Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Ellie Cohen, President and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science

Archive: Apr 2014

  1. Drought and Climate Change

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    Study connects man-made global warming to ongoing California drought, winter’s polar vortex

    Associated Press April 24, 2014 By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer WASHINGTON (AP) —   While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it’s not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought and the polar vortex blamed for a harsh winter that mercifully has just ended in many places. The Utah State University scientists involved in the study say they hope what they found can help them predict the next big weird winter. Outside scientists, such as Katharine Hayhoe at Texas Tech University, are calling this study promising but not quite proven as it pushes the boundaries in “one of the hottest topics in climate science today.” The United States just came out of a two-faced winter — bitter cold and snowy in the Midwest and East, warm and severely dry in the West. The latest U.S. drought monitor says 100 percent of California is in an official drought. The new study blames an unusual “dipole,” a combination of a strong Western high pressure ridge and deep Great Lakes low pressure trough. That dipole is linked to a recently found precursor to El Nino, the world-weather changing phenomenon. And that precursor itself seems amplified by a build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the study says. It’s like a complex game of weather dominos that starts with cold water off China and ends with a devastating drought and memorable winter in the United States, said study author Simon Wang, a Utah State University climate scientist. Wang was looking at colder water off China as a precursor to an El Nino. The colder water there triggers westerly winds in the tropical Pacific. Those westerly winds persist for several months and eventually push warmed up water and air to the central Pacific where an El Nino forms, Wang said. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns. Wang saw the precursors and weather event coming months before federal weather officials issued an official El Nino watch last month. Then Wang noticed the connection between that precursor — cold water off China, Vietnam and Taiwan — and the recent wild winter. He tracked similar combinations of highs and lows in North America. And he found those combination extremes are getting stronger. Wang based his study, soon to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, on computer simulations, physics and historical data. It is not as detailed and doesn’t involve numerous computer model simulations as more formal attribution studies. Still, Wang said his is a proper connection. Wang compared computer simulations with and without gases from the burning of fossil fuels. When he included carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use, he got a scenario over the past few decades that mirrored what has happened, including this past weird winter and other worsening dipole conditions. When he took out the greenhouse gases, the increasing extremes actually went down — not what happened in real life…..

     

    Probable causes of the abnormal ridge accompanying the 2013-14 California drought: ENSO precursor and anthropogenic warming footprint

    S.-Y. Simon Wang1,2,*, Lawrence Hipps2,  Robert R Gillies1,2 and Jin-Ho YoonGeophysical Research Letters DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059748 ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

    Abstract

    The 2013-14 California drought was accompanied by an anomalous high-amplitude ridge system. The anomalous ridge was investigated using reanalysis data and the Community Earth System Model (CESM). It was found that the ridge emerged from continual sources of Rossby wave energy in the western North Pacific starting in late summer, and subsequently intensified into winter. The ridge generated a surge of wave energy downwind and deepened further the trough over the northeast U.S., forming a dipole. The dipole and associated circulation pattern is not linked directly with either ENSO or Pacific Decadal Oscillation; instead it is correlated with a type of ENSO precursor. The connection between the dipole and ENSO precursor has become stronger since the 1970s, and this is attributed to increased GHG loading as simulated by the CESM. Therefore, there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.

  2. Climate Discussion Echoes Tobacco Debate

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    Climate Discussion Echoes Tobacco Debate (pdf)

    SCIENCE Letter 18 APRIL 2014 VOL 344  SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org  ROBERT J. GOULD AND EDWARD MAIBACH

    IN 1962, LUTHER TERRY, THE SURGEON GENERAL OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, ESTABLISHED the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. On 11 January 1964, he released the committee’s report, “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (1), which reviewed the existing science and concluded that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally linked to cigarette smoking. This landmark report marked a critical pivot in our national response to tobacco products, leading to packet warning labels, restrictions on cigarette advertising, and anti-tobacco campaigns. But it by no means ended the debate about what we now know to be horrifically negative public health impacts of tobacco use. Instead, it galvanized the tobacco companies, through their industry-funded Tobacco Institute, to publish a large number of “white papers” to rebut scientifi c reports critical of tobacco (2). The demise of the Tobacco Institute came in 1998, as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, where 46 state attorneys general obtained $206 billion dollars over 25 years from the tobacco industry for its culpability in creating a public health crisis (3). This bit of history has important parallels to our national discussion of climate change. On 18 March, AAAS released a report produced by a panel of 13 prominent experts chaired by the Nobel prize–winning scientist Mario Molina, titled “What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change” (http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts). As was the case when Luther Terry issued his tobacco report in 1964, no new science is being offered in the climate report. Instead, it presents a brief review of the key relevant scientific conclusions. Just as the 1964 report included discussion of the possibility that tobacco caused cardiovascular disease, the “What We Know” paper speaks to the possibility of abrupt climate change risks. Another important parallel is that the 1964 report was issued under the imprimatur of a highly trusted and authoritative source. AAAS, as the largest general membership society of scientists in the world, holds a similar position of trust. Yet another important parallel between the AAAS “What We Know” report and the 1964 Surgeon General’s report is the political and social context into which it is launched. As historians Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway depict in their book Merchants of Doubt (4), the tobacco issue created an industry playbook for running misinformation campaigns to mislead the public and deny well established scientific conclusions. As the authors document, the industry misinformation campaign on climate change is in high gear and achieving results: Many Americans think that climate experts still have much disagreement about whether human-caused climate change is happening (5 ). Today it’s inconceivable that an American decision-maker would risk the public opprobrium that would result from expressing skepticism that tobacco causes cancer. We believe that it is an obligation of all scientists to hasten the day when the same is true for climate change, where the stakes are even higher.

     

    References

    1. L. Terry et al “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (U-23 Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service Publication No. 1103, 1964).

    2. Tobacco Smoke and the Nonsmoker: Scientific Integrity at the Crossroads (Tobacco Institute, Washington, DC, 1986); http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/documentStore/w/a/l/wal03e00/Swal03e00.pdf.

    3. Master Settlement Agreement (National Association of Attorneys General, 1998).

    4. N. Oreskes, E. M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010).

    5. A. Leiserowitz et al “Climate change in the American mind: Americans’ global warming beliefs” (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason  University Center for Climate Change Communication, 2013); http://environment.yale.edu/climate- communication/fi les/Climate-Beliefs-April-2013.pdf.

  3. Rethinking natural habitat for wildlife- land “islands” can be valuable for biodiversity

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    Costa Rican farmlands can support much more wildlife than previously thought, according to Stanford research on bat populations.

    Researchers rethink ‘natural’ habitat for wildlife
    (April 18, 2014)Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach nine billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to researchers. A new study finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks.
    A new study, published April 16 in the journal
    Nature and co-authored by three Stanford scientists, finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks. Current projections forecast that about half of Earth’s plants and animals will go extinct over the next century because of human activities, mostly due to our agricultural methods. “The extinction under way threatens to weaken and even destroy key parts of Earth’s life-support systems, upon which economic prosperity and all other aspects of human well-being depend,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment But that grim future isn’t a foregone conclusion. “Until the next asteroid slams into Earth, the future of all known life hinges on people, more than on any other force,” Daily said.

     

    Conservationists have long assumed that once natural landscapes are fractured by human development or agriculture, migration corridors for wildlife are broken, blocking access to food, shelter and breeding grounds. A scholarly theory was developed to estimate the number of species in such fractured landscapes, where patches of forest surrounded by farms resemble islands of natural habitat. The “equilibrium theory of island biogeography” is a pillar of biological research — its elegant equation to estimate the number of species in a habitat has almost reached the status of a scientific law, according to Chase Mendenhall, a Stanford doctoral student in biology and the study’s lead author. The theory drives the default strategy of conserving biodiversity by designating nature reserves. This strategy sees reserves as “islands in an inhospitable sea of human-modified habitats” and doesn’t adequately account for biodiversity patterns in many human-dominated landscapes, according to the Stanford study. “This paper shows that farmland and forest remnants can be more valuable for biodiversity than previously assumed,” said Daniel Karp, who earned his PhD in biology at Stanford in 2013 and is currently a NatureNet postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. “If we’re valuing coffee fields and other human-made habitats at zero, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and wildlife,” Mendenhall said….

     

    The reason for the discrepancies, according to the study’s authors, is that island biogeographic theory was originally based on actual islands surrounded by water, and does not account for factors such as a countryside landscape’s ability to support more species and slow extinction rates compared to true island ecosystems. Especially in the tropics, island biogeographic theory’s application is “distorting our understanding and conservation strategies in agriculture, the enterprise on which the future of biodiversity most critically hinges,” the study’s authors wrote. “Not only do more species persist across the ‘sea of farmland’ than expected by island biogeographic theory, novel yet native species actually thrive there,” said co-author Elizabeth Hadly, the Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “This indicates that human-altered landscapes can foster more biological diversity than we anticipated.”

     

    The fate of much of the world’s wildlife is playing out in human-altered landscapes that are increasingly threatened by chemical inputs such as herbicides and pesticides. Biodiversity is not the only loser. People are losing many of nature’s benefits such as water purification provided by forests and wetlands and pest control provided by birds and bats. The study’s findings point to the need for new approaches that integrate conservation and food production, to make agricultural lands more hospitable to wildlife by reducing chemical inputs, preserving fragments of forest and other natural habitats and rewarding farmers and ranchers for the benefits that result. “A theory of countryside biogeography is pivotal to conservation strategy in the agricultural ecosystems that comprise roughly half of the global land surface and are likely to increase even further in the future,” the researchers wrote….full story

     

    Chase D. Mendenhall, Daniel S. Karp, Christoph F. J. Meyer, Elizabeth A. Hadly, Gretchen C. Daily. Predicting biodiversity change and averting collapse in agricultural landscapes. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13139

  4. The Two Degrees Celsius Goal- How the world failed on climate change

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    Two degrees: How the world failed on climate change

    by Brad Plumer on April 22, 2014

     

    It was the early 1990s. Climate scientists had long known that humans were warming up the planet. But politicians were just beginning to grasp that it would take a huge coordinated effort to get nations to burn fewer fossil fuels and avoid sharp temperature increases in the decades ahead. Those policymakers needed a common goal — a way to say, Here’s how bad things will get and This is what we need to do to stop it. And that posed a dilemma. No one could really agree on how much global warming was unacceptable. How high did the seas need to rise before we had a serious problem? How much heat was too much Around this time, an advisory council of scientists in Germany proposed a stunningly simple way to think about climate change. Look, they reasoned, human civilization hasn’t been around all that long. And for the last 13,000 years, Earth’s climate has fluctuated within a narrow band. So, to be on the safe side, we should prevent global average temperatures from rising more than 2° Celsius (or 3.6° Fahrenheit) above what they were just before the dawn of industrialization. Critics grumbled that the 2°C limit seemed arbitrary or overly simplistic. But scientists were already compiling evidence that the risks of global warming became especially daunting somewhere above the 2°C threshold: rapid sea-level rise, the risk of crop failure, the collapse of coral reefs. And policymakers loved the idea of a simple, easily digestible target. So it stuck.

     

    The idea that the world can stay below 2°C looks increasingly delusional

    By 2009, nearly every government in the world had endorsed the 2°C limit — global warming beyond that level was deemed “dangerous.” And so, every year, the world’s leaders meet at UN climate conferences to discuss policies and emissions cuts that they hope will keep us below 2°C. Climate experts churn out endless papers on how we can adapt to 2°C of warming (or less). Two decades later, there’s just one major problem with this picture. The idea that the world can stay below 2°C looks increasingly delusional. Consider: the Earth’s average temperature has already risen 0.8°C since the 19th century. And if you look at the current rapid rise in global greenhouse-gas emissions, we’re on pace to blow past the 2°C limit by mid-century — and hit 4°C or more by the end. That’s well above anything once deemed “dangerous.” Getting back on track for 2°C would, at this point, entail the sort of drastic emissions cuts usually associated with economic calamities, like the collapse of the Soviet Union or the 2008 financial crisis. And we’d have to repeat those cuts for decades. The climate community has been slow to concede defeat. Back in 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report noting that the world could stay below 2°C — but only if we started cutting emissions immediately. The years passed, countries did little, and emissions kept rising. So, just this month, the IPCC put out a new report saying, OK, not great, but we can still stay under 2°C. We just need to act more drastically and figure out some way to pull carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. (Never mind that we still don’t have the technology to do the latter.)

     

    We’re on track for 4°C of global warming — and 2°C is increasingly unlikely

    Predicted temperature increases under various emissions scenarios:

    On our current course, the world will put enough carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere by mid-century to breach the 2°C target.

    Emissions would need to decline dramatically (and then go negative) for a good shot at staying below 2°C.
    Source: Sanford et al. (2014)

     

    “At some point, scientists will have to declare that it’s game over for the 2°C target,” says Oliver Geden, a climate policy analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “But they haven’t yet. Because nobody knows what will happen if they call this thing off.” The 2°C target was one of the few things that everyone at global climate talks could agree on. If the goal turns out to be impossible, people might just stop trying altogether.

    Recently, then, some scientists and policymakers have been taking a fresh look at whether the 2°C limit is still the best way to think about climate change. Is this simple goal actually making it harder to prepare for the warming that lies ahead? Is it time to consider other approaches to climate policy? And if 2°C really is so dangerous, what do we do when it’s out of reach?

     

    The murky origins of the 2°C limit

    Back in the 1970s, climate scientists understood that the carbon dioxide that humans had been emitting since the Industrial Revolution — from cars, power plants, factories — was intensifying the greenhouse effect that warms the planet. They also knew that man-made emissions were increasing each year as the global economy grew. So how hot would it get? Early calculations suggested that if we doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over pre-industrial levels, the Earth would warm somewhere between 1.5°C and 4.5°C. In the decades since, scientists have amassed more evidence for this estimate of “climate sensitivity,” but they haven’t really narrowed the range. The next step was to figure out how much warming humans could safely tolerate. There were a variety of ideas for defining “dangerous” interference with the Earth’s climate in the early 1990s. Maybe we should try to limit the rate of warming per decade, for instance. Eventually, the 2°C limit won out — endorsed by, among others, a council of German scientists advising Angela Merkel, the nation’s environment minister at the time. Their thinking: human civilization had developed in a period when sea levels remained stable and agriculture could flourish. Staying within that bound — and preventing global average temperatures from rising more than 2°C — seemed like a reasonable rule of thumb. “We said that, at the very least, it would be better not to depart from the conditions under which our species developed,” recalls Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the scientists on that German advisory panel who helped devise the 2°C limit. “Otherwise we’d be pushing the whole climate system outside the range we’ve adapted to.”

     

    Over time, researchers gravitated toward this limit. An influential 2001 report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change detailed a number of reasons to worry about climate change: increased heat waves and storms, the threat of mass extinctions, severe economic losses. Many of these so-called “reasons of concern” were projected to get much worse as global warming climbed past 2°C. Now, there are good arguments that the 2°C limit is arbitrary. Any limit would be. For instance, subsequent research has found that plenty of worrisome impacts actually happen well before we hit 2°C: Arctic sea ice could collapse, coral reefs could die off, tiny island nations like Tuvalu could get swallowed by the rising seas. Conversely, other worrisome changes, such as crop damage in the United States, might not happen until we go above the 2°C threshold. Deciding where to draw this line is a political judgment as much as a scientific one. (To put it another way, no climate scientist thinks we’ll be totally fine if we hit 1.9°C of warming but totally doomed if we hit 2.1°C.) Economists, meanwhile, have often criticized the 2°C limit for not taking costs into account. After all, we don’t just burn oil, gas, and coal for fun. We use them to power our cars and homes and factories. And cutting back won’t be painless. William Nordhaus, an economist at Yale, has argued that we should aim for a temperature limit where the costs of reducing fossil fuels matches the climate benefits. In his book The Climate Casino, he pegs this limit at 2.5°C or possibly higher, depending on how easily we can switch to clean energy sources. Still, despite the criticisms, the 2°C limit has maintained its dominant position for more than a decade — in part because it created an easy focal point for international negotiations. UN climate talks start by assuming the need to stay below 2°C and then work backward to hash out how each country should cut emissions. The European Union’s energy policies consistently reference this limit. The Obama administration’s upcoming rules to restrict carbon-dioxide emissions from US coal plants can be traced back to a pledge President Obama made in 2009 to help stay below 2°C. That raises a question: what will happen if it becomes apparent that the 2°C limit is out of reach? Will we settle on a new limit? Or just give up altogether?

     

    Why the 2°C limit looks increasingly impossible

    Here’s how climate experts often think about the 2°C limit. Estimates of climate sensitivity tell us that the Earth will eventually warm somewhere between 1.5°C and 4.5°C if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over pre-industrial levels. And we’re almost halfway to doubling.

    So, if we want reasonable odds of staying below 2°C, there’s only so much more additional carbon dioxide we can put in the atmosphere. That’s our “carbon budget” — around 485 billion metric tons. There’s not a lot of wiggle room left. Humans added the equivalent of 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2012, and that amount is rising every year, as fast-growing countries like China and India build new factories, drive new cars, and burn lots of fossil fuels. At current rates, the world will exhaust its carbon budget in roughly three decades, setting the stage for 2°C of warming. (If climate sensitivity turns out to be low, that only buys us an extra decade or so.) If we want to stay within the budget and avoid 2°C, then, our annual emissions need to start declining each year. Older, dirtier coal plants would need to get replaced with cleaner wind or solar or nuclear plants, say. Or gas-guzzling SUVs would need to get replaced with new low-carbon electric cars. But the longer we put this off, the harder it gets — the carbon budget gets smaller, and there are more coal plants and SUVs to replace.

     

    The longer we wait on cutting emissions, the harder it gets

    If we want a reasonable shot at staying below 2°C, there’s only so much more carbon-dioxide we can load into the atmosphere. If the world had started back in 2005, emissions could have decreased gently each year. If we wait until, say, 2020, the cuts have to be much sharper to catch up.

     

    By now, countries have delayed action for so long that the necessary emissions cuts will have to be extremely sharp. In April 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that if we want to stay below the 2°C limit, global greenhouse-gas emissions would have to decline between 1.3 percent and 3.1 percent each year, on average, between 2010 and 2050. “If you’re serious about 2°C, the rates of change are so significant, it begs the way we see the world” To put that in perspective, global emissions declined by just 1 percent for a single year after the 2008 financial crisis, during a brutal recession when factories and buildings around the world were idling. We’d potentially have to triple that pace of cuts, and sustain it year after year.

     

    Some climate experts are skeptical that countries can do this while maintaining their historical rates of economic growth. The fastest that any country has ever managed to decarbonize its economy without suffering a crushing recession was France, when it spent billions to scale up its nuclear program between 1980 and 1985. That was a gargantuan feat — emissions fell 4.8 percent per year — but the country only sustained it for a five-year stretch.

    To stay within the 2°C budget, every country would have to keep up that pace for decades, decarbonizing not just power plants, but factories, and homes, and cars, and airplanes. That goes far beyond even the most ambitious climate proposals currently being considered, including Obama’s big plan to curb emissions from US coal plants. “If you’re serious about 2°C, the rates of change are so significant that it begs the way we see the world. That’s what people aren’t prepared to embrace,” says Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. “Essentially you’d have to start asking questions about our current society and how we develop and grow.”

     

    Anderson, for one, has argued that wealthy countries may need to sacrifice economic growth, at least temporarily, to stay below 2°C. In December, the Tyndall Centre hosted a conference on “radical emissions reductions” that offered some eye-popping suggestions: Perhaps every adult in wealthy countries could get a personal “carbon budget” tracked through an electronic credit card. Once they hit their limit, no more vacations or road trips. Other attendees suggested shaming campaigns against celebrities with outsized homes and yachts.

    Not everyone is ready to go radical. The IPCC’s latest report suggested that an ambitious push on clean energy might only put a modest dent in global economic growth rates (a mere 0.06 percentage points per year). That’s partly because the cost of solar and wind power has been dropping far faster than anyone expected.

     

    But even when you account for that, the IPCC figured that staying below 2°C would depend on a series of long-shot maneuvers: all nations would need to act right this second, ramp up wind and solar and nuclear power massively, and figure out still-nascent technologies to capture and bury emissions from coal plants. Crucially, we’d also have to invent some method of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — something that may never work on a large scale. If any of those assumptions falter, the IPCC noted, costs start rising. And, as the years go by and the world’s nations put off cutting emissions, the odds of staying below 2°C look vanishingly unlikely. “Ten years ago, it was possible to model a path to 2°C without all these heroic assumptions,” says Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But because we’ve dallied for so long, that’s no longer true.” In February, Frumhoff co-authored a paper in Nature Climate Change arguing that policymakers need to take the prospect of breaching the 2°C limit far more seriously than they’re currently doing. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves unprepared for what comes next.

     

     

    What’s so bad about 3°C or 4°C?

    If 2°C looks increasingly out of reach, then it’s worth looking at what happens if we blow past that and go to, say, 3°C or 4°C. Four degrees (or 7.2° Fahrenheit) may not sound like much. But the world was only about 4°C to 7°C cooler, on average, during the last ice age, when large parts of Europe and the United States were covered by glaciers. The IPCC concluded that changing the world’s temperature in the opposite direction could bring similarly drastic changes, such as “substantial species extinctions,” or irreversibly destabilizing Greenland’s massive ice sheet.

    In 2013, researchers with the World Bank took a look at the science on projected effects of 4°C warming and were appalled by what they found. A growing number of studies suggest that global food production could take a big hit under 3°C or 4°C of warming. Poorer countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, and parts of Africa could see large tracts of farmland made unusable by rising seas. But what seemed to unnerve the authors of the World Bank report most was all of the stuff we don’t know. Most climate models currently make predictions in a linear fashion. That is, they basically assume that the impacts of 4°C of warming will be twice as bad as those of 2°C. But that might be wrong. Impacts may interact with each other in unpredictable ways. Current agriculture models, they noted, don’t have a good sense for what will happen to crops if heat waves, droughts, new pests and diseases all combine together.

     

    “If we keep assuming we can stay below 2°C as a matter of course, then we aren’t being honest about the adaptation challenges”

    Here’s an analogy that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who helped compile some of the research for the World Bank, likes to use. “Take the human body. If your temperature rises 2°C, you have a significant fever. If it rises 4°C or 6°C you can die. It’s not a linear change. You’re pushing a complex system outside the range it’s adapted to. And all our assessments indicate that once you do that, the system’s resilience gets stretched thin.” Perhaps most significantly, the World Bank report wasn’t even sure if humanity could adapt to a 4°C world. At the moment, the large lender is helping poorer countries prepare for global warming by building seawalls, conducting crop research, and improving freshwater management. But, as an internal review found, most of these efforts are being done with relatively small temperature increases in mind. The bank wasn’t planning for 3°C or 4°C of global warming — because no one really knew what that might entail. “[G]iven that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts,” the report said, “there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.” And its conclusion was stark: “The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur.” Only very recently have scientists even started trying to fill in those gaps in knowledge. Here’s a telling anecdote: back in 2011, the European Commission put out a call for papers exploring the impacts of a 2°C rise in temperature. Two years later, the call went out for impacts of warming greater than 2°C. What was once unthinkable is quickly becoming thinkable.

     

    “If we keep assuming we can stay below 2°C as a matter of course, then we aren’t being honest about the adaptation challenges,” says Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. For example, he notes, California might need to completely overhaul its water-planning efforts for the coming century if 3°C or 4°C becomes a serious possibility. But so far, these sorts of planning efforts are scant — because few policymakers are prepared to admit that we’re going beyond 2°C.

     

    The frantic search for alternatives to 2°C

    The impossibility of staying below 2°C could also shake up the politics of climate change. After all, the UN climate talks are structured around this overarching goal. What will happen if everyone realizes it’s unreachable?

    Last year, Geden, the German Institute researcher, broached this topic in a paper titled “Modifying the 2°C Target.” Then, in October, 11 researchers at the Tyndall Centre published a paper in Climate Policy exploring further alternatives to the 2°C limit. Here are a few options on offer:

    • Geoengineering: We could try to stay below 2°C through last-ditch “geoengineering” efforts. Some scientists have pointed out that we could, in theory, cool the Earth by putting sulfate particles into the atmosphere that reflect the sun. The downside? This could have all sorts of gruesome side effects, such as messing up global rainfall patterns. And it wouldn’t alleviate other dire impacts of our carbon-dioxide emissions, such as ocean acidification.
    • Accept (slightly) higher temperatures: Alternatively, policymakers could concede that 2°C is unworkable and instead work to stay below a slightly higher limit like 2.5°C or 3°C. This sounds easy: we simply accept that we’re going to face higher climate risks and try to adapt. And even if 3°C of warming is riskier than 2°C, it’s less risky than 4°C. But there’s a hitch. As Geden points out, relaxing the limit might make global climate talks even less productive than they already are. The temperature limits themselves would suddenly be open to negotiation and endless squabbling. The Tyndall researchers worried that this could allow the world to drift into a situation where 4°C or 6°C is accepted as inevitable.
    • Reframe the problem: Alternatively, the world could rephrase its goals in more appealing terms. Some experts have argued that 2°C was never a particularly useful limit because it was so difficult to translate into action. The University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. has suggested that we could focus on easier-to-grasp goals like increasing the proportion of carbon-free energy that the world uses — say, going from 13 percent today to 90 percent. That would achieve similar ends, but it’s a vastly different way of framing the problem.

     

    “It puts you in a different intellectual space, where your answers are focused on the deployment of vast amounts of clean energy,” Pielke told me earlier this year. “It’s a politics of possibility and opportunity where innovation is at the center. We may end up no better off than we are now. But the path we’re on now is going nowhere.” Similarly, David Victor of the University of California, San Diego has long argued that starting with an agreed-upon temperature limit and then brow-beating countries into adopt the required cuts is doomed to failure. Instead, it might be more productive for countries to focus on taking individual steps on climate and slowly building up toward an agreed-upon target.

     

    In their Climate Policy paper exploring these alternatives, the Tyndall Centre researchers noted that all of the approaches carry drawbacks — reframing the problem, for instance, could divert attention away from the dangers of higher temperatures. Ultimately, they couldn’t let go of the idea that recommitting to the 2°C limit might just be the “least unattractive course of action.” But, they noted, the world would have to take the problem much, much more seriously than it’s currently doing. Whatever the right answer here is, the authors wrote, it’s at least something that needs to be discussed more fully. “There’s a real danger that the 2°C goal will become discredited,” says the Tyndall Centre’s Tim Rayner, one of the co-authors of the paper. “We think it’s important to begin the debate before that eventuality hits.”

  5. Conservation Science News April 25, 2014

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    Focus of the Week
    Two degrees: How the world failed on climate change the 2° Celsius goal…

     

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS (with special DROUGHT section)

    3- ADAPTATION

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

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


    The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restorationhttp://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
    You can sign up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.

     

     

    Focus of the Week- the 2° Celsius goal…

     

    Two degrees: How the world failed on climate change

    by Brad Plumer on April 22, 2014

     

    It was the early 1990s. Climate scientists had long known that humans were warming up the planet. But politicians were just beginning to grasp that it would take a huge coordinated effort to get nations to burn fewer fossil fuels and avoid sharp temperature increases in the decades ahead. Those policymakers needed a common goal — a way to say, Here’s how bad things will get and This is what we need to do to stop it. And that posed a dilemma. No one could really agree on how much global warming was unacceptable. How high did the seas need to rise before we had a serious problem? How much heat was too much Around this time, an advisory council of scientists in Germany proposed a stunningly simple way to think about climate change. Look, they reasoned, human civilization hasn’t been around all that long. And for the last 13,000 years, Earth’s climate has fluctuated within a narrow band. So, to be on the safe side, we should prevent global average temperatures from rising more than 2° Celsius (or 3.6° Fahrenheit) above what they were just before the dawn of industrialization. Critics grumbled that the 2°C limit seemed arbitrary or overly simplistic. But scientists were already compiling evidence that the risks of global warming became especially daunting somewhere above the 2°C threshold: rapid sea-level rise, the risk of crop failure, the collapse of coral reefs. And policymakers loved the idea of a simple, easily digestible target. So it stuck.

     

    The idea that the world can stay below 2°C looks increasingly delusional

    By 2009, nearly every government in the world had endorsed the 2°C limit — global warming beyond that level was deemed “dangerous.” And so, every year, the world’s leaders meet at UN climate conferences to discuss policies and emissions cuts that they hope will keep us below 2°C. Climate experts churn out endless papers on how we can adapt to 2°C of warming (or less). Two decades later, there’s just one major problem with this picture. The idea that the world can stay below 2°C looks increasingly delusional. Consider: the Earth’s average temperature has already risen 0.8°C since the 19th century. And if you look at the current rapid rise in global greenhouse-gas emissions, we’re on pace to blow past the 2°C limit by mid-century — and hit 4°C or more by the end. That’s well above anything once deemed “dangerous.” Getting back on track for 2°C would, at this point, entail the sort of drastic emissions cuts usually associated with economic calamities, like the collapse of the Soviet Union or the 2008 financial crisis. And we’d have to repeat those cuts for decades. The climate community has been slow to concede defeat. Back in 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report noting that the world could stay below 2°C — but only if we started cutting emissions immediately. The years passed, countries did little, and emissions kept rising. So, just this month, the IPCC put out a new report saying, OK, not great, but we can still stay under 2°C. We just need to act more drastically and figure out some way to pull carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. (Never mind that we still don’t have the technology to do the latter.)

     

    We’re on track for 4°C of global warming — and 2°C is increasingly unlikely

    Predicted temperature increases under various emissions scenarios:

    On our current course, the world will put enough carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere by mid-century to breach the 2°C target.

    Emissions would need to decline dramatically (and then go negative) for a good shot at staying below 2°C.
    Source: Sanford et al. (2014)

     

    “At some point, scientists will have to declare that it’s game over for the 2°C target,” says Oliver Geden, a climate policy analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “But they haven’t yet. Because nobody knows what will happen if they call this thing off.” The 2°C target was one of the few things that everyone at global climate talks could agree on. If the goal turns out to be impossible, people might just stop trying altogether.

    Recently, then, some scientists and policymakers have been taking a fresh look at whether the 2°C limit is still the best way to think about climate change. Is this simple goal actually making it harder to prepare for the warming that lies ahead? Is it time to consider other approaches to climate policy? And if 2°C really is so dangerous, what do we do when it’s out of reach?

     

    The murky origins of the 2°C limit

    Back in the 1970s, climate scientists understood that the carbon dioxide that humans had been emitting since the Industrial Revolution — from cars, power plants, factories — was intensifying the greenhouse effect that warms the planet. They also knew that man-made emissions were increasing each year as the global economy grew. So how hot would it get? Early calculations suggested that if we doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over pre-industrial levels, the Earth would warm somewhere between 1.5°C and 4.5°C. In the decades since, scientists have amassed more evidence for this estimate of “climate sensitivity,” but they haven’t really narrowed the range. The next step was to figure out how much warming humans could safely tolerate. There were a variety of ideas for defining “dangerous” interference with the Earth’s climate in the early 1990s. Maybe we should try to limit the rate of warming per decade, for instance. Eventually, the 2°C limit won out — endorsed by, among others, a council of German scientists advising Angela Merkel, the nation’s environment minister at the time. Their thinking: human civilization had developed in a period when sea levels remained stable and agriculture could flourish. Staying within that bound — and preventing global average temperatures from rising more than 2°C — seemed like a reasonable rule of thumb. “We said that, at the very least, it would be better not to depart from the conditions under which our species developed,” recalls Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the scientists on that German advisory panel who helped devise the 2°C limit. “Otherwise we’d be pushing the whole climate system outside the range we’ve adapted to.”

     

    Over time, researchers gravitated toward this limit. An influential 2001 report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change detailed a number of reasons to worry about climate change: increased heat waves and storms, the threat of mass extinctions, severe economic losses. Many of these so-called “reasons of concern” were projected to get much worse as global warming climbed past 2°C. Now, there are good arguments that the 2°C limit is arbitrary. Any limit would be. For instance, subsequent research has found that plenty of worrisome impacts actually happen well before we hit 2°C: Arctic sea ice could collapse, coral reefs could die off, tiny island nations like Tuvalu could get swallowed by the rising seas. Conversely, other worrisome changes, such as crop damage in the United States, might not happen until we go above the 2°C threshold. Deciding where to draw this line is a political judgment as much as a scientific one. (To put it another way, no climate scientist thinks we’ll be totally fine if we hit 1.9°C of warming but totally doomed if we hit 2.1°C.) Economists, meanwhile, have often criticized the 2°C limit for not taking costs into account. After all, we don’t just burn oil, gas, and coal for fun. We use them to power our cars and homes and factories. And cutting back won’t be painless. William Nordhaus, an economist at Yale, has argued that we should aim for a temperature limit where the costs of reducing fossil fuels matches the climate benefits. In his book The Climate Casino, he pegs this limit at 2.5°C or possibly higher, depending on how easily we can switch to clean energy sources. Still, despite the criticisms, the 2°C limit has maintained its dominant position for more than a decade — in part because it created an easy focal point for international negotiations. UN climate talks start by assuming the need to stay below 2°C and then work backward to hash out how each country should cut emissions. The European Union’s energy policies consistently reference this limit. The Obama administration’s upcoming rules to restrict carbon-dioxide emissions from US coal plants can be traced back to a pledge President Obama made in 2009 to help stay below 2°C. That raises a question: what will happen if it becomes apparent that the 2°C limit is out of reach? Will we settle on a new limit? Or just give up altogether?

     

    Why the 2°C limit looks increasingly impossible

    Here’s how climate experts often think about the 2°C limit. Estimates of climate sensitivity tell us that the Earth will eventually warm somewhere between 1.5°C and 4.5°C if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over pre-industrial levels. And we’re almost halfway to doubling.

    So, if we want reasonable odds of staying below 2°C, there’s only so much more additional carbon dioxide we can put in the atmosphere. That’s our “carbon budget” — around 485 billion metric tons. There’s not a lot of wiggle room left. Humans added the equivalent of 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2012, and that amount is rising every year, as fast-growing countries like China and India build new factories, drive new cars, and burn lots of fossil fuels. At current rates, the world will exhaust its carbon budget in roughly three decades, setting the stage for 2°C of warming. (If climate sensitivity turns out to be low, that only buys us an extra decade or so.) If we want to stay within the budget and avoid 2°C, then, our annual emissions need to start declining each year. Older, dirtier coal plants would need to get replaced with cleaner wind or solar or nuclear plants, say. Or gas-guzzling SUVs would need to get replaced with new low-carbon electric cars. But the longer we put this off, the harder it gets — the carbon budget gets smaller, and there are more coal plants and SUVs to replace.

     

    The longer we wait on cutting emissions, the harder it gets

    If we want a reasonable shot at staying below 2°C, there’s only so much more carbon-dioxide we can load into the atmosphere. If the world had started back in 2005, emissions could have decreased gently each year. If we wait until, say, 2020, the cuts have to be much sharper to catch up.

     

    By now, countries have delayed action for so long that the necessary emissions cuts will have to be extremely sharp. In April 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that if we want to stay below the 2°C limit, global greenhouse-gas emissions would have to decline between 1.3 percent and 3.1 percent each year, on average, between 2010 and 2050. “If you’re serious about 2°C, the rates of change are so significant, it begs the way we see the world” To put that in perspective, global emissions declined by just 1 percent for a single year after the 2008 financial crisis, during a brutal recession when factories and buildings around the world were idling. We’d potentially have to triple that pace of cuts, and sustain it year after year.

     

    Some climate experts are skeptical that countries can do this while maintaining their historical rates of economic growth. The fastest that any country has ever managed to decarbonize its economy without suffering a crushing recession was France, when it spent billions to scale up its nuclear program between 1980 and 1985. That was a gargantuan feat — emissions fell 4.8 percent per year — but the country only sustained it for a five-year stretch.

    To stay within the 2°C budget, every country would have to keep up that pace for decades, decarbonizing not just power plants, but factories, and homes, and cars, and airplanes. That goes far beyond even the most ambitious climate proposals currently being considered, including Obama’s big plan to curb emissions from US coal plants. “If you’re serious about 2°C, the rates of change are so significant that it begs the way we see the world. That’s what people aren’t prepared to embrace,” says Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. “Essentially you’d have to start asking questions about our current society and how we develop and grow.”

     

    Anderson, for one, has argued that wealthy countries may need to sacrifice economic growth, at least temporarily, to stay below 2°C. In December, the Tyndall Centre hosted a conference on “radical emissions reductions” that offered some eye-popping suggestions: Perhaps every adult in wealthy countries could get a personal “carbon budget” tracked through an electronic credit card. Once they hit their limit, no more vacations or road trips. Other attendees suggested shaming campaigns against celebrities with outsized homes and yachts.

    Not everyone is ready to go radical. The IPCC’s latest report suggested that an ambitious push on clean energy might only put a modest dent in global economic growth rates (a mere 0.06 percentage points per year). That’s partly because the cost of solar and wind power has been dropping far faster than anyone expected.

     

    But even when you account for that, the IPCC figured that staying below 2°C would depend on a series of long-shot maneuvers: all nations would need to act right this second, ramp up wind and solar and nuclear power massively, and figure out still-nascent technologies to capture and bury emissions from coal plants. Crucially, we’d also have to invent some method of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — something that may never work on a large scale. If any of those assumptions falter, the IPCC noted, costs start rising. And, as the years go by and the world’s nations put off cutting emissions, the odds of staying below 2°C look vanishingly unlikely. “Ten years ago, it was possible to model a path to 2°C without all these heroic assumptions,” says Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But because we’ve dallied for so long, that’s no longer true.” In February, Frumhoff co-authored a paper in Nature Climate Change arguing that policymakers need to take the prospect of breaching the 2°C limit far more seriously than they’re currently doing. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves unprepared for what comes next.

     

     

    What’s so bad about 3°C or 4°C?

    If 2°C looks increasingly out of reach, then it’s worth looking at what happens if we blow past that and go to, say, 3°C or 4°C. Four degrees (or 7.2° Fahrenheit) may not sound like much. But the world was only about 4°C to 7°C cooler, on average, during the last ice age, when large parts of Europe and the United States were covered by glaciers. The IPCC concluded that changing the world’s temperature in the opposite direction could bring similarly drastic changes, such as “substantial species extinctions,” or irreversibly destabilizing Greenland’s massive ice sheet.

    In 2013, researchers with the World Bank took a look at the science on projected effects of 4°C warming and were appalled by what they found. A growing number of studies suggest that global food production could take a big hit under 3°C or 4°C of warming. Poorer countries like Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, and parts of Africa could see large tracts of farmland made unusable by rising seas. But what seemed to unnerve the authors of the World Bank report most was all of the stuff we don’t know. Most climate models currently make predictions in a linear fashion. That is, they basically assume that the impacts of 4°C of warming will be twice as bad as those of 2°C. But that might be wrong. Impacts may interact with each other in unpredictable ways. Current agriculture models, they noted, don’t have a good sense for what will happen to crops if heat waves, droughts, new pests and diseases all combine together.

     

    “If we keep assuming we can stay below 2°C as a matter of course, then we aren’t being honest about the adaptation challenges”

    Here’s an analogy that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who helped compile some of the research for the World Bank, likes to use. “Take the human body. If your temperature rises 2°C, you have a significant fever. If it rises 4°C or 6°C you can die. It’s not a linear change. You’re pushing a complex system outside the range it’s adapted to. And all our assessments indicate that once you do that, the system’s resilience gets stretched thin.” Perhaps most significantly, the World Bank report wasn’t even sure if humanity could adapt to a 4°C world. At the moment, the large lender is helping poorer countries prepare for global warming by building seawalls, conducting crop research, and improving freshwater management. But, as an internal review found, most of these efforts are being done with relatively small temperature increases in mind. The bank wasn’t planning for 3°C or 4°C of global warming — because no one really knew what that might entail. “[G]iven that uncertainty remains about the full nature and scale of impacts,” the report said, “there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.” And its conclusion was stark: “The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur.” Only very recently have scientists even started trying to fill in those gaps in knowledge. Here’s a telling anecdote: back in 2011, the European Commission put out a call for papers exploring the impacts of a 2°C rise in temperature. Two years later, the call went out for impacts of warming greater than 2°C. What was once unthinkable is quickly becoming thinkable.

     

    “If we keep assuming we can stay below 2°C as a matter of course, then we aren’t being honest about the adaptation challenges,” says Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists. For example, he notes, California might need to completely overhaul its water-planning efforts for the coming century if 3°C or 4°C becomes a serious possibility. But so far, these sorts of planning efforts are scant — because few policymakers are prepared to admit that we’re going beyond 2°C.

     

    The frantic search for alternatives to 2°C

    The impossibility of staying below 2°C could also shake up the politics of climate change. After all, the UN climate talks are structured around this overarching goal. What will happen if everyone realizes it’s unreachable?

    Last year, Geden, the German Institute researcher, broached this topic in a paper titled “Modifying the 2°C Target.” Then, in October, 11 researchers at the Tyndall Centre published a paper in Climate Policy exploring further alternatives to the 2°C limit. Here are a few options on offer:

    • Geoengineering: We could try to stay below 2°C through last-ditch “geoengineering” efforts. Some scientists have pointed out that we could, in theory, cool the Earth by putting sulfate particles into the atmosphere that reflect the sun. The downside? This could have all sorts of gruesome side effects, such as messing up global rainfall patterns. And it wouldn’t alleviate other dire impacts of our carbon-dioxide emissions, such as ocean acidification.
    • Accept (slightly) higher temperatures: Alternatively, policymakers could concede that 2°C is unworkable and instead work to stay below a slightly higher limit like 2.5°C or 3°C. This sounds easy: we simply accept that we’re going to face higher climate risks and try to adapt. And even if 3°C of warming is riskier than 2°C, it’s less risky than 4°C. But there’s a hitch. As Geden points out, relaxing the limit might make global climate talks even less productive than they already are. The temperature limits themselves would suddenly be open to negotiation and endless squabbling. The Tyndall researchers worried that this could allow the world to drift into a situation where 4°C or 6°C is accepted as inevitable.
    • Reframe the problem: Alternatively, the world could rephrase its goals in more appealing terms. Some experts have argued that 2°C was never a particularly useful limit because it was so difficult to translate into action. The University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. has suggested that we could focus on easier-to-grasp goals like increasing the proportion of carbon-free energy that the world uses — say, going from 13 percent today to 90 percent. That would achieve similar ends, but it’s a vastly different way of framing the problem.

     

    “It puts you in a different intellectual space, where your answers are focused on the deployment of vast amounts of clean energy,” Pielke told me earlier this year. “It’s a politics of possibility and opportunity where innovation is at the center. We may end up no better off than we are now. But the path we’re on now is going nowhere.” Similarly, David Victor of the University of California, San Diego has long argued that starting with an agreed-upon temperature limit and then brow-beating countries into adopt the required cuts is doomed to failure. Instead, it might be more productive for countries to focus on taking individual steps on climate and slowly building up toward an agreed-upon target.

     

    In their Climate Policy paper exploring these alternatives, the Tyndall Centre researchers noted that all of the approaches carry drawbacks — reframing the problem, for instance, could divert attention away from the dangers of higher temperatures. Ultimately, they couldn’t let go of the idea that recommitting to the 2°C limit might just be the “least unattractive course of action.” But, they noted, the world would have to take the problem much, much more seriously than it’s currently doing. Whatever the right answer here is, the authors wrote, it’s at least something that needs to be discussed more fully. “There’s a real danger that the 2°C goal will become discredited,” says the Tyndall Centre’s Tim Rayner, one of the co-authors of the paper. “We think it’s important to begin the debate before that eventuality hits.”

     

     

     

     

     

    Costa Rican farmlands can support much more wildlife than previously thought, according to Stanford research on bat populations.

    Researchers rethink ‘natural’ habitat for wildlife
    (April 18, 2014)Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach nine billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to researchers. A new study finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks.
    A new study, published April 16 in the journal
    Nature and co-authored by three Stanford scientists, finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks. Current projections forecast that about half of Earth’s plants and animals will go extinct over the next century because of human activities, mostly due to our agricultural methods. “The extinction under way threatens to weaken and even destroy key parts of Earth’s life-support systems, upon which economic prosperity and all other aspects of human well-being depend,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment But that grim future isn’t a foregone conclusion. “Until the next asteroid slams into Earth, the future of all known life hinges on people, more than on any other force,” Daily said.

     

    Conservationists have long assumed that once natural landscapes are fractured by human development or agriculture, migration corridors for wildlife are broken, blocking access to food, shelter and breeding grounds. A scholarly theory was developed to estimate the number of species in such fractured landscapes, where patches of forest surrounded by farms resemble islands of natural habitat. The “equilibrium theory of island biogeography” is a pillar of biological research — its elegant equation to estimate the number of species in a habitat has almost reached the status of a scientific law, according to Chase Mendenhall, a Stanford doctoral student in biology and the study’s lead author. The theory drives the default strategy of conserving biodiversity by designating nature reserves. This strategy sees reserves as “islands in an inhospitable sea of human-modified habitats” and doesn’t adequately account for biodiversity patterns in many human-dominated landscapes, according to the Stanford study. “This paper shows that farmland and forest remnants can be more valuable for biodiversity than previously assumed,” said Daniel Karp, who earned his PhD in biology at Stanford in 2013 and is currently a NatureNet postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. “If we’re valuing coffee fields and other human-made habitats at zero, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves and wildlife,” Mendenhall said….

     

    The reason for the discrepancies, according to the study’s authors, is that island biogeographic theory was originally based on actual islands surrounded by water, and does not account for factors such as a countryside landscape’s ability to support more species and slow extinction rates compared to true island ecosystems. Especially in the tropics, island biogeographic theory’s application is “distorting our understanding and conservation strategies in agriculture, the enterprise on which the future of biodiversity most critically hinges,” the study’s authors wrote. “Not only do more species persist across the ‘sea of farmland’ than expected by island biogeographic theory, novel yet native species actually thrive there,” said co-author Elizabeth Hadly, the Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “This indicates that human-altered landscapes can foster more biological diversity than we anticipated.”

     

    The fate of much of the world’s wildlife is playing out in human-altered landscapes that are increasingly threatened by chemical inputs such as herbicides and pesticides. Biodiversity is not the only loser. People are losing many of nature’s benefits such as water purification provided by forests and wetlands and pest control provided by birds and bats. The study’s findings point to the need for new approaches that integrate conservation and food production, to make agricultural lands more hospitable to wildlife by reducing chemical inputs, preserving fragments of forest and other natural habitats and rewarding farmers and ranchers for the benefits that result. “A theory of countryside biogeography is pivotal to conservation strategy in the agricultural ecosystems that comprise roughly half of the global land surface and are likely to increase even further in the future,” the researchers wrote….full story

     

    Chase D. Mendenhall, Daniel S. Karp, Christoph F. J. Meyer, Elizabeth A. Hadly, Gretchen C. Daily. Predicting biodiversity change and averting collapse in agricultural landscapes. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature13139

     

     

    Scientists identify source of mysterious sound in the Southern Ocean
    (April 23, 2014) — Scientists have conclusive evidence that the source of a unique rhythmic sound, recorded for decades in the Southern Ocean and called the ‘bio-duck,’ is the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis). First described and named by submarine personnel in the 1960s who thought it sounded like a duck, the bio-duck sound has been recorded at various locations in the Southern Ocean, but its source has remained a mystery, until now. … > full story

     

    Citizen scientists match research tool when counting sharks: Dive guides monitoring sharks on coral reef at similar level to telemetry
    (April 23, 2014)Shark data collected by citizen scientists may be as reliable as data collected using automated tools. Shark populations are declining globally, and scientists lack data to estimate the conservation status of populations for many shark species. Citizen science may be a useful and cost-effective means to increase knowledge of shark populations on coral reefs, but scientists do not yet know enough about how data collected by untrained observers compares to results from traditional research methods. To better understand the reliability of datasets collected by citizen science initiatives, researchers in this study compared reef shark sightings counted by experienced dive guides (citizen scientists), with data collected from tagged reef sharks by an automated tracking tool (acoustic telemetry). … > full story

     

    Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species
    (April 18, 2014) — Seeds that sprout as soon as they’re planted may be good news for a garden. But in the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More than just an insurance policy against late frosts or unexpected dry spells, it turns out that seed dormancy has long-term advantages too: plants whose seeds put off sprouting until conditions are more certain give rise to more species. … > full story

     


    The drastic drop in population is probably due to an unexplained disappearance of sardines from the boobies’ diet, said Dave Anderson, a professor of biology and the study’s principal investigator. : David Anchundia

    Lack of breeding threatens blue-footed boobies’ survival
    (April 21, 2014) — Blue-footed Boobies are on the decline in the Galápagos. A new study indicates numbers of the iconic birds, known for their bright blue feet and propensity to burst into dance to attract mates, have fallen more than 50 percent in less than 20 years. Scientists started noticing a strange trend at the Galápagos’ 10 or so blue-footed booby breeding colonies in 1997. The colonies were simply empty. The researchers suspect a lack of sardines, a highly nutritious and easy to find source of food, is the culprit behind the birds’ nose-diving population for a number of reasons. … The researchers suspect a lack of sardines, a highly nutritious and easy to find source of food, is the culprit behind the birds’ nose-diving population for a number of reasons. Previous studies conducted at booby colonies on Española show successful breeding occurs only when the birds had an almost 100 percent sardine diet. Over the course of the recent Galápagos study sardines represented less than half of the Boobies’ diet. This suggests the birds find their current, low sardine diet sufficient to live but insufficient to breed successfully. “We think the main factor behind the decline is a scarcity of food,” Huyvaert said. “Whether that’s natural or linked to anthropogenic change, we aren’t sure.” So now the question is, where are the sardines, said Johannah Barry, president of the Galápagos Conservancy, which provided funding for the study. “Are they being overfished, are they leaving Galapagos waters due to climate change or other pressures?” she said. “If they are leaving what other fauna might be impacted?”… > full story

     

    David Anchundia, Kathryn P. Huyvaert, David J. Anderson. Chronic lack of breeding by Galápagos Blue-footed Boobies and associated population decline. Avian Conservation and Ecology, 2014; 9 (1) DOI: 10.5751/ACE-00650-090106

     

    World’s Top Serial Bird Killers- Buildings and Windows- Put Infamous Windmills to Shame

    By Tom Randall Apr 21, 2014 9:39 AM PT Bloomberg

    Pity the birds. As if cats weren’t bad enough, humans have invented all sorts of torture devices for our winged friends. We’ve paved over their nesting sites to make room for Olive Gardens and have broken up their skyscapes with glass buildings and radio towers. Then came the most infamous bird killer of all: the wind turbine. As you can see in the chart below, these sky blenders top the list.

    Source: U.S. Forest Service

    Just kidding. Windmills aren’t the biggest serial killer, but are instead the smallest threat to birds worthy of mention, on par with airplanes. Turbines are responsible for as little as one percent of the deaths caused by the next smallest killer, communications towers. You would hardly know this by reading Twitter or scanning the comments on any news article about wind power. Here’s a sampling from the gaggle of bird commenters on the story I wrote a few weeks ago about broken records in U.S. wind power…. No matter whose estimates you use, deaths by turbine don’t compare to cats, cars, power lines or buildings. It’s almost as if there’s been a concerted effort to make people think wind turbines are more menacing than they actually are. This perception can delay project permitting. An expansion of the world’s largest offshore wind farm was recently scrapped after the U.K. would have required a three-year bird study. Only recently did the U.S. Interior Department loosen restrictions on wind farms, which according to the Wildlife Society kill dozens of federally protected eagles and about 573,000 birds a year. Other manmade killers take out almost a billion. Be warned: bird deaths from wind turbines are likely to increase as wind power continues to break new records. Also, turbines keep getting bigger, and as you might expect, a massive bird of prey like the Bald Eagle is more likely to get into a tangle with a 700-foot-tall turbine than a housecat. Bald Eagles, for goodness sake! It’s nice for wind-farm planners to take migration patterns and endangered habitats into account. But even if wind turbines were to double in size and provide 100 percent of our energy needs (both of which defy the laws of physics as we currently understand them), they still wouldn’t compare to the modern scourges of high-tension power lines or buildings with glass windows. Not even close. The alternative to renewable energy sources like wind and solar is to burn ever more fossil fuels. Animals are threatened by those, too, including North America’s most common hairless mammal: the human. Roughly 20,000 of these moderately-intelligent animals die prematurely each year from air pollution from coal and oil, according to a study ordered by Congress.
    Pity the humans.

     

    Secretary Jewell Announces Mitigation Strategy that Offers Hope for Threatened Birds

    The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a new strategy to avoid and mitigate the impact of energy projects on federal lands that should benefit imperiled species such as the Greater Sage-Grouse. The “Strategy for Improving the Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of the Interior” stems from Secretarial Order Number 3330 issued by DOI Secretary Jewell in October 2013, which seeks to shift from project-by-project mitigation to landscape-level planning.

     

     

    Conservation priorities released for several protected areas along U.S.-Mexico border
    (April 23, 2014) — The CEC releases its conservation assessment for priority conservation areas in a region straddling the United States-Mexico border that includes 11 different protected areas in the states of Texas, Coahuila, and Chihuahua. This region features highly diverse arid and semi-arid habitats inhabited by endangered plants and animals, and provides a vital migratory stopping point for many species of birds and animals. … > full story

     

    Political ravens? Ravens notice the relationships among others, study shows
    (April 23, 2014) — Cognitive biologists have revealed that ravens do understand and keep track of the rank relations between other ravens. Such an ability has been known only from primates. Like many social mammals, ravens form different types of social relationships — they may be friends, kin, or partners and they also form strict dominance relations. From a cognitive perspective, understanding one’s own relationships to others is a key ability in daily social life (“knowing who is nice or not”). Yet, also understanding the relationships group members have with each other sets the stage for “political” maneuvers (“knowing who might support whom”). … > full story

    Best practices in communication for animal world
    (April 22, 2014) — Effective communication is not just about the signaler, according to a new study. The receiver also needs to assess the signaler efficiently. For instance, one of the most effective strategies from the perspective of female birds is assessing groups of males called leks, where females can assess multiple males in a short period of time. … > full story

     

    Cougars’ diverse diet helped them survive the mass extinction that wiped out the saber-tooth cat, American lion
    (April 22, 2014) — Cougars may have survived the mass extinction that took place about 12,000 years ago because they were not particular about what they ate, unlike their more finicky cousins the saber-tooth cat and American lion who perished, according a new analysis of the microscopic wear marks on the teeth of fossil cougars, saber-tooth cats and American lions. … > full story

     

     


    Introducing A Divorce Rate For Birds, And Guess Which Bird Never, Ever Divorces?

    by Robert Krulwich NPR April 22, 2014 7:10 AM ET

    There is love. And then there’s albatross love. In his new book, The Thing with Feathers, Noah Strycker says albatrosses have a knack for coupling. “These globe trotters, who mate for life and are incredibly faithful to their partners, just might have the most intense love affairs of any animal on our planet,” he writes. Noah knows “love” is a word normally reserved for humans. Technically, what albatrosses do is “pair bond.” But call it what you will, he says — “to see what real devotion is like, you need to spend some quality time with an albatross.”They are seabirds. They spend 95 percent of their time sailing through the air for thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of miles. They fish. They rest on the oceans’ surface. They can go for years never seeing land. But they are born on dry land. The chick’s parents build a nest near the place where they, in turn, had been born. Albatrosses lay one egg at a time. Once the chick’s feathers grow in so it can stay warm, its parents fly off, coming back for occasional food deliveries. But typically the chick “spends a full nine months sitting alone … in its nest, most of the time in quiet contemplation of its surroundings since it has no siblings.” It grows slowly. Then, one day, when it feels ready, it picks up, and with no instruction, it flings itself into the air and flies out to sea. It will stay out there for six years until it feels the urge to mate. Then all the albatrosses from its generation head back, one by one, to their native island — usually to a spot alongside the ocean where they land, gather and, one by one, they begin — to dance. Noah writes, the “two birds face each other, patter their feet to stay close as they move forward and backward, each testing the other’s reflexes, and point their beaks at the sky.” “Then, as they simultaneously utter a chilling scream, the albatrosses each extend their wings to show off the full 12-foot span, facing off while continuing to jockey for position. They touch beaks, throw their heads back again and scream.” For a long while they will dance with several partners, but gradually — it can take years to pick the right partner — they will find a particular favorite. Together those two continue to refine their steps, until, having “spent so much time dancing with that specific bird … that pair’s sequence of moves is as unique as a lover’s fingerprint.” Now they are ready to mate. It has taken 15 years to decide on a partner, but having decided, albatrosses don’t switch. “It will generally stick faithfully with its mate until one of them dies, which might not be for another fifty years.” This is not true of most birds….Flamingos, it turns out, are embarrassing. They break up 99 percent of the time. The divorce rate for piping plovers is 67 percent. Ducks do better than humans. Human marriages (American ones) fail at a rate of roughly 40 percent (which is ). Mallard marriages are 91 percent successful. The big shock was swans. Everybody, , figured swans would be at the top of the Most Faithful list. But they’re not. They have a 5 percent divorce rate. So who’s the champ? Do I need to say? Albatrosses are 100 percent faithful…….

     

    Pavement Cracks And Chain-Link Fences Are the New Ecosystems of the Anthropocene

    The “natural” world is gone, and it’s not coming back

    By Colin Schultz
    smithsonian.com April 23, 2014 5:52PM

    Yesterday was Earth Day, a celebration of our planet and all of its natural splendor. There’s a problem, though, with this conception of environmentalism, which, like Earth Day, was invented in the 1970s. And it’s a big one: there is literally no such thing as “nature” anymore. As Christopher Mims wrote for Motherboard a couple years ago, the natural world—independent of us—simply no longer exists. [A]ny attempt to talk about the 21st century without acknowledging that every living thing on the planet will be altered by humans is intellectually bankrupt. There is no “nature” left — only the portion of nature that we allow to live because we imagine it serves some purpose — as a thing to eat, a place to reprocess our waste, or an idea that fulfills our dwindling desire to maintain “the natural” for aesthetic or ideological reasons. Whether bulldozed or clear-cut, fished, farmed or warmed by greenhouse gases, every ecosystem on Earth is currently being shaped by humans and human technology. That’s true now, and it’s been true—to an ever-increasing extentfor thousands of years. At this point, believing that it’s possible to restore a place to its original state by removing a dam, restoring a marsh or culling some deer requires a naïve interpretation of how ecosystems work. In his assessment, Mims noted that the ecosystems of the future will not consist of the world, plus us, plus our technology. Rather, the global ecosystem will increasingly be guided, shaped and supported by us and our technology. This shift can already been seen in humanity’s most prominent constructions: cities.  Writing for the Design Observer, Peter Del Tredici, a botanist and author, explores how cities are giving rise to novel growing conditions, and new, wholly anthropogenic ecosystems. Instead of rivers, marshes or forests, Earth now has chain-link fences, abandoned lots, highway medians and cracks in the pavement. These aren’t devoid of life; they are new human-made ecosystems, and different types of life—what Del Tredici calls “spontaneous urban vegetation”—thrive in those environments.

    Most people have a different word for “spontaneous urban vegetaition”—weeds. But these urban plants, Del Tredici says, are the symptom of change, not the cause. Instead of blaming weeds for existing and trying to restore a place to its original state, engineers working in ecological restoration focus on restoring ”ecosystem services.” These are jobs that keep an ecosystem working, and getting those positions filled is what matters most—something needs to keep the soil from being washed out by the rain (even if it is a “weed”). So, here’s Del Tredici’s idea: Instead of longing for some more “natural” ecosystem that is long-since lost, we should work with these new species to design ecosystems that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Rather than trying to fight the infiltration of plants in cracks and vines on fences, we can acknowledge and embrace the changes we’ve wrought.

     


    Yurok Tribe to release condors in California

    Published April 25, 2014 Associated Press

    Yurok tribal tradition holds the California condor as sacred, with ancient stories saying the giant birds fly closest to the sun and are the best messengers to carry prayers. Now, after five years of research, the far northern California-based tribe has received permission to release captive-bred condors into the Redwood Coast, where the giant bird hasn’t soared for more than a century. Yurok officials signed a memorandum of understanding last month with state and federal agencies and a condor conservation group, allowing for test releases as a final assessment of whether the region can support the endangered birds.
    The first releases could come in the next one to three years, tribal biologist Chris West said. Meetings will begin in July to work out protocols and select a release site.
    Seven sites are under consideration on Redwood National and State Parks and private land within about 50 miles of each other, primarily south of the Klamath River….

     

    Ocean Farm Technologies

    The New, Innovative And More Efficient Way Of Feeding People

    By Annie-Rose Strasser April 21, 2014 at 9:07 am Updated: April 21, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Don Kent, President of the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, was standing in the seafood aisle of a Whole Foods in the affluent San Diego neighborhood of La Jolla recently when he took out his phone and snapped a photo of a fresh-looking branzino. “Branzino is European sea bass,” Kent explained. “It’s grown in the Mediterranean. And it’s flown 6,900 miles from Greece to here and then it’s put on ice in La Jolla.” Kent, whose organization studies the intersection of nature and human activity and offers solutions on how the two can co-exist, is one of the people who believes there’s a different way to approach how we get our protein here in the United States. He insists that there’s a new, innovative, and more efficient method of feeding people — not just in La Jolla, but all over the world. Aquaculture. Or, as it’s known to most people, fish farming. “We spend 130 million dollars a year on air freight for the 300,000 metric tons of salmon that get flown into the U.S. from Chile. Think of the carbon footprint associated with that,” he says. “There’s absolutely no reason why that brazino shouldn’t be a white sea bass grown three miles off the coast. And then imagine the carbon footprint that’s saved in doing that.” ….. “Aquaculture, not the Internet, represents the most promising investment opportunity of the 21st century.” “The salmon farming industry over the last couple of decades has gone from a series of small mom and pop operations to a major global industry with a few huge corporate players,” explained George Leonard, Chief Scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, a group that has long regarded aquaculture with some skepticism. “There is an ongoing debate around things like genetically engineered salmon, which is an aquaculture product. There’s an ongoing debate about whether organic aquaculture should exist and what it means.” A longstanding concern about how to feed fish is also being met with a Big Ag answer. Since fish in nature actually eat smaller fish to get their omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients, and since that depletes already-strained wild resources, fish farming is requiring a new look at how to feed the animals. One alternative is using seaweed feeds, since they contain many of the elements that fish require. Another is using old carcasses from fish that have already gone through production. A third and newer innovation is soy-based feeds, similar to what’s currently used to feed land farm animals. But the other big question looming over aquaculture is how to parcel out land where the farming could occur and in the U.S., the Ocean Conservancy and other conservation groups worry that we aren’t looking holistically at a solution for mapping out the sea and preempting the overcrowding on the horizon. Otherwise, they say, you can run into a situation where an illness among fish quickly spreads from one farm to another. Chile, for example, suffered a massive outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia virus (ISA) on its farms, which hurt fish production and employment prospects in the country. It’s a double-edged sword, but no antibiotics are currently permitted in the U.S. for aquaculture. “What we want to avoid is a case-by-case, permit-by-permit approach to aquaculture. That’s what’s gotten others in trouble, because fish farms are connected to each other depending on how close they are, because of the flow of water from one farm to the next,” said Leonard. “So if you don’t take into consideration your neighbors, you can get yourself in a world of hurt, which is what happened in Chile and their salmon farming industry when the ISA virus spread like wildfire there a number of years ago. It was basically too many fish in too many cages too close to each other.” ….

     

     

    Earth Week: Bark beetles change Rocky Mountain stream flows, affect water quality
    (April 21, 2014) — On Earth Week — and in fact, every week now — trees in mountains across the western United States are dying, thanks to an infestation of bark beetles that reproduce in the trees’ inner bark. In Colorado alone, the mountain pine beetle has caused the deaths of more than 3.4 million acres of pine trees. What effect do all these dead trees have on stream flow and water quality? Plenty, according to new research findings reported this week. … > full story

     

    Improving understanding of valley-wide stream chemistry
    (April 21, 2014) — Understanding the chemistry of streams at a finer scale could help to identify factors impairing water quality and help protect aquatic ecosystems. A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components. … > full story

    KIVA Zip innovative, crowdsourcing loans for rarmers and others

    Kiva, which is a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs access loans that are crowdfunded on their website.  They have traditionally helped entrepreneurs in developing countries, but recently launched a US pilot program called Kiva Zip.   Kiva Zip is really excited to support local farmers, who are really popular on the site. Doniga of Markegard Family Grass Fed recently participated in Kiva Zip and successfully raised $5,000 to purchase irrigation equipment. To see all the farmers fundraising on Kiva Zip right now, click here. A few points on the program:

    • These loans can be up to $10,000 at a 0% interest rate with no fees.  They can be paid back between 10-36 months and have optional grace periods up to 6 months.  Once you repay the first loan you can then take out larger loans of $15,000 and then $20,000.  
    • Our program aims to empower local communities.  Loans are funded by individuals around the world who invest as little as $5 each. These lenders can be potential customers and advocates.  
    • Farmers typically raise funds in less than 10 days. 100% of farmers have successfully raised funds on Kiva Zip. 
    • You can use these loans for any business purpose.  

    Josh used a $10,000 loan to invest in a new irrigation system  Alan used a Kiva Zip loan to purchase a truck and fencing for his farm Eddie used a $5,000 Kiva Zip loan to purchase seed and fertilizer in bulk and hire a new employee If you want to learn more visit this page or contact Justin Renfro (CC’d) who leads the Kiva Zip program.

     

    Ask yourself: Will you help the environment?
    (April 22, 2014)Whether it’s recycling, composting or buying environmentally friendly products, guilt can be a strong motivator — not just on Earth Day. Now, research proves that even just asking ourselves, or predicting, whether we will engage in sustainable shopping behavior can increase the likelihood of following through — especially when there’s an audience. … > full story

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Running Out of Time
    By THE NE YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD April 20, 2014

    There are years, not decades, left to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and American leadership is urgently needed.

    Next year, in December, delegates from more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to take another shot at completing a new global treaty on climate change. This will be the 21st Conference of the Parties under United Nations auspices since the first summit meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. For the most part, these meetings have been exercises in futility, producing just one treaty — in Kyoto in 1997 — that asked little of the big developing countries and was never ratified by the United States Senate. But if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report is to be taken seriously, as it should be, the Paris meeting may well be the world’s last, best chance to get a grip on a problem that, absent urgent action over the next decade, could spin out of control.

    The I.P.C.C., composed of thousands of the world’s leading climate scientists, has issued three reports in the last seven months, each the product of up to six years of research. The first simply confirmed what has been known since Rio: global warming is caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels by humans and, to a lesser extent, by deforestation. The second, released in Japan three weeks ago, said that profound effects were already being felt around the world, including mounting damage to coral reefs, shrinking glaciers and more persistent droughts, and warned of worse to come — rising seas, species loss and dwindling agricultural yields. The third report, released last week, may be the most ominous of the three. Despite investments in energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources in the United States, in Europe and in developing countries like China, annual emissions of greenhouse gases have risen almost twice as fast in the first decade of this century as they did in the last decades of the 20th century. This places in serious jeopardy the emissions target agreed upon in Rio to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial level. Beyond that increase, the world could face truly alarming consequences.

    Avoiding that fate will require a reduction of between 40 percent and 70 percent in greenhouse gases by midcentury, which means embarking on a revolution in the way we produce and consume energy. That’s daunting enough, but here’s the key finding: The world has only about 15 years left in which to begin to bend the emissions curve downward. Otherwise, the costs of last-minute fixes will be overwhelming. “We cannot afford to lose another decade,” says Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”
    The report does not tell governments what to do — presumably, that’s for them to decide in Paris — but it lists approaches, mostly familiar, some technologically advanced. The most obvious, and probably the most difficult to negotiate, is to put a global price on carbon, either through a system of tradable permits like that adopted by Europe (and rejected by the United States Senate) or through a carbon tax of some sort, thus driving investments to cleaner fuels. A more plausible pathway is to get each country to adopt binding emission reduction targets and then allow them to choose how to get there — ramping up nuclear energy, phasing out coal-fired plants in favor of cleaner natural gas (though natural gas itself would have to someday give way to low-carbon alternatives), and vastly increasing renewable sources like wind and solar, which still supply only a small fraction of the world’s energy (less than 5 percent for wind and solar combined in the United States). All this will require a huge shift in investment, both private and public, from fossil fuels. Governments have an enormous amount of work to do in devising emission reduction strategies by next year. As always, American leadership will be required, meaning leadership from the top. Confronted with a hostile Congress, President Obama has commendably moved on his own to reduce emissions through regulations, first with cars and now with coal-fired power plants. And he has done so without a great deal of public support. However compelling the science, global warming has not generated the kind of public anxiety and bottom-up demand for change that helped win the big fights for cleaner air and water in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This makes his job harder but no less urgent.

     

     

     

    Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change
    (April 24, 2014)New research has found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change. This research challenges our previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil.
    Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of
    CO2 accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2 through photosynthesis.

    Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. “Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought,” said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. “By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect.”… > full story

     

    Kees Jan van Groenigen, Xuan Qi, Craig W. Osenberg, Yiqi Luo, and Bruce A. Hungate. Faster Decomposition Under Increased Atmospheric CO2 Limits Soil Carbon Storage. Science, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1249534

     

     

    Does El Niño Plus Global Warming Equal Global Temperature Records In 2014 And 2015?

    By Joe Romm on April 22, 2014

    An El Niño appears increasingly likely according to NOAA and Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. If it starts soon, 2014 could well be the hottest year on record, but if it is a strong El Niño, as many currently expect, then 2015 would likely break all previous global records. The BOM’s biweekly ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) Wrap-Up begins: The likelihood of El Niño remains high, with all climate models surveyed by the Bureau now indicating El Niño is likely to occur in 2014. Six of the seven models suggest El Niño thresholds may be exceeded as early as July. The latest weekly ENSO report from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) puts the chances of an El Niño by the end of the year at almost 2 out of 3: An El Niño is marked by unusually warm ocean temperatures for a period of several months in the Equatorial Pacific, as I discussed in March. In contrast, a La Niña has cooler than normal temps in the same region. Both tend to drive extreme weather worldwide. The following chart from NASA shows that El Niños are generally the hottest years on record — since the regional warming adds to the underlying man-made global trend — whereas La Niña years are usually below the global warming trend line.

    Chart of global temperature since 1950, also showing the phase of the El Niño-La Niña cycle. Via NASA.

    The El Niño event of 1997-1998 “was so powerful, it created a +0.2 degrees Celsius temperature anomaly (on top of the 30-year average trend),” as BitsOfScience pointed out earlier this month. That event “started somewhere in May of 1997 and ended almost a full year later, around April 1998. Globally 1997 indeed turned out to be relatively warm (>0.05C above average)” but 1998 was nearly four times as hot. When the El Niño forms and then peaks is crucial to whether 2014 or 2015 (or both) will be the hottest year on record. A 2010 NASA study found the 12-month running-mean global temperature tends to lag the temperature in the key Niño 3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific “by 4 months.” Because 1997/1998 was a “super El Niño,” and because we haven’t had one of those since — or indeed any El Niño at all since 2010 — it can appear as if global warming has slowed (if you cherry-pick a relatively recent start year). But in fact several recent studies have confirmed that planetary warming continues apace everywhere you look, especially the ocean…..

     

     

    Wildlife response to climate change is likely underestimated, experts warn
    (April 22, 2014)
    Analyzing thousands of breeding bird surveys sent in by citizen scientists across the western United States and Canada over 35 years, wildlife r
    esearchers report that most of the 40 songbird species they studied shifted either northward or toward higher elevation in response to climate change, but did not necessarily do both. This means that most previous studies of potential climate change impacts on wildlife that looked only at one factor or the other have likely underestimated the effects of environmental warming, say research wildlife biologists David King at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Sonya Auer of the University of Glasgow, U.K. Their study appears in the current issue of Global Ecology and Biogeography. As King explains, “In research on the effects of climate change, studies have shown birds and other organisms shifting north in latitude and others show that species are moving up in elevation, but we’re not aware of any others that have looked at both simultaneously.” He and Auer analyzed data collected by thousands of volunteers for the North American Breeding Bird Survey to determine shifts in northern latitude and upper elevation boundaries of 40 songbird species that occurred between two time periods, 1977 to 1981 and 2006 to 2011. The 25-year gap is an adequate time over which climate change effects can be observed, King points out. Across the 40 species studied, northern boundaries shifted northward about 21 miles (35 km) and about 216 feet (66 m) up in elevation, the authors report. “We found that if you only look at latitude or elevation, you might interpret the lack of latitude shift as a lack of response. You might even conclude that the species is not sensitive to climate change, but in fact our results indicate that some birds are following their climate niches in elevation and not latitude. So failure to consider both might cause you to miss or underestimate the effect. We strongly feel that new studies should consider both elevation and latitude. And especially if they observe no shift in latitude, researchers should consider adding the other dimension.”
    They found that “generally speaking, birds with smaller clutch sizes showed greater shifts in latitude, but greater clutch size showed more shift in elevation,” King says. “A more satisfying marker is the diet breadth, where we found birds with narrower diet breadth shifted farther up in latitude and elevation than birds with wider diet breadths, which is what we expected to see.”full story

     

    Sonya K. Auer, David I. King. Ecological and life-history traits explain recent boundary shifts in elevation and latitude of western North American songbirds. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/geb.12174

     

     

    High-Altitude Stations
    Are Observational Networks Missing a Decline in Precipitation?

    Pacific NW Climate Impacts Research Consortium

    In the Western United States, some 75 percent of the precipitation falls in the mountains. Not surprisingly, then, researchers and managers count on accurate precipitation measures from their high-altitude weather stations. But the mountains themselves could be preventing accurate measures. That’s because the distribution of stations is inadequate to measure certain important climatic changes. That’s the conclusion of Michael Dettinger’s recent note in the journal Nature Geoscience. The paper, “Impacts in the Third Dimension,” provides an overview of research into a unique problem: In the late 2000s, climate scientists diagnosed a decline in the Pacific Northwest’s streamflows, yet the region’s mountain observational network didn’t register a corresponding decline in precipitation. Dettinger references the paper of Charles Luce and colleagues in Science [featured in the January 2014 issue of the CIRCulator]. Luce’s paper ties the low steamflows to a “climate-change-induced slowdown in the westerly winds that normally bring mountain rain and snow,” writes Dettinger. Luce concluded that these westerly winds declined enough to noticeably affect the amount of mountain precipitation and, consequently, streamflow. So how did this differ from observations collected at weather stations? According to Dettinger, the difference was noticeble and originates because there are so few mountain weather stations. If Luce is right, Dettinger concludes, then a 15 percent decline in mountain, or “orographic,” precipitation must have eluded the region’s high-altitude, observational network. However, this makes sense. Getting high-quality precipitation observations at high altitudes can be difficult, so there are very few long-term weather stations at high altitudes. Dettinger ties the missed precipitation measurements to the difficulties many stations face, including harsh weather, complex topography, and the sheer distances of mountain weather stations from towns and cities. However, Dettinger was not entirely convinced by Luce’s methodology. He writes,”[It] is not yet clear how much the decline in high-altitude precipitation change in the Pacific Northwest can be generalized [to other parts of the world].” Dettinger ends his paper with a call for better observational data and climate modeling that can account for mountain ranges’ complex topography, a move he refers to as paying “more attention to the crucial third dimension.”
     

    Dettinger, Michael (2014). Climate change: Impacts in the third dimension, Nature Geoscience, 7, 166–167, doi:10.1038/ngeo2096

     

     

    Today’s Antarctic region once as hot as California, Florida
    (April 21, 2014) — Parts of ancient Antarctica were as warm as today’s California coast, and polar regions of the southern Pacific Ocean registered 21st-century Florida heat, according to scientists using a new way to measure past temperatures. … > full story

     

    B31: huge Antarctic iceberg headed for open ocean

    Iceberg that calved from the Pine Island glacier last year is headed for the open ocean, scientists say

    theguardian.com, Thursday 24 April 2014 10.26 EDT

    In early November 2013, a large iceberg separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island glacier. Photograph: Modis/Aqua/Nasa

    An enormous iceberg half the size of Greater London that broke off an Antarctic glacier last year is headed for the open ocean, scientists said on Wednesday. B31, which calved from Pine Island glacier last November, is large enough at 33km long and 20km wide to lead Nasa to monitor its movements via satellite. It is up to 500 metres thick. Nasa glaciologist Kelly Brunt said: “It’s one that’s large enough that it warrants monitoring,” noting that US agencies monitored several dozen icebergs at any one time…

     

    Watch a 20-Mile Long Iceberg Drift Into the Southern Ocean

    A huge iceberg 6 times larger than Manhattan and more than 1,500 feet thick is drifting toward the Southern Ocean, a telltale sign of Antarctica’s increasing melt related to global warming and other factors….

     

     

     

    Odds of storm waters overflowing Manhattan seawall up 20-fold
    (April 23, 2014) — Maximum water levels in New York harbor during major storms have risen by nearly two and a half feet since the mid-1800s, making the chances of water overtopping the Manhattan seawall now at least 20 times greater than they were 170 years ago, according to a new study. … > full story

     

     

    No-till soil organic carbon sequestration rates published
    (April 18, 2014) — For the past 20 years, researchers have published soil organic carbon sequestration rates. Many of the research findings have suggested that soil organic carbon can be sequestered by simply switching from moldboard or conventional tillage systems to no-till systems. However, there is a growing body of research with evidence that no-till systems in corn and soybean rotations without cover crops, small grains, and forages may not be increasing soil organic carbon stocks at the published rates. … > full story

     

    Microscopic organism plays a big role in ocean carbon cycling
    (April 24, 2014) — Scientists have taken a leap forward in understanding the microscopic underpinnings of the ocean carbon cycle by pinpointing a bacterium that appears to play a dominant role in carbon consumption. … > full story

     

     

     

    Happy Earth Day. We Just Reached Another Scary Climate Change Milestone- 400 PPM CO2 since Mid-March

    Posted: 04/22/2014 9:26 am EDT Updated: 04/23/2014 9:59 am EDT

    In May 2013, it was big news when, for the first time, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. Now, researchers say that number has been consistently above 400 for the last month. “This is higher than it’s been in millions of years,” said Pieter Tans, a senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory. Parts per million, or ppm, is a measure of the ratio of carbon dioxide to other gases in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is just one type of greenhouse gas that has been found to trap heat, but it is the primary one emitted from human activities and it lingers in the atmosphere for a very long time. There is typically seasonal fluctuation in the parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, according to scientists who track the levels. That explains why, after hitting 400 for the first time in recorded history last May, the levels declined soon after. But they hit 400 ppm again in mid-March, and have stayed above that level for all of April.

     

    As of April 20, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 401.17 ppm. That figure is based on readings from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. The scientists who monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide levels expect that levels will stay above 400 ppm until late June or July. Tans said that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is now increasing at a rate that is at least 100 times faster than it has been at any time since record-keeping began. At some point next year or the year after, based on current rates, carbon dioxide levels will rise above 400 ppm and will not be likely to fall below that mark again.

    The amount of carbon dioxide that gets naturally absorbed from the atmosphere varies according to the time of year, said Tans. During late spring and early summer in the northern hemisphere, trees and plants take in more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But as emissions generated by human activities rise, those cycles can no longer offset them. “We are basically overwhelming natural uptake processes,” said Tans…..

     

     

     

     

    Climate Discussion Echoes Tobacco Debate (pdf)

    SCIENCE Letter 18 APRIL 2014 VOL 344 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org
    ROBERT J. GOULD AND EDWARD MAIBACH

    IN 1962, LUTHER TERRY, THE SURGEON GENERAL OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, ESTABLISHED the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. On 11 January 1964, he released the committee’s report, “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (1), which reviewed the existing science and concluded that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally linked to cigarette smoking. This landmark report marked a critical pivot in our national response to tobacco products, leading to packet warning labels, restrictions on cigarette advertising, and anti-tobacco campaigns. But it by no means ended the debate about what we now know to be horrifically negative public health impacts of tobacco use. Instead, it galvanized the tobacco companies, through their industry-funded Tobacco Institute, to publish a large number of “white papers” to rebut scientifi c reports critical of tobacco (2). The demise of the Tobacco Institute came in 1998, as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, where 46 state attorneys general obtained $206 billion dollars over 25 years from the tobacco industry for its culpability in creating a public health crisis (3). This bit of history has important parallels to our national discussion of climate change. On 18 March, AAAS released a report produced by a panel of 13 prominent experts chaired by the Nobel prize–winning scientist Mario Molina, titled “What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change” (http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts). As was the case when Luther Terry issued his tobacco report in 1964, no new science is being offered in the climate report. Instead, it presents a brief review of the key relevant scientific conclusions. Just as the 1964 report included discussion of the possibility that tobacco caused cardiovascular disease, the “What We Know” paper speaks to the possibility of abrupt climate change risks. Another important parallel is that the 1964 report was issued under the imprimatur of a highly trusted and authoritative source. AAAS, as the largest general membership society of scientists in the world, holds a similar position of trust. Yet another important parallel between the AAAS “What We Know” report and the 1964 Surgeon General’s report is the political and social context into which it is launched. As historians Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway depict in their book Merchants of Doubt (4), the tobacco issue created an industry playbook for running misinformation campaigns to mislead the public and deny well established scientific conclusions. As the authors document, the industry misinformation campaign on climate change is in high gear and achieving results: Many Americans think that climate experts still have much disagreement about whether human-caused climate change is happening (5 ). Today it’s inconceivable that an American decision-maker would risk the public opprobrium that would result from expressing skepticism that tobacco causes cancer. We believe that it is an obligation of all scientists to hasten the day when the same is true for climate change, where the stakes are even higher.

     

    References

    1. L. Terry et al “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (U-23 Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service Publication No. 1103, 1964).

    2. Tobacco Smoke and the Nonsmoker: Scientific Integrity at the Crossroads (Tobacco Institute, Washington, DC, 1986); http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/documentStore/w/a/l/wal03e00/Swal03e00.pdf.

    3. Master Settlement Agreement (National Association of Attorneys General, 1998).

    4. N. Oreskes, E. M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010).

    5. A. Leiserowitz et al “Climate change in the American mind: Americans’ global warming beliefs” (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, 2013); http://environment.yale.edu/climate- communication/fi les/Climate-Beliefs-April-2013.pdf.

     

     

    Climate change is the fight of our lives – yet we can hardly bear to look at it

    We’re products of an industrial project, a project linked to fossil fuels. But humans have changed before and can change again

    Naomi Klein
    theguardian.com, Wednesday 23 April 2014 03.00 EDT Jump to comments (1005)

    This is a story about bad timing. One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses. The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, with a number of possible long-term impacts on survival. Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures. That is leaving female caribou with less energy for lactation, reproduction and feeding their young, a mismatch that has been linked to sharp decreases in calf births and survival rates.  Scientists are studying cases of climate-related mistiming among dozens of species, from Arctic terns to pied flycatchers. But there is one important species they are missing – us. Homo sapiens. We too are suffering from a terrible case of climate-related mistiming, albeit in a cultural-historical, rather than a biological, sense. Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude – that moment being the tail end of the go-go 80s, the blast-off point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world.
    Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis….

     
     

    The Great Dithering

    The waters are rising, and cities can’t move out of the way. Can we act decisively enough to avert catastrophic climate change?

    By Gabriel Metcalf April 10, 2014 SPUR

    How much higher will the oceans rise? No one knows, in part because of scientific uncertainty, but mostly because of political uncertainty. We don’t know if humanity will be capable of changing course, which really amounts to leaving a lot of fossil fuels in the ground, unburned.

    Everyone knows the basic science by now: Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the air.  Greenhouse gases cause climate change. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other heat-trapping gases. As we emit more of these noxious gases, global temperatures will rise.  The concentration of these gases in the atmosphere today is higher than it’s been in the last 3 million years. The climate is already changing. The oceans have not risen much yet, just about 8 inches over the last century. But the rate of increase is speeding up as the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases. Current estimates for the year 2100 range from 1 to 6 feet of increase, with the current consensus falling in the middle of that range. But after 2100, the seas will keep going up. We are locked in to several centuries of sea level rise because of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere and the warming that has already taken place in the ocean………How likely is it that we will reduce our emissions in time to avoid the worst outcomes? How much more carbon are we going to emit? The international community has set a goal of limiting global warming to fewer than 4 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the current consensus of the upper limit to avoid catastrophic climate change. Achieving it would require the total cessation of emissions once we have spirited 800 gigatons of carbon out of the ground and into the air. By 2011, we were already two-thirds of the way to this threshold, and global emissions rates continue to increase. One way of thinking about the problem is that it comes down to how much fossil fuel we can leave in the ground. To keep warming below 4 degrees Fahrenheit, the International Energy Agency has found that we need to leave two-thirds of all known remaining reserves of coal, oil and gas in the ground, unburned. But will we be able to do that? There is a name for the new geological epoch we have entered: the Anthropocene, the era in which humans have caused profound changes to the outer layer of the earth….

    AT&T Park Today                     AT&T Park Under 25 Feet
    of Sea Level Rise



     

     

    Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

    SETH BORENSTEIN and JENNIFER AGIESTA Associated Press April 21, 2014

    Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But as we get farther from our own bodies and the present, a new AP-GfK poll shows Americans have much more doubts in other concepts that scientists say are basic truth: global warming, evolution, and their largest question mark was in the Big Bang that created the universe. (Dave Martin / AP)

    Washington — Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they express bigger doubts as concepts that scientists consider to be truths get further from our own experiences and the present time, an Associated Press-GfK poll found.

    Americans have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 billion years ago.

    Rather than quizzing scientific knowledge, the survey asked people to rate their confidence in several statements about science and medicine.

    On some, there’s broad acceptance. Just 4 percent doubt that smoking causes cancer, 6 percent question whether mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain and 8 percent are skeptical there’s a genetic code inside our cells. More — 15 percent — have doubts about the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccines. About 4 in 10 say they are not too confident or outright disbelieve that the Earth is warming, mostly a result of man-made heat-trapping gases, that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old or that life on Earth evolved through a process of natural selection, though most were at least somewhat confident in each of those concepts. But a narrow majority — 51 percent — questions the Big Bang theory.
    Those results depress and upset some of America’s top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners, who vouched for the science in the statements tested, calling them settled scientific facts.

    “Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts,” said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.

    The poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication…..

     

     

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    DROUGHT:
    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/RegionalDroughtMonitor.aspx?west

     

     


     

     

    Study connects man-made global warming to ongoing California drought, winter’s polar vortex

    Associated Press April 24, 2014 By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer WASHINGTON (AP) —   While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it’s not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought and the polar vortex blamed for a harsh winter that mercifully has just ended in many places. The Utah State University scientists involved in the study say they hope what they found can help them predict the next big weird winter. Outside scientists, such as Katharine Hayhoe at Texas Tech University, are calling this study promising but not quite proven as it pushes the boundaries in “one of the hottest topics in climate science today.” The United States just came out of a two-faced winter — bitter cold and snowy in the Midwest and East, warm and severely dry in the West. The latest U.S. drought monitor says 100 percent of California is in an official drought. The new study blames an unusual “dipole,” a combination of a strong Western high pressure ridge and deep Great Lakes low pressure trough. That dipole is linked to a recently found precursor to El Nino, the world-weather changing phenomenon. And that precursor itself seems amplified by a build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the study says. It’s like a complex game of weather dominos that starts with cold water off China and ends with a devastating drought and memorable winter in the United States, said study author Simon Wang, a Utah State University climate scientist. Wang was looking at colder water off China as a precursor to an El Nino. The colder water there triggers westerly winds in the tropical Pacific. Those westerly winds persist for several months and eventually push warmed up water and air to the central Pacific where an El Nino forms, Wang said. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns. Wang saw the precursors and weather event coming months before federal weather officials issued an official El Nino watch last month. Then Wang noticed the connection between that precursor — cold water off China, Vietnam and Taiwan — and the recent wild winter. He tracked similar combinations of highs and lows in North America. And he found those combination extremes are getting stronger. Wang based his study, soon to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, on computer simulations, physics and historical data. It is not as detailed and doesn’t involve numerous computer model simulations as more formal attribution studies. Still, Wang said his is a proper connection. Wang compared computer simulations with and without gases from the burning of fossil fuels. When he included carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use, he got a scenario over the past few decades that mirrored what has happened, including this past weird winter and other worsening dipole conditions. When he took out the greenhouse gases, the increasing extremes actually went down — not what happened in real life…..

     

    Probable causes of the abnormal ridge accompanying the 2013-14 California drought: ENSO precursor and anthropogenic warming footprint

    S.-Y. Simon Wang1,2,*, Lawrence Hipps2, Robert R Gillies1,2 and Jin-Ho Yoon3 Geophysical Research Letters DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059748 ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

    Abstract

    The 2013-14 California drought was accompanied by an anomalous high-amplitude ridge system. The anomalous ridge was investigated using reanalysis data and the Community Earth System Model (CESM). It was found that the ridge emerged from continual sources of Rossby wave energy in the western North Pacific starting in late summer, and subsequently intensified into winter. The ridge generated a surge of wave energy downwind and deepened further the trough over the northeast U.S., forming a dipole. The dipole and associated circulation pattern is not linked directly with either ENSO or Pacific Decadal Oscillation; instead it is correlated with a type of ENSO precursor. The connection between the dipole and ENSO precursor has become stronger since the 1970s, and this is attributed to increased GHG loading as simulated by the CESM. Therefore, there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.

     

     

    Drought Now Covers Every Last Inch Of California

    By Jeff Spross April 25, 2014 at 11:02 am Updated: April 25, 2014 at 11:58 am

    According to the April 22 release of the U.S. Drought Monitor, every last inch of California is in a state of “moderate” to “exceptional” drought — the first time in the monitor’s 15-year history that’s occurred. Indeed, the vast majority of California’s territory is now either at “extreme” or “exceptional,” which are the two most severe levels. The total amount of drought covering the U.S. also increased, from 37.9 percent of the country last week to 38.4 percent this week. The southwestern United States once again saw almost no precipitation. Forecasts for the next two weeks also anticipate drier-than-normal conditions across the Southwest, the Great Plains and the Midwest. In northern California, the city of Montague requested that all outside watering be reduced until further notice — the first time it’s done that in 80 years, as the community risks running out of water by the end of the summer. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that half the Sierra Nevada’s snowpack melted in one week, thanks to temperatures that went as high as 12 degrees above average. In an indication of how much damage the ongoing drought has already done, the agency said all the melt gave just a slight boost to reservoir levels. California’s crops and agriculture are also taking a pounding. Mike Wade, the California Farm Water Coalition’s executive director, told USA Today that the direct and indirect economic costs of the drought are already estimated at $7.48 billion, including 800,000 acres of farmland left idle and 20,000 job losses. On top of all this, a recent study out of Utah State University has linked both the drought in the western U.S. and the frigid winter that just hit the eastern U.S. to climate change. The author of the work, climate scientist Simon Wang, looked at a twin set of pressure systems — one of unusually high pressure off America’s Pacific coast, and one of unusually low pressure over the Great Lakes — called a “dipole.” The combined effect is to drive warm and severely dry weather across the southwest, and unusually cold and snowy weather across the northeastern United States. Wang found the difference between the two system’s extremes has been increasing over the last few decades. And after drawing on a number of computer models and historical data sets, he also found the severity of the increase could not be explained without the influence of humanity’s carbon emissions. Previous research has also shown that the affect of climate change on the North Pole’s temperatures could alter the jet stream, pulling colder air farther south more often. Good news was not entirely absent, however. The expansion of the drought on the state-wide level does not mean no precipitation anywhere, and several communities in California that were in danger of running out of water within 60 days back in February were lucky enough to see some rain. Between that and intervention by the state government, the number of towns at risk dropped from 17 in January to 3 now….

     

    Drought — and neighbors — press Las Vegas to conserve water

    Lake Mead, the reservoir that supplies 90% of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain.

    By John M. Glionna LA Times April 20, 2014, 9:48 p.m.

    LAS VEGAS — Deep beneath Lake Mead, a 23-foot-tall tunnel-boring machine grinds through stubborn bedrock in a billion-dollar effort to make sure water continues flowing to this thirsty resort city. For six years, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been building an intake straw below the reservoir’s two existing pipes. Due for completion in fall 2015, critics say it may not provide a long-term solution. An ongoing drought and the Colorado River’s stunted flow have shrunk Lake Mead to its lowest level in generations. The reservoir, which supplies 90% of Las Vegas’ water, is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain. By mid-April, Lake Mead’s water level measured just 48 feet above the system’s topmost intake straw. Future droughts and a warming climate change could spell trouble for the city’s 2 million residents — and its 40 million annual visitors. Those people “better hope nothing goes wrong with the last intake,” said water authority spokesman J.C. Davis. “But if something does go wrong,” he added, “we’re in the business of making contingency plans.”… Although this spring’s snowmelt could temporarily replenish Lake Mead, the city’s future still looks drier than ever, a prospect that has prompted the water authority to eye such long-term plans as a desalinization plant in California and a $15-billion pipeline to move water here from other parts of the state. Environmentalists blast the proposed pipeline from central Nevada as irresponsible, calling it a resource grab comparable to William Mulholland’s move that created an aqueduct to transport water south from California’s Owens Valley to help expand Los Angeles a century ago. They say the city has been cavalier about looming water shortages, pointing to projects such as Lake Las Vegas, a 320-acre artificial oasis built with man-made rivers and waterfalls amid the high-end homes and luxury resorts…..

     

     

    Rio Grande may hit 40-year low. April 24, 2014 Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico

    Without good summer rains, the Rio Grande through Albuquerque could see its lowest sustained levels since the 1970s, water managers said Wednesday….

     

     

    Four Bad Things We Learned About The Epic California Drought This Week

    By Joe Romm on April 19, 2014

    Those concerned about California’s record-breaking drought received four pieces of bad news this week: The drought is as bad as ever, the snowpack is melting rapidly, the drought is projected to persist or worsen in the next three months, and climate change appears partly to blame…..


    In drought dilemma, water district cuts off growers to ensure supply for homes

    Ken Todd, co-owner of Todd Brothers Vineyards, walks along a row of vines at one of his vineyards in Redwood Valley on Saturday. Also a board member of the Redwood Valley County Water District, Ken Todd voted with other board members Thursday to shut off the water supply to nearly 200 agricultural customers due to a lack of water. ((Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat))

    By GLENDA ANDERSON THE PRESS DEMOCRAT Santa Rosa, Ca April 20, 2014, 3:00 AM

    A small water district in Mendocino County will be shutting off the valves Monday that supply irrigation to more than 2,000 acres of vineyards and other crops, leaving nearly 200 farming customers without their main source of water, a shortfall that likely foreshadows what’s ahead statewide for many growers as the drought stretches on. There just isn’t enough water in Lake Mendocino, the main reservoir in the upper Russian River basin, to supply all water users, officials said. For the Redwood Valley County Water District, that means prioritizing deliveries to its 5,000 residential customers over its farmers, as required by state law. “We had no choice. It’s the last thing we wanted to do,” said Ken Todd, a Redwood Valley water board member who owns 150 acres of vineyards and manages another 150 acres for others in the valley, located about 8 miles north of Ukiah.

    Under the best of circumstances, Todd said he expects to lose 20 percent of the winegrape crops on about half the vineyards he oversees — the ones with only small reservoirs to make it through the growing season. At worst, it could be a total loss this year for those vineyards, he said. The 50-year-old Redwood Valley water district is in a pinch because it has a limited right to water from Lake Mendocino. In dry years, that right is practically non-existent. The district has operated under a decades-long moratorium for new hookups because of the situation. On Thursday night, however, district officials said they made an unprecedented springtime decision, voting 3 to 1, with one abstention, to cut off water supplies to all of their growers. The move looks to be the first instance of a water supplier halting deliveries on the North Coast amid the current drought. It comes after California last year recorded its driest year on record, and as farmers in the Central Valley, the state’s main agricultural region, and agencies serving more than 25 million residents are facing drastically lower deliveries, with just 5 percent of their requested allotment expected from the State Water Project this season….

     

    Fields And Farm Jobs Dry Up With California’s Worsening Drought

    NPR April 22, 2014 3:26 AM ET

    Recent rains kept Suzanne and Mike Collins’ orange grove alive, but the rainy season is ending. If they don’t get federal irrigation water by this summer, their trees will start dying. Kirk Siegler/NPR

    On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Grove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gather on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart. One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans. If there is no water, there’s no work, he says in Spanish. Perez was laid off when the citrus farmer he worked for ran out of water. He has five kids to support, and though the family is on unemployment, it’s about to run out. So he’s been hanging out here hoping to hear of some work. Perez says he and his family have been living here since 1983 and have never seen a drought this bad. A man next to him says he may head back to Mexico soon. He has heard the farms there have more water right now.

    You hear a lot of these stories up and down California’s Central Valley. Everything that everyone has been warning about over the past few months is starting to happen. Workers are getting laid off as prized fruit and nut trees are going unwatered, and fields are going fallow. As droughts have worsened in recent years, federal authorities have released less and less water from a web of reservoirs and canals in northern California that feeds farms and cities in the arid south. For the first time in six decades, most farmers on the east side of this valley have been told they will get no federal irrigation water.

     

     

    Brushing teeth with sewer water next step as Texas faces drought
    April 23, 2014 Bloomberg

    Wichita Falls, a city of more than 104,000, suffering the worst drought on record, is about to become the first place in the U.S. to treat sewage and pump it directly back to residents….

     

     

     

     

     

    Some corals adjusting to rising ocean temperatures
    (April 24, 2014) — Scientists have revealed how some corals can quickly switch on or off certain genes in order to survive in warmer-than-average tidal waters. To most people, 86-degree Fahrenheit water is pleasant for bathing and swimming. To most sea creatures, however, it’s deadly. As climate change heats up ocean temperatures, the future of species such as coral, which provides sustenance and livelihoods to a billion people, is threatened. … > full story

     

    Climate-change adaptation: Designer reefs

    Biologists are directing the evolution of corals to prepare them to fight climate change.

    Amanda Mascarelli NATURE 23 April 2014 Article tools PDF

    Floris van Breugel/Naturepl.com Reefs thrive in the hot waters of American Samoa that would kill other corals.

    Off the coast of American Samoa, the tropical sun beats down on a shallow tidal lagoon, heating the water to a sizzling 35 °C for a few hours each day. Such temperatures would kill off most coral reefs, and yet the Samoan lagoon hosts courtyards of antler-like branching corals and mound corals the size of refrigerators. “The fact that they’re there means they’ve adapted to survive,” says Steve Palumbi, a marine biologist at Stanford University in California. “The real question is: how did they do that and can all corals do that?” Palumbi is just starting to understand how these Samoan corals thrive in such extreme conditions. And he thinks he might be able to harness that ability to create a reef of hardy coral with a chance of surviving the hot seas that are expected to result from climate change. Starting in August, he and his team are going to try to plant “the smartest future reef we can imagine”. Palumbi is part of a small group of coral researchers around the world tackling such issues to throw threatened reefs a lifeline. Their ultimate intent is to launch a programme of ‘human-assisted evolution’, creating resistant corals in controlled nurseries and planting them in areas that have been — or will be — hard-hit by changing conditions. “It’s a brave new world of working with corals in this way,” says Ruth Gates, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who, along with coral geneticist Madeleine van Oppen at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, is helping to pioneer the field. The work is not without controversy. Although no one is yet attempting to create genetically modified corals, some researchers are concerned that human-assisted evolution goes too far down the slippery slope of altering natural systems. “If you’re basically farming a reef, you’ve taken a natural habitat and you’ve converted it,” says Steve Vollmer, a coral geneticist at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts, who feels that more needs to be known before embarking on such programmes. “It’s like going to the Midwest and taking grasslands and making it into soy. There are huge implications to doing this.”……

     

    Great American Adaptation Road Trip

    Uncovering stories of people and places using their wits and resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change

     

     

    Taking Action on Sea Level Rise- San Francisco

    SPUR takes a look at some of the efforts to build resilience and to adapt our shoreline to future sea levels.

    Laura Tam April 10, 2014

    Photo of Arrowhead Marsh courtesy The Art Project.

     

     

     

    Setbacks Aside, Climate Change Is Finding Its Way Into the World’s Classrooms

    By BETH GARDINERAPRIL 20, 2014

    LONDON — From Mauritius to Manitoba, climate change is slowly moving from the headlines to the classroom. Schools around the world are beginning to tackle the difficult issue of global warming, teaching students how the planet is changing and encouraging them to think about what they can do to help slow that process.

    Strapped school budgets, concerns about overburdening teachers and political opposition to what in some places is a contentious subject have complicated the spread of lessons on climate change. Nonetheless, many nations are adding or expanding such offerings, convinced that young people must learn about a phenomenon likely to have a big impact on their lives.

    Schools, advocates say, can play an important role in fighting climate change by teaching young people greener habits and creating a generation of voters who will back measures to cut carbon dioxide pollution.

    To slow dangerous warming, “we need an overall change of mind and a change of action that relates to everything that we think and do,” said Alexander Leicht, of Unesco, the agency overseeing the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, which ends this year.

    “We need every individual’s understanding to do something about that, every individual’s motivation,” he said. “How else do you reach them than through education?”

    Not everyone agrees, however, and in some places the question of how and whether to teach the subject is politically charged. Britain’s education secretary has zigzagged, with changes that environmental advocates say will reduce climate’s prominence in the national curriculum there.

    In the United States, new science standards drawn up by 26 states and scientists’ and teachers’ groups call for introducing climate change to students in middle school and exploring it in greater detail in high school. That has stirred opposition in states like Wyoming, a coal and oil producer. Lawmakers there last month blocked funding for the standards, saying teaching climate change could hurt the local economy.

     

     

     

     

     

    The New Abolitionism

    Averting planetary disaster will mean forcing fossil fuel companies to give up at least $10 trillion in wealth.

    Christopher Hayes The Nation April 22, 2014  

    Before the cannons fired at Fort Sumter, the Confederates announced their rebellion with lofty rhetoric about “violations of the Constitution of the United States” and “encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States.” But the brute, bloody fact beneath those words was money. So much goddamn money. The leaders of slave power were fighting a movement of dispossession. The abolitionists told them that the property they owned must be forfeited, that all the wealth stored in the limbs and wombs of their property would be taken from them. Zeroed out. Imagine a modern-day political movement that contended that mutual funds and 401(k)s, stocks and college savings accounts were evil institutions that must be eliminated completely, more or less overnight. This was the fear that approximately 400,000 Southern slaveholders faced on the eve of the Civil War. Today, we rightly recoil at the thought of tabulating slaves as property. It was precisely this ontological question—property or persons?—that the war was fought over. But suspend that moral revulsion for a moment and look at the numbers: Just how much money were the South’s slaves worth then? A commonly cited figure is $75 billion, which comes from multiplying the average sale price of slaves in 1860 by the number of slaves and then using the Consumer Price Index to adjust for inflation. But as economists Samuel H. Williamson and Louis P. Cain argue, using CPI-adjusted prices over such a long period doesn’t really tell us much: “In the 19th century,” they note, “there were no national surveys to figure out what the average consumer bought.” In fact, the first such survey, in Massachusetts, wasn’t conducted until 1875…. In 2012, the writer and activist Bill McKibben published a heart-stopping essay in Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” I’ve read hundreds of thousands of words about climate change over the last decade, but that essay haunts me the most. The piece walks through a fairly straightforward bit of arithmetic that goes as follows. The scientific consensus is that human civilization cannot survive in any recognizable form a temperature increase this century more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Given that we’ve already warmed the earth about 0.8 degrees Celsius, that means we have 1.2 degrees left—and some of that warming is already in motion. Given the relationship between carbon emissions and global average temperatures, that means we can release about 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by mid-century. Total. That’s all we get to emit if we hope to keep inhabiting the planet in a manner that resembles current conditions. Now here’s the terrifying part. The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a consortium of financial analysts and environmentalists, set out to tally the amount of carbon contained in the proven fossil fuel reserves of the world’s energy companies and major fossil fuel–producing countries. That is, the total amount of carbon we know is in the ground that we can, with present technology, extract, burn and put into the atmosphere. The number that the Carbon Tracker Initiative came up with is… 2,795 gigatons. Which means the total amount of known, proven extractable fossil fuel in the ground at this very moment is almost five times the amount we can safely burn.
    Proceeding from this fact, McKibben leads us inexorably to the staggering conclusion that the work of the climate movement is to find a way to force the powers that be, from the government of Saudi Arabia to the board and shareholders of ExxonMobil, to leave 80 percent of the carbon they have claims on in the ground. That stuff you own, that property you’re counting on and pricing into your stocks? You can’t have it…..

    Given the fluctuations of fuel prices, it’s a bit tricky to put an exact price tag on how much money all that unexcavated carbon would be worth, but one financial analyst puts the price at somewhere in the ballpark of $20 trillion. So in order to preserve a roughly habitable planet, we somehow need to convince or coerce the world’s most profitable corporations and the nations that partner with them to walk away from $20 trillion of wealth. Since all of these numbers are fairly complex estimates, let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we’ve overestimated the total amount of carbon and attendant cost by a factor of 2. Let’s say that it’s just $10 trillion. The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865—and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought. It is almost always foolish to compare a modern political issue to slavery, because there’s nothing in American history that is slavery’s proper analogue. So before anyone misunderstands my point, let me be clear and state the obvious: there is absolutely no conceivable moral comparison between the enslavement of Africans and African-Americans and the burning of carbon to power our devices. Humans are humans; molecules are molecules. The comparison I’m making is a comparison between the political economy of slavery and the political economy of fossil fuel. More acutely, when you consider the math that McKibben, the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) all lay out, you must confront the fact that the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth. It is impossible to point to any precedent other than abolition.

     

    Japan to launch reduced Pacific whale hunt next week
    April 18, 2014 BBC

    Japan can still catch whales in the Pacific despite a ban on its whaling in the Southern Ocean

    Japan says it will begin hunting whales in the Pacific Ocean next week, after cancelling whaling off Antarctica in line with an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling. Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the target would be 210 Pacific whales – about half the current catch.

    Japan’s defiance of a worldwide ban on whaling has angered environmentalists. Last month the ICJ ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling was commercial, not scientific as Tokyo had argued….

     

    Proposed Expansion for Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries 

    NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries released a proposal to expand the boundaries of Gulf of the Farallones (GFNMS) and Cordell Bank (CBNMS) national marine sanctuaries, two of 14 sites managed by NOAA, located off north-central California. The agency is accepting public and stakeholder comments on the proposal and related regulations through June 30. The proposal is intended to protect the distinctive marine ecosystem north and west of the sanctuaries’ current boundaries. It would include waters and submerged lands off of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, including North America’s most intense “upwelling” site offshore of Point Arena. The nutrients brought to the surface during upwelling events at Point Arena are carried south into the sanctuaries by the prevailing California Current; these nutrients fuel an incredibly productive ocean area protected by GFNMS and CBNMS. The sanctuaries are destination feeding areas for endangered blue whales and humpback whales, sharks, salmon, and seabirds like albatrosses and shearwaters that travel tens of thousands of miles. Food that results from the Point Arena upwelling center also supports the largest assemblage of breeding seabirds in the contiguous United States on the Farallon Islands. Established in the 1980s, the sanctuaries together protect more than 2,000 square miles of ocean near the coast of San Francisco. Under the proposal, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary would be extended north and west from Bodega Bay in Sonoma County to a few miles north of Point Arena lighthouse in Mendocino County, including state and federal waters. Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary expansion would be extended west and slightly north to protect important subsea features such as Bodega Canyon.

     
     

       

    During a review of both sanctuaries’ management plans, NOAA received comments from the public in 2001 expressing interest in expanding the boundaries north and west. In response, the revised management plans published in 2008 included a public process to consider possible expansion. Also, California Senator Barbara Boxer and former U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, whose district included areas near the sanctuaries, both introduced legislation several times in Congress between 2004 and 2011 to expand the sanctuaries’ boundaries. In 2012, under the authority of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, NOAA began considering the boundary expansion.
    Public hearings are planned for the public to learn more about the proposal and comment on the proposal. These comments will be considered when preparing the final rule. For more information on the scheduled meetings and the expansion proposal, click here.

     

    Eating less beef seen way for farming to reduce carbon emissions.
    Business Week

    Carbon emissions from farming can be cut by as much as 90 percent by 2030, equivalent to removing all cars in the world, by steps including eating less beef and better use of fertilizer, according to a report by Climate Focus and California Environmental Associates…

     

    Fixing farming without breaking food.
    Newsweek

    With the recent rise of locavore cuisine and its promise of sustainably sourced produce, dairy and meat, you might be tempted to think that farms are increasingly Earth-friendly places.

     

     

    Divestment campaigns struggle against stock market, profits

    Posted on April 21, 2014 at 7:14 am by Ryan Holeywell in Environment, Finance/Earnings

    College students and supporters hold up signs at a rally to support fossil fuel divestment outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Thursday, May 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

    HOUSTON — Environmental advocates across the country are urging foundations and universities to sell their investments in oil and gas companies, arguing they have a responsibility to withhold support from companies whose activities contribute to climate change.

    Whether the strategy is effective is another question. Earlier this year, a group of 17 foundations with nearly $1.8 billion in assets announced plans to rid their portfolios of investments in fossil fuels companies. “We’re all mission-driven organizations,” said Brian Depew, executive director of the Granary Foundation, a Nebraska-based foundation associated with a nonprofit concerned with farm and rural issues. “If we own fossil fuel, we own climate change.” Meanwhile, activist groups are sprouting up on college campuses across the country, urging schools to divest from oil and gas companies. So far, the movement has had limited success — only a handful of schools have agreed to divest, and those that have aren’t big names — but it’s a movement that administrators are noticing. Despite pressure from some students, Harvard University President Drew Faust announced in October that the school wouldn’t divest from fossil fuel companies. But this month, she said, the school would sign a voluntary agreement to integrate “environmental, social and governance factors” into its investment analyses…..

     

    White House Delays Decision on Keystone Pipeline Until After Midterms

    Published:  April 21st 2014, 11:31am

    An estimated crowd of 35-50,000 gathers near the Washington Monument on Feb 17, 2013 to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and support action on climate change. Image via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    The Obama administration announced Friday that it is once again delaying a decision to approve or reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline – a $5.4 billion project that would carry more than 800,000 barrels of oil  per day from Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast – likely until after the 2014 midterm elections. “On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.” “In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014,” the department added. The Nebraska Supreme Court is expected to hear an appeal to a February ruling where a judge overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path to go through the state. The court will not hear the case until September or October, making it unlikely that the Obama administration will make a decision on the project until after the midterms. The decision to delay may be smart politics on the part of the White House because it insulates Obama from criticism from environmentalists in the Democratic base if he approves the pipeline, and it gives vulnerable Senate Democrats in red states the opportunity to distance themselves from the administration, a posture that will be politically beneficial to them in November…..

     

    Tom Steyer’s Keystone Victory

    The pipeline delay lets Senate Democrats have it both ways.

    April 20, 2014 5:21 p.m. ET

    The Koch brothers may get the media attention, but the billionaire getting the most political bang for his buck is Tom Steyer. The hedge-fund politico has pledged to raise $100 million to help Democrats keep the Senate, and on Friday he received a major return on his investment when the State Department again delayed its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. State’s excuse is that it wants to wait on the outcome of a legal challenge in Nebraska, but that’s no reason for the federal government not to declare itself. Earlier this year State’s latest environmental review found no net climate harm from the pipeline, which would take oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. State found that the oil sands will be developed even if the Keystone XL isn’t built. The real reason for the delay is Democratic politics. Mr. Steyer and the party’s liberal financiers are climate-change absolutists who have made killing Keystone a non-negotiable demand. But the White House doesn’t want to reject the pipeline before November because several Senate Democrats running for re-election claim to favor it. We say “claim” because Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and others can’t even get Majority Leader Harry Reid to give them a vote on the floor.

     

     

    A run for his money

    Tom Steyer is betting that campaigning on climate change can win elections. Is the verdant billionaire right?

    Apr 12th 2014 | SAN FRANCISCO The Economist

    DEMOCRATS have often feared big money in American politics, perhaps because most of it doesn’t go their way. When the Supreme Court struck down the caps on aggregate campaign donations last week, Republicans, broadly speaking, cheered and Democrats jeered. In the 2012 election cycle, four of the five biggest donors to superPACs—independent groups that raise money, often from the extremely rich, and spend it on outlandish political advertising—were Republicans. Tom Steyer, a San Francisco-based billionaire who worries about climate change, is doing his best to help his fellow Democrats get over their qualms.
    Perhaps best known for his opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Mr Steyer, a former hedge-fund investor, was the biggest superPAC spender last year, dropping $11.1m into his two groups. This year he looks likely to repeat that feat, hinting that he will invest at least $50m in one of them, the NextGen Climate Action Committee (NGCA), and that he will be seeking the same amount from other donors. The money will be spent to help elect politicians who share Mr Steyer’s environmental views, or kick out those who do not. In November’s mid-term elections, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 in the Senate will be up for grabs. So will 36 governorships and countless state legislative seats. For NGCA to spend on any given race, says Mr Steyer, three conditions must apply. First, the leading candidates must have differing views on climate change (so Democratic fans of Keystone should be safe; their Republican opponents probably agree with them). Second, “something substantive” must have a chance of happening if the NGCA-backed candidate wins. Third, the race should have the potential to affect the national climate debate. That conversation has been stalled since a Democratic cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate in 2010. Nor is major environmental legislation likely in the next Congress (although Barack Obama is pursuing various emissions-reduction schemes through the Environmental Protection Agency). That is why Mr Steyer expects state races to occupy “the bulk” of his efforts this year….On top of his political adventuring, Mr Steyer offers a full portfolio of climate-policy services. Next Generation, which shares an office with its near-namesake in downtown San Francisco, is a policy outfit; it is finalising a detailed analysis of the potential costs to business of climate change, which should be published in June. AEE, which Mr Steyer co-founded three years ago, is a clean-energy trade association. What all the groups share, says Mr Steyer, is a belief in the importance of involving the private sector in discussions about policy.

    At present, though, the focus is political. Many of the elections that have attracted the attention of Mr Steyer’s team this year are in states likely to matter in the 2016 presidential election, including Iowa, Florida and New Hampshire. That is no coincidence. Candidates hoping to court such states will pay attention if Mr Steyer can demonstrate that campaigning on climate can win elections there. By that time, whisper some, Mr Steyer may be mulling a run for office himself. In 2018 the race to be California’s governor is likely to be open; the Senate is another possibility. Neither campaign would come cheap, but that should not present difficulties.

     

    What Was Tom Steyer Doing In This Isolated Canadian Town?

    By Emily Atkin on April 25, 2014

    Of all the places in the world, the First Nations community of Fort Chip is not the first place one might envision a California billionaire…..

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Increased infrastructure required for effective oil spill response in U.S. Arctic
    (April 23, 2014) — A changing climate is increasing the accessibility of U.S. Arctic waters to commercial activities such as shipping, oil and gas development, and tourism, raising concern about the risk of oil spills. The Arctic poses several challenges to oil spill response, including extreme weather and environmental settings, limited operations and communications infrastructure, a vast geographic area, and vulnerable species, ecosystems, and cultures. … > full story

     


    Koch brothers and big utilities campaign to unplug solar power

     

     

     

     

     
     

     

    WEBINARS:

     

    The role of coastal vegetation in climate change mitigation and adaptation Monday April 28th, 2014 12:00 – 1:00 PM Pacific

    Water Institute Distinguished Scholar Seminar series! University of Florida —

    Speaker:
    Carlos Duarte, Research Professor with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA) in Mallorca, Spain,  and Director of the Oceans Institute at The University of Western Australia

    Dr. Duarte’s research focuses on understanding the effects of global change on aquatic ecosystems, both marine and freshwater.  He has conducted innovative and insightful research across Europe, South-East Asia, the broad Caribbean region, México, Australia, Amazonia, the United States of America and all of the world’s oceans including those in the polar latitudes. He has carried out research in most of the marine ecosystem types, from nearshore to the deep sea and worked also in lake and riverine systems, including the spring systems of Florida. Dr. Duarte is recognized internationally for his leadership abilities and has led numerous international scientific campaigns.  He currently leads the Malaspina 2010 Expedition, a Spanish circumnavigation expedition that sailed the world’s oceans to examine the impacts of global change on ocean ecosystems and explore their biodiversity (see http://www.expedicionmalaspina.es). Professor Duarte served as President of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography between 2007 and 2010.  In 2009, he was appointed member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC), the highest-level scientific committee at the European Level. He has published more than 450 scientific papers and two books, and was editor-in-chief of Estuaries and Coasts, as well as associate editor for several other leading international journals. This seminar will be video-streamed for those who are off-campus:   http://mediasite.video.ufl.edu/Mediasite/Play/8dd3c80df5bd4a9fa003af3a2e6392821d

     

    Building climate-ready fisheries:  lessons from the rapidly changing Gulf of Maine
    Wed., April 30, 2014, 9-10 AM Pacific Time

    Speakers: Andrew J. Pershing, Chief Scientific Officer, Gulf of Maine Research Institute (apershing@gmri.org), Katherine E. Mills, Associate Research Scientist, Gulf of Maine Research Institute (kmills@gmri.org)
    Over the last 10 years, the Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99.8% of the global.  This warming has led to direct impacts on the ecosystem and on the fisheries that depend upon it.  The impact of rising water temperatures was especially acute during the “ocean heat wave” of 2012.  During this year, mid-Atlantic species such as longfin squid and black sea bass moved rapidly into the Gulf of Maine.  The inshore migration of lobsters occurred a month earlier than expected, leading to a price collapse in one of the region’s most important fishery. This event highlighted limitations in the adaptive capacity in both the fisheries and fisheries management in the region, but also helped bring into focus opportunities to increase climate-readiness.  We are developing a coupled socio-ecological framework to assess the vulnerability of fisheries to climate variability and climate change.  We have also identified key steps that fisheries managers can use to build resilience into fish populations.  Finally, we highlight opportunities to use observing system assets to support forecasts and other information tools to enable adaptive decisions within fisheries.
    Remote access: Please register now to receive remote access information. https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7825064084186021890 After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
    Call in:  1-888-577-8993 Seminar sponsor: NOAA Fisheries Service, Office of Science and Technology

     

    The National Climate Assessment Recommendations and Implications

    May 9, 2014 11:30 to 1:00 PM EST

    The panel includes

    • Kathy Jacobs: Director, Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, University of Arizona. Formerly, Director of the National Climate Assessment, and Assistant Director for Climate Assessments and Adaptation, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.
    • Emily Cloyd. Public Participation and Engagement Coordinator for the National Climate Assessment, USGCRP. 
    • Jim Buizer: Director, Climate Adaptation and International Development, Institute of the Environment; Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona. Member, Executive Committee, National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee
    • Anne Waple. Director of Resilience Initiatives at Second Nature, Inc.  Formerly, Program Specialist for the Global Change Information System, USGCRP

     

    Habitat Restoration Webinars June 10-19, 2014

    If you know anyone who might be interested in a very cost-effective way to learn about planning and/or implementing a habitat restoration project, please forward this on to them. Sustainable City Network has partnered with the Northwest Environmental Training Center to provide habitat restoration training in online courses offered June 10 through 19. Instructor Larry Lodwick will conduct the 6-hour habitat restoration planning course in three 2-hour webinars June 10, 11 and 12 for those with limited to moderate experience in natural area management, natural resource management or environmental permitting. The 6-hour habitat restoration implementation course will be presented in three 2-hour webinars on June 17, 18 and 19. Continuing education certificates will be provided, and each session will be recorded, so missing live sessions won’t be a problem.


     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

     

    US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
    April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

    US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

     Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel.  Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
    May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA    The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
    The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.

     
     

    Headwaters to Ocean “H20″ Conference  May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

     

    North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

    First Stewards
    July 21-23, Washington, DC.

    First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
    United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 19-20, 2014
    . SACRAMENTO, CA

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

    Ninth
    International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

    Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.

     

    FUNDING


    California LCC Seeks Proposals  for Place-Based Projects

    The CA LCC has $400,000-$500,000 to support 2-4 collaborative place-based projects that lead to climate-smart conservation actions by natural resource managers. Place-based projects develop adaptation strategies and actions in a CA LCC ecoregion or landscape within an ecoregion that can be implemented by the partners. This request for proposals aims to fill Objective 1 of the recently completed CA LCC Science-Management Framework. This Framework provides the strategic direction for the CA LCC. Details in the Framework identify the process by which the CA LCC provides scientific support for natural resource managers to incorporate climate-smart conservation strategies into their management actions. 

    Click here
    for further details.

    Important Dates:
    – Proposal due date: May 12, 2014 5:00 PM PST
    – Information webinar: April 30, 2014 12:00 – 1:00 PM PST

     

    To join the online meeting

    ——————————————————- 

    1. Go to https://mmancusa.webex.com/mmancusa/j.php?MTID=md355e0a194e3804bc35d3883083332dd

    2. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: calcc 

    3. Click “Join”. 

    ——————————————————- 
    To join the teleconference

    ——————————————————- 

    Call-in number: 1-866-737-4154

    Attendee access code: 287 267 0 

     

     

     

    JOBS  (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)

     


    POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE

    Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.

     

    Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 

     

    This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at www.pointblue.org.

     

     

    POST Stewardship Project Manager

    Ideal candidate would have a strong fundamentals in conservation and natural resource management with specific direct experience in ag.

     

    CEO-Tree People

     

    EDF – Project Manager- CA Habitat Markets

    Please spread the word about an exciting opportunity at EDF to help us develop the Central Valley Habitat Exchange and pursue other opportunities to bring habitat markets to scale.  If you have any questions about the position, let me know.  And if you have networks where you can post this, it would be much appreciated.

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    US Postal Service unveils new Earth Day stamp celebrating NOAA climate science

    Aril 22, 2014….the U.S. Postal Service celebrates Earth Day by unveiling a new Forever international rate stamp
    inspired by a simulation of sea surface temperatures from a NOAA model of the Earth’s climate. The round stamp depicts the globe with North America in the center, surrounded by vivid bands of blue, green and red, signifying the varying temperatures of sea surface waters. “This stamp is a fabulous tribute to the NOAA scientists and partners who develop models that help us understand changes in our climate and weather,” said Mark Schaefer, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management and NOAA deputy administrator. “These global models are key to understanding changes in our dynamic planet over both the short- and long-term, and they are major sources of the environmental intelligence NOAA provides each day. Armed with this kind of information, decision makers can help communities plan for and take action to become more resilient in the face of Earth’s changing climate.” The image was chosen through the Postal Service’s public process that begins with suggestions from citizens to the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee. “Our citizen stamp advisory committee looks to the public for stamp subjects that celebrate people, ideas and events that are important to American history and culture,” said Joshua Colin, Eastern Area vice president for the U.S. Postal Service. “This year’s Earth Day stamp celebrates the important role that science is playing in our understanding of the Earth, the oceans and our climate.” Several months ago, Postal Service representatives contacted scientists at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., to ask about a sea surface temperature animation on NOAA’s Science On a Sphere website. Science On a Sphere was invented by NOAA scientist Alexander MacDonald to help the public view dynamic scientific information projected on a giant sphere. The sea surface temperature image came from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., where teams of scientists have been modeling the behavior of the oceans and atmosphere since the 1960s. A writer from the Postal Service recently spoke with GFDL climate scientists Tom Delworth and Keith Dixon to learn more about how climate models are created and used. Here’s some of what Delworth and Dixon shared with the writer. The article is online at uspsstamps.com…..

    Our Planet’s Future Is in the Hands of 58 People

    by Roberto Savio (rome) Thursday, April 17, 2014 Inter Press Service

    ROME, Apr 17 (IPS) – In case you missed it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third and final part of a report on Apr. 13 in which it says bluntly that we only have 15 years left to avoid exceeding the “safe” threshold of a 2°C increase in global temperatures, beyond which the consequences will be dramatic. And only the most myopic are unaware of what these are – from an increase in sea level, through more frequent hurricanes and storms (increasingly in previously unaffected areas), to an adverse impact on food production. Now, in a normal and participatory world, in which at least 83 percent of those living today will still be alive in 15 years, this report would have created a dramatic reaction. Instead, there has not been a single comment by any of the leaders of the 196 countries in which the planet’s 7.5 billion “consumers” reside. It’s just been business as usual.

    Anthropologists, who study human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals, concluded a long time ago that humans are not superior in every aspect. For instance, human beings are less adaptable than many animals to survive in, for example, earthquakes, hurricanes and any other type of natural disaster. You can be sure that, by now, other animals would be showing signs of alertness and uneasiness. The first part of the report, released in September 2013 in Stockholm, declared with a 95 percent or greater certainty that humans are the main cause of global warming, while the second part, released in Yokohama at the end of March, reported that “in recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans”.

    The IPCC is made up of over 2,000 scientists, and this is the first time that it has come to firm and final conclusions since its creation in 1988 by the United Nations.

    The main conclusion of the report is that to slow the race to a point of no return, global emissions must be cut by 40 to 70 percent by 2050, and that “only major institutional and technological changes will give a better than even chance” that global warming will not go beyond the safety threshold and that these must start at the latest in 15 years, and be completed in 35 years.

    It is worth noting that roughly half of the world’s population is under the age of 30, and it is largely the young who will have to bear the enormous costs of fighting climate change.The IPCC’s main recommendation is very simple: major economies should place a tax on carbon pollution, raising the cost of fossil fuels and thus pushing the market toward clean sources such as wind, solar or nuclear energy. It is here that “major institutional changes” are required.

    Ten countries are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution, with the United States and China accounting for over 55 percent of that share. Both countries are taking serious steps to fight pollution.

    U.S. President Barack Obama tried in vain to obtain Senate support, and has used his authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from vehicles and industrial plants and encourage clean technologies. But he cannot do anything more without backing from the Senate.

    The all-powerful new president of China, Xi Jinping, has made the environment a priority, also because official sources put the number of deaths in China each year from pollution at five million.

    But China needs coal for its growth, and Xi’s position is: “Why should we slow down our development when it was you rich countries that created the problem by achieving your growth?” And that gives rise to a vicious circle. The countries of the South want the rich countries to finance their costs for reducing pollution, and the countries of the North want them to stop polluting.

    As a result, the report’s executive summary, which is intended for political leaders, has been stripped of charts which could have been read as showing the need for the South to do more, while the rich countries put pressure on avoiding any language that could have been interpreted as the need for them to assume any financial obligations. This should make it easier to reach an agreement at the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Lima, where a new global agreement should be reached (remember the disaster at the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009?).

    The key to any agreement is in the hands of the United States. The U.S. Congress has blocked any initiative on climate control, providing an easy escape for China, India and other polluters: why should we make commitments and sacrifices if the U.S. does not participate?
    The problem is that the Republicans have made climate change denial one of their points of identity.

    They have mocked and denied climate change and attacked Democrats who support carbon taxing as waging a war on coal. The American energy industry financially supports the Republican Party and it is considered political suicide to talk about climate change. The last time a carbon tax was proposed in 2009, after a positive vote by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the Republican-dominated Senate shot it down. And in the 2010 elections, a number of politicians who voted for the carbon tax lost their seats, contributing to the Republican takeover of the House. The hope now for those who want a change is to wait for the 2016 elections, and hope that the new president will be able to change the situation – which is a good example of why the ancient Greeks said that Hope is the last Goddess. And this brings us to a very simple reality. The U.S. Senate is made up of 100 members, and this means that you need 51 votes to kill any bill for a fossil fuels tax. In China, the situation is different, but decisions are taken, in the best of hypotheses, not by the president alone, but by the seven-member Standing Committee of the Central Committee, which holds the real power in the Communist Party. In other words, the future of our planet is decided by 58 persons. With the current global population standing at close to 7.7 billion people, so much for a democratic world! (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

     

     

    Mantis shrimp stronger than airplanes: Composite material inspired by shrimp stronger than standard used in airplane frames
    (
    April 22, 2014) — Inspired by the fist-like club of a mantis shrimp, researchers have developed a design structure for composite materials that is more impact resistant and tougher than the standard used in airplanes. The peacock mantis shrimp, or stomatopod, is a 4- to 6-inch-long rainbow-colored crustacean with a fist-like club that accelerates underwater faster than a 22-calibur bullet. … > full story

    Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to U.S. obesity epidemic, particularly among children
    (April 23, 2014) — In response to the ongoing policy discussions on the role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on weight and health, The Obesity Society (TOS) concludes that SSBs contribute to the United States’ obesity epidemic, particularly among children. Based on an in-depth analysis of the current research, TOS’s position statement provides several recommendations for improving health, including that children minimize their consumption of SSBs. … > full story

     

    Sleeping away infection: Researchers find link between sleep, immune function in fruitflies
    (April 21, 2014) — When we get sick it feels natural to try to hasten our recovery by getting some extra shuteye. Researchers found that this response has a definite purpose, in fruitflies: enhancing immune system response and recovery to infection. “These studies provide new evidence of the direct and functional effects of sleep on immune response and of the underlying mechanisms at work. The take-home message from these papers is that when you get sick, you should sleep as much as you can — we now have the data that supports this idea,” researchers conclude. … > full story

    Edible flowers may inhibit chronic diseases
    (April 21, 2014) — Common edible flowers in China are rich in phenolics and have excellent antioxidant capacity, research has shown. Edible flowers, which have been used in the culinary arts in China for centuries, are receiving renewed interest. Flowers can be used as an essential ingredient in a recipe, provide seasoning to a dish, or simply be used as a garnish. Some of these flowers contain phenolics that have been correlated with anti-inflammatory activity and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. … > full story

    Ginseng can treat, prevent influenza, RSV, researcher finds
    (April 21, 2014) — Ginseng can help treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages, according to research findings. Seasonal influenza is a serious respiratory disease that causes annual epidemics in humans worldwide, resulting in about three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. … > full story

    Increasing consumption of coffee associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, study finds
    (April 24, 2014) — Increasing coffee consumption by on average one and half cups per day over a four-year period reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 11 percent, research shows. Coffee and tea consumption has been associated with a lower type 2 diabetes risk but little is known about how changes in coffee and tea consumption influence subsequent type 2 diabetes risk, until now. … > full story
     

     

     

     

     


     

     

     


     

     


     

     


     

     

     


     


    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

    www.pointblue.org  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

     

  6. Mitigating Climate Change—Time is Running Out

    Leave a Comment

     

    IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change

     


     

     

    We’re Running Out of Time to Stop Global Warming, UN Says

     

    In this picture taken Thursday, April 3, 2014, giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler near the city of Grevenbroich, western Germany. Coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Image: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    By Andrew Freedman April 13, 2014 Mashable.com

     

    The window of opportunity to avoid an amount of global warming that global leaders have agreed would be “dangerous” is rapidly closing, with just a decade left for the world to begin undertaking sweeping technological and governmental actions to rein in emissions of global-warming gases such as carbon dioxide, according to a new United Nations report released Sunday in Berlin.
    After that, it becomes far more difficult and expensive to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid dangerous amounts of warming. Given recent emissions and temperature trends, the world is on track to see an increase in global average surface temperatures of up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, the report says. This could have disastrous consequences by dramatically raising global sea levels, melting land-based ice sheets, and leading to more heat waves and extreme precipitation events, among other impacts.

     

    The report, the third and final installment of the latest comprehensive review of climate science from the Nobel Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), analyzes more than 1,000 scenarios of potential economic growth and environmental changes to determine how to minimize global warming. The report is simultaneously optimistic and grim in tone, since it concludes there is time and pre-existing technological knowledge available to meet the goals that leaders set out in a non-binding agreement in 2009, yet lays bare the sheer scope of the challenges that lie ahead. The central task for scientists, engineers and policymakers is to figure out how to facilitate continued economic and population growth, without also causing emissions to skyrocket at the same time, the report says.

     

    Figuring out how to do that gets at the core of global-development issues and the sharp climate-policy divide between industrialized and developing nations. Government representatives meeting in Berlin last week to approve the report, objected to language in the widely read summary for policymakers that suggested developing countries have to do more to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, according to the New York Times. However, such language remained in the lengthy technical report. Text discussing transfers of funding to developing countries to assist them in growing their economies without boosting emissions was also removed from the summary, The IPCC’s fifth assessment provides the foundation for upcoming rounds of negotiations to craft a new global climate treaty, starting with a high-level climate summit in New York this September, and culminating in another summit in Paris next year. The next treaty is supposed to be enforced by 2020. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report underscores the need for action by 2015. “So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago,” Kerry said in a statement. “This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity.”

    Here are some of the report’s key findings:

     

    Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change

    IPCC Working Group III Contribution to AR5

    Concluding four years of intense scientific collaboration by hundreds of authors from around the world, this report responds to the request of the world’s governments for a comprehensive, objective and policy neutral assessment of the current scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change. The report has been extensively reviewed by experts and governments to ensure quality and comprehensiveness. The quintessence of this work, the Summary for Policymakers, has been approved line by line by member governments at the 12th Session of IPCC WG III in Berlin, Germany (7-11 April 2014).

    Summary For Policymakers Final Draft

     

    Contributors

    The participation of experts from around the globe is one of the IPCC’s key characteristics. For the preparation of the WGIII AR5, the WGIII Co-Chairs Ottmar Edenhofer (Germany), Ramon Pichs-Madruga (Cuba) and Youba Sokona (Mali) coordinated the efforts of a diverse team of contributors. This team provided a unique breadth and depth of knowledge from various backgrounds, from various scientific disciplines and from diverse regional and cultural affiliations. All authors and reviewers contributed their time, expertise and efforts on a voluntary basis to provide a global consensus view of the scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change.

    A total of 235 Coordinating Lead Authors and Lead Authors, 38 Review Editors from 58 countries and 176 contributing authors contributed to the preparation of WGIII AR5. Overall responsibility lies with the WGIII Co-Chairs and the WGIII Bureau…

     

     

    IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change More Challenging Than Ever

    Science AAAS

    Apr 14, 2014

     

    Written by

    Eli Kintisch

     
           

    BERLIN—Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem. That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an energy expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was a co-chair of the roughly 500-page report, in a statement. The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers, says energy expert Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “To greatly reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions, we must revolutionize our systems of energy production and consumption,” he says. And that’s a “long, hard, and costly undertaking.“…

  7. Conservation Science News April 25, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the Week — IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3- ADAPTATION

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

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


    The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restorationhttp://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
    You can sign up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.

     

     

    Focus of the Week- IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change

     


     

     

    We’re Running Out of Time to Stop Global Warming, UN Says

     

    In this picture taken Thursday, April 3, 2014, giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler near the city of Grevenbroich, western Germany. Coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Image: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    By Andrew Freedman April 13, 2014 Mashable.com

     

    The window of opportunity to avoid an amount of global warming that global leaders have agreed would be “dangerous” is rapidly closing, with just a decade left for the world to begin undertaking sweeping technological and governmental actions to rein in emissions of global-warming gases such as carbon dioxide, according to a new United Nations report released Sunday in Berlin.
    After that, it becomes far more difficult and expensive to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid dangerous amounts of warming. Given recent emissions and temperature trends, the world is on track to see an increase in global average surface temperatures of up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, the report says. This could have disastrous consequences by dramatically raising global sea levels, melting land-based ice sheets, and leading to more heat waves and extreme precipitation events, among other impacts.

     

    The report, the third and final installment of the latest comprehensive review of climate science from the Nobel Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), analyzes more than 1,000 scenarios of potential economic growth and environmental changes to determine how to minimize global warming. The report is simultaneously optimistic and grim in tone, since it concludes there is time and pre-existing technological knowledge available to meet the goals that leaders set out in a non-binding agreement in 2009, yet lays bare the sheer scope of the challenges that lie ahead. The central task for scientists, engineers and policymakers is to figure out how to facilitate continued economic and population growth, without also causing emissions to skyrocket at the same time, the report says.

     

    Figuring out how to do that gets at the core of global-development issues and the sharp climate-policy divide between industrialized and developing nations. Government representatives meeting in Berlin last week to approve the report, objected to language in the widely read summary for policymakers that suggested developing countries have to do more to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, according to the New York Times. However, such language remained in the lengthy technical report. Text discussing transfers of funding to developing countries to assist them in growing their economies without boosting emissions was also removed from the summary, The IPCC’s fifth assessment provides the foundation for upcoming rounds of negotiations to craft a new global climate treaty, starting with a high-level climate summit in New York this September, and culminating in another summit in Paris next year. The next treaty is supposed to be enforced by 2020. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report underscores the need for action by 2015. “So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago,” Kerry said in a statement. “This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity.”

    Here are some of the report’s key findings:

     

    Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change

    IPCC Working Group III Contribution to AR5

    Concluding four years of intense scientific collaboration by hundreds of authors from around the world, this report responds to the request of the world’s governments for a comprehensive, objective and policy neutral assessment of the current scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change. The report has been extensively reviewed by experts and governments to ensure quality and comprehensiveness. The quintessence of this work, the Summary for Policymakers, has been approved line by line by member governments at the 12th Session of IPCC WG III in Berlin, Germany (7-11 April 2014).

    Summary For Policymakers Final Draft

     

    Contributors

    The participation of experts from around the globe is one of the IPCC’s key characteristics. For the preparation of the WGIII AR5, the WGIII Co-Chairs Ottmar Edenhofer (Germany), Ramon Pichs-Madruga (Cuba) and Youba Sokona (Mali) coordinated the efforts of a diverse team of contributors. This team provided a unique breadth and depth of knowledge from various backgrounds, from various scientific disciplines and from diverse regional and cultural affiliations. All authors and reviewers contributed their time, expertise and efforts on a voluntary basis to provide a global consensus view of the scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change.

    A total of 235 Coordinating Lead Authors and Lead Authors, 38 Review Editors from 58 countries and 176 contributing authors contributed to the preparation of WGIII AR5. Overall responsibility lies with the WGIII Co-Chairs and the WGIII Bureau…

     

     

    IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change More Challenging Than Ever

    Science AAAS

    Apr 14, 2014

     

    Written by

    Eli Kintisch

     
           

    BERLIN—Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem. That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an energy expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was a co-chair of the roughly 500-page report, in a statement. The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers, says energy expert Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “To greatly reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions, we must revolutionize our systems of energy production and consumption,” he says. And that’s a “long, hard, and costly undertaking.“…

     

     

     

     

    Point Blue and partners in the News:

     

    Irrigated agriculture — precious habitat for the long-billed curlew

    April 16th, 2014 phys.org

    Despite the recent rainfall, California is still in a drought, so not only are water supplies limited, but demand for water is increasing from a variety of uses. In a recent study published by Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) and Audubon California in the journal Western Birds, scientists document the importance of irrigated agricultural crops in California’s Central Valley to a conspicuous shorebird. Crops like alfalfa provide critical habitat for the Long-billed Curlew, the largest shorebird in North America and a species of continental conservation concern. As the drought continues, mirroring conditions that are projected to be more common in the future, scientists say the need for allocating water reliably to wetlands and flooded agricultural lands will only grow stronger for wetland-dependent birds. “Curlews can’t survive in the Central Valley without irrigated agriculture, given the loss of most of their historic shallow-water habitats in summer and fall,” says Dave Shuford, Point Blue ecologist and lead author of the publication. The Central Valley’s protected wetlands (federal wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas, and private lands) and certain types of agriculture (e.g. rice, alfalfa), provide nearly all of the habitat used by millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, and other waterbirds every fall, winter, and spring. In early fall—the driest time of year in the Valley—it is especially important that these birds can find flooded fields and wetlands for their survival. In the study, Point Blue scientists, Audubon California, and a host of volunteers studied the curlews for three years. Observers recorded over 20,000 curlews: about 93% were in the central and southern portions of the Central Valley, concentrating in areas extensively flood irrigated for alfalfa and irrigated pasture. “Millions of migratory birds rely on the flooded agricultural fields each year. Conservation and agricultural groups can work together to benefit birds and people,” says Meghan Hertel, Audubon Working Lands Director. In the future, irrigated agriculture will face increased water costs driven by competing needs of an increasing human population and probably drier conditions under a changing climate. These threats might be offset if a program of economic incentives can be devised for farmers to maintain flooding of crops, such as alfalfa and irrigated pasture, to the benefit of both farmers and curlews.

    More information:
    Shuford, W. D., G. W. Page, G. M. Langham, and C. M. Hickey. 2013. The importance of agriculture to Long-billed Curlews in California’s Central Valley in fall. Western Birds 44:196-205.

     

    Irrigated agriculture: precious habitat for the long-billed curlew
    (April 16, 2014) ScienceDaily– Despite the recent rainfall, California is still in a drought, so not only are water supplies limited, but demand for water is increasing from a variety of uses. In a recent study, scientists document the importance of irrigated agricultural crops in California’s Central Valley to a conspicuous shorebird. … > full story

    Alternative identification methods for threatened species urged
    (April 17, 2014) — With global climate change and rapidly disappearing habitat critical to the survival of endangered species, there is a sense of urgency to confirm the return of animals thought to be extinct, or to confirm the presence of newly discovered species. Researchers want to change how biologists think about collecting ‘voucher’ specimens for species identification, suggesting current specimen collection practices pose a risk to vulnerable animal populations nearing extinction. … > full story

     

    Result of slow degradation on environmental pollutants
    (April 14, 2014) — Why do environmental pollutants accumulate in the cold polar regions? This may not only be due to the fact that many substances are less volatile at low temperatures, as has been long suspected, but also to their extremely slow natural degradation. Although persistent environmental pollutants have been and continue to be released worldwide, the Arctic and Antarctic regions are significantly more contaminated than elsewhere. The marine animals living there have some of the highest levels of persistent organic pollutant (POP) contamination of any creatures. … > full story

     

    Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years
    (April 17, 2014) — Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter forest conditions and management needs in the Northern United States have been outlined in a new report. “The northern quadrant of the United States includes 172 million acres of forest land and 124 million people,” said one researcher. This report “is helping identify the individual and collective steps needed to ensure healthy and resilient futures for trees and people alike.”
    The report — Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter forest conditions and management needs in the Northern United States — was published recently by the journal
    Forest Science and is part of the Northern Forest Futures Project, an effort led by the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station to forecast forest conditions over the next 50 years in the 20-state region extending from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland. The study is available at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/45716 … > full story

     

    Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Yields Remarkable Returns

    Andrew Burger | Thursday April 17th, 2014

    In an increasingly urbanized, technologically complex and consumption-driven society, it’s easy to lose sight of the advantages and benefits to be realized, as well as our fundamental reliance on, ecosystems and the services they provide. Yet even as our preoccupation with jobs, economic growth and development has continued to intensify, we’ve been gaining greater understanding, and appreciation, of the value of ecosystems and ecosystem services — not just in terms of environmental health and safety, but for their economic and broader social value as well. On April 9, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Oxfam America released, “The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems,” a report that highlights the remarkable economic value and benefits realized by coastal ecosystem restoration projects carried out right here in the U.S.

    Coastal ecosystem restoration: More job creation than offshore oil and gas development

    The CAP-Oxfam America study of coastal ecosystem restoration projects revealed some surprising economic results. As NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management Mark Schaefer elaborated in a news release.

     

    Controversy over nitrogen’s ocean ‘exit strategies’ resolved
    (April 11, 2014) — A decades-long debate over the dominant way that nitrogen is removed from the ocean may now be settled. Researchers found that both of the nitrogen ‘exit strategies,’ denitrification and anammox, are at work in the oceans. The debate centers on how nitrogen — one of the most important food sources for ocean life and a controller of atmospheric carbon dioxide — becomes converted to a form that can exit the ocean and return to the atmosphere where it is reused in the global nitrogen cycle. … > full story

     

    Declining catch rates in Caribbean Nicaragua green turtle fishery may be result of overfishing
    (
    April 16, 2014) — A 20-year assessment of Nicaragua’s legal, artisanal green sea turtle fishery has uncovered a stark reality: greatly reduced overall catch rates of turtles in what may have become an unsustainable take, according to conservation scientists. Growing up to 400 pounds in weight, the green turtle is the second largest sea turtle species next to the leatherback turtle. In addition to the threat from overfishing, the green turtle is at risk from bycatch in various fisheries, poaching of eggs at nesting beaches, habitat deterioration and loss due to coastal development and climate change effects, and pollution. … > full story

     

    Diverse gene pool critical for tigers’ survival, say experts
    (April 16, 2014) — Increasing tigers’ genetic diversity — via interbreeding and other methods — and not just their population numbers may be the best solution to saving this endangered species, according to research. Iconic symbols of power and beauty, wild tigers may roam only in stories someday soon. Their historical range has been reduced by more than 90 percent. But conservation plans that focus only on increasing numbers and preserving distinct subspecies ignore genetic diversity, according to the study. In fact, under that approach, the tiger could vanish entirely. … > full story

     

    Life finds a way: the surprising biodiversity of cities

    Nika Levikov April 11, 2014

    Public perception of wildlife tends to be tied to natural habitats such as forests, ocean and other wild settings. However, cities can provide habitat for many animals and plants. In the largest global assessment of urban biodiversity to date, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, researchers examined the biodiversity of urban areas and found that cities are home to a surprising number of species. The study underlines the conservation importance of preserving and creating green spaces when it comes to urban planning. The study focused on 54 cities for birds and 110 cities for plants in 36 countries across six continents. The researchers collected and analyzed data from various sources, including databases, surveys and existing literature and found that, on average, 20 percent of the bird species and five percent of the plant species of the regions they examined occur in urban areas. In addition, the number of different species, known as “species richness,” strongly correlated with city size, with bigger cities having larger numbers of different species….

     

    California mulls wolf listing amid hunts elsewhere

    By SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press Updated 4:16 pm, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    This April 18, 2008, file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a gray wolf. The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday April 16, 2014, will consider listing the gray wolf as an endangered species. The wolf has been absent from California since the 1920s, but the appearance of a lone wolf in recent years in the north state has advocates pushing for protection in the hope that it will return in greater numbers. Photo: Uncedited, AP

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — While much of the country has relaxed rules on killing gray wolves, California will consider protecting the species after a lone wolf from Oregon raised hopes the animals would repopulate their historic habitat in the Golden State. The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday postponed for three months a decision on whether to list the gray wolf as endangered. Commissioners heard impassioned arguments from environmentalists who want the wolves to again to roam the state and from cattle ranchers who fear for their herds. “I think we made them blink,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity, which leads the push for protection. “I think they heard our arguments.” State wildlife officials say they don’t support the listing because wolf packs haven’t roamed in California for nearly a century and there’s no scientific basis to consider ….

     

     

    Unprecedented experiment to revive chinook salmon

    Waters may hold secret to spawning

    April 10 2014 Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle

    A chinook salmon smolt swims in a holding tank on the Merva W fishing boat in Rio Vista, Calif. on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, before it’s released into the bay near Tiburon by state fish and game officials.

    Three hundred thousand juvenile chinook with tiny coded chips lodged in their heads were released in Rio Vista and under the Golden Gate Bridge over the past two days in an experiment to determine optimal conditions for hatchery-raised salmon to survive and imprint on their native rivers. The 6-month-old, pinkie-size fish from the Feather River hatchery near Oroville (Butte County) were separated into three groups of 100,000 and subjected to widely varying conditions before the release to see which method best helped the fish survive in the wild. Biologists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are focusing mainly on the group that was loaded Tuesday into the hold of a fishing boat in the delta town of Rio Vista and transported down the Sacramento River to the Golden Gate, where they were released Wednesday. That group of smolts swam through freshwater, brackish water and salt water that was circulated through the hold of the boat as they traveled from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta downriver to the bay. ….It is possible to track the chinook from cradle to grave, so to speak, because of their unique ability to return after three years in the ocean to almost the exact spot on the river where they were born. They do this through a process called imprinting, which begins when the water that flows over their eggs leaves chemical cues…..

     

    Bay Area programs offer hope for dwindling frog population

    Carolyn Jones Updated 8:05 am, Saturday, April 12, 2014

    Starkey holds a yellow-eyed ensatina salamander, an amphibian found on the West Coast and in Mexico. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

    It’s not easy hunting frogs. For starters, there aren’t many frogs left. If you want to find a frog, you’re best off in the flatlands of Madagascar, or maybe Papau New Guinea. But everywhere else? They’ve pretty much croaked. “It’s grim,” said David Wake, an integrative biology professor at UC Berkeley and an expert on amphibians. “We actually have quite a few species, but the problem is, they’re almost all in trouble.” Frogs across the globe, from the creeks of the Bay Area to the rain forests of Panama, are diminishing rapidly. About 50 percent of amphibian species worldwide are threatened or endangered, a higher number than any other vertebrate. Where frogs once happily hopped in backyards, ponds and streams, those places are now ribbit-less. But the best hope for the slimy bug-eaters may lie in the Bay Area, where an increasing number of frog experts are pioneering research, education and captive breeding programs. The latest entry is Save the Frogs, the world’s only nonprofit dedicated solely to saving amphibians, which recently opened its headquarters and a gift shop in Berkeley. “I fell in love with frogs, and I realized that the greatest threat to frogs is people’s lack of awareness,” said Kerry Kriger, an environmental biologist who founded Save the Frogs six years ago. “I think when we protect frogs, we can protect the whole environment.” That’s because frogs are a critical link in the food chain, he said. They eat huge quantities of bugs, especially mosquitoes, and are a favorite snack for a host of predators in creeks, ponds, forests and wetlands. Kriger and his crew visit schools, work on legislation to ban pesticides, persuade restaurants not to serve frog legs, and encourage people to build frog ponds. They’re working with Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella (Riverside County), to declare the endangered red-legged frog – made famous in Mark Twain‘s tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” – as the official state amphibian….

     

    How the public can contribute

    – Don’t use pesticides.

    – Build a frog pond in your backyard.

    – Don’t eat frog’s legs.

    – Don’t buy wild-caught frogs as pets.

    – Drive slowly on wet nights.

    – Be eco-friendly in general: Recycle, save water, use less plastic, buy organic and educate yourself on environmental issues.

    Source: SavetheFrogs.com

     

    Shade grown coffee shrinking as a proportion of global coffee production
    (April 16, 2014) — Over the past couple of decades, global coffee production has been shifting towards a more intensive, less environmentally friendly style, a new study has found. That’s pretty surprising if you live in the U.S. and you’ve gone to the grocery store or Starbucks, where sales of environmentally and socially conscious coffees have risen sharply and now account for half of all U.S. coffee sales by economic value. … > full story

     

    17 April 2014, 11:27 am

    National Park Week (April 19 – April 27) starts with free admission this weekend to all 401 of America’s National Parks; a gathering of all the living Directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Secretary Jewell travels to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to give the commencement address at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI); the Integrated Wildland Fire Information Reporting system (IRWIN) is among the tools that will be used to fight wildfires this year; and the Interior Museum’s “Posterity” exhibit looks back at the some vintage promotional art from the WPA.

     

     

     

    Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water

    Fish will make themselves vulnerable by being attracted to predator odour and exhibiting bolder behaviour

    Oliver Milman theguardian.com, Sunday 13 April 2014 13.00 EDT

    A lemon damselfish finding shelter in coral. Exposure to CO2 will make it more adventurous, and endanger its life. Photograph: Bates Littlehales/Corbis

    Escalating carbon dioxide emissions will cause fish to lose their fear of predators, potentially damaging the entire marine food chain, joint Australian and US research has found.

    A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found the behavior of fish would be “seriously affected” by greater exposure to CO2. Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea. They found that fish living near the vents, where bubbles of CO2 seeped into the water, “were attracted to predator odour, did not distinguish between odours of different habitats, and exhibited bolder behaviour than fish from control reefs”. The gung-ho nature of CO2-affected fish means that more of them are picked off by predators than is normally the case, raising potentially worrying possibilities in a scenario of rising carbon emissions. More than 90% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is soaked up by the oceans. When CO2 is dissolved in water, it causes ocean acidification, which slightly lowers the pH of the water and changes its chemistry. Crustaceans can find it hard to form shells in highly acidic water, while corals risk episodes of bleaching….

     

    Ocean acidification robs reef fish of their fear of predators
    (April 13, 2014) — Research on the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally-occurring carbon dioxide seeps in Milne Bay in eastern Papua New Guinea has shown that continuous exposure to increased levels of carbon dioxide dramatically alters the way fish respond to predators.  … > full story

     

    Odds that global warming is due to natural factors: Slim to none

    McGill University April 11, 2014

    Polar bear in melting Arctic. Statistical analysis rules out natural-warming hypothesis with more than 99% certainty. Credit: © st__iv / Fotolia

    An analysis of temperature data since 1500 all but rules out the possibility that global warming in the industrial era is just a natural fluctuation in the earth’s climate, according to a new study by McGill University physics professor Shaun Lovejoy. The study, published online April 6 in the journal Climate Dynamics, represents a new approach to the question of whether global warming in the industrial era has been caused largely by man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Rather than using complex computer models to estimate the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions, Lovejoy examines historical data to assess the competing hypothesis: that warming over the past century is due to natural long-term variations in temperature….

     

    March was the 4th warmest on record globally. March 2014 was the fourth-warmest March on record globally, according to recently released NASA data, making it the 349th month — more than 29 years — in which global temperatures were above the historic average. Climate Central

     

    Biologists help solve fungal mysteries, inform studies on climate change
    (April 17, 2014) — A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate change. Huge populations of fungi are churning away in the soil in pine forests, decomposing organic matter and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. … > full story

    Methane climate change risk suggested by proof of redox cycling of humic substances
    (April 17, 2014) — Disruption of natural methane-binding process may worsen climate change, scientists have suggested, painting a stark warning on the possible effects of gases such as methane — which has a greenhouse effect 32 times that of carbon dioxide. Researchers have shown that humic substances act as fully regenerable electron acceptors which helps explain why large amount of methane are held in wetlands instead of being released to the atmosphere. … > full story

     

    Drunken trees: Dramatic signs of climate change. Sarah James, an Alaska Native elder, says global warming is radically changing her homeland. Even the forests no longer grow straight. Melting ground has caused trees to tilt or fall. National Geographic News

     

    Warm U.S. West, cold East: 4,000-year pattern; Global warming may bring more curvy jet streams during winter
    (April 16, 2014) — Last winter’s curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A new study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, and suggests it may worsen as Earth’s climate warms. If this trend continues, it could contribute to more extreme winter weather events in North America, as experienced this year with warm conditions in California and Alaska and intrusion of cold Arctic air across the eastern USA,” says geochemist Gabe Bowen, senior author of the study. The study was published online April 16 by the journal Nature Communications.

    A sinuous or curvy winter jet stream means unusual warmth in the West, drought conditions in part of the West, and abnormally cold winters in the East and Southeast,” adds Bowen, an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. “We saw a good example of extreme wintertime climate that largely fit that pattern this past winter,” although in the typical pattern California often is wetter. It is not new for scientists to forecast that the current warming of Earth’s climate due to carbon dioxide, methane and other “greenhouse” gases already has led to increased weather extremes and will continue to do so. The new study shows the jet stream pattern that brings North American wintertime weather extremes is millennia old — “a longstanding and persistent pattern of climate variability,” Bowen says. Yet it also suggests global warming may enhance the pattern so there will be more frequent or more severe winter weather extremes or both. “This is one more reason why we may have more winter extremes in North America, as well as something of a model for what those extremes may look like,” Bowen says. Human-caused climate change is reducing equator-to-pole temperature differences; the atmosphere is warming more at the poles than at the equator. Based on what happened in past millennia, that could make a curvy jet stream even more frequent and-or intense than it is now, he says. … > full story

     

    Zhongfang Liu, Kei Yoshimura, Gabriel J. Bowen, Nikolaus H. Buenning, Camille Risi, Jeffrey M. Welker & Fasong Yuan. Paired oxygen isotope records reveal modern North American atmospheric dynamics during the Holocene. Nature Communications, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4701

     

     

    Study Ties Epic California Drought, ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change

    By Joe Romm on April 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    In this Feb. 4, 2014 file photo a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file

    Natural variability alone cannot explain the extreme weather pattern that has driven both the record-setting California drought and the cooler weather seen in the Midwest and East this winter, a major new study finds. We’ve reported before that climate scientists had predicted a decade ago that warming-driven Arctic ice loss would lead to worsening drought in California. In particular, they predicted it would lead to a “blocking pattern” that would shift the jet stream (and the rain it could bring) away from the state — in this case a “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” of high pressure.

    A new study in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d) takes the warming link to the California drought to the next level of understanding. It concludes, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.” The NASA-funded study is behind a pay wall, but the brief news release, offers a simple explanation of what is going on. The research provides “evidence connecting the amplified wind patterns, consisting of a strong high pressure in the West and a deep low pressure in the East [labeled a 'dipole'], to global warming.” Researchers have “uncovered evidence that can trace the amplification of the dipole to human influences.”

    As this figure shows, the amplitude of the dipole driving the extreme nature of the California drought is much higher than can be explained purely by natural causes, and greenhouse gases are needed to explain the difference. The release explains: “… it is important to note that the dipole is projected to intensify, which means more extreme future droughts for California. Historical data show that the dipole has been intensifying since the late 1970s.
    The intensified dipole can be accurately simulated using a new global climate model, which also simulates the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Simulations with only natural variability show a weakening dipole, which is opposite to what is currently being observed. Moreover, the occurrence of the dipole one year before an El Nino/La Nina event is becoming more common, which can only be reproduced in model simulations when greenhouse gases are introduced into the system.”

    This research fits a growing body of evidence — documented by Senior Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro and others — that “global warming is increasing the atmosphere’s thickness, leading to stronger and more persistent ridges of high pressure, which in turn are a key to temperature, rainfall, and snowfall extremes and topsy-turvy weather patterns like we’ve had in recent years.” The new study’s lead author, Dr. Simon Wang of the Utah Climate Center, told me in an email: “I personally think that the debate over global warming leading to stronger blocking has passed. The ongoing challenge is how we predict WHEN and WHERE those blocking will happen and affect WHICH region.”

    I asked one of the country’s top climatologists, Dr. Michael Mann, what he thought of this new research. I’ll give him the final word: “We know that human-caused climate change has played a hand in the increases in many types of extreme weather impacting the U.S., including the more pronounced heat waves and droughts of recent summers, more devastating hurricanes and superstorms, and more widespread and intense wildfires. This latest paper adds to the weight of evidence that climate change may be impacting weather in the U.S. in a more subtle way, altering the configuration of the jet stream in a way that disrupts patterns of rainfall and drought, in this case creating an unusually strong atmospheric “ridge” that pushed the jet stream to the north this winter along the west coast, yielding record drought in California, flooding in Washington State, and abnormal warmth in Alaska. The recent IPCC assessment downplays these sorts of connections, making it very conservative in its assessment of risk, and reminding us that uncertainty in the science seems to be cutting against us, not for us. It is a reason for action rather than inaction.”

     

     


    More, Bigger Wildfires Burning Western US Over Last 30 Years



    Apr. 17, 2014 Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years — a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become more severe in the coming decades, according to new research. The number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.

    The total area these fires burned increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year — an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the study. Individually, the largest wildfires grew at a rate of 350 acres a year, the new research says. “We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than one percent,” said Philip Dennison, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and lead author of the paper. The study’s authors used satellite data to measure areas burned by large fires since 1984, and then looked at climate variables, like seasonal temperature and rainfall, during the same time. The researchers found that most areas that saw increases in fire activity also experienced increases in drought severity during the same time period. They also saw an increase in both fire activity and drought over a range of different ecosystems across the region. “Twenty eight years is a pretty short period of record, and yet we are seeing statistically significant trends in different wildfire variables — it is striking,” said Max Moritz, a co-author of the study and a fire specialist at the University of California-Berkeley Cooperative Extension….While other studies have looked at wildfire records over longer time periods, this is the first study to use high-resolution satellite data to examine wildfire trends over a broad range of landscapes, explained Littell. The researchers divided the region into nine distinct “ecoregions,” areas that had similar climate and vegetation. The ecoregions ranged from forested mountains to warm deserts and grasslands. Looking at the ecoregions more closely, the authors found that the rise in fire activity was the strongest in certain regions of the United States: across the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada and Arizona- New Mexico mountains; the southwest desert in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Texas; and the southern plains across western Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and eastern Colorado. These are the same regions that would be expected to be most severely affected by changes in climate, said Dennison…. full story

    Philip E. Dennison, Simon C. Brewer, James D. Arnold, Max A. Moritz. Large wildfire trends in the western United States, 1984-2011. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059576

     

    Fire and drought may push Amazonian forests beyond tipping point
    (April 14, 2014) — Future simulations of climate in the Amazon suggest a longer dry season leading to more drought and fires. Scientists have published a new study on the impacts of fire and drought on Amazon tree mortality. Their article found that prolonged droughts caused more intense and widespread wildfires, which consumed more forests in Amazonia than previously understood. … > full story

     
     
     

     

    Climate paradox deciphered from the Miocene era
    (April 11, 2014) — A supposed climate paradox from the Miocene era has been deciphered by means of complex model simulations. When the Antarctic ice sheet grew to its present-day size around 14 million years ago, it did not get colder everywhere on the Earth, but there were regions that became warmer. This appears to be a physical contradiction, and this research aims to address that. … > full story

     

    DROUGHT:

     

    http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home/RegionalDroughtMonitor.aspx?west

     

     

    Climate Change Drying Out Southwest Now, With Worse To Come For A Third Of The Planet

    By Joe Romm on April 11, 2014 at 5:52 pm

     

    Two new studies confirm that warming-driven climate change is already drying the U.S. Southwest and other parts of the globe. More worrisome, nearly a third of the world’s land faces drying from rising greenhouse gases — including two of the world’s greatest agricultural centers, “the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China.”

    These studies add fuel to the growing bonfire of concerns about climate change and food security. As I wrote in the article on Dust-Bowlification I did for the journal Nature in 2011, “Feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced.”

    The fact that global warming is already drying out large parts of the planet — and that it is on track to get much, much worse — is well understood by climate scientists. Because this drying may be the single most consequential climate impact, confusionists try to blow smoke on it.

    The first study is “Atmosphere and Ocean Origins of North American Droughts,” by Columbia’s Richard Seager and NOAA’s Martin Hoerling, in the Journal of Climate (subs. required, full text here). It concludes:

    Long-term changes caused by increasing trace gas concentrations are now contributing to a modest signal of soil moisture depletion, mainly over the American Southwest, thereby prolonging the duration and severity of naturally occurring droughts.

    …. rising greenhouse gases will lead to a steady drying of southwest.”

    So, yes, climate change is already worsening the length and strength of droughts in this country.

    Of course, the more important question is: What’s going to happen in the future if we don’t slash CO2 emissions fast? It’s clear the U.S. Southwest will keep trying out. But the problem will be vastly more widespread according to the second study, “Global warming and 21st century drying” in Climate Dynamics by Cook et al.

    The Columbia University news release explains the bleak conclusions:

    Published this month in the journal Climate Dynamics, the study estimates that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere are considered. An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought.

    Interestingly, this study has a similar finding to a study by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research that was the subject of one of the earliest posts on Climate Progress, in October 2006: “One third of the planet will be desert by the year 2100, say climate experts in the most dire warning yet of the effects of global warming.”

    This new study is “one of the first to use the latest climate simulations to model the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought.” It finds “increased evaporative drying will probably tip marginally wet regions at mid-latitudes like the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China into aridity.”

    This study vindicates leading climatologist James Hansen when he warned in 2012 that the Great Plains — one of America’s breadbaskets — was at risk of semipermanent drought. It’s not a big surprise he was correct given that Hansen himself co-authored one of the first journal articles ever written on the impact of global warming on increased evaporation. His 1990 Journal of Geophysical Research study, “Potential evapotranspiration and the likelihood of future drought,” projected that severe to extreme drought in the United States, then occurring every 20 years or so, could become an every-other-year phenomenon by mid-century.

    The news release for the new study explains:

    Much of the concern about future drought under global warming has focused on rainfall projections, but higher evaporation rates may also play an important role as warmer temperatures wring more moisture from the soil, even in some places where rainfall is forecasted to to increase, say the researchers.

    This is a central point missed by many drought discussions that focus only on rainfall amounts. In February, the journal Science had an excellent article on this point, “Climate Change: A Drier Future?” with this useful figure:

    Aridity increases in warmer climates, leading to expansion of dry climate zones. Evaporation and precipitation increase modestly, but on land, evaporative demand (broken wavy arrows) increases faster than precipitation, because the strong increases in air temperature and consequently saturated water vapor concentration over land (red bars at lower right) exceed growth in actual water vapor concentration (blue bars). Increases in sensible and latent heat (associated, respectively, with temperature and water vapor, and represented by the area of each bar) have the same sum over land and ocean, with sensible heat increasing more over land than oceans and latent heat increasing more over oceans. Relative humidity (ratio of blue to red bar length) decreases over land. (PET is “potential evapotranspiration.”)

    The bottom line of the Science article is one that everyone in policymaking, agriculture, climate science, and the media who is concerned with the future of drought and food production should set to memory: As the above considerations show, focusing on changes in precipitation, as typical in high-profile climate reports, does not tell the whole story — or perhaps even the main story — of hydrological change. In particular, it obscures the fact that in a warmer climate, more rain is needed. Many regions will get more rain, but it appears that few will get enough to keep pace with the growing evaporative demand.

    We have been warned about this by leading climatologists for nearly a quarter of a century, now. The time to act was a long time ago, but now is infinitely better than later if you are at all concerned about how we are going to feed 9 billion people post-2050.

     

     

    Study shows lasting effects of drought in rainy Eastern U.S.
    (April 17, 2014) — This spring, more than 40 percent of the western U.S. is in a drought that the USDA deems “severe” or “exceptional.” The
    same was true in 2013. In 2012, drought even spread to the humid east. But new research shows how short-lived but severe climatic events can trigger cascades of ecosystem change that last for centuries. …
    The tree records in this study show that just before the American Revolution, across the broadleaf forests of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas, the simultaneous death of many trees opened huge gaps in the forest — prompting a new generation of saplings to surge skyward. There’s no historical evidence that the dead trees succumbed to logging, ice storms, or hurricanes. Instead, they were likely weakened by repeated drought leading up to the 1770s, followed by an intense drought from 1772 to 1775. The final straw was an unseasonable and devastating frost in 1774 that, until this study, was only known to historical diaries like Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, where he recounts “a frost which destroyed almost every thing” at Monticello that was “equally destructive thro the whole country and the neighboring colonies.” The oversized generation of new trees that followed-something like a baby boom — shaped the old-growth forests that still stand in the Southeast today. “Many of us think these grand old trees in our old-growth forests have always been there and stood the test of time,” says Neil Pederson of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, lead author of the new study. “What we now see is that big events, including climatic extremes, created large portions of these forests in short order through the weakening and killing of existing trees.“…> full story

     

    Neil Pederson, James M. Dyer, Ryan W. McEwan, Amy E. Hessl, Cary J. Mock, David A. Orwig, Harald E. Rieder, Benjamin I. Cook. The legacy of episodic climatic events in shaping temperate, broadleaf forests. Ecological Monographs, 2014; 140414095101002 DOI: 10.1890/13-1025.1

     

     

     

     

     

    What role for transformation in climate adaptation?

    Source: World Resources Institute – Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:22 PM Author: Ayesha Dinshaw, WRI

    A farmer harvests rice next to the artist Suharyanto Tri’s statue entitled “Planting Brain” at Nitiprayan village in Bantul, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 27, 2012. Tri’s work is a part of an outdoor sculpture exhibition called “Last Harvest”, which included works from 30 artists voicing their concerns over diminishing agricultural land. REUTERS/Dwi Oblo

    Transformation is a word we use so often in our daily lives that it seems strange to stop and think about what it really means. But in adaptation circles, the definition and role of transformation has recently become a hot topic of conversation, in part because transformational change was an important theme of the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. ….and while adaptation efforts have increased over the past decade, there is the danger of too few small-scale adaptation interventions failing to protect the most vulnerable people. Despite increased funding for adaptation, the total amount is still limited, and tends to be focused on short time horizons. A growing number of funders, experts, and adaptation practitioners question whether addressing climate change requires fundamental changes in how our society functions, including “paradigm shifts” in our values and decision-making. Lisa Schipper, an expert at the Stockholm Environment Institute, notes that “Adaptation was always meant to be transformational, but it somehow lost its edge; it lost its spunk and it became just another term for development. Now “transformation” has made its mark in the latest IPCC report. But many questions remain about what transformation really means—and these unanswered questions make it more difficult to fund, operationalize, and measure effective adaptation.

    WE NEED CRITERIA

    The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report defines transformation as “adaptation that changes the fundamental attributes of a system in response to climate and its effects.” The authors propose that transformational adaptation could include adaptation at greater scale or magnitude, the introduction of new technologies or practices, the formation of new structures or systems of governance, or shifts in the location of activities.
    Meanwhile, incremental adaptation accounts for actions where the central aim is to maintain the essence and integrity of a system or process at a given scale. Although this gives us a common starting place, adaptation practitioners and funders have not yet clarified what counts as transformative—and that poses a major challenge to facilitating transformational adaptation. For instance, it seems like transformation requires change at a large scale, but what scale does an intervention need to reach in order to qualify as transformational? And, should scale focus on geographic scale or the number of people impacted? If we include the number of people impacted by the change as a criterion, should their vulnerability to climate change impacts also be taken into account? Similarly, for a change to fundamentally alter a system, it seems like it needs to be long-term, if not irreversible. But how long is long enough for an intervention to qualify as transformational?

    WHY TRANSFORMATION MATTERS

    All of this might seem like academic quibbling in the face of an urgent problem, but the way a term like “transformation” is used actually has major influence on adaptation projects going forward. First, funders, such as those involved in the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund, understandably want their grants to fund truly game-changing adaptation interventions. But without concrete criteria for what that means, funding “transformational adaptation” becomes subjective. Second, it follows that in order to operationalize a transformative policy or program, we need to understand the capacity and conditions needed. Third, to measure its success, we need establish indicators and benchmarks that move us beyond business-as-usual adaptation. Therefore, without criteria, we cannot fund or operationalize transformation. We also need to remember that fundamental, systemic shifts have the potential to be positive, but they can also be highly disruptive, or even devastating.
    For instance, forced migration away from eroding coastlines would certainly transform both the lives of those who have to migrate and the communities to which migrants flow. Policymakers have a responsibility to prepare for such unplanned transformations that may occur due to climate change. Funders and other advocates of transformation need to help policymakers and planners recognize when transformational shifts may occur, and can help them plan to mitigate the potential negative consequences.

    WE NEED MORE EXAMPLES

    Without clear criteria, finding concrete examples of transformation remains a challenge. Some examples of potentially transformational adaptation appear in the literature (such as the ongoing re-greening of the Sahel and the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan), but debates rage as to which ones “count”—and which ones should serve as models for adaptation planning and investment….

     

     

     

    US greenhouse gas emissions at lowest level in 20 years. Climate Central

    Most of the GHG decline came from reductions in energy consumption, increased fuel efficiency of cars and other types of transportation, and a shift to natural gas from coal in fueling power plants, the EPA said in a statement

     

     

    Salvation Gets Cheap

    By PAUL KRUGMAN NY Times April 17, 2014

    The incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular, have improved the economics of climate change.

     

     

    Global Warming: Backpack Captures Cow Farts

    Beth Balen on April 16, 2014.

    A bovine backpack has been created at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (NIAT) that can trap the methane gas, a gas reported to contribute to global warming, in cow farts and belches so that it can be converted to energy. The experiment, which is only in the proof-of-concept stage, captures and stores flatulence from the cows’ digestive systems. Argentina is a good place to pilot this backpack experiment, since the country has over 50 million cows. Pablo Sorondo, press officer for NIAT, says the goal of the project is to show that it is possible to collect methane from cows and use it for energy….

    Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and cows produce up to 25 percent of it. A more real issue with controlling cow methane emissions is the reduction of a major cause of climate change. One cow can produce up to 300 liters of methane every day. If converted to energy this is enough to run a refrigerator or a car for 24 hours. ….Cows’ methane emissions are thought to be a significant cause of climate change. The methane gas is produced mostly from belches, although farting contributes its fair share. The gas is a byproduct of the fibrous food the cows eat that gets digested through their multiple stomachs and extensive guts. …

    It is already known that some diets cause cows to produce more methane. Just switching to a more natural diet can help reduce flatulence. One company in France is experimenting with feeding an alfalfa, linseed and grass mixture to their cows instead of the typical corn and soy-based mix in an attempt to reduce methane emissions. Their cows are producing 20 percent less gas.

    In the U.S. many farmers are using the antibiotic Monensin to reduce methane by about 15 percent (Monensin is banned in Europe). John Wallace, professor at Scotland University of Aberdeen, is leading a project called Ruminomics to look at new breeding methods that might cut down on methane output. Some animals consistently produce less methane than others, no matter the breed or the food. Some cows just have the genetic basis for having less of a problem with gas. Wallace’s project looks at the genetics of cows. He hopes that by the end of 2015 they will have developed milk and saliva tests that will let farmers pick cows that produce less methane and the resulting ruminant pollution. Dairy production is infamous for allegedly contributing to global warming because of cow gas, and the meat industry has its issues too. The carbon footprint of one single hamburger is about the equivalent of a 10-mile drive in the car. As more people globally buy meat, consumption has tripled over the last 40 years, and with it cow methane production. As the cow population increases, along with their flatulence, the environmental effects of our carnivorous habits become more visible. Cutting down on cow farts may interfere with the idea of using the backpack to capture methane gas for energy. However, maybe the backpack study can make some progress toward both energy generation and global warming. The world is going to need a lot of backpacks.

     

    Lima summit can deliver on adaptation and forests, says Peru climate chief

    Manuel Pulgar Vidal targets small successes at COP20 in December, citing consensus-building as key goal

    Protecting the Amazon is central to addressing climate change – around 15% of emissions come from deforestation (Pic: Global Water Forum)

    By Ed King
    17 April 2014, 11:27 am

    The Peruvian President of the UN’s main climate change summit in Lima later this year hopes progress will be made on smaller ‘cross cutting issues’ during the two week gathering.

    Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Peru’s Environment Minister, says he wants to focus on topics that countries are keen to work on together, like adaptating to climate impacts and reducing deforestation.

    “We need innovative ways to unblock discussion and get the process to move,” he told a meeting of climate experts at Brown University, Rhode Island….

     

     

    Involve the youth in climate change adaptation

    Posted by: admin Posted date: April 15, 2014

    Nadave, Fiji Disaster preparedness and a well assessed risk reduction plan will save lives-These were the words of Taina Naivalu from the St. John organization as she addressed participants at a Training of the Trainers workshop organized by the Partners in Community Development Fiji’s Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation (4CA) project…..The NDMO officers also informed those in attendance that everyone from the elderly to the young, from the Turaga-ni-koro (village headman) to the schoolchildren needed to be involved in reducing the risks of disasters and in their evacuation plans.

    This is in-line with the work of the 4CA project as well as its outcomes which are to increase the capacity of children, youth and communities to facilitate the process of climate change adaptation, use locally designed climate smart solutions to address climate change and ensure that good practices and learning from the 4CA model is incorporated into local, district and national Government process.

    4CA Project officer, Peni Seru in opening the workshop yesterday stressed to participants the importance of 303 which stands for 30 minutes every 3 months when villages and communities should carry out a mock up of their evacuation plan…..

     

    Save the world, work less

    With climate change threatening life as we know it, perhaps it’s time to revive the forgotten goal of spending less time on our jobs

    04.15.14 – 4:19 pm | Steven T. Jones |

    steve@sfbg.com

    Save the world, work less. That dual proposition should have universal appeal in any sane society. And those two ideas are inextricably linked by the realities of global climate change because there is a direct connection between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions. Simply put, every hour of work we do cooks the planet and its sensitive ecosystems a little bit more, and going home to relax and enjoy some leisure time is like taking this boiling pot of water off the burner. Most of us burn energy getting to and from work, stocking and powering our offices, and performing the myriad tasks that translate into digits on our paychecks. The challenge of working less is a societal one, not an individual mandate: How can we allow people to work less and still meet their basic needs?….Last year, there was a brief burst of national media coverage around this “save the world, work less” idea, triggered by a report by the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, entitled “Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change.”….He notes that per capita work hours were reduced by 50 percent in recent decades in Europe compared to US workers who spend as much time as ever on the job, despite being a world leader in developing technologies that make us more productive. Working more means consuming more, on and off the job. “This choice between fewer work hours versus increased consumption has significant implications for the rate of climate change,” the report said before going on to study various climate change and economic growth models.

    It isn’t just global warming that working less will help address, but a whole range of related environmental problems: loss of biodiversity and natural habitat; rapid depletion of important natural resources, from fossil fuel to fresh water; and the pollution of our environment with harmful chemicals and obsolete gadgets……”The paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in (i.e. warming that would be caused by 1990 levels of greenhouse gas concentrations already in the atmosphere),” the report concludes….

     

    Climate Change, the Musical

    By CHARLES ISHERWOOD APRIL 16, 2014 NYTimes

    Actors in the Civilians’ “The Great Immensity” at the Public Theater. Credit Brian Harkin for The New York Times

    Steve Cosson and Michael Friedman had a highbrow hit in the fall collaborating on Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play.” They are reunited for the latest production from the inventive, inquisitive theater troupe the Civilians, in residence at the Public Theater as part of the low-price, low-frills Public Lab series. “The Great Immensity,” written and directed by Mr. Cosson with songs by Mr. Friedman, asks the big-time question of whether man can change his destructive ways before the planet goes kablooey.
    Although past Civilians shows have tackled socially significant themes, this sounds like a departure, at least in form. The company doesn’t usually favor linear narrative, but “The Great Immensity” is intriguingly described as “a continent-hopping thriller” about a woman trying to find out what happened to a friend who disappeared from a tropical island while on assignment for a television show. She uncovers a plot related to an international climate conference….

     

     

     

     

    Michael Mann, U. of Virginia win FOIA case. Unpublished research by university scientists is exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday, rejecting an attempt by skeptics of global warming to view the work of a prominent climate researcher. Washington Post

     

    EPA scores big win to limit mercury in power plants.

    Seth Anderson/flickr

     

    April 16, 2014 the Daily Climate

    The Environmental Protection Agency took home a victory Tuesday when an appeals court upheld the agency’s pollution limits for mercury and air toxics from oil- and coal-fired power plants. Many of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest plants will be forced into retirement. Politico

     

     

    Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain, success of US Clean Air Act
    (April 11, 2014) — Detailed ice core measurements show smog-related ratios leveling off in 1970, and suggest these deposits are sensitive to the same chemicals that cause acid rain. By analyzing samples from the Greenland ice sheet, atmospheric scientists found clear evidence of the U.S. Clean Air Act. They also discovered a link between air acidity and how nitrogen is preserved in layers of snow. … > full story

     

    Is This The End Of China’s Coal Boom?

    By Joe Romm on April 16, 2014

    A new report documents China’s response to the almost unimaginable life-shortening air pollution caused by its rapid growth in coal use…..

     

    Carter urges Obama, Kerry to reject Keystone XL

    Jennifer A. Dlouhy SF Chronicle April 16, 2014

    WASHINGTON — April 17, 2014

    Former President Jimmy Carter joined fellow Nobel laureates Wednesday in opposing Keystone XL, insisting that approving the pipeline would trigger “more climate upheaval” around the globe.

    In an open letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Carter and the nine other Nobel Peace Prize winners bluntly warned the leaders: “Your decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will define your climate legacy.” The missive, published as an advertisement in Politico, represents the first time Carter has taken a position on the $5.4 billion project and makes him the first former president to come out against the pipeline. Former President George W. Bush described TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline as a “no-brainer” for the U.S. economy two years ago.

    While Bush and former president Bill Clinton both are featured in an American Petroleum Institute advertisement as having endorsed the pipeline, Clinton’s sole public remarks on the project were far more qualified. Clinton’s relative silence on the issue may be in part attributed to the possible presidential aspirations of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, and her own role overseeing some of the Keystone XL reviews as the previous secretary of state. Other prominent political leaders, including previous members of the Obama administration, have been divided over the issue.

    Most of the Nobel laureates urging Keystone XL’s rejection Wednesday have made similar entreaties twice before. The group also includes American political activist Jody Williams, Iranian human rights leader Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee, a women’s peace movement leader from Liberia….

     

     

     

     

     

    Ohio links fracking to earthquakes, announces tougher rules. Reuters April 12, 2014

    Recent small earthquakes in Ohio were likely triggered by fracking, state regulators said on Friday, a new link that could have implications for oil and gas drilling in the Buckeye State and beyond…

     

    House windows that double as solar panels? Shiny quantum dots brighten future of solar cells
    (April 14, 2014) — A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work. Scientists have demonstrated that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight. … > full story

     

    Scientists might have figured out how to make solar power work at night. By attaching photoswitching molecules called azobenzene to a template of carbon nanotubes, scientists have designed a ‘solar thermal fuel’ that can release heat on demand. Christian Science Monitor

     

    Scientists find an ‘ugly duckling’ to convert waste heat to electricity. Researchers looking for better ways to convert waste heat into electricity have stumbled across a simple material that is smashing records for making that conversion efficiently. Christian Science Monitor

     

     

    Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries
    (April 16, 2014)
    – A new nanomaterial called a metal organic framework could extend the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries, which could be used to increase the driving range of electric vehicles.
    Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery’s cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges. During lab tests, a lithium-sulfur battery with the new MOF cathode maintained 89 percent of its initial power capacity after 100 charge-and discharge cycles. …
    Most batteries have two electrodes: one is positively charged and called a cathode, while the second is negative and called an anode. Electricity is generated when electrons flow through a wire that connects the two. To control the electrons, positively charged atoms shuffle from one electrode to the other through another path: the electrolyte solution in which the electrodes sit. The lithium-sulfur battery’s main obstacles are unwanted side reactions that cut the battery’s life short. The undesirable action starts on the battery’s sulfur-containing cathode, which slowly disintegrates and forms molecules called polysulfides that dissolve into the liquid electrolyte. Some of the sulfur — an essential part of the battery’s chemical reactions — never returns to the cathode. As a result, the cathode has less material to keep the reactions going and the battery quickly dies. Researchers worldwide are trying to improve materials for each battery component to increase the lifespan and mainstream use of lithium-sulfur batteries. For this research, Xiao and her colleagues honed in on the cathode to stop polysulfides from moving through the electrolyte….full story

     

    Environmentally compatible organic solar cells in the future
    (April 16, 2014) — Environmentally compatible production methods for organic solar cells from novel materials are in the focus of “MatHero”. The new project aims at making organic photovoltaics competitive to their inorganic counterparts by enhancing the efficiency of organic solar cells, reducing their production costs and increasing their life-time. … > full story

     

     

    ????
    Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis: New design for enhanced safety, easier siting and centralized construction

    (April 16, 2014) — When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station — that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. … > full story

     

     

     

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

     

    US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
    April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

    US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

     Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel.  Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
    May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA    The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
    The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.

     
     

    Headwaters to Ocean “H20″ Conference  May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

     

    North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

    First Stewards
    July 21-23, Washington, DC.

    First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
    United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 19-20, 2014
    . SACRAMENTO, CA

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

    Ninth
    International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

    Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.

     

     

     

    JOBS  (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)

     


    POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE

    Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.

     

    Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 

     

    This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at www.pointblue.org.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    Meet Kepler-186f, the most ‘Earth-like’ planet ever found

    Los Angeles Times

    April 17, 2014

     

    Written by

    Amina Khan

     
           

    Sifting through observations from tens of thousands of distant stars, astronomers say they have discovered the first definitive Earth-sized planet that orbits in a habitable zone where water could exist in liquid form – a necessary condition for life as we know it…

     

    Ikea plans ‘green’ meatballs to help tackle climate change

    ‘Veg balls’ to be launched as eco-friendly alternative to famous Swedish meatballs, which Ikea admits are damaging the planet


    “We have been looking at how we can tweak our recipes to give great taste but also perhaps less of an environmental impact,” Joanna Yarrow said. 

    By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor 17 Apr 2014

    Ikea is developing a new ‘green’ version of its famous Swedish meatballs in order to cut carbon emissions and help tackle climate change, the retailer has revealed. The flat-pack furniture giant sells an estimated 150 million meatballs, made from beef and pork, in its cafes each year. But the popular snack is also the least environmentally-friendly item on the Ikea menu, because of high carbon dioxide emissions involved in the farming process and high methane gas emissions from cattle. Ikea is so concerned about the contribution to global warming from the meatballs that it is now developing “vegetarian meatballs” as an eco-friendly alternative. “We are aware of the meat issue with greenhouse gases,” Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for Ikea in the UK, said. “We are looking at all our food products from a sustainability perspective but specifically meatballs. They are very popular and they are also our most carbon-intensive food item on our menu.”

     

    Fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers fail to cover all types of contaminants
    (April 17, 2014) — Fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to contaminants like persistent organic pollutants. The researchers’ model estimates that women who stop eating fish shortly before or during their pregnancy may only lower their child’s exposure to POPs by 10 to 15 per cent. … > full story

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The rich diversity of birds in rice field ecosystems

    Rice fields cover 160 million hectares around the world — an area more than six times the size of the United Kingdom. They are an important ecosystem for various animals, including a number of birds that can be seen at the experimental paddies run by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The IRRI fields in the Philippines cover just 250 hectares, but can be considered a microcosm of millions of rice fields globally in which sustainable agricultural practices, such as non-lethal methods of controlling rice-eating birds, are used. These images were part of photography exhibition, Feathers in the Fields: The Birds of IRRI…..

    Whiskered terns catch fish or insects
    Prof Tirso Paris

     

    The blue-tailed bee-eater nests in holes burrowed into tall sandbanks
    Prof Tirso Paris

     

    ————————————–

     


     

     

     


     


     

     

     

     

     

     

    \\

     

    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

    www.pointblue.org  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

     

  8. National Wildlands Fire Strategy: Preventative Measures from Controlled Burns to New Zoning Codes

    Leave a Comment

    Obama Unveils New Wildfire Strategy Citing New Risks Posed By Climate Change

    By Joanna M. Foster on April 10, 2014

    With wildfire season just around the corner and much of the west and southwest still dangerously dry, the Obama Administration has released its National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.

    The strategy addresses factors exacerbating wildfire danger such as climate change, increasing community sprawl, and pests and disease affecting forest health. It calls for adopting preventive measures, such as: fuels thinning and controlled burns; promoting effective municipal, county, and state building and zoning codes and ordinances; ensuring that watersheds, transportation, and utility corridors are part of future management plans; and determining how organizations can best work together to reduce and manage human-caused ignitions.

     

    “As climate change spurs extended droughts and longer fire seasons, this collaborative wildfire blueprint will help us restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire,” Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots said in a press release. “With President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration is committed to promoting smart policies and partnerships like this strategy that support states, communities, businesses, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders who are working to protect themselves from more frequent or intense fires, droughts and floods, and other impacts of climate change.” The Administration highlighted the Blue Mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona and the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners in Georgia as areas where these strategies have already been implemented successfully.

     

    In February, President Obama announced plans to change how the U.S. pays for the rising costs of fighting wildfires. In his 2015 budget, Obama called for shifting the costs of fighting the biggest wildfires to the same emergency fund that handles other natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The new funding framework is designed to avoid forcing the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior to drain fire prevention budgets to pay for big wildfires. According to the White House, over the past two years, these agencies have, out of necessity, taken about $1.1 billion from funds designed to pay for programs to clear brush and thin overgrown forests to reduce fire danger. The federal government currently shoulders about two-thirds of the cost of fighting wildfires, about $3.5 billion every year. This figure is three times what was spent in the 1990s.

     

    The cost of fighting wildfires has skyrocketed in recent decades as climate change has intensified drought, shrunken snowpacks and aided in the spread of tree-killing insects. The dramatic expansion of building in what is known as the “wildland urban interface” has also contributed greatly to the bill as firefighters struggle to protect the now more than 47 million homes in these high risk areas.

     

     


    National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    April 2014

     

    The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
    (PDF, 3.8 MB) represents the culmination of the three-phased Cohesive Strategy effort initiated in 2009. The National Strategy establishes a national vision for wildland fire management, defines three national goals, describes the wildland fire challenges, identifies opportunities to reduce wildfire risks, and establishes national priorities focused on achieving the national goals.

    The National Strategy explores four broad challenges:

    1. Managing vegetation and fuels;
    2. Protecting homes, communities, and other values at risk;
    3. Managing human-caused ignitions; and
    4. Effectively and efficiently responding to wildfire.


    Secretaries Jewell and Vilsack signed “The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    Posted April 9, 2014


     

  9. Conservation Science News April 11, 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Focus of the Week
    New National Wildfire Strategy

    1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

    2-CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

    3- ADAPTATION

    4- POLICY

    5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

    6-
    RESOURCES and REFERENCES

    7-OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST 

    8-IMAGES OF THE WEEK

    ——————————–

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


    The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, SER The Society for Ecological Restorationhttp://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.slate.com, www.sfgate.com, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
    You can sign up for the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative Newsletter or the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium listserve to receive this or you can email me directly at Ellie Cohen, ecohen at pointblue.org if you want your name added to or dropped from this list. 

    Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.

     

     

    Focus of the Week- New National Wildfire Strategy

    Obama Unveils New Wildfire Strategy Citing New Risks Posed By Climate Change

    By Joanna M. Foster on April 10, 2014

    With wildfire season just around the corner and much of the west and southwest still dangerously dry, the Obama Administration has released its National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.

    The strategy addresses factors exacerbating wildfire danger such as climate change, increasing community sprawl, and pests and disease affecting forest health. It calls for adopting preventive measures, such as: fuels thinning and controlled burns; promoting effective municipal, county, and state building and zoning codes and ordinances; ensuring that watersheds, transportation, and utility corridors are part of future management plans; and determining how organizations can best work together to reduce and manage human-caused ignitions.

     

    “As climate change spurs extended droughts and longer fire seasons, this collaborative wildfire blueprint will help us restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable to catastrophic fire,” Council on Environmental Quality Acting Chair Mike Boots said in a press release. “With President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration is committed to promoting smart policies and partnerships like this strategy that support states, communities, businesses, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders who are working to protect themselves from more frequent or intense fires, droughts and floods, and other impacts of climate change.” The Administration highlighted the Blue Mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona and the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners in Georgia as areas where these strategies have already been implemented successfully.

     

    In February, President Obama announced plans to change how the U.S. pays for the rising costs of fighting wildfires. In his 2015 budget, Obama called for shifting the costs of fighting the biggest wildfires to the same emergency fund that handles other natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The new funding framework is designed to avoid forcing the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior to drain fire prevention budgets to pay for big wildfires. According to the White House, over the past two years, these agencies have, out of necessity, taken about $1.1 billion from funds designed to pay for programs to clear brush and thin overgrown forests to reduce fire danger. The federal government currently shoulders about two-thirds of the cost of fighting wildfires, about $3.5 billion every year. This figure is three times what was spent in the 1990s.

     

    The cost of fighting wildfires has skyrocketed in recent decades as climate change has intensified drought, shrunken snowpacks and aided in the spread of tree-killing insects. The dramatic expansion of building in what is known as the “wildland urban interface” has also contributed greatly to the bill as firefighters struggle to protect the now more than 47 million homes in these high risk areas.

     

     


    National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    April 2014

     

    The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
    (PDF, 3.8 MB) represents the culmination of the three-phased Cohesive Strategy effort initiated in 2009. The National Strategy establishes a national vision for wildland fire management, defines three national goals, describes the wildland fire challenges, identifies opportunities to reduce wildfire risks, and establishes national priorities focused on achieving the national goals.

    The National Strategy explores four broad challenges:

    1. Managing vegetation and fuels;
    2. Protecting homes, communities, and other values at risk;
    3. Managing human-caused ignitions; and
    4. Effectively and efficiently responding to wildfire.


    Secretaries Jewell and Vilsack signed “The National Strategy: The Final Phase in the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy


    Posted April 9, 2014

     

     

     

     

    Putting a price on ecological restoration
    (April 7, 2014) — Putting a price on clean water and soil fertility helps the UN set ecological restoration targets for degraded and deforested land. Forests provide essential ecosystem services for people, including timber, food and water. For those struggling with the after-effects of deforestation, the main hope lies in rebuilding forest resources through ecological restoration. … > full story

    Restoring Coastal Ecosystems Creates More Jobs ….

    By Katie Valentine on April 10, 2014 at 10:05 am

    A bird stands on an oyster shell strip atop an existing reef in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

    Restoring coastal ecosystems can provide significant economic benefits and even create “pathways out of poverty” for low-income Americans, according to a new report. The report, published Wednesday by the Center for American Progress and Oxfam America, looked at three coastal restoration projects on different coasts in the U.S. and found that, for every $1 invested in coastal restoration projects, $15 in net economic benefits was created. These benefits include improved fish stocks, due to the fact that 75 percent of the U.S.’s most important commercial fish species rely on coastal environments at some point in their life cycle, with many young fish and crustaceans using habitats such as oyster reefs as nurseries.

    Coastal restoration also provides increased protection from storm surges, improved coastal recreation opportunities, health benefits from increased levels of filter feeders such as oysters, and last of all, jobs: for every $1 million invested in coastal restoration, the report notes, 17 jobs were created on average. That’s almost double the 8.9 created per $1 million invested in offshore oil and gas development.
    …..Mark Schaefer, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management at NOAA, said at the report’s release event Wednesday. “The economic benefits are remarkable … there’s a direct connection between what we’re doing to enhance the environment and what we’re doing to enhance economic opportunity.”

    ….. Coastal wetlands, along with serving as essential habitats for many species, help buffer coastal communities from strong storm surges by soaking up seawater. According to the report, up to 60 percent of the damage done to Gulf Coast communities from hurricanes happens because there aren’t healthy barrier ecosystems in place. Many of these ecosystems also serve as major carbon sinks, thus helping mitigate climate change as well as helping protect communities from its effects — coastal sea grass, for instance, stores more carbon dioxide per square kilometer than forests do. But despite these economic and safety benefits, Schaefer said the U.S. shouldn’t just focus on restoring coastal ecosystems. Instead, more must be done to prevent the damages that lead to the need for coastal reclamation in the first place. Loss of sediment from the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers is contributing to Louisiana losing a football field-sized chunk of land every hour, and that loss of sediment is occurring because of the construction of levees and dams along the rivers. Without the sediment, coastal marshes are more susceptible to being submerged due to sea level rise. “We need to do a better job of helping people understand what is happening to our coastlines in aggregate, over time.” he said. “We gain big when we conserve and restore coastal habitats — this is a no-brainer.”

     

    How Restoring Coastal Ecosystems Will Help Our Economy

    April 10, 2014

    As America’s coastal cities expanded throughout the 19th century, the wetlands were often considered a nuisance that stood in the way of progress and development. Marshy areas seemed little more than endless founts of pesky insects or quagmires blocking access between drier uplands and navigable waters. As cities outgrew their dry land footprints and sought additional space to grow, the obvious answer was to simply turn the wet places into dry places. Today, these regions—from Boston’s Back Bay to New York’s Wall Street to Miami’s South Beach—comprise some of the most valuable real estate in the world. We are increasingly learning the cost of losing landscapes once thought to be valueless. The wetlands ecosystem provided numerous services to society that we now are beginning to sorely miss. Sea levels continue to rise and the increasing frequency of extreme weather threatens our shores. Many of our commercial and recreational fisheries are struggling to rebuild to sustainable levels. Population growth continues to generate more pollution, including carbon dioxide. Coastal wetlands are perhaps nature’s most effective solution to these problems.

     

    The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems (pdf) by Michael Conathan, Jeffrey Buchanan, and Shiva Polefka April 2014

     

    • Download the report:
      PDF
    • Download introduction & summary:
      PDF
    • Read it in your browser:
      Scribd

     

     

    Sunken logs create new worlds for seafloor animals
    (April 9, 2014) — When it comes to food, most of the deep sea is a desert. In this food-poor environment, even bits of dead wood, waterlogged enough to sink, can support thriving communities of specialized animals. A new paper by biologists shows that wood-boring clams serve as “ecosystem engineers,” making the organic matter in the wood available to other animals that colonize wood falls in the deep waters of Monterey Canyon. … > full story

     

    The cliffs along the island of Corvo — until recently it was unknown how many birds breed there.

    Credit: Steffen Oppel; CC-BY 4.0

    Counting the invisible by sound: New approach to estimate seabird populations
    (April 9, 2014)

    Seabirds nest in places that are inaccessible for most humans — vertical cliffs and remote islands surrounded by raging waves. Worse still, many seabirds lay their eggs in burrows or cavities where they are protected from inclement weather and invisible for researchers. Hidden under rocks or in burrows during the day, and flying around only during dark nights — counting these birds is a researcher’s nightmare. Despite their cryptic behaviour, the seabirds are ill-prepared to fend off furry invaders. Humans have brought cats and rats to many islands around the world, where the cats and rats roam freely and kill seabirds. Especially those seabirds that nest in burrows are often unable to escape, and many species have disappeared from islands where cats or rats have been introduced.

    Although researchers have known for decades that many seabirds are in trouble, it is surprisingly hard to put a number on how fast populations decline. “Those species that are most vulnerable to rats are often the ones that are the most difficult to count” says Steffen Oppel, a Conservation Scientist with the RSPB who recently tested a new approach to count the invisible birds with colleagues from SPEA in Portugal. Seabirds that nest underground may be all but invisible in their breeding colonies, but they are very noisy at night. And the more birds there are, the louder a colony is. Oppel and his colleagues set up sound recorders on a remote island in the North Atlantic for two years to ‘count’ the number of nesting birds by recording their calls at night. They painstakingly counted every nest near the recorders to test whether larger colonies do in fact make more noise. The study was published in the open access journal Nature Conservation. “Recording seabird calls for a few months is the easy part — but making sense of 1000s of hours of sound recording is quite tricky” says Oppel. Together with Matthew McKown, a seabird researcher who specialises on sound recordings, the team developed an algorithm that automatically counted the seabird calls in terabytes of recordings. The results conformed with expectations: places with the most nests did indeed register the highest number of calls. With that relationship established, the team then extrapolated the seabird population size for the entire island — a number that had so far been derived from wild guesses. “Estimating exactly how many birds nest on a cliff is not very precise” admits Oppel, but the sound recordings provide a very valuable index of how large seabird colonies are. “We can use this index over time to assess whether colonies are stable or decreasing — which is extremely important for many remote colonies about which we know very little.”

     
     
     

     

    Steffen Oppel, Sandra Hervias, Nuno Oliveira, Tania Pipa, Carlos Silva, Pedro Geraldes, Michelle Goh, Eva Immler, Matthew McKown. Estimating population size of a nocturnal burrow-nesting seabird using acoustic monitoring and habitat mapping. Nature Conservation, 2014; 7: 1 DOI: 10.3897/natureconservation.7.6890

     

     

    World ranking tracks evolutionary distinctness of birds
    (April 10, 2014) — The world’s first ranking of evolutionary distinct birds under threat of extinction has been published by a team of international scientists. These birds include a cave-dwelling bird that is so oily it can be used as a lamp and a bird that has claws on its wings and a stomach like a cow. The new rankings will be used in a major conservation initiative called the Edge of Existence program at the London Zoo. The zoo has already identified several species like the huge monkey-eating Philippine eagle that are at once distinct, endangered, and suffer from lack of attention. … > full story

     


    Study: Shippers and seabirds clash over Arctic territory


    Yereth Rosen April 10, 2014

    The Arctic tern is among the 27 species of birds studied by researchers who say the Arctic is not big enough for both birds and increased shipping traffic. Lindsay Robinson via Creative Commons

    The areas coveted as sea routes for commercial shippers seeking to exploit newly ice-free Arctic waters are the same areas that are vital to millions of seabirds that flock north each summer to feast under the midnight sun, says a newly published study.   The Arctic is not big enough for both birds and shippers, suggests the study, published in the April issue of the journal Diversity and Distributions.

    “There is a competition for space, and the space has already been occupied by seabirds,” said co-author Falk Huettmann of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Institute of Arctic Biology, co-author of the study published in the journal Diversity and Distributions. Huettmann and co-author Grant Humphries, of the University of Otago’s Zoology Department, mapped out marine habitat used by 27 species of Arctic seabirds and compared those areas to routes already being used by Arctic shippers or contemplated for shippers’ future use. They found that shallow continental shelf areas, where marine life is richest and ice is thinnest, is vital territory for migrating bird populations. But it is also key territory for commercial operators seeking to boost shipments to and from the Arctic.

    A key hotspot is the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, famous for its abundant seabird and wildlife populations but also a crucial – and narrow — passage for commercial operators heading in and out of the Arctic. The area has the greatest overlap of seabird diversity and ship activity and the highest potential for conflict, the study says. Another area of “high impact” is likely to be the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay region, entry into the Northwest Passage, the study says.

    “To enter the Arctic basin, you have to go through these bottlenecks,” Huettmann said.

    Additional trouble spots include the Greenland Sea and Norwegian Sea, the study said. Areas of thick multiyear ice, in contrast, are not of much interest to either birds or shippers.

     

    Putting models to a good use: a rapid assessment of Arctic seabird biodiversity indicates potential conflicts with shipping lanes and human activity
    Grant R. W. Humphries1,* and Falk Huettmann2 Diversity and Distributions Volume 20, Issue 4, pages 478–490, April 2014 DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12177

     

    Iconic boreal bird species declining in the Adirondacks
    (April 10, 2014) — Several iconic Adirondack birds are in trouble, with declines driven by the size of their wetland habitats, how connected these wetlands are to one another, and how near they are to human infrastructure, research finds. A new report presents an evaluation of the potential influence of climate change and habitat alteration on species occurrence patterns over time. … > full story

    ‘Dinosaurs of the turtle world’ at risk in Southeast U.S. rivers
    (April 10, 2014) — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, scientists say. A new study shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species. … > full story

     

    Health of ecosystems on U.S. golf courses better than predicted, researchers find
    (April 10, 2014) — Currently, there are more than 18,300 golf courses in the US covering over 2.7 million acres. The ecological impacts of golf courses are not always straightforward with popular opinion suggesting that environmentally, golf courses have a negative impact on ecosystems. Now, researchers have determined that golf courses can offer a viable habitat for stream salamanders, and enhanced management practices may be beneficial to ecosystems within golf courses. … > full story

     

    2014 Nigiri Project Field Season Summary: Slow it down, spread it out, grow ‘em up

    Salmon smolts reared on Knaggs Ranch as part of the Nigiri Project are on their downstream towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We are winding down our 3rd field season experimentally determining how salmon use floodplain habitats. This year we added two elements to the experiments; varying field depth and volition passage (fish were allowed to leave the fields on their own at any time).

    • In the first year, we demonstrated that winter flooded rice fields not only provide sufficient water quality to keep salmon alive but that they thrive and grow rapidly.  We also learned that oxygen levels and water temperature are driven more by the wind than water flows.  This knowledge allowed us to think of future projects more in terms of ponding water than moving water across the floodplain. 
    • In year two, we demonstrated that current rice farming practices are not simply compatible but provide high quality floodplain rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon as evidenced by the fastest growth rates of juvenile salmon ever recorded in the Central Valley. 
    • This year’s data (year three) has yet to be analyzed but preliminary results are once again extremely encouraging: growth was similarly rapid as in years past but survival was substantially increased and initial indications are that allowing volitional passage will be the preferred model; the fish know when to leave.   

    “Snap shot” comparison of fish reared on floodplain vs. in-river, February 24, 2014. Top fish was one of 300 “wild” fish (all roughly the same size as the one pictured) captured from the Feather River and delivered to Knaggs to be reared. The bottom fish was captured the same day as it volitionally left the Knaggs fields after 3-weeks eating at the floodplain “bug buffet”. Fish which gain access to floodplain habitat on Yolo Bypass and those stuck in the channel theoretically would meet-up near Rio Vista on their way to the ocean.

    …..The abundant wildlife of the historical Central Valley (think birds to turn the sky black and fish to fill the rivers) was a direct result of the Valley’s seasonal marshes and floodplains. Recovery of salmon and other native fish populations will impossible without first reestablishing or mimicking the natural flood processes that are the basis of natural productivity.  Each winter and spring broad, shallow wetlands were inundated as the rivers covered the floodplain.  The wide shallow waters warmed as they caught sunlight making ideal conditions to grow phytoplankton (algae).  This fertile primary production fed incredible amounts of bugs (zooplankton and aquatic insects), which in turn were eaten by ducks and salmon. This simple floodplain food web (algae-bugs-wildlife) created as floodwater slowed down and spread across the floodplains was the engine of productivity that supported prolific numbers of fish and waterfowl in the prehistoric Central Valley.  The Valley has been engineered to drain efficiently and rapidly, shedding high volumes of storm water quickly through incised, armored flood channels. Large levees now confine rivers that once spread out over the floodplain to narrow, swift channels. This rapid high volume drainage system is the antithesis of the historic prolonged, broad and shallow annual inundation of the predevelopment flood pattern. The incredible floodplain food source was lost as marshes and floodplains were drained for agriculture and development. Essentially, Central Valley rivers are now starved systems deprived of the foundation of the aquatic food chain (algae grown on inundated floodplains).

    The Knaggs Investigation is demonstrating that mimicking historical floodplain conditions – slowing down the flood water and spreading it out on winter rice fields instead of the marshes which they replaced – still produces phenomenal insect numbers which in turn result in rapid growth and improved body condition of salmon. In essence, we are providing native organisms with a system they recognize.  When exposed to conditions similar to those under which they evolved and to which they are adapted fish and bird populations respond favorably and quickly. By understanding how natural processes in the valley worked, we can take the key elements of natural productivity and integrate them into the design, operations and management of a central valley water infrastructure built in previous era with little environmental consideration. We are spreading this important knowledge directly to those who operate and design California’s water system. In the seven weeks of the fieldwork we hosted 375 people in 17 tours and open houses and nearly 500 students visited the site on school field trips. We also garnered some great newspaper and TV media coverage.

    With Appreciation

    We want to thank all the great members of the Knaggs team which is a partnership of California Trout, the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California at Davis (UCD), the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC), and Cal Marsh and Farm Ventures, LLC with additional support from the California Waterfowl Association (CWA), the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), State and Federal Contractors Water Agency (SFCWA), the California Water Foundation, Audubon California, Point Blue Conservation Science and others.  Knaggs Ranch LLC provides the project site and Cal Marsh and Farm Ventures, LLC (CMFV), land manager for Knaggs Ranch, provides key logistical support. 

    Good duck, best fishes and have a very rice day,— CALIFORNIA TROUT; CAL MARSH AND FARM VENTURES, LLC

     

    Oyster aquaculture could significantly improve Potomac River estuary water quality
    (April 9, 2014) — Oyster aquaculture in the Potomac River estuary could result in significant improvements to water quality, according to a new study. All of the nitrogen currently polluting the Potomac River estuary could be removed if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation, according to the joint study. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters, who feed by filtering, can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality. … > full story

     


    SF Big Bay Bridge bird problem

    Phillip Matier And Andrew Ross SF Chronicle April 7, 2014

    With the demolition of the old Bay Bridge eastern span already six months behind schedule, Caltrans plans to spend $12.8 million to beat the clock on a bird-nesting season that could tie up the takedown well into next year. At issue: 800 or so double-crested cormorants – a state-protected “species of special concern” – that have enjoyed migratory squatter rights on the bridge since they moved here from Alaska, Mexico and Nova Scotia in 1984. The lanky black birds with hooked bills nest from April to August, mostly on the far eastern end of the old bridge. Caltrans has already spent $709,000 to build “condos” for the birds on the underside of the new span – 2 1/2-foot-wide, stainless-steel nesting platforms – but so far, there have been no takers…..

     

     

     

     

    Permafrost thawing could accelerate global warming
    (April 7, 2014) — Researchers have found new evidence that permafrost thawing is releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere via plants, which could accelerate warming trends. Permafrost is soil that is frozen year round and is typically located in polar regions. As the world has gotten slightly warmer, that permafrost is thawing and decomposing, which is producing increased amounts of methane. … > full story

     

     

    ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch

    EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO) DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION– CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society

    10 April 2014

    Synopsis: While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chances of El Niño increase during the remainder of the year, exceeding 50% by summer.

    ENSO-neutral continued during March 2014, but with above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) developing over much of the eastern tropical Pacific as well as near the International Date Line (Fig. 1). …

     

    Camels emit less methane than cows or sheep
    (
    April 10, 2014) — When digesting ruminants exhale methane. Their contribution to this global greenhouse gas is considerable. So far the assumption had been that camels with similar digestion produce the same amount of the climate-damaging gas. However, researchers have now shown camels release less methane than ruminants. … > full story

     

    Why Scientists Are Making A Map Of The World’s Lobsters

    By Joanna M. Foster on April 8, 2014

    Maine researchers want to use satellite data and on-the-ground observations to create a real-time lobster database and map to help fishery managers cope with climate change….

     

    Desert Research Institute

    Can Deserts Stop Global Warming? No, but They Help, Study Says

    By John Roach NBC News April 6, 2014

    The world’s arid areas — deserts filled with scrubby vegetation and sand — are absorbing more of the carbon dioxide that’s being emitted into the atmosphere than expected, a new study shows. While these ecosystems will not stop global warming, scientists said the finding provides a better understanding of the carbon cycle, and thus how the global climate will change in the future.= “It is definitely not going to stop it … just now we are understanding the processes that are going on,” lead author Dave Evans, a biologist specializing in ecology and global change at Washington State University, told NBC News. “But we are still seeing huge amounts of carbon accumulating in the atmosphere.” Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas driving global climate change. More of the planet-warming gas is released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, and scientists want to know where it all goes. Reconciling this so-called carbon budget has proven one of the trickier areas of climate science, Evans explained. It’s well-known that some of the carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, and the rest gets stored in the land or oceans in other carbon-containing forms, such as microbes, plants and animals. But the finer details of the process are elusive. To get a better handle on the carbon budget, several research teams around the world are conducting so-called free air carbon dioxide enrichment experiments, where plots of land are fumigated with the elevated levels of carbon dioxide expected in the future. This extra carbon dioxide has a specific chemical fingerprint that can be detected when the soils and plants are analyzed. The new findings come from such an experiment, conducted with nine octagonal plots about 75 feet in diameter in the Mojave Desert in southern Nevada. The plots are representative of the arid and semiarid ecosystems that cover nearly half of the Earth’s land area….. The findings indicate that these arid ecosystems are “significant, previously unrecognized sinks” for atmospheric carbon dioxide, Evans and colleagues write in a paper published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change

     

    R. D. Evans, A. Koyama, D. L. Sonderegger, T. N. Charlet, B. A. Newingham, L. F. Fenstermaker, B. Harlow, V. L. Jin, K. Ogle, S. D. Smith, R. S. Nowak. Greater ecosystem carbon in the Mojave Desert after ten years exposure to elevated CO2. Nature Climate Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2184

     

     

     

    Salamander’s Hefty Role in the Forest

    By RICHARD CONNIFF NY Times April 7, 2014

    Small but prolific predators, salamanders affect the ecosystem of a forest and collectively could help stave off climate disaster….

     

     

    Southwestern bird and reptile distributions to shift as climate changes
    (April 7, 2014) — Dramatic distribution losses and a few major distribution gains are forecasted for southwestern bird and reptile species as the climate changes, according to new research. Overall, the study forecasted species distribution losses — that is, where species are able to live — of nearly half for all but one of the 5 reptile species they examined, including for the iconic chuckwalla. …

     

    Detailed Bird Species Projections:

    Overall: Black-throated sparrow and gray vireo are projected to experience major gains in breeding habitat. In contrast, pygmy nuthatches, sage thrashers and Williamson sapsuckers are projected to experience large losses in breeding habitat. Thus, these three species might be expected to experience large future population declines. (Note: species are linked to their in-depth report summaries.)

    • Black-throated sparrow: breeding range projected to increase by 34-47 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Gray vireo: breeding range projected to increase from 58-71 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Virginia’s warbler: breeding range projected to decrease slightly, by 1.5-7 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Sage thrasher: breeding range projected to decrease by 78 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Pinyon jay: breeding range projected to decrease by 25-31 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Pygmy nuthatch: breeding range projected to decrease by 75-81 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Williamson’s sapsucker: breeding range projected to decrease by 73-78 percent between 2010-2099.

    Reptiles

    Overall: Future climate change will negatively affect the distributions of reptiles in the Western and Southwestern U.S. The one exception is the Sonoran desert tortoise, which is forecasted to expand, and, if a decrease happens, only by about one percent.

    Reptiles can’t move as easily as birds nor can they regulate their body temperature, so they can only move minimally in response to changing climates. The authors found that the greater the projected distributional gain or loss in a reptile species was directly tied to the warmth of its current range. Thus, the less mobile reptiles will be more greatly affected by increasing temperatures.

    • Plateau striped whiptail: range projected to decrease by 42 percent, assuming no dispersal, or by 17 percent, with unlimited dispersal, between 2010 and 2099.
    • Arizona black rattlesnake: range projected to decrease between 32 and 46 percent between 2010 and 2099.
    • Sonoran desert tortoise: The Sonoran (Morafka’s) desert tortoise is the only species of reptile for which projections do not include a decrease in suitable habitat by 2099 but only when unlimited dispersal is assumed. When assuming no dispersal, a slight one percent decrease is forecasted in the extent of suitable habitat.
    • Common lesser earless lizard: ranged projected to decrease by 22-49 percent from 2010 to 2099.
    • Common chuckwalla: projected ranges are likely to decrease by between 13 and 23 percent between 2010 and 2099.

    The report, Projecting climate effects on birds and reptiles of the southwestern United States, is authored by Charles van Riper III, USGS; James Hatten, USGS; J. Tom Giermakowski, University of New Mexico; Jennifer A. Holmes and Matthew J. Johnson, Northern Arizona University; and others.

    …. > full story

     

    What’s devastating the wild moose population in New England?
    PBS NEWS HOUR
    In some regions of northern New England, the moose population is down as much 40 percent in the last three years. The cause of this iconic animal’s dramatic die-off is not yet known, but researchers’ main theory is centered on the parasitic winter tick, and warmer winters may be partly to blame.

     

     

    The tiniest greenhouse gas emitters: Climate feedbacks from decomposition by soil microbes less dire than previously thought
    (April 7, 2014) — Climate feedbacks from decomposition by soil microbes are one of the biggest uncertainties facing climate modelers. A new study shows that these feedbacks may be less dire than previously thought. … > full story

     

     

    Food quality will suffer with rising carbon dioxide, field study shows
    (April 6, 2014) — Climate change is hitting home — in the pantry, this time. A field study of wheat demonstrates how the nutritional quality of food crops can be diminished when elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide interfere with a plant’s ability to process nitrate into proteins. “Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” the lead researcher said. … > full story

     

     

     

    DROUGHT

     

     

    Managing For Drought

    Rangeland Watershed Laboratory, UC Davis

    Having a drought strategy is pertinent to the sustainability of any ranch enterprise, especially when faced with a winter that has thus far produced below normal precipitation following an extremely dry water year. We have provided info to help prepare for the various stages of a drought.

    • Ranchers’ Perspectives and Management Strategies for Drought
    • Links of Interest Regarding Drought
    • Key Drought Publications
    • UC Sierra Foothill Research & Extension Center Drought Workshop Materials

     

     

     


    California drought puzzle: store or conserve more water?

    Peter Fimrite, SF Chronicle, April 7, 2014

    Raising the height of Shasta Dam 18.5 feet to increase the reservoir’s capacity is among the proposals in a draft plan. There was a time not long ago when much of civilized society considered each drop of river water that reached the ocean a wasted resource. That was before environmentalists pointed out the benefits of the outflow to fish, wildlife and the ocean ecosystem, setting off an ongoing tug-of-war between fishermen and farmers in California that has reached a critical stage this year as the state struggles through a drought. One thing that’s become clear amid the fallow cropland and rationing is that there is not enough water storage in California to sustain all the competing interests. The dilemma has again put a spotlight on the precious water that gets away. In an average year, rain and snowmelt in California generate about 71 million acre-feet of water, some of which is captured in reservoirs or groundwater basins. An acre-foot is the amount needed to cover an acre with a foot of water, enough to supply an average household for a year.
    About 32 percent of the 71 million acre-feet is used for agriculture and 10 percent for urban areas, according to the state Department of Water Resources’ chief hydrologist, Maury Roos. About 35 percent of the total is reserved by law to help river ecosystems, wetlands and fisheries, and to maintain a healthy flow of water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. That leaves about 21 percent of the total to flow out into the ocean without being used for anything, according to Roos’ calculations. “That is the segment we can capture more of,” Roos said. “If we could store more of that, we would have a larger water supply.” Trouble is, nobody in California can agree on how, or even whether, to capture it….

     

    In a typical wet year, California captures about 10 million acre-feet of water in its reservoirs, about 80 percent of which is held in the state water department’s two biggest reservoirs behind Shasta and Oroville dams. That’s well below the 43 million acre-feet capacity of the 1,200 reservoirs under the jurisdiction of the state water department. The reason, said Roos, is that the department is required to release water for fish and wetlands management and must also leave space during winters to avoid flood-causing overflows.

    Yet, agricultural interests support expanding California’s reservoir capacity by adding 18.5 feet to Shasta Dam and building Sites Dam, near the town of Maxwell (Colusa County), and Temperance Flat Dam, near Millerton (Madera County) on the San Joaquin River. These proposals, like the tunnels plan, are expensive. The Shasta dam and Sites proposals together would cost about $3.5 billion and add about 2.6 million acre-feet of water to the system, just enough to “take you through one dry year,” Roos said. Meanwhile, environmental groups mostly oppose the tunnels and water storage projects. The existing dams and conveyance system, they say, cut off the historic salmon and steelhead trout runs and have imperiled other fish populations, like the delta smelt. Instead, they are pushing for water conservation, treatment and recycling plants. Jon Rosenfield, a conservation biologist for the Bay Institute, said water bond money would be better spent replacing thousands of old leaking water mains around the state, implementing tiered water rates and building storm-water capture and water recycling systems. “It simply doesn’t make sense for us to be flushing toilets with pristine water transported miles from the Sierra Nevada,” Rosenfield said. “The notion that it just gets used once and then it is gone is crazy.” Conservationists point to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as the model for a successful recycling program. The district has built over the past two decades a wastewater treatment and reclamation system that cleans dirty household water and then filters it into the groundwater for reuse later on. Tom Stokely, the water policy analyst for the California Water Impact Network, said Los Angeles County now uses less water than it did 30 years ago despite having at least a million more residents. “It’s really up to the Legislature and the individual water districts to take this up, but if they use up all their borrowing on the twin tunnels there won’t be money left over for these things,” said Stokely, adding that statewide recycling and conservation programs could save 2 million acre-feet of water a year. “We see it as an either-or scenario. Do we have a sustainable water future or do we spend all our resources on costly tunnels and water storage projects?”…

     

    Ultimately, Californians will have to come to grips with the fact that, no matter what gets done, the state will never be drought proof, said Jay Lund, the director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “I think there will be some ability to improve, mostly in terms of giving incentives to store groundwater in wet years and to move water from north to south – efficiencies like that – but you can’t make it rain,” Lund said. “In the end, we will still be living in a semi-arid climate, and we will still have droughts. Most of what we can do is make it easier to prepare for the next drought.”

     
     

    California’s drought

    Find additional coverage at www.sfgate.com/drought.

     

    Drought Is Driving Beef Prices To All-New Highs

    By Jeff Spross on April 9, 2014

    USDA choice-grade beef hit a record $5.28 in February, and droughts helped along by climate change are the culprit…..

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Endangered butterfly defies climate change with new diet and habitat

    Quino checkerspot, native to Mexico and California, shifts to higher altitude and chooses new species of plant for laying eggs

    Patrick Barkham theguardian.com, Monday 7 April 2014 06.03 EDT

    The quino checkerspot butterfly has defied predictions of extinction by moving to higher altitudes and choosing a new plant on which to lay its eggs. Photograph: Butterfly Conservation

    A butterfly species whose population collapsed because of climate change and habitat loss has defied predictions of extinction to rapidly move to cooler climes and change its food plant. The quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino), found in Mexico and California, has shifted to higher altitudes and surprisingly chosen a completely different species of plant on which to lay its eggs, according to research presented at the Butterfly Conservation‘s seventh international symposium in Southampton. Its rapid adaption offers hope that other insects and species may be able to adapt unexpectedly quickly to climate change. “Every butterfly biologist who knew anything about the quino in the mid-1990s thought it would be extinct by now, including me,” said Prof Camille Parmesan of the Marine Sciences Institute at Plymouth University. The Quino was once abundant in southern California but the expansion of Los Angeles and San Diego saw it reduced to just two small colonies. Other populations in Mexico began declining sharply as global warming made conditions too hot and dry for its caterpillars’ food plant, a species of plantain. Six years ago, Parmesan suggested that the endangered quino could be a prime candidate for “assisted colonisation” – to be moved by humans to cooler, unspoilt habitat north of Los Angeles. Instead, to the amazement of scientists, the butterfly did not need human help and reappeared on higher ground to the east, where its caterpillars are feeding on a flowering plant it has never eaten before. Several other butterfly species have been changing habitat or diet to cope with a changing climate but the quino checkerspot is the first butterfly known to science to change both so rapidly. Many environmentalists fear that climate change is happening too quickly for species to adapt but, according to Parmesan, this surprising example shows that some apparently doomed species may be more resilient than we imagine. However, she warned that this case showed that nature reserves, and linking together unspoilt habitat, was more important than ever to enable species to survive a changing climate. Without undeveloped land to the east of Los Angeles and San Diego, the quino checkerspot would have had nowhere to go and would have become extinct…. More than a quarter of Britain’s 59 species are moving north, with butterflies such as the comma moving around 10km each year. With climate change, another UK species, the brown argus, has started to feed on wild geranium plants as a caterpillar, enabling it to spread rapidly through the Midlands and into northern England.
    But the international symposium also heard strong scientific evidence that climate change will create more losers than winners because unspoilt habitat is so fragmented, preventing many butterflies, moths and other insects from moving to more suitable places. Tom Oliver of the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology told the symposium that scientific modelling predicted a number of UK butterfly extinctions by the middle of this century…..

     

     

    Canada’s New Adaptation Library.

    Community resources for climate adaptation: Developing knowledge and tools to reduce risks and maximize opportunities arising from climate change.

    This new library of adaptation resources was put together by Natural Resources Canada and ICLEI-Canada and has a graphically rich user interface to help make searching for the information you need easier to find and more enjoyable. 

     

     

    At-risk cities hold solutions to climate change: UN report

    Smart choices by cities such as Miami in planning and investment could hold key to cutting emissions, IPCC draft says

    Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent theguardian.com, Friday 11 April 2014 07.02 EDT

    Buildings near the ocean as reports indicate that Miami-Dade county could be one of the most susceptible cities to rising water levels associated with global warming. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    It is already taking shape as the 21st century urban nightmare: a big storm hits a city like Shanghai, Mumbai, Miami or New York, knocking out power supply and waste treatment plants, washing out entire neighbourhoods and marooning the survivors in a toxic and foul-smelling swamp. Now the world’s leading scientists are suggesting that those same cities in harm’s way could help drive solutions to climate change. A draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), obtained by the Guardian, says smart choices in urban planning and investment in public transport could help significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially in developing countries. The draft is due for release in Berlin on Sunday, the third and final instalment of the IPCC’s authoritative report on climate change. “The next two decades present a window of opportunity for urban mitigation as most of the world’s urban areas and their infrastructure have yet to be constructed,” the draft said. Around 1 billion people live in cities and coastal areas at risk of sea-level rise and coastal flooding – and those figures are expected to rise in the coming decades. Most of the high-risk areas are in Asia, but the US east coast, where the rate of sea level rise is three or four times faster than the global average, is also a “hotspot”, with cities, beaches and wetlands exposed to flooding….But those at-risk cities also produce a large and growing share of emissions that cause climate change – which makes them central to its solution. “They are at the frontlines of this issue,” said Seth Schultz, research director for the C40 group of mega-cities taking action on climate change. “And on the whole cities have extraordinarily strong power to deliver on these things.” Even in America, where Republican governors and members of Congress deny the existence or have rolled back action on climate change, cities are moving ahead..

     

    New global scorecard aims to promote urban development without cars

    Thu, 10 Apr 2014 08:00 AM Samuel Mintz

    LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Researchers have launched an international standard and scorecard aimed at persuading planners, designers and architects to develop urban communities that encourage people to walk, cycle or take public transport – anything but drive. Today, there are more than a billion cars on the planet. In a few decades’ time, there might be twice that number. Combined with the trend in more people moving to cities, this presents a big problem for the planet, argues Luc Nadal, technical director of urban development at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), which is based in New York City. “The two factors of urbanisation and motorisation tend to result in the phenomenon of ‘suburbanisation’, which is people moving in large numbers to urban places that are car-centric; depending on their cars to connect all the dots of what needs to be done on a daily basis, such as going from home to work, from work to places of supply, of entertainment, going to school, and so on,” he said. He described suburban living as the “most inefficient settlement form ever”. “The time and energy consumed by travelling in personal vehicles from one activity to another is obviously also linked to the emissions of pollutants, of greenhouse gases that transform our climate,” Nadal said. Finding a different way to develop is crucial, he added. To this end, the ITDP has come up with the “Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Standard“, a policy guide that evaluates real estate schemes on how well they connect people with work, school or any other place they need to go, without having to use a car….

     

     

    Chile Plans To Enact The First Carbon Tax In South America

    By Ari Phillips on April 8, 2014

    Power demand is growing rapidly across Latin America, including in Chile. The government there is trying to figure out how to provide it in a sustainable fashion….

     

    The three most resilient cities? They’re all in Canada

    Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary top a new report measuring the least vulnerable and most adaptive cities on the planet – while the high-growth cities of the Bric nations teeter precariously on the edge of danger

    Chris Michael theguardian.com, Friday 11 April 2014 07.51 EDT

    Hogtown on top … Toronto, seen here from Center Island, heads the list of most resilient cities. Photograph: Alamy

    For perhaps the first time, someone has tried to qualify the resilience of cities. Grosvenor, the London-based property company led by the Duke of Westminster, analysed more than 100 independently verified data sets in order to determine two key elements of what makes a city resilient: its “vulnerability” on the one hand, and its “adaptive capacity” on the other.

    Vulnerability was measured by looking at climate threats, environmental degradation (including pollution and overconsumption due to sprawl), resources (particularly access to energy), infrastructure and community cohesion. Weakness in any of those areas reduced a city’s score.
    Adaptive capacity, or a city’s ability to prevent and mitigate serious threats, was a combination of governance (high value here on democracy, freedom of speech, community participation, transparency, accountability and long-term leadership vision), strong institutions, learning capacity (including good technical universities), disaster planner and finally funding (from budget to credit and access to global funding). Rob Ford and ice storms notwithstanding, Toronto tops the list, following by Vancouver and Calgary and closely trailed by several US cities. London is 18th, suffering as Grosvenor pointed out from social tensions due to lack of affordable housing. Eight of the weakest 20 cities are in the Bric countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, where blistering economic growth has not yet led to long-term resilience. One particularly disturbing trend is that some of the least resilient cities on the list are also the ones where the population is expected to grow fastest…..

     


    2014 rankings: Top cities with the most ENERGY STAR certified buildings


    On April 20, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the sixth annual list of the top 25 U.S. metropolitan areas with the largest number of ENERGY STAR certified buildings. The cities on this list demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits achieved by facility owners and managers when they apply a proven approach to energy efficiency to their buildings.
    The Top 10 cities on the list are Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; New York; San Francisco; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Philadelphia; and Houston.
    Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year. ENERGY STAR certified office buildings cost $0.50 less per square foot to operate than average office buildings, and use nearly two times less energy per square foot than average office buildings…

     

     

     

     

    Climate change Plan B stirs controversy, doubt

    A U.N. panel is pressured on geoengineering, which entails efforts such as storing CO2 underground.

    By Karl Ritter April 11, 2014 The Associated Press

    BERLIN — It’s Plan B in the fight against climate change: cooling the planet by sucking heat-trapping CO2 from the air or reflecting sunlight back into space.

    Called geoengineering, it’s considered mad science by opponents. Supporters say it would be foolish to ignore it, since plan A – slashing carbon emissions from fossil fuels – is moving so slowly.

    The U.N.’s expert panel on climate change is under pressure from both sides this week as it considers whether geoengineering should be part of the tool-kit that governments use to keep global warming in check. Russia, in particular, has been pushing the panel to place more emphasis on such techniques in a key document for policy makers being finalized in Berlin this week.

    Drafts leaked before the conference only mentioned one of the options, removing CO2 from the air and storing it underground. Russia, a major oil and gas producer, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should also mention solar radiation management, which could include everything from covering open surfaces with reflective materials or placing sun-mirrors in orbit around the Earth.

    “It is expedient to give a short description of the approach and mention the major ‘pro and contra’,” Russia said in comments submitted to the IPCC and seen by The Associated Press.

    But even advocates of studying geoengineering express doubts….

     

    Amid showdown with energy-rich Russia, calls rise in Europe to start fracking.
    Ever since Russian forces took hold of Crimea last month, the British prime minister has been leading a chorus of conservative politicians and energy executives in a refrain they believe will spark a shale gas revolution in Europe: Frack, baby, frack. Washington Post

     

    Three-quarters of World Bank-backed projects still don’t evaluate climate risks: Report.

    Huffington Post

    The World Bank is still failing to take climate change into account as it makes decisions about the projects it finances, according to a new report from the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

     

    Secretary Jewell Releases Landscape-Scale Mitigation Strategy to Encourage Dual Objectives of Smart Development and Conservation

    Strategy seeks to provide clarity and consistency to more effectively avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts on public lands

    April 10, 2014 WASHINGTON, D.C. – To advance landscape-scale, science-based management of America’s public lands and wildlife, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released a strategy to implement mitigation policies and practices at the Department that can more effectively encourage infrastructure development while protecting natural and cultural resources….

     

     

    Rough Forecasts

    by Elizabeth Kolbert New Yorker April 14, 2014

    The chemist F. Sherwood Rowland is one of the few people in history about whom it can accurately be said: he helped save the world. In 1972, Rowland, a chemist at the University of California-Irvine, attended a talk on the compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons. At the time, these were being used as refrigerants, cleaning agents, and propellants in aerosol cans, and they had recently been detected in the air over the Atlantic. CFCs are unusually stable, but it occurred to Rowland that, if they were getting blown around the world, at very high altitudes they would eventually break down. He and one of his research assistants began to look into the matter, and they concluded that in the stratosphere CFCs would indeed dissociate. The newly liberated chlorine atoms would then set off a chain reaction, which would destroy the ozone layer that protects the earth from ultraviolet radiation.

    Industry groups ridiculed Rowland’s findings—Aerosol Age accused him of being a K.G.B. agent—but other scientists confirmed them, and Rowland pressed for a ban on CFCs. As he said, “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” The discovery, in the mid-nineteen-eighties, of an ozone “hole” over the South Pole persuaded world leaders, including Ronald Reagan, that the problem was, in fact, urgent, and a global treaty phasing out CFCs was approved in 1987.

    Rowland’s question came to mind last week. At a meeting in Yokohama, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest update on the looming crisis that is global warming. Only this time it isn’t just looming. The signs are that “both coral reef and Arctic systems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts,” the panel noted. Composed in a language that might be called High Committee, the report is nevertheless hair-raising. The I.P.C.C.’s list of potential warming-induced disasters—from ecological collapse to famine, flooding, and pestilence—reads like a riff on the ten plagues. Matching the terror is the collective shame of it. “Why should the world pay attention to this report?” the chairman of the I.P.C.C., Rajendra Pachauri, asked the day the update was released. Because “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”

    Talk about standing around and waiting. As in the case of the destruction of the ozone layer, much of the key research on climate change was completed in the nineteen-seventies. (The first major report on the subject from the National Academy of Sciences was requested by President Jimmy Carter.) And, once again, it’s been clear since that time what needs to be done. Global warming is a product of carbon emissions produced by burning fossil fuels, so, if we want to limit warming, these emissions have to be phased out.

    Economists on both sides of the political spectrum agree that the most efficient way to reduce emissions is to impose a carbon tax. “If you want less of something, every economist will tell you to do the same thing: make it more expensive,” former Mayor Michael Bloomberg observed, in a speech announcing his support for such a tax. In the United States, a carbon tax could replace other levies—for example, the payroll tax—or, alternatively, the money could be used to reduce the deficit. Within a decade, according to a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, a relatively modest tax of twenty-five dollars per metric ton of carbon would reduce affected emissions by about ten per cent, while increasing federal revenues by a trillion dollars. If other countries failed to follow suit, the U.S. could, in effect, extend its own tax by levying it on goods imported from those countries.

    Currently, instead of discouraging fossil-fuel use, the U.S. government underwrites it, with tax incentives for producers worth about four billion dollars a year. Those tax breaks are evidently ludicrous, and they should be repealed. According to the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. is the world’s largest single source of fossil-fuel subsidies; the I.M.F. has estimated that eliminating such subsidies worldwide could cut carbon emissions by thirteen per cent. Meanwhile, the tax credit responsible for much of the recent growth in wind generation in the U.S. has been allowed to lapse. This is more lunacy; that tax credit should be reinstated. On a state level, public-utility laws need to be revamped so that utility companies are rewarded for promoting energy efficiency rather than energy consumption. Building codes, too, need to be rewritten; according to the previous I.P.C.C. update, released in 2007, significant cuts in emissions from buildings could be achieved through measures, like improved insulation, that also save their occupants money.

    When the first I.P.C.C. report was issued, back in 1990, George H. W. Bush was in the White House. Each of his successors, including Barack Obama, has vowed to address the problem, only to decide that he had better things to do. Obama had an opportunity early in his first term to make a real difference; legislation to impose a price on carbon emissions, through a cap-and-trade system, was approved by the House in 2009. But the President put little political muscle behind the bill, and it died the following year in the Senate. The White House is now trying to bypass Congress and reduce emissions through regulations. In January, the Environmental Protection Agency published rules governing emissions from new power plants; effectively, they prohibit the construction of coal-burning plants. In February, the Administration announced plans to tighten fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles like garbage trucks and tractor-trailers, and, this spring, it is expected to propose new regulations limiting emissions from existing power plants. These are all laudable efforts, but the last set of regulations, which should be the most consequential, are coming so late in Obama’s second term that they will be left to the next President to implement—or not, as the case may be. And, unfortunately, the Administration is undermining its own best efforts by pressing for more domestic fossil-fuel production.

    The fact that so much time has been wasted standing around means that the problem of climate change is now much more difficult to deal with than it was when it was first identified. But this only makes the imperative to act that much greater, because, as one set of grim predictions is being borne out, another, even worse set remains to be written. 

     

     

     

     

     

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Focus on urban transport solutions distracts from poor planning
    (April 7, 2014) — If you think transportation solutions are essential for reducing greenhouse emissions and growing economic opportunity in rapidly-expanding cities, think again. Scientists now say we’re looking at the problem the wrong way. … > full story

     


    How Japan Replaced Half Its Nuclear Capacity With Efficiency


    Is new coal really necessary in Japan?

    Lauri Myllyvirta and Justin Guay April 10, 2014

    After the Tohoku earthquake in March 2011, Japan was in a seemingly impossible situation. A tremendous amount of conventional generation capacity, including the entire nuclear fleet, was unavailable, and the country faced the risk of power cuts during summer consumption peaks. But miraculously, or seemingly so, in just a few short weeks Japan managed to avert the rolling power cuts that many believed inevitable. Even more impressive, the Japanese have turned these emergency measures into lasting solutions. So how’d they do it without forcing people back to the Stone Age? Japan overcame this daunting task by tapping the cheapest and most widely available source of energy: energy efficiency and conservation. Much of the electricity savings were initially driven by a popular movement known as “Setsuden” (“saving electricity”). This movement emerged to encourage people and companies to conserve energy and prevent rolling power cuts. Simple measures such as increasing temperatures in homes and offices, “thinning” lighting by removing some of the bulbs and tubes, shutting down big screens and cutting exterior lighting enabled Japan to dramatically reduce power demand almost overnight (albeit at the cost of a small amount of personal comfort). In addition to these measures, the dress code in offices was eased to reduce the need for AC, while commercial facilities were audited to identify potential savings. These temporary measures have proven to have long-term impact. They’ve dramatically increased the awareness of energy use and energy efficiency, and large companies are running high-profile efficiency programs. Consequently, power consumption never rebounded with GDP growth because energy-conscious practices became ingrained. More importantly, there is huge potential for technical measures to reduce energy use even further. More surprising is how far off pundits were about the impact. Some made dire predictions about the need to replace the nuclear fleet with “cheap coal” (a myth we debunked here). A combination of commonsense energy savings measures that began as temporary behavioral changes have led to permanent efficiency gains. In the process, the Japanese people, and its business community, proved the punditry wrong.  The key lesson from the Japanese experience is that coal plant construction is simply too slow to be relevant in the modern world, where resiliency is highly valued. To cope with rapid loss of generation capacity, Japan needed fast, nimble and modular 21st-century solutions. That means efficiency and clean energy. Despite major hurdles to deploying these solutions — mostly due to a complete absence of renewable energy policies prior to Fukushima — solar power surged in 2013, blowing away earlier predictions.….

     

    Win-win situation: Growing crops on photovoltaic farms
    (April 9, 2014) — A new model for solar farms that ‘co-locates’ crops and solar panels could result in a harvest of valuable biofuel plants along with solar energy. This co-location approach could prove especially useful in sunny, arid regions such as the southwestern United States where water is scarce, researchers said. … > full story

     

    Four Years Later, BP’s Oil Spill Is Still Killing Gulf Wildlife

    By Katie Valentine on April 10, 2014

    “No matter what BP and others are telling you, the oil is not gone.”

     

    Oklahoma Has Already Had More Magnitude 3 Earthquakes This Year Than All Of Last Year

    By Katie Valentine on April 8, 2014

    Scientists are trying to determine whether wastewater injection from fracking has triggered the earthquakes.

     

     

    New climate pragmatism framework prioritizes energy access to drive innovation and development
    (April 9, 2014) — Expanding access to reliable energy offers better route to address global challenges, climate and energy scholars say in new report. “Climate change can’t be solved on the backs of the world’s poorest people,” said a report co-author. “The key to solving for both climate and poverty is helping nations build innovative energy systems that can deliver cheap, clean and reliable power.” … > full story

     

     

    Cheap solar power pushes renewables growth worldwide. Climate Central

    The share of total global electricity production generated by renewable energy is climbing, mainly because solar photovoltaic systems are becoming less expensive, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Environment Programme and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

     

    Global renewable energy investments fell 14 percent in 2013: UN Agence France-Presse

    Global investments in renewable energy slumped 14 per cent last year, with China pouring more money into the sector than Europe for the first time on record, the United Nations said on Monday. Agence

     

     

     
     

     

    UPCOMING CONFERENCES: 

     

    CA DROUGHT CONFERENCE, BERKELEY, CA

    Friday, April 18th 9 AM – 2:30 PM
    David Brower Center Berkeley, CA!

    For More Information and to Register Please Visit: http://caindrought.eventbrite.com!

    Details are here to reserve a seat.


     

    Webinar: Wildlife Response to Climate Change

     April 16, 2014 9:15 – 10:15 am PST
    Dr. Erik Beever, USGS Research Ecologist, will use the American pika (Ochotona princeps) as a model to illustrate ways by which climate changes are already affecting wildlife.

    Click here for more information.

     

     

     

     

     

    EARTH DAY 2014

    Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources…..

     

    Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

    April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA

    This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.

     

    Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
    Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

    Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium

     

     

    US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
    April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

    US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

     Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel.  Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

    Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia

    This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.

     

    Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
    May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA    The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
    The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.

     
     

    Headwaters to Ocean “H20″ Conference  May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA

     


    Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

    29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA

     

     

    North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

    First Stewards
    July 21-23, Washington, DC.

    First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
    United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

    99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
    Sacramento, California  August 10-15, 2014  http://www.esa.org/sacramento

     

    California Adaptation Forum 
    August 19-20, 2014
    . SACRAMENTO, CA

    This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference.  To register go to:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449

    Ninth
    International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

    Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.

     

     

     

    JOBS  (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)

     


    POINT BLUE CONSERVATION SCIENCE

    Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.

     

    Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 

     

    This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at www.pointblue.org.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

     

    The Brutally Dishonest Attacks On Showtime’s Landmark Series On Climate Change

    By Joe Romm on April 9, 2014

    The good news is the video of episode one of Showtime’s climate series, “Years Of Living Dangerously,” has been getting great reviews in the New York Times and elsewhere.

    The bad news is the Times has published an error-riddled hit-job op-ed on the series that is filled with myths at odds with both the climate science and social science literature. For instance, the piece repeats the tired and baseless claim that Al Gore’s 2006 movie “An Inconvenient Truth” polarized the climate debate, when the peer-reviewed data says the polarization really jumped in 2009 (see chart above from “The Sociological Quarterly”)…..

     

    Most Cable News Coverage Of Climate Change Isn’t Exactly Accurate: Report

    April 7, 2014 Huffington Post

    It is no secret that TV news coverage of climate change is far from perfect, even with outlets generally devoting very little time to the issue. And according to a new report released Monday, when cable news in particular does decide to cover climate change, it doesn’t always get the facts straight.

    The report from the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzes just how accurately cable news networks in the United States, including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, cover climate science. The UCS analysis found that, in 2013, MSNBC had the highest accuracy rate in its coverage of climate change, getting the state of the science right about 92 percent of the time. CNN came in second, at 70 percent accuracy. Fox trailed at 28 percent accuracy. The inaccuracies identified in the report typically stemmed from dismissing or doubting scientific facts, or from overstating and understating current science.

    At the time of publication, CNN and Fox had not responded to requests for comment, and MSNBC’s vice president for media relations said she had not seen the report. UCS analyzed 569 clips of cable news coverage from 2013, looking for all references to “climate change” and “global warming.” Then, the group evaluated the claims in the segments against actual published, peer-reviewed climate science. Segments were classified as “misleading” or “accurate” based on that criteria. If a segment included a single inaccuracy, that segment was listed as “misleading.”

    “Sometimes, it’s like the networks are covering different planets,” Aaron Huertas, a science communications officer at UCS who led the analysis, said in a release accompanying the report. “Unfortunately, too many politicians, interest groups, and pundits continue to dispute established climate science and cable shows sometimes give them a platform to do so.”…

     

    Green tea extract boosts your brain power, especially the working memory, new research shows
    (April 7, 2014) — Green tea is said to have many putative positive effects on health. Now, researchers are reporting first evidence that green tea extract enhances the cognitive functions, in particular the working memory. The findings suggest promising clinical implications for the treatment of cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia. … > full story

    Health benefits of ‘green exercise’ for kids shown in new study
    (April 7, 2014) — Children who are exposed to scenes of nature while exercising are more likely to experience health-enhancing effects after activity, according to a study. The researchers found that after the ‘green exercise’ the children’s post-activity blood pressure was significantly lower than it was without the simulated forest environment, indicating that the nature scenes promoted positive health effects. … > full story

    Drink milk? Women who do may delay knee osteoarthritis
    (April 7, 2014) — Women who frequently consume fat-free or low-fat milk may delay the progression of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. Results show that women who ate cheese saw an increase in knee OA progression. Yogurt did not impact OA progression in men or women. OA is a common, degenerative joint disease that causes pain and swelling of joints in the hand, hips, or knee. … > full story

    Spring allergies linked to specific food allergies, says specialist
    (April 7, 2014) — More than 45 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, primarily occurring in spring and fall. Food allergies are closely linked to spring allergies, says one expert. “Birch pollen often also means allergies to apples, peaches, carrots and celery while grass allergies can trigger melon, tomatoes and oranges reactions,” he says. “Ragweed, the most noxious allergen, is also linked to allergies to bananas, cucumber and cantaloupe.” … > full story

     

     

     

     



     

     


     


     


     


    ————

    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

    707-781-2555 x318

     

    www.pointblue.org  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!

     

    Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.

     

  10. An Earth Day Rap

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    April 2014

    AN EARTH DAY RAP

     

    Earth’s getting hot

    It’s gonna take a lot

    From all of us at home and school

    To keep our planet safe and cool

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Plastics in the sea

    Hurting fish, you and me

    Poisons in the air

    We’ve got to show we care

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

     

    Polar bears got no ice,

    Ocean’s getting sour,

    Floods, fires, drought and storms,

    But we’ve got the power!

     

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Plant flowers and trees

    For the birds and the bees

    Restore creeks and wetlands

    And protect our famileeees

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Seder’s here, matzoh and freedom

    Moses led us from Egypt to Eden

    Let’s not be slaves to wasteful ways

    Let’s lead the way to better days!

     

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Keep our planet blue and green

    It’s up to us—you know what I mean!

    Do your 4 R’s all the way

    and save our planet every day!

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Refuse… Buy fewer things

    Reduce… Use less and less

    Reuse… Use again and again

    Recycle…  Make new from old

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    (clap, clap, clap, clap)

     

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!

    Refuse…reduce…reuse…recycle!