilometers. In recent years, it has been shrinking by more than half. The thickness of the ice is also rapidly decreasing. The primary cause of this decline is warmer air temperatures in the Arctic, an area that has been more affected by global warming than any other place on earth. Already the resource grabs have begun. The Odyssey’s trip was a test case for the proposition that the Northern Sea Route could be reliably traversed. Describes the Odyssey’s voyage. On the morning of July 13th, the ship crossed the seventy-fifth parallel. Over the next eight days, they saw an incredible variety of ice, some of it floating in isolated islands along the water. Chief Mate Zakharchenko seemed the most ambivalent about his job, and the most philosophical. In the East Siberian Sea, they encountered a different kind of ice—thicker and older, stretching north as far as the eye could see. The Odyssey went slowly. It was now clear that they would make it through the ice, but, at some point, the writer began to hope they would lose. Each ship which made this voyage would beget three more ships. Here was a landscape that they were simply causing to disappear. On July 22nd, the Odyssey finally emerged from the ice and rendezvoused with its sister ship, the Nordic Orion. Describes their arrival at the Huanghua port, in northern China, on August 9th.

     

     

    The Ghost Of Climate Yet To Come

    Posted: 25 Dec 2012 09:49 AM PST Joe Romm www.climateprogress.org

    Irreversible does not mean unstoppable: “Why show me this, if I am past all hope?”…. Unlike Scrooge, we don’t get a spirit to show us what the future holds if we don’t change our ways. In the past two years, though, we have gotten the tiniest glimpse of climate gone wild (see “Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed [in 2010] gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability” and A New Record: 14 U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in 2011 and Experts Warn ‘Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer’ In A Decade If Volume Trends Continue). And we did get dozens of scientific papers warning us of what is to come (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

    M.I.T. laid out the choice in its 2009 analysis:

    Humanity’s Choice (via M.I.T.): Inaction (“No Policy”) eliminates most of the uncertainty about whether or not future warming will be catastrophic. Aggressive emissions reductions dramatically improves humanity’s chances.

    Yes, it is increasingly unlikely that we will adopt the aggressive but low-net-cost policies needed to stabilize at 450 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and then quickly come back to 350 — thanks in large part to the deniers, along with their political pals and media enablers. But when reporters ask me if it’s “too late,” — or, as one did last year, “have we crossed a tipping point?” — I have to explain that the question doesn’t have a purely scientific answer.

    It does seem clear that the most dangerous carbon-cycle feedback — the defrosting permafrost — hasn’t kicked in yet but is likely to with two decades (see “Carbon Time Bomb in the Arctic“)….

    ….Delay is very risky and expensive. In releasing its 2009 Energy Outloook, the International Energy Agency explained, “we need to act urgently and now. Every year of delay adds an extra USD 500 billion to the investment needed between 2010 and 2030 in the energy sector”. In releasing its 2011 Energy Outloook, the IEA said “On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change” and “we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F].” They concluded:

    Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

    This is all by way of introduction to a holiday rerun repost. Four years ago I wrote about a NOAA led paper, which found:

    …the climate change that is taking place because of increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop…. Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase from current levels near 385 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to a peak of 450-600 ppmv over the coming century are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the “dust bowl” era and inexorable sea level rise.

    And we know that large parts of the currently habited and arable land are at risk of turning into Dust Bowls, gravely threatening global food security.

    We most certainly do not want to significantly exceed 450 ppm for any length of time, as Dust-Bowlification isn’t the only impact that is irreversible:

    That said, RealClimate made a good point with the title of its 2009 post, “Irreversible Does Not Mean Unstoppable“:

    …..Or, as RealClimate put it less poetically:

    But you have to remember that the climate changes so far, both observed and committed to, are minor compared with the business-as-usual forecast for the end of the century. It’s further emissions we need to worry about. Climate change is like a ratchet, which we wind up by releasing CO2. Once we turn the crank, there’s no easy turning back to the natural climate. But we can still decide to stop turning the crank, and the sooner the better.

    Indeed, we are only committed to about 2°C total warming so far, which is a probably manageable — and even more probably, if we did keep CO2 concentrations from peaking below 450 ppm, the small amount of CO2 we are likely to be able to remove from the atmosphere this century could well take us below the danger zone.

    But if we don’t reverse emissions trends soon, we will probably triple that temperature rise, most likely negating any practical strategy to undo the impacts for hundreds of years:

    Such is the climate change yet to come.

     

     

     

     

     

    • POLICY

     

    Seattle Mayor Calls For Divesting City Pension Funds From Fossil Fuels

    Posted: 23 Dec 2012 06:23 AM PST

    After a 21-city tour educating people on a new fossil fuel divestment campaign, climate activists are starting to see results. In the last month, groups on 192 university and college campuses have organized campaigns to pull their schools’ endowments out of the fossil fuel industry. One small school, Unity College, has already committed to divesting from coal, oil, and gas. At Harvard, a school with the country’s largest endowment, 72 percent of students voted in favor of divesting from fossil fuels. Although Harvard officials balked, a group of student activists has kept the pressure on.

    There’s another big piece of news on the divestment front this week. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is now calling on his city to strip fossil fuels from its two main pension funds. According to the city’s finance director, Seattle has $17.6 million invested in Chevron and ExxonMobil, as well as smaller investments in other oil and gas companies. Mayor McGinn sent a letter to the city’s pension fund managers on Friday calling for them to move their money elsewhere…

     

     

    New Hawaii senator pledges to tackle climate change

    The Hill (blog)  - ‎December 27, 2012‎

    The replacement for late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) said Wednesday that climate change is at the top of his legislative agenda.

     


    Kerry’s climate change credentials

     

     

    Los Angeles Times  - December 28, 2012‎

    Although many environmentalists see this as a defining decision in the fight against climate change, Kerry, presuming his nomination is approved, will arrive too late in that process to play much of a role.

     

     

    AUSTRALIA: Climate change likely to involve species extinctions: CSIRO

    APN Newsdesk 28th Dec 2012 6:00 AM

    THE nation’s biggest scientific body, the CSIRO, has warned of “significant species extinctions” if the Federal Government does not start including climate change scenarios in Australia’s major environmental laws. The warning comes in a submission from the CSIRO to a Senate inquiry which is investigating whether the nation’s major environmental protection laws are adequate. While the Senate inquiry is looking specifically at the effectiveness of threatened species and ecological protections, the Federal Government has not yet deserted a plan to hand over those same laws to the state government.

    That plan was put on hold at the final Council of Australian Governments meeting in December, but was likely to remain on the COAG agenda for 2013. In the CSIRO submission, officials wrote it was already likely to be significant losses of biodiversity in Australia as a result of climate change.

    But the scientists went as far as to write that under current expectations, climate change was “likely to involve significant species extinctions”, overwhelming the nation’s environmental protection laws as they currently stand. “The increasing risk of species becoming threatened under climate change has important implications for how to invest resources for species recovery,” the submission reads. “The magnitude and widespread nature of ecological change suggests the policy processes based on analysis, listing and management of threatened species would be overwhelmed.”

    But the CSIRO does offer some solutions, including recommending the government act now to include more climate change concerns in environmental protections, and giving the Federal Environment Department more resources to do its job.

    The Senate committee is due to report its findings at the end of February next year.

     

     

    Time to Confront Climate Change
    NEW YORK TIMES Editorial Published: December 27, 2012 137 Comments

    Four years ago, in sharp contrast to the torpor and denial of the George W. Bush years, President Obama described climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing challenges and pledged an all-out effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Then came one roadblock after another. Congress did not pass a climate bill, cap-and-trade became a dirty word, and, with the 2012 elections approaching, climate change disappeared from the president’s vocabulary. He spoke about green jobs and clean energy but not about why these were necessary. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he spoke only obliquely about the threat of rising seas and extreme weather events, both of which scientists have linked to a warming climate.

    Since his re-election, Mr. Obama has agreed to foster a “conversation” on climate change and an “education process” about long-term steps to address it. He needs to do a good deal more than that. Intellectually, Mr. Obama grasps the problem as well as anyone. The question is whether he will bring the powers of the presidency to bear on the problem.

    Enlisting market forces in the fight against global warming by putting a price on carbon — through cap-and-trade or a direct tax — seems out of the question for this Congress. But there are weapons at Mr. Obama’s disposal that do not require Congressional approval and could go a long way to reducing emissions and reasserting America’s global leadership. One imperative is to make sure that natural gas — which this nation has in abundance and which emits only half the carbon as coal — can be extracted without risk to drinking water or the atmosphere. This may require national legislation to replace the often porous state regulations. Another imperative is to invest not only in familiar alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, but also in basic research, next-generation nuclear plants and experimental technologies that could smooth the path to a low-carbon economy.

    Mr. Obama’s most promising near-term strategy may be to invoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit emissions from stationary sources, chiefly power plants.
    The agency has already taken a step in that direction by proposing strict emission standards for new power plants that virtually ensure that no new coal-fired plants will be built unless they capture their carbon emissions, which would require employing new technologies that have not been proved on a commercial scale. But that leaves the bigger problem of what to do with existing coal-fired power plants, which still generate roughly 40 percent of the nation’s power and obviously cannot be shut down quickly or by fiat.


    The Natural Resources Defense Council recently proposed an innovative scheme that would set overall emissions targets but let the individual states — and the utilities that operate in them — figure out how to meet them by making their boilers more efficient, switching to cleaner fuels or by subsidizing energy efficiency and encouraging reduced consumption by individuals and businesses. Any such regulations are likely to be strongly opposed by industry and will require real persistence on the administration’s part. If Mr. Obama takes this approach, he will certainly need a determined leader at E.P.A. to devise and carry out the rules. Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator who on Thursday announced her resignation after four productive years in one of the federal government’s most thankless jobs, was just such a leader.

    She suffered setbacks — most notably the White House’s regrettable decision to overrule her science-based proposal to update national health standards for ozone, or smog. But she accomplished much, including tougher standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics, new health standards for soot, and, most important, her agency’s finding that carbon dioxide and five other gases that contribute to global warming constituted a danger to public health and could thus be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
    That ruling, known as the endangerment finding, made possible the administration’s historic new emissions standards for cars and light trucks. It also provided the basis for the first steps toward regulating emissions from new power plants, and, possibly, further steps requiring existing plants to reduce global warming pollution.

    In 2009, at the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen, Mr. Obama pledged to reduce this country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This seemed an impossible goal once Congress rejected the cap-and-trade bill. But the increased use of cheap natural gas, the new fuel standards, the mercury rules and other factors have already put this country on track for a 10 percent reduction by 2020. By some estimates, reaching the 17 percent goal is well within Mr. Obama’s grasp. He has the means at hand to seize it.

     

     

     

    • RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     

     

    California: 2nd Annual Rangeland Science Symposium- January 24-25, 2013

     

    SER2013: 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration- October 6-11, 2013
    SER will hold its 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, on October 6-11, 2013. This event marks the 25th Anniversary of SER and will celebrate the conference theme of “Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future.”

     


    Environmental Music & Performance for Kids

     

     

    (a favorite of our kids!)

    Jeff Kagan & Paige Doughty

    Environmental Music & Performances for Kids

     

     

    IF you haven’t gone yet—go, bring everyone you know and see it on the big screen!!

    Interview: ‘Chasing Ice’ Star James Balog Talks Art, Science, Rationality, And Climate Denial

    By Stephen Lacey on Dec 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    …..Watch Chasing Ice. Bring your family, bring your friends, watch it on the big screen if you can. It will fill you with awe for the beauty of ice, admiration for the tenacity of Balog and his crew, and terror at the scale of changes we’re creating on earth.

    Photo: James BalogPhoto: James Balog

     

     

     

     

    • RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

     

     

    Electric cars, plug-in hybrids gain sales

    David R. Baker Updated 4:14 pm, Thursday, December 20, 2012

    In 2012, the electric car’s critics were ready to write its obituary. Sluggish sales made plug-in cars a favorite target of conservative commentators, a symbol of Big Government foisting pricey green technologies on an unwilling public. Critics rebranded the Chevy Volt as the “Obama car” and used its low sales figures to bash the federal bailout of General Motors. But even as plug-in cars came under attack, their sales slowly grew. The numbers are still small, making up a tiny slice of the automotive market. But they rose steadily in 2012 as automakers introduced more models of electric cars and advanced hybrids. “It’s definitely a strong showing by both all-electrics and plug-in hybrids this year,” said Jeremy Acevedo, supervisor of industry analysis with the Edmunds.com auto information website. “We’re seeing more cars for more people.” In 2011, Americans bought 9,754 electric cars and 7,671 plug-in hybrids, according to Edmunds. This year, sales of electrics reached 10,407 by the end of November, while plug-in hybrids hit 31,042. And those figures don’t count the new Tesla Motors Model S, which hit the market in June. Palo Alto’s Tesla, which reports sales figures only once each quarter, has taken 13,000 reservations for the all-electric Model S and expects to deliver 2,500 to 3,000 by the end of the year. The much-derided Volt, meanwhile, has emerged as the field’s leader. GM sold 7,671 Volts in 2011, the first full year of sales. This year, drivers bought 20,828 Volts through the end of November. At that pace, the car’s sales total for the year could hit 22,000…..


    EU still subsidising coal industry despite climate change

    PublicServiceEurope.com  - ‎December 26, 2012‎

    The European Investment Bank is greener than it used to be. It now lends half its annual energy pot to energy efficiency and renewables.

     

     


    Hydro-Fracking: Fact Vs. Fiction

     

     


    November 5, 2012 — In communities across the US, people are hearing more and more about a controversial oil and gas extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing – aka, hydro-fracking. Controversies pivot on … > full story


    Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Substantial Water Pollution Risks, Analysts Say

     

     


    August 6, 2012 — Researchers find multiple potential threats to water sources posed by hydraulic fracturing as the jobs-producing practice … > full story


    Air Emissions Near Fracking Sites May Pose Health Risk, Study Shows; Sites Contain Hydrocarbons Including Benzene

     

     


    March 19, 2012 — In a new study, researchers have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling … > full story

    Should Cities Ban Fracking?

    Slate Magazine ‎- 2 days ago

    Twelve years ago, the International Energy Agency
    predicted increased U.S. imports of natural gas and oil. This year, it claimed the United States will soon be a net exporter of natural gas and oil. Why the change in outlook? The United States figured out how to tap its unconventional energy resources by blasting chemical-laced water into “hydrocarbon kitchens” deep underground—a process you probably know as fracking. But the United States has not figured out how to regulate this new era of fossil fuel extremism. Exemptions, trade secrets, and nondisclosures have allowed profit-making to proceed without adequate monitoring. At the state level, the same agency is often responsible for both regulating and promoting mineral development. The Texas Rail Road Commission’s first priority is to get minerals out of the ground. Commissioners survive on campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and host Facebook pages that openly demonize the EPA. Texas’ inspectors are each responsible for more than 1,000 wells, and in 2010 nearly 140,000 out of 260,000 wells in the state went uninspected. With a vacuum of leadership from the top, cities and towns have sought to fill the void. But they face a thorny question: What rules could make fracking compatible with the health, safety, and welfare of those who live nearby? In the movie Promised Land, due out in theaters soon, a small town tears itself apart over this question. For more than two years, my home of Denton, Texas, has been acting out this script in real life as it rewrites its drilling ordinance. I have attended umpteen city council meetings in which I use my three-minute public comment to make wonkish analyses of the 54-page ordinance that is now in its fifth draft. I tend to say things like: “Section 35.22.5.A.2.p.i should have the phrase ‘if this is infeasible’ removed.” It’s really dry stuff. At these meetings, there are always Denton “fracktivists” demanding a ban. They have read aloud a short story featuring Denton citizens besieged by a greedy corporate Grinch. They have equated fracking with terrorism. One student donned a mask to personify death and thanked the city council for allowing fracking to claim more souls for the underworld. Say what you will, but that is not dry. This is the divided heart of the anti-fracking movement. Pragmatists working to reform the system, idealists to eliminate it. The former accused of being unprincipled, the latter impractical. This schism in American environmentalism is rooted in the broken friendship of Gifford Pinchot and John Muir. When Pinchot said in the early 1900s that damming the Hetch Hetchy Valley was its highest use, Muir shot back: “[N]o holier temple has ever been consecrated by the hearts of man.”….

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

       

    2013 is Year Zero for Climate Change

    Rebecca Solnit December 26, 2012   This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com
    As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise—but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair.

    If we can learn one thing from Superstorm Sandy, it’s that we ignore climate change at our own peril. It’s time to ditch the political euphemisms, and start calling lies, theft and greed by their true name. Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger. This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers vanishing, images of the entire surface of the Greenland Ice Shield melting this summer, maps of Europe’s future in which just being in southern Europe when the heat hits will be catastrophic, let alone in more equatorial realms. For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us—the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small—to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species….

     

     

    Global extinction: coming soon to a planet near you- a Jewish perspective….

    by dan pine December 21, 2012 The J, Jewish Weekly

    How green am I? I carpool to work and BART home. I run errands on foot. I keep the lights off, the showers short, the heat low, eat organic, and I am seriously considering buying a Chevy Volt.

     

    Faith And Science: A Climate Scientist And Religious Organizer On The Urgency Of Climate Change

    Posted: 23 Dec 2012 09:30 AM PST by Sally Steenland

    The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is president and founder of the Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power and Light, a national interfaith network of affiliates that work with congregations to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. She is also the lead author of Love God Heal Earth, published in 2009. In 2012 Sally was awarded the Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award for her environmental leadership.

    Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who studies climate change. She is an expert reviewer for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Together with her husband she is the co-author of A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. She recently appeared in Frontline’s “Climate of Doubt,” a PBS documentary exposing the individuals and groups behind efforts to attack science by undermining scientists who say they believe there is current climate change caused by human activity…..

     

     

    Landfill Harmonic film teaser

    from Landfill Harmonic
    Plus 1 month ago

    Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where young musicians play instruments made from trash….

     

    Eating asparagus may prevent a hangover, study suggests
    (December 26, 2012) — With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, there is always plenty of good food and cheer. If you are drinking alcohol you may want to reach for some asparagus, according to a study that found asparagus may aid the body in accelerating the metabolism of alcohol. … > full story

     

    Every Bird Counts, but Some Make the Heart Beat Faster

    By EAMON C. CORBETT December 26, 2012 NY Times

    Binoculars at the ready, a small group of birders fanned out through the field, searching for a brown-and-gray bird that was stubbornly refusing to show itself.

    We were looking for a clay-colored sparrow, a rare visitor to the East Coast that had been spotted in this field at the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, N.Y., over the last week. But while a few sweeps of the field turned up a variety of birds — including seven other species of sparrows — the clay-colored sparrow remained out of sight. As participants in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, we were eager to add this unusual species (check out the video above, posted at YouTube by a professional photographer), to the local tally. But we couldn’t spend all day looking for it. We had to cover the area thoroughly and keep count of every individual bird we saw. In the Christmas Bird Count, every bird counts, no matter how rare or common. The annual count was begun in 1900 by the ornithologist Frank Chapman as a conservation-minded alternative to the Side Hunt, a Christmas tradition in which revelers competed to see who could shoot more birds and other animals. Now in its 113th year, the count is described by the Audubon Society as the longest-running citizen science project in the world. Last year, more than 63,000 volunteers participated across North and South America, with more than 2,000 local counts, each covering a circular territory 15 miles in diameter. ….

     

     

     

     

    • IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

     

    Merry Christmas and warm greetings from Israel for the year 2013! May the first joint pair of Barn Owls, which nested in a Kibbutz Maoz Haim in Beit Shean Valley (Israeli male and Jordanian female) and raised successfully 7 chicks, will bring peace to the region, as a symbol of regional cooperation.

    Happy New Year,

    Yossi Leshem, and the team of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration, Laturn.

    The Israeli-Jordanian Pair
    The 7 Barn Owl chicks – “Half Jewish, half Muslim…”

    (Photo: Dr. Motti Charter)
    October 5th, 2012: A Lesser-spotted Eagle migrating

    over Israel (Photo: Amir Ben Dov)

     

     


    Figure 1. Cabs lie flooded on October 30, 2012, in Hoboken, NJ, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. AP photo: Charles Sykes.

     


     

    from Alex Zwissler, Chabot Space and Science Center

     


     




     


  2. Conservation Science News December 14, 2012

    Leave a Comment

    Highlight of the Week2012 hottest year on record in US….

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3-POLICY

    4-RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

    7-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

    Highlight of the Week- 2012 hottest year on record in US….

     

    Very warm November assures 2012 will be warmest year in U.S. history

    Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:39 PM GMT on December 07, 2012 +43

    The heat is on again in the U.S. After recording its first cooler-than-average month in sixteen months during October, the U.S. heated up considerably in November, notching its 20th warmest November since 1895, said NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in their latest State of the Climate report. The warm November virtually assures that 2012 will be the warmest year on record in the U.S. The year-to-date period of January – November has been by far the warmest such period on record for the contiguous U.S.–a remarkable 1.0°F above the previous record. During the 11-month period, 18 states were record warm and an additional 24 states were top ten warm. The December 2011 – November 2012 period was the warmest such 12-month period on record for the contiguous U.S., and the eight warmest 12-month periods since record keeping began in 1895 have all ended during 2012. December 2012 would have to be 1°F colder than our coldest December on record (set in 1983) to prevent the year 2012 from being the warmest in U.S. history. This is meteorologically impossible, given the recent December heat in the U.S. As wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt reported, an early-December heat wave this week set records for warmest December temperature on record in seven states. December 2012 is on pace to be a top-20% warmest December on record in the U.S. November 2012 was the 8th driest November on record for the U.S., and twenty-two states had top-ten driest Novembers. The area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought grew from 59% on November 6 to 62% on December 6. This is the largest area of the U.S. in drought since 1954.

     

    Book It: 2012, The Hottest U.S. Year on Record

    Published: December 13th, 2012 By Climate Central

    Average annual temperature in contiguous U.S.

    Report Summary–See Full Report (PDF)Global warming is directly linked to only a few weather events and climate trends. One of them, however, is warming itself, which could make 2012 a watershed climate change year in the U.S. More than superstorms, wildfires, and devastating drought, this year’s record-smashing spring and summer heat waves, with their melted airport runways and warped steel rail lines, are more evidence that climate change is real.

    Last week NOAA announced that 2012 was “likely” to be the warmest year on record in the 48 states, based on temperatures through November. At some point, however, likelihood turns into certainty. Does a warm December push the nation to the point where it is impossible for 2012 to be anything but the warmest year ever recorded in the U.S.?

     

    Mother Nature Is Just Getting Warmed Up: Record-Smashing Early December Assures 2012 Will Be Hottest In U.S. History

    By Joe Romm on Dec 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    We’ve had spring weather in early December — and that guarantees 2012 will be the hottest year on record for the United States…..How warm was early December? As Capital Climate calculates using National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) figures: For the first 10 days of December, new daily record high temperatures have outnumbered record lows by a ratio of 92 to 1. For the 48 contiguous states, the ratio was an incredible 132 to 1, since 3 out of the 10 low records were in Alaska and Hawaii. During the entire week of December 2-8, not a single low temperature record was tied or broken in any of the 50 states, according to NCDC reports. With 3 weeks remaining in the year, the cumulative ratio of heat records to cold records for 2012 has reached 6.0 to 1, more than double the ratio in 2011. If you want to know how to judge whether these ratios are a big deal, consider that a 2009 National Center for Atmospheric Research study found that the ratio for the entire decade of the 2000s — the hottest decade on record globally — averaged to 2.04, which is roughly double what it was a few decades before (see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“). NCAR noted, “The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.” Seriously. This year has rewritten the record books — a winter with spring-like temperatures, a spring with summer-like temperatures, and an all-time
    hottest July. You may remember that March Came In Like A Lamb and Went Out Like A Globally Warmed Lion On Steroids Who Smashed 15,000 Heat Records. As NOAA reported, in March, “There were  21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm, or warmer, than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date”! At the time, Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters said, “this is not the atmosphere I grew up with.” He published a detailed statistical analysis concluding, “It is highly unlikely the warmth of the current ‘Summer in March’ heat wave could have occurred unless the climate was warming.” The science of attributing extreme events to global warming is still emerging, scientists still disagree to what extent a specific event like this heat wave is driven by global warming. But two of the leading experts explain at RealClimate why even small shifts in average temperature mean “the probability for ‘outlandish’ heat records increases greatly due to global warming.” Furthermore, “the more outlandish a record is, the more would we suspect that non-linear feedbacks are at play – which could increase their likelihood even more.” And now we know have emerging scientific analysis that connects global warming and what is happening to the Arctic to more extreme events like heat waves:

    And remember, we’ve only warmed about a degree and a half Fahrenheit in the past century.  We are on track to warm five times times that or more this century. In short, Mother Nature is just getting warmed up!

     


     

     

    • ECOLOGY

     

    Recent PRBO papers:

    • DAN P. ROBINETTE1, NADAV NUR2, ADAM BROWN2 & JULIE HOWAR1 Marine Ornithology 40: 111–116. accepted 13 September 2012

      The Vandenberg State Marine Reserve (VSMR) was established in 1994 with the primary goal of protecting fishes and invertebrates targeted by fisheries. However, studies of other reserves have shown that effects cascade and benefit species at several trophic levels. We tested the hypothesis that the VSMR would provide benefits to nearshore foraging seabirds. We measured the foraging rates (mean number of individuals observed per hour) of seabirds at four plots (two inside and two outside the VSMR) over six years to test the hypothesis that foraging rates are greater inside the reserve than outside. The VSMR spans a coastal promontory, and we controlled for promontory effects by selecting plots at windward and leeward sites. All species showed either no difference or higher rates outside the reserve than inside. The consistency of our results over the six-year period illustrates predictable foraging behavior in these species. Piscivorous species foraged more in leeward plots than windward plots, while the benthic invertebrate specialist foraged more in windward plots. Our results reflect reported differences in community structure around coastal promontories; namely, windward habitats enhance biomass of suspension-feeding invertebrates while leeward habitats provide refuge for fish recruitment. Our results suggest that the VSMR is not protecting significant foraging habitat for nearshore foraging seabirds and that coastal geography should be considered when designing marine reserves to protect these species.

     

    • Seavy, N. E.; Gardali, T.; Golet, G. H.; Jongsomjit, D.; Kelsey, R.; Matsumoto, S.; Paine, S.; Stralberg, D. 2012. Natural Areas Journal
      32: 420-426.

      Given the limitations imposed by logistical and financial constraints, the effectiveness of ecological restoration and land protection may be improved by planning that uses ecologically-based methods for prioritizing actions. Efforts are currently underway to restore river flows to the San Joaquin River in California’s Central Valley. Although fish are the primary restoration target, complementary efforts are being designed to protect and restore riparian and floodplain habitats to benefit the larger ecological community. To inform these efforts, we integrated bird habitat models into an established conservation planning process designed to identify multiple-benefit restoration opportunities on the San Joaquin River. We generated bird-habitat indices for emergent marsh, early successional riparian vegetation, and mid- and late successional riparian vegetation. We then averaged these indices on 18 sites under consideration along the San Joaquin River and used the average habitat score to rank the sites based on their existing bird habitat. Considering these bird-habitat rankings together with expert opinion rankings based on existing habitat quality, restoration potential, and flood management opportunities allowed us to identify sites that ranked high across multiple criteria. Our results illustrate a relatively simple process by which wildlife habitat models can be integrated into conservation planning.

     

    • Kahara, Sharon N.; Duffy, Walter G.; DiGaudio, Ryan; and Records, Rosemary Diversity
      (2012)
      4(4), 396-418; DOI: 10.3390/d4040396.

      The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) is one of several programs implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture to facilitate natural resource management on private lands. Since the WRP’s inception approximately 29,000 ha in California’s Central Valley (CCV) have been restored. However until now, actual benefits of the program to wildlife have never been evaluated. Hydrology in the CCV has been heavily modified and WRP wetlands are managed primarily to support wintering waterfowl. We surveyed over 60 WRP easements in 2008 and 2009 to quantify avian use and categorized bird species into 11 foraging guilds. We detected over 200 bird species in 2008 and 119 species in 2009, which is similar to or higher than numbers observed on other managed sites in the same area. We found that actively managed WRP wetlands support more waterfowl than sites under low or intermediate management, which is consistent with intended goals. Despite reported water shortages, greater upland and un-restored acreage in the southern CCV, WRP wetlands support large numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds, particularly in the early fall months. This is probably due to the severe lack of alternative habitat such as wildlife friendly crops at appropriate stages of the migration cycle. Improved access to water resources for hydrological management would greatly enhance waterfowl use in the southern CCV.

     

    Meadows sustain damage from off-highway vehicles

    Dec. 11, 2012 — Damage to meadowlands near Westwood from off-road vehicles continues to occur on a regular basis, according to Jeff Pudlicki, district forester for WM Beatty & Associates. It happens in the spring and fall when the meadows get wet. The latest destruction took place Sunday, Dec. 2, on the east end of Mountain Meadows Reservoir following a series of rainstorms.

    The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident. Sergeant Kevin Jones said the people who caused between $5,000 and $6,000 in damage have been identified and once the investigation is complete the case will be referred to the district attorney for a felony complaint of vandalism and trespassing.

    “We are going to press charges. We need people to understand it is not acceptable behavior; they are tearing up environments,” said Pudlicki.

    A second incident recently occurred on the roads in the meadow near the Westwood Gun Club. Pudlicki said this case is also under investigation by the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office.

    In response to an email about the negative impacts of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use in wet meadows, Ryan Burnett, director of the Sierra Nevada Group PRBO Conservation Science, sent a long list. They include the following:

    •Disturbs wildlife including species such as the state threatened Greater Sandhill Crane that nest in Mountain Meadows and are sensitive to human disturbance such as OHV.

    •Crushes the nests of the myriad of ground-nesting species that utilize meadows.

    •Compacts fine-textured hydric soils, making them incapable of water absorption….

     

    Squid deaths are a many-tentacled mystery

    Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 9:23 am, Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    Legions of big predatory squid have gathered along the Northern California coast, where they are stranding themselves on Santa Cruz beaches by the hundreds in a mysterious frenzy of suicide. The jumbo invertebrates, known as Humboldt squid, are far north of their normal habitat in the warmer waters of Baja California and along the west coast of South America. Nobody knows why the aggressive, tentacled creatures moved north, but they have been showing up along the Santa Cruz and Monterey coasts with increasing frequency over the past decade, according to researchers.

    “We’re definitely a little baffled, …. said Hannah Rosen, a graduate student and researcher at the laboratory run by California’s pre-eminent squid researcher, William Gilly, at Stanford University’s
    Hopkins Marine Station. “It’s not typical for them to be in Monterey Bay. It is a fairly recent occurrence for them to be here at all,” Rosen said…. The squid found on the beaches this past weekend were all between 2 and 3 feet long, dark red with large, bulging eyes and long tentacles extending outward from a small, toothy mouth.

    The creatures, which can reach almost 5 feet in length and will eat almost anything smaller than they are, including their own species, have been lurking in Monterey Bay since summer. Dead squid were first reported in October, when about 100 washed up in Pacific Grove. Several hundred washed ashore over the weekend on beaches along a 12-mile stretch in Santa Cruz County, one of the largest local mass strandings that researchers can remember. Rosen said the voracious squid, known scientifically as Dosidicus gigas, were last seen in Monterey Bay in 2010. The squid in the bay have primarily been juvenile squid, she said, probably because the young need to feed in a bay until they are big enough to head south. The animals can live up to 2 years….


    A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See

     

     


    Dave McNew/Getty Images A rare and endangered blue whale offshore near Long Beach, Calif.

    By WILLIAM J. BROAD NY Times Published: December 10, 2012

    When a hurricane forced the Nautilus to dive in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” Captain Nemo took the submarine down to a depth of 25 fathoms, or 150 feet. There, to the amazement of the novel’s protagonist, Prof. Pierre Aronnax, no whisper of the howling turmoil could be heard. “What quiet, what silence, what peace!” he exclaimed. That was 1870. Today — to the dismay of whale lovers and friends of marine mammals, if not divers and submarine captains — the ocean depths have become a noisy place.
    The causes are human: the sonar blasts of military exercises, the booms from air guns used in oil and gas exploration, and the whine from fleets of commercial ships that relentlessly crisscross the global seas. Nature has its own undersea noises. But the new ones are loud and ubiquitous.

    Marine experts say the rising clamor is particularly dangerous to whales, which depend on their acute hearing to locate food and one another.
    To fight the din, the federal government is completing the first phase of what could become one of the world’s largest efforts to curb the noise pollution and return the sprawling ecosystem to a quieter state. The project, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seeks to document human-made noises in the ocean and transform the results into the world’s first large sound maps. The ocean visualizations use bright colors to symbolize the sounds radiating out through the oceanic depths, frequently over distances of hundreds of miles.
    It is no small ambition: the sea covers more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface. But scores of the ocean visualizations have now been made public.
    Several of the larger maps present the sound data in annual averages — demonstrating how ages in which humans made virtually no contribution to ocean noise are giving way to civilization’s roar.
    The project’s goal is to better understand the cacophony’s nature and its impact on sea mammals as a way to build the case for reductions
    . …

     

    Seabird Protection Network Point Sur to Point Mugu Report on Breeding Population Trends from 1979-2011 Released. As a product of the Seabird Protection Network Point Sur to Point Mugu Project, the final report on seabird “Breeding Population Trends of Brandt’s and Double-Crested Cormorants, Point Sur to Point Mugu, California, 1979-2011,” was released in November 2012 and will be posted soon on the “Seabird Protection Network” section of the CCNM website at www.blm.gov/ca/ccnm.

     

    Better tools for saving water and keeping peaches healthy
    (December 13, 2012) — Peach growers in California may soon have better tools for saving water. Scientists are evaluating whether infrared sensors and thermal technology can help peach growers decide precisely when to irrigate in California’s San Joaquin Valley. …
    Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Dong Wang is evaluating whether infrared sensors and thermal technology can help peach growers decide precisely when to irrigate in California’s San Joaquin Valley. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and the research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security. Irrigation is the primary source of water for agriculture in the valley during the summer, and wells have been forced to reach deeper to bring up enough water to meet increasing demands. Peaches also require much of their water from June through September, when temperatures and demands for water are at their highest….full story

     

    Relocating elephants fails to decrease human–wildlife conflict: Technique meant to keep animals and humans safe has opposite effects
    (December 12, 2012) — Human–elephant conflict in Sri Lanka kills more than 70 humans and 200 Asian elephants every year. One of the most common tools in combating these conflicts is moving the elephants into ranges away from humans, often into national parks. This is done in hopes of avoiding problems that include elephants raiding crops, breaking into homes and injuring or killing people. … > full story

     

    Water Piped West to Denver Could Ease Stress on Colo. River

    By FELICITY BARRINGER (NYT) December 10, 2012 Compiled: 12:48 AM

    A Bureau of Reclamation report expected this week includes a potentially contentious idea to build a pipeline and export water from the Missouri River to ease demand on the depleted Colorado River. .. The pipeline would provide the Colorado River basin with 600,000 acre-feet of water annually, which could serve roughly a million single-family homes. But the loss of so much water from the Missouri and Mississippi River systems, which require flows high enough to sustain large vessel navigation, would most likely face strong political opposition. “If this gets any traction at all, people in the flyover states of the Missouri River basin probably will scream,” said Burke W. Griggs, the counsel for the Kansas Agriculture Department’s division of water resources. But, he added, the proposal “shows you the degree to which water-short entities in the Colorado River basin are willing to go to get water” from elsewhere, rather than fight each other over dwindling supplies, as they have intermittently for about a century. The new report addresses the adequacy of water supplies over the next 50 years in the Colorado basin, which includes the central and southern Rocky Mountains, the deserts of the Southwest and Southern California. The study, the officials said, will serve as a road map for future federal action in collaboration with the Colorado River basin states. The Denver Post described the pipeline option in an article last week. As far as future water supplies go, the outlook is not good. Most Colorado River water is currently used for agriculture, but that is beginning to shift as the cities of the Southwest continue to grow. The effects of climate change could result in less precipitation over the Rockies, further stressing the supply. …

    Why Rivers No Longer Burn: The Clean Water Act is one of the greatest successes in environmental law.

    By James Salzman|Posted Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, at 5:20 AM ET

    A river catches fire, so polluted that its waters have “no visible life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms.” This could describe the mythological River Styx from Hades. Residents of Cleveland, though, may recognize the government’s assessment of their own Cuyahoga River in 1969. While hard to imagine today, discharging raw sewage and pollution into our harbors and rivers has been common practice for most of the nation’s history, with devastating results. By the late 1960s, Lake Erie had become so polluted that Time magazine
    described it as dead. Bacteria levels in the Hudson River were 170 times above the safe limit….The waste flushed down drains and toilets needed a different approach, so the Clean Water Act provided for billions of dollars in grants to construct and upgrade publicly owned sewage-treatment works around the nation. To protect the lands that filter and purify water as it flows by, permits were also required for draining and filling wetlands. Protecting our nation’s waters may seem like common sense today, but the idea of nationally uniform, tough standards against polluters was both original and radical. Thinking big, the Clean Water Act’s preamble declared that the nation’s waters would be swimmable and fishable within a decade, with no discharges of pollutants within a dozen years. These weren’t idle boasts…The EPA estimates that about half of our rivers and streams, one-third of lakes and ponds, and two-thirds of bays and estuaries are “impaired waters,” in many cases not clean enough for fishing and swimming. These are big numbers. Given the successes described above, how has the Clean Water Act done so poorly despite doing so well? Much of the answer lies in the law’s narrow focus. We have made great progress in controlling industrial pipes that discharge waste, but other major sources remain largely unregulated. To gain sufficient congressional support from farm states in 1972, the Clean Water Act largely exempted runoff from agricultural fields and irrigation ditches. As a result, pesticides, manure, and other pollutants have flowed into streams, rivers, and eventually lakes and bays. To take the most frightening consequence, the Mississippi River basin, draining one-third of the country, empties nutrient-laden waters into the Gulf of Mexico. There, the aptly named “Dead Zone” regularly grows to 6,000 square miles or more, suffocating sea life that cannot swim away from its oxygen-starved waters. Storm-water runoff with oil and trash also threatens water quality around urban areas.

     

    Haymeadows are good for the environment say researchers
    (December 7, 2012) — Traditional haymeadows are much better at supporting biodiversity and preventing water pollution than intensively farmed fields according to new research. This is because haymeadows lose five times less nitrogen from the soil, which is needed for plant growth. However, nitrogen becomes a pollutant if it leaches into rivers and contaminates the water supply. … Lead
    researcher Dr Franciska de Vries of the Lancaster E
    nvironment Centre said: “Nitrogen that leaches from the soil with drainage water forms a threat for water quality and high levels in drinking water can threaten human health. It can also reduce species diversity in rivers and grasslands.” …”We show that traditionally managed haymeadows have lower leaching of nitrogen because the plant roots take up more nitrogen, but also because the microbial community in these hay meadows is dominated by fungi instead of bacteria.” Haymeadows with more fungi are better able to retain nitrogen and prevent it leaching away into the water. “Haymeadows might support more biodiversity because their microbial communities can immobilise three times more added nitrogen into their biomass.”..

     

    As Amazon urbanizes, rural fires burn unchecked
    (December 10, 2012) — Many Amazonians are moving out of the countryside, in search of economic opportunities in newly booming Amazonian cities. The resulting depopulation of rural areas, along with spreading road networks and increased drought, are causing more and bigger fires to ravage vast stretches, say researchers in a new study. … > full story

    Fish have enormous nutrient impacts on marine ecosystems, study finds
    (December 11, 2012) — Fish play a far more important role as contributors of nutrients to marine ecosystems than previously thought. In a pair of articles, they show that fish contribute more nutrients to their local ecosystems than any other source — enough to cause changes in the growth rates of the organisms at the base of the food web. … > full story

    National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy Update

    The National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy is moving forward, and updates are now available on the BLM’s website: http://www.blm.gov/sagegrouse.

     

    Gender differences found in seasonal auditory changes
    (December 10, 2012) — Auditory systems differ between sexes in sparrows depending on the season, a neuroscientist has found. The work adds to our knowledge of how the parts of the nervous system, including that of humans, are able to change. … > full story

     

    From clawed spiders to deep-sea sharks: 137 new species described by California Academy of Sciences in 2012
    (December 7, 2012) — In 2012, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences added 137 new relatives to our family tree, enriching our understanding of the complex web of life on Earth and strengthening our ability to make informed conservation decisions. The new species include 83 arthropods, 41 fishes, seven plants, four sea slugs, one reptile, and one amphibian. They were described by more than a dozen Academy scientists along with several dozen international collaborators. … > full story


    What Tragedy? Whose Commons? | Conservation Magazine

     

     


    Pastoralist PR is dreadful. In the classic cautionary tale, communal land ownership inevitably leads to overgrazing. But maybe the story’s got it wrong.

    Sep 19, 2012 – By Fred Pearce Mohammed is a modern Bedouin from the Badia, the arid “outback” of eastern Jordan. He exchanged his camels years ago for


    Birds in search of food heading south from Canada

     

     

    Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, Mass.) /  December 8, 2012 WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Bird-watchers in Massachusetts are seeing evidence of what is expected to be an invasion of hungry birds coming to the region. The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester reports (http://bit.ly/SNO2ab ) that grosbeaks, pine siskins, finches, redpolls and other seed-eaters are winging their way south from the forests of Canada, hoping to find something to eat. The tree seed crop, normally plentiful in the forests of Ontario and Quebec, has in some cases failed, causing what is known as a bird irruption. David Small, president of the Athol Bird and Nature Club, a bird count leader in central Massachusetts and a supervisor at the Quabbin Reservoir, said he has seen pine grosbeaks at the reservoir headquarters and several locations. Central Massachusetts birders also report seeing white-winged and red crossbills.

     


    Robot Glider Detects Rogue Waves and Other Ocean Anomalies Missed by Satellites

     

     

    Scientific American  - ‎December 11, 2012‎

    When the robotic Papa Mau completed its 16,668-kilometer scientific expedition across the Pacific Ocean last month, the surfboard-sized submarine did more than set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle….

     

    Citizen science more than a century later: Ordinary people go online to track Gulf oil spill
    (December 10, 2012) — Researchers report on a new form of “citizen science,” concluding that it can help assess health and environmental threats, such as those posed by the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. The researcher studied reports to an online Oil Spill Map and discovered that citizen science can red-flag potential hazards quickly and offers specific local information that often fails to make it into official scientific reports. … > full story

     

     

     

    • CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

       


    U.S. Drought Expands In Kansas, Oklahoma And Texas

     

     

    Reuters  |  Posted: 12/13/2012 11:10 am EST  |  Updated: 12/13/2012 2:55 pm EST Drought continued to expand through many key farming states within the central United States in the past week, as scattered rainfall failed to replenish parched soils, according to a report issued Thursday by state and federal climatology experts…Overall, roughly 61.87 percent of the contiguous United States was in at least “moderate” drought, a slight improvement from 62.37 percent a week earlier. The portion of the contiguous United States under at least “severe” drought expanded, however, to 42.59 percent from 42.22 percent. Roughly 63 percent of the new winter wheat crop that U.S. farmers planted in the fall is in drought-hit areas, with the hard red winter wheat belt – especially from South Dakota to Texas – remaining deeply entrenched in drought, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The Farming Forecast Calls for Change

    By BRUCE CAMPBELL New York Times Op Ed contributor Published: December 12, 2012

    WEATHER and agriculture have always been intertwined in most every part of the world. No matter which continent, farmers have always been at the mercy of rainfall and temperature.

    Thus it is curious that most of the conversation surrounding climate change — how the weather has been modified by industrial activity — revolves around reducing emissions (climate “mitigation”) and not on how to modify agriculture to new weather conditions. But with the world population expected to rise by another one billion people in 15 years, we need to produce more food with less emissions while adapting to changing climates.

    Another round of international negotiations on climate change wrapped up in Doha, Qatar, last week without a major consensus on emissions. This was mostly expected — at the talks last year the most important decision was to draft a legally binding international treaty in 2015 that would take effect in 2020. This year’s talks marked the beginning of that effort.

    Strikingly, though, there was a lack of consensus on addressing agricultural adaptation. Efforts to implement a formal program that addresses the dire problem of food security ended without agreement and the issue was punted to June for additional discussion.

    But outside of diplomatic circles, a different consensus is forming — one that does not rely on negotiations. People are noticing that climate change has already taken hold. Maybe this is due to the superstorm of news coverage that followed Hurricane Sandy, which caused more than $50 billion in damage in the New York City region.

    More likely, though, it was the failed monsoon that withered crop yields in India, or the fierce drought that hit most of the United States this year and that many other places still confront. In Doha — like much of the Middle East and North Africa — deserts and other drylands are becoming even drier, driving down local crop yields. Food prices have become increasingly volatile.

    • Many governments are not waiting for an international consensus before taking action. In Brazil, for example, a two-year-old, $250 million program has financed more than 2,000 farming projects to help recover degraded pastures, improve the processing of livestock waste, implement no-till agriculture to increase the life of the soil, plant commercial forests and employ other practices that have low emissions and respond to the changing climate.
    • In Niger, more than 1,000 separate projects were implemented in agriculture, fisheries and livestock management, benefiting more than 100,000 people. These projects developed almost 9,000 hectares of land with more sustainable management practices. Almost 90 percent of them reduced water and soil erosion. They also increased plant cover and the amount of carbon stored in the landscape.
    • In Vietnam, rice productivity was increased and methane emissions reduced through intermittent draining of the paddies. The project was launched in 2007, and by 2011 more than one million farmers were using the approach on 185,000 hectares, increasing yields by 9 to 15 percent and farmer income by $95 to $260 per hectare per crop season [pdf].

    These initiatives are all successful, but the problem lies in their scale. Only 10 percent of Vietnamese rice farmers are served by that country’s program; a sizable increase in capital is needed to expand the program’s reach. It is unclear whether Vietnam, Niger and other developing countries will ever have sufficient funds accessible to farmers that can be used to tackle adaptation. This is where the shortcomings of the international efforts hurt most.

    In the absence of a global treaty that provides incentives for farm adaptation there is often no choice but to continue with traditional methods. New approaches are desperately needed so that all the world’s farmers can keep pace with the changing weather.

    Bruce Campbell is the director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, based in Copenhagen.

     

    150,000 Years Of Sea Level History Suggests High Rates Of Future Sea Level Rise

    Dec 7 2012 by Rob Painting, Skeptical Science

    Key points

    • An accurately dated, near-continuous, history of sea level variations for the last 150,000 years has been compiled.
    • Comparison with ice core data reveals that major global ice volume loss, as implied by sea level rise, has followed relatively quickly after polar warming. The Greenland ice sheet responding virtually straight away (0-100 years lag time), and a 400-700 lag for the Antarctic ice sheet.
    • These response times are much faster than was previously commonly suspected, and implies that once sufficient polar warming is underway, future ice sheet collapse may be unavoidable.
    • During all episodes of major global ice loss, sea level rise has reached rates of at least 1.2 metres per century (equivalent to 12 mm per year). This is 4 times the current rate of sea level rise.

    The last few million years of Earth’s climate has been dominated by the ice age cycles. These consisted of long cool periods (glacials) where giant icesheets have grown on the continental land masses at, and near, the poles. With the water evaporated off the oceans being locked up as ice on land, this ice sheet build-up substantially lowered global sea level. During the shorter, warmer, intervals (interglacials) the ice sheets have disintegrated, and with their glacial meltwater draining back into the oceans, sea level has risen. From the coldest part of the last ice age (roughly 20,000 years ago) to present, global sea level has risen an astounding 120 metres. Although all the details are not well understood, the driving force behind these glacial/interglacial cycles are slow variations in Earth’s orbit as it circles the sun, which slightly decreased/increased the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface. For the current interglacial, the orbitally-driven warming eventually came to an end after the Holocene Climatic Optimum (HCO), and by 4-5000 years ago all the vulnerable land-based ice had disappeared. The volume of the global ocean was static until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, and by the 19th Century global sea level had begun to rise again. Despite undergoing short-term accelerations, and decelerations, globally-averaged sea level has undergone long-term acceleration up to the present day (Church & White [2006]Merrifield [2009])…..

     

     

    Landmark climate change report leaked online by skeptic | Environment | guardian.co.uk

    The Guardian December 14, 2012

    The draft of a major global warming report by the UN’s climate science panel has been leaked online. The fifth assessment report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is not due to be published in full until September 2013, was uploaded onto a website called Stop Green Suicide on Thursday and has since been mirrored elsewhere on the internet. The IPCC, which confirmed the draft is genuine, said in a statement: “The IPCC regrets this unauthorized posting which interferes with the process of assessment and review. We will continue not to comment on the contents of draft reports, as they are works in progress.” A little-known US-based climate skeptic called Alex Rawls, who had been accepted by the IPCC to be one of the report’s 800 expert reviewers, admitted to leaking the document. In a statement posted online, he sought to justify the leak: “The addition of one single sentence [discussing the influence of cosmic rays on the earth's climate] demands the release of the whole. That sentence is an astounding bit of honesty, a killing admission that completely undercuts the main premise and the main conclusion of the full report, revealing the fundamental dishonesty of the whole.”

     

    New York Planners Prep For A ‘New Normal’ Of Powerful Storms

    by Christopher Joyce, National Public Radio December 13, 2012

    December 13, 2012 3:22 AM Listen to the Story 5 min 41 sec It will take tens of billions of dollars to repair the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy. But scientists who study climate change say repair is not enough. As the climate warms, ice sheets and glaciers will melt, raising the sea level. That means coastal storms will more likely cause flooding. So New Yorkers, local politicians and scientists face a tough decision: How to spend limited funds to defend themselves from what climate experts call “the new normal.”

    New York City faces the Atlantic Ocean like a chin waiting to be hit, and Sandy stepped up and whacked it. And there will be more storms like Sandy.

    “Storms today are different,” says Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which includes the National Weather Service. “Because of sea level rise, the storm surge was much more intense, much higher than it would have been in a non-climate changed world.”

    Even garden-variety storms may someday heave water up to your doorstep. So the question now is: How to prepare for the next big one?

    ….New York is seeking about $10 billion to prepare for the next big storm. Some experts, like Montalto, say you get more bang for your buck with a “distributed” defense — dunes, wetlands, bigger stormwater culverts, even urban parks that slow down the flow of water. They’re cheaper and designed to fit ….Cynthia Rosenzweig, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says most New Yorkers have reached a tipping point on the subject of climate change.

    ….”The evidence is indeed piling up that climate change is no longer something that is happening in future decades, and everyone’s eyes are glazing over as the scientists are talking about it,” she says.

    Rosenzweig co-authored a report that looked at the costs and benefits of preparing the city for climate change. It calculated that $1 of prevention saves $4 in future repairs.

    “If we’re going to be having this much damage again and again, our whole economy of our region will not be able to survive,” she says….

     

     

    High tides bring S.F. Bay Area flooding

    Will Kane Updated 10:46 pm, Wednesday, December 12, 2012




    A king tide floods the Manzanita park and ride lot, just off Highway 101 in Mill Valley California on Wednesday morning. According to the National Weather Service, some of the highest tides of the year are due to hit the Bay Area today through Friday.  The California King Tides Initiative, a partnership of state agencies and non-profit organizations, encourages members of the public to document the highest seasonal tides (or king tides) that occur along the state’s coast to help the public visualize the impact of rising waters on the California coast.  Photo: Mike Kepka, The Chronicle / SF

    Susan Schwartz already drives a Prius and has solar panels on her home. But the 69-year-old Berkeley woman still doesn’t think she’s doing enough to stop global warming.

    On Thursday and Friday, Schwartz will join hundreds of other Bay Area residents to document the spectacularly high tides lapping at shores and seawalls across the region. The tides aren’t new – they happen every year – but this week a coalition of government and nonprofit advocates hopes the photos will draw attention to the rising seas. The photos of the king tides will be collected online on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr and will offer the most compelling preview of what scientists say the Bay Area could look like in 2070, when the sea level is expected to be as much as 3 feet higher than it is now, organizers said. “King tides themselves are the highest high tides of the year and not related to global climate change,” said Marina Psaros, global coordinator for the King Tides Initiative, which is organizing the effort. “But (the pictures) can give us a good sense of where the water is going to be under sea level-rise conditions, so people can get out and see what sea level rise will look like on a daily basis in 50 years.”

    Organizers hope evocative images of a flooded Embarcadero sidewalk in San Francisco or sopping estuary in Oakland will get people to think about how rising carbon levels, melting glaciers and dirty energy will impact their lives.

    “Our hope is to make a connection,” said Taylor Nairn, a program assistant for Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, an affiliate of the King Tides Initiative. “While king tides in and of themselves aren’t related to sea level rise, the large group of photos do make a statement that these could be tomorrow’s sea levels. Climate change and sea level rise aren’t this abstract concept in the future; people can see it now.”

    On Wednesday, 24 hours before the highest high tides, streets in Mill Valley were flooded and beaches in San Francisco and the Peninsula were already inundated. Highway 1 near Highway 101 in Marin was closed to traffic.

     

    Study probes impact of climate change on cold-blooded animals
    (December 12, 2012) — Biologists are examining the influence of climate change, particularly warmer winters, on the survival and potential fecundity of cold-blooded animals. … > 

     

     

    Climate modelers predict warmer, wetter Northeast U.S. winters by 2070
    (December 12, 2012) — A new high-resolution climate study, the first to apply regional climate models to examine likely near-term changes in temperature and precipitation across the Northeast United States, suggests temperatures are going to be significantly warmer in all seasons in the next 30 years, especially in winter. Also, they project that winters will be wetter, with more rain likely than snow. … > full story

    Scary news for corals — from the Ice Age
    (December 12, 2012) — There is growing scientific concern that corals could retreat from equatorial seas and oceans as the Earth continues to warm, marine researchers have warned. Working on clues in the fossil coral record from the last major episode of global warming, the period between the last two ice ages about 125,000 years ago, the researchers found evidence of a sharp decline in coral diversity near the equator. … > full story

     

    Massive crevasses and bendable ice affect stability of Antarctic ice shelf
    (December 7, 2012)
    Gaping crevasses that penetrate upward from the bottom of the largest remaining ice shelf
    on the Antarctic Peninsula make it more susceptible to collapse, according to University of Colorado Boulder researchers who spent the last four Southern Hemisphere summers studying the massive floating sheet of ice that covers an area twice the size of Massachusetts. But the scientists also found that ribbons running through the Larsen C Ice Shelf — made up of a mixture of ice types that, together, are more prone to bending than breaking — make the shelf more resilient than it otherwise would be. The research team from CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences presented the findings Dec. 6 at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco. The Larsen C Ice Shelf is all that’s left of a series of ice shelves that once clung to the eastern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula and stretched into the Weddell Sea. When the other shelves disintegrated abruptly — including Larsen A in January 1995 and Larsen B in February 2002 — scientists were surprised by the speed of the breakup. Researchers now believe that the catastrophic collapses of Larsen A and B were caused, at least in part, by rising temperatures in the region, where warming is increasing at six times the global average. The Antarctic Peninsula warmed 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the middle of the last century. The warmer climate increased meltwater production, allowing more liquid to pool on top of the ice shelves. The water then drained into surface crevasses, wedging them open and cracking the shelf into individual icebergs, which resulted in rapid disintegration.… > full story

     

    More ice loss through snowfall on Antarctica
    (December 12, 2012) — Stronger snowfall increases future ice discharge from Antarctica. Global warming leads to more precipitation as warmer air holds more moisture — hence earlier research suggested the Antarctic ice sheet might grow under climate change. Now a new study shows that a lot of the ice gain due to increased snowfall is countered by an acceleration of ice-flow to the ocean. … > full story

     

    Greenland ice sheet carries evidence of increased atmospheric acidity
    (December 7, 2012) — Studies have shown decreasing levels of the isotope nitrogen-15 in core samples from Greenland ice starting around the time of the Industrial Revolution. New research suggests the decline corresponds to increased acidity in the atmosphere.
    The gradual buildup of acidity in the atmosphere over a century got a boost around 1950 with a sharp increase in nitrogen-oxygen compounds, referred to as NO
    x, mainly produced in high-temperature combustion such as occurs in coal-fired power plants and motor vehicle engines. NOx is easily converted to nitric acid in the atmosphere, further increasing the acidity. NOx carries a chemical signature — the abundance of nitrogen-15, one of two nitrogen isotopes — which changes depending on the source. That means it is possible to distinguish NOx that came from a forest fire from NOx produced as a result of lightning, soil emissions, car exhaust and power plant emissions. The level of nitrogen-15 can be measured in nitrates that formed from NOx and were deposited in ice sheets such as those in Greenland. Current evidence indicates NOx from coal-fired power plant and motor vehicle emissions likely carries more nitrogen-15 than NOx produced by natural sources, so nitrogen-15 levels in deposited nitrate could be expected to go up. However, those levels actually went down in the late 1800s, following the Industrial Revolution, Geng said. That’s because increasing sulfuric acid levels in the atmosphere triggered chemical and physical processes that allowed less nitrogen-15 to remain in vaporized nitrate, which can be carried to remote places such as Greenland. The growing acidity in the atmosphere was occurring decades before acid rain was recognized as a threat, particularly in industrial areas of North America.… > full story

     

    What is permafrost? Q & A

    29 Nov 2012 Roz Pidcock www.carbonbrief.org

    Melting permafrost in the Arctic could push the earth towards climate change that is “irreversible on human timescales”, according to a new report released yesterday. Here’s our quick guide to what you should know about melting permafrost. The report, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), says billions of tonnes of carbon once locked up in permafrost could be released into the atmosphere this century – accelerating global warming. But how much might be released, and how quickly? These questions are still being debated in the scientific community, which means that it’s sometimes hard for media coverage to strike the right balance when discussing how significant the effect could be…..

     


    World Bank: Climate change will hit Middle East and North Africa especially hard

     

     


    Washington Post, December 5, 2012 DOHA, Qatar – The Middle East and North Africa will be especially hard hit by climate change in the coming decades, the World Bank said in a report Wednesday, saying the region will see less rainfall, more recording-breaking temperatures and rising..

    Climate change creates grizzly conflicts in Arctic

    Lack of hunting restrictions a concern for bear conservationists

    By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun December 10, 2012

    Climate change is pushing tundra grizzlies into Arctic communities where they would not normally be seen, raising issues about human safety and conservation of the bears.

    Vincent L’Hérault, a biologist and PhD student at the University of Quebec in Rimouski, said grizzlies are expanding their range in a northeasterly direction, showing up in communities such as Arviat, Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet and Chesterfield Inlet.

    When that happens, the grizzly is usually shot on the grounds of human safety, but also for the valued hide and meat. In the past, hunters would have been forced to travel some distance to find one.

    “There is more and more conflict with the local communities,” L’Hérault said in an interview. “Elders say they never saw grizzlies in their childhood. People are pretty concerned about this new phenomenon.”

    L’Hérault, who is investigating traditional knowledge related to Arctic predators and climate change, is to speak at the eighth annual ArcticNet scientific conference, which is being held Dec. 10 to 14 in Vancouver. About 450 participants are expected from Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Norway, the U.S and Russia. Other topics include the effects of climate change on hydrology and ice, risks associated with resource development, pollution, food security and Canadian sovereignty.

    Unlike polar bears, which are hunted according to community quotas, grizzlies are managed as fur-bearers and are not subject to the same restrictions, L’Hérault said.

     

    Climate warming unlikely to cause near-term extinction of ancient Amazon trees, but multiple threats to the forest remain
    (December 13, 2012) — A new genetic analysis has revealed that many Amazon tree species are likely to survive human-caused climate warming in the coming century, contrary to previous findings that temperature increases would cause them to die out. … > full story

     

    Will climate change cause water conflict?
    (December 12, 2012) — Climate change plays a secondary role in the origin or aggravation of social conflicts linked to water. Political discourses must avoid directly linking climate change with social conflict and human insecurity, without taking into account other political and socio-economic factors. …
    The results of the CLICO project, however, found that such discourses oversimplify a complex reality. Climate and water resource changes are import
    ant, but play only a secondary role — at least for the time being — in the causation of conflict and insecurity compared to political, economic and social factors. According to the research, countries with good institutions are unlikely to experience violence because of water, and populations in countries with strong welfare and civil security systems will suffer much less from climate disasters, compared to those in countries without.full story

     

    Death Toll From Typhoon Exceeds 450 in Philippines

    By FLOYD WHALEY (NYT) December 8, 2012

    The government’s main disaster agency said that over 500 people were still missing, and 393,000 people were said to be living in evacuation centers or receiving some form assistance.

     

    Wildfires light up western Australia
    (December 7, 2012) — Careful observers of the new “Black Marble” images of Earth at night released this week by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have noticed bright areas in the western part of Australia that are largely uninhabited. Why is this area so lit up, many have asked? Away from the cities, much of the night light observed by the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite in these images comes from wildfires. … > full story

     

    Conservatives can be persuaded to care more about environmental issues when couched in terms of fending off threats to ‘purity’
    (December 10, 2012) — When it comes to climate change, deforestation and toxic waste, the assumption has been that conservative views on these topics are intractable. But new research suggests that such viewpoints can be changed after all, when the messages about the need to be better stewards of the land are couched in terms of fending off threats to the “purity” and “sanctity” of Earth and our bodies.
    A UC Berkeley study has found that while people who identified themselves as conservatives tend to be less concerned about the environment than their liberal counterparts, their motivation increased significantly when they read arti
    cles that stressed the need to “protect the purity of the environment” and were shown such repellant images as a person drinking dirty water, a forest filled with garbage, and a city under a cloud of smog. Published Dec. 10 in the online issue of the journal Psychological Science, the findings indicate that reframing pro-environmental rhetoric according to values that resonate strongly with conservatives can reduce partisan polarization on ecological matter… > full story

    Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer. The Moral Roots of Environmental Attitudes. Psychological Science, 2012 DOI: 10.1177/0956797612449177

     

     

     

    • POLICY

     

     

    Op-Ed Contributors NY Times

    Could the Farm Bill Devastate America’s Birds?

    By JIM LYONS, MARK REY and ERIC WASHBURN Published: December 10, 2012

    STRETCHING across the Upper Midwest is a 276,000-square-mile expanse full of wetlands and grasslands. This vast area — known as the prairie pothole region and extending from northwestern Iowa to Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and into Canada — provides the breeding habitat for roughly half of North America’s migratory waterfowl. But unless Congress acts, this priceless ecological domain could come under severe threat. Congress is debating reauthorization of the federal farm bill. The legislation is not just about the future of agricultural and nutrition programs. It is also about conservation and the fate of one of North America’s most important breeding grounds for upland birds like grouse and pheasants, along with waterfowl like mallards, gadwall, blue-winged teal, northern pintail, redheads, northern shovelers, and canvasback ducks.

    Since 1985, the farm legislation has required farmers to protect wetlands and fragile soils on their lands in order to qualify for billions of dollars a year in farm-program payments. But the bill that has emerged from the House Agriculture Committee lacks an important provision that would preserve those conservation incentives. Perhaps no place would be more threatened by this failure than the prairie pothole region, where, 10,000 years ago, decaying glaciers left behind an extraordinary landscape marked by thousands of shallow wetlands.

    This region is already being plowed under because high commodity prices have enticed farmers to opt out of the less lucrative government assistance programs, freeing them to drain wetlands and plant as much of their land as possible. A recent study by Defenders of Wildlife and the Environmental Working Group found that the annual rate of grassland loss nationwide had doubled between 2006 and 2011, much of it in the prairie pothole region. If this rate continues, most of the remaining grasslands there will disappear over the next 15 years.

    It is not an overstatement to say that this looming destruction is one of America’s greatest conservation challenges. The farm bill now being considered in Congress would eliminate longstanding direct federal payments to farmers. Instead, both the House and Senate bills would provide even more generous federal assistance for farmers who choose to purchase federal crop insurance. (At present, farmers who sign up for crop insurance are not required to conserve their lands and wetlands.) Unlike the House measure, the Senate bill would require farmers who do so to protect wetlands and fragile soils, as they were required to do as a condition of the direct payment program, and, until 1996, under the crop insurance program.

    Thanks to the farm bill’s long-standing conservation requirements, soil erosion in the United States dropped by 43 percent between 1982 and 2007, saving more than a billion tons of rich topsoil, according to the Agriculture Department. In the prairie pothole region, there has been a resurgence in the populations of pheasants and ducks. And that has translated into a boom in recreational hunting that has generated tens of millions of dollars in annual income for rural communities, landowners and the states. It has also benefited sport hunting in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, where the waterfowl retreat for the winter….

     

    Stop-Start Engines Stop Waste, Start Jobs

    By Climate Guest Blogger on Dec 14, 2012 at 10:30 am by Peter Lehner, via NRDC’s Switchboard

    The average American idles his or her engine about 16 minutes a day. That means we burn about 10.6 billion gallons of gas each year–nearly a month’s supply–to go absolutely nowhere. That gas is wasted.

    According to the automotive experts at Edmunds.com, “You can make a Corolla get the same gas mileage as an 18-wheeler by sitting in the car with the air-conditioner running while waiting in an elementary-school pickup line.”

    Experts concur that if you’re waiting for more than 30 seconds, you’ll save gas by stopping and restarting your engine. You’ll keep the air cleaner, too. Some cities and states even have anti-idling laws to prevent air pollution. When I was at the New York Attorney General’s Office, we brought a series of anti-idling cases that resulted in mandatory driver training for most of the public school bus fleet, protecting kids from breathing in polluted air outside schools.

    However, a recent survey from Vanderbilt University shows that many people are unaware that most engine idling is unnecessary, wasteful, or even dangerous. We have our own calculus as to when to cut the engine–depending on how hot or cold it is, how long the line is, or who we’re waiting for. What we don’t think about is how much gas we’re wasting.

     

     

    Will the West ever solve its water woes?

    Posted by Brad Plumer on December 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Congress isn’t planning to take action on climate change any time soon. But if the planet keeps warming, a number of states won’t be able to ignore the problem quite so easily. One good place to see this is in the Colorado River basin.

    The Colorado River provides fresh water to nearly 40 million people in seven states out west: Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. A sizable chunk of U.S. agriculture relies on that water — about 15 percent of the nation’s crops and 13 percent of its livestock. (Indeed, the vast majority of the river’s water is used for irrigation and agriculture.) But there’s a problem: The Colorado River may soon no longer have enough water to satisfy the region’s needs. Thanks to rapid population growth in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix, water demand is surging. Meanwhile, the supply of water is dropping — and could keep dropping as climate change speeds evaporation, shrinks the snow pack in the Rocky Mountains, and makes droughts more likely. By some recent estimates, annual flows could drop up to 20 percent by mid-century. The dilemma is laid out in a big new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, looking at the future of the Colorado River. The chart below sums things up. The authors of the study took the best estimates of future population growth in the region and paired them with estimates of future water supply. Trouble ensues…

     

     

    AP-GfK Poll: Belief in global warming rises with thermometers, even among science doubters

    By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, December 14, 6:55 AM

    WASHINGTON — Nearly 4 out of 5 Americans now think temperatures are rising and that global warming will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds. Belief and worry about climate change are inching up among Americans in general, but concern is growing faster among people who don’t often trust scientists on the environment. In follow-up interviews, some of those doubters said they believe their own eyes as they’ve watched thermometers rise, New York City subway tunnels flood, polar ice melt and Midwestern farm fields dry up….

     

     

    Despair after climate conference, but UN still offers hope

    Sun Dec 9, 2012 11:14am EST

    * U.N. process has to accelerate before 2015

    * Many leave Doha conference in despair

    By Barbara Lewis and Alister Doyle

    DOHA, Dec 9 (Reuters) – At the end of another lavishly-funded U.N. conference that yielded no progress on curbing greenhouse emissions, many of those most concerned about climate change are close to despair.

    As thousands of delegates checked out of their air-conditioned hotel rooms in Doha to board their jets for home, some asked whether the U.N. system even made matters worse by providing cover for leaders to take no meaningful action.

    Supporters say the U.N. process is still the only framework for global action. The United Nations also plays an essential role as the “central bank” for carbon trading schemes, such as the one set up by the European Union.

    But unless rich and poor countries can inject urgency into their negotiations, they are heading for a diplomatic fiasco in 2015 – their next deadline for a new global deal.

    “Much much more is needed if we are to save this process from being simply a process for the sake of process, a process that simply provides for talk and no action, a process that locks in the death of our nations, our people, and our children,” said Kieren Keke, foreign minister of Nauru, who fears his Pacific island state could become uninhabitable.

     

     

    Doha Climate Summit Ends, Marking Start Of A Long March To 2015

    Posted: 10 Dec 2012 08:30 AM PST by Andrew Light, Rebecca Lefton, Adam James, Gwynne Taraska, and Katie Valentine
    After a 48-hour marathon negotiating session, largely held behind closed doors, this year’s UN climate negotiations Qatar ended at approximately 9:45pm Saturday Doha time.  Like last year’s Durban climate summit, three distinct negotiating streams produced three overlapping but independent agreements The Kyoto Protocol was reauthorized for another seven years, albeit with fewer countries signing on, so now covering some 12 or 15 percent of global emissions.  The negotiating track created in 2007 on “Long-term Cooperative Action,” that produced the Copenhagen Accords and the Cancun Agreements, which include voluntary commitments covering 80 percent of global emissions, concluded.  And the new track on the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action,” designed to conclude a new treaty in 2015 that aims to be applicable to all parties and cover 100 percent of global emissions took its first steps toward its primary mission. Responses to the meeting’s outcome have been varied, but, as with most of these climate summits it is largely considered far from adequate to address the growing climate crisis.  EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard called it a “modest step toward a global climate deal.” But these criticisms seem overwrought. It’s not that critics of the meeting are wrong to want faster international action on climate change. We all should.  It’s just pointless to imagine this body working much faster than it is designed to do. This is especially true now. As we have been arguing for the past year, the 194 parties to the UN climate convention unanimously decided last year to set themselves on a path which would not produce a major breakthrough in the negotiations for another three years.  It should come as no surprise that the outcome of this meeting was relatively modest.  We conclude here as we have before:  The intrinsic difficulties in the UN climate process demand that we continue to look for other opportunities for faster climate action in the near term while we slowly build up the institutions created in the past four years out of these annual climate meetings…..

    ….As we have been arguing for years now, given the difficulties of forging a new climate agreement that is both applicable to all and sufficiently ambitious to reach acceptable levels of mitigation, we should turn now to reductions in other climate pollutants which are shorter lived and which are more powerful than CO2, such as methane, HFCs and black carbon.  They also have the benefit of not driving the entire global economy and so should be easier to phase down and eventually out.

    The U.S. has submitted a proposal every year since 2009 with Canada and Mexico to phase out HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.   This action is the single biggest achievable measure the world can undertake to close the current ambition gap.  Their levels are projected to double by 2020, in large part because they are being used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances that are being phased-out under the Montreal Protocol. At the last meeting of the Montreal Protocol in Switzerland, the parties agreed to set up a discussion group on this proposal and asked the scientific advisory board to prepare a report on technical options for phasing out HFCs.  But India, China, and Brazil still continue to block this measure and so if the US is going to make this happen they must elevate it to the highest levels of diplomacy with these countries in the next administration.

    In addition, last February, the U.S. and five other countries created the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to focus on the reduction of a range of short-lived climate pollutants that collectively could reduce warming by half a degree Celsius and maintain those savings if followed by aggressive carbon reduction measures; 26 countries joined by partners in the private sector and NGO community are now part of this coalition of nearly 50 members.  We estimate that together, such measures could cut the current ambition gap in half on the high end of the Copenhagen Pledges.

    While one of these measures is more “top-down,” determining a global target and implementing it, and the other is more “bottom-up,” collecting a group of countries willing to take up this problem together and creating opportunities to assist each other in raising their collective ambition, the most important feature of them to us is that they can all be pursued outside of the UN climate negotiations.  Without taking opportunities like this, the long, slow process of forming a new UN climate treaty may ultimately result in a wasted effort.

     


    Climate Talks Yield Commitment to Ambitious, but Unclear, Actions

     

     

    NY TIMES DOHA, Qatar – The annual United Nations climate change negotiations concluded here late Saturday after the customary all-night negotiating session and recriminations over who must bear the costs and burdens of a warming planet….

    Top officials meet at U.S. Office of Naval Research as Arctic changes quicken
    (December 13, 2012) — The U.S. Navy’s chief of naval research, Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, met this week with leaders from U.S. and Canadian government agencies to address research efforts in the Arctic, in response to dramatic and accelerating changes in summer sea ice coverage. … > full story

     

    Insurance Industry Paying Increasing Attention to Climate Change

    Dec. 13, 2012 — The insurance industry, the world’s largest business with $4.6 trillion in revenues, is making larger efforts to manage climate change-related risks, according to a new study published December 13 in the journal Science.

    Weather- and climate-related insurance losses today average $50 billion a year. These losses have more than doubled each decade since the 1980s, adjusted for inflation,” says the study’s author Evan Mills, a scientist in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “Insurers have become quite adept at quantifying and managing the risks of climate change, and using their market presence to drive broader societal efforts at mitigation and adaptation.”

    Hurricane Sandy is only the most recent U.S. example of the kinds of increasing liabilities posed by severe weather events in a changing climate. Managing a portfolio of $25 trillion in assets, similar in size to mutual funds or pensions globally, the insurance industry has become a significant voice in world policy forums addressing the issue, as well as a market force, investing at least $23 billion in emissions-reduction technologies, securities, and financing, plus $5 billion in funds with environmental screens, seeing risks to investments in polluting industries and opportunities in being part of the clean-tech revolution….

     

    On environment, Obama likely to keep walking middle line

    His second term is unlikely to feature sweeping legislation on pollution or climate change. Upcoming EPA decisions on emissions limits could be a sign of what to expect.

    By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau LA TIMES December 8, 2012 WASHINGTON — On election night, President Obama uttered a phrase that thrilled environmentalists. “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality,” Obama said, “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” Environmental optimists run the risk, however, of ending up like a kid who expected a puppy for Christmas and got socks instead. Those in industry who think that Obama’s frequent campaign talk about the benefits of oil and gas could mean opening more land to drilling may also be disappointed. Over the last four years, Obama charted a middle course on the environment that led to landmark pollution rules, growth in clean energy and the continued development of fossil fuels. For at least much of his second term, there will probably be no sweeping new legislation on climate, air or water pollution, many analysts say, especially with the House of Representatives still controlled by Republicans who view environmental safeguards as economic threats. At the same time, it is unlikely that the administration will throw open vast new swaths of federal lands to oil and gas development. “This was not a status quo election, but that doesn’t mean the president is going to move on a liberal agenda,” said Joshua Freed, vice president of the clean energy program at Third Way, a center-left Washington think tank. “Instead, what the president has done over the first term is a good road map of what to look for in his second.” The White House and entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior and Energy departments will more likely carry on the painstaking work of building out programs and regulations they began in the first term. Some analysts say an incremental approach might stand a better chance than a grand legislative effort to reshape the country’s energy sources, cars and air and water quality….

     

    Climate Treaty Hinges on Obama Making Case, Ex-Aides Say

    By Kim Chipman & Alex Morales – Dec 10, 2012 4:17 AM PT

    One of the biggest things President Barack Obama can do to fight global warming is to talk about it. That’s the conclusion of at least seven former U.S. presidential aides and advisers serving in three administrations. Their comments came as envoys from more than 190 countries at a United Nations conference in Doha took steps toward completing a treaty by 2015 that would limit fossil fuel emissions starting in 2020. President Barack Obama at the Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nevada. Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

    While Obama is succeeding in shaping the international response to the issue, he hasn’t said enough about it at home, said the officials, led by John Podesta, who oversaw Obama’s transition into office four years ago. Obama’s reticence may make it more difficult to persuade Congress and the public to favor an international deal toward the end of his second term. “The president really has to start talking about climate change again,” Podesta said in an interview in Washington. “He has to engage a national conversation, not just one White House meeting, but a big conversation.”

     

    7 Ways Looming Budget Cuts To Public Lands And Oceans Will Affect Americans

    Posted: 07 Dec 2012 09:30 AM PST by Jessica Goad, Michael Conathan, and Christy Goldfuss

    On January 2, 2013 a set of large, across-the-board spending cuts to nearly all federal agencies is set to take place in accordance with the Budget Control Act 2011. These massive slashes—known as the “fiscal showdown” or “sequestration”—are a direct result of conservatives in Congress holding the American economy hostage in order to safeguard tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. While much has been written and said about what this would do to the economy, health care, national security, and other major domestic programs, one relatively unexplored issue is the effect it would have on some of America’s most treasured assets: our oceans and public lands….In this issue brief, we examine seven key areas where federal land and ocean management agencies, such as the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, make critical investments on which Americans have come to depend and what cutting these agencies might mean, including:

    • Less accurate weather forecasts
    • Slower energy development
    • Fewer wildland firefighters
    • Closures of national parks
    • Fewer places to hunt
    • Less fish on our tables
    • Diminished maritime safety and security

     

    Sen. Boxer to form ‘climate change caucus’

    The Hill (blog)   December 11, 2012‎

    Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she’s forming a “climate change caucus,” and argues that Hurricane Sandy “changed a lot of minds” on the topic.. The move signals that Democrats might again be ready to aggressively promote bills to curb greenhouse gas emissions, even as the political prospects for global warming legislation remain remote in Congress. “I am going to form a climate change caucus, because people are coming up to me, they really want to get into this. I think Sandy changed a lot of minds,” Boxer told reporters in the Capitol. “It is going to work with all the committees and all the committee chairmen to make sure we can move forward legislation that reduces carbon pollution and also works on mitigation and all of the other elements,” she said. Boxer and some other Democrats are already seeking measures to improve coastal resilience to storms such as Sandy; many scientists say climate change is making weather events more dangerous. But Boxer also indicated that Democrats might also push measures to address greenhouse gas emissions head-on, although she did not provide specifics. A cap-and-trade bill narrowly passed the House, then controlled by Democrats, in 2009. But even a scaled-back version collapsed in the Senate in 2010 without ever coming up for a vote. “I think you are going to see a lot of bills on climate change,” Boxer told reporters. “I don’t know whether [they will include] cap-and-trade, but there will be a lot of different bills. I have already spoken to three colleagues that have bills in the works,” she said. Boxer said she was hopeful that Republicans would participate. “We are sending out feelers,” she said.

     

    OREGON: Holiday harvest of crabs hits a snag

    The ocean commercial Dungeness crab season is delayed through Dec. 30 by fishery managers to improve quality

    By Jeff Wright  and Ilene Aleshire The Register-Guard Published: December 11, 2012

    Ryan Rogers on Monday got an early lump of coal for Christmas — in the form of an announcement from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that the opening of the ocean commercial Dungeness crab season in Oregon will be delayed through Dec. 30.

    “This is devastating to us,” said Rogers, owner of The Fisherman’s Market in Eugene for the past 15 years. “Crab at Christmas is a big percentage of our business, so we’re scrambling.”

    How big? “The week before Christmas I (typically) buy close to 10,000 pounds of live crab,” Rogers said.

     

     

    Climate Change Threatens Ski Industry’s Livelihood

    By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE (NYT) December 13, 2012

    As temperatures rise, analysts predict that scores of the nation’s ski centers, especially those at lower elevations and latitudes, will eventually vanish. …Whether this winter turns out to be warm or cold, scientists say that climate change means the long-term outlook for skiers everywhere is bleak. The threat of global warming hangs over almost every resort, from Sugarloaf in Maine to Squaw Valley in California. As temperatures rise, analysts predict that scores of the nation’s ski centers, especially those at lower elevations and latitudes, will eventually vanish.

    Under certain warming forecasts, more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast will not be able to maintain a 100-day season by 2039, according to a study to be published next year by Daniel Scott, director of the Interdisciplinary Center on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

    By then, no ski area in Connecticut or Massachusetts is likely to be economically viable, Mr. Scott said. Only 7 of 18 resorts in New Hampshire and 8 of 14 in Maine will be. New York’s 36 ski areas, most of them in the western part of the state, will have shrunk to 9. …

     

     

    Congress Takes On Sandy: ‘The Elephant In This Room Is The Impact Of Climate Change’

    Posted: 07 Dec 2012 08:30 AM PST by Katie Valentine

    Both the House and Senate held hearings on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Hurricane Sandy this week. Although most of the talk focused on disaster funds and FEMA’s effectiveness in dealing with the super storm, the issue of climate change was also discussed.

    In their statements, several members of the House and Senate tied the effects of Hurricane Sandy to climate change and recognized the need to rethink how communities rebuild and prepare for storms in the future.

    In her opening remarks during the House hearing Tuesday, Donna Edwards (D – MD) referred to climate change as the “elephant in this room,” saying a discussion on how to rethink infrastructure in light of major storms is essential to prevention efforts.

    The elephant in this room that needs to be spoken about is the impact of climate change and the increasing intensity of storms, the variedness of the storms and the breadth of a storm like Sandy…I think we have to rebuild and rethink our infrastructure in those terms, and that’s something that this congress and our next congress ought to address sooner rather than later.” Rep. Edwards and others in the House and Senate hearings pointed to the need to rethink how the power grid is managed in densely populated areas; the need to improve water and sewer infrastructure that is close to coastlines; and the need to make transit infrastructure stronger as key priorities for congress and FEMA to address after Sandy….

     

    Corps not budging on Miss. River flap Posted:  12/07/2012 1:56 PM

    ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers has turned back requests by federal lawmakers and the barge operators to release more water from the Missouri River, believing the drought-starved Mississippi River it feeds still will remain open to shipping. The industry, however, warns that the situation is growing increasingly dire.

    Army Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, in a Thursday letter obtained by The Associated Press, told lawmakers from Mississippi River states she doesn’t consider it necessary to boost Missouri River flows into  the Mississippi — something the politicians urgently had sought.

    Darcy, a top Army Corps official, noted this week’s revised National Weather Service forecast, which showed the Mississippi’s level wasn’t falling as rapidly as expected. She also said the corps is hastening its push to rid the river of rock pinnacles south of St. Louis that endanger barges when the water level is low.

     


    How to cut American oil use in half in 20 years

     

     

    Older, gas guzzlers are lined up for scrapping as part of the popular “cash for clunkers” program at a lot in Torrance, Calif. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

    By Kenneth R. Weiss December 6, 2012, 1:34 p.m. LA TIMES

    The Union of Concerned Scientists has figured out how Americans can cut their oil consumption in half within 20 years. Sound impossible? Not really, according to scientists and engineers who have done calculations for us non-math majors. It all boils down to making a few choices to conserve and deploying existing technology or technology already in the pipeline, says the Union of Concerned Scientists, best known in the 1970s and 1980s for warning us off the nuclear arms race. With the threat of global nuclear annihilation in decline, the nonprofit science advocacy group has retooled to offer us well-studied advice on how to survive other global challenges. That’s where its focus on climate change comes in, including its new campaign, Half the Oil plan. It’s got a new video to show the United States not exactly how to kick the oil habitat, but to help us better manage it. The first step was taken in August, when President Obama decided to double fuel economy standards for the U.S. fleet of cars and light trucks, average 54.5 gallons by 2024. “It was a monumental achievement,” said UCS spokesman Eric Bontrager, putting us “right on track to halving our oil consumption in 20 years.” Other needed steps, he said, are raising fuel-efficiency standards for commercial trucks, expanding production of biofuels and electric vehicles, retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient and being smarter about other forms of transportation including trains, planes and ships. The union has broken its plan into steps, showing how each step can save a million barrels a day here and a million barrels a day there. Expect resistance, the group warns. It urges Americans to stay the course, resurrecting Rosie the Riveter as its cultural icon. In the new drawing, she looks much more modern and has — these are scientists, right? — oversized safety glasses.

    How Does the Half the Oil Plan Work?

    The Half the Oil Plan slashes oil use by tapping into efficient technologies and putting innovative solutions to work:

    Increasing the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks. Unleashing the full potential of electric vehicles. Investing in the development of better, cleaner biofuels. Building smarter, more diverse transportation systems.

    It’s all possible with technologies already available or just around the corner. Now we need bold action — from our leaders, from our communities, and from individuals like you to make real progress on cutting our oil use.

     

     

     

     

    • RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     

    WEBINAR:

    Climate Engagement 2012: What We’ve Learned, Where We’re Headed (via webinar)

    Friday December 14 from 1-2 pm EST (10-11 am PST). The conversation is exclusive to Climate Access members (not a member yet? Apply here). REGISTER HERE for the roundtable. We hope you can join us.

    The roundtable will be moderated by Cara Pike, Climate Access founder and director of TRIG’s Social Capital Project, and will feature a panel of experts including:

    • Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz is the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and a Climate Access advisory board member. A widely recognized expert on public opinion on global warming, Tony’s research investigates the psychological, cultural, political, and geographic factors that drive public environmental perception and behavior.
    • Joseph Romm is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and oversees the blog ClimateProgress.org. One of the country’s most influential communicators on climate science, solutions, and politics, Joe’s latest book is “Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga.”
    • Anna Fahey is senior communications strategist with Sightline Institute and a Climate Access advisory board member.  She synthesizes the latest research and distils best practices in messaging for regional leaders through talking points memos (Flashcards), messaging workshops, and blog posts.

     

     

     

    ~ 2013 UNOLS Chief Scientist Training Cruise Opportunity ~
    New to planning oceanographic field work?  Wondering how to request research vessel time, or to request a submersible or ROV?  Needing samples or wire-time to initiate a research project?  If so, take part in the 2013 UNOLS Chief Scientist Training Cruise! This cruise and a pre-cruise information short course will instruct early career marine scientists including PhD students on how to effectively plan for, acquire, utilize and report on time at sea for multi-disciplinary research and education. The full program will take place from October 13-22, 2013, beginning and ending at the University of Rhode Island Marine Operation Facilities in Narragansett, RI, and will include a 7-day cruise on the R/V Endeavor to at sea locations in the Middle Atlantic Bight. Small stipends are provided for participant travel costs (from within the U.S. only), research supplies and shipping. However, space is limited. To apply you must be an employee or student at a U.S. institution or a U.S. citizen working abroad. To be considered applications must be received by March 15, 2013. Please visit http: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RK7XPHG .

     

     

    US-Australian Dialogue on Carbon Pricing” on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at the UC Davis Conference Center, Davis, CA.

    The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy announce the confirmed speakers for the “US-Australian Dialogue on Carbon Pricing” on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at the UC Davis Conference Center, Davis, CA.

    The conference will include a welcome from UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and many high-level speakers including:

    The Hon. Kim Beazley, Australian Ambassador to the USA

    The Hon. Mark Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change & Energy Efficiency

    • John Pérez, Speaker, California Assembly
    • Fran Pavley, Californian Senator and co-author of AB 32
    • Matthew Rodriquez, Secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency
    • Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board
    • James Goldstene, Executive Officer, ARB
    • Karen Lanyon, Australian Consul- General
    • Justin Johnson, Deputy Commissioner, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

    And many more… If you would like to view a draft agenda for this event please, click here. Space is limited for this event so please, REGISTER HERE, today! This event is part of Australia’s 10th annual G’Day USA program of events. For more information please, click here. If you have any questions on this or the other events, please feel free to email carbon.pricing@dfat.gov.au

     

     

     

    New Climate Science Center InitiativesFY 2012 CSC Funded Projects

    More than $10 million has been awarded by the Department of the Interior’s regional Climate Science Centers to universities and other partners for research to assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors to guide managers of parks, refuges, and other resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change. Topics being addressed include:

    how sea-level rise will affect coastal resources

    how climate will affect vegetation

    how these changes will affect valued species

    how changes in water availability will affect both people and ecosystems— and ecosystem services

    Ultimately, these projects will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient.

     

     

     

     

    • RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

     

     

    Wind and solar power paired with storage could power grid 99.9 percent of the time
    (December 10, 2012) — Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses, according to new research. A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low, scientists found. … > full story

     

     

    Solar Panels for Every Home

    By DAVID CRANE and ROBERT F. KENNEDY Jr. NY TIMES OP ED Published: December 12, 2012

    Residents of New Jersey and New York have lived through three major storms in the past 16 months, suffering through sustained blackouts, closed roads and schools, long gas lines and disrupted lives, all caused by the destruction of our electric system. When our power industry is unable to perform its most basic mission of supplying safe, affordable and reliable power, we need to ask whether it is really sensible to run the 21st century by using an antiquated and vulnerable system of copper wires and wooden poles. Some of our neighbors have taken matters into their own hands, purchasing portable gas-powered generators in order to give themselves varying degrees of “grid independence.” But these dirty, noisy and expensive devices have no value outside of a power failure. And they’re not much help during a failure if gasoline is impossible to procure. ….

     

     

    Energy development on public lands generated $12 billion in 2012

    By Julie Cart December 6, 2012, 3:36 p.m.

    Energy development on public lands and waters pumped more than $12 billion into federal coffers in 2012, $1 billion more than the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. “These revenues reflect significant domestic energy production under President Obama‘s all-of-the-above energy strategy and provide a vital revenue stream for federal and state governments and American Indian communities,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. Money from the extraction of oil, gas and coal from federal land is divvied up several ways, including substantial deposits into the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which purchases land to set aside for conservation. More than $2.1 billion was sent to 36 states from royalties and other revenues collected on federal lands within their borders. Native American tribes received $718 million, up from $538 million in 2011 Another $24 million was collected earlier than in the past because of the government’s program to monitor reporting errors in real time rather than through later audits.

     

    Solar power prices to continue falling through 2025, experts say
    (December 12, 2012) — Prices for photovoltaic modules — the part of solar panels that turn sunlight into electricity — are expected to continue falling, in line with the long-term trend that has persisted since 1980, according to experts. On average, global installations per year are not expected to increase much from the record level in 2011, but the total installed solar capacity is expected to soar to 300 gigawatts by 2018, and 600 GW by 2025. … > full story


    Japanese Researchers Invent Clothes That Can Power Cell Phones

     

     

    Agence France Presse | Dec. 11, 2012, 11:04 AM

    Clothes that could literally light up your life were unveiled Tuesday by Japanese researchers who said their solar-cell fabric would eventually let wearers harvest energy on the go.

    The new fabric is made of wafer-thin solar cells woven together that could see people powering up their mobile phones and other electronics with their sweater or trousers.

    But its creators conceded there was work to do before taking the fabric to market.

    “We still have things to solve before commercialisation, such as coating for the conductive wires and improving the fabric’s durability,” said an official at the Industrial Technology Center in central Japan’s Fukui Prefecture. “But we’ve already been contacted by electronics makers, blind makers and others who showed interested in our invention.”…

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     


    Interview: ‘Chasing Ice’ Star James Balog Talks Art, Science, Rationality, And Climate Denial

     

     

    By Stephen Lacey on Dec 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Photo: James Balog

    This summer, the Arctic lost an area of sea ice equivalent to the state of Maine every day for a month. When the meltback was over in September, the Arctic shed an area of ice the size of Canada and Texas combined — a 40 percent decline over the historical average. And just last month, scientists reported that the pace of ice loss in Greenland is five times greater than it was in the 1990′s, a development they called “extraordinary.” Some predict ice-free summers in the Arctic as soon as 2016. Yet, these changes have gotten only modest coverage in the press. Even as scientists documented the “astonishing” melt in the Arctic this summer, television news outlets covered Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan’s workout routine three times more than record sea ice loss.

    Why aren’t people paying attention? One reason is that it’s difficult to imagine the scope of the problem. For those with only a casual understanding or interest in global warming, the changes listed above might read like another laundry list of environmental impacts that aren’t relevant to daily life. That’s where James Balog, star of the new film Chasing Ice, comes in. As a long-time photographer, Balog has tried to illustrate the interaction between humans and nature throughout his career. In 2007, after personally witnessing the melting of glaciers on an assignment for National Geographic, he started a groundbreaking project to document the demise of the world’s ice. Called the Extreme Ice Survey, Balog and his team put 27 cameras in place around the world and have taken pictures of glaciers every hour of daylight since. Chasing Ice documents the enormously challenging process of getting the project off the ground, as well as the jaw-dropping final product showing geologic changes taking place in just a few years. Suddenly, the melting of the Arctic becomes real, immediate, and terrifying.

    More importantly, through the time-lapsed photos and the film’s narration, Balog and director Jeff Orlowski successfully humanize the glaciers and explain why their changes are so important. This is one of the most important outcomes of the film. And judging from the response of both viewers and film critics, their approach is moving people in a big way.

    Watch Chasing Ice. Bring your family, bring your friends, watch it on the big screen if you can. It will fill you with awe for the beauty of ice, admiration for the tenacity of Balog and his crew, and terror at the scale of changes we’re creating on earth.
    I spoke to Chasing Ice star James Balog about the film and his philosophy behind communicating the reality of climate change….

    Photo: James Balog

    Photo: James Balog

     

    Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs Also Wiped out the ‘Obamadon’

    Dec. 10, 2012 — The asteroid collision widely thought to have killed the dinosaurs also led to extreme devastation among snake and lizard species, according to new research — including the extinction of a newly identified lizard Yale and Harvard scientists have named Obamadon gracilis.

    “The asteroid event is typically thought of as affecting the dinosaurs primarily,” said Nicholas R. Longrich, a postdoctoral associate with Yale’s Department of Geology and Geophysics and lead author of the study. “But it basically cut this broad swath across the entire ecosystem, taking out everything. Snakes and lizards were hit extremely hard.”

    The study was scheduled for online publication the week of Dec. 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Earlier studies have suggested that some snake and lizard species (as well as many mammals, birds, insects and plants) became extinct after the asteroid struck Earth 65.5 million years ago, on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula. But the new research argues that the collision’s consequences were far more serious for snakes and lizards than previously understood. As many as 83 percent of all snake and lizard species died off, the researchers said — and the bigger the creature, the more likely it was to become extinct, with no species larger than one pound surviving…

     

    Fibershed bringing ‘farm-fresh’ clothing to the region 

    Many of us are familiar with the concept of a foodshed (the region where food is produced and the paths it travels to its final consumer), and the importance of buying local food in order to support local farmers, businesses, and resilient local economies. Marin has a thriving foodshed with many strong local linkages, but few of us apply this local logic and purchasing power to the clothes we wear every day. This is where Rebecca Burgess and Fibershed step in. Like a food or watershed, a fibershed is a geographic region where all the fibers and dye plants for garments can be sourced. Burgess believes that “fiber will follow food” into the public’s consciousness. Burgess began her Fibershed project with a personal commitment to wear clothes sourced and dyed within a 150 mile radius from her front door for a year. In today’s era of inexpensive imported clothing and a general public disconnect from where and how garments are made, this was a challenge. This challenge brought Burgess closer to the source of her clothes, led to many fiber-spun relationships within the region, and the beginnings of a Fibershed movement….

     

     

    Orca pod swims under kayakers-VIDEO

    There’s whale-watching and then there’s this: a group of kayaking sightseers got the experience of a lifetime when a pod of orcas swam right under their kayaks. We don’t know where the footage was shot, but it’s pretty impressive it was shot at all considering the photographer was perched in a kayak with a whale under it… It’s amazing none of the kayakers were flipped by the whales, but equally as impressive that none of them had a heart attack when they saw a group of killer whales swimming right at the….

     

     

    Was life inevitable? New paper pieces together metabolism’s beginnings
    (December 12, 2012) — A new synthesis by two researchers offers a coherent picture of how metabolism, and thus all life, arose. The study offers new insights into how the complex chemistry of metabolism cobbled itself together, the likelihood of life emerging and evolving as it did on Earth, and the chances of finding life elsewhere. … > full story

    BPA in dog training aids: High estrogen-mimicking chemical concentrations found in dog training batons
    (December 10, 2012) — Sometimes orange, sometimes white, dog trainers often use plastic fetching batons called bumpers to teach dogs how to retrieve. But researchers have discovered that the dogs also may fetch a mouthful of potentially dangerous chemicals at the same time. … > full story

     

    What Are the Near-Term Climate Pearl Harbors? What Will Take Us from Procrastination To Action?

    Posted: 07 Dec 2012 01:12 PM PST Joe Romm climateproress.org

    So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent…. Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger….  The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close.  In its place we are entering a period of consequences….  We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now….” – Winston Churchill, November 12, 1936, House of Commons

    What kind of climatic mini-catastrophes might move public and policymaker opinion over the next decade?  Please share your thoughts below.

    The battleship USS Arizona belches smoke as it topples over into the sea during a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in a Dec. 7, 1941 file photo. The ship sank with more than 80 percent of its 1,500-man crew, including Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd. The attack, which left 2,343 Americans dead and 916 missing, broke the backbone of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and forced America out of a policy of isolationism.” (AP Photo/File)

    Today marks the 71th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  In the wake of the extreme weather in the past two years, including superstorm Sandy — all of which served to increase concern about global warming among the public and some politicians — I’m updating my post from 3 years ago, “What are the near-term climate Pearl Harbors?” (which I had updated already last year).

    The genesis of the original piece started with an October 2008 post, “Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 7: The harsh lessons of the financial bailout.”  It concluded that a key driver of serious government action is “bad things must be happening to regular people right now.”  Shortly after that I wrote a post on the paper “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” by Hansen et al.  I noted the authors conclude: The most difficult task, phase-out over the next 20-25 years of coal use that does not capture CO2, is herculean, yet feasible when compared with the efforts that went into World War II. The stakes, for all life on the planet, surpass those of any previous crisis. The greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable.

    A NY Times
    blogger posed this question, “What kind of wake-up call does Mr. Romm think is conceivable on a time scale relevant to near-term policy?”

    My reply was “Multiple Pearl Harbors over the next decade — half or more of these happening” followed by a list of 9 items.

    ….The Japanese commander of the attack, Mitsuo Fuchida, was quite surprised he had achieved surprise.  Before the Russo-Japanese war of 1904, the Japanese Navy had used a surprise attack to destroy the Russian Pacific Fleet at anchor in Port Arthur.  Fuchida asked, “Had these Americans never heard of Port Arthur?” So if you have the right hypothesis or worldview, you can make sense out of “noisy” warnings.  If you don’t, then you will be oblivious even to signs that in retrospect will seem quite obvious.  Certainly future generations will be stunned by our obliviousness.

    In the case of the almost non-stop series of “off the charts” extreme climatic events that many opinion leaders seem shocked about over and over again — they aren’t merely “explainable and predictable” after the fact.  They were very often predicted or warned about well in advance by serious people.  The powers that be simply choose to ignore the warnings because they don’t fit their world view.

    Unfortunately for the nation and the world, there is no American Churchill on climate.  Quite the reverse: One of the two major political parties in this country has chosen to double down on denial (see National Journal: “The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones”). The other political party has a remarkable number of feckless people on this crucial issue, including its nominal leader (see “The Sounds Of Silence: Team Obama Launched The Inane Strategy Of Downplaying Climate Change Back In March 2009“). We have an extraconstitutional, supermajority 60-vote requirement in the U.S. Senate for legislation, that gives the minority a stranglehold on our future That lack of statesmenship means the country is not going to act on the basis of the increasingly dire warning of scientists (see Lonnie Thompson on why climatologists are speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization”). No, things are going to have to get worse.  And it certainly will take more than one climate Pearl Harbor.  I fear it will take most of these happening over the span of a few years:

    1. Arctic goes [virtually] ice free before 2020. It would be a big, visible global shock.
    2. Rapid warming over next decade, as Nature and Science articles suggest is quite possible (posts here and here)
    3. Continued (unexpected) surge in
      methane
    4. A [multi-year] megadrought hitting the SW [and Great Plains] comparable to what hit southern Australia.
    5. More superstorms, like Katrina.
    6. A heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003 one [Russia's in 2010] but hitting the U.S. breadbasket.
    7. Something unpredicted but clearly linked to climate, like the bark beetle devastation.
    8. Accelerated mass loss in Greenland and/or Antarctica, perhaps with another huge ice shelf breaking off, but in any case coupled with another measurable rise in the rate of sea level rise.
    9. The Fifth Assessment Report (2012-2013) really spelling out what we face with no punches pulled.

    ….That was my original list [only slightly modified].  I think it holds up, except for number 9.  The IPCC has not only undermined its credibility but demonstrated time and time again that it is incapable of spelling out what we face with no punches pulled — see “Blockbuster IPCC Chart Hints at Dust-Bowlification, But Report Is Mostly Silent on Warming’s Gravest Threat to Humanity” and “IPCC’s Planned Obsolescence: Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!“….

    Finally, Pearl Harbor #1 is increasingly likely (see Death Spiral Watch: Experts Warn ‘Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer’ In A Decade If Volume Trends Continue). The fact that what’s happening in the Arctic (and its implications for sea level rise, the tundra, and our weather) isn’t one of the major media stories of the year — comparable to the fiscal cliff — may be the clearest evidence that the media is under- and mis-reporting the story of the century. What I didn’t realize when I wrote the original list is that the shockingly fast loss of Arctic ice would itself lead to more superstorms and extreme weather (see “NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather“). So the current bout of extreme weather is likely the “new normal.” The Pearl Harbors are here. The Churchills and FDRs aren’t.

     

    Onion soaks up heavy metal: Bioremediation with waste food
    (December 10, 2012) — Onion and garlic waste from the food industry could be used to mop up hazardous heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, mercury and tin in contaminated materials, according to a new research. … > full story

     

    Caffeinated coffee may reduce the risk of oral cancers
    (December 10, 2012) — A new study finds a strong inverse association between caffeinated coffee intake and oral/pharyngeal cancer mortality. The authors say people who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee per day were at about half the risk of death of these often fatal cancers compared to those who only occasionally or who never drank coffee. … > full story

     

    Nature nurtures creativity after four days of hiking
    (
    December 12, 2012) — Backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature disconnected from electronic devices, according to a new study by psychologists. … > full story

     

    Vegetable compound could become ingredient to treating leukemia
    (December 12, 2012) — A concentrated form of a compound called sulforaphane found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables has been shown to reduce the number of acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells in the lab setting, said researchers. … > full story

    Vitamin D can help infection-prone patients avoid respiratory tract infection
    (December 13, 2012) — Treating infection-prone patients over a 12-month period with high doses of vitamin D reduces their risk of developing respiratory tract infection — and consequently their antibiotic requirement, according to a new study by researchers in Sweden. … > full story

     

    Wooden hip be lovely? Replacing damaged bones with implants based on wood
    (December 13, 2012) — Could aging and damaged bones be replaced with implants based on wood? That’s the question Italian researchers hope to answer. … > full story

     

     

    LESS EMF—electromagnetic shields for cell phones and portable phones:

    http://www.lessemf.com/cellphon.html

    BlocSockTM

    “Near Field Shielding Phone Pouch” Think of it as a luxurious pillow case for your phone. Soft and attractive, it protects your phone like an ordinary phone case, PLUS innovative near field shielding material built-in to one side shields your body while carrying the phone and shields your head while making calls. BlocSock™ has two compartments, the main compartment covers the whole phone for transport. During calls, put the phone in the smaller “kangaroo style” pouch. Very effective! Vigorous independent SAR testing showed a stunning 96% reduction of SAR value. Color is black
    (product color in images shown for clarity only)


    Pong Radiation Protection Cell Phone Case Tech Test Lab

    One of the first accessories many iPhone owners consider is a proper case — a case allows you to personalize your phone while also protecting your investment. But have you ever considered a case that offers protection for you? Pong Research claims to deflect 95% of near-field cell phone radiation, possible insurance against the long-term effects of using a cell phone daily… We’re on the fence about the dangers of cell-phone radiation. It’s invisible and undetectable by our eyes and ears, and most studies have assured us that the non-ionizing type of radiation cellular phones emit is safe. There are legitimate concerns though, as cell phones have just been in heavy use since the 90′s — too short a time to know the long-term effects. A well written, and alarming, article on the subject can be found here on GQ that compares cell phones to cigarettes — a wide-spread and fashionable trend initially touted as safe and then eventually discovered to have grave effects on our health. What do we know about cell phone radiation?…

     

     

    • IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

     

    By Lee Judge, the Cartoonist Group

     

     


     


  3. Conservation Science News December 7, 2012

    Leave a Comment

    Highlight of the Week

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3-POLICY

    4-RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

    7-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

    Highlight of the Week-

     

    NOAA ARCTIC REPORT CARD: UPDATE 2012:

    New records set for snow extent, sea ice extent and ice sheet surface melting,

    despite air temperatures – a key cause of melting – being unremarkable relative to the last decade. Multiple observations provide strong evidence of widespread, sustained change driving Arctic environmental system into new state.

    Highlights:

     

    Must see NOAA Video summarizing findings—2 minutes

    Published on Dec 5, 2012 by NOAAPMEL

    Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012 – Tracking recent environmental changes, with 20 essays on different aspects of the environment, by a international team of 141 scientists from 15 different countries, with an independent peer-review organized by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Arctic Council. More information and PDF of entire report at http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard

     

    NOAA Press Release:


    Arctic continues to break records in 2012: Becoming warmer, greener region with record losses of summer sea ice and late spring snow

     

     

    December 5, 2012

     

    Climate Progress:

    NOAA: Climate Change Driving Arctic Into A ‘New State’ With Rapid Ice Loss And Record Permafrost Warming

    Posted: 06 Dec 2012 09:26 AM PST

    Arctic sea ice is melting much, much faster than even the best climate models had projected. The reason is most likely unmodeled amplifying feedbacks. Image via Arctic Sea Ice Blog.

    “Scary New Report on Arctic Ice” is the Weather Channel’s headline for NOAA’s sobering 2012 Arctic Report Card. Everyone should indeed be scared by what we are doing to the Arctic because it will accelerate global warming, speed up sea level rise, and make deadly superstorms like Sandy more frequent and more destructive (see “NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather“).

    This is what’s new up north in 2012:

    Here’s a video summary from NOAA:

    Two of the most worrisome highlights are:

    The record Greenland melt is scary because if the Greenland ice sheet disintegrates, sea levels would rise 20 feet — and the process appears to be accelerating to a critical “tipping point” (see also “Science Stunner: Greenland Ice Melt Up Nearly Five-Fold Since Mid-1990s”). Indeed, polar researcher Jason Box, lead author of the Greenland section of the report, told the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco:

    “In 2012 Greenland crossed a threshold where for the first time we saw complete surface melting at the highest elevations in what we used to call the dry snow zone,” he told reporters at the AGU. “As Greenland crosses the threshold and starts really melting in the upper elevations it really won’t recover from that unless the climate cools significantly for an extended period of time which doesn’t seem very likely.”

    The tundra warming is scary because it is a frozen locker of carbon whose defrosting will further accelerate warming (see “Carbon Feedback From Thawing Permafrost Will Likely Add 0.4°F – 1.5°F To Total Global Warming By 2100).”

    Here is more detail on what’s happening in the tundra: In 2012, new record high temperatures at 20 [meters, 65 feet] depth were measured at most permafrost observatories on the North Slope of Alaska and in the Brooks Range, where measurements began in the late 1970s. Only two coastal sites show exactly the same temperatures as in 2011.

    A common feature at Alaskan, Canadian and Russian sites is greater warming in relatively cold permafrost than in warm permafrost in the same geographical area. During the last fifteen years, active-layer thickness [ALT] has increased in the Russian European North, the region north of East Siberia, Chukotka, Svalbard and Greenland. The “ALT is the top layer of soil and/or rock that thaws during the summer and freez[es] again during the fall, i.e., it is not permafrost.” The report makes painfully clear why all of these Arctic trends are going to continue — global warming and amplifying feedbacks:

    “Large changes in multiple indicators are affecting climate and ecosystems, and, combined, these changes provide strong evidence of the momentum that has developed in the Arctic environmental system due to the impacts of a persistent warming trend that began over 30 years ago. A major source of this momentum is the fact that changes in the sea ice cover, snow cover, glaciers and Greenland ice sheet all conspire to reduce the overall surface reflectivity of the region in the summer, when the sun is ever-present. In other words, bright, white surfaces that reflect summer sunlight are being replaced by darker surfaces, e.g., ocean and land, which absorb sunlight. These conditions increase the capacity to store heat within the Arctic system, which enables more melting – a positive feedback. Thus, we arrive at the conclusion that it is very likely that major changes will continue to occur in the Arctic in years to come, particularly in the face of projections that indicate continued global warming.”

    Anyone who thinks we can delay aggressive deployment of carbon-free technology simply has shut their eyes and ears to the growing scientific evidence.

    Related Post:

     

    Highly recommended film:
    Chasing Ice
    www.chasingice.com/ NOW PLAYING- check for local/regional listings

     



    Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of climate change. Using time-lapse cameras, his …

    A former skeptic about climate change, National Geographic photographer James Balog began to illustrate what could be the biggest story in human history when he started the Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog deployed revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. As the climate-change debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist on an urgent mission to deliver irrefutable evidence, as well as hope, to our carbon-powered planet. Winner of the Excellence in Cinematography Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Producer/Director: Jeff Orlowski. (US 2012) 75 min.

    SynopsisShowtimesAwardsMedia Reviews

     

     

     

    • ECOLOGY

     

     

    Mercury in coastal fog linked to upwelling of deep ocean water
    (December 4, 2012) — An ongoing investigation of elevated mercury levels in coastal fog in California suggests that upwelling of deep ocean water along the coast brings mercury to the surface, where it enters the atmosphere and is absorbed by fog. Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who leads the investigation, emphasized that the amount of mercury in fog is not a health concern. “These are parts-per-trillion levels, so when we say elevated, that’s relative to what was expected in atmospheric water,” he said. “The levels measured in rain have always been fairly low, so the results from our first measurements in fog were surprising.”

    Weiss-Penzias and his team collected their first fog samples in the summer of 2011 and published their findings in a paper in Geophysical Research Letters in February 2012. The team, including researchers at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and CSU Monterey Bay, collected additional fog samples in the summer of 2012 and also analyzed water samples collected at different depths in Monterey Bay. Weiss-Penzias presented the latest findings in a talk at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on December 4.

    Mercury is a highly toxic element that is released into the environment through a variety of human activities, including the burning of coal. In California, mercury mines in the coast ranges produced large amounts of elemental mercury for use in gold mining operations, leading to contamination of watersheds throughout the state. Bacteria in soil and sediments transform elemental mercury into methylmercury compounds that are especially toxic and readily absorbed by organisms.

    ….”Dimethylmercury is more stable in the deep ocean, but we’re not quite sure how it forms or where it’s coming from,” he said. “We found elevated levels in the surface water during upwelling, and it readily evaporates from the surface into the atmosphere, where it decomposes into monomethylmercury and gets into fog droplets.”

    When the fog moves onto the land, it collects on the leaves of redwood trees and other vegetation and drips onto the ground, depositing significant amounts of mercury onto the land. “We calculated that more methylmercury is deposited by fog than by rain, but the error bars are large,” Weiss-Penzias said. ….

    Methylmercury becomes increasingly concentrated in organisms higher up the food chain, and mercury levels in some predatory fish are high enough to raise health concerns. This contamination of ocean fish is the result of biological sequestering of mercury that has been accumulating in the oceans since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. Similarly, the mercury that moves from ocean waters into fog is probably not fresh pollution, but the result of the historical legacy of mercury pollution from coal burning and other sources, Weiss-Penzias said…. > full story

     

     


    World’s Big Trees Are Dying: Alarming Increase in Death Rates Among Trees 100-300 Years Old

     

     


    The largest living organisms on the planet, the big, old trees that harbor and sustain countless birds and other wildlife, are dying. A report by three of the world’s leading ecologists in today’s issue of the journal Science warns of an alarming increase in deathrates among trees 100-300 years old in many of the world’s forests, woodlands, savannahs, farming areas and even in cities. “It’s a worldwide problem and appears to be happening in most types of forest,” says lead author Professor David Lindenmayer of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) and Australian National University.”Large old trees are critical in many natural and human-dominated environments. Studies of ecosystems around the world suggest populations of these trees are declining rapidly,” he and colleagues Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University, Australia, and Professor Jerry Franklin of Washington University, USA, say in their Science report. “Research is urgently needed to identify the causes of rapid losses of large old trees and strategies for improved management. Without… policy changes, large old trees will diminish or disappear in many ecosystems, leading to losses of their associated biota and ecosystem functions.”…  ”Large old trees play critical ecological roles. They provide nesting or sheltering cavities for up to 30% of all birds and animals in some ecosystems. They store huge amounts of carbon. They recycle soil nutrients, create rich patches for other life to thrive in, and influence the flow of water within landscapes and the local climate. “Big trees supply abundant food for numerous animals in the form of fruits, flowers, foliage and nectar. Their hollows offer nests and shelter for birds and animals like Australia’s endangered Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) — and their loss could mean extinction for such creatures. “In agricultural landscapes, large old trees can be focal points for vegetation restoration; they help connect the landscape by acting as stepping stones for many animals that disperse seeds and pollen,” he says. The alarming decline in old trees in so many types of forest appears to be driven by a combination of forces, including land clearing, agricultural practices, man-made changes in fire regimes, logging and timber gathering, insect attack and rapid climatic changes, says Prof. Jerry Franklin…. full story

     

    How native plants and exotics coexist
    (November 30, 2012) — Exotic plants in many ecosystems may be better competitors, but biologists have found that exotics can be kept in check by herbivory. … “Basically, we found that exotics plants grow more and can essentially out-compete natives, which normally is a problem. But in these communities there are also insects, which prefer to eat exotic plants instead of natives and can keep their growth in check. As a result, native plants, which are less susceptible to these insects can thrive even when exotic plants that are better competitors are nearby,” said Heard. How long this precarious balance will remain is unknown, but for now it isn’t just the case of exotic species being problematic. Instead it’s the story of how differences between two groups of plants allow them to survive along side each other. > full story

    Matthew J. Heard, Dov F. Sax. Coexistence between native and exotic species is facilitated by asymmetries in competitive ability and susceptibility to herbivores. Ecology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12030

     

     

    Cheatgrass increases fire activity across the arid western U.S.

    A study published in Global Change Biology finds an invasive grass species may be one reason fires are bigger and more frequent in certain regions of the western United States. Results demonstrate that cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion has substantially altered the regional fire regime. Although this result has been suspected by managers for decades, this study is the first to document recent cheatgrass-driven fire regimes at a regional scale.

    Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980–2009)
    Jennifer K. Balch, Bethany A. Bradley, Carla M. D’Antonio, and José Gómez-Dans Global Change Biology, December 2012 (online)
    UCSB press release: “The Invasive Grass-Fire Cycle in the U.S. Great Basin”, Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (related educational resource)

    Invasive grass fuels increased fire activity in the West
    (December 5, 2012) ScienceDaily — An invasive grass species may be one reason fires are bigger and more frequent in certain regions of the western United States, according to a team of researchers. … > full story

     

     

    Small patches of native plants help boost pollination services in large farms
    (December 5, 2012) — Isolation from natural habitat can lead to productivity losses due to lack of pollinators. Introducing areas of native vegetation within cropland has been proposed as a way to supplement pollinators, but this measure is perceived by farmers to carry costs that outweigh production-benefits. This study shows that small patches of native flowers, that do not compromise production area, increase mango pollination services in South Africa. Such measure allows increases in production without further expanding cropland. … > full story

     

    Birds Are Using Cigarette Butts To Stave Off Pests

    The Telegraph | Dec. 5, 2012, 6:25 PM | 739 |

    Birds are lining their nests with cigarette butts to repel pests and keep themselves warm, according to research. Wild birds have long protected their nests from mite invasion by importing chemical-emitting plants. But now birds living in cities seem to have adapted similar behaviour, filling their nests with up to 48 cigarette buts to make use of the repellent properties of tobacco. The nicotine and other chemicals in discarded filters act as a natural pesticide that repels parasitic mites. At the same time, the cellulose butts provide useful nest insulation. Scientists in Mexico City studied nests of house sparrows and house finches that each contained, on average, about 10 used cigarette butts. Birds who stored larger numbers of butts saw their nests significantly less infested by mites….Dr Constantino Macias Garcia, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and his team wrote in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters: “We provide evidence that urban birds incorporate cellulose from smoked cigarette butts into the nest and that this behaviour entails a reduction in the number of nest-dwelling ectoparasites. “It appears that this effect may be due to the fact that mites are repelled by nicotine, perhaps in conjunction with other substances, because thermal traps laced with cellulose from smoked butts attracted fewer ectoparasites than traps laced with non-smoked cellulose. “This novel behaviour observed in urban birds fulfils one of the three conditions necessary to be regarded as self-medication: it is detrimental to parasites.”….

     

     

    Whale, likely struck by ship, washes ashore dead in Malibu

    Los Angeles Times ‎- December 6, 2012

    A young 41-foot male Fin Whale that washed onto a Malibu beach was likely struck by a ship, wildlife officials said Wednesday…..

     

     

    Migrating Great Lakes salmon carry contaminants upstream
    (December 6, 2012) — Salmon, as they travel upstream to spawn and die, carry industrial pollutants into Great Lakes streams and tributaries. … > full story


    Hushed Hoarders and Prying Pilferers: Eurasian Jays Change Strategies to Prevent Others from Stealing Food

     

     


    December 4, 2012 — In order to prevent other birds from stealing the food they are storing for later, Eurasian jays, a type of corvid, minimizes any auditory hints a potential pilferer may use to steal their cache … > full story

     

     

    New Jamaica butterfly species emphasizes need for biodiversity research
    (December 3, 2012) — Scientists have described a new Lepidoptera species found in Jamaica’s last remaining wilderness. Belonging to the family of skipper butterflies, the new genus and species is the first butterfly discovered in Jamaica since 1995. Scientists hope the native butterfly will encourage conservation of the country’s last wilderness where it was discovered: the Cockpit Country. The study underscores the need for further biodiversity research and establishing a baseline of organisms as more tropical areas suffer habitat destruction. … > full story

     

    Fox invasion threatens wave of extinction in Tasmania
    (December 4, 2012) — The effort to stop the irreversible spread of foxes in Tasmania is at a critical stage with many native species at risk of extinction, new research shows. … > full story

     

    The next 100 years bring new challenges to rangeland science
    (December 4, 2012) — When severe droughts and overgrazing in the late 19th century brought livestock mortality, soil erosion, and loss of native forage plants to the western United States, the profession of rangeland science was born. While the original intention was to create sustainable rangelands for livestock production, today’s world has additional needs. Rangeland science must progress to accommodate increasing demand for ecosystem services in changing environments. A special issue of the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management, commemorating the centennial of the Jornada Experimental Range, looks at the past and the future of rangeland science. The Jornada was established in south-central New Mexico in 1912 to learn how Southwestern ecosystems could be sustainably managed for food and fiber production. Fifty-six rangeland researchers from seven countries have contributed to this special issue, seeking to define the direction for rangeland science and management in the coming century.

    A hundred years ago, southwestern rangelands were seen as being suitable for only one purpose — raising livestock. The first task of range science was the classification of rangelands according to appropriate livestock carrying capacities, amount and type of forage available, and climatic and other conditions that affect their value. While these ideas have formed the basis of the questions modern rangeland scientists ask, today’s profession has very different perspectives.

    Past science and policy assumed that if livestock were removed, ecosystems would revert to their original condition. This has not proved to be the case — the effects of events and uses of 100 years ago are still evident on the land. Additionally, given the high variability of rangeland systems in terms of rainfall, droughts, and soil, scientists now recognize that a specific set of overarching principles for rangeland management cannot be universally applied.

    Not only have the physical landscapes changed, the social landscape of stakeholders, policies, and markets has also changed. Rangelands are no longer viewed only as a source of livestock products. Other services, including wildlife, water, biodiversity, and renewable energy are increasingly important to society. What has become known as “resilience-based management” is now required to ensure the continued supply of different ecosystem services in an era of rapid and uncertain change.

    In this special issue, the dominant themes of rangeland research are given new directions. Articles address global changes in climate and land use, international development, species loss and exotic introductions, the integration of new technologies, and the role of educational institutions. Finally, these themes are condensed into a set of challenges now facing the rangeland science profession.

    Full text of the article, “Big Questions Emerging from a Century of Rangeland Science and Management,” and other articles in this special issue of Rangeland Ecology & Management, Vol. 65, No. 6, 2012, are available at www.srmjournals.org.

    … > full story

     

     

    Extinction need not be forever  NATURE December 5, 2012
    Biotechnology can help to save endangered species and revive vanished ones. Conservationists should not hesitate to use it, says Subrat Kumar.

     

     

    Sierra Nevada Meadows and Lake Saved in Deal

    Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 11:29 p.m., Monday, December 3, 2012

    Conservationists have saved from development a vast Sierra Nevada meadow, a picturesque lake and a historic hotel built by a colorful pioneer who created what is perhaps California’s first mountain vacation resort. The Truckee Donner Land Trust and Trust for Public Land have closed a deal to buy Webber Lake and Lacey Meadows, a stunning landscape amid glimmering Sierra peaks at the headwaters of the Little Truckee River.

    The $8 million deal will preserve 3,000 acres of scenic backcountry north of Truckee and, for the first time since the Gold Rush, open it to the public. It includes the 260-acre lake, the 152-year-old Webber Lake Hotel and a sweeping unspoiled, wildflower-dotted meadow teeming with wildlife.

    “This has everything,” said Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust, which, under the purchase agreement, will own and operate the property, including boat docks, cabins and hiking trails. “It is historic, scenic. It has high recreation values and high natural resource values.”

    The land, which was on the historic route to California’s gold fields, was sold by Barbara Johnson, whose late husband Clifton used to run sheep and whose family had owned the property for nearly a century. “We were offered lots more money for it from people who wanted to put in houses and hotels and ski runs, but that would have spoiled it,” said Johnson, 86, of Granite Bay. “It is such a wonderful, beautiful place – we wanted it to be preserved for other people. It certainly makes me feel good now that it will be preserved forever


    City explores durable shoreline measures

    Martin B. Cassidy Updated 6:35 p.m., Monday, December 3, 2012

    STAMFORD, CT — After sustaining millions of dollars in damage to local beaches during Hurricane Sandy, a city planner is working to partner with Columbia University graduate students this spring to help determine ways to shield shorelines in city parks from fierce storms. Erin McKenna, an city associate planner, said she is negotiating with George Sarrakinaolou, an administrator at Columbia’s Earth Institute and adjunct lecturer in its sustainability management program, to get students’ help in evaluating how Stamford can enhance natural features, such as salt marshes, to make its beaches less vulnerable to storm surges….

     

     

    Bird Stewards Increase the Effectiveness of Protected Beaches

    February 20, 2012 — Bird stewards – individuals who police protected beaches and educate the public about the birds who inhabit it – greatly increase the effectiveness of protected beaches, a new survey … > full story

     

     

    Britain sees a decline in partridges and turtle doves _ the birds in the 12 …

    Washington Post December 7 2012

    LONDON – Just try finding a partridge in a pear tree in Britain these days. Britain’s Royal Society for Protection of Birds says the two icons of the Christmas song – grey partridges and turtle doves – are in alarming decline. It said authorities ..

     

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    • CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

     

    Sir Bob Watson Climate change presentation at AGU Dec 5- scroll to bottom for video–”Climate Change: Let’s have a reality check” – excellent detailed presentation from science to solutions including the need to link biodiversity with climate change (a one hour video)


     


    Drought in the Horn of Africa delays migrating birds

     

     


    Phys.Org December 6, 2012

    The catastrophic drought last year in the Horn of Africa affected millions of people but also caused the extremely late arrival into northern Europe of several migratory songbird species, a study from University of Copenhagen published today in Science. The extensive 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa had significant consequences for European songbirds such as thrush nightingale and red-backed shrike. These birds visit northern Europe every spring to mate and take advantage of ample summer food resources. However, their spring migrating route from southern Africa to northern latitudes passes directly through the Horn of Africa, where the birds stop to feed and refuel for the next stage of their migration. ….These birds visit northern Europe every spring to mate and take advantage of ample summer food resources. However, their spring migrating route from southern Africa to northern latitudes passes directly through the Horn of Africa, where the birds stop …..

     

    Plants and Soils Could Accelerate Climate’s Warming, Study Warns

    As the climate warms, plants and soils may not absorb more carbon as scientists once thought.

    By Robert Krier, InsideClimate News

    When climate scientists try to estimate how much the Earth will warm due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, a key consideration is the role of plants and soils. The more carbon they absorb, the more they reduce the global warming potential.

    But recent studies indicate that assumptions about plants’ and soils’ capacity in the so-called “carbon cycle” may be overly optimistic. If these studies are correct, even bigger cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will be needed to prevent drastic, irreparable climate shifts.

    Not only is it possible that plants won’t be able to absorb as much carbon as climate models currently project, but plants’ response to the carbon cycle could actually amplify global warming, Paul Higgins and John Harte write in the November edition of the Journal of Climate.

    It all comes down to mobility. Carbon dioxide is recognized as critical for photosynthesis, so the more there is in the atmosphere, the more there is available for plant growth. As Earth’s climate warms, the theory has been that trees and other plant communities would treat the added CO2 as fertilizer and grow bigger and faster. But because climate conditions will be changing, to take advantage of the added CO2 some plant communities will have to migrate to neighboring areas that provide the necessary growing conditions. The speed at which plants can make these moves is the question.

    Higgins, associate director of the American Meteorological Society’s Policy Program, said it has been very difficult to build global ecosystem models that are sensitive to the limitations of plant migration.

    “If you look at the … models, they had no real constraints on plant mobility,” he said. “They basically assume that any type of plant can grow in any location where the climate is the same.”

    But it isn’t quite that simple. Part of the problem is that the scientists who study plant migration and the scientists who build carbon-cycle models have tended to work separately, Higgins said…..

     

    ‘Come out of the Forest’ to Save the Trees

    ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2012) — Forestry experts have called for a new approach to managing land and tackling climate change — challenging the ongoing debate that forests have to be sacrificed for the sake of rural development and food security.

    Governments, policymakers and scientists worldwide have been experimenting for years with different approaches to managing rural landscapes, from watershed management to habitat restoration, but these efforts are rarely done in concert to address climate change challenges.

    “It is time to look at new ways of solving old problems,” said Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in a keynote speech at Forest Day 6, a daylong event held on the sidelines of the United Nations climate talks in Doha.

    “Climate change needs to be dealt with across sector boundaries. Forests and forestry must be looked at through the lenses of agriculture, food security and broader sustainable development. It is time for forestry to come out of the forest and contribute more broadly.”

    Andreas Tveteraas, Senior Adviser to Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, supported this view: “The challenge is to do both forest conservation and increased food production [and not at] the expense of forests. No doubt if a government has to choose between them, then the forests will always lose, so the challenge is to promote forest management in a way that goes hand in hand with feeding the population.” A landscape-based approach, which looks at the synergies and trade-offs of managing a broad resource mix, has been hailed as a new way to bring together the agricultural, forestry, energy and fishery sectors to better manage the world’s resources while offering opportunities for climate adaptation and mitigation. “The window to stay in a two-degree world is closing very rapidly,” said Mary Barton-Dock, Director of Climate Policy and Finance at the World Bank. And in the context of a changing climate, she added, “A landscape approach is going to be essential to meet the growing need for food without invading forests.”

     

     

     

    An ocean threat worsens another
    Global Change Biology Jan 2013
    Much of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by human activities finds its way into the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in seawater it causes a phenomenon known as ocean acidification (OA). Dr. David Roberts and his colleagues have shown that when marine organisms are exposed to OA they are much more sensitive to contaminated sediments than under ambient conditions. This demonstrates that OA may interact with other existing stressors and that marine pollution may have greater biological effects in the future. Interactions between multiple stressors such as OA and pollution should be taken into account when determining how to best manage contaminants from human activities.

     

    U.S wildfire risk worsening, according to climate projections
    (December 4, 2012) — Scientists have projected drier conditions likely will cause increased fire activity across the United States in coming decades. Other findings about U.S. wildfires, including their amount of carbon emissions and how the length and strength of fire seasons are expected to change under future climate conditions, were also researched. …
    “Climate models project an increase in fire risk across the U.S. by 2050, based on a trend toward drier conditions that favor fire activity and an increase in the frequency of extreme events,” Morton said.The analysis by Morton and colleagues us
    ed climate projections, prepared for the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to examine how dryness, and therefore fire activity, is expected to change. The researchers calculated results for low and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. In both cases, results suggest more fire seasons that are longer and stronger across all regions of the U.S. in the next 30-50 years. Specifically, high fire years like 2012 would likely occur two to four times per decade by mid-century, instead of once per decade under current climate conditions.. Carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires in the western U.S. have more than doubled since the 1980s, according to Chris Williams of Clark University in Worcester, Mass. The satellite-based view allowed Williams and his colleagues to quantify how much carbon has been released from fires in the U.S. West. The team used data on fire extent and severity derived from Landsat satellites to calculate how much biomass is burned and killed, and how quickly the associated carbon was released to the atmosphere. The team found carbon emissions from fires [in the west] have grown from an average of 8 teragrams (8.8 million tons) per year from 1984 to 1995 to an average of 20 teragrams (22 million tons) per year from 1996 to 2008, increasing 2.4 times in the latter period.

    “With the climate change forecast for the region, this trend likely will continue as the western U.S. gets warmer and drier on average,” Williams said. “If this comes to pass, we can anticipate increased fire severity and an even greater area burned annually, causing a further rise in the release of carbon dioxide.”

    From a fire and emissions management perspective, wildfires are not the entire U.S. fire story, according to research by Hsiao-Wen Lin of the University of California at Irvine. Satellite data show agricultural and prescribed fires are a significant factor and account for 70 percent of the total number of active fires in the continental U.S. Agricultural fires have increased 30 percent in the last decade.

    In contrast with wildfires, agricultural and prescribed fires are less affected by climate, especially drought, during the fire season.

    “That means there is greater potential to manage fire emissions, even in a future, drier climate with more wildfires. We need to use cost-benefit analysis to assess whether reductions in agricultural fire emissions — which would benefit public health — would significantly impact crop yields or other ecosystem services,” Lin said.

    The above story is reprinted from materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

     

    Potent greenhouse gas: California’s N2O emissions may be nearly triple current estimates
    (December 4, 2012) — Using a new method for estimating greenhouse gases that combines atmospheric measurements with model predictions, scientists have found that the level of nitrous oxide in California may be 2.5 to 3 times greater than the current inventory. At that level, total N2O emissions — which are believed to come primarily from nitrogen fertilizers used in agricultural production — would account for about 8 percent of California’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
    At that level, total N
    2O emissions — which are believed to come primarily from nitrogen fertilizers used in agricultural production — would account for about 8 percent of California’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The findings were recently published in a paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Earlier this year, using the same methodology, the researchers found that levels of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, in California may be up to 1.8 times greater than previous estimates. “If our results are accurate, then it suggests that N2O makes up not 3 percent of California’s total effective greenhouse gases but closer to 10 percent,” said Marc Fischer, lead researcher on both studies. “And taken together with our previous estimates of methane emissions, that suggests those two gases may make up 20 to 25 percent of California’s total emissions. That’s starting to become roughly comparable to emissions from fossil fuel CO2.”

    Accurate estimates of the California’s greenhouse gas emissions are important as the state works to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as mandated by a law known as AB 32. The vast majority of the reduction efforts have been focused on CO2. Nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, is an especially potent greenhouse gas because it traps far more infrared radiation than both carbon dioxide and methane. “It’s present in the atmosphere at tiny concentrations — one-thousandth that of CO2 — but it is very potent,” Fischer said. “It has a global warming potential of approximately 300, meaning it is 300 times more active than CO2 per unit mass. And it’s 10 to 15 times more potent than methane.” Worldwide levels of N2O have been rising rapidly for decades, and the major culprit was recently confirmed to be the heavy use of nitrogen fertilizers to grow the world’s food. Other less significant sources of N2O emissions include wetlands, animal and industrial waste and automobiles. … > full story

     

    Seongeun Jeong, Chuanfeng Zhao, Arlyn E. Andrews, Edward J. Dlugokencky, Colm Sweeney, Laura Bianco, James M. Wilczak, Marc L. Fischer. Seasonal variations in N2O emissions from central California. Geophysical Research Letters, 2012; 39 (16) DOI: 10.1029/2012GL052307

    http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/vegetable_oil_burning_and_public_health.pdf

    Grease Powered Cars:…Grease cars are automobiles with diesel engines which run on oil as well as diesel fuel.  In 1898 German Rudolph Diesel patented his diesel engine to run on vegetable oil. Therefore all diesel fuel vehicles can run on vegetable oil. Also, Vegetable oil straight from the grocer’s shelf can be used.  Using vegetable oil over petroleum reduces all car emissions (except nitrous oxide) by 80%….

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/05/diesel-vs-biodiesel-vs-vegetable-oil/index.htm

     

    Canopy structure more important to climate than leaf nitrogen levels, study claims
    (December 3, 2012) — Claims that forest leaves rich in nitrogen may aid in reflecting infrared radiation — thereby cooling the atmosphere — have been challenged by new research that shows that the structure of forests’ canopies is a more important factor in infrared reflection. … > full story

     

     

    IPCC’s Planned Obsolescence: Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!

    By Joe Romm on Dec 2, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    A key reason the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change keeps issuing instantly irrelevant reports is that it keeps ignoring the latest climate science. We have known for years that perhaps the single most important carbon-cycle feedback is the melting of the permafrost.

    Yet a must-read new United Nations Environment Programme report, “Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost” reports this jaw-dropping news:

    The effect of the permafrost carbon feedback on climate has not been included in the IPCC Assessment Reports. None of the climate projections in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report include the permafrost carbon feedback (IPCC 2007). Participating modeling teams have completed their climate projections in support of the Fifth Assessment Report, but these projections do not include the permafrost carbon feedback. Consequently, the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, due for release in stages between September 2013 and October 2014, will not include the potential effects of the permafrost carbon feedback on global climate…

     

     

    Record high for global carbon emissions
    (December 2, 2012) — Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise again in 2012, reaching a record high of 35.6 billion tonnes – according to new figures from the Global Carbon Project. The 2.6 per cent rise projected for 2012 means global emissions from burning fossil fuel are 58 per cent above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol. This latest analysis shows the biggest contributors to global emissions in 2011 were China (28 per cent), the United States (16 per cent), the European Union (11 per cent), and India (7 per cent). … > full story

     

    As Global CO2 Emissions Rise, Scientists Warn 2-Degree Target Is Nearly Out Of Reach: ‘We Need A Radical Plan’

    By Stephen Lacey on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise again this year, putting the world on a path toward dangerous climate change and making the internationally-accepted warming target of 2 degrees Celsius nearly “unachievable,” say researchers.

    According to a new paper published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change, carbon dioxide emissions will rise by 2.6 percent this year, fueled by major increases in China and India. This follows a record year in 2011, when countries pumped 3.1 percent more global warming pollution into the atmosphere — making it very likely that the world will blow past the 2 degree C warming threshold that scientists and international negotiators agree is needed to avoid catastrophic consequences.

    Some even call global warming of 2 degrees C, which is on the lowest end of projections, a “prescription for disaster.” Here’s how one of the report’s authors characterized the problem when talking to The Guardian:

    “I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory. We need a radical plan,” said co-author Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Britain and professor at the University of East Anglia.

    Current emissions growth is placing the world on a path to warm between 4C and 6C, says the study, with global emissions jumping 58% between 1990 and this year. The study focuses on emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production. “Unless large and concerted global mitigation efforts are initiated soon, the goal of remaining below 2C will soon become unachievable,” say the authors.

    The findings come during the COP18 international climate talks in Doha, Qatar, where observers have low expectations for any agreements to reduce carbon emissions. The world’s two biggest emitters — China and the U.S. — are quietly setting up a framework for a possible international climate treaty after 2015. In the meantime, global warming pollution continues unabated and scientists warn that the window for action is closing fast. “We are losing control of our ability to get a handle on the global warming problem,”
    said Canadian Climate Scientist Andrew Weaver, responding to the latest data on carbon emissions. Last week, the World Bank issued a report sumarizing the latest climate science. It concluded that the world is on track for 4 degrees Celsius warming by the end of the century — an extremely dangerous rise in temperature that ensure “extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.”

     

    Reaching 2009 international climate change goals will require aggressive measures
    (December 2, 2012) — Despite an international consensus reached in 2009 to limit climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, scientists say the likelihood of meeting that goal is diminishing. The Global Carbon Project’s most recent analysis by scientists from the United States, Norway, Australia, France and the United Kingdom shows that a global economy fueled with coal, oil and natural gas is putting increasing pressure on the global climate system. “Limiting global climate change and all of its consequences is going to require aggressive actions to limit the use of the fossil fuels,” according to Gregg Marland, one of the authors of the paper in Nature Climate Change. Marland, a research professor with Appalachian State University’s Research Institute for Environment, Energy and Economics, is part of the international team analyzing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. The report [is] titled “The challenge to keep global warming below 2 °C“… Global carbon dioxide emissions continue to track the high end of a range of emission scenarios, expanding the gap between current emission trends and the emission pathway required to keep the global-average temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. It is now likely that in the longer term there will be a need to rely on technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as carbon capture and storage connected to bioenergy, if the temperature increase is to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius, according to the GCP report…. > full story

    Glen P. Peters, Robbie M. Andrew, Tom Boden, Josep G. Canadell, Philippe Ciais, Corinne Le Quéré, Gregg Marland, Michael R. Raupach, Charlie Wilson. The challenge to keep global warming below 2 °C. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1783

    Long-term research reveals how climate change is playing out in real ecosystems
    (
    December 1, 2012) — Around the world, the effects of global climate change are increasingly evident and difficult to ignore. However, evaluations of the local effects of climate change are often confounded by natural and human induced factors that overshadow the effects of changes in climate on ecosystems. Now, scientists report a number of surprising results that may shed more light on the complex nature of climate change. … At Hubbard Brook, that interplay has produced surprising effects on hydrologic variables such as evapotranspiration, streamflow, and soil moisture; the importance of changes in periodic biological occurrences on water, carbon, and nitrogen fluxes during critical transition periods; climate change effects on plant and animal community composition and ecosystem services in winter; and the effects of human induced disturbances and land-use history on the composition of plant communities. The report recommends further research on how climate change affects multiple components of ecosystem structure and function at specific sites to investigate what determines the composition of plant and animal communities, the rate of flow of water, and other natural and human elements that impact ecosystems in many areas of the globe. Groffman says the results from these detailed studies should be incorporated into broader approaches that include modeling, experiments and long-term monitoring at multiple scales. The report suggests that coordination of long-term research efforts and development of common approaches will improve the scientific understanding and response to the overarching challenge that climate change presents to science and society. > full story

    The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of New Mexico, Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. The original article was written by Thomas McOwiti.

     

    2012: Record Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Multiple Extremes and High Temperatures 

    GENEVA/DOHA, 28 November 2012 (WMO) – The years 2001–2011 were all among the  warmest on record, and, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the first ten months indicate that 2012 will most likely be no exception despite the cooling influence of La Niña early in the year.

    WMO’s provisional annual statement on the state of the global climate also highlighted the unprecedented melt of the Arctic sea ice and multiple weather and climate extremes which affected many parts of the world. It was released today to inform negotiators at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar. January-October 2012 has been the ninth warmest such period since records began in 1850. The global land and ocean surface temperature for the period was about 0.45°C (0.81°F) above the corresponding 1961–1990 average of 14.2°C, according to the statement..The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere.  Climate change is taking place before our eyes
    and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records
    ,” added Mr Jarraud…..

     

    Fire and ice: Wildfires darkening Greenland snowpack, increasing melting (December 5, 2012) — Satellite observations have revealed the first direct evidence of smoke from Arctic wildfires drifting over the Greenland ice sheet, tarnishing the ice with soot and making it more likely to melt under the sun. At the American Geophysical Union meeting this week, an Ohio State University researcher presented images from NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) satellite, which captured smoke from Arctic fires billowing out over Greenland during the summer of 2012.

    Jason Box, associate professor of geography at Ohio State, said that researchers have long been concerned with how the Greenland landscape is losing its sparkly reflective quality as temperatures rise. The surface is darkening as ice melts away, and, since dark surfaces are less reflective than light ones, the surface captures more heat, which leads to stronger and more prolonged melting. Researchers previously recorded a 6 percent drop in reflectivity in Greenland over the last decade, which Box calculates will cause enough warming to bring the entire surface of the ice sheet to melting each summer, as it did in 2012. But along with the melting, researchers believe that there is a second environmental effect that is darkening polar ice: soot from wildfires, which may be becoming more common in the Arctic. “Soot is an extremely powerful light absorber,” Box said. “It settles over the ice and captures the sun’s heat. That’s why increasing tundra wildfires have the potential to accelerate the melting in Greenland.” Box was inspired to investigate tundra fires after his home state of Colorado suffered devastating wildfires this past year. According to officials, those fires were driven in part by high temperatures. Meanwhile, in the Arctic, rising temperatures may be causing tundra wildfires to become more common. To find evidence of soot deposition from these fires, Box and his team first used thermal images from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to identify large fires in the region. Then they used computer models to project possible smoke particle trajectories, which suggested that the smoke from various fires could indeed reach Greenland. … > full story

     


    Climate fingerprints

     

     

    (subs reqd)

    Nature 492, 10–11 (06 December 2012) doi:10.1038/492010d The latest global climate models produce a ‘fingerprint’ that aligns well with actual temperature observations, and underscores the human influence on climate through the release of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting chemicals. Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, and his group analysed simulations from 20 climate models…

     


    ‘Atmospheric River’ Piles Up Massive Rain, Snow & Winds

     

     


    Climate Central December 3, 2012 By Andrew Freedman

    The West is taking a brief break from storms on Monday after a parade of strong weather systems dumped nearly 2 feet of rain, at least 40 inches of snow, and brought strong winds equivalent to a Category 4 strength hurricane to parts of California, Oregon and Washington through Sunday. Although another storm is forecast to affect the region on Tuesday, it is not expected to be as intense. The storms knocked out power for many across the region, caused extensive airport delays, and provided a vivid reminder of what a weather phenomenon known as an “atmospheric river” can do. Fortunately, this round of storms was nowhere near a worst-case scenario, which could cause extensive flooding in vulnerable parts of Central and Northern California, such as the Sacramento area. Atmospheric rivers occur when winds draw moisture together into a narrow region ahead of a cold front, in a region of very strong winds. They can be thought of as tropical connectors that feed tropical moisture into more northern latitudes. In California, one type of atmospheric river is also known as the “Pineapple Express,” since it transports water vapor-laden air from Hawaii into the U.S. mainland…..

     

    Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions of California

    Huge flows of vapor in the atmosphere, dubbed “atmospheric rivers,” have unleashed massive floods every 200 years, and climate change could bring more of them

    Jan 2013 Scientific American By Michael D. Dettinger and B. Lynn Ingram

    Editor’s note (11/30/12): The article will appear in the January 2013 issue of Scientific American. We are making it freely available now because of the flooding underway in California.

    DROWNED: A 43-day atmospheric-river storm in 1861 turned California’s Central Valley region into an inland sea, simulated here on a current-day map. Image: Don Foley

    In Brief

    • Geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California about every 200 years. The most recent was in 1861, and it bankrupted the state.
    • Such floods were most likely caused by atmospheric rivers: narrow bands of water vapor about a mile above the ocean that extend for thousands of miles. Much smaller forms of these rivers regularly hit California, as well as the western coasts of other countries.
    • Scientists who created a simulated megastorm, called ARkStorm, that was patterned after the 1861 flood but was less severe, found that such a torrent could force more than a million people to evacuate and cause $400 billion in losses if it happened in California today.
    • Forecasters are getting better at predicting the arrival of atmospheric rivers, which will improve warnings about flooding from the common storms and about the potential for catastrophe from a megastorm.

    The intense rainstorms sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean began to pound central California on Christmas Eve in 1861 and continued virtually unabated for 43 days. The deluges quickly transformed rivers running down from the Sierra Nevada mountains along the state’s eastern border into raging torrents that swept away entire communities and mining settlements. The rivers and rains poured into the state’s vast Central Valley, turning it into an inland sea 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Thousands of people died, and one quarter of the state’s estimated 800,000 cattle drowned. Downtown Sacramento was submerged under 10 feet of brown water filled with debris from countless mudslides on the region’s steep slopes. California’s legislature, unable to function, moved to San Francisco until Sacramento dried out—six months later. By then, the state was bankrupt. A comparable episode today would be incredibly more devastating. The Central Valley is home to more than six million people, 1.4 million of them in Sacramento. The land produces about $20 billion in crops annually, including 70 percent of the world’s almonds—and portions of it have dropped 30 feet in elevation because of extensive groundwater pumping, making those areas even more prone to flooding. Scientists who recently modeled a similarly relentless storm that lasted only 23 days concluded that this smaller visitation would cause $400 billion in property damage and agricultural losses. Thousands of people could die unless preparations and evacuations

    ….All seven models project that the number of atmospheric rivers arriving at the California coast each year will rise as well, from a historical average of about nine to 11. And all seven climate models predict that occasional atmospheric rivers will develop that are bigger than any of the historic megastorms. Given the remarkable role that atmospheric rivers have played in California flooding, even these modest increases are a cause for concern and need to be investigated further to see if the projections are reliable…..The costs are about three times those estimated by many of the same USGS project members who had worked on another disaster scenario known as ShakeOut: a hypothetical magnitude 7.8 earthquake in southern California. It appears that an atmospheric-river megastorm—California’s “Other Big One”—may pose even greater risks to the Golden State than a large-magnitude earthquake….

     

    As Brutal Record Hurricane Season Ends, ABC Says It’s The New Normal Since Climate Change Is ‘Right Here, Right Now’

    By Joe Romm on Dec 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    The 2012 hurricane season, which ended Saturday, is one for the record books. As Climate Central explains: For the third straight season there were 19 named storms in the Atlantic, which is the third-highest level of storm activity observed since 1851…. Since 1851, only two hurricane seasons — 2005 and 1933 — have been busier than 2010, 2011, and 2012. And then there was Sandy, the storm of the decade (so far), which will likely turn out to be the second most costly superstorm to hit the United States, after Katrina. Sandy proved that you don’t have to be a major hurricane (Category Three or greater) to cause unimaginably widespread devastation. We will have to get used to this kind of frankenstorm — see “How Does Climate Change Make Superstorms Like Sandy More Destructive?” ABC News ran an excellent story on this, featuring Climate Central’s Heidi Cullen… And for the extreme weather junkies out there, meteorologist and former hurricane Hunter Dr. Jeff Masters has the stunning numbers:

    Hurricane Sandy was truly astounding in its size and power. At its peak size, twenty hours before landfall, Sandy had tropical storm-force winds that covered an area nearly one-fifth the area of the contiguous United States. Since detailed records of hurricane size began in 1988, only one tropical storm (Olga of 2001) has had a larger area of tropical storm-force winds, and no hurricanes has. Sandy’s area of ocean with twelve-foot seas peaked at 1.4 million square miles–nearly one-half the area of the contiguous United States, or 1% of Earth’s total ocean area.

    Most incredibly, ten hours before landfall (9:30 am EDT October 30), the total energy of Sandy’s winds of tropical storm-force and higher peaked at 329 terajoules–the highest value for any Atlantic hurricane since at least 1969. This is 2.7 times higher than Katrina’s peak energy, and is equivalent to five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. At landfall, Sandy’s tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been wider; the previous record holder was Hurricane Igor of 2010, which was 863 miles in diameter. Sandy’s huge size prompted high wind warnings to be posted from Chicago to Eastern Maine, and from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Florida’s Lake Okeechobee–an area home to 120 million people. Sandy’s winds simultaneously caused damage to buildings on the shores of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore, and toppled power lines in Nova Scotia, Canada–locations 1200 miles apart!

    Imagine what kind of superstorms we will see when it is 10°F warmer and sea levels are 6+ feet higher. Or, better yet, imagine we are somehow smart enough to deploy low carbon technology fast enough to avert that grim future.

     


    Warm Sea Water Is Melting Antarctic Glaciers

     

     


    December 6, 2012
    — The ice sheet in West Antarctica is melting faster than expected. New observations published by oceanographers from the University of Gothenburg and the US may improve our ability to predict future changes in ice sheet mass. The study was recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience.A reduction of the ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland will affect the water levels of the world’s oceans. It is therefore problematic that we currently have insufficient knowledge about the ocean circulation near large glaciers in West Antarctica. This means that researchers cannot predict how water levels will change in the future with any large degree of certainty. “There is a clear reduction in the ice mass in West Antarctica, especially around the glaciers leading into the Amundsen Sea,” says researcher Lars Arneborg from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Gothenburg. Together with his research colleagues Anna Wåhlin, Göran Björk and Bengt Liljebladh, he has studied the ocean circulation in the Amundsen Sea. One reason why West Antarctica is particularly sensitive is that the majority of the ice rests on areas that are below sea level. Warm sea water penetrates beneath the ice, causing increased melting from underneath. “It is therefore probably a change in the ocean circulation in the Amundsen Sea that has caused this increased melting,” continues Arneborg. … > full story

     


    Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment

    NOAA Climate Program Office Published December 6, 2012

    Global sea level rise has been a persistent trend for decades. It is expected to continue beyond the end of this century, which will cause significant impacts in the United States. Scientists have very high confidence (greater than 90% chance) that global mean sea level will rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meter) and no more than 6.6 feet (2.0 meters) by 2100.

    More than 8 million people live in areas at risk of coastal flooding. Along the U.S. Atlantic Coast alone, almost 60 percent of the land that is within a meter of sea level is planned for further development, with inadequate information on the potential rates and amount of sea level rise. Many of the nation’s assets related to military readiness, energy, commerce, and ecosystems that support resource-dependent economies are already located at or near the ocean, thus exposing them to risks associated with sea level rise.

    These are the among the findings presented in this new report, published by NOAA’s Climate Program Office in collaboration with twelve contributing authors from ten different federal and academic science institutions—including NOAA, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Columbia University, the University of Maryland, the University of Florida, and the South Florida Water Management District.

    The report was produced in response to a request from the U.S. National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee. It provides a synthesis of the scientific literature on global sea level rise, and a set of four scenarios of future global sea level rise. The report includes input from national experts in climate science, physical coastal processes, and coastal management.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are “scenarios”? The term “scenarios” describes qualitative and quantitative information about different aspects of future environmental change to investigate the potential consequences for society. Scenarios do not predict future changes, but describe future potential conditions in a manner that supports decision-making under conditions of uncertainty.

    How do you use scenarios? Scenarios are used to develop and test decisions under a variety of plausible futures. This approach strengthens an organization’s ability to recognize, adapt to, and take advantage of changes over time. This report provides scenarios to help assessment experts and their stakeholders analyze the vulnerabilities and impacts associated with possible, uncertain futures.

    Which scenario is most likely? Given the range of uncertainty in future global SLR, using multiple scenarios encourages experts and decision makers to consider multiple future conditions and to develop multiple response options. Scenario planning offers an opportunity to initiate actions now that may reduce future impacts and vulnerabilities. Thus, specific probabilities or likelihoods are not assigned to individual scenarios in this report, and none of these scenarios should be used in isolation.

    What is the basis of the range of scenarios for global mean sea level rise? We have very high confidence (greater than 9 in 10 chances) that global mean sea level (based on mean sea level in 1992) will rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meters) and no more than 6.6 feet (2 meters) by 2100. The biggest source of uncertainty within this range is the contribution of water from melting ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and West Antarctica.

    • The lowest sea level change scenario (8 inch rise) is based on historic rates of observed sea level change. This scenario should be considered where there is a high tolerance for risk (e.g. projects with a short lifespan or flexibility to adapt within the near-term)
    • The intermediate-low scenario (1.6 feet) is based on projected ocean warming
    • The intermediate-high scenario (3.9 feet) is based on projected ocean warming and recent ice sheet loss
    • The highest sea level change scenario (6.6 foot rise) reflects ocean warming and the maximum plausible contribution of ice sheet loss and glacial melting. This highest scenario should be considered in situations where there is little tolerance for risk.

    The actual amount of sea level change at any one region and location will vary greatly in response to regional and local vertical land movement and ocean dynamics. Parts of the Gulf Coast and the Chesapeake Bay will continue to experience the most rapid and highest amounts of sea level rise, as the land in some of these areas is subsiding, and adding to the overall “net” sea level rise. Parts of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest may experience much less sea level change or none at all, as the land in some of these areas is still rebounding from the last glaciation at a faster rate than sea level rise. It is certain that higher mean sea levels increase the frequency, magnitude, and duration of flooding associated with a given storm. Flooding has disproportionately high impacts in most coastal regions, particularly in flat, low-lying areas. Regardless of how much warming occurs over the next 100 years, sea level rise is not expected to stop in 2100.

     

    More intense North Atlantic tropical storms likely in the future
    (November 30, 2012) — Tropical storms that make their way into the North Atlantic, and possibly strike the East Coast of the United States, likely will become more intense during the rest of this century. … > full story

    Carbon dioxide could reduce crop yields
    (November 30, 2012) — The carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere continues to climb and heat up the climate. The gas is, however, indispensable for plants, as they use the carbon it provides to form glucose and other important substances. Therefore, the more carbon dioxide the better? The equation is unfortunately not as simple as that. The plants, which ensure our basic food supply today, have not been bred for vertical growth but for short stalks and high grain yields. Scientists have now discovered that an increase in carbon dioxide levels could cancel out the beneficial effects of dwarf varieties. … > full story


    Removing Sea Defenses May Reduce Impact of Coastal Flooding

     

     


    December 3, 2012 ScienceDaily — Ensuring continued flood protection for low lying coastal areas may mean sacrificing cliff top communities to the sea. New research shows that the benefits of protecting the English coastline from … > full story


    Go With the Flow in Flood Prediction

     

     


    December 3, 2012 — Floods have once again wreaked havoc across the country and climate scientists and meteorologists suggest that the problem is only going to get worse with wetter winters and rivers bursting their … > full story

     

    How cold will a winter be in two years? Climate models still struggle with medium-term climate forecasts
    (December 6, 2012) — How well are the most important climate models able to predict the weather conditions for the coming year or even the next decade? Scientists have evaluated 23 climate models. Their conclusion: there is still a long way to go before reliable regional predictions can be made on seasonal to decadal time scales. … > full story

     

     

    Mangroves in Mozambique: Green Infrastructure for Coastal Protection in an Era of Climate [Change]

    Bruce Byers Climate


    Cruising through mangrove-lined channel opposite Angoche © Bruce Byers

    After wading across the low tide mudflats at the Port of Angoche, and into knee-deep water to climb into the fiberglass boat, the big Yamaha outboard wouldn’t start.  While we bobbed lazily in the hot sun and I fretted about how nothing in Africa ever goes as planned, the boat skipper removed the rusty sparkplugs and cleaned them in the bailing bucket with a little boat gas and an old toothbrush. Ten minutes later we were bouncing through the swell, heading seaward toward the mouth of the Angoche estuary, flying past the flocks of canoes and dhows sailing these waters. Nothing ever goes as planned, but everything works out in the end.

    Cremildo Armando, the marine coordinator of the CARE-WWF Primeiras and Segundas Program, was our guide this afternoon, and we were going to Ilha dos Búzios, an island where Cyclone Jokwe, in March 2008, had destroyed a hundred houses in a small coastal village. We didn’t go ashore, but passed slowly up and down the mangroveless beach in front of the former village. This was Lesson #1 of the importance of maintaining the fringe of mangroves that surround and protect all of the shoreline here around Angoche, and the whole coast of Mozambique: “Ten-Thousand Mangroves Could Save A Village!”

    Nine species of mangroves grow on Mozambique’s 2,500 kilometer-long coast, which reaches from Tanzania to South Africa.  Mangroves grow on coastal mudflats and sandy shores on all of Earth’s tropical coasts, in intertidal swamp forests that link land and marine ecosystems. These unique salt-tolerant forests provide a range of ecological functions, from trapping sediment and building coastlines seaward to serving as nurseries for the young of a host of marine species.

     

    Northeast U.S. sees second driest November in more than a century
    (December 5, 2012) — Even though Hurricane Sandy helped create wet start, November 2012 went into the record books as the second-driest November since 1895 in the Northeast. With an average of 1.04 inches or precipitation, the region received only 27 percent of its normal level. The record driest November was 1917 when the Northeast received only 0.88 inches of precipitation. … > full story

    Wind speeds in southern New England declining inland, remaining steady on coast: Climate change, urbanization among possible causes
    (December 5, 2012) — Oceanographers have analyzed long-term data from several anemometers in southern New England and found that average wind speeds have declined by about 15 percent at inland sites while speeds have remained steady at an offshore site. … > full story

     

    UN Summit: Transforming Your Kids into “Climate Change Agents”
    Written by  William F. Jasper Thursday, 06 December 2012 14:25

    Do your children (or grandchildren) have nightmares about the Earth melting or exploding due to human-caused global warming? Do they believe they have no future because our planet is dying, the icecaps and glaciers are melting, the sea levels are rising, islands and coastal areas are disappearing, polar bears and children are drowning, plant and animal species are rapidly going extinct, and extreme weather will soon make human life unbearable, if not impossible? ….However, many children turn their global-warming angst into activism, becoming little climate warriors who will work tirelessly to convert their peers, their parents, and local and national political leaders into supporters of “sustainable development.” And this, clearly, is what the proponents of “climate change education” intend. Climate change education, they say, must be “transformative” and turn young children and adolescents into “climate change agents.” That is the message being delivered by officials of UNICEF, UNESCO, and other UN agencies and NGOs at the UN Climate Conference currently underway (November 26-December 7) in Doha, Qatar. Stephanie Hodge, education program specialist for UNICEF, was interviewed at Doha by Climate Change TV, a UN-funded television network dedicated exclusively to propaganda about the global warming and the supposed solutions to this “crisis” that can only be attained through UN-directed global action. According to Hodge, our current climate change education is “antiquated” and in dire need of renovation. We should be asking, she said, “What is global citizenship? What are some of the global values that need to be imparted through local content?” Climate change education, says UNICEF’s Hodge, is “really about a process of change, about starting transformation through education.”

    To help bring about this change and transformation, UNICEF, with help from its sister agency, UNESCO, has come up with a new curriculum guide, entitled, Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction in the Education Sector: Resource Manual, which Hodge held up for viewers to see…..

     

    Report: Tough Times For U.S. Winter Tourism Industry If Climate Change Goes Unaddressed

    $1 Billion Loss Experienced By Winter Sports Industry, Future Impacts Could be Larger; Consequences for CA, CO, ME, MT, NH, NM, NY, OR, PA, UT, VT and WA Highlighted.

    By Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C. and Protect Our Winters, Pacific Palisades, CA Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 – 10:08 am

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new economic analysis details how the $12.2 billion winter tourism industry spread out across 38 states has experienced an estimated $1 billion loss and up to 27,000 fewer jobs over the last decade due to diminished snow fall patterns and the resulting changes in the outdoor habits of Americans, according to the new study prepared for the nonprofit groups Protect Our Winters (POW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Even tougher times could be in store for the industry unless climate change is slowed, stopped and reversed, according to “Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United State.The new POW-NRDC report by University of New Hampshire researchers Elizabeth Burakowski and Matthew Magnusson, concludes that a failure to address the challenge of climate change will mean even tougher times are ahead for winter tourism. “Surmised from all this data is a portrait of the American winter landscape with more than three-quarters (38) of states benefitting economically from these winter sports and 211,900 jobs either directly or indirectly supported by the industry,” the report says. “… Without intervention, winter temperatures are projected to warm an additional 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with subsequent decreases in snow cover area, snowfall, and shorter snow season. Snow depths could decline in the west by 25 to 100 percent. The length of the snow season in the northeast will be cut in half.” Available online at http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/climate-impacts-winter-tourism.asp, the POW-NRDC report looks at the current snow conditions and projected impact of climate change on skiing, snowboarding, and the snowmobile industry. Shrinking numbers of winter sports tourists also hurts the bottom line of restaurants, lodging, gas stations, grocery stores, and bars, according to the report…..

     

     

     

     

     

    • POLICY

     

     

    UN climate talks go into overtime in Qatar as rich, poor nations spar over …

    Washington Post December 7, 2012

    DOHA, Qatar – Nearly 200 countries haggling over how to stop climate change – and how to pay for it – failed to reach a deal on schedule Friday, setting the stage for the wrangling to continue late into the night.

     

    Manila links typhoon to climate change

    Financial Times  - ‎ December 7, 2012‎

    The Philippine government has linked this week’s devastating typhoon, which killed at least 450 people, to climate change, saying richer countries must do more to help poorer ones mitigate the effects of increasingly severe weather patterns. Typhoon

     

     

    California faces carbon conundrum

    David R. Baker SF Chronicle Published 5:17 p.m., Thursday, December 6, 2012

    Left for dead years ago, the idea of taxing greenhouse gases has sprung back to life in Washington, as politicians look for ways to tackle global warming and tame the deficit. It’s welcome news for environmentalists, desperate for federal action on climate change. But the proposed carbon tax could pose a problem for California. The state has taken a different approach to fighting global warming, last month launching a cap-and-trade system in which companies buy and sell the right to pump greenhouse gases into the air. Both approaches – a carbon tax and cap and trade – put a price on the emissions that are heating the planet. But they do it in different ways. Use both systems at once, and companies could end up paying twice for the same pollution. “You either have one or the other – you don’t have them both,” said Jasmin Ansar, climate economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group. “You’d have the danger of, in effect, double taxation.” The chance of Congress adopting a carbon tax still seems remote. Many Republicans, doubtful about climate change, remain adamantly opposed to the tax, saying it would do little more than raise gasoline and electricity prices. The conflict with California’s cap-and-trade system may never happen…..Interest in a carbon tax resurfaced this summer as part of the broader debate about taxes triggered by the presidential race and the looming “fiscal cliff.” President Obama has downplayed the idea and said he isn’t pursuing it. But several think tanks and advocacy groups have promoted it as a way to raise new revenue. It could be part of a grand bargain on taxes, providing enough cash to let the government cut other taxes while still addressing the deficit. And while many Republicans reject the idea, that opposition isn’t universal. Arthur Laffer, former economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, both support carbon pricing. “There is an impeccable conservative lineage for this thing,” Muro said. His proposal calls for a carbon tax of $20 per ton, rising 4 percent each year. Of the $150 billion raised annually, $30 billion would go toward clean-energy research, while the rest would go to cutting other taxes and reducing the deficit. California officials always hoped their cap-and-trade system would lay the groundwork for a national carbon market. But if the federal government decides on a tax instead, the two approaches could be made to work side-by-side, tax advocates say. “What Congress could do and probably would do, given the strength of California’s delegation, is say, ‘OK, if you’re participating in the (cap-and-trade system), you don’t have to pay the tax,’” said Shi-Ling Hsu, a law professor at Florida State University and author of the book “The Case for a Carbon Tax.” “For sure, they’re not going to make those companies double pay,” he said.

     

    NYC Mayor Pledges to Rebuild and Fortify Coast


    Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave his first major speech on post-hurricane reconstruction Thursday in Lower Manhattan. Al Gore attended.


    Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times Before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spoke on Thursday, former Vice President Al Gore addressed the meeting and praised the mayor for his work on responding to climate change.

    By DAVID W. CHEN and MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM NY TIMES Published: December 6, 2012

    New York City, still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, will expand its evacuation zones, tighten building codes and look for ways to fortify critical infrastructure like transportation and electrical networks from future natural disasters, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday. But while the mayor said he would aggressively pursue a rebuilding of the damaged waterfront, he warned that “there are no panaceas or magic bullets” to protect the city fully. And while he did, for the first time, specifically suggest dunes or levees as protective measures worth exploring, he again dismissed the use of expensive experiments like sea gates stretching across New York Harbor. It was Mr. Bloomberg’s first major address on what the city should do in a post-hurricane world that, after the end of 2013, will also be a post-Bloomberg world. And the speech, which was televised live from a Lower Manhattan hotel that had been closed for two weeks because of the storm, had the bearing of a future-oriented State of the City event, with accompanying slides and even a surprise guest: former Vice President Al Gore….Among other ideas, Mr. Bloomberg said the city would consider the construction of dunes, jetties, levees and berms along coastal areas to help reduce damage from future storm surges. He did not specify where any such barriers would be built, much less how much these would cost. But aides to the mayor said that three deputy mayors — Howard Wolfson, Linda I. Gibbs and Robert K. Steel — had recently traveled to New Orleans and met with officials there to discuss recovery, rebuilding and flood protection measures and lessons…..

     

    Voters: Cuomo, Obama, Bloomberg, MTA & FEMA Do Good Job Dealing with Sandy
    Two-thirds of Voters Say Recent Storms Demonstrate Climate Change
    Half of NYers Contribute to Storm Relief; One-quarter Volunteer Time….

    Senate Dems push climate change amendment

    By Zack Colman – 12/03/12 11:12 PM ET

    Senate Democrats are attempting to force a vote on climate change through an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) amendment calls for the U.S. to “assess, plan for, and mitigate the security and strategic implications of climate change” out of concern for national security.

    It is unclear whether the amendment will surface on the floor as senators work to complete the sweeping defense policy bill as soon as Tuesday.

    But its submission shows that Democrats might be looking for chances to put Republicans on the record on climate change, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. …

    In-Depth Analysis: How A Progressive Carbon Tax Will Fight Climate Change And Stimulate The Economy

    By Climate Guest Blogger on Dec 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm by Richard W. Caperton

    Superstorm Sandy. Massive droughts. Devastating tornadoes. Horrific wildfires. The United States has certainly seen the dramatic weather-related effects of climate change in 2012, and every American has in some way been negatively impacted. Unfortunately, unless we start taking action now to curb the greenhouse gas pollution that’s causing this extreme weather, things are only going to get worse. Depending on which actions we choose to take, this year will either be the new normal or it will be a glimpse into a future where conditions are much, much worse.

    ….leaders across the country are beginning to take action and look for ways to fight climate change. President Barack Obama is using provisions of the Clean Air Act to reduce pollution from new power plants. California and some Northeastern states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have regional programs that put a price on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollutants in the hope of reducing their usage. These are powerful steps in the right direction, but they alone cannot solve the challenge of climate change. Avoiding the most catastrophic consequences of global warming will require much broader action. There are several ways that the United States could make a significant contribution to the global fight against climate change. We could take President Obama’s action on new power plants to the next level and use the Clean Air Act to reduce pollution from existing power plants and other major sources of emissions. The existing regional programs that charge a fee for pollution could be strengthened and broadened to cover more of the country, or Congress could get involved and put a nationwide price on carbon by creating a carbon tax. Before diving into specifics on a national carbon tax, it’s important to recognize that there are countless ways to put a price on carbon.. Given the track record of climate legislation in Congress—including the failed effort to pass the cap-and-trade bill in 2009—enacting a carbon tax poses more of a challenge than either expanding the regional carbon-pricing actions or using the Clean Air Act to regulate all power plants. While both of these alternatives are steps in the right direction, a national carbon tax would be able to address more than just our environmental concerns. In addition to mitigating the effects of climate change, a carbon tax could help solve our country’s budget crisis and provide revenue for new job-creating investments in clean energy infrastructure. By raising new funds, driving new investments, and reducing the likelihood of the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, a carbon tax is a tool that can take on our country’s three most pressing challenges: the deficit, joblessness, and the climate crisis. In this issue brief we describe some of the key questions Congress needs to answer in designing a carbon tax. We lay out the principles for making sure that a carbon price puts our country on a progressive path to future prosperity and describe why a carbon tax is a desirable way to price carbon. We then turn to the issues in collecting the necessary revenue. Finally, we discuss how to use the revenue to most effectively solve the challenges facing our country…..

     

    Study: We Can Cut Carbon Pollution One Third By Closing ‘Carbon Loophole’ Through The Clean Air Act

    By Climate Guest Blogger on Dec 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm by Whitney Allen

    After four years of congressional stalemate on efforts to slash carbon pollution responsible for climate change, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a road map to cleaner electricity this week that relies on existing executive authority rather than Congress.

    NRDC’s new report describes how  the Obama Administration can make substantial cuts in carbon pollution from existing power plants, which are the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.  Its strategy would employ Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, which gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to “set state specific carbon emission rates that reflect the diversity of the nation’s electricity sector and fuel mix.”

    This approach differs in a few important ways from earlier pieces of legislation like the 2009 climate bill sponsored by Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) during the 111th Congress. The proposal would set the initial pollution reduction standard for power plants by taking their state’s current energy mix taken into account. That is, a state with relatively low pollution would have a different target compared to a state with high emissions.

    In addition, states would be allowed to create regional alliances, such as the ten-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), to work together to meet pollution reduction goals. This is crucial because the electricity supply from power plants frequently crosses state boundaries.

    Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in South Asia
    Rising Tensions and Policy Options Across the Subcontinent By Arpita Bhattacharyya and Michael Werz December 3, 2012
    South Asia will be among the regions hardest hit by climate change. Higher temperatures, more extreme weather, rising sea levels, increasing cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, as well as floods in the region’s complex river systems will complicate existing development and poverty reduction initiatives. Coupled with high population density levels, these climate shifts have the potential to create complex environmental, humanitarian, and security challenges. India and Bangladesh, in particular, will feel the impacts of climate change acutely.
    The consequences of climate change will change conditions and undermine livelihoods in many areas. And extreme events and deteriorating conditions are likely to force many to leave their homes temporarily or even permanently for another village, city, region or country.
    In this paper we examine the role of climate change, migration, and security broadly at the national level in India and Bangladesh-and then zero in more closely on northeast India and Bangladesh to demonstrate the interlocking problems faced by the people there and writ larger across all of South Asia.
    Read more and download the full report here.

     

    Weather and ice data help secure winter shipping in the Arctic
    (December 5, 2012) — Climate change brings changes to the Arctic region. The opening of new shipping routes creates needs for weather and marine safety services. Jouni Vainio, Senior Ice Expert at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, explored the practical needs while sailing on the multi-purpose icebreaker Nordica to Europe through the Northeast Passage in the Arctic Ocean. … > full story

     

    Hotter, Dryer — Greener? Dryland Farming Confronts Climate Change

    Posted: 12/04/2012 11:23 am

    I’m in Doha, Qatar, where the global climate change community has gathered to determine how we should address climate change, yet again. In a landscape where glass towers emerge from the desert, and lush golf courses color the terrain, an obvious question is how this country will continue to feed a growing population as the climate changes. I’m here with a consortium of agricultural agencies, farmers, and research groups to highlight the concrete solutions for achieving global food security as the climate changes, while also reducing the emissions that agriculture puts into the atmosphere.

    Despite these practical innovations, progress on getting agriculture into the official climate change negotiations has been excruciatingly slow, much slower than the urgent need to achieve food security.

    In this regard, the U.N. Climate Change Talks in Doha raise the question of how to achieve food security in the drylands, where droughts are frequent and environmental and soil degradation is widespread. Farmers in these areas already face enormous challenges. Climate change will only compound these problems, bringing new levels of uncertainty and risk.

    But drylands are not only sand dunes and deserts; dry areas cover 40 percent of global land mass and are home to 2.5 billion people — one-third of the global population. Beyond the Middle East, dry areas cover the whole of southern Africa, the Sahel in West Africa, vast swaths of the Southern U.S. and Western Canada, large areas of Latin America and nearly all of Australia.
    In all of these areas, food production has declined, but populations are growing rapidly. In developing countries, many people, especially the youth, abandon farming for the prospect of better jobs in the cities, which puts further strain on domestic food supply.
    Some dryland countries deal with this situation by importing large amounts of food. Qatar imports around 90 percent of its food, according to the Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP). The QNFSP is tasked with reducing the country’s dependence on imports, which makes it vulnerable to food price spikes. As climate changes, food commodity markets will become more volatile. Increased prices affect the ability of households to purchase their food. And while many residents of Qatar may be able to pay higher prices, poorer people in the country, and people living in less-developed dryland countries will be much more vulnerable
    If dryland countries are serious about dealing with reducing their vulnerability to climate change, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, then they need to look at how food is grown, distributed and consumed. The good news is many of the solutions for improving agriculture in the dry areas have been developed over the past 40 years by agricultural research groups such as ICARDA The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, which just launched a new research program on Dryland Systems and is working with my group, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Together we have released a new report outlining some of the tried and tested innovations that are available now. But increased investment and urgent action are needed to bring food security to people in the world’s dry areas….

     

     

    Carbon Billionaires Become a Driving Force Behind the UN Deadlock in Doha

    New Report Reveals the Role of World’s Wealthiest Individuals at Global Climate Talks.

    December 4, 2012 (Doha, Qatar) – A new report was released at 10am today in Press Conference Room 2 at global climate talks in Doha, Qatar by the International Forum on Globalization entitled Faces Behind a Global Crisis: US Carbon Billionaires and the UN Climate Deadlock.  IFG’s report details how Charles and David Koch’s undue influence over United States climate policy has helped to paralyze United Nations climate talks.  Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index recently ranked the oil baron brothers’ combined net worth ($80.2B) as greater than that of the world’s wealthiest man, Carlos Slim ($71.8B).  The Kochs also outspent Exxon to kill US climate legislation. IFG’s new report follows the 2011 report, Outing the Oligarchy: Billionaires Who Benefit from Today’s Climate Crisis, published during COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, which identified the world’s fifty wealthiest individuals most invested in fossil fuels who wield their wealth to prevent the phase out of fossil fuels. Faces Behind A Global Crisis focuses on the top billionaires blocking US climate policies because the US is widely seen as the major obstacle to any meaningful multilateral commitments to cutting dangerous greenhouse gases that cause climate disruptions. The report explains how the Kochs’ campaign contributions, lobbying legislators, funding climate denialists, attacking clean air laws, and stopping the shift in subsidies from fossil fuels has helped to halt any serious progress on climate policy in the US.  The result is a deadlock in addressing the global crisis, as the US is the indispensable nation for action. “As the top spenders to stop climate policy in the planet’s most polluting nation, the two oil barons from Wichita hold hostage any progress in Washington, and hence any meaningful global deal in Doha,” said Victor Menotti, Executive Director of the IFG. “Advancing a UN agreement requires substantial changes in US domestic dynamics to reduce the role of the Kochs, and all private money, corrupting policy outcomes. Setting stronger standards for power plant pollution will be a litmus test.” As cleanup continues in the US after the devastating Superstorm Sandy—which killed 125 Americans, 71 Caribbeans and did $62B in damage—the UN’s Climate Conference in Doha enters its final week with US negotiators still unable to table any ambitious commitments to cut emissions.  Instead, the US insists on a “new paradigm” of voluntary pledges that falls far short of keeping below the agreed 2 C degree increase in global temperatures, and sets the world on course to warm up by 4-6 C degrees. Meena Raman of the Third World Network and an IFG Board Member noted that, “The world cannot expect US negotiators to do anything but lead a race to the bottom toward a total climate crisis as long as they speak for their oil billionaires and not for the American people.  How many more must die from climate disruptions before US negotiators align their position with the scientific reality that says the world needs ambitious actions to cut carbon now?”

    The report is available online at http://kochcash.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/ifg_report.pdf

     

     

    Analysis: Rich Countries Spend Five Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Climate Aid

    By Stephen Lacey on Dec 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    In 2009, world leaders at the G20 summit agreed that phasing out fossil fuel subsidies should be a top priority. Three years later, with very little progress on actually repealing those subsidies, promises for reform ring hollow.

    Now, as diplomats gather in Doha, Qatar for an international climate summit — an event that experts say will bring very few meaningful commitments — groups are stepping up the pressure on fossil fuel subsidy reform.

    Rich countries spent $58 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011. That’s roughly five times the amount they spent on “fast startfinancing for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, according to an analysis released today at the Doha climate talks by Oil Change International.

     


    Environmental group seeks to curb emissions from existing power plants

    Michael S. Williamson/WASHINGTON POST – The Pleasants Power Station operated by Allegheny Energy is one of several coal-fired power plants that operate along the Ohio River. Many of the coal fire plants are facing tougher environmental regulations that will be taking effect in the next couple of years. The Natural Resources Defense Council kicked off an effort Tuesday to press the Obama administration for carbon dioxide emission limits from existing power plants.

    By Steven Mufson, Published: December 4 2012. The Natural Resources Defense Council kicked off an effort Tuesday to press the Obama administration to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions for existing power plants, a goal that environmentalists say is their top priority for the president’s second term. The proposal would offer ways to limit the regulation’s economic impact by letting states use different routes to meeting federal standards, including credits for utilities that implement wide-ranging energy efficiency programs. It would also let utilities average their emissions from old plants with the zero emissions from new renewable energy projects to meet guidelines. The old coal plants emit 40 percent of the nation’s total emissions, and while the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed limits on new power plants, it has yet to address CO2 emissions from existing ones. The NRDC said that by 2020 its plan would help slash carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 26 percent, compared to 2005 levels, and by 17 percent from 2011 levels.

    “We break the conventional wisdom that great savings can only be achieved at great expense,” said David Doniger, policy director of the climate and clean air program at the NRDC. He said the environmental group’s proposal could generate $25 billion to $60 billion worth of benefits from reductions in sulfur, nitrogen oxide and carbon emissions for as little as $4 billion. He said it would “expand the options of how to comply and reduce the cost of reaching the limit.”

    Carbon dioxide is a common greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to climate change.

    The electric power generating industry is already in upheaval. Many utilities are closing down old coal plants and replacing them with new natural gas-fired power plants, taking advantage of cheap, plentiful gas supplies. The new gas plants also have climate benefits because burning natural gas generates only half the emissions as coal, though some experts say that gas leakage offsets some or all of those benefits. Doniger said that the NRDC proposal would still accelerate the closure of old coal plants….

     

     

     

    • RESOURCES and REFERENCES

     

     

     


    California’s Flood Future Highlights
    A new draft of California’s Flood Future Highlights
    has been posted on the DWR website. It is a collaborative effort between DWR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide a look at statewide flood risk, along with recommendations for improving and financing integrated flood management. The highlights will be discussed at the Public Advisory Committee meeting on Dec. 13.

     

    Final draft of the Delta Plan
    The Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) has released the final draft of the Delta Plan. At the same time, the DSC has also released a Recirculated Draft Delta Plan Programmatic Environmental Impact Report and draft regulations based on policies in the Delta Plan’s final draft. Details are available in a news release from the DSC….

     

     

    Climate Change and Birds at American Bird Conservancy Projects

    This presentation, developed by Davia Palmeri and David Wiedenfeld of American Bird Conservancy (ABC), reviews the likely effects of climate change on birds and system the reserves ABC and partners have been creating to protect key habitats. See http://youtu.be/tnBiEEn_pAc to view the presentation.

     

     

    Forest and Range Assessment Steering Committee Meeting on Climate Change

    Help us ring in the New Year with a discussion about climate change! The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP) and the United States Forest Service (USFS), Region 5, in conjunction with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) invite you to a discussion about the effects of climate change on working forest and rangelands
    in California on Thursday, January 10, 2013. This is one of a series of meetings of the Forest and Rangelands Assessment Advisory Committee (FRASC) in preparation for the 2015 assessment of forest and rangelands in California. We invite you to participate in a discussion and share with us your ideas and concerns in regard to climate change and forests and rangelands in California.  This discussion will be the start of our revision of the climate change portion of the 2015 assessment of forests and rangelands. We are seeking the participation of local, state and federal agencies, industry experts, non-governmental organizations and private stakeholders. Climate change affects everyone, and we look forward to hearing a variety of perspectives. This meeting will begin with a panel of speakers who will share their experience with assessing and mitigating the effects of climate change in California. The panelists represent a diverse array of experience and interests: Ellie Cohen, President and CEO for PRBO Conservation Science; Dave Graber, Chief Scientist for the National Park Service Pacific South Region; Chrissy Howell, Regional Wildlife Program Leader, US Forest Service Region 5; and Klaus Scott, Forest Sector GHG inventory at the California Air Resources Board. Following the panel presentation, we will open the forum for a group discussion. For a detailed agenda or background about the upcoming meeting, the assessment processes, or FRASC, please see our website: http://frap.fire.ca.gov/frasc.html/ The meeting will be held in Davis, California: 9:00 – 12:00 on Thursday, January 10, 2013 Room #229 (upstairs) USDA Lyng Service Center 430 G Street, Davis, CA

    For those unable to attend in person, we are providing access to the meeting via webinar:  https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/913867818 We hope you are able to attend and we look forward to hearing what you have to say. Please suggest this meeting to friends and colleagues you think may be interested. RSVPs to kelly.larvie@fire.ca.gov are greatly appreciated by Thursday, January 5th.

     

     

     

    SCENARIO PLANNING TOOLS:

     

    Adaptation Resources:


    ***Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments

    This guidebook, published in 2007 by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, presents a detailed, easy-to-understand process for climate change preparedness based on familiar resources and tools. ICLEI’s website also provides links to a number of other free adaptation resources.

    ***Georgetown Climate Center Adaptation Portal
    The nonprofit Georgetown Climate Center has developed a clearinghouse of information on impacts and adaptation for state and local governments, including news and updates, a directory of resources and tools, and state and local adaptation stories. The Georgetown Climate Center has also developed an adaptation toolkit for sea-level rise and coastal land use.

    ***Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE)
    CAKE, a joint project of Island Press and EcoAdapt, aims to build a shared knowledge base for managing natural systems in the face of rapid climate change. The CAKE website provides a virtual library, case studies, a directory of people and organizations, and tools.

    ***Coastal Climate Adaptation Community of Practice for State and Local Governments
    NOAA’s Coastal Climate Adaptation site is a community of practice for state and local officials in coastal areas of the United States. The site includes a searchable online database of adaptation action plans, policies, assessments, case studies, communication and outreach materials, and other resources posted by members, as well as basic climate change information.

     

     

    EPA WEBCASTS:

     

    December 6, 3:00-4:30 PM (EST) – Energy Efficiency Competitions for Local Governments In this webinar sponsored by EPA’s Local Climate and Energy Program, learn how local governments can plan and run an energy efficiency competition to encourage energy reductions in their communities. Experts from EPA’s ENERGY STAR program will discuss the benefits of a competition, the basic steps involved, common barriers and possible solutions, and free resources to help you put together your own local competition. You’ll also hear speakers from Climate Showcase Community Cary, North Carolina, talk about their efforts to reduce energy use in their fire stations—and get a sneak peek at their upcoming Fire Chief’s Challenge for fire stations nationwide.
    Webcast registration

    December 7, 1:00-2:00 PM (EST) Global Warming’s Six Americas: Understanding and Communicating with a Diverse Public
    Americans differ in their beliefs and concern about climate change. Understanding the differences is vital to effective engagement and to bring about positive behavioral change. Insight into stakeholders’ views can help organizations communicate the importance of using green power and saving energy. In this webinar sponsored by EPA’s Green Power Partnership, Dr. Edward Maibach, professor and director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, will provide a summary of recent findings from the “Climate Change in the American Mind” and “Global Warming’s Six Americas” audience research studies conducted by George Mason University and Yale University. He will address a range of topics, including recent increases in public engagement in climate change, perceptions about extreme weather and its relationship to climate change, and public policy preferences.
    Webcast registration

    December 11, 2:00-4:00 PM (EST) – Learn how Tribes are Confronting Climate Change
    This webcast, hosted by EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs, will showcase tribes that are implementing programs in energy efficiency, materials recycling, and climate change adaptation. Learn how the Gila River Indian Community and Choctaw Nation are reducing greenhouse gas emissions through recycling and energy efficiency audits, and learn how the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin is integrating climate change considerations into its overall decision-making and in its water management programs. Two of these tribes have implemented a variety of clean energy projects under EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program: Gila River has completed a community-wide greenhouse gas inventory and developed programs for curbside recycling, energy-efficient lighting, and green buildings; Choctaw Nation is implementing a project to improve energy efficiency throughout its hospital system. The webcast will also provide information about resources and funding ideas to help tribal governments design and implement climate change programs. Webcast registration

    December 5, 2:00 PM-3:30 PM (EST) – Climate Change Preparedness Planning in the West: Lessons from Local Governments
    Sponsored by the Lincoln Land Institute and the Sonoran Institute, this webcast will examine the impacts of climate change on the Southwest and what communities are doing to become more resilient to changes in climate and resource availability. Sustainability specialists from Boulder County, Colorado, and Flagstaff, Arizona, will examine the impacts of climate change on their communities and how they plan to become more resilient.
    Webcast registration

     

     

     

    Future Earth

    Future Earth is a new 10-year international research initiative that will develop the knowledge for responding effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change and for supporting transformation towards global sustainability in the coming decades. Future Earth will mobilize thousands of scientists while strengthening partnerships with policy-makers and other stakeholders to provide sustainability options and solutions in the wake of Rio+20.

    Future Earth will be a global platform to deliver:

    • Solution-orientated research for sustainability, linking environmental change and development challenges to satisfy human needs for food, water, energy, health;
    • Effective interdisciplinary collaboration across natural and social sciences, humanities, economics, and technology development, to find the best scientific solutions to multi-faceted problems;
    • Timely information for policy-makers by  generating the knowledge that will support existing and new global and regional integrated assessments;
    • Participation of policy-makers, funders, academics, business and industry, and other sectors of civil society in co-designing and co-producing research agendas and knowledge;
    • Increased capacity building in science, technology and innovation, especially in developing countries and engagement of a new generation of scientists.

    Integrating existing endeavours

    Future Earth will build on the success of existing global environmental change programmes (Diversitas, IGBP, IHDP, WCRP and ESSP), to help develop a stronger and broader community. The Planet Under Pressure conference (London, March 2012) was a step towards this goal, with wide support of Future Earth as one of its major outcomes.

     

     

    Biofuel Watch: Biofuelwatch works to raise awareness of the negative impacts of industrial biofuels and bioenergy on biodiversity, human rights, food sovereignty and climate change. Based in UK and US, we work with national and international partners to expose and oppose the social and environmental damages resulting from bioenergy-driven increased demand for industrial agriculture and forestry monocultures.

     

    Find out when Bag It is airing next on
    The Documentary Channel

    Bag It has been garnering awards at film festivals across the nation. What started as a documentary about plastic bags evolved into a wholesale investigation into plastics and their effect on our waterways, oceans, and even our bodies. Join the Bag It movement and decide for yourself how plastic your life will be.

     

     

    Schwarzenegger’s new project: Showtime climate change documentary

    December 3, 2012 | 
    LA Times

    The first time Arnold Schwarzenegger teamed up with director James Cameron, it was for the role that defined the future governor’s film career “The Terminator.”

    Now the two are teaming up on a very different project. The former California governor and Cameron are teaming up with producer Jerry Weintraub and a pair of producers from “60 Minutes” on a new documentary series for Showtime that will focus on the effects of global climate change. …

     

     

     

     

    • RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

     

    Energy Department pushes for electric car battery research

    The US Department of Energy has set a goal to improve battery and energy storage technologies by five times that of today–in the next five years, Ingram writes.

    By Antony Ingram, Guest blogger / December 5, 2012


    A participant in a Toyota Motor Corp. press event puts a quick charger plug into the newly-developed compact electric vehicle “eQ” in this September 2012 file photo. A new center funded by the US Department of Energy aims to develop better electric car batteries and other energy storage systems.

    If you want to know how advanced cars might be in the next hundred years, just take a look at how far the car has come along in the last hundred. Unfortunately, electric cars missed out on decades of development over the last century. Battery technology in particular still suffers many of the issues it always has. In an effort to speed up development, the U.S. Department of Energy has set a goal to improve battery and energy storage technologies by five times that of today–in the next five years…..

     

     

    World’s first demonstration of power transfer from wheels to power an electric car
    (December 5, 2012) — Electric vehicles (EV) have ten times higher energy performance than automobiles powered by gasoline-based engines. However, they are not yet popular with drivers due to the need to store large batteries onboard. Now, researchers are developing an innovative method for powering EVs that drastically reduces the number of batteries.
    Electric vehicles (EV) have ten times higher energy performance than automobiles powered by gasoline-based engines. EVs show tremendous potential as an effective solution to both energy shortages and global warming. However, conventional battery-based EVs are not popular with drivers because of drawbacks including: (1) short cruising range; (2) long time to recharge; and (3) high cost. Now, assuming that these drawbacks stem from the need to store large batteries onboard cars, then there are strong demands for alternatives means of powering electric cars. In a novel approach, Takashi Ohira at Toyohashi University of Technology and colleagues are developing an innovative method for powering EVs that drastically reduces the number of batteries. The approach exploits the steel belt usually embedded in rubber tires. The steel belt collects power excited from a pair of electrodes buried beneath the road surface. And, since the steel belt is electrically insulated by the rubber tread, the researchers used a displacement current at high frequency to penetrate from underground to the steel belt….… > full story

     

    Tiny structure gives big boost to solar power
    (December 6, 2012) — Researchers have found a simple and economic way to nearly triple the efficiency of organic solar cells, the cheap and flexible plastic devices that many scientists believe could be the future of solar power. … > full story

     

    Coal Is Going To Decline. And Frankly It Should.’

    By Stephen Lacey on Dec 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    One of the world’s biggest mining firms says that extreme weather caused by climate change is already impacting some of its assets, thus forcing the company to re-evaluate its investments in the coal sector.

    Speaking to investors and analysts on Monday, the Chief Executive of BHP Billiton’s coal division explained how the company is reinforcing infrastructure around its coal export terminal in Queensland, Australia because of increases in extreme weather that threaten the facility.

    BHP Billiton is one of the largest producers of aluminum, copper, thermal coal, metallurgical coal, nickel, silver and uranium. The Australian company also owns and operates the Hay Point Services Coal Terminal, a coal facility that makes up a large portion of the biggest coal port in the world.

    And now that facility is under threat from intensifying extreme weather, says BHP executive Marcus Randolph. His comments were reported in the Australian Financial Review after the company’s presentation on its sustainability strategy:

    “As we see more cyclone-related events . . . the vulnerability of one of these facilities to a cyclone is quite high,” he said. “So we built a model saying this is how we see this impacting what the economics would be and used that with our board of directors to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change.” Mr Randolph said the decision was taken after cyclone Yasi hit further north in Queensland in February 2011. “If cyclone Yasi had hit Hay Point, we would have lost that facility,” he said. “So it is a recognition that as these cyclones become more severe, we need to have facilities that are more able to withstand them.” Simply reinforcing a coal export facility with extra jetties to withstand an increase in extreme weather caused by carbon pollution from the coal that the company wants to continue exporting isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for sustainability. But this plain-spoken admission that climate change is having a measurable impact now — without trying muddle the science — is very unique for a coal company.

     

    Synthetic fuel could eliminate U.S. need for crude oil, researchers say
    (December 5, 2012) — The United States could eliminate the need for crude oil by using a combination of coal, natural gas and non-food crops to make synthetic fuel, a team of researchers has found. Besides economic and national security benefits, the plan has potential environmental advantages. Because plants absorb carbon dioxide to grow, the United States could cut vehicle greenhouse emissions by as much as 50 percent in the next several decades using non-food crops to create liquid fuels, the researchers said. … > full story

     

    Mitigating our carbon footprint
    (December 5, 2012) — Scientists keep producing increasingly complex modelling tools to evaluate urgently needed mitigating strategies of our carbon footprint. However, it is policy makers who have to decide on measures to curb our CO2 emissions. Therefore the science of carbon emissions needs to be translated into useful information to serve their needs. The problem is that the ongoing scientific debate and the conflicting results of more than 30 scientific models for climate change cannot support rational policy decision making. A unique tool called EUREAPA was therefore developed to help policy makers in their decisions. It resulted from a research project funded by the EU, called OPEN:EU, coordinated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
    This tool models the carbon footprint of human activities. It also provides average consumption at a national level for production sectors such as housing, food and transport. Most importantly, it allows users to develop their own scenarios. Experts welcome this development. “A full integrative approach is required to address the realistic potential and effectiveness of carbon mitigation options,” Josep Canadell said. He is a research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Canberra, Australia. … > full story

     

     

    Environment: New study shows dispersant makes oil up to 52 times more toxic to Gulf of Mexico microorganisms

    Posted on December 1, 2012 by Bob Berwyn Summit Voice

    FRISCO — The massive amounts of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded was devastating to marine life, but the dispersant used in the aftermath to try and break down the oil slicks may have been even worse for some species, according to new research done by scientists with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico.

    Based on laboratory toxicity tests, the study found that the oil-dispersant mix was up to 52 times more toxic to tiny rotifers, microscopic grazers at the base of the Gulf’s food chain.

    The researchers tested a mix oil from the spill and Corexit, the dispersant required by the Environmental Protection Agency for clean up, on five strains of rotifers. Rotifers have long been used by ecotoxicologists to assess toxicity in marine waters because of their fast response time, ease of use in tests and sensitivity to toxicants.

    Other studies the past two years have shown similar results. Esentially, the mixture of oil and dispersant is more easily absorbed by organisms, raising the question of whether the benefits of using dispersant are enough to offset the negative effects.

    One study showed a dramatic change in the composition of microbial communities on some Gulf beaches, while another found traces of a toxic blend of oil and dispersants present in the surf line, where swimmers and surfers could be exposed. Scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that plumes of the dispersant lingered in deep Gulf waters for many months after the spill.

    The Deepwater Horizon spill marked the first time dispersant was used in such massive quantities, being mixed directly with the oil spewing out of the broken well.

    The latest research shows the mixture caused mortality in adult rotifers, and as little as 2.6 percent of the oil-dispersant mixture inhibited rotifer egg hatching by 50 percent.  Inhibition of rotifer egg hatching from the sediments is important because these eggs hatch into rotifers each spring, reproduce in the water column, and provide food for baby fish, shrimp and crabs in estuaries….

     

     

     

    Shale Shocked: Studies Tie Rise Of Significant Earthquakes In U.S. Midcontinent To Wastewater Injection

    Posted: 04 Dec 2012 09:17 AM PST

    Two new papers tie a recent increase in significant earthquakes to reinjection of wastewater fluids from unconventional oil and gas drilling. The first study notes “significant earthquakes are increasingly occurring within the United States midcontinent.” In the specific case of Oklahoma, a Magnitude “5.7 earthquake and a prolific sequence of related events … were likely triggered by fluid injection.” The second study, of the Raton Basin of Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico by a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team, concludes ”the majority, if not all of the earthquakes since August 2001 have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane field here.” Both studies are being presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union this week (program with abstracts here)….

     

    Gulf oil spill: Oil-dispersing chemicals had little effect on oil surfacing, according to new study
    (December 4, 2012) — A new study examined the effects of the use of unprecedented quantities of synthetic dispersants on the distribution of an oil mass in the water column. Scientists developed and tested models to show that the application of oil-dispersing chemicals had little effect on the oil surfacing in the Gulf of Mexico. … > full story

     

    Research, response for future oil spills: Lessons learned from Deepwater Horizon
    (December 3, 2012) — A special collection of articles about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill provides the first comprehensive analysis and synthesis of the science used in the unprecedented response effort by the government, academia, and industry. Two overview papers and 13 specialty papers constitute a special section of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. … > full story

     

    Shell’s Failed Arctic Oil Spill Equipment: ‘Breached Like A Whale’ And ‘Crushed Like A Beer Can’

    Posted: 05 Dec 2012 05:56 AM PST by Kiley Kroh

    After struggling to get the last of their drilling equipment out of the Beaufort Sea as winter sea ice encroached, it appeared the long list of criticisms and setbacks that marked Shell’s first Arctic Ocean drilling season had come to an end. That respite was very brief. Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW has released internal emails between Interior Department officials, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, detailing Shell’s failed test of underwater oil spill response equipment. Shell and the federal government kept a close hold on the specifics of what exactly went wrong during the test – and now it’s clear why. …..In order to avoid catastrophic warming, the International Energy Agency estimates that we’ll need to leave 2/3rds of global carbon reserves in the ground before 2050.

    Continuing on our current path of fossil fuel consumption will drive oil companies into some of the most extreme conditions on the planet, like the fragile Arctic Ocean – a frightening prospect not just for the people and ecosystems that are threatened by their unpreparedness, but also the urgent need to curb our carbon emissions and slow climate change.

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

     

    James Hansen Receives the Stephen Schneider Climate Science Communication Award 12/5/2012 – Lucy Sanna
    Climate One, The Commonwealth Club HQ, San Francisco (December 4, 2012)

    In his 1988 congressional testimony, climatologist James Hansen presented climate models that projected continual global warming, stating that the evidence was strong that the “greenhouse effect” was already here. Since that time he has voiced increasing concern about the risks of climatic tipping points that could bring catastrophic consequences to the planet.

     SPEAKER:
    James Hansen, head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; adjunct professor, Columbia University’s Earth Institute; former member of the Climate One Advisory Council; author, Storms of My Grandchildren

     Listen to audio: Climate One Podcast
    Watch video clips:   Coming soon…

    James Hansen—head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and author of Storms of My Grandchildren—first met Stephen Schneider when Schneider was still a student. “It’s ironic that I’m getting the Steve Schneider award because we couldn’t have been more opposite,” Hansen recalled, speaking of their personalities. “My girlfriend would talk with him to ward him off.” Despite their differences, they became friends. In fact, following Hansen’s congressional testimony in 1998, when he received requests for interviews, he gave them to Schneider, who “had the gift of gab.” Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, Hansen spoke of the warming in the Atlantic driving cyclonic storms, which, unlike a hurricane, stretch for thousands of miles. “If you get a hurricane embedded in one of those, that’s when you get a higher dose. That’s what we had with Sandy.” He went on to say, “The dice are now loaded. Not only do you get more unusually warm seasons, but those that are most extreme are much more frequent than they used to be.” Is there a human fingerprint on Sandy? “You can’t blame a single event and connect that in a simple way to global warming, but the frequency and extremity of those events you can connect to global warming in a very straightforward way.”

    Hansen advocates putting pressure on politicians. As one who has himself been arrested for civil disobedience, he said, “I really object to politicians and others who say that scientists should just stick to the narrow science and not look at the whole problem, because you do have to connect the dots. Scientists are actually trained to be objective and to understand complex problems. This is a complex problem.” And the solution? The incentive to change is carbon tax, collecting from fossil fuel companies at the source—at the mine or the port of entry—and distributing it, 100%, to the public, to every person in the country, he says. “As long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, then people will keep burning them. And they’re cheapest because they are not only subsidized, but they don’t pay their cost to society.” He spoke of the health problems caused by air and water pollution, and the cost of extreme weather—”$50B from Sandy in New York, $50B in New Jersey. The drought last summer took half a point off GDP growth. The public pays the cost.” With a rising price on fossil fuels, the marketplace will make the decisions. What about the increasing use of fossil fuels in other countries, such as China and India? Put a carbon tax on their products when they arrive at the border, he said, saying it would be an enormous incentive for them to reduce their carbon use at home. Looking toward the future, Hansen spoke of the need to help young people better understand nature. With that goal, he is currently writing a book with his fourteen-year-old granddaughter, Sophie. The Stephen Schneider Award is generously underwritten by Tom R. Burns, Uppsala University (Sweden) and Lisbon University Institute, Portugal; Nora Machado, Lisbon University Institute, Portugal; ClimateWorks Foundation; Michael Haas, founder, Alliance for Climate Education.

     

    Stephen Maturen for The New York Times

    To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios

    By JUSTIN GILLIS December 4, 2012

    On dozens of campuses, college students are demanding that their schools combat pollution and climate change by divesting themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks.

    SWARTHMORE, Pa. — A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no. As they consider how to ratchet up their campaign, the students suddenly find themselves at the vanguard of a national movement. In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda. “We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich. Students who have signed on see it as a conscious imitation of the successful effort in the 1980s to pressure colleges and other institutions to divest themselves of the stocks of companies doing business in South Africa under apartheid. A small institution in Maine, Unity College, has already voted to get out of fossil fuels. Another, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, has adopted a broad investment policy that is ridding its portfolio of fossil fuel stocks. …

     


     

    Bird counters also keep eye on climate change

    Mail Tribune  - ‎December 7, 2012‎

    Groups of bird watchers heading out all over the U.S. this month for the 113th annual Christmas BirdCount are helping plot what appear to be significant global trends.

     

    Participants wanted for the 114th Annual Christmas Bird Count

    Examiner.com December 4, 2012

    Second, to minimize the loss of fee income for the Audubon Society, American Birds will no longer be printed on paper and mailed to participants, and Audubon will move to an online delivery of the summary results of the CBC.

     


    Bisphenol A: BPA Additive Blocks Cell Function

     

     


    December 6, 2012Bisphenol A, a substance found in many synthetic products, is considered to be harmful, particularly, for fetuses and babies. Researchers have now shown in experiments on cells from human and mouse tissue that this environmental chemical blocks calcium channels in cell membranes. Similar effects are elicited by drugs used to treat high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia. … > full story

    Study shows BPA exposure in fetal livers
    (December 3, 2012) — New research found BPA, or bisphenol A, in fetal liver tissue, demonstrating that there is considerable exposure to the chemical during pregnancy. … > full story

    Moderate coffee consumption may reduce risk of diabetes by up to 25 percent
    (December 4, 2012) — New research highlights the potential role of coffee consumption in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. … > full story

     

    Clinical trial tests if rice bran can reduce incidence of cancer
    (December 5, 2012) — A recent review shows that rice bran offers promising cancer prevention properties. Meanwhile, an ongoing clinical trial is testing the effectiveness of rice bran in preventing the recurrence of colon cancer. … > full story

     

    GreenCarReports
    The website focuses on the auto industry’s future, the evolution of cars beyond fossil fuels, and the green movement’s relevance to car shoppers today. For more stories on green cars, click here.

    Recent posts

     

    Excellent leasing available now on electric cars:

    2012 Nissan Leaf Lease Now $219 A Month, Incentives Increase

    www.greencarreports.com › NewsElectric Cars

    by Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield – in 224 Google+ circles – Oct 1, 2012 – Are you tempted by the new, lower lease deals to buy a Nissan Leaf, or are you worried about 2012 Nissan Leaf Gets Even Cheaper: Now, $139/Month Lease …. 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, upstate New York, Dec 2012

    November 2012 Lease Deals | Our Nissan Leaf

    ournissanleaf.com/?p=48

    Nissan LEAF® Electric Car Awards – Nissan USA Official Site

    2012 Nissan LEAF Earns Top Safety Pick Rating from IIHS. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2012 Nissan LEAF® a “Top Safety Pick” ..

     

     

     

    • IMAGES OF THE WEEK

     

     

     

    Mysterious Atmospheric River Soaks California, Where Megaflood May Be Overdue

    By Mark Fischetti | November 30, 2012 |  12

    An atmospheric river (thin yellow band) feeds torrential rain into northern California on Nov. 30. Image courtesy of NOAA

    Northern California is experiencing the first days of what weather forecasters are warning will be a long series of torrential rainstorms that could cause serious flooding across the northern one-third of the state. The relentless storms are being driven by a feature in the atmosphere you have probably never heard of: an atmospheric river. Oh, and another atmospheric river created the worst flooding since the 1960s in western England and Wales this past week, where more than 1,000 homes had to be evacuated. An atmospheric river is a narrow conveyor belt of vapor about a mile high that extends thousands of miles from out at sea and can carry as much water as 15 Mississippi Rivers. It strikes as a series of storms that arrive for days or weeks on end. Each storm can dump inches of rain or feet of snow. For more details, see this feature story that Scientific American has just published, written by two experts on these storms…..

     


     

    http://www.offthemark.com/receive.php?pdate=2005-12-26


     


     

    http://vimeo.com/53745876