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Conservation Science News February 8, 2013

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Highlight of the Week









Highlight of the Week


A future of purple seas and green skies?—worth reading… and knowing that we do today can make a huge difference for our kids’ future….


Will global warming drive us extinct? A review of Peter Ward’s “Under a Green Sky”
Posted on
October 13, 2011

Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., is a paleontologist and professor in the Departments of Geology and Biology at the University of Washington in Seattle. He also serves as an adjunct professor of zoology and astronomy. His research specialties include the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event and mass extinctions generally. His books include the best-selling “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe” (co-author Donald Brownlee, 2000), “Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us About Our Future” (2007), and “The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive?” (2009).…..Here is Ward’s description of what “life” was like during the Triassic greenhouse mass extinction [with 1000 ppm CO2] to give you an idea of where Earth is headed for again:

Review: Under a Green Sky

Alex Steffen, 27 Apr 07

Ward takes us into the deep past, to the end of the Triassic, as a guide to what atmospheric carbon of 1,000 ppm (a concentration we will hit within the century if we don’t change our ways) might be like if we believe the paleontological record:

Waves slowly lap on the quiet shore, slow-motion waves with the consistency of gelatin. Most of the shoreline is encrusted with rotting organic matter, silk-like swathes of bacterial slick now putrefying under the blazing sun… [W]e look out on the surface of the great sea itself, and as far as the eye can see there is a mirrored flatness, an ocean without whitecaps. Yet that is not the biggest surprise.

From shore to the horizon, there is but an unending purple color — a vast, flat, oily purple. No fish break its surface, no birds or any other kind of flying creatures dip down looking for food. The purple color comes from vast concentrations of floating bacteria, for the oceans of Earth have all become covered with a hundred-foot thick veneer of purple and green bacterial soup. …There is one final surprise.

We look upward, to the sky. … We are under a pale green sky, and it has the smell of death and poison. We have gone to Nevada of 200 million years ago only to arrive under the transparent atmospheric glass of a greenhouse extinction event, and it is poison, heat and mass death that are found in this greenhouse.”

….. As Wallace Broecker says, “”The climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks”
Or, as Ward tells it: “Our world is hurtling toward carbon dioxide levels not seen since the Eocene epoch of 60 million years ago, which, importantly enough, occurred right after a greenhouse extinction.” This could begin to happen as soon as 2100, Ward says. Many babies today will be alive then. This is not some woo-woo future: this is the world we may be cooking up for our children

BIG THINK SMARTER FASTER- PETER WARDshort videosThe Seas Could Turn to Sulfur, Feeling the Heat….

And a fascinating TED talk and other links:

Peter Ward on Earth’s mass extinctions | Video on

TED Talks Asteroid strikes get all the coverage, but “Medea Hypothesis” author Peter Ward argues that most of Earth’s mass extinctions were caused by lowly






PRBO in the News:


He Flew Away

Posted: 02/06/2013 3:25 pm Glen Martin Huffington Post

A blog is hardly the most felicitous venue for an obituary, but I’m compelled to make an exception for Rich Stallcup, the co-founder of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (known these days as PRBO Conservation Science). Stallcup, one of the great ornithologists of his generation, died in December from leukemia at the age of 67. ….

Condors preening / Photo by William H. Majonis

The condor recovery debate, 30 years later
February 7, 2013
Posted by GGAS in Birding, Conservation
By Burr Heneman

Rich Stallcup was the giant of birding in Northern California and beyond. There is so much to miss about him now that he’s no longer with us in person. To be with him in the field and glimpse the “feathered nation” — or snakes or salamanders or butterflies — was to fall in love with them for life. Rich could also write beautifully, and from the heart. He wrote most of all about birding, but there were occasional thoughtful and thought-provoking pieces on hard issues that he couldn’t remain silent about.

Rich wrote “Farewell Skymaster” (below) in 1981 for a special 20-page Point Reyes Bird Observatory Newsletter devoted entirely to the California Condor. Today, with more than 400 condors in the skies over California, Arizona, and northern Baja, it’s hard to imagine the controversy and deep divisions within the ornithological and birding communities caused by the condor recovery program 30 years ago…..

…..We might ask, Are we saving the condor, or are we operating a very large, free-range condor zoo?
And do they have the dignity that Rich argued for? The question that Rich and the other authors debated in the Newsletter is not just of historic interest. At a time when climate change is endangering more species, we increasingly need to decide which to save, which to abandon, and what criteria to use, both scientific and philosophical, to make those god-like decisions. I’ll miss Rich’s voice in those debates.

Bay Nature (blog)

Making the Most of Mud

Bay Nature (blog)  – ‎Feb 1, 2013‎

These two mudrakers are among several dozen scientists from the USGS, the University of San Francisco, PRBO Conservation Science, the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and other organizations who have contributed research papers to a forthcoming

San Francisco Bay, Marin wetlands get international designation aimed at …
Marin Independent-Journal  – ‎Feb 2, 2013‎

Melissa Pitkin, spokeswoman for PRBO Conservation Science– the former Point Reyes Bird Observatory – said decades of research led to this designation.




Fire study finds landscapes vulnerable to ‘ecosystem collapse’ February 6, 2013

Ecologists have long suggested that ecosystems disturbed and managed by humans are prone to abrupt environmental collapse. To test the theory Andrew MacDougall and his colleagues took their torches to small plots of grasslands on Vancouver Island.


Diversity loss with persistent human disturbance increases vulnerability to ecosystem collapse 
A. S. MacDougall, K. S. McCann, G. Gellner & R. Turkington NATURE Feb 7 2013
Persistent anthropogenic disturbance is shown simultaneously to drive plant species loss and stabilize some attributes of ecosystem function, analogous to a high-yield, low-diversity agricultural system, but increase the likelihood of irreversible collapse after sudden environmental change.


ABSTRACT: Long-term and persistent human disturbances have simultaneously altered the stability and diversity of ecological systems, with disturbances directly reducing functional attributes such as invasion resistance, while eliminating the buffering effects of high species diversity1, 2, 3, 4. Theory predicts that this combination of environmental change and diversity loss increases the risk of abrupt and potentially irreversible ecosystem collapse1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, but long-term empirical evidence from natural systems is lacking. Here we demonstrate this relationship in a degraded but species-rich pyrogenic grassland in which the combined effects of fire suppression, invasion and trophic collapse have created a species-poor grassland that is highly productive, resilient to yearly climatic fluctuations, and resistant to invasion, but vulnerable to rapid collapse after the re-introduction of fire. We initially show how human disturbance has created a negative relationship between diversity and function, contrary to theoretical predictions3, 4. Fire prevention since the mid-nineteenth century is associated with the loss of plant species but it has stabilized high-yield annual production and invasion resistance, comparable to a managed high-yield low-diversity agricultural system. In managing for fire suppression, however, a hidden vulnerability to sudden environmental change emerges that is explained by the elimination of the buffering effects of high species diversity. With the re-introduction of fire, grasslands only persist in areas with remnant concentrations of native species, in which a range of rare and mostly functionally redundant plants proliferate after burning and prevent extensive invasion including a rapid conversion towards woodland. This research shows how biodiversity can be crucial for ecosystem stability despite appearing functionally insignificant beforehand, a relationship probably applicable to many ecosystems given the globally prevalent combination of intensive long-term land management and species loss.



Plant Biodiversity Shields Natural Ecosystems From Man-Made Perils

February 7, 2013

April Flowers for – Your Universe Online

A new study led by integrative biologists at the University of Guelph warns of the perils inherent in an ecosystem breakdown. The findings of the study, which appeared as the cover story in today’s issue of the journal Nature, suggest that resource managers and farmers should not rely on single crop monocultures, no matter how stable they may appear to be. The team suggests instead that farmers should cultivate the growth of more kinds of plants in fields and woods as a buffer against sudden ecosystem disturbances.

Based on a ten-year study, the team’s findings lend scientific weight to moral and esthetic arguments for preserving species biodiversity and confirm that greater species diversity in an area helps ecosystems avoid irreversible collapse after human disturbances.

“Species are more important than we think,” said Professor Andrew MacDougall. “We need to protect biodiversity.”


Peru’s anchovy yield plummets

Associated Press Updated 10:37 pm, Monday, February 4, 2013 Callao, Peru

The ocean off Peru boasts the world’s richest fishing grounds, but Taurino Querevalu is returning to port empty again after a hunt for Peruvian anchovy, cursing his empty nets and an increasingly stingy sea. …..Querevalu’s frustrated search for the silvery, stiletto-size fish reflects a voracious, growing global demand for the protein-rich fish meal, and oil, into which nearly Peru’s entire anchovy catch is converted. It also reflects unremitting cheating by commercial fleets on quotas and other regulations designed to protect the species. Not only has overfishing of the Peruvian anchovy, or anchoveta, battered the industry that makes Peru far and away the world’s No. 1 fish-meal exporter, it has also raised alarm about food security in a nation that had long been accustomed to cheap, abundant seafood. The drop in the anchoveta population has over the years affected the food chain, as stocks of hundreds of bigger wild fish and marine animals that eat it have also thinned.

Anchoveta thrives in the cold, plankton-saturated Humboldt Current along the coast of Peru and Chile and accounts for about a third of the global fish-meal industry used to fatten farmed seafood and livestock, from salmon in Norway to pigs in China. Like other small “forage fish” that account for more than a third of the world’s wild ocean fish catch, nearly the entire anchoveta catch gets ground up into feed and rendered into oil. It is the “the most heavily exploited fish in world history,” according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization….


11,000 elephants slaughtered in national park once home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population
(February 6, 2013) — The Wildlife Conservation Society has just announced that a national park, once home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population, has lost a staggering 11,100 individuals due to poaching for the ivory trade. The shocking figures come from Gabon’s Minkebe Park, where recent surveys of areas within the park revealed that two thirds of its elephants have vanished since 2004. The majority of these losses have probably taken place in the last five years. … > full story


Waste dump at the end of the world: Ecologists propose managing strategies to protect the Antarctic
(February 7, 2013) — Ecologists have found out that the environment of the Antarctic is far less intact than many people might think. The German ecologists make specific suggestions for the management of this sensitive region: The crucial point is the designation of the Fildes Peninsula as an ‘Antarctic Specially Managed Area’ (ASMA). … > full story

How new corals species form in the ocean
(February 6, 2013) — Biological sciences professors have investigated how corals specialize to particular environments in the ocean. They propose that the large dispersal potential of coral larvae in open water and the proximity of different species on the ocean floor creates a mystery for researchers who study speciation, asking, “How can new marine species emerge without obvious geographic isolation?” … > full story


Nitrogen from pollution, natural sources causes growth of toxic algae, study finds
(February 6, 2013)Nitrogen in ocean waters fuels the growth of two tiny but toxic phytoplankton species that are harmful to marine life and human health, warns a new study. Researchers found that nitrogen entering the ocean — whether through natural processes or pollution — boosts the growt
h and toxicity of a group of phytoplankton that can cause the human illness amnesic shellfish poisoning.
Researchers from San Francisco State University found that nitrogen entering the ocean — whether through natural processes or pollution — boosts the growth and toxicity of a group of phytoplankton that can cause the human illness Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. Commonly found in marine waters off the North American West Coast, these diatoms (phytoplankton cells) of the Pseudo-nitzschia genus produce a potent toxin called domoic acid. When these phytoplankton grow rapidly into massive blooms, high concentrations of domoic acid put human health at risk if it accumulates in shellfish. It can also cause death and illness among marine mammals and seabirds that eat small fish that feed on plankton. “Regardless of its source, nitrogen has a powerful impact on the growth of phytoplankton that are the foundation of the marine food web, irrespective of whether they are toxic or not,” said William Cochlan, senior research scientist at SF State’s Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. “Scientists and regulators need to be aware of the implications of both natural and pollutant sources of nitrogen entering the sea.” … > full story

Maureen E. Auro, William P. Cochlan. Nitrogen Utilization and Toxin Production by Two Diatoms of thePseudo-nitzschia pseudodelicatissimaComplex:P. cuspidataandP. fryxelliana. Journal of Phycology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/jpy.12033

Mercury contamination in water can be detected with a mobile phone
(February 6, 2013) — Chemists have manufactured a sheet that changes color in the presence of water contaminated with mercury. The results can be seen with the naked eye but when photographing the membrane with a mobile phone the concentration of this extremely toxic metal can be quantified. … > full story


FILE – In this Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2011 file photo, solar panels are seen at the NRG Solar and Eurus Energy America Corp.’s 45-megawatt solar farm in Avenal, Calif. There’s a land rush of sorts going on across the nation’s most productive farming region, but these buyers don’t want to grow crops. Instead developers are looking to plant solar voltaic cells to generate electricity for a state mandated to get 33 percent from renewables by the end of the decade. Photo: The Sentinel, Apolinar Fonseca

Solar development absorbing Calif. farmland

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press
Updated 3:13 pm, Saturday, February 2, 2013

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — There’s a land rush of sorts going on across the nation’s most productive farming region, but these buyers don’t want to grow crops. They want to plant solar farms.

With California mandating that 33 percent of electricity be generated from renewables by the end of the decade, there are 227 proposed solar projects in the pipeline statewide. Coupled with wind and other renewables they would generate enough electricity to meet 100 percent of California’s power needs on an average summer day, the California Independent System Operator says….


Amazon freshwater ecosystems are vulnerable to degradation
(February 1, 2013) — Broadening of forest-centric focus to river catchment-based conservation framework is required: A new study found that freshwater ecosystems in the Amazon are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. River, lake and wetland ecosystems —- encompassing approximately one-fifth of the Amazon basin area — are being increasingly degraded by deforestation, pollution, construction of dams and waterways, and over-harvesting of plant and animal species. … > full story


Preserving biodiversity can be compatible with intensive agriculture
(February 6, 2013) — Preserving genetically diverse local crops in areas where small-scale farms are rapidly modernizing is possible, according to a geographer, who is part of an international research project investigating the biodiversity of maize, or corn, in hotspots of Bolivia, Peru and Mexico. … > full story

Biodiversity helps protect nature against human impacts
(February 6, 2013) — New research suggests farmers and resource managers should not rely on seemingly stable but vulnerable single-crop monocultures. Instead they should encourage more kinds of plants in fields and woods as a buffer against sudden ecosystem disturbance. … > full story


British moths in calamitous decline

The Guardian  – ‎February 1, 2013‎

Moths are vanishing from our skies at night, declining in southern Britain by 40% over 40 years, a major new report published on Friday reveals.


Birds May Use ‘Sound Maps’ To Navigate Huge Distances

NPR February 1, 2013

BirdsMay Use ‘Sound Maps’ To Navigate Huge Distances. February 01, 2013 3:00 PM. Audio for this story from All Things Considered will be available at approximately 7:00 p.m.


A domestic cat carrying a dead American Coot. Photo: Debi Shearwater

No. 1 bird killer is outdoor cats

Mike Lynes SF CHRONICLE OPINION Published 8:15 pm, Monday, February 4, 2013

Everyone knows that cats are hunters. But even wildlife experts were stunned by a new report last week that as many as 3.7 billion birds are killed by outdoor cats in the contiguous United States each year. That’s far more than the 1 billion that previously had been estimated, and more than are killed by any other single source such as collisions or oil spills.

This peer-reviewed study – by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – must serve as a wake-up call to people who care both about cats and about wildlife.

The implication for domestic cats is clear: Owners need to keep them inside. This protects not just birds and other wildlife but the cats themselves, keeping them safe from hazards such as traffic, dogs and poison.The implication for unowned or feral cats is more complicated. Last week’s study indicated that unowned cats are responsible for the vast majority of bird deaths – 70 percent. Yet policies in cities like San Francisco do little to address the gruesome toll of feral cats on wildlife. San Francisco SPCA operates a trap-neuter-release program that stops some feral cats from reproducing but does nothing to stop them from hunting and devouring birds. The city also countenances feral cat feeding colonies, where well-meaning citizens provide food for large numbers of outdoor cats.

But this study documents that even well-fed cats are killers. Feeding and maintaining large feral cat populations may seem humane for the cats – but it is a death warrant for birds and other wildlife.

It’s time for San Franciscans and other animal lovers to expand their definition of “humane animal care” to include the needs of wildlife as well as domestic pets. We have many opportunities to do so. First, we can strengthen efforts to educate cat owners about keeping their cats indoors and not abandoning them in parks if they need to give them up…..

Animal magnetism: First evidence that magnetism helps salmon find home
(February 7, 2013) — When migrating, sockeye salmon typically swim up to 4,000 miles into the ocean and then, years later, navigate back to the upstream reaches of the rivers in which they were born to spawn their young. Scientists, the fishing community and lay people have long wondered how salmon find their way to their home rivers over such epic distances. … > full story


Solving big-data bottleneck: Scientists team with business innovators to tackle research hurdles
(February 7, 2013) — Researchers have demonstrated that a crowdsourcing platform pioneered in the commercial sector can solve a complex biological problem more quickly than conventional approaches — and at a fraction of the cost. Partnering with TopCoder, a crowdsourcing platform with a global community of 450,000 algorithm specialists and software developers, researchers identified a program that can analyze vast amounts of data, in this case from the genes and gene mutations that build antibodies and T cell receptors. Since the immune system t
akes a limited number of genes and recombines them to fight a seemingly infinite number of invaders, predicting these genetic configurations has proven a massive challenge, with few good solutions. The program identified through this crowdsourcing experiment succeeded with an unprecedented level of accuracy and remarkable speed.”This is a proof-of-concept demonstration that we can bring people together not only from different schools and different disciplines, but from entirely different economic sectors, to solve problems that are bigger than one person, department or institution,” said Eva Guinan, HMS associate professor of radiation oncology at Dana-Farber… > full story



California in Winter? It’s for the Birds

KQED February 4, 2013

The Central Valley is bird-central these days. Every winter, millions of migratory birds head from Northern Canada down the Pacific Flyway, stopping at their favorite watering holes from southern Oregon to the San Joaquin Valley. The numbers in January are not what they were at the tail end of December. But you’d still be hard-pressed to count how many tricolor blackbirds, geese, ducks, egrets, owls, hawks, vultures — even gulls — stop for a meal and avian companionship in Northern California. Since the vast majority of the state’s marshland habitat has been drained and paved or plowed over, birds have adapted and set down in rice fields instead. But they also seem to mark places like the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area on their internal Pacific Flyway maps. Many of the Central Valley bird celebrations designed for humans have already happened, but next weekend, the 17th Annual Flyway Festival on Vallejo’s Mare Island promises to deliver 60 bird-lover events, like guided hikes and workshops.


Biodiversity exploration in the 3-D era
(February 4, 2013) — A group of marine biologists from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Crete are testing computed tomography as a tool to accurately document the anatomy of biological specimens. The resulting 3-D models can be instantly accessed and interactively manipulated by other researchers, thus promoting rapid dissemination of morphological data useful to biodiversity research. … > full story


Coyote hunt brings chorus of protest

Peter Fimrite San Francisco Chronicle February 3, 2013

A coyote hunt scheduled this month in Modoc County has triggered outrage from conservation groups that launched a statewide campaign this week to stop what they characterize as a bloodthirsty canine killing contest held for no other reason than… more »







2012 global temperatures 10th highest on record
(February 6, 2013) — The globally-averaged temperature for 2012 marked the 10th warmest year since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 36th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average annual temperature was 1976. Including 2012, all 12 years to date in the 21st century (2001-2012) rank among the 14 warmest in the 133-year period of record. Only one year during the 20th century — 1998 — was warmer than 2012. … > full story

2012 warmest and second most extreme year on record for the contiguous United States
(February 6, 2013) — In 2012, the contiguous United States (CONUS) average annual temperature of 55.3°F was 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and was the warmest year in the 1895-2012 period of record for the nation. The 2012 annual temperature was 1.0°F warmer than the previous record warm year of 1998. … > full story


The reduction in climate pollution – even as Congress failed to act on climate change – brings America more than halfway towards Barack Obama’s target. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

US carbon emissions fall to lowest levels since 1994

Energy-saving technologies and a doubling in renewables led to the reduction in climate pollution, new figures show

Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent, Friday 1 February 2013 06.34 EST

America’s carbon dioxide emissions last year fell to their lowest levels since 1994, according to a new report. Carbon dioxide emissions fell by 13% in the past five years, because of new energy-saving technologies and a doubling in the take-up of renewable energythe report compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) said.

The reduction in climate pollution – even as Congress failed to act on climate change – brings America more than halfway towards Barack Obama’s target of cutting emissions by 17% from 2005 levels over the next decade, the Bloomberg analysts said. By the end of last year, America’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had fallen 10.7% from the 2005 baselines.

That drop puts Obama in a better position to defend his environmental achievements, which have often gone overlooked in the bitter rows over climate science.

It may also buoy up America’s standing in the global climate negotiations. “There have certainly been some solid results on the board in the US as a result of all these changes,” Ethan Zindler, a BNEF analyst said. A report last year by the independent thinktank Resources for the Future
also suggested America was on course to meet those targets.


Power Plant Carbon Pollution Declined In 2011 Thanks To Less Coal Burning, EPA Reports

AP  |  By By MATTHEW DALY Posted: 02/05/2013 2:59 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/05/2013 6:51 pm EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heat-trapping gases from U.S. power plants fell 4.6 percent in 2011 from the previous year as plants burned less coal, the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, according to a new government report. The report, released Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency, said power plants remain the largest stationary source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that trigger global warming. Power plants were responsible for 2.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2011. The reduction from 2010 reflects a relative decline in the use of coal, the dominant U.S. energy source, and an increase in natural gas and renewable sources that produce lower amounts of greenhouse gases, the report said. Power plants produced roughly two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, the EPA said, with petroleum and natural gas systems a distant second and refineries the third-largest carbon pollution source…..


Yosemite’s Lyell Glacier may be receding

David Perlman SF Chronicle Updated 9:15 pm, Monday, February 4, 2013

Yosemite’s famed Lyell Glacier has stopped moving downhill and may actually be shrinking – another probable sign that the world’s climate is warming, scientists report.

“It appears to have stagnated, and we strongly suspect that it has thinned to less than half the size that would keep it moving,” said Greg Stock, Yosemite National Park’s geologist who has been measuring the Lyell and nearby Maclure Glacier for the past four years with Robert Anderson of the University of Colorado. The Lyell is small by world standards – only about a quarter of a mile wide and less than that long – but it stands atop the headwaters of the Tuolumne River, which feeds San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy reservoir. The glacier is the largest of 14 in the High Sierra that have shrunk by more than half during the past century, according to a recent survey by geologists at Portland State University in Oregon. “The most logical reason for the shrinking is because of more loss from melting snow as the climate warms,” Stock said…..



Climate Change and Wetlands: The IPCC Weighs In

Posted February 8, 2013

Climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, air, water and marine pollution, deforestation and loss of biodiversity all transcend geopolitical boundaries and pose serious threats to sustaining a level of material comfort and quality of life that many have come to take for granted and to which many others desperately aspire. Forging global governance agreements and international standards, such as the UN International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (NGGI), for factors and forces driving these transboundary processes hence is critical if we are to have any chance of leaving future generations healthy, sustainable societies and ecosystems. Faced with having to develop new scientific methodologies and technology — as well as change our ingrained attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior — at the same time, these transboundary issues related to global governance rank among the greatest collective challenges in human history.

Taking an important step down the path to global governance of transboundary challenges, the IPCC on January 31 announced the second order draft of the “2013 Supplement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Wetlands” has moved into its government expert review. A total of 127 experts participated in the review of the first order draft, which also included reviewing 5,055 comments. The second order NGGI: Wetlands Supplement is expected to be completed this October, according to the IPCC. Though we continue to lose them at a rapid rate, the world’s wetlands are significant sinks for carbon sequestration, one of the many ecosystem services they provide societies and humanity. It’s estimated that half or more of the world’s wetlands were lost during the 20th century, primarily due to human activity. Omitted from the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for NGGIs, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010 asked the IPCC to expand its work to develop methodologies for wetlands. In May, 2011, the IPCC, in turn, set its Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories the task of developing “additional national-level inventory methodological guidance on wetlands to address the gaps identified in the 2006 IPCC Guidelines.”….


Lungs of the planet reveal their true sensitivity to global warming
(February 6, 2013) — The amount of carbon dioxide that rainforests absorb, or produce, varies hugely with year-to-year variations in the climate. Climate scientists have shown that these variations reveal how vulnerable the rainforest is to climate change. … > full story


Birds may need a hand to weather climate change

EurekAlert (press release)  – ‎ February 4, 2013‎

A new study led by Durham University and BirdLife International, shows that many bird species are likely to suffer under future climate change, and will require enhanced protection of important sites, better management of the wider countryside, and in


Global worming: how worms are accelerating climate change

The Guardian (blog)  – February 5, 2013‎

It may not be all about us humans – earthworms could be contributing to climate change too, according to a new study. What’s more, the research warns worm populations are set to boom in the next few decades….


Tiny marine creature spreading through ocean, stabilizing reefs and islands with calcareous shells
(February 6, 2013) — The climate is getting warmer, and sea levels are rising — a threat to island nations. As a group of researchers found out, at the same time, tiny single-cell organisms are spreading rapidly through the world’s oceans, where they might be able to mitigate the con
sequences of climate change. Amphistegina are stabilizing coastlines and reefs with their calcareous shells.
The study’s results have now appeared in the international online journal PLOS ONE. Countless billions of tiny, microscopic shelled creatures known as foraminifera inhabit the oceans of our planet: some of which look like little stars, others like Swiss cheese, and yet others like tiny mussels. They are extremely plentiful and exceptionally diverse in shape. Most of the approximately 10,000 foraminifera species live on the bottom of tropical and sub-tropical oceans, are surrounded by a calcareous shell, and do not even reach the size of a grain of sand. And yet, these tiny organisms are capable of enormous tasks. “Foraminifera are ecosystem engineers,” says Prof. Dr. Martin Langer from the Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und Paläontologie at the University of Bonn. “With their shells, these protozoa produce up to two kilograms of calcium carbonate per square meter of ocean floor. This often makes them, after corals, the most important producers of sediment in tropical reef areas.”… > full story


Polar bear researchers urge governments to act now and save the species
(February 4, 2013) — Polar bear researchers are urging governments to start planning for rapid Arctic ecosystem change to deal with a climate change catastrophe for the animals. … > full story

Sandy’s wake leaves shore birds in dire straits

By MARY ESCH Associated Press February 2, 2013

When red knots descend on the beaches of Delaware Bay this spring famished from their marathon flight toward the Canadian Arctic from the tip of South America, the rosy-breasted shorebirds may find slim pickings instead of the feast of horseshoe crab eggs they count on to fuel the rest of their migration. Superstorm Sandy scrubbed away almost all the sand the crabs need to spawn upon. Restoring it in time is a top priority of wildlife groups beginning to repair Sandy’s massive damage to dunes, beaches and salt marshes along the Eastern Seaboard that support a diverse population of birds, fish, marine organisms and other wildlife. A recent report by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
predicts that the storm — which across the region washed away sand and vegetation that many species spawn in or call home, or polluted habitats with oil, sewage and other contaminants — is almost certain to have lasting effects on the recovery of the red knot. The Delaware Bay could be called the Serengeti of the mid-Atlantic for the staggering numbers of birds there, said Eric Stiles, executive director of New Jersey Audubon. In addition to providing a wintering area for waterfowl that breed in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, the estuary also provides a winter range for large numbers of raptors, including bald eagles….


Super Storm Sandy Restores Habitat in Sunken Meadow Park

2013 February 5 NY EPA BLOG By Mark Tedesco

The storm surge associated with Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on coastal communities, altering both human and natural structures.  However, coastal ecosystems have evolved with, and have been shaped by, the forces of coastal storms over the centuries. Periodic storms can even have beneficial effects on certain aspects of the natural ecosystem.  One such example is the restoration of intertidal flow and habitat in Sunken Meadow Creek at Sunken Meadow State Park, New York. The storm surge associated with Hurricane Sandy destroyed a man-made berm across Sunken Meadow Creek that was constructed as part of the development of Sunken Meadow State Park in the early 1950s.  The berm created a road and walkway to nearby woodland for park visitors, but the undersized culverts that were installed restricted the natural tidal flow to the creek from Long Island Sound.  As a result, saltwater fish were prevented from swimming and spawning upstream, and an invasive form of the common reed, Phragmites, proliferated along the now freshwater creek.  Using EPA funding provided through the Long Island Sound Study, New York State Parks was planning to remove the berm to restore tidal flushing to the creek. But on October 29-30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy decided that Mother Nature knows best, impatiently breaching and eroding away portions of the berm. As a result, Sunken Meadow Creek has returned to its natural state, an estuary where fresh and salt water mix.  The fresh water common reed, Phragmites, will most likely die back and be replaced by saltmarsh grasses.  Saltwater species cut off from the creek, including alewife, striped bass, juvenile bluefish, winter flounder, weakfish, silverside, killifish, American eel and various shellfish, waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds will all benefit.  Although intertidal exchange has been restored by the force of Sandy, planning is now underway to control bank erosion and restore access to the other side of the creek for park visitors.


Steven Meister / Mt. Taylor Hotshots via Reuters Burned terrain in the Gila National Forest, New Mexico, is seen in a photo supplied by the United States Forest Service on May 30. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire was the largest fire ever in New Mexico, burning about 300,000 acres.

Climate change shaking up forest management, federal report says

By Jeff Barnard, The Associated Press

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Big changes are in store for the nation’s forests as global warming increases wildfires and insect infestations, and generates more frequent floods and droughts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns in a new report. The study released Tuesday is part of the National Climate Assessment and will serve as a roadmap for managing national forests across the country in coming years.

It says the area burned by wildfires is expected to at least double over the next 25 years, and insect infestations often will affect more land per year than fires.

Dave Cleaves, climate adviser to the chief of the U.S. Forest Service, said
climate change has become the primary driver for managing national forests, because it poses a major threat to their ability to store carbon and provide clean water and wildlife habitat.
“One of the big findings of this report is we are in the process of managing multiple risks to the forest,” Cleaves said on a conference call on the report. “Climate revs up those stressors and couples them. We have to do a much better job of applying climate smartness … to how we do forestry.”
The federal government has spent about $1 billion a year in recent years combating wildfires. Last year was the warmest on record in the lower 48 states and saw 9.2 million acres burned, the third-highest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.
Insect infestations widely blamed on warming temperatures have killed tens of millions of acres of trees. 


Report: Climate change could devastate agriculture

USA TODAY  – ‎ February 5, 2013‎

A comprehensive USDA study concludes rising temperatures could cost farmers millions as they battle new pests, faster weed growth and get smaller yields as climate change continues. A n analysis released by the Agriculture Department said that although U.S. crops and livestock have been able to adapt to changes in their surroundings for close to 150 years, the accelerating pace and intensity of global warming during the next few decades may soon be too much for the once-resilient sector to overcome.

“We’re going to end up in a situation where we have a multitude of things happening that are going to negatively impact crop production,” said Jerry Hatfield, a laboratory director and plant physiologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and lead author of the study. “In fact, we saw this in 2012 with the drought.”… In the report, researchers said U.S. cropland agriculture will be fairly resistant to climate change during the next quarter-century.

Farmers will be able to minimize the impact of global warming on their crops by changing the timing of farming practices and utilizing specialized crop varieties more resilient to drought, disease and heat, among other practices, the report found. Crops also may benefit by increasing the use of irrigation when possible and shifting production areas to regions where the temperature is more conducive for better output. Depending on where they live, some farmers could benefit financially at the expense of others.

By the middle of the century and beyond, adaptation becomes more difficult and costly as plants and animals that have adapted to warming climate conditions will have to do so even more — making the productivity of crops and livestock increasingly more unpredictable. Temperature increases and more extreme swings in precipitation could lead to a drop in yield for major U.S. crops and reduce the profitability of many agriculture operations. The reason is that higher temperatures cause crops to mature more quickly, reducing the growing season and yields as a result. Faster growth could reduce grain, forage, fiber and fruit production if the plants can’t get the proper level of nutrients or water…..

The entire USA is likely to warm substantially during the next 40 years, increasing 1-2 degrees Celsius over much of the country, according to the study. The warmth is likely to be more significant in much of the interior USA where temperatures are likely to increase 2-3 degrees Celsius. The USDA review said climate change will affect livestock by throwing off an animal’s optimal core body temperature, which could hurt productivity and limit the production of meat, milk or eggs. A warmer and more humid weather pattern is likely to increase the prevalence of insect and diseases, further diminishing an animal’s health and output. The 146-page report, written by a team of 56 authors from the federal government, universities, the private sector and other groups, stopped short of providing answers on how to stop or curtail global warming. The analysis was done by reviewing more than 1,400 publications that looked at the effect of climate change on U.S. agriculture.

In a separate report, the USDA looked at literature reviewing the impact of climate change on the country’s forests. The data indicated the most visible and significant short-term effects on forests will be caused by fire, insects, invasive species or a mix of these occurring together. Wildfires are likely to increase throughout the USA, causing at least a doubling of area burned by the mid-21st century. “That’s the conservative end,” said Dave Cleaves, a climate change adviser with the USDA’s Forest Service. “We can’t just stand back and let these natural conditions occur.”



New protocol recommendations for measuring soil organic carbon sequestration
(February 1, 2013) — Increased levels of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, have been associated with the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, cultivation of grasslands, drainage of the land, and land use changes. Concerns about long-term shifts in climate patterns have led scientists to measure soil organic carbon (SOC) in agricultural landscapes and to develop methods to evaluate how changes in tillage practices affect atmospheric carbon sequestration. “Many experiments comparing no-till to conventional tillage on similar soils have shown no-till to have higher levels of soil organic carbon,” Olson said. “So we know in general that no-till is often better than conventional tillage at building or retaining more of the organic matter in the soil, which is important to crop productivity. However, this does not mean that no-till is necessarily sequestering atmospheric carbon. It is often just losing carbon at a lower rate than conventional tillage.” This unexpected discovery was the result of Olson’s use of a pre-treatment SOC measurement method that compares change in soil organic carbon over time on the same plots using the same tillage methods. “This protocol does not assume that soil carbon pools are at steady state (remain the same over time), but measures SOC at the beginning of an experiment, at intervals during, and at the end of the experiment,” Olson said.

Comparison studies with one treatment as the baseline (usually conventional tillage) or control and other tillage such as no-till as the experimental treatment should not be used to determine SOC sequestration if soil samples are only collected and tested once during or at the end of the study,” Olson said. The comparison method assumes the conventional tillage baseline to be at a steady state and having the same amount of SOC at the beginning and at the end of the long-term study, and this may not be true. No-till as the experiment treatment needs to be compared to itself on the same soils over time to determine if SOC sequestration has really occurred….

There were three major reasons why the comparison study approach was the wrong method for measuring C sequestration on the Dixon Springs plot area.


Kenneth R. Olson. Soil organic carbon sequestration, storage, retention and loss in U.S. croplands: Issues paper for protocol development. Geoderma, 2013; 195-196: 201 DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2012.12.004

Can Sea Urchins Show Scientists How To Capture Carbon Affordably?

By Jeff Spross on Feb 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm

According to a story in Gizmag yesterday, a group of researchers at Newcastle University in the U.K. may have accidentally stumbled on a solution to the problems that have bedeviled carbon capture and sequestration — by studying sea urchins. “We had set out to understand in detail the carbonic acid reaction, which is what happens when CO2 reacts with water, and needed a catalyst to speed up the process,” Dr. Lidija Šiller, the leader of the team, said in a press release. “At the same time, I was looking at how organisms absorb CO2 into their skeletons and in particular the sea urchin which converts the CO2 to calcium carbonate.” The use of calcium carbonate to grow shells and other bony parts is a trait urchins share with other marine animals. And when the team examined the urchin larvae, they found a high concentrations of nickel on their exoskeleton. Working off that discovery, they added nickel nanoparticles to their carbonic acid test. The result was the complete removal of the CO2 as it was converted into calcium carbonate. According to Gaurav Bhaduri, a PhD student in Newcastle University and the lead author of the team’s paper, the methodology they derived — and have now patented — is simpler and much cheaper than the traditional enzyme-based approaches:

“The beauty of a Nickel catalyst is that it carries on working regardless of the pH and because of its magnetic properties it can be re-captured and re-used time and time again. It’s also very cheap – 1,000 times cheaper than the enzyme. And the by-product – the carbonate – is useful and not damaging to the environment.”

The research team developed a process to capture CO2 from waste gas by passing it directly from a chimney top through a water column rich in nickel nanoparticles. The solid calcium carbonate can then be recovered at the bottom of the column….



Northeast Braces for a Major Snowstorm

National Weather Service A satellite image taken at 4:45 p.m. Eastern time Thursday. Areas in blue indicate colder cloud tops or deeper cloud cover. The system over the Midwest and the system spread across the East are expected to merge on Friday.

By MARC SANTORA NY TIMES Published: February 7, 2013 73 Comments

As a major winter storm made its way up the Atlantic Coast on Thursday, local authorities from New York City to Maine began to make preparations for what forecasters said could be the heaviest snowfall for some cities in the Northeast in a century. Airlines began announcing the suspension of flights out of New York and Boston airports starting Friday night, as thousands of workers readied their plows, checked their stocks of salt and braced for what will most likely be a cold, wet weekend. Amtrak announced that it would suspend northbound service out of Penn Station in New York and southbound service out of Boston beginning early Friday afternoon. On Long Island, where some forecasts said there could be more than 18 inches of snow, the power company, which has received heavy criticism for its response to Hurricane Sandy, promised customers that they were prepared. The city of Boston, where forecasts called for more than two feet of snow to fall by Saturday, announced that it would close all schools on Friday, joining other localities in trying to get ahead of the storm and keep people off the roads. “We are taking this storm very seriously and you should take this storm very seriously,” said Jerome Hauer, the New York State Commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, at an afternoon news conference. “If you don’t have to go to work tomorrow, we suggest that you do not,” he said. “If you do, we suggest that you plan for an early departure.” The latest forecasts, he said, called for between 12 and 20 inches of snow in the New York City region and wind gusts that could exceed 60 miles per hour. However, with the storm still some distance away, forecasters warned that predictions could change. The first sign of the storm will be a dusting of light snow that is expected to start falling across the region Friday morning. At some point Friday night, the arctic jet stream will drop down from Canada and intersect with the polar jet stream, which usually travels through the lower 48 states…Mr. Hauer said that coastal areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island could see flooding and should be prepared to seek alternative shelter. While the storm surge is only expected to be 3 to 5 feet — well below the 14-foot surge that Hurricane Sandy delivered — he said large waves could bring water inland.


Extreme Rainfall Linked to Global Warming

Science Daily (press release)  – ‎February 1, 2013‎

Feb. 1, 2013 – A worldwide review of global rainfall data led by the University of Adelaide has found that the intensity of the most extreme rainfall events is increasing across the globe as temperatures rise.



Stanford scientists have developed a tool that reveals pools of underground meltwater where decomposing organic matter generates a greenhouse gas. Photo: John McConnico, AP

New Stanford Arctic thawing detection tool

David Perlman Updated 4:28 pm, Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stanford geophysicist and his colleagues have developed a new system that should aid scientists trying to map the Arctic’s thawing permafrost, where greenhouse gases are escaping into the atmosphere from deep beneath the frozen soil. Those gases speed the pace of global warming, and climate scientists working in the Arctic’s icy ground need to understand their sources and how those sources are spreading as the world’s climate changes. The Stanford scientists report that the water-detecting tool they’ve created can reveal how the thawing permafrost creates deep pools of underground meltwater where organic matter has long been decomposing and generating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Arctic veterans say the new technique will prove a valuable addition to their toolkit as they try to understand more details of what contributes to the planet’s changing climate. Andrew Parsekian, a Stanford geophysicist, and his team of scientists have adapted a widely used hospital imaging system for their technique, and successfully used it to map hidden pools of meltwater inside the permafrost beneath two small Arctic lakes. Their report is published online in the current issue of Geophysical Research Letters…..

Climate change clues from tiny marine algae — ancient and modern
(February 4, 2013) — Microscopic ocean algae called coccolithophores are providing clues about the impact of climate change both now and many millions of years ago. The study found that their response to environmental change varies between species, in terms of how quickly they grow. … > full story


Volcano location: Greenhouse-icehouse key? Episodic purging of ‘carbonate capacitor’ drives long-term climate cycle
(February 7, 2013) — A new study suggests that Earth’s repeated flip-flopping between greenhouse and icehouse climates during the past 500 million years may have been caused by an episodic flare-up of volcanoes at key locations where enormous amounts of carbon dioxide were poised for release into the atmosphere. … > full story


Study: Global Warming Causes Most Monthly Heat Records Today

Posted: 03 Feb 2013 05:22 AM PST

by Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science

A new paper published in Climatic Change by Coumou, Robinson, and Rahmstorf (CRR13) examines the increased frequency of record-breaking monthly temperature records over the past 130 years, finding that these records are now five times more likely to occur due to global warming, with much more to come.

“…worldwide, the number of local record-breaking monthly temperature extremes is now on average five times larger than expected in a climate with no long-term warming. This implies that on average there is an 80% chance that a new monthly heat record is due to climatic change … Under a medium global warming scenario, by the 2040s we predict the number of monthly heat records globally to be more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming.”


Climate change threatens wolverines; protections proposed

Los Angeles Times Feb 1 2013

Citing shrinking mountain snowpacks as a result of climate change, federal wildlife officials are proposing to list wolverines as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.



Climate Sensitivity Single Study Syndrome

Posted on 28 January 2013 by dana1981

A press release from a Norwegian project attempting to estimate the Earth’s climate sensitivity (generally measured as how much the planet’s surface will warm in response to the energy imbalance caused by the increased greenhouse effect from a doubling of atmospheric CO2) has drawn quite a bit of attention in the media as suggesting that global warming may be “less extreme than feared.”  Carbon Brief has confirmed that the press release discusses several projects from a Norwegian group, including focusing on a not-yet-published (and not yet accepted by a scientific journal) follow-up paper to Aldrin et al. (2012).  Andrew Revkin has further details. Regardless, there is a large body of scientific research investigating the question of the Earth’s climate sensitivity.  Perhaps the most comprehensive review of this research is Knutti and Hegerl (2008), which found that the various methodologies used to estimate climate sensitivity are generally consistent with the range of 2–4.5°C (Figure 1)…..



When mangroves no longer protect the coastline
(February 1, 2013) — The mangrove forests in the Guyanas (French Guiana, Surinam and Guyana), which spread across the Orinoco and Amazon deltas, are among the most extensive in the world. This particular ecosystem, between earth and the sea, plays a major role in protecting the particularly unstable muddy coastline against erosion. However, most of the Guyana mangroves have been destroyed to develop the coastal plain. The retreating mangrove wall will result in large-scale coastal erosion, threatening populations and their economic activities, as demonstrated in a new study. … > full story



VIDEO with Jason Box on GreenlandPublished on Jan 31, 2013 Glaciologist Jason Box describes a post-warming world that you won’t even be able to recognize– By Chris Mooney


Humans Have Already Set in Motion 69 Feet of Sea Level Rise

Glaciologist Jason Box describes a post-warming world that you won’t even be able to recognize.

January 31, 2013 3:00 AM PDT Last week, a much-discussed new paper in the journal Nature seemed to suggest to some that we needn’t worry too much about the melting of Greenland, the mile-thick mass of ice at the top of the globe. The research found that the Greenland ice sheet seems to have survived a previous warm period in Earth’s history—the Eemian period, some 126,000 years ago—without vanishing (although it did melt considerably). But Ohio State University glaciologist Jason Box isn’t buying it. At Monday’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, DC, Box, who has visited Greenland 23 times to track its changing climate, explained that we’ve already pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide 40 percent beyond Eemian levels. What’s more, levels of atmospheric methane are a dramatic 240 percent higher—both with no signs of stopping. “There is no analogue for that in the ice record,” Box said. And that’s not all. The present mass scale human burning of trees and vegetation for clearing land and building fires, plus our pumping of aerosols into the atmosphere from human pollution, weren’t happening during the Eemian. These human activities are darkening Greenland’s icy surface, and weakening its ability to bounce incoming sunlight back away from the planet. Instead, more light is absorbed, leading to more melting, in a classic feedback process that is hard to slow down. “These giants are awake,” said Box of Greenland’s rumbling glaciers, “and they seem to have a bit of a hangover.”

Greenland marine-terminating glacier area changes. Chart courtesy of Jason Box*
To make matters worse, there’s also Antarctica, the other great planetary ice sheet, which contains 10 times as much total water as Greenland—much of which could also someday be translated into rising sea level. While Greenland is currently contributing twice as much water to sea level rise as Antarctica, that situation could change in the future. It’s kind of as though we’re in a situation of “ice sheet roulette” right now, wondering which one of the big ones will go first.

Box also provided a large-scale perspective on how much sea level rise humanity has already probably set in motion from the burning of fossil fuels. The answer is staggering: 69 feet, including water from both Greenland and Antarctica, as well as other glaciers based on land from around the world.

Scientists like Box aren’t sure precisely when, or how fast, all that water will flow into the seas. They only know that in past periods of Earth’s history, levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases and sea levels have followed one another closely, allowing an inference about where sea level is headed as it, in effect, catches up with the greenhouse gases we’ve unleashed. To be sure, the process will play out over vast time periods—but it has already begun, and sea level is starting to show a curve upward that looks a lot like…well, the semi-notorious “hockey stick.

So what can we do? For Box, any bit of policy helps. “The more we can cool climate, the slower Greenland’s loss will be,” he explained. Cutting greenhouse gases slows the planet’s heating, and with it, the pace of ice sheet losses. In the meantime, to better understand where we’re headed, Box has launched a scientific project called “Dark Snow,” which seeks to crowdfund a Greenland expedition to help determine just how much our darkening of the great ice sheet in this unprecedented “Anthropocene” era will push us well beyond Eemian territory. The video for that project is below. If the remote, dangerous science of ice sheets intrigues you enough (or scares you enough), then you definitely will want this research to succeed…..DARK SNOW video:


Icy contenders weigh in

Posted on 5 February 2013 by Jason Box Guest post by Jason Box from

Dahl-Jensen et al. (2013)[i] suggest that the Greenland ice sheet was more stable than previously thought[ii], enduring ~6k years of temperatures 5-8 C above the most recent 1000 years during the Eemian interglacial 118-126k years before present, its loss at the time contributing an estimated 2 m (6.6 ft) of global sea level compared to a total of 4-8 m (13-26 ft)[iii], implying Antarctica was and will become the dominant source of sea level change. Consequently, environmental journalist Andrew Revkin writes: “The dramatic surface melting [in Greenland], while important to track and understand has little policy significance.”

Given the non-trivial complexity of the issue and that Greenland has been contributing more than 2:1 that of Antarctica to global sea level in the recent 19 years (1992-2010)[iv], let’s not consider Greenland of neglible policy relevance until that ratio is 1:1 if not reversed, say, 0.5:1. Greenland, currently the leading contender with surface melting dominating its mass budget[v], the positive feedback with surface melting and ice reflectivity doubling Greenland’s surface melt since year 2000[vi]. Professor Richard Alley weighs in again: “We have high confidence that warming will shrink Greenland, by enough to matter a lot to coastal planners.”….



Lakes Michigan, Huron sink to lowest level ever

Governor expected to call Thursday for $11M to dredge harbors

By Jim Lynch Detroit News February 5, 2013

In the nearly 100 years researchers have catalogued the rise and fall of the Great Lakes, Michigan and Huron have never seen a month like January. The two-lake system recorded its lowest-ever level for a month, a mean of 576.02 feet above sea level. It’s a number that dips below the all-time low for January — 576.12 feet — as well as the all-time low for any month, 576.05 feet in March 1964. For those who live along or play in the waters of the Great Lakes, the news is disturbing but unsurprising. Each of the lakes has lingered below its long-term averages for years as the region endured drought-like conditions. When the 2011-12 winter produced less-than-expected snowfall and the ensuing spring produced little rainfall, the seeds were sown for records….




Warm Weather Forces Changes Ahead of Iditarod Race

By MARY PILON (NYT) February 5, 2013

Temperatures in the 30s and 40s mean several dog-sledding events before the Iditarod have been rerouted, postponed or canceled.



Study: Global Warming Can Be Slowed By Working Less

U.S. News & World Report  – ‎ February 4, 2013‎

Want to reduce the effects of global warming? Stop working so hard. Working fewer hours might help slow global warming, according to a new study released Monday by the Center for Economic Policy and Research. A worldwide switch to a “more European” work schedule, which includes working fewer hours and more vacation time, could prevent as much as half of the expected global temperature rise by 2100, according to the analysis, which used a 2012 study that found shorter work hours could be associated with lower carbon emissions.

The Center for Economic Policy and Research is a liberal think tank based in Washington.

“The relationship between [shorter work and lower emissions] is complex and clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” writes economist David Rosnick, author of the study. Rosnick says some of that reduction can be attributed to fewer operating hours in factories and other workplaces that consume high levels of energy….


Predicting a low carbon future for Toronto
(February 6, 2013) — Cities are major players in the climate change game. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas and over 70 percent of global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions can be attributed to cities. A case study of Toronto demonstrates alternative strategies for how the city can implement a low carbon urban infrastructure plan by 2031. … > full story


Study Turns Cell Phone Towers Into Rain Gauges

Published: February 4th, 2013 By Andrew Freedman

…. According to a new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there is another use for cell phone technology, and it is one that could bring vital information at low cost to water resource managers, farmers, and climate researchers, particularly in the developing world. The study, by researchers based in the Netherlands, demonstrated that it is possible to use cellular telephone networks — namely the electromagnetic radio waves that pass between microwave antennas located atop cell phone towers — to estimate the amount of rainfall that falls between those two points. In fact, national rainfall maps can be generated by tapping into data gathered throughout a country’s cell phone network. The study did that by producing a 12-day rainfall map of …..Monitoring rainfall through cell phone towers promises to have the greatest benefit in nations that lack a robust weather monitoring infrastructure, particularly in Africa, where the World Meteorological Organization has been working to try to improve weather and climate monitoring. Climate studies have shown that as the climate has warmed, extreme precipitation events have become more likely in many parts of the globe, since warmer air and ocean temperatures add more moisture to the atmosphere. This adds a sense of urgency to the task of accurately monitoring precipitation, since a scarcity of observations in Africa and other areas hinders researchers’ abilities to measure and predict climate change-related impacts….


Fault lines in views on climate change revealed: Divided by cause, united by effect
(February 5, 2013) — Climate change is a hotly debated issue, but a new study shows geoscientists and engineers also become embroiled in the issue — and for some, it can get surprisingly personal. Younger, female engineers employed in government seemed to support the Kyoto Protocol, whereas their older, male counterparts — largely employed by oil and gas companies — tended to take a fatalistic response to climate change, labeling nature as the culprit. … > full story

Blowing hot and cold: U.S. belief in climate change shifts with weather
(February 5, 2013) — A study of American attitudes toward climate change finds that local weather — temperature, in particular — is a major influence on public and media opinions on the reality of global warming. … > full story




IMF Chief: ‘Unless We Take Action On Climate Change, Future Generations Will Be Roasted, Toasted, Fried And Grilled’

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 03:25 PM PST

Another day, another icon of the global financial system becomes a climate hawk. You may recall World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said of the climate crisis: “If there is no action soon, the future will become bleak.” Turns out IMF managing director Christine Lagarde is also a climate hawk — and she’s the former conservative finance minister of France.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, she said, “the real wild card in the pack” of economic pivot points is “Increasing vulnerability from resource scarcity and climate change, with the potential for major social and economic disruption.” She called climate change “the greatest economic challenge of the 21st century.”

Ms. Lagarde concluded with a call for a new kind of economic growth. “So we need growth, but we also need green growth that respects environmental sustainability. Good ecology is good economics. This is one reason why getting carbon pricing right and removing fossil fuel subsidies are so important.” In response to a question from the audience, she said: “Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”….



Secretary of State Nominee John Kerry on Climate Change– Video


Obama to nominate CEO of outdoor gear retailer REI to become interior secretary

By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Wednesday, February 6, 10:52 AM

President Obama on Wednesday will nominate Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) chief executive Sally Jewell to head the Interior Department, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified because the public announcement has not yet been made. The choice of Jewell, who began her career as an engineer for Mobil Oil and worked as a commercial banker before heading a nearly $2 billion outdoors equipment company, represents an unconventional choice for a post usually reserved for career politicians from the West. But while she boasts less public policy experience than other candidates who had been under consideration, Jewell, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate, has earned national recognition for her management skills and support for outdoor recreation and habitat conservation.

In 2011 Jewell introduced Obama at the White House conference on “America’s Great Outdoor Initiative,” noting that the $289 billion outdoor-recreation industry supports 6.5 million jobs.

Jewell, who is being nominated to succeed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, would take over at a time when many conservationists are pressing Obama to take bolder action on land conservation. Salazar devoted much of his tenure to both promoting renewable energy on public land and managing the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. On Tuesday former interior secretary Bruce Babbitt gave a speech at the National Press Club calling on the president to set aside one acre permanently for conservation for every acre he leases for oil and gas development. “It’s that simple: one to one,” Babbitt said. “So far, under President Obama, industry has been winning the race as it obtains more and more land for oil and gas. Over the past four years, the industry has leased more than 6 million acres, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected. In the Obama era, land conservation is again falling behind.”….



More Americans convinced of climate change, poll finds

USA TODAY  – ‎ February 8 2013‎

The share of Americans who say climate change is occurring – 50% say definitely and 34% say probably – has rebounded, reaching what may be its highest level in national polls since 2007, according to the survey of 1,089 adults conducted Jan. 16-22.



Video: Keystone XL The ‘Lynchpin Enabling The Climate Intensive Tar Sands Industry To Grow Unimpeded’

Posted: 04 Feb 2013 07:27 AM PST By Kevin Grandia via DeSmogBlog

A new video featuring four energy experts, outlines the issues surrounding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the Alberta tar sands and climate change.

The video describes the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as a “lynchpin enabling the climate intensive tar sands industry to grow unimpeded.”

Watch it:

The video features Dr. Danny Harvey, a Climatologist at the University of Toronto, Dr. John Abraham, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of St. Clair, Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International and Nathan Lemphers, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Pembina Institute. The four experts recently traveled to Washington, DC for an event at the National Press Club to send a message to political leaders that any response by the US government to reduce climate change pollution must include the rejection of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

On February 17, tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out for the Forward on Climate Rally that will call on US President Barack Obama to “move forward on climate action.” Rally organizers say that, “from rejecting the toxic Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to moving beyond coal and natural gas and firing up our clean energy economy, Barack Obama’s legacy as president will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis.”



EPA to issue climate change plan Friday

The Hill (blog) Feb 7 2013

The draft EPA Climate Change Adaptation Plan, to be published for public consideration in Friday’s edition of the Federal Register, is meant to guide the agency’s response to global warming, which it says is occurring at a rapidly increasing rate


New Report Says White House Has The Tools To Combat Climate Change

Posted: 06 Feb 2013 06:53 AM PST A new report from the World Resources Institute has concluded that while the U.S. is not currently on track to meet its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, the Obama Administration has the tools to reach that target. [WRI]



Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in 2011 (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Energy Secretary Chu steps down, blasts climate-change skeptics

By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News | The Ticket – Yahoo News February 1, 2013

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist frequently the target of Republican criticism, announced Friday that he was stepping down in the latest shake-up of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Chu, who disclosed his decision in a letter to Energy Department staff, frequently clashed with GOP lawmakers over gas prices as well as government backing for green-energy companies like the failed firm Solyndra.

In his letter, Chu took aim directly at his critics, saying the clean-energy efforts were a success—and blasted climate-change skeptics as trapped in “the Stone Age.” “While critics try hard to discredit the program, the truth is that only one percent of the companies we funded went bankrupt,” he wrote. “That one percent has gotten more attention than the 99 percent that have not.” Chu added: “The test for America’s policy makers will be whether they are willing to accept a few failures in exchange for many successes. America’s entrepreneurs and innovators who are leaders in the global clean energy race understand that not every risk can—or should—be avoided. Michelangelo said, ‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.'”

He also scolded climate-change skeptics and urged a shift from fossil-fuels to other sources of energy. “The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity has had a significant and likely dominant role in climate change,” Chu warned in his letter. “There is also increasingly compelling evidence that the weather changes we have witnessed during this thirty year time period are due to climate change.”


Biden vows climate change action in meeting with French president

The Hill (blog)  – ‎February 4, 2013‎

“I was impressed in the discussion we had relative to climate change – and I mean this sincerely, Mr. President – I could have been sitting in a private meeting with President Obama,” Biden said in joint remarks with Francois Hollande following their ..



Mining tar sands to generate oil* is already decimating Canadian landscapes. Now the U.S. is weighing whether to approve a pipeline that would allow this fuel to flow to Gulf Coast refineries along a path that could imperil important Midwest water sources. On top of all that is what the project would mean for the climate. Photo by: NWFblogs on Flickr.

Obama and Keystone XL: The Moment of Truth?

01/30/2013 2:45 pm Bill Chameides Dean, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment

President Obama will soon have to decide whether he will be the “all of the above” president or the “respond to climate change” president.

In Pursuit of Hydrocarbons

Last year on the campaign stump, Obama presented himself as the “all of the above” guy on energy. Here’s an example from a speech delivered at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland:

“We need an energy strategy for the future — an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” — President Obama, March 15, 2012.

The operative words are “every source.” Sure, he touts and has funded the development of green energy, but he has also favored a ramp-up in production of domestic hydrocarbons — specifically oil and natural gas. At any number of occasions last year Obama trotted out the fact that under his watch domestic drilling and production were up, imports were down. Similar boasts appear on as well:

“Domestic oil and natural gas production has increased every year President Obama has been in office. In 2011, American oil production reached the highest level in nearly a decade and natural gas production reached an all-time high.”

The Climate Change Pledge

While energy was a campaign issue, it was obvious (painfully so for many) that climate change was not. No major policy speeches by either candidate and not a single question in the debates.

But after the election climate change reentered the president’s ambit. First came his acceptance speech on election night:

“We want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

Then came an inaugural address that got the environmental community all atwitter — climate change receiving more attention than any other single issue? Could it be that Obama was positioning himself to go after climate change in a big way?

You Can’t Have ‘All of the Above’ and Address Climate Change

But here’s the problem: an “all of the above” energy policy that encourages the development and production of oil and gas flies in the face of a “climate change” pledge to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

And the stakes are too high to ignore. Greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric greenhouse gases are at an all-time high. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001. And there is increasing concern that we may be seeing an uptick in extreme weather events as a result of global warming.

Responding to climate change requires that production and use of hydrocarbon fuels be ramped down, not up.

So sooner or later the Obama administration will face a moment of truth — a choice between following an “all of the above” path or responding to “the threat of climate change.” And that moment could be just down the road.

The Looming Keystone XL Decision

The Keystone XL project would put into place a pipeline system that would allow oil imports to flow from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. (For more, see my post here, this New York Times explainer, and this Washington Post Keystone XL interactive graphic.)

It’s been a rallying cry for both the “drill, baby drill” crowd and the environmentally minded, albeit from different positions. For the pro-drillers the pipeline is a no-brainer — a job-creating project that will bring a new, unconventional, (almost) domestic source of oil to American refineries.

For many environmentalists, stopping the pipeline is also a no-brainer — it’s a landscape-decimating proposition whose oil is among the most carbon-intensive out there. (More here, here and here.)

There’s also the issue of the pipeline itself. The initial plan had routed it through highly sensitive lands in Nebraska’s Sand Hills, which sit above the all-important Ogallala aquifer — a critical source of drinking water and irrigation for a huge swath of the United States. The potential risk to the aquifer was so grave that Dave Heineman, the Republican governor of Nebraska, urged Obama to deny TransCanada (the pipeline company) the greenlight for the project.

And finally there is the climate concern. While there is still some debate about how the size of the Alberta resource — and how much carbon dioxide would be released if it were completely exploited (see here and here) — there is little argument that on a BTU-to-BTU basis, tar sands oil is about as dirty and carbon-intensive as it comes. And so sure, if you’re an “all of the above” president, you might approve the pipeline. But if you’re a “respond to climate” one? I don’t think so.

Decision Day Approaches

The Keystone XL project has had its ups and downs, its starts and stops. (See timeline.) Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the project must be reviewed by the State Department and approved by the president. In January 2012, the State Department rejected TransCanada’s application because of concerns about environmental impacts but invited the company to re-apply with a new route that would avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

TransCanada has now submitted a new proposal whose newly proffered path for the pipeline avoids some — but not all — of the ecologically sensitive areas in Nebraska and its surrounds: It still passes over the Ogallala but avoids the Sand Hills.

Gov. Heineman has approved the new plan, with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality finding that the pipeline’s construction and operation along the new route would result in “minimal environmental impacts” and that any oil released “should be localized and Keystone would be responsible for any cleanup.”

So now it’s up to Obama and his administration.

The State Department is said to be studying the new plan and a decision is expected this spring. So what will they do? Just-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry was cagey and non-committal on the subject during his confirmation hearings last week, promising only to make “appropriate decisions.” (Hey, at least he didn’t say he would decide for it then against it.)

Ultimately, though, the decision is in the hands of President Obama. That decision will be revealing indeed.

End Note

* Oil sands produce bitumen, a thick tarry hydrocarbon that is either “upgraded” into a synthetic blend or diluted so it flows like oil.

Crossposted with TheGreenGrok | Join us on Facebook


John Podesta: Conservation Deserves Equal Ground On Public Lands

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 09:30 AM PST By John Podesta

In his inaugural address, President Obama laid out a clear commitment to “our children and future generations,” saying that as a nation we must “maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks.” This includes the more than 700 million acres of public lands—national parks, monuments, forests and wildernesses—that belong to all Americans.

Indeed, it is one of the great responsibilities and joys of a president to uphold and maintain the uniquely American commitment to conservation. One of my proudest accomplishments from my time with President Clinton was working with Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to protect the national treasure of our public lands. Together, we helped President Clinton protect more land in the lower 48 states than any president since Teddy Roosevelt.

Since then, however, conservation has all too often taken a back seat to issuing energy leases for development of public lands. That’s why today, Secretary Babbitt introduced a bold new idea for America’s public lands that will put conservation on equal ground with energy development. Secretary Babbitt, in remarks at the National Press Club, proposes that President Obama adopt a simple “One-to-One” principle: for every acre of land leased for energy development, another acre of public land will be protected for future generations….



CEQA overhaul fight begins



Wyatt Buchanan San Francisco Chronicle February 3, 2013 What could be the most contentious issue considered at the Capitol this year already has proponents and opponents hiring lobbyists and media strategists to start public campaigns – and there hasn’t even been a bill introduced. Working… more »






Department of the Interior’s recently published Climate Change policy
– provides guidance to bureaus and offices for addressing climate change impacts upon the Department’s mission, programs, operations, and personnel.






Feb 8 Webinar: Land-use Models for Willamette Water 2100, Friday, 12-1 pm, Pacific Time, Kidder 202 and streaming, Andrew Plantinga, Professor of Environmental Economics.  This is part of the Willamette Water 2100 Project seminar/webinar series Click here for online streaming.  Seminars archives can be found at: http:/

Monday, February 11, 4:00 PM EST Northeast Climate Science Center presents,

“A Case Study for Identifying Climate Change Refugia”

Toni Lyn Morelli, NE CSC Program Manager

To join this webinar, visit:
With a look to the mammals of the California mountains, Toni Lyn Morelli will highlight her research on how to capitalize on the concept of climate change refugia in natural resource management.  Historical survey data, occupancy modeling, species distribution modeling, and downscaled climate data demonstrate that a montane meadow specialist previously considered common has been extirpated from nearly half its California range, correlated with increasing temperature and precipitation.  Climate projections indicate this species, and potentially the meadows in which it is found, will continue to disappear. However, populations are persisting in areas that have been transformed by humans, which Morelli has dubbed “anthropogenic refugia”.  Further insights are revealed from genetic analysis of the species across its range and comparison to other montane mammals. This research will be presented as an opportunity to examine one of the tools that can be used by natural resource managers to help species adapt to climate change.


Feb 13 GN LCC Webinar: Wildlife issues for transportation planning on federal lands, 11:00-noon Pacific Time, Rob Ament, Tony Clevenger, and Marcel Huijser – Western Transportation Institute of Montana State University. This webinar will focus on wildlife-transportation conflicts and solutions.

Feb. 14 FWS Webinar: Communicating climate change: Perspectives from federal agencies, 2-3:00 p.m. Pacific Time WebEx info at: or contact

Feb 22 Workshop: Willamette Water 2100 Learning Action Network Workshop, Salem.  This project is evaluating how climate change, population growth, and economic growth will alter the availability and the use of water in the Willamette River Basin on a decadal to centennial timescale. The National Science Foundation funded project seeks to create a transferable method of predicting where climate change will create water scarcities and where those scarcities will exert the strongest impacts on human society. The five year project began in October 2010, and is a collaborative effort of faculty from Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

April 2-4: National Adaptation Forum, Denver, CO.  This is an inaugural convening of climate change adaptation practitioners and experts from around the country focused on moving from adaptation planning to adaptation action. FWS R1 employees: please contact David Patte ASAP regarding conference approval requirements.

April 15-18: 2013 Western Division of the American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting , Boise, ID features a
climate-aquatics symposium organized by Dan Isaak and colleagues, titled “New information regarding climate effects on aquatic resources: how do we use this information?”  A 1-day workshop on spatial statistical model for stream networks will be a held in conjunction with the meeting.  Jay Ver Hoef (NOAA) and Erin Peterson (CSIRO in Australia), who will conduct the workshop, have developed the statistical theory for these models over the last decade and have recently developed freeware statistical software for the R environment to make implementation of the models convenient. The spatial statistical models are applicable to a wide variety of data types commonly collected from streams (water quality parameters, habitat conditions, biological attributes), provide improved estimation relative to traditional statistical models, and even enable new types of analyses that were not previously possible for streams. Contact Dan Isaak for online participation if you cannot attend or for more info:



Rangeland Coalition Summit and Rustici Science Symposium

On Jan 24-25 2013, ranchers, researchers, managers, agency representatives and conservationists gathered to network and discuss contemporary challenges and opportunities in managing rangelands. The 2nd Rangeland Science Symposium and 8th annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit were held on January 24-25, 2013 at the University of California, Davis – Freeborn Hall and drew 389 attendees. The event was themed, “Partnerships Among Ranchers, Conservationists and Scientists Provides the Most Relevant Knowledge for Managing Rangelands.” Click here to view event highlights.



Climate Change Science for Effective Resource Management and Public Policy in the Western United States

University of Nevada, Las Vegas – Student Union     March 27-28, 2013

The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), and the EPSCoR Western Tri-State Consortium invite you to attend —
The conference and breakout sessions will address important issues relevant to climate change adaptation and the research needed to address this need.




Excellent resources on climate change at including smart phone apps and weekly news highlights:

Smartphone Apps



The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism




Climate Change | Marin’s Response 

 SIGN UP NOW and join us this Saturday!

Saturday, February 9th
9am-12N Hospice by the Bay
This 3 hour session will focus on what Marin is doing to
address the causes and impacts of climate change on a local level. Marin has a countywide target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 15% below 1990 levels by 2020. Come find inspiration from what cities, non-profits, government agencies and utilities are doing to meet this target. And lastly, learn about what you can do to address climate change in your home, workplace and community.

Environmental Forum of Marin | 415-484-8336 | |

PO BOX 151546

San Rafael, CA 94915



SIERRA CLUB: YOU Can Make History On President’s Day Weekend

Tens of thousands of citizens will converge on Washington, D.C., on February 17 for the Forward on Climate rally to tell the president we need his ambition to meet the scale of the challenge in transitioning to a clean-energy economy. “There’s only one thing that will defeat the tar sands pipeline and ignite a clean-energy revolution in this country,” says Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in this video. “It’s not another symposium, think tank, or government study — it’s you.” Buses are coming from over 20 states. RSVP, then find a ride near you.  Check out our new Make History video!  Watch this clip of Sierra Club youth ambassador Nolan Gould, star of the smash sitcom Modern Family, telling Ellen DeGeneres why he’ll be at the rally.  Read this impassioned piece by syndicated columnist Javier Sierra about how the actions we take now will shape the world our children and grandchildren will inherit….
Thunderclap is a new social media tool for “amplifying your Tweet into a sonic boom.” You can join a virtual “hurray” by scheduling a Thunderclap post from Facebook or Twitter to show your support for those on the ground. Every Thunderclap post will go up at the same time on February 17, creating one of the biggest joint social media posts ever. Schedule your Thunderclap today — the climate needs the noise! The Sierra Club is also hosting Solidarity Rallies on February 17 — mostly in the far West — for those who want to participate but simply cannot make it to the nation’s capital.

Recognizing the imminent danger posed by climate disruption, and the fact that President Obama will soon decide on the fate of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the Sierra Club will participate in a one-time act of peaceful civil disobedience for the first time in the organization’s 120-year history. “For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest,” says Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  “The burning of dirty tar sands crude is a battle we can’t afford to lose — this is something Obama simply must reject.” “This decision is not one we take lightly,” says Sierra Club President Allison Chin. “Allowing the production, transport, and burning of the dirtiest fuel on earth now would be a giant leap backwards. We are answering the urgency of this threat





Saudi Arabia focuses on renewable energy



Janine Zacharia Updated 5:28 pm, Friday, February 1, 2013

President Obama warned in his inaugural address that America can’t resist the “long and sometimes difficult” transition to renewable energy.

“We must lead it,” he urged the nation. “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries.” But it already could be too late.

While the United States still searches for a coherent national energy policy, countries you wouldn’t expect are at the forefront of a green transformation. China, Saudi Arabia and other nations are working in earnest today to achieve the goals Obama outlined for our future. China has concrete plans to shift to renewables on a national scale and is manufacturing solar panels so cheaply it’s hard for American companies to compete. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer – led by octogenarians rarely associated with swift societal change – is moving at lightning speed to transform its electricity grid from near zero to 100 percent renewable sources. It’s not that the Saudis suddenly have become environmentalists. In September, Citigroup issued a chilling, though not surprising, warning that Saudi Arabia could run out of crude for export by 2030. The Saudis, of course, knew this. And this is why even before Citigroup published its analysis, the Saudi government announced that it would spend more than $100 billion to develop 41 gigawatts of solar energy, enough to power one-third of the sun-drenched country, by 2032. In October, Saudi Arabia’s 68-year-old Prince Turki Al Faisal told an economic forum in Brazil he would like to see the kingdom go entirely renewable within his lifetime. In contrast, the United States has no federally mandated renewable energy target…..



Can America’s Regulators Reinvent Fire?

Posted: 05 Feb 2013 07:56 AM PST

By Adam James

This week the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners heard from Amory Lovins, founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, about his new book “Reinventing Fire.” One of his key messages was that the vast majority of changes that need to occur in transforming the energy system lie at the state regulatory level. Amory had an excellent summary as to what such a regulatory wish list would look like:






Fate of the Earth Takes Center Stage

By JASON ZINOMAN NY TIMES Published: February 7, 2013

Where is the great American play about climate change? Is there even a good one

Say what you will about the potential end of civilization as we know it, but there’s no denying it is dramatic stuff. That’s why it’s odd that as climate change finally moves forward in the national conversation, with President Obama making it a centerpiece of his inauguration speech, New York theater has mostly avoided…


New evidence suggests comet or asteroid impact was last straw for dinosaurs
(February 7, 2013) — While many assume that a comet or asteroid impact killed off the dinosaurs, the actual dates of the impact and extinction are imprecise enough that some have questioned the connection. Scientists have now dated the extinction with unprecedented precision and concluded that the impact and extinction where synchronous. While global climate change probably brought dinosaurs and other creatures to the brink, the impact likely was the final blow. … > full story


Blame it on Barney: Student perceptions of an upright tyrannosaurus rex remain obsolete
(February 7, 2013) — Ask a college student to sketch a Tyrannosaurus rex, and he or she will probably draw an upright, tail-dragging creature with tiny arms. An 8-year-old will draw something similar. They’re wrong, of course. The terrible T. rex, an agile, dynamic predator, never went upright. In fact, T. Rex tarried horizontal. So why are students’ perceptions of the T. rex stalled in the early 1900s? A research team sought answers after years of anecdotally observing students drawing the T. rex incorrectly. … > full story



Taking a bite at the shark bite
(February 1, 2013) — Researchers are studying the bacteria of a shark’s mouth in order to improve medical treatment for shark bite victims. … > full story


Flame retardants
now seen as health risk

San Francisco Chronicle February 4, 2013

it turns out, those chemicals may also be leaching from the walls that surround you. Because of laws passed in the 1970s, many homes and


Vanis Buckholz is only ten, but he spends a large portion of his free time picking up his neighbors’ recycling. (Photo: My ReCycler)

Why This 10-Year-Old Will End Up Running The World

Vanis Buckholz is an eco-entrepreneur who’s owned a recycling business since he was seven years old.

By Andri Antoniades January 31, 2013

Everyone knows that recycling is necessary, but not everyone does something about it. While it’s a little hard to swallow that a fourth grader is doing a better job caring for the environment than most adults, it’s clear this 10-year-old has a lot to teach us.

Vanis Buckholz cares about the environment—a lot. For the past three years, he’s owned and operated his own recycling business in Newport Beach, Calif., which recently earned him the praise of his city’s mayor as well as the local charity he helps support.

The business is called My ReCycler, and it might just make Vanis the youngest eco-entrepreneur in the nation. According to his website, he was inspired by an Earth Day presentation at his school when he was just seven years old. Determined to pitch in, the grammar school student began to recycle his family’s bottles and cans, but soon his home operation morphed into a community-based one; now friends, neighbors and businesses save their recyclables for the fourth grader, who rides his bike around town picking them up by the bagful.

While it may be difficult to believe, Vanis does most of the work on his own. With a trailer hitched to his bicycle, he can ride safely around town making multiple pickups that he temporarily stores at his house. Every few weeks, his parents help him load the goods onto a truck to take to the local recycling plant, where the ten-year-old earns about $200 per visit.




Earth’s CO2 Home Page
The 2012 average annual concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (Mauna Loa Observatory) is 393.84 parts per million (ppm).   The 2011 average is 391.65 ppm.  For the past decade (2003-2012) the average annual increase is 2.1 ppm per year.  The average for the prior decade (1993-2002) is 1.7 ppm per year.    Annual data for 2012 was first posted January 3, 2013, by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the United States.  Since the 1958 start of precision CO2 measurements in the atmosphere, the annual mean concentration of CO2 has only increased from one year to the next.   Read more…



Atmospheric CO2 for December 2012

Preliminary data dated January 3, 2013

(Mauna Loa Observatory: Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

CO2 Data Set:

Original Scripps data file dated Wednesday December 5, 2012

Measuring Location:

Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii







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