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Conservation Science News January 18, 2013

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Highlight of the Week
Soot (Black Carbon) and Climate Change









Highlight of the WeekSoot (Black Carbon) and Climate Change


Where there’s smoke or smog, there’s climate change
January 15, 2013) — In addition to causing smoggy skies and chronic coughs, soot — or black carbon — turns out to be the number two contributor to global warming. It’s second only to carbon dioxide, according to a four-year assessment by an international panel. The new study concludes that black carbon, the soot particles in smoke and smog, contributes about twice as much to global warming as previously estimated, even by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“We were surprised at its potential contribution to climate,” said Sarah Doherty, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist and one of four coordinating lead authors. The silver lining may be that controlling these emissions can deliver more immediate climate benefits than trying to control carbon dioxide, she said. … > full story


Black Carbon Larger Cause Of Climate Change Than Previously Assessed

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 06:33 AM PST

Black carbon is the second largest man-made contributor to global warming and its influence on climate has been greatly underestimated, according to the first quantitative and comprehensive analysis of this issue.

Figure 1.1 Schematic overview of the primary black carbon emission sources and the processes that control the distribution of black carbon in the atmosphere and determine its role in the climate system [Bond et al., 2013].

An International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme news release

Key findings

The landmark study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres today says the direct influence of black carbon, or soot, on warming the climate could be about twice previous estimates.  Accounting for all of the ways it can affect climate, black carbon is believed to have a warming effect of about 1.1 Watts per square meter (W/m²), approximately two thirds of the effect of the largest man made contributor to global warming, carbon dioxide. Co-lead author David Fahey from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, “This study confirms and goes beyond other research that suggested black carbon has a strong warming effect on climate, just ahead of methane.”  The study, a four-year, 232-page effort, led by the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry  (IGAC) Project, is likely to guide research efforts, climate modeling, and policy for years to come….

….The results indicate that there may be a greater potential to curb warming by reducing black carbon emissions than previously thought. “There are exciting opportunities to cool climate by reducing soot emissions but it is not straightforward. Reducing emissions from diesel engines and domestic wood and coal fires is a no brainer, as there are tandem health and climate benefits. If we did everything we could to reduce these emissions we could buy ourselves up to half a degree less warming–or a couple of decades of respite,” says co-author Professor Piers Forster from the University of Leeds’s School of Earth and Environment. The international team urges caution because the role of black carbon in climate change is complex.  “Black carbon influences climate in many ways, both directly and indirectly, and all of these effects must be considered jointly”, says co-lead author Sarah Doherty of the University of Washington, an expert in snow measurements. The dark particles absorb incoming and scattered heat from the sun (solar radiation); they can promote the formation of clouds that can have either cooling or warming impact; and black carbon can fall on the surface of snow and ice, promoting warming and increasing melting.  In addition, many sources of black carbon also emit other particles whose effects counteract black carbon, providing a cooling effect….


….the report finds black carbon is a significant cause of the rapid warming in the Northern Hemisphere at mid to high latitudes, including the northern United States, Canada, northern Europe and northern Asia. Its impacts can also be felt farther south, inducing changes in rainfall patterns from the Asian Monsoon.  This demonstrates that curbing black carbon emissions could have significant impact on reducing regional climate change while having a positive impact on human health.

“Policy makers, like the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, are talking about ways to slow global warming by reducing black carbon emissions. This study shows that this is a viable option for some black carbon sources and since black carbon is short lived, the impacts would be noticed immediately.  Mitigating black carbon is good for curbing short-term climate change, but to really solve the long-term climate problem, carbon dioxide emissions must also be reduced,” says co-lead author Tami Bond from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.







Global approach to monitoring biodiversity loss?
(January 17, 2013) — In contrast to climate change, there is no coordinated global system in place for measuring and reporting on biodiversity change or loss. An international team of biologists is now addressing this gap.
Science today, 30 researchers led by Henrique Miguel Pereira, from the Centre for Environmental Biology of the University of Lisbon, proposed a global biodiversity monitoring system based on a set of essential variables. By determining the most essential measurements to accurately and usefully report on biodiversity loss, known as essential biodiversity variables (EBVs), the researchers hope to improve the information feeding into biodiversity policy and stimulate investment in the measurement of global biodiversity change. Examples include the genetic diversity of wild, crop and domestic species, the population abundances of representative groups of species (such as birds, and threatened and problem plants and animals), the cover and three-dimensional structure of habitats, and nutrient use in sensitive ecosystems. Co-author Associate Professor Melodie McGeoch of Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences said that over the past 20 years, biodiversity loss has continued at an alarming rate, but there are critical gaps in scientific knowledge. …Previous research has indicated that biodiversity loss has a significant detrimental effect on the functioning, efficiency and stability of ecosystems and the services that they provide to humanity.The impact of biodiversity change on human well-being and survival is likely to accelerate as human populations grow and the climate warms, as demand for water and other resources increases and as native habitat is converted for development purposes,” Associate Professor McGeoch said. “Informed policy decisions are essential to a sustainable future, and a globally harmonized system for monitoring essential components of biodiversity is needed to achieve this.” Lead author, Dr Pereira said it was essential to discuss the sharing of international responsibilities in the development of a truly global biodiversity monitoring system.… > full story


H. M. Pereira, S. Ferrier, M. Walters, G. N. Geller, R. H. G. Jongman, R. J. Scholes, M. W. Bruford, N. Brummitt, S. H. M. Butchart, A. C. Cardoso, N. C. Coops, E. Dulloo, D. P. Faith, J. Freyhof, R. D. Gregory, C. Heip, R. Hoft, G. Hurtt, W. Jetz, D. S. Karp, M. A. McGeoch, D. Obura, Y. Onoda, N. Pettorelli, B. Reyers, R. Sayre, J. P. W. Scharlemann, S. N. Stuart, E. Turak, M. Walpole, M. Wegmann. Essential Biodiversity Variables. Science, 2013; 339 (6117): 277 DOI: 10.1126/science.1229931

Global plant diversity still hinges on local battles against invasives, study suggests
(January 17, 2013) — Scientists have long suspected that studies of the impact of invasive species on biodiversity sometimes come to different conclusions because the impact depends on the size of the study site. Their field work confirms that the impact of invasive species is different at small scales than at large ones. … > full story


Salmon Runs Boom, Go Bust Over Centuries

Jan. 14, 2013 — Salmon runs are notoriously variable: strong one year, and weak the next. New research shows that the same may be true from one century to the next

Scientists in the past 20 years have recognized that salmon stocks vary not only year to year, but also on decades-long time cycles. One example is the 30-year to 80-year booms and busts in salmon runs in Alaska and on the West Coast driven by the climate pattern known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

Now work led by University of Washington researchers reveals those decadal cycles may overlay even more important, centuries-long conditions, or regimes, that influence fish productivity. Cycles lasting up to 200 years were found while examining 500-year records of salmon abundance in Southwest Alaska. Natural variations in the abundance of spawning salmon are as large those due to human harvest. “We’ve been able to reconstruct what salmon runs looked like before the start of commercial fishing. But rather than finding a flat baseline — some sort of long-term average run size — we’ve found that salmon runs fluctuated hugely, even before commercial fishing started. That these strong or weak periods could persist for sometimes hundreds of years means we need to reconsider what we think of as ‘normal’ for salmon stocks,” said Lauren Rogers, who did this work while earning her doctorate in aquatic and fishery sciences at the UW and is now a post-doctoral researcher with the University of Oslo, Norway. Rogers is the lead author of a paper on the findings in the Jan. 14 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Surprisingly, salmon populations in the same regions do not all show the same changes through time. It is clear that the salmon returning to different rivers march to the beat of a different — slow — drummer,” said Daniel Schindler, UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences and co-author of the paper.

“The implications for management are profound,” Schindler said. “While it is convenient to assume that ecosystems have a constant static capacity for producing fish, or any natural resource, our data demonstrate clearly that capacity is anything but stationary. Thus, management must be ready to reduce harvesting when ecosystems become unexpectedly less productive and allow increased harvesting when ecosystems shift to more productive regimes.

Management should also allow, and probably even encourage, fishers to move among rivers to exploit salmon populations that are particularly productive. It is not realistic to assume that all rivers in a region will perform equally well or poorly all the time,” he said

…As the paper said, “Interestingly these same fluctuations also highlight that salmon stocks have the capacity to rebuild naturally following prolonged periods with low densities, suggesting a strong resilience of salmon to natural and anthropogenic depletion processes. Indeed, total salmon production (catch plus escapements) has been relatively high in recent years for most sockeye salmon stocks in southwestern Alaska, despite a century of intense harvesting



Pine beetle outbreak buffers watersheds from nitrate pollution
(January 14, 2013) — Scientists have found an unexpected silver lining in the devastating pine beetle outbreaks ravaging the West: Such events do not harm water quality in adjacent streams as scientists had previously believed. … > full story


Novel approach to track migration of arctic-breeding avian species
(January 15, 2013) — A group of scientists have tried to determine how snow bunting populations are linked in space and time. Considering that the snow bunting poses an extra challenge to monitor due to its inaccessible breeding locations, nomadic lifestyle and small body size, they argue, combining multiple sources of data is the most appropriate approach to track patterns of the birds’ migratory connectivity. … > full story

Macdonald, C.A.; Fraser, K.C.; Gilchrist, H.G.; Kyser, T.K.; Fox; Love, O.P. Strong Migratory Connectivity in a Declining Arctic Passerine. Animal Migration, DOI: 10.2478/ami-2012-0003


Mercury emissions threaten ocean, lake food webs



Mother Nature Network Janaury 18, 2013

Thawing permafrost is already releasing significant masses of largely inorganic mercury to lakes and the Arctic Ocean,” wrote the authors of a 2011 study from Canada’s Freshwater Institute.



Fighting Fires: You’re Doing It Wrong

By Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer | – January 15, 2013

Australia is burning. Extreme heat and drought during the country’s summer wildfire season have helped fierce winds spark about 100 bushfires across southeastern Australia.

Sound familiar? 2012 was America’s hottest year on record. Those soaring temperatures (along with persistent drought) pushed more than 9.2 million acres to burn in the West. The damages will top $1 billion dollars, and fires consumed more than 2,100 homes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Parts of both the United States and Australia share a combustible mix of fire hazards, such as an ecology adapted to fire-prone conditions and a climate conducive to wildfires. And every year, more people choose to live in some of the most beautiful and hazardous country around — the wildland’s edge. The destruction will only escalate, scientists predict, until we stop fighting fires in the forests and brush. Instead, the focus should shift to securing homes and structures, as well as applying new research that overturns long-standing conventional wisdom about fire defense, experts say.

“We’re losing homes in fires because homes are being put into hazardous conditions,” said Jon Keeley, a fire ecologist with the U.S Geological Survey (USGS). “The important thing is not to blame it on the fire event, but instead to think about planning and reduce putting people at risk.”

Thanks to work by Keeley and his colleagues, researchers now know techniques that work for firefighters in the Colorado mountains won’t help Californians battling wind-driven wildfires in the chaparral….



ACES- Aspen Center for Environ. Studies- puts forest health in the spotlight– VIDEO

By Janet Urquhart – ASPEN TIMES · Image by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies has developed a four-minute, animated short film, “What’s Happening in Our Forest?” to raise awareness about forest-health issues among the public and policymakers. The film has been submitted to the New York Animated Short Film Festival, and if Chris Lane, CEO at ACES, has anything to say about it, it will log a million views on YouTube.



Two new studies show why biodiversity is important for pollination services in California almond
(January 14, 2013) — Scientist show why biodiversity benefits California almond pollination. The presence of wild bees was found to alter the behavior of honey bees and improve their pollination effectiveness. Furthermore, wild bees buffered pollination under high winds and wild pollinators visited the parts of the almond trees that were less favored by honey bees. These findings help explain why orchards where wild bees are present have greater fruit set. … > full story


Environmental impact of insecticides on water resources: Current methods of measurement and evaluation show shortcomings
(January 14, 2013) — Common practice for the monitoring of insecticides in water resources reveals shortcomings. Until now water samples have mostly been taken on fixed dates, for example once per month. However, insecticides enter water resources very irregularly and, even though their concentrations exceed the threshold levels only for a short time, their harmful effect is present. The consequence: If one bases the evaluation upon the zero values often measured within the scope of regular sampling, the overall evaluation underestimates the actual risks. … > full story

Tree and human health may be linked
(January 16, 2013) — Evidence is increasing from multiple scientific fields that exposure to the natural environment can improve human health. In a new study, the presence of trees was associated with human health. … > full story

New robotic fish glides indefinitely
(January 16, 2013) — A high-tech robotic fish has a new look. A new skill. And a new name. Scientists have made a number of improvements on their fish, including the ability to glide long distances, which is the most important change to date. … > full story

Bugs reveal the richness of species on Earth
(January 11, 2013) — Researchers have carried out a survey of the biological diversity in a tropical rainforest. Their efforts have helped them find the key to one of the existential questions to which people have long sought an answer: how many species exist on Earth? … > full story


Fla python hunt continues with 21 snakes killed

January 18, 2013 MIAMI (AP) — Florida wildlife officials say 21 Burmese pythons have been killed so far in a public hunt for the invasive species in the Everglades. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says more than 1,000 people registered… more »


Salinization of rivers: A global environmental problem
January 11, 2013) — The salinisation of rivers is a global problem that affects to countries all over the world and it causes a high environmental and economic cost, and poses a high risk to global health. Climate change and the increasing water consumption can worsen even more the future scene, according to a new article. … > full story


Bengali forests are fading away
(January 10, 2013) — RAPID deterioration in mangrove health is occurring in the Sundarbans, resulting in as much as 200m of coast disappearing in a single year. … > full story


Clamorous City Blackbirds: Birds Can Sing Louder at Higher Frequencies to …

Science Daily (press release)  – ‎January 11, 2013‎

It is known, for example, that many urban birds sing at a high pitch to differentiate their song from the low-frequency sound of road traffic.


Hawks in danger of extinction in illegal hunting campaign

Tracy McVeigh The Observer, UK, Saturday 5 January 2013

A male hen harrier. Photograph: Alamy

Only one pair of breeding hen harriers remains in England, according to the RSPB, which blames illegal persecution for what it fears is now the near exinction of the bird of prey in the country.

“It will be a tragedy if this bird disappears. It’s a scandal that such a rare and iconic species has been deliberately persecuted to this extent,” said Grahame Madge of the bird conservation charity. He said Yorkshire was now a “black spot” for British birds of prey, dozens of which were being targeted by gamekeepers on the area’s vast shooting estates, who were under pressure to keep grouse and pheasant numbers high for their clients.






Climate Change and Western Public Lands: a Survey of U.S. Federal Land Managers on the Status of Adaptation Efforts

Archie, K. M., L. Dilling, J. B. Milford, and F. C. Pampel. 2012. Climate change and western public lands: a survey of U.S. federal land managers on the status of adaptation efforts. Ecology and Society 17(4): 20.

Abstract: Climate change and its associated consequences pose an increasing risk to public lands in the western United States. High-level mandates currently require federal agencies to begin planning for adaptation, but the extent to which these mandates have resulted in policies being implemented that affect on the ground practices is unclear. To examine the status of adaptation efforts, we conducted an original survey and semistructured interviews with land managers from the four major federal land management agencies in the U.S. states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. The survey was designed to examine current planning for adaptation on public lands and how it differs from prior planning, the major challenges facing land managers in this region, the major barriers preventing managers from planning for adaptation, and the major hurdles associated with implementing adaptation plans. Our results show that some adaptation planning is currently taking place, but that few adaptation projects have made it to the implementation phase. Overall, respondents considered lack of information at relevant scales, budget constraints, lack of specific agency direction, and lack of useful information to be the most common barriers to adaption planning. Budget constraints, lack of perceived importance to the public, and lack of public awareness or demand to take action were reported to be the biggest hurdles to implementation of adaptation projects. Agencies showed differing levels of adaptation activity, and reported different barriers to adaptation and hurdles to implementation. Reasons for the differences and implications for future research and policy are discussed.


From the report:

…. Our results suggest that adaptation planning by public lands agencies in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming is occurring but that implementation of these plans remains relatively rare. Individual beliefs and attitudes about climate change do not appear to influence responses about adaptation planning in our study. However, the agency for which a respondent works is a statistically significant predictor of respondents’ assessments of current adaptation planning. The FWS may in fact be the farthest along in the process. Prior work suggests that more robust leadership in natural resource management can facilitate improved transitioning to new management styles (Danter et al. 2000, Koontz and Bodine 2008). Danter and others (2000) suggest that successful implementation of ecosystem management in natural resources requires more leadership-oriented agency governance than was required under prior management models. The long-term goals of ecosystem management are similar in scope to those of climate change adaptation efforts, and thus the same type of leadership changes may help to facilitate improved adaptation implementation….. Furthermore, the beliefs held by land managers in our study that public attitudes toward climate change are more dependent on access to information than deeply held values is not consistent with some of the literature (e.g., Leiserowitz 2006). This begs the question as to whether public education is indeed the missing component, or whether there may be other more important obstacles to effective adaptation.



In the eastern U.S., spring flowers keep pace with warming climate, blooming up to a month earlier
(January 16, 2013) — Using the meticulous phenological records of two iconic American naturalists, Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, scientists have demonstrated that native plants in the eastern United States are flowering as much as a month earlier in response to a warming climate. … > full story


Climate events drive High-Arctic vertebrate community into synchrony: Extreme weather potent force for Arctic overwintering populations
(January 17, 2013) — Climate change is known to affect the population dynamics of single species, such as reindeer or caribou, but the effect of climate at the community level has been much more difficult to document. Now, a group of Norwegian scientists has found that extreme climate events cause synchronized population fluctuations among all vertebrate species in a relatively simple high arctic community. …

Previous studies have shown that rain-on-snow and icing can also cause vegetation damage and reduce survival of soil microbiota,” says Hansen. “But more importantly, we suspect that the strong effects of icing on the overwintering vertebrate community have the potential to indirectly influence other species and cascade throughout the food web. The die-offs among resident herbivores shape predator abundance, which could in turn affect the migratory prey that reside in the area in the summer, such as sea birds and barnacle geese.”full story


Global warming has increased monthly heat records worldwide by a factor of five, study finds
(January 14, 2013) — Monthly temperature extremes have become much more frequent, as measurements from around the world indicate. On average, there are now five times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide than could be expected without long-term global warming, shows a new study. In parts of Europe, Africa and southern Asia the number of monthly records has increased even by a factor of ten. 80 percent of observed monthly records would not have occurred without human influence on climate, the authors conclude. … > full story


Third National Climate Assessment Report- DRAFT

January 11, 2013 Today, the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee (NCADAC), the federal advisory committee for the National Climate Assessment, approved their draft of the Third National Climate Assessment Report for release for public comment. The draft report is available for download – both as a single document and by chapter – at . The public comment period for the report will run January 14 – April 12, 2013. All comments must be submitted via the online comment tool that will be available from beginning on January 14. The draft will be undergoing review by the National Research Council at the same time. The draft report is a product of the NCADAC and is not a product of the federal government. The authors of the report will use the comments received during the public comment period to revise the report before submitting it to the government for consideration.

Click here to view/print a two-page fact sheet about the National Climate Assessment.

The NCA is an important resource for understanding and communicating climate change science and impacts in the United States. It informs the nation about already observed changes, the current status of the climate, and anticipated trends for the future. The NCA report process integrates scientific information from multiple sources and sectors to highlight key findings and significant gaps in our knowledge. The NCA also establishes consistent methods for evaluating climate impacts in the U.S. in the context of broader global change. Finally, findings from the NCA provide input to federal science priorities and are used by U.S. citizens, communities, and businesses as they create more sustainable and environmentally sound plans for the nation’s future…

RELATED WEBINAR: Inside the National Climate Assessment: Communicating Climate Impacts. Find out what Susan Joy Hassol, Susanne Moser and Cara Pike have to say by signing up for a live 90-minute roundtable discussion on Tuesday January 22
from 1-2:30pm EST
 (10-11:30am PST) 

End Climate Silence Now: Draft Climate Assessment Warns Of Devastating 9°-15°F Warming Over Most Of U.S.

By Joe Romm on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:34 pm

The rule in Washington, DC is if you want to bury news, release it late on a Friday afternoon. So one can only assume the climate silence crowd prevailed in the release this afternoon of the draft U.S. Climate Assessment. Perhaps it’s this chart they don’t want folks talking about, from the “Newer Simulations for Projected Temperature” in Chapter 2:

Projected rise in average U.S. surface air temperature 2071-2099 relative to 1971-2000. This is RCP 8.5, “a scenario that assumes continued increases in emissions,” with CO2 levels hitting about 940 parts per million. It is close to the emissions path we are currently on — but not the worst-case scenario and not where still-rising temperatures would end up post-2100.

The Assessment, put together by dozens of the country’s top climate experts, makes clear that if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we are headed towards a devastating 9°F to 15°F warming over most of the United States (this century), with ever-worsening extreme weather, heat waves, deluges and droughts. As the report notes “generally, wet [areas] get wetter and dry get drier.” Future generations will be wishing for the boring “moist” and “cool” days of 2012 (when they aren’t cursing our names).

But if the administration were to give this news the attention it is due, then it would have to prioritize climate action above gun-control and immigration and deficit reduction (or, in the latter case, insist upon a carbon tax as part of any comprehensive deficit bill). For the Administration, climate action appears to always be the lowest of top priorities — and when the priorities above it (like health care, economic stimulus) are dealt with, new priorities take their place at the top of the list. In a statement (below), Center for American Progress Distinguished Senior Fellow Carol M. Browner, former EPA administrator and former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, said that the Assessment makes clear “The time to act is now” with “significantly steeper reductions in industrial carbon pollution” than we’ve seen to date — if we are to avoid the worst impacts. She notes the report makes clear, “no part of the nation is safe” from manmande climate change. Here are the key points from the Assessment’s Executive Summary: Read more


Impact of climate change hitting US, congressional report finds

New York Daily News  – ‎January 12, 2013

The consequences of climate change are now hitting the United States on several fronts, including health, infrastructure, water supply, agriculture and especially more frequent severe weather, a congressionally mandated study has concluded.


2012 sustained long-term climate warming trend, NASA finds
(January 15, 2013) — Scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record. … > full story


NOAA And NASA: 2012 Warmest ‘La Niña Year’ On Record, Sustaining Long-Term Climate Warming Trend

Posted: 15 Jan 2013 02:34 PM PST

NOAA: La Niña, which is defined by cooler-than-normal waters in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean that affect weather patterns around the globe, was present during the first three months of 2012…. It was also the warmest year on record among all La Niña years. The three warmest annual ocean surface temperatures occurred in 2003, 1998, and 2010—all warm phase El Niño years.

Global surface temperature anomalies relative to 1951-1980. The Nino index is based on the temperature in the Nino 3.4 area in the eastern tropical Pacific5. Dark green triangles mark the times of volcanic eruptions that produced an extensive stratospheric aerosol layer. Via NASA.NASA news release.


New Antarctic geological timeline aids future sea-level predictions
(January 16, 2013) — Radiocarbon dates of tiny fossilized marine animals found in Antarctica’s seabed sediments offer new clues about the recent rapid ice loss from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and help scientists make better predictions about future sea-level rise. This region of the icy continent is thought to be vulnerable to regional climate warming and changes in ocean circulation. … > full story


Snakerats May Join Bark Beetles, Jellyfish, Tropical Diseases, And Invasive Species As Winners In A Warming World

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 08:21 AM PST

Who says there are no winners from climate change? “Global Warming is Doubling Bark Beetle Mating” and “The decline in creatures with shells could trigger an explosion in jellyfish populations” and “Climate change helps spread dengue fever in 28 states.” And of course “climate change will make invasive plants even more dominant in the landscape.” Here’s another possible winner. — JR

University of Illinois news release

URBANA – Speculation about how animals will respond to climate change due to global warming led University of Illinois researcher Patrick Weatherhead and his students to conduct a study of ratsnakes at three different latitudes—Ontario, Illinois, and Texas. His findings suggest that ratsnakes will be able to adapt to the higher temperatures by becoming more active at night.

“Ratsnakes are a species with a broad geographic range so we could use latitude as a surrogate for climate change,” Weatherhead said. “What are ratsnakes in Illinois going to be dealing with given the projections for how much warmer it will be 50 years from now? Well, go to Texas and find out. That’s what they’re dealing with now. Snakes are ectotherms, that is, they use the environment to regulate their body temperature. We were able to compare ratsnakes’ ability to regulate their temperature in Texas as compared to Illinois and Canada.”

The research showed that ratsnakes in Canada, Illinois, and Texas would all benefit from global warming. “It would actually make the environment thermally better for them,” Weatherhead said. “Texas is already too hot for much of the day so it may cause them to shift to even more nocturnal foraging there and stay active at night for more of the season.”….

Global warming may have severe consequences for rare Haleakal silversword plants
(January 15, 2013) — While the iconic Haleakala silversword plant made a strong recovery from early 20th-century threats, it has now entered a period of substantial climate-related decline. New research warns that global warming may have severe consequences for the silversword in its native habitat. … > full story


Iconic beach resorts may not survive sea level rises
(January 16, 2013) — A leading coastal scientist has warned that some of the world’s best known beach resorts may not survive projected sea level rises and that problems caused by changing sea levels are compounded by a lack of political will and short-term coastal management initiatives. … > full story


Climate change may benefit most mammals that live in northern Europe’s Arctic and Sub-Arctic land areas in short run
January 14, 2013) — The climate changes depicted by climatologists up to the year 2080 will benefit most mammals that live in northern Europe’s Arctic and Sub-Arctic land areas today if they are able to reach their new climatic ranges. … > full story


Climate Change: Going to Extremes

Huffington Post  – ‎January 12, 2013‎

Bill Chameides Dean, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment

Posted: 01/11/2013 4:15 pm

There are extremes and then there are EXTREMES.

Last year seemed to bring one weather-related disaster after another, including the following:

But Now It’s a New Year, Clean Slate, Break From the Past, Right? Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it. As a for instance, check out this article from today’s New York Times. Australia, Brazil, Britain, China, the Middle East and Russia are all in the throes of highly unusual and in many cases record-breaking events. In Australia (see dramatic satellite
images and photos) and Brazil it’s drought and heat; in Russia and China it’s cold; in Britain, floods and the Middle East, a snowstorm. Here in the United States, of course, much of the nation remains in the grips of a debilitating drought, and loads of folks in the Northeast are still struggling to dig out from under the destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy. (More on Sandy recovery here and here.)…



How Climate Change Is Damaging The Great Lakes, With Implications For The Environment And The Economy

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 08:41 AM PST By Matt Kasper, Center for American Progress

Great Lakes Michigan and Huron set a new record low water level for the month of December, and in the coming weeks they could experience their lowest water levels ever. It’s becoming certain that, like the rest of the country, the Great Lakes are feeling the effects of climate change.

Last year was officially the warmest year on record for the lower-48 states. The hot summer air has been causing the surface water of the Great Lakes to increase in temperature. One might think this causes more precipitation around the lakes, but the warmer winter air is causing a shorter duration of ice cover. In fact, the amount of ice covering the lakes has declined about 71 percent over the past 40 years. Last year, only 5 percent of the lakes froze over –- compared to 1979 when ice coverage was as much as 94 percent.

Furthermore, the continuing effect of the historic drought in the Midwest is causing increased levels of evaporation. This combination of climate change side-effects results in low water levels for the Great Lakes.


Severe Climate Jeopardizing Amazon Forest, Study Finds



January 18, 2013An area of the Amazon rainforest twice the size of California continues to suffer from the effects of a megadrought that began in 2005, finds a new NASA-led study. These results, together with … > full story


What Climate Change Means For Seattle And The Northwest

EarthFix January 15, 2013

A new report suggests that by 2050, waters along sections of Elliott Bay levels could rise as much as 44 inches from current levels during storms….



The Political Benefits to Taking a Pro-Climate Stand in 2013 Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University January 15, 2013

Today we are releasing a short report that draws upon data from our latest national survey (September 2012) to investigate this question: On balance, do political leaders stand to benefit, or not, from talking about and supporting action to address global warming?

In short, we found:


Climate Change May Have Confused, Trapped Killer Whales

Voice of America  – ‎January 12, 2013‎

Lyne Morissette, a marine researcher with the St. Lawrence Global Observatory in Quebec, said the 12 orcas may simply have gotten lost while hunting for seals and other food, but it’s more likely they got stuck in the ice because of climate change .









Mobilizing scientists on climate change

By Naomi Oreskes, Published: January 17

Naomi Oreskes is a professor of history and science studies at the University of California at San Diego and co-author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.”

At the recent annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, scientists presented evidence of climate change proceeding more rapidly than they had imagined 15, 10 or even five years ago. After a brief hiatus due mostly to the economic downturn, they noted, global greenhouse gas emissions are rising again. Arctic sea ice is retreating at an unprecedented rate, sea levels are rising more rapidly than anticipated, and the sea-surface temperatures that drive tropical storms and hurricanes are rising, too. Another topic at last month’s gathering was how the latest climate models do not account for the additional warming caused by methane release from thawing permafrost and the continental shelves. This means that the generally accepted projections for what may happen in the coming decades are almost certainly not the worst-case scenarios. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, political leaders including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) have made the connection between climate change and the costs of inaction. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) acknowledged the reality of climate change in 2011, and his state faces massive costs associated with climate-related damage. Unfortunately, on the congressional level, Republican leaders refuse to address the issue. But President Obama can move independently of Congress to address this critical issue: He can mobilize scientists through the U.S. national laboratory system.

There is a powerful precedent for the president to take this route. The core of the national laboratory system was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the Manhattan Project to address an earlier threat to American safety and security: the possibility that German scientists were going to build an atomic bomb that could have been decisive in World War II. Scientists brought the issue to the president’s attention and then did what he asked: They built a deliverable weapon in time for use in the war.

While historians have long argued about the seriousness of the threat of a Nazi atomic bomb, there is no question that at the time it was viewed as imminent. Today we face a threat that is somewhat less immediate but far less speculative. An obvious response is to engage the national laboratory system to study options to reduce or alleviate climate change, which the president could do by executive order. Progress in many areas of research and development could greatly reduce the problem in the next few decades. Most are already areas of active research that could easily be ramped up.

Alternative energy. The climate problem is fundamentally an energy problem. While strides have been made — by both industry and government — in developing alternative energy sources, renewables still provide only a sliver of the U.S. energy profile. The scale of renewable energy research and development needs to be radically increased.

Carbon capture and storage. Shale gas development in the United States and Canada is generating jobs and revenue and could substantially decrease our reliance on petroleum. But shale gas is still gas — methane: a fossil fuel that when burned produces carbon dioxide. Large-scale development may exacerbate the climate problem if inexpensive gas undercuts the market for renewables. If, however, shale gas development could be coupled with carbon capture and storage, trapping the carbon dioxide produced, then this resource might be usable without worsening climate change.

Energy storage. Wind and solar are real sources of energy, but only when the wind blows or the sun shines. Yet many wind and solar projects produce excess capacity that could be used later or elsewhere if it could be stored. Ideas for renewable-energy storage need to be developed and expanded.

Social obstacles to energy efficiency. Numerous studies show that Americans could cut energy use by 30 percent or more through efficiency measures and save money at the same time. Yet most of us don’t. This is a bit of a mystery for economists; social science research in the laboratory system should be mobilized to figure out why we don’t save energy and money even when we could.

Climate engineering. Deliberate alteration of the climate to compensate for inadvertent modification is a technically and ethically troubling concept, but it may be one of the only available means to slow climate warming and buy time while other solutions are implemented. Physical scientists should expand their work in this area, and social scientists and humanists should be enlisted to address the ethical dimensions and governance issues.

Curiosity-driven science has not yet provided the solutions to global warming, and universities are not well situated to address a single, overarching problem. Moreover, the president does not have authority over our nation’s universities. But he does have authority over our national laboratory system. The labs have been mobilized before; the time has come to mobilize them again.




MUST READ—reprinted from last week:

Rethinking Wedges: We Need A Lot of Clean Energy To Stabilize Near 2°C Warming So We Better Start Deployment ASAP

By Joe Romm on Jan 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm


DEFINITION: “Stabilization wedges” — strategies and/or technologies that over a period of a few decades each ultimately reduce projected global carbon emissions by one billion metric tons per year (see technical paper here, less technical one here).


A new study underscores the point that we need to start deploying every last bit of carbon-free energy starting ASAP to have a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic levels of carbon pollution. But the paper, “Rethinking wedges,” suffers from two flaws. First while it asserts “Current climate targets of 500 ppm and  2°C of warming” require “deploying tens of terawatts of carbon-free energy in the next few decades,” it seems to use this to argue for more research and development, rather than massive deployment. In fact, while everyone agrees we need to spend more on R&D, it’s our much vaster underspending on deployment that is launching us headlong toward catastrophe. And, of course, deployment is the best driver of innovation (as I discuss here). Second, the paper appears to confuse what a wedge is and then compounds that confusion by introducing the concept of “hidden wedges,” which I don’t believe is a meaningful concept (if you understand what a wedge really is). The fact is that we probably need 1o to 20 terawatts of carbon-free energy over the next 50 years to have a shot at 450 ppm or lower — but a fair chunk of that can be efficiency and conservation (as I discuss here).


How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution

By Joe Romm on Mar 26, 2009 at 5:40 pm

In this post I will lay out “the solution” to global warming.

I have argued that stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at 450 ppm or lower is not politically possible today, but that it is certainly achievable from an economic and technological perspective (see Part 1). I do, however, believe humanity will do it since the alternative is Hell and High Water.

It would require some 12-14 of Princeton’s “stabilization wedges” — strategies and/or technologies that over a period of a few decades each ultimately reduce projected global carbon emissions by one billion metric tons per year (see technical paper here, less technical one here).  These 12-14 wedges are my focus here.

…..I do believe only “one” solution exists in this sense — We must deploy every conceivable energy-efficient and low carbon technology that we have today as fast as we can. Princeton’s Pacala and Socolow proposed that this could be done over 50 years, but that is almost certainly too slow.

…..That’s why a sober guy like IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri, said in November 2007: “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. ….. If we could do the 12-14 wedges in four decades, we should be able to keep CO2 concentrations to under 450 ppm. If we could do them faster, concentrations could stay even lower. We’d probably need to do this by 2040 if not sooner to have a shot at getting back to 350 this century. [And yes, like Princeton, I agree we need to do some R&D now to ensure a steady flow of technologies to make the even deeper emissions reductions needed in the second half of the century.]

….Also, I tend to view the crucial next four decades in two phases. In phase 1, 2010 to 2030, the world finally gets serious about avoiding catastrophic global warming impacts (i.e. Hell and High Water). We increasingly embrace a serious price for carbon dioxide and a very aggressive technology deployment effort. In phase 2, 2030 to 2050, after multiple climate Pearl Harbors and the inevitable collapse of the Ponzi scheme we call the global economy, the world gets truly desperate, and actions that are not plausible today — including widespread conservation — become commonplace (see here for a description of what that collapse might look like). In the basic solution, I have thrown in a some extra wedges since I have no doubt that everybody will find something objectionable in at least 2 of them. But unlike the first time I ran this exercise, I have blogged on most of the solutions at length. This is what the entire planet must achieve:

Here are additional wedges that require some major advances in applied research to be practical and scalable, but are considered plausible by serious analysts, especially post-2030:

That should do the trick. And yes, the scale is staggering…


Politics: Obama’s Climate Challenge

BY JEFF GOODELL JANUARY 17, 2013 | 7:00AM EST (thanks Michael Dietrick)
….Among all the tests President Obama faced in his first term, his biggest failure was climate change. After promising in 2008 that his presidency would be “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” President Obama went silent on the most crucial issue of our time….Obama isn’t blind to the threat. “He understands this is the central problem his administration has to deal with in the second term,” says John Po-desta, who headed up Obama’s transition team in 2008. “He knows the judgment of history is riding on this.” At a press conference shortly after his re-election, Obama admitted that “we hadn’t done as much as we need to” to address climate change, and promised a “wide-ranging conversation with scientists, engineers and elected officials” to make sure that global warming is “not a problem we’re passing on to future generations that’s going to be very expensive and very painful to deal with.. But if the president is planning any bold action during his second term to combat global warming, there’s little evidence of it. “I want to do something on climate,” he told a friend and former White House staffer after the election, “but I don’t know what.”….I think the president understands the climate crisis intellectually, but he has not had the ‘holy shit’ moment you arrive at when you think about this deeply enough,” says a leading climate advocate who has had private conversations with Obama about global warming. Instead of talking about the risks of climate change during the campaign, Obama touted an “all of the above” energy plan that was a soft-porn version of “drill, baby, drill.” Under Obama, in fact, oil and gas production have soared: Last year, U.S. oil production grew by 766,000 barrels a day, the largest jump ever, and domestic oil production is at its highest level in 15 years.”….Another indicator of Obama’s commitment on climate will be the “conversation” about global warming he wants to have with scientists, politicians and the American public. “He needs to educate the public about what is going on with the climate and what we can do about it,” says Podesta. That means Obama must drop all the talk about “clean coal” and “energy independence” – code words for more mining and drilling – and articulate the hard truths about global warming: that we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels as quickly as possible, that we’ll have to prepare ourselves for life on a hotter, less hospitable planet, and that our suburban paradise of shopping malls, big backyards and SUVs is a relic of an earlier era. And he’ll have to do it in a way that stresses the opportunities and upsides of what will amount to a sweeping change in the American way of life: the lives saved and environmental devastation avoided- by getting off coal, and the economic rewards of becoming a leader in the global push for renewable energy.”


Obama to confront oil pipeline, climate change

MATTHEW DALY | January 17, 2013 03:27 PM EST |

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s second-term energy agenda is taking shape and, despite the departure of key Cabinet officials, it looks a lot like the first: more reliance on renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, and expanded production of oil and natural gas. Obama also is promising to address climate change, an issue he has acknowledged was sometimes overlooked during his first term.

“The president has been clear that tackling climate change and enhancing energy security will be among his top priorities in his second term,” said Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman.

While the administration has made progress in developing renewable energy and improving fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles, “we know there is more work to do,” Stevens said.

He’ll have to do that work with new heads of the agencies responsible for the environment. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection chief Lisa Jackson and Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have announced they are leaving. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is expected to follow his colleagues out the door in coming weeks.

The White House says no decisions have been made on replacements for any of the environment and energy jobs but says Obama’s priorities will remain unchanged.

One of the first challenges Obama will face is an old problem: whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. Obama blocked the pipeline last year, citing uncertainty over the conduit’s route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. Gov. Dave Heineman is considering a new route; he is expected to make a decision next month.

The State Department has federal jurisdiction because the $7 billion pipeline begins in Canada…


Domestic laws, not a global treaty, are the way to fight global warming

The Economist January 17, 2013

But with measures to deal with climate change, the opposite prevails. Each round of intergovernmental talks on cutting emissions and compensating victims seems to achieve less than the one before


New EU fish quota deal bodes well for fishermen



BRUSSELS (AP) January 18, 2013 — The European Union and fisheries nations say a deal with Norway on fish quotas in the North Sea is further proof of a move toward more efficient and sustainable fishing. European Commission spokesman Oliver Drewes said the… more »



NY storm commission urges flood walls for subways

Seattle Post Intelligencer January 13, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – A commission formed to examine ways to guard against storms like Sandy released a report Friday that calls for flood walls in subways, water pumps at airports and sea barriers along the coast.



Will 2013 Continue The 7-Year Downward Trend In American Driving?

Posted: 13 Jan 2013 06:05 AM PST

by Justin Horner, via NRDC’s Switchboard
Predictions and prognostications are the stuff of the New Year–and why should driving trends be any different?  Will 2013 see a continuation of what has now been a nearly 90 month drop in population-adjusted Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT)? The safe answer, of course, is “well, we just don’t know” (or, “we just don’t know until Nate Silver takes the questions on”).  In fact, the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration’s Traffic Volume Trends Report (October 2012) shows an uptick in total VMT of about 0.6% over October 2011, with small increases in every region of the country, save the Hurricane Sandy-impacted Northeast. Yet, it is unlikely that many of the broader factors that have led to VMT declines stark enough to give birth to the notion of “peak car” will be changing in any significant way in 2013.   In November of last year, the International Transport Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development held a round-table on Long-Run Trends in Travel Demand.   The panelists focused on just these demographic, behavioral and long-run economic factors, the trends that have the greatest impact on driving demand in the coming years….


Beef industry, consumers to be affected by cattle production decreases in 2013
(January 11, 2013) — Beef production in the United States is expected to decrease 4.8 percent in 2013, the second largest year-over-year decrease in 35 years. Many analysts expect the 2013 numbers to be followed by a 2014 decrease of 4.5 percent or more. … > full story



What Theda Skocpol Gets Wrong About The Climate Bill Fight

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 09:34 AM PST Joe Romm

Who Is To Blame For Failure Of Climate Bill? Hint: The People Who Opposed It, Ignored It Or Undersold It!

A lengthy new study opinion piece aims to pin the blame for the failure of the climate bill on the environmental community. It has already resulted in head-exploding headlines like this one in the Guardian

Why Climate Change Legislation Failed — And What to Do About It
—By Kevin Drum| Thu Jan. 17, 2013 9:15 AM PST

Theda Skocpol has written an immense study of why the 2010 climate bill failed. I haven’t read it yet, but Brad Plumer talked to her yesterday and got the nutshell version: climate hawks had a really bad legislative strategy:






Farming for the Future: California Climate & Agriculture Summit February 21, 2013  8:00am — 6:30pm
UC Davis Conference Center

Space is limited. Register now at The Summit includes presentations, a poster session, wine & cheese reception and an optional farm tour
on Feb. 20th. It brings together farmers and ranchers, agency staff, farm advisors, policymakers and advocates concerned with climate change challenges and opportunities for California agriculture.

SUMMIT PROGRAM Feb. 21st, 8:00am – 6:30pm (schedule subject to change)


Grassland Bird Conservation Plan Seeks Input
California Partners in Flight (CalPIF) is initiating the process of updating the Grassland Bird Conservation Plan, one of seven valuable habitat-based guides to conserving California’s birds). PRBO Conservation Science, The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Central Valley Joint Venture,  UC Berkeley and Western Field Ornithologists are convening  a meeting from 0900-1200 on Friday, February 1, 2013, in association with the Western Section of The Wildlife Society meeting in Sacramento. The objectives of the meeting include:  defining the scope of the plan, defining grassland; consensus on a suite of focal or surrogate bird species to form the bases of this multi-species plan, and to form a voluntary technical advisory committee to guide the process and content.  For more information click here.  Please RSVP to ( or feel free to drop in the day of the meeting.     


American Carbon Registry Announces Open Public Comment Period for the Grazing Land & Livestock Management Carbon Offset Methodology
American Carbon Registry, a non-profit enterprise of Winrock International, welcomes feedback on a new voluntary greenhouse gas offset methodology for Grazing Land and Livestock Management (GLLM). The methodology is applicable to beef and dairy production worldwide. It is designed to ensure the complete, consistent, transparent, accurate and conservative quantification of emission reductions associated with a GLLM project. It focuses on five primary greenhouse gas sources, sinks and reservoirs affected by beef and dairy production – enteric methane, manure methane, nitrous oxide from fertilizer use, fossil fuel emissions, and biotic sequestration in above- and below-ground biomass and soils – and provides accounting modules for each of these. The GLLM Methodology was developed by Winrock International with generous support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and advice from a livestock Technical Advisory Committee. Winrock believes there are significant opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, contributing to climate change mitigation, water and air quality improvement, while maintaining or improving the profitability of livestock operations. To download the methodology click here. For more information about the American Carbon Registry click here. Please send all comments by close of business January 31, 2013 to



Register Now for January 28 Webcast on EPA’s Climate Change Indicators Report

On Monday, January 28, 2013, from 2:00-3:30 PM (EST), EPA’s State & Local Climate and Energy program will host a webinar on the newly released Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2012 report. Available on EPA’s climate change website, the report brings together data from multiple public datasets to show observed changes over time in 26 indicators of climate change – including measures of high and low temperatures, rainfall, snowfall, pollen season and sea level rise. These indicators present compelling evidence that our climate is changing now and is already affecting society and ecosystems. EPA staff will discuss how the report was developed, highlighting key points of the report and how information was gathered and synthesized. A brief demonstration of the climate indicators website and a question-and-answer session will follow. Webinar registration







Alliance of big city school districts aims for more healthful meals

L.A. Unified and five others are striving to make wholesome food a national standard. They’re working on biodegradable trays and utensils as well. Each district has been assigned a specific project.

By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times January 17, 2013, 5:00 a.m.

Fatty corn dogs and sugary coffee cake may become extinct in thousands of school cafeterias nationwide under a landmark new alliance among Los Angeles Unified and five other major urban school districts to leverage their vast purchasing power for healthier fare and lower prices.

School districts in L.A., New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Orlando, Fla., plan to announce Thursday efforts to use their collective clout — 2.5 million daily meals served and $530 million annually spent — to make wholesome food a national standard. The districts are also aiming for more eco-friendly practices — replacing polystyrene and plasticwith biodegradable trays and flatware, for instance. As such diet-related maladies as diabetes and obesity increase among children, the quest to reduce fat, sugar and sodium in school meals has gained new urgency among districts. L.A. Unified has overhauled its menu with whole grains and fresh produce; New York offers a salad bar at every school; and Chicago has swapped cupcakes for fruit at school celebrations. Now, by joining forces, the alliance members hope to move the market and eventually enlist other school districts in the crusade. Already, San Diego, Oakland and Houston have expressed interest. “As the great cities of the nation, we want to lead the way,” said Eric Goldstein of the New York City school district, which serves 860,000 meals daily at 1,700 campuses.

Each alliance member has been assigned to a specific project. New York, for example, is working on lowering prices for organic, free-range chicken. Chicago currently serves such meat but can only afford to do so once a month — one organic chicken leg costs 40 cents while a non-organic leg-thigh combo is just 23 cents, according to Leslie Fowler of the Chicago Public Schools. Likewise, environmentally sound trays and utensils are relatively expensive. Fowler said a biodegradable tray costs 12 cents while a polystyrene one is a third that price. Miami is working on trays while Orlando is researching better flatware than the plastic “spork.” Los Angeles is heading up communications efforts. David Binkle, L.A. Unified’s food services director, said the alliance marks the biggest step yet to transform school meals. In the last few years, the nation’s second-largest district has banned flavored milk and overhauled the menu — dropping such crowd favorites as nachos and chicken nuggets for dishes like whole-grain spaghetti….


Success! Styrofoam trays to be eliminated from all NYC public schools thanks to parent-led efforts

January 17, 2013 New York, NYThanks to the efforts of concerned parents, New York City’s Department of Education (DoE), along with 5 other city school districts nationally, will entirely eliminate toxic and polluting Styrofoam trays. The parent group, Cafeteria Culture (CafCu- founded as Styrofoam Out of Schools) catalyzed the remarkable launch of Trayless Tuesdays in 2010 in of New York City’s 1700 public schools, through an innovative partnership with DoE. To date, an impressive 70 million Styrofoam trays have been eliminated from production, school lunches, incinerators, landfills and the environment at no additional cost to the city. No student should be eating off a tray which is likely carcinogenic, which bursts landfills and contributes to climate change, and which pollutes our environment threatening marine wildlife,” says Debby Lee Cohen, director and founder of Cafeteria Culture. “We are thrilled to see NYC DoE Office of School Food take the lead in collaborating with other cities to find affordable, sustainable solutions.” Cafeteria Culture has worked collaboratively with DoE, in lieu of the “old fight,” working to find affordable solutions to rid NYC schools of Styrofoam and achieve zero-waste cafeterias. By sharing in-the-cafeteria experience, innovating design-strategies, and conducting small-scale pilots, Cafeteria Culture is catalyzing positive changes to benefit student and community well-being citywide….

Cafeteria Culture has worked collaboratively with DoE since 2009, in lieu of the “old fight,” working to find affordable solutions to rid NYC schools of Styrofoam and achieve zero-waste cafeterias. By sharing in-the-cafeteria experience, innovating design-strategies, and conducting small-scale pilots,

Cafeteria Culture is catalyzing positive changes to benefit student and community well-being citywide.
Cafeteria Culture’s ARTS+ACTION Cafeteria Waste Reduction curriculum has increased school cafeteria garbage diversion rates from 3% to over 80%, by teaching students to be “Cafeteria Rangers.” The organization is also piloting composting of all school food scraps locally, and leading an “Alternative Messaging” campaign to engage the public on the typically unappealing topic of school garbage. Their next goal is to complete a multi-media toolkit, sharing their successful waste reduction methods and curriculum with all schools.

This morning, School Food Directors from New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Orlando announced a game-changing partnership to collectively purchase sustainable lunch trays to drive down what would otherwise be prohibitively high costs. Meals will be served on recyclable or compostable lunch trays, providing millions of students with the same message taught in their classroom: reduce and recycle!
In 2009, after learning that NYC DoE served 860,000 meals per day on Styrofoam trays (over 4 million trays per week), a concerned group of parents founded the organization Styrofoam Out of Schools (SOSnyc) which later became Cafeteria Culture. Styrofoam trays are used for only 20-30 minutes each yet more than 3 BILLION have been
used over the past 20 years in NYC. After use, the trays are exported by carbon spewing trucks to out-of-state landfills and incinerators, significantly contributing to climate change and environmental pollution.

Cafeteria Culture has made measurable progress to date on a shoestring budget with only a handful of volunteers. Cafeteria Culture relies entirely on donations to achieve its ambitious, urgently needed goals. For more information and to make a donation, please visit:


Doubling down on energy efficiency
(January 17, 2013) — Spending on energy efficiency programs funded by electric and natural gas utility customers will double by 2025 to about .5 billion per year, according to new projections. According to the report, energy efficiency programs funded by utility customers are projected to continue expanding beyond the traditional bastions of energy efficiency in the Northeast and West. … > full story


Thin Film Solar Cells: New World Record for Solar Cell Efficiency



January 18, 2013 — In a remarkable feat, scientists have developed thin film solar cells on flexible polymer foils with a new record efficiency of 20.4% for converting sunlight into electricity. The cells are based on … > full story

Breakthrough for solar cell research



EurekAlert (press release)  – ‎January 18, 2013‎

“Our findings are the first to show that it really is possible to use nanowires to manufacture solar cells”, says Magnus Borgström, a researcher in semiconductor physics and the principal author.



A new leaf in climate change

SF Chronicle January 13, 2013 Scientists are working on artificial leaves that convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into chemical fuel.

They’re designing artificial leaves that can convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into chemical fuel, much like the photosynthesis of flowers and trees. The team has already built a crude prototype from silicon, polymers and platinum that can create a simple and clean hydrogen fuel. If the scientists figure out how to cheaply produce more complicated energy sources, it would enable mass production of “drop-in” fuels that could power automobiles, trucks, planes and ships without pumping more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. In other words, it could provide a viable alternative to digging up more petroleum, coal and other traditional energy sources widely blamed for global warming. “We have no other option than getting off fossil fuels,” said Heinz Frei, acting director of the lab, the north site of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. “The research into artificial photosynthesis provides society with an option.”

Without drastic changes to global energy systems, studies show that rising fossil fuel emissions could push global temperatures up as much as 3 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 6 degrees Celsius by 2100, unleashing a series of dangerous ecological consequences.

Researchers are investigating an array of possibilities for preventing or offsetting certain effects of a warming world, from sucking carbon out of the atmosphere to increasing the reflectivity of clouds. But even those exploring such options say the only way to address the full scale of global warming is to attack the root cause: cutting greenhouse gas emissions as much and as quickly as possible. “The energy sources we use can’t be fossil fuels,” said Jane Long, former associate director for energy and environment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “It’s just that simple and just that hard.”…

JCAP’s researchers would leave the commercialization of the technology they are developing to others, but the ultimate idea is to cover millions of acres of land with artificial leaves. They probably would be made of a polymer-like material roughly an inch thick that could be rolled out like a blanket. A key advantage over biofuels is that artificial leaves could be installed on nonarable land, reserving limited fertile acres for food production. If man-made leaves covering 60 million acres converted just 1 percent of the energy in the sunlight that touches them into energy in the resulting fuel, Frei estimates they could produce all the energy now consumed by U.S. transportation. At 7 percent efficiency, they could produce all the energy used in the nation each year. To be sure, 60 million acres is a lot of land, roughly the size of Oregon. But as Frei points out, there are more than 40 million acres of land devoted to the nation’s interstate highways. His analogy is a deliberate one. It’s the space the country dedicated to an earlier national priority – transportation – that has contributed heavily to the problem at hand.Another comparison: The nation leased more than 38 million acres of federal property to oil and gas companies at the end of fiscal year 2011, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Land Management, and well above 60 million acres as recently as 1990.

“What it says is that society has already given away that kind of land, so it means it might be a socially acceptable level,” Frei said….

As environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben stressed in a recent Rolling Stone article, there are 2,795 gigatons of carbon in the proven coal, oil and gas reserves of fossil fuel companies. That’s five times more than climate scientists say the world could burn with some hope of staying below a 2-degree-Celsius rise in average temperatures, the threshold widely viewed as a dangerous tipping point for the globe. But research firm Capital Institute estimates those reserves are worth about $27 trillion. They’re the primary asset justifying the multibillion-dollar market caps of energy giants. Those companies’ stock prices reflect the clear assumption that these fossil fuels will be pulled out of the Earth, whatever the environmental cost.

A growing chorus of experts argues the only way to correct for this economic “externality” – a real cost that isn’t accounted for in actual prices – is for government to step in with aggressive public policy, including incentives and penalties to move companies, researchers and citizens in the right direction.

“We need to leave that fossil fuel in the ground, and the only way that will happen is if they’re honestly priced,” James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an address at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last month. “Right now, they’re heavily subsidized by you, the public.”

But even if officials manage to enact effective policies, the world still faces a serious technical challenge. Studies show that the renewable energy options available to date can’t get the world to a sustainable level of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, aggressively deploying existing technologies wouldn’t be enough for California to reach its own legally mandated goal of making greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent lower than 1990 levels by 2050, according to a 2011 report by the California Council on Science and Technology. Achieving that aim will require “intensive and sustained investment in new technologies,” the study concluded. “You could get about halfway there,” said Long, co-chair of the committee that produced the report. “The rest of the reduction will require innovation.”

About the series

Inside cutting-edge Bay Area research focused on containing climate change.

Today: Creating artificial leaves for clean fuel.

Previously: Brightening the clouds to reflect away heat.

— To see other stories and videos in this series, please visit


To learn more about these issues

— Living With a Rising Bay:

— California Climate Change Adaptation Policy Guide:

— Ten Things You Can Do to Help Curb Climate Disruption:

James Temple is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:



Scientist sees the light on solar energy
SF Chronicle January 13, 2013


California solar energy systems top 1 gigawatt

San Francisco Chronicle  – ‎Jan 11, 2013‎

But the number of applications received each year continues to rise as solar power’s popularity spreads. As a result, state officials say the program should reach its goal of funding enough installations to … initiative accounts for roughly half of …





Time to Vote on the International Migratory Bird Day 2013 Poster

Get ready for IMBD 2013!  Every year, you have the chance to make the final decisions about IMBD materials, and we look forward to your suggestions. Take 1 minute to place your vote for the final design of the 2013 poster.
Place Your Vote!

The International Migratory Bird Day 2013 theme is Life Cycles of Migratory Birds: Conservation Across the Americas. Learn more about the theme and watch for updates on how to incorporate it into your IMBD program. Have questions? Call us at 866-334-3330.

IMBD 2013





It’s Suddenly in Fashion to Make Chic Clothes That Don’t Hurt the Earth



By Amy DuFault January 14, 2013 From waterless dyeing technologies to aggressive campaigns, these 10 companies and individuals are making clean waves.


Año Nuevo to offer guided seal walks

Christine Delsol Published 11:11 am, Friday, January 11, 2013

Elephant seals are in residence at Año Nuevo State Park. Photo: Courtesy San Mateo Co. CVB

While elephant seals are in residence at Año Nuevo State Park during the cold months of December through March, the hottest tickets around are guided seal walks. This year, the Coastside State Parks Association is offering special extended tours to a limited number of visitors for one weekend, allowing a full morning or afternoon to hike over bluff trails and sand dunes, lingering to watch bulls warring, newborns nursing and pups practicing their battle skills. Volunteer naturalists and park staff will be on hand to answer questions about the seals. Advance reservations only for this certain sellout.

Vitals: Jan. 26-27, 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. $50. Año Nuevo State Park, New Year’s Creek Road, Pescadero. (650) 879-2025,



Whole Foods CEO: ‘climate change is not necessarily bad’

‘Ethical vegan’ John Mackey claims he is not a climate change sceptic but says global warming is ‘perfectly natural’

Josh Harkinson for Mother Jones, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Friday 18 January 2013 10.43 EST



Facebook concept used by 16th century scholars
(January 15, 2013) — Our obsession with social networking is not exclusive to the 21st century, according to researchers. … > full story

Herbal treatments for postmenopausal symptoms may be recommended as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy
(January 10, 2013) — Herbal and complementary treatments could be recommended as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for treating postmenopausal symptoms says a new review. … > full story










New Western governor sets his sights on climate change solutions

By David Horsey January 18, 2013, 5:00 a.m. LA TIMES

When we were classmates at Ingraham High School in Seattle, Jay Inslee was quarterback of the football team and a key player on the state champion basketball squad. I was a fledgling cartoonist and editorial writer on the student newspaper. On Wednesday afternoon, as I watched Inslee shoot hoops with his buddies under the new backboard he had just put up on his garage, it struck me that some things have not changed. It was still basketballs for him, cartoons for me.

But, in truth, the change is rather dramatic. My bio now starts with the phrase “two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner.” Inslee, as a congressman, threw elbows and blocked shots on the White House basketball court with President Obama. And now, that hoop and net he just installed is attached to the garage outside the governor’s mansion in Olympia, Wash. As of Wednesday, his bio has a new top line: 23rd governor of the state of Washington…..




Tom Toles goes green: A collection of cartoons about the environment and global warming.





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