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Conservation Science News December 14, 2012

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









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


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

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

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


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

Published: December 13th, 2012 By Climate Central

Average annual temperature in contiguous U.S.

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

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


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

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

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

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





Recent PRBO papers:




Meadows sustain damage from off-highway vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Squid deaths are a many-tentacled mystery

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

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

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

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

A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See



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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy Update

The National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy is moving forward, and updates are now available on the BLM’s website:


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


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

What Tragedy? Whose Commons? | Conservation Magazine



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

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

Birds in search of food heading south from Canada



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


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



Scientific American  – ‎December 11, 2012‎

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


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




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



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

The Farming Forecast Calls for Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Dec 7 2012 by Rob Painting, Skeptical Science

Key points

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



Landmark climate change report leaked online by skeptic | Environment |

The Guardian December 14, 2012

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


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

by Christopher Joyce, National Public Radio December 13, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



High tides bring S.F. Bay Area flooding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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


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


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


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


What is permafrost? Q & A

29 Nov 2012 Roz Pidcock

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


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



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

Climate change creates grizzly conflicts in Arctic

Lack of hunting restrictions a concern for bear conservationists

By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun December 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Death Toll From Typhoon Exceeds 450 in Philippines

By FLOYD WHALEY (NYT) December 8, 2012

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


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


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

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






Op-Ed Contributors NY Times

Could the Farm Bill Devastate America’s Birds?

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stop-Start Engines Stop Waste, Start Jobs

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

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

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

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

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



Will the West ever solve its water woes?

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

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

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



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

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

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



Despair after climate conference, but UN still offers hope

Sun Dec 9, 2012 11:14am EST

* U.N. process has to accelerate before 2015

* Many leave Doha conference in despair

By Barbara Lewis and Alister Doyle

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


Climate Talks Yield Commitment to Ambitious, but Unclear, Actions



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

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


Insurance Industry Paying Increasing Attention to Climate Change

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

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

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


On environment, Obama likely to keep walking middle line

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Sen. Boxer to form ‘climate change caucus’

The Hill (blog)   December 11, 2012‎

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


OREGON: Holiday harvest of crabs hits a snag

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

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

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

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

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



Climate Change Threatens Ski Industry’s Livelihood

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


How to cut American oil use in half in 20 years



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

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

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

How Does the Half the Oil Plan Work?

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

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

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







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

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

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




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



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

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

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

The Hon. Kim Beazley, Australian Ambassador to the USA

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

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




New Climate Science Center InitiativesFY 2012 CSC Funded Projects

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

how sea-level rise will affect coastal resources

how climate will affect vegetation

how these changes will affect valued species

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

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







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



Solar Panels for Every Home

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

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



Energy development on public lands generated $12 billion in 2012

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

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


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

Japanese Researchers Invent Clothes That Can Power Cell Phones



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

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

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

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

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





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



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

Photo: James Balog

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

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

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

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

Photo: James Balog

Photo: James Balog


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

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

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

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

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


Fibershed bringing ‘farm-fresh’ clothing to the region 

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



Orca pod swims under kayakers-VIDEO

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



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

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


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

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 01:12 PM PST Joe Romm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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



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


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

Pong Radiation Protection Cell Phone Case Tech Test Lab

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





By Lee Judge, the Cartoonist Group




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