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Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates May 11 2012

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Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

May 11, 2012


Highlights of the Week  – Groundwater extraction and Sea Level Rise and…















Highlights of the Week….   Groundwater extraction and Sea Level Rise; and…Can Geoengineering Solve Global Warming?; NASA’s James Hanson Op-Ed



Effect of Groundwater Use: Using Water from Wells Leads to Sea Level Rise, Cancels out Effect of Dams  ScienceDaily May 9, 2012

As people pump groundwater for irrigation, drinking water, and industrial uses, the water doesn’t just seep back into the ground As people pump groundwater for irrigation, drinking water, and industrial uses, the water doesn’t just seep back into the ground — it also evaporates into the atmosphere, or runs off into rivers and canals, eventually emptying into the world’s oceans. This water adds up, and a new study calculates that by 2050, groundwater pumping will cause a global sea level rise of about 0.8 millimeters per year.


“Other than ice on land, the excessive groundwater extractions are fast becoming the most important terrestrial water contribution to sea level rise,” said Yoshihide Wada, with Utrecht University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study. In the coming decades, he noted, groundwater contributions to sea level rise are expected to become as significant as those of melting glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and the Antarctic.


Between around 1970 and 1990, sea level rise caused by groundwater pumping was cancelled out as people built dams, trapping water in reservoirs so the water wouldn’t empty into the sea, Wada said. His research shows that starting in the 1990s, that changed as populations started pumping more groundwater and building fewer dams.


The researchers looked not only at the contribution of groundwater pumping, which they had investigated before, but also at other factors that influence the amount of terrestrial water entering the oceans, including marsh drainage, forest clearing, and new reservoirs. Wada and his colleagues calculate that by mid-century, the net effect of these additional factors is an additional 0.05 mm per year of annual sea level rise, on top of the contribution from groundwater pumping alone.


The research team’s article is being published May 9 in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The last report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 addressed the effect on sea level rise of melting ice on land, including glaciers and ice caps, Wada said. But it didn’t quantify the future contribution from other terrestrial water sources, such as groundwater, reservoirs, wetlands and more, he said, because the report’s authors thought the estimates for those sources were too uncertain.


“They assumed that the positive and negative contribution from the groundwater and the reservoirs would cancel out,” Wada said. “We found that wasn’t the case. The contribution from the groundwater is going to increase further, and outweigh the negative contribution from reservoirs.” In the current study, the researchers estimated the impact of groundwater depletion since 1900 using data from individual countries on groundwater pumping, model simulations of groundwater recharge, and reconstructions of how water demand has changed over the years. They also compared and corrected those estimates with observations from sources such as the GRACE satellite, which uses gravity measurements to determine variations in groundwater storage.


With these groundwater depletion rates, Wada and his colleagues estimate that in 2000, people pumped about 204 cubic kilometers (49 cubic miles) of groundwater, most of which was used for irrigation. Most of this, in turn, evaporates from plants, enters the atmosphere and rains back down. Taking into account the seepage of groundwater back into the aquifers, as well as evaporation and runoff, the researchers estimated that groundwater pumping resulted in sea level rise of about 0.57 mm in 2000 — much greater than the 1900 annual sea level rise of 0.035 mm.


The researchers also projected groundwater depletion, reservoir storage, and other impacts for the rest of the century, using climate models and projected population growth and land use changes. The increase in groundwater depletion between 1900 and 2000 is due mostly to increased water demands, the researchers find. But the increase projected between 2000 and 2050 is mostly due to climate-related factors like decreased surface water availability and irrigated agricultural fields that dry out faster in a warmer climate.


If things continue as projected, Wada estimates that by 2050, the net, cumulative effect of these non-ice, land-based water sources and reservoirs — including groundwater pumping, marsh drainage, dams, and more — will have added 31 mm to sea level rise since 1900. The new study assumes that, where there is groundwater, people will find a way to extract it, Wada said, but some of his colleagues are investigating the limits of groundwater extraction. One way to decrease groundwater’s contribution to sea level rise, he noted, is to improve water efficiency in agriculture — to grow more with less groundwater.


Journal Reference: Yoshihide Wada, Ludovicus P. H. van Beek, Frederiek C. Sperna Weiland, Benjamin F. Chao, Yun-Hao Wu, Marc F. P. Bierkens. Past and future contribution of global groundwater depletion to sea-level rise. Geophysical Research Letters, 2012; 39 (9) DOI: 10.1029/2012GL051230






Can Geoengineering Solve Global Warming? : The New Yorkerby Michael Specter · The Climate Fixers. Is there a technological solution to global warming? by Michael Specter May 14, 2012. Geoengineering holds out the promise of artificially


NASA’s JAMES HANSEN on Climate Change in NY Times Op-ED May 10 2012

Game Over for the Climate.” …….





  1. 1.       ECOLOGY


Less is more, for female cowbirds: Findings contradict sexual selection theory (May 4, 2012) — More modest male displays attract the females when it comes to brown-headed cowbirds, contrary to sexual selection theory, according to new research. While sexual selection theory predicts that females should find more flamboyant displays the most sexually attractive, the opposite holds true for brown-headed cowbirds, a small songbird common in North America. … > full story


Not always safety in numbers when it comes to extinction risk (May 8, 2012) — A basic tenet underpinning scientists’ understanding of extinction is that more abundant species persist longer than their less abundant counterparts. A new study reveals a much more complex relationship. A team of scientists analyzed more than 46,000 fossils from 52 sites and found that greater numbers did indeed help clam-like brachiopods survive the Ordovician extinction. Surprisingly, abundance did not help brachiopod species persist for extended periods outside of the extinction event. … > full story

One-quarter of grouper species being fished to extinction (May 9, 2012) — Groupers, a family of fishes often found in coral reefs and prized for their quality of flesh, are facing critical threats to their survival. Scientists report that 20 species are at risk of extinction if current overfishing trends continue, and an additional 22 species are near “threatened” status. … > full story

Plastic trash altering ocean habitats (May 8, 2012) — A 100-fold upsurge in human-produced plastic garbage in the ocean is altering habitats in the marine environment, according to a new study. … > full story

Bats, whales, and bio-sonar: New findings about whales’ foraging behavior reveal surprising evolutionary convergence (May 8, 2012) — Though they evolved separately over millions of years in different worlds of darkness, bats and toothed whales use surprisingly similar acoustic behavior to locate, track, and capture prey using echolocation, the biological equivalent of sonar. Now researchers have shown that the acoustic behavior of these two types of animals while hunting is eerily similar. … > full story

Built-in ear plugs: Whales may turn down their hearing sensitivity when warned of an impending loud noise (May 8, 2012) — Toothed whales navigate through sometimes dark and murky waters by emitting clicks and then interpreting the pattern of sound that bounces back. The animals’ hearing can pick up faint echoes, but that sensitivity can be a liability around loud noises. Now researchers have discovered that whales may protect their ears by lowering their hearing sensitivity when warned of an imminent loud sound. … > full story


Logging of tropical forests needn’t devastate environment (May 10, 2012) — Harvesting tropical forests for timber may not be the arch-enemy of conservation that it was once assumed to be, according to a new study. … > full story

Beetle-fungus disease threatens crops and landscape trees in Southern California (May 8, 2012) — A plant pathologist has identified a fungus that has been linked to the branch dieback and general decline of several backyard avocado and landscape trees in residential neighborhoods of Los Angeles County. The fungus, which caused avocado dieback in Israel, is a new species of Fusarium and is transmitted by the Tea Shot Hole Borer, a beetle no larger than a sesame seed. … > full story


Gas development pushing pronghorn out of vital wintering grounds

Development of natural gas fields in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is pushing pronghorn out of crucial wintering grounds, a situation that could result in a population decline according to a new study in Biological Conservation. By tracking 125 female pronghorn over five years in Wyoming, researchers found that highest quality habitat had fallen by over 80 percent in two vast gas fields on land owned by the government’s Bureau of Land Management. More


Keep off beaches, Peru warns after pelican deaths

Reuters – ‎ May 7, 2012‎

At least 1200 birds, mostly pelicans, washed up dead along a stretch of Peru’s northern Pacific coastline in recent weeks, health officials said, after an estimated 800 dolphins died in the same area in recent months…. “We’re starting from the hypothesis that it’s because the birds are young and unable to find enough food for themselves, and also because the sea temperature has risen and anchovies have moved elsewhere,” said Deputy Agriculture Minister Juan Rheineck. A mass pelican death along Peru’s northern coast in 1997 was blamed at the time on a shortage of feeder anchovies due to the El Nino weather phenomenon…..


Researchers: Marine insect laying eggs on plastic debris in the ‘Great Pacific …

Washington Post (blog) – ‎May 8, 2012

SAN DIEGO – An increase in plastic debris floating in a zone between Hawaii and California is changing the environment of at least one marine critter, scientists reported. Over the past four decades, the amount of broken-down plastic has grown….


Study: Plastic in ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ increases 100-fold (blog) – ‎May 9, 2012‎

By Ian Johnston, The amount of plastic trash in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has increased 100-fold during the past 40 years, causing “profound” changes to the marine environment, according to a new study.


Weed-eating fish ‘help protect jobs, livelihoods’ (May 8, 2012) — Jobs, livelihoods and ecotourism industries can benefit from having a diverse supply of weed-eating fish on the world’s coral reefs, marine researchers say. Despite their small size, relative to the sharks, whales, and turtles that often get more attention, herbivorous fish play a vital role in maintaining the health of coral reefs, which support the livelihoods of 500 million people worldwide, say researchers. … > full story


Slaughtering animals without prior stunning should be curbed, if not banned, professor urges (May 5, 2012) — The slaughter of animals for commercial meat supply without stunning them first should at the very least be curbed, if not banned, concludes a former president of the British Veterinary Association in an opinion piece in this week’s Veterinary Record. … > full story


70 percent of beaches eroding on Hawaiian islands Kauai, Oahu, and Maui (May 7, 2012) — An assessment of coastal change over the past century has found 70 percent of beaches on the islands of Kaua»i, O»ahu, and Maui are undergoing long-term erosion, according to new results. … > full story

Taking America’s rarest snake back to the woods (May 7, 2012) — Biologists have released seven young Louisiana pine snakes on a restored longleaf pine stand in the Kisatchie National Forest in Louisiana. The release is the fourth in two years, part of a plan to restore a very rare snake to its range in Louisiana. … > full story


Western states prepare for dangerous fire season Victorville Daily Press, 4/30/12
The West’s 2012 wildfire season exploded in earnest last month with a wind-whipped blaze that killed three people in rugged alpine canyon country near Denver. It took a 700-strong federal firefighting team a week of labor, day and night, to tame the blaze — and other states throughout the West took notice. This year’s drought, low snowpack and record-high temperatures have local fire authorities preparing for another scorching fire season with a combination of education and training …. Nearly all of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah have drought conditions that should persist at least through June….


Dry rivers, vibrant with culture and life (May 7, 2012) — Dry rivers are more than mere desiccated shells of their robustly flowing incarnations, say Australian ecologists. They have qualities and inhabitants distinct from their adjacent riversides wet-phase communities. They are places of isolation and re-connection, and oases for humans and wildlife. … > full story


County outlines groundwater project agreement Riverside Press-Enterprise, 5/1/12
San Bernardino County supervisors advanced “a controversial proposal to draw water from ancient aquifers in the Mojave Desert” including “44 miles of pipeline to move surplus water from the Colorado Aqueduct to an underground basin the size of Rhode Island. The water rights under 34,000 acres belong to Cadiz Inc., which also wants to tap water from beneath nearby dry lake beds that it says would otherwise be lost to evaporation. The Cadiz project has been rejected and reworked since … 1997. Environmentalists say it would deplete ancient groundwater that feeds area springs and sustains local wildlife. One-third of the aquifer sits below the Mojave National Preserve.


Water pipeline dreams revived in the desert San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/29/12
Eager to diversify its water supplies, the San Diego County Water Authority has resurrected a long-shot plan that could top $2 billion to build a pipeline for importing water directly from Imperial County …. Water brought from the desert would involve a combination of tunnels, pipes, canals and pump stations at a cost that was pegged at up to nearly $2 billion a decade ago …. A final report in 2002 noted the difficulty of navigating the extensive federal land holdings and the potential ecological impacts…

Means to detect low-level exposure to seafood toxin in marine animals developed (May 4, 2012) — Scientists have discovered a biological marker in the blood of laboratory zebrafish and marine mammals that shows when they have been repeatedly exposed to low levels of domoic acid, which is potentially toxic at high levels. … > full story


Agricultural bacteria: Blowing in the wind (May 9, 2012) — The 1930s Dust Bowl proved what a disastrous effect wind can have on dry, unprotected topsoil. Now a new study has uncovered a less obvious, but equally troubling, impact of wind: Not only can it carry away soil particles, but also agriculturally important bacteria that build soil and recycle nutrients. … > full story








Early spring means more bat girls (May 4, 2012) — A study on bats suggests that bats produce twice as many female babies as male ones in years when spring comes early. … > full story


Twenty-first-century warming of a large Antarctic ice-shelf cavity by a redirected coastal current ▶
Hartmut H. Hellmer, Frank Kauker, Ralph Timmermann, Jürgen Determann & Jamie Rae
The redirection of warm water under the Filchner–Ronne Ice Shelf during the second half of this century could cause the ice-shelf base to melt at a rate 20 times higher than at present.


Antarctic octopus study shows West Antarctic Ice Sheet may have collapsed 200,000 years ago (May 9, 2012) — Scientists have found that genetic information on the Antarctic octopus supports studies indicating that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could have collapsed during its history, possibly as recently as 200,000 years ago. … > full story

New research brings satellite measurements and global climate models closer (May 7, 2012) — One popular climate record that shows a slower atmospheric warming trend than other studies contains a data calibration problem, and when the problem is corrected the results fall in line with other records and climate models, according to a new study. … > full story

European mountain plant population shows delayed response to climate change (May 7, 2012) — A modeling study from the European Alps suggests that population declines to be observed during the upcoming decades will probably underestimate the long-term effects of recent climate warming on mountain plants. A European team of ecologists has presented a new modeling tool to predict migration of mountain plants which explicitly takes population dynamic processes into account. … > full story


Climate Sensitivity Estimated From Earth’s Climate History – DRAFT

James E. Hansen and Makiko Sato May 2012 DRAFT NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute, New York


Earth’s climate history potentially can yield accurate assessment of climate sensitivity. Imprecise knowledge of glacial-to-interglacial global temperature change is the biggest obstacle to accurate assessment of the fast-feedback climate sensitivity, which is the sensitivity that most immediately affects humanity. Our best estimate for the fast-feedback climate sensitivity from Holocene initial conditions is 3 ± 0.5°C for 4 W/m2 CO2 forcing (68% probability) . Slow feedbacks, including ice sheet disintegration and release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by the climate system, generally amplify total Earth system climate sensitivity. Slow feedbacks make Earth system climate sensitivity highly dependent on the initial climate state and on the magnitude and sign of the climate forcing, because of thresholds (tipping points) in the slow feedbacks. It is difficult to assess the speed at which slow feedbacks will become important in the future, because of the absence in paleoclimate history of any positive (warming) forcing rivaling the speed at which the human-caused forcing is growing.

Summary……We have made a case that the paleoclimate data already restricts the fast-feedback climate sensitivity from Holocene initial conditions to the moderately narrow range 3 ± 0.5°C for a 4 W/m2 CO2 forcing, but this still leaves a large range (2-4°C) for 95 percent confidence. We suggest that the uncertainty could be reduced substantially via appropriate focused efforts to define paleoclimate global temperature change and paleoclimate forcings with the help of the most relevant climate models.

In particular the uncertainty in the magnitude of global cooling during the Last Glacial Maximum is a principle constraint on better assessment of the fast-feedback climate sensitivity. The climate research community, interpreting the large array of data now available for the LGM with the help of the best available global three-dimensional models, should be able to define surface conditions with improved accuracy. The large climate change that occurred at the onset of the prior (Eemian) interglacial period would also be a useful period to study. The potential magnitude of the human-made climate forcing and the fact that fossil fuel carbon dioxide will remain in the surface climate system for millennia make it important that we also understand slow climate feedbacks and Earth system climate sensitivity. Indeed, the paleoclimate record already makes clear that, overall, slow feedbacks considerably amplify climate sensitivity. The human-made climate forcing seems to be unique in its rapidity of growth, which demands a research approach that focuses on understanding the relevant processes and on constructing models or other analysis tools that help predict likely outcomes. A focus on improving the data and modeling of relatively rapid events, such as deglaciation and PETM-like rapid warming events may be especially fruitful.


Lessons From Past Predictions: Hansen 1981

Posted: 08 May 2012 08:30 AM PDT by Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science

In previous Lessons from Past Predictions entries we examined Hansen et al.’s 1988 global warming projections (here and here).  However, James Hansen was also the lead author on a previous study from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) projecting global warming in 1981, which readers may have surmised from my SkS ID, is as old as I am.  This ancient projection was made back when climate science and global climate models were still in their relative infancy, and before global warming had really begun to kick in (Figure 1)…..



U.S. completes warmest 12-month period in 117 years

By Jason Samenow  Link: State of the Climate, National Overview, April 2012
May 2011 to April 12 ranked as the warmest 12-month stretch over the U.S. since records began in 1895 (NOAA NCDC) As far back as records go (1895), never has the U.S. strung together 12 straight months warmer than May 2011 to April 2012 according to new data released today by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .  The record-setting 12-month period edged out November 1999-October 2000, the 2nd warmest 12-month period, by 0.1°F. The average temperature was 2.8 degrees F above the 20th century average.  In the last year, the U.S. has experienced its second hottest summer, fourth warmest winter (December through February) and warmest March on record. And NCDC announced April 2012 was third warmest on record.



U.S. Experiences Warmest 12-Month Period On Record And Most Extreme January to April  Posted: 08 May 2012 01:16 PM PDT





Climate change poses challenges for Idaho water managers

The Republic – May 8 2012

AP BOISE, Idaho – Scientists say climate change is making it tougher for Idaho reservoir managers to forecast weather, control floods and manage water for farming, recreation and fisheries…



Supporting Canada’s Coasts Can Benefit Climate and Economy

3 May 2012  Montreal/Nairobi — Reversing the degradation of coastal ecosystems in Canada and elsewhere can play an important role in tackling climate change, while bringing additional benefits to biodiversity and the economies of coastal communities. This was the central message delivered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) during an event held by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Montreal. From Canada to Cancun, coastal ecosystems store high levels of carbon in their soil. This so-called “Blue Carbon” is found in tidal salt marshes, grassy meadows subject to the rise and fall of ocean tides, and their tropical cousins, mangrove swamps. … Despite Canada’s cold climate, the country’s salt marshes store as much carbon as in warmer climes, explains Dr. Gail Chmura, a coastal researcher at McGill University, who spoke at the UNEP side event….Reversing the degradation of coastal ecosystems in Canada and elsewhere can play an important role in tackling climate change, while bringing additional benefits to biodiversity and the economies of coastal communities. In fact, Chmura and colleagues have calculated that the restoration of Canada’s drained agricultural marshes will provide ecosystem services worth $14,535 per hectare and a renewed sink for carbon dioxide equivalent to 6 per cent of Canada’s original commitment for reductions under the Kyoto Protocol.



Climate change could affect wheat production: Govt report

Times of India – May 9, 2012

NEW DELHI: A one degree celsius rise in temperature associated with increase in carbondioxide in atmosphere could hit wheat production in India unless “adaptation” strategies are adopted, according to a government report on climate change.

Japan: Fukushima Prefecture to restore destroyed coastal forests
With the help of generous prefectures, Fukushima Prefecture is starting a nine-year plan to restore disaster-prevention coastal forests along a 145-kilometer stretch of the 185-km tsunami-inundated coastline. The prefecture will plant 4.6 million seedlings in an area covering about 460 hectares, or about 700,000 seedlings annually for seven years, starting in fiscal 2014.

Canada: Purple martins come home
The spring return of the purple martin to Victoria marks an environmental success story, a species rebound for a bird whose B.C. numbers were near zero only decades ago. “It’s a good-news story,” said Nightingale. “Because of the nest boxes, we now have about 800 breeding pairs.” As recently as 1985, observers were reporting fewer than 10 breeding pairs of purple martins in all of B.C.

California: Restoring Rare Seabirds at the Channel Islands
Channel Islands National Park and its partners have worked together to restore, monitor, and conserve critical nesting habitat for a variety of key species like Xantus’s murrelet, ashy storm-petrel and Cassin’s auklets. The Channel Islands host half of the world’s population of ashy storm-petrels and 80 percent of the U.S. breeding population of Xantus’s murrelets.


Gaseous emissions from dinosaurs may have warmed prehistoric Earth (May 7, 2012) — Sauropod dinosaurs could in principle have produced enough of the greenhouse gas methane to warm the climate many millions of years ago, at a time when the Earth was warm and wet. That’s according to calculations reported in the May 8 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. … > full story






acquired July 12, 2008 – April 16, 2012 download animation (13 MB, QuickTime)

After cooling the eastern tropical Pacific for the second winter in a row—and teaming with other large-scale weather patterns to wreak havoc on North American winter—La Niña ended in April 2012. Researchers from the Climate Prediction Center of the U.S. National Weather Service reported on May 3 that the Pacific has transitioned to “neutral conditions, which are expected to continue through northern summer 2012.” La Niña and El Niño are alternating patterns of ocean and atmospheric circulation that have a distinct impact on weather around the Pacific basin. La Niña brings cooler waters and stronger trade winds to the tropical Pacific, boosting precipitation in western Pacific nations like Australia and Indonesia and drying out southern North America. The pattern can alter the path of the jet stream and other atmospheric phenomena….Over yearly scales, the height of the ocean surface is driven by the temperature of the water—warmer water expands to a greater volume than cooler water—and by winds. (Click here to see a map of sea surface temperatures for roughly the same period as the images above.)  Sea surface temperatures (SST) show the surface manifestation of La Niña and El Niño; this is what the atmosphere ‘feels,’” says Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Sea surface height shows how much heat has been redistributed in the equatorial Pacific. These are very complementary. SST shows what the atmosphere is responding to, while SSH shows how intense the event is.”










New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, May 1, 2012, 4:29 p.m.

A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted. .. More than 5,000 wells were drilled in the Marcellus between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to the study, which was published in the journal Ground Water two weeks ago. Operators inject up to 4 million gallons of fluid, under more than 10,000 pounds of pressure, to drill and frack each well…



Shale Energy Boom Puts America In The Top Ten Gas Flaring Countries, Boosting Global Warming Pollution

Posted: 03 May 2012 12:04 PM PDT


Interior releases draft rule requiring public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands Department of the Interior, 5/4/12
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the release of a proposed rule to require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations on public and Indian lands, with appropriate protections for proprietary information. Currently, there is no specific requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals on federal and Indian lands.





  1. 4.    POLICY


Quebec joins California in cap and trade market

David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, 05/10/12

California may not have to go it alone on cap-and-trade after all. Under rules proposed Wednesday by state regulators, the Canadian province of Quebec will link its cap-and-trade system to California’s in November. The joint market will allow businesses in…



Our Government and the Case for Young People From Jim Hanson:A discussion about an important hearing that will be held in Washington, DC at 9:30 AM on Friday, May 11 can also be found on my website.  If you are in the neighborhood, please consider attending.  The science rationale for the plaintiffs happens to be that in our paper The Case for Young People.


FWS and NOAA Fisheries make critical habitat designations clearer
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service have taken a significant step in their effort to make the process of proposing or changing boundaries of critical habitat designations for species protected by the Endangered Species Act, more efficient, less complex and less expensive. By eliminating lengthy textual descriptions and replacing them with maps illustrating critical habitat boundaries, the two agencies will effectively provide landowners and the general public with information that is clearer, while simultaneously reducing costs for the American taxpayer. More


Suggestions in changing Wildlife Services range from new practices to outright bans By Tom Knudson  Sacramento Bee Published: Sunday, May. 6, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A Last of three parts

Like many ranchers, Bill Jensen drives a pickup, shoots a high-powered rifle and loves to talk about sheep, cattle and the outdoors. But unlike many ranchers, he no longer relies on the federal government for predator control. Nor does the Marin County rancher have a choice. Ten years ago Marin, known for its environmental activism, halted lethal federal control and launched a program emphasizing nonlethal methods. Jensen, initially skeptical, has turned the program into a success with miles of electric fencing…..


Jobs In Rural Western Counties With More Than 30% Protected Public Lands Increased 300% Over Last 40 Years

Posted: 04 May 2012 06:29 AM PDT by Jessica Goad

A report released yesterday by consulting firm Headwaters Economics continues to shed light on the economic importance of protected public lands to local economies in the American West. It finds that there were more than four times as many jobs created in non-metro counties with protected public lands compared to those without. This data contradicts the ideological rhetoric of many Republicans seeking to throw open more federal acres to mining and drilling. As the report states, over 40 years: Western non-metro counties with more than 30% of lands federally protected increased jobs by 344%….


Private water industry defends ALEC membership

Sarah Pavlus | 05.03.12 | 12:03 pm

An influential trade association representing companies that provide water services to one in four Americans says it will continue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that has worked with the energy industry to create loophole-filled water protections and opposes federal oversight of fracking. The National Association of Water Companies represents the far-reaching privatized water utility industry that serves “nearly 73 million people every day,” according to the association’s website. NAWC represents more than 150 private water companies, each of whom pay an annual fee to the association. Its board of directors is drawn from the leadership of some of the country’s largest water companies. NAWC works with ALEC to persuade state and local officials to adopt policies favorable to the private water industry. NAWC declined to comment on when it first became involved with ALEC and the amount it pays in annual dues. According to The New York Times, ALEC “is primarily financed by more than 200 private-sector members, whose annual dues of $7,000 to $25,000 accounted for most of its $7 million budget in 2010….


Challenges in genetically engineered crop regulatory process (May 8, 2012) — A new innovation can completely reshape an industry — inspiring both optimism and debate. The development of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the 1980’s ignited a buzz in the agricultural community with the potential for higher crop yields and better nutritional content, along with the reduction of herbicide and pesticide use. GE crops grew to play a significant role in the U.S., with more than 160 million acres of farmland used to produce GE crops in 2011. … > full story


National Clean Energy Standard Would Lower Power Sector CO2 Emissions 44% By 2035  Posted: 07 May 2012 01:08 PM PDT

There’s no way around it: we need a price on carbon in order to rapidly reduce emissions. But absent that necessary policy, putting the investment structure in place to promote renewables can also have a substantial impact on lowering emissions. A new analysis from the Energy Information Administration of a Clean Energy Standard (CES) proposed by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman finds that strong clean energy targets would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the electricity sector by 44 percent over the next two decades….


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: ‘Climate Change Has A Dramatic Impact On National Security’

Posted: 07 May 2012 09:25 AM PDT by Arpita Bhattacharyya

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta joined the chorus of academics, policymakers, and security analysts concerned about the “dramatic” impacts of climate change on national security. “Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said Panetta at a recent event at the Environmental Defense Fund. While Congress continues to waver on mitigation measures and debate the science, the U.S. defense, development, and diplomacy establishments are already grappling with the impacts of climate change in their work at home and abroad. The latest Quadrennial Defense Review recognized climate change as an “accelerant of instability or conflict” and emphasized the challenges U.S. and partner militaries will face in light of rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events, desertification and water scarcity.  USAID is working to integrate climate change into its development efforts, particularly in their agriculture and technology programs. And at the State Department, U.S. negotiators are exploring options to make the Green Climate Fund a reality to support climate change adaptation in vulnerable countries….


Report: U.S. Environmental Satellite System ‘Is At Risk Of Collapse’ And Could Decline 75% By 2020 Posted: 08 May 2012 12:18 PM PDT

The Nation’s leading scientists have issued a stark warning: America’s ability to monitor the environment is rapidly diminishing. And if we don’t properly fund our satellite capabilities, the country could lose three quarters of its Earth observation systems by 2020. That alarming conclusion comes from the National Research Council in a new report assessing the progress of the nation’s Earth observation programs. In short: our leading scientific institutions aren’t actually making much progress….


If the levee breaks …

Expert fears Stockton residents’ lack of flood awareness puts them at risk

STOCKTON – It is this city’s westernmost frontier, an urban finger poking into the Delta.

Spanos Park West is also one of the more educated and affluent parts of town, where families stroll through an expansive green park and signs advertise tryouts for the local swim team. Yet even here, researchers have discovered what they consider to be a startling lack of awareness about the likelihood – sooner or later – of a flood….


Heartland Institute buys Chicago billboards along Eisenhower Expressway

Heartland Institute Compares Climate Science Believers And Reporters To Mass ‘Murderers And Madmen’

Posted: 04 May 2012 07:50 AM PDT The Heartland Institute has launched one of the most offensive billboard campaigns in U.S. history. The Chicago-based anti-science think tank is comparing all those who accept climate science — and the journalists who report on it accurately — to Charles Manson, the Unabomber, and Osama Bin Laden.  This far-beyond-the-pale ad campaign to promote their Chicago conference later this month is a moment of truth for both the think tank and the broader community of disinformers and their enablers.



Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, XL Group Announce Withdrawal from ‘Radical’ Heartland Institute  Posted: 07 May 2012 10:42 AM PDT





Heartland Institute Pulls Its Global Warming Ad

By RACHEL NUWER (NYT) May 6, 2012

The Heartland Institute ended a billboard campaign that compared those who believe in climate science to what it called “the world’s most notorious killers.”



Connecticut – To Repair the Shore, or Retreat?

By LISA PREVOST (NYT) May 6, 2012

Connecticut state lawmakers have formed a Shoreline Preservation Task Force to grapple with the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.



Thompson bill would add southern Mendocino Coast to national monument Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 4/27/12
Stornetta Public Lands, 1,132 acres located along Mendocino County’s south coast, could receive additional protection” under legislation introduced last week….H.R. 4969 would add the land — overseen by the Bureau of Land Management– to the California Coastal National Monument….



San Anselmo and Fairfax parks slated to become flood ‘detention basins’

By Paul Liberatore Marin Independent Journal Posted:   05/06/2012 07:10:24 AM PDT

Flood waters recede from downtown San Anselmo on Dec. 31, 2005. (IJ photo/Alan Dep) (Alan Dep)

A $71 million flood control project for the Ross Valley that involves building five “detention basins” — including one that would fill Memorial Park in San Anselmo with floodwater — was outlined Saturday at a community meeting in the student union at Sir Francis Drake High School. In addition to the basins, the 10-year work plan includes increasing the capacity of creeks in 180 critical areas, rebuilding bridges and retaining walls and dredging and restoring tidal marshes. As outlined by engineers from the Marin County Department of Works Flood Control staff, the prodigious project is being designed to protect the Ross Valley from the kind of 100-year flood that devastated the towns of Fairfax, San Anselmo and Ross on New Year’s Eve 2005, wreaking $100 million in property damage….





  1. 5.    RESOURCES


California Climate Adaptation Policy Guide – Public Review Phase– COMMENTS DUE BY JUNE 8 2012

The California Natural Resources Agency, in partnership with the California Emergency Management Agency and with support from California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly), are developing an Adaptation Policy Guide (APG) to provide a decision‐making framework intended for use by local and regional stakeholders to aid in the interpretation of climate science and to develop a systematic rationale for reducing risks caused, or exacerbated, by climate change. The APG is not intended to provide a prescriptive set of strategies. Instead, it will provide a framework to guide decision makers through the critical considerations necessary for adaptation policy development.

Public comments on the Draft APG are being sought, and the document is now available for public review. To view the Draft APG, please choose the link below: Draft California Climate Adaptation Policy Guide  The public comment period began April 9th, concurrent with the Draft APG’s announcement at the Impacts and Adaptation Local Government Conference. This public review phase has been extended and will close on Friday, June 8th, 2012.


Sustainability– Special Issue Terrestrial Ecosystem Restoration-Call for PapersDue Aug 31

6th Annual Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration– Oct. 20-24
Publishing Internship at Frontiers – Ecological Society of America

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is looking for an intern, to be based at its Washington, DC, office, to help with the production of its journals, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment ( The internship is a great opportunity to learn about scientific publishing.=  Depending on experience and aptitude, the intern will be involved in many  different aspects of journal production, including editing/proofreading, news writing, podcasting, and image research, as well as other day-to-day activities of the editorial office. The internship includes a small stipend. The successful applicant should be a graduate student with a knowledge of ecology and/or environmental science; an interest in, or experience with, publishing or science writing would be an advantage. Resume and cover letter, together with letters from two referees, should be sent electronically to Dr Sue Silver, Frontiers Editor-in-Chief ( Please specify availability between mid-May and end of August.  Closing date for applications is May 21, 2011. The ESA is a non-partisan, nonprofit professional society, founded in 1915  to promote ecological science. Applicants unfamiliar with the ESA are encouraged to visit and



Webinar: Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change


EPA to Host a webinar on Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal Habitat Restoration on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. EDT. Representatives from Restore America’s Estuaries will give an overview of a newly released study linking ecologically important coastal habitat restoration with adaptation and mitigation strategies as a way to reduce the impacts of ongoing global climate change. The report, “Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal Habitat Restoration,” demonstrates that large-scale coastal wetland restoration – from restoring salt marshes to protecting mangroves and creating new coastal wetland habitats – can be an integral part of public and private initiatives to combat climate change. The report is a multi-author collaboration bringing together internationally recognized experts in environmental science, policy, and habitat management. For more information, click here. To register, click here.


Wildlife Refuge Manager, GS-0485-15, San Francisco Bay NWR Complex  (OPEN: May 4- 25, 2012) This vacancy announcement provides an opportunity to manage seven National Wildlife Refuges covering 46,000 acres located in 11 counties in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas of California. In addition to the day-to-day management of salt marsh, managed ponds, coastal beach and island habitats, as well as providing recreation opportunities for 800,000 visitors and environmental education programs from around 10,000 school children each year, this refuge complex manager also oversees the largest tidal restoration project along the west coast. All these activities occur within a highly supportive environment of the San Francisco Bay area. This is a high energy, but extremely rewarding job.

PaCOOS (Pacific Coast Ocean Observing System) report, Quarter 1, 2012, of Physical and Ecological Conditions in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem that extends from Vancouver Island, Canada along the West Coast of the U.S. and the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. You can find the report at The material for the report is a combination of summaries from selected government, industry and academic websites as well as emails from researchers along the CA Current.  Please feel free to circulate to other interested parties who can sign up directly by emailing Rosa Runcie <>.



I’m for the River” Campaign! San Joaquin River Partnership — the campaign website, video, and electronic letters of support are ready and available for use at

The California Water Foundation’s (CWF) vision is to sustainably meet California’s 21st century economic and ecological water needs.

CWF supports innovative projects and policies that address water challenges today, while bringing together experts, stakeholders, and the public to achieve long-term, science-based solutions for the future….. 









How BrightSource’s Solar Power Plant Reduces Its Footprint Forbes, 4/30/12
The $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar-power plant is expected to be the largest concentrated-solar plant in the world. It creates electricity … with thousands of mirrors, called heliostats, that bounce the sun’s rays onto a tower.” The need to generate power “while sitting astride fragile tortoise habitat … has provoked a rethinking of what’s needed to make a power plant — or rather what is not needed. Limits imposed by government, environment and environmentalists have pared the plant down to its essentials. The designer, BrightSource Energy, has figured out how to use these limits to its advantage by saving money on construction and maintenance…


Secrets of the first practical artificial leaf (May 9, 2012) — A detailed description of development of the first practical artificial leaf — a milestone in the drive for sustainable energy that mimics the process, photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert water and sunlight into energy — has just been published. The article notes that unlike earlier devices, which used costly ingredients, the new device is made from inexpensive materials and employs low-cost engineering and manufacturing processes. … > full story

Optimal planning of solar power plants (May 10, 2012) — The photovoltaics industry is booming, and the market for solar farms is growing quickly all over the world. Yet, the task of planning PV power plants to make them as effi cient as possible is far from trivial. Researchers have now developed software that simplifies conceptual design. … > full story
T. Boone Pickens: Biggest Deterrent To U.S. Energy Plan Is Koch Industries

By Morgan Korn | Daily Ticker – Wed, May 2, 2012 8:55 AM EDT Investor T. Boone Pickens has made a fortune over the years running an energy-oriented hedge fund, and in recent years he’s been placing big bets on the natural gas and wind industries. The 83-year-old founder and CEO of BP Capital has been one of the most fervent supporters of natural gas, promoting its usage throughout the country and trying to convince lawmakers, including President Obama, that natural gas could be the energy solution that ends the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The U.S. has an abundance of natural gas, which is found in rock and shale formations. Booming production and growing investment in the field has led to a natural gas supply glut, pushing the price down nearly 50% over the past 12 months. A new government report found that natural gas held in storage is 55.4% above the five-year average. Although natural gas prices have rallied more than 20% in the past week, prices are still down 19% since Jan 1. Pickens predicts that the downward spiral may finally be over. “It’s pitifully low, but we have probably seen the bottom,” he tells Aaron Task at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles…..



First-Ever Solar Project To Generate Electricity On Public Lands Begins Delivering Power

Posted: 08 May 2012 09:25 AM PDT By Jessica Goad Yesterday the Silver State North Solar Project on the California border near Primm, Nevada began generating electricity. It is the first-ever solar project sited on public lands to be completed and produce power. The 50-megawatt project, which was developed by First Solar and owned by Enbridge, will power approximately 9,000 homes. It employed 380 workers at peak construction, just a portion of Nevada’s 17,254 jobs in green goods and services….




Our Massive Marine Energy Potential: Scouring The Tropics For Thermal Energy

Posted: 08 May 2012 07:30 AM PDT by Bruce Dorminey, via Renewable Energy World

The world’s largest untapped source of solar energy doesn’t lie on the vast sands of the Sahara or even atop the high chaparral of the desert Southwest. Instead, it stretches across at least 23 million square miles of earth’s tropical oceans; the uppermost layers of which make a prime natural source of thermal energy. Regardless of time of day or cloud cover, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) promises to harness this thermal sea-based resource year round. OTEC production converts heat energy from seawater into kinetic energy using the ocean’s naturally steep temperature gradient.  It’s this juxtaposition of tropical (and sometimes subtropical) subsurface seawater at temperatures typically above 80 degrees F. and below 40 degrees F. that makes OTEC possible…..



The Battery-Driven Car Just Got a Lot More Normal

Bradley Berman for The New York Times

STAR POWER As handsome as its gasoline-powered siblings, the Ford Focus Electric is identifiable mainly by discreet badges. More Photos »


Published: May 4, 2012


Other news from








Clean animals result in fewer E. coli (May 4, 2012) — Following the E. coli case in Norway in 2006, when 17 people fell ill and one child died after eating mutton sausages, the meat industry introduced a number of measures in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning from meat. Clean animals and good hygiene during slaughtering are essential preconditions for food safety. … > full story


Aspen Ski Area hosts ski race without snow to highlight effects of climate change  By Associated Press, Published: May 5 ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen Ski Area hosted a ski race without snow Saturday to highlight the effect climate change has on the outdoor recreation industry.  Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Company’s vice president of sustainability, says “climate change is already pounding businesses and communities, whether you’re a ski resort, an insurance agency or a raft business.


Flooding, climate concerns spur demonstrations in Sacramento area

By Edward Ortiz – Updated: 8:56 am Concerns that area rivers will flow high in winter and that extreme weather events will result in floods were on the minds of 50 people who gathered Saturday morning at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area levee as part of a worldwide demonstration


False Balance On Climate Change at PBS NewsHour

Posted: 03 May 2012 02:37 PM PDT

False balance is alive and well even at the so-called liberal media, the PBS NewsHour.

The story in question, which aired Monday, is “Teachers Endure Balancing Act Over Climate Change Curriculum.”  Unfortunately, PBS treats the subject as if they were a teacher straitjacketed by some absurd state law forcing them to maximize confusion: PBS doesn’t actually interview a single climate scientist for the story…. The disinformers are helping to ruin our children’s future and have no place in a story on climate education…..


Birds of a feather talk together (AUSTRALIA)
Pet parrots, such as cockatoos, that are let loose in the wild are teaching native birds to talk.


Hug the Monster’ for Realistic Hope in Global Warming (or How to Transform Your Fearful Inner Climate)  ABC May 8 2012

“Established scientists, community and government leaders and journalists, as they describe the disruptions, suffering and destruction that manmade global warming is already producing, with far worse in the offing if humanity doesn’t somehow control it, are starting to allow themselves publicly to use terms like “calamity,” “catastrophe”, and “risk to the collective civilization.”

“Sooner or later, everyone who learns about the rapid advance of manmade global warming must deal with the question of fear.”

“Careful not to prompt destructive panic, nor to lose credibility, responsible experts have been careful to temper their public depictions of what the world’s climate science has been revealing about the worst effects — if humanity does not handle the problem immediately — of the rapid climatic and oceanic changes already under way. But clearly, with so enormous and inclusive a truth as this one, the proven details of which are widely available to anyone with access to the Internet, “the truth will out, we see it day by day,” as English poet Geoffrey Chaucer wrote long ago.

And so, inevitably, experts and leaders around the world are beginning to be more open about the frightening prospects. However, in doing so, they are also beginning to demonstrate how to hug this monster — to embrace the fear it instills. They need to have done so to speak with credibility.”



2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Finalists The Buckminster Fuller Challenge, named “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award” by Metropolis Magazine, is the annual global competition recognizing bold, visionary, tangible initiatives that take a comprehensive, anticipatory, design science approach to radically advance human well being and the health of our planet’s ecosystems. Among other criteria, entrants are judged on the feasibility of their initiative, whether it is able to withstand rigorous empirical testing, its ability to not only sustain, but enhance the environment, and its ability to scale and adapt to a broad range of conditions.
Finalists Are:


Must-Read: The Powerful Final Words of Ecotopia Author Ernest Callenbach Posted: 07 May 2012 08:26 AM PDT

This document was found on the computer of Ecotopia author Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012) after his death. It was originally published at TomDispatch.

To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support — a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging.

As I survey my life, which is coming near its end, I want to set down a few thoughts that might be useful to those coming after. It will soon be time for me to give back to Gaia the nutrients that I have used during a long, busy, and happy life. I am not bitter or resentful at the approaching end; I have been one of the extraordinarily lucky ones. So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times…..


Obesity Rates Keep Soaring, In Part Because Of Car Dependence

Posted: 09 May 2012 06:29 AM PDT

by Kaid Benfield, via NRDC’s Switchboard

The headline in Tuesday’s USA Today was shocking: “Obesity could affect 42% of Americans by 2030.”  That is nearly triple the rate experienced just three decades ago, according to an article written by Nanci Hellmich. At current rates, eleven percent of Americans could be “severely obese, roughly 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight.”…. like global warming, it has become more pronounced gradually and tends not to have sudden and dramatic consequences.  We get used to it.  But, unlike global warming, the environmental factors associated with the rise in obesity have not attracted the attention of the environmental community to any great degree. As Dick Jackson — one of the country’s top environmental health experts — has been telling us for years, this needs to change.  There are all sorts of causes of the obesity epidemic, including of course poor nutrition.  But the downturn in physical activity because of the way we have designed our cities and suburbs — for driving more than walking — is also a significant factor.  There are studies showing that transit use is associated with reduced body weight, as is is the presence of shops and services within walking distance of the home. …  Nate Berg, writing for The Atlantic Cities, reported yesterday that a new study of automobile commuters has found that, the longer the commute, the more likely one is to have reduced fitness, increased weight, high cholesterol, and elevated blood pressure…


Mural found on walls a first for a Maya dwelling; Painted numbers reflect calendar reaching well beyond 2012 (May 10, 2012) — A vast city built by the ancient Maya and discovered nearly a century ago is finally starting to yield its secrets. Excavating for the first time in the sprawling complex of Xultún in Guatemala’s Petén region, archaeologists have uncovered a structure that contains what appears to be a work space for the town’s scribe, its walls adorned with unique paintings — one depicting a lineup of men in black uniforms — and hundreds of scrawled numbers. Many are calculations relating to the Maya calendar. … > full story



FDA Urges Caution Over Long-Term Use of Bone-Density-Building Drugs


Harvard Teams Up With MIT For Free Online Courses

Money Box: It can’t be emphasized enough that the names and brands matter here.









From: Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog
Volunteers in the city of Salvador, Brazil, have connected the dots have and drawn people’s attention to sea level rise and what it impacts in our life…..





Caught on camera: A seagull is snatched and englufed by a Pacific octopus that quickly dropped out of sight. Photograph by: Supplied photo by Ginger Morneau , (May 2012)











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