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Conservation Science News March 15, 2013

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Highlight of the Week2014 Headline- CO2 Reaches 400 PPM First Time in Human Existence









Highlight of the Week2014 Headline- CO2 Reaches 400 PPM First Time in Human Existence



The Inevitable 2014 Headline: ‘Global CO2 Level Reaches 400 PPM For First Time In Human Existence.’

March 7 2013 By Peter Gleick, Science Blogs

Sometime, about one year from now, the front pages of whatever decent newspapers are left will carry a headline like the one above, announcing that for the first time in human existence (or in nearly a million years, or 3 million years, or 15 million years), the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide — the principal gas causing climate change — will have passed 400 parts per million (ppm).

That’s a significant and shocking figure. Unfortunately, it’s only a temporary marker on the way to even higher and higher levels. Here are the most recent (March 2013) data from the Mauna Loa observatory showing the inexorable increase in atmospheric CO2 and the rapid approach to 400 ppm.

There is a range of estimates around the detailed time record of atmospheric composition, and the study of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the billions of years of the Earth’s existence is an exciting area for research. A commonly cited figure with strong evidence comes from measurements of air trapped in ancient ice cores obtained from Antarctic ice. We now have a detailed 800,000 year record, which shows clearly that atmospheric CO2 levels never approached 400 ppm during this period.

In December 2009, a research team from UCLA published a paper in Science that suggested we would have to go back at least 15 million years to find carbon dioxide levels approaching today’s levels. This research used isotopic analysis of shells in deep sea sediments, and reported that CO2 concentrations may not have exceeded 400 parts per million since the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO) — between 16 and 14 million years ago. The MMCO was associated with reduced planetary ice volumes, global sea levels 25 to 40 meters higher than today, and warmer ocean temperatures. Decreasing CO2 concentrations after that were associated with substantial global cooling, glaciations, and dropping sea levels.

Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s GISS has pointed me to research in a December 2011 article in the journal Paleoceanography by Gretta Bartoli, Bärbel Hönisch, and Richard E. Zeebe, reporting on paleoclimatic records that suggest CO2 concentrations (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) may have been around 400 ppm between 2 and 4.6 million years ago. This evidence comes from isotopes measured in planktic foraminifer shells spanning 2.0 to 4.6 million years ago and indicates that atmospheric CO2 estimates during the Pliocene gradually declined from just above 400 ppm to around 300 ppm in the early Pleistocene 2 million years ago.

800,000 years ago? Three million years ago? 15 million years ago? More research will continue to clarify the variability of Earth’s atmospheric composition over time, as well as the impacts for the planet as a whole of screwing with it. (That’s a technical term…)

But the more important point to remember is that never in the history of the planet have humans altered the atmosphere as radically as we are doing so now. And the climatic consequences for us are likely to be radical as well, on a time-scale far faster than humans have ever experienced.

– Dr. Peter Gleick is a climatologist. This post originally appeared on Science Blogs and is reprinted here with permission.

Related Posts:

Recent Warming Is ‘Amazing And Atypical’ And Poised To Destroy Stable Climate That Enabled Civilization


… Here’s an ugly addendum. A colleague has pointed to a new paper in PNAS that concludes:

“with CO2 stabilized at 400–450 ppm (as required for the frequently quoted “acceptable warming” of 2 °C), or even at AD 2011 levels of 392 ppm, we infer a likely (68% confidence) long-term sea-level rise of more than 9 m above the present. Therefore, our results imply that to avoid significantly elevated sea level in the long term, atmospheric CO2 should be reduced to levels similar to those of preindustrial times.”

Nine meters….






Marine diversity study proves value of citizen science
(March 12, 2013) — Citizen science surveys compare well with traditional scientific methods when it comes to monitoring species biodiversity, according to researchers. A new study shows that methods to record marine diversity used by amateurs returned results consistent with techniques favored by peer-reviewed science. … He said: “The results of this study are important for the future of citizen science and the use of data collected by these programs. Allowing volunteers to use flexible and less standardised methods has important consequences for the long term success of citizen science programs. Amateur enthusiasts typically do not have the resources or training to use professional methodology. Our study demonstrates the quality of data collected using a volunteer method can match, and in some respects exceed, protocols used by professional scientists. Enlisting the help of a large pool of volunteers helps professional researchers collect valuable data across many ecosystems. The popularity of SCUBA diving has resulted in monitoring of the underwater environment on a scale that was previously impossible. For example, the REEF method has been used by volunteers in more than 160,000 underwater surveys across the world. It would have cost many millions of pounds for professionals to have undertaken the same work.Very few, if any, scientific groups can collect data on the scale that volunteer groups can, so our proof that both methods return consistent results is very encouraging for citizen science in general. I think we will really see the value of volunteer schemes increase in future. We’re living in a world that’s changing very significantly. Environmental changes are having a big impact on ecosystems around us so we need to harness new ways of measuring the effect….” > full story


Ben G. Holt, Rodolfo Rioja-Nieto, M. Aaron MacNeil, Jan Lupton and Carsten Rahbek. Comparing diversity data collected using a protocol designed for volunteers with results from a professional alternative. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12031


VIDEO: How Cows Could Repair the World – Allan Savory at TED
For decades people have pointed to overgrazing by cattle as the main cause of once-fertile grasslands turning to rapidly eroding, nearly lifeless deserts. These desertified landscapes are then incapable of supporting the livestock themselves, agriculture, or large wild animals that once lived in great numbers on the same land. This is what has led to famine and conflict in different areas around the world. Growing up in Kenya, Allan Savory was terribly moved by this. In his recent TED talk, Savory talked about his experiences with desertification. The failure of earlier attempts to halt desertification combined with his estimation that two-thirds of Earth is now desertifying inspired Savory to search for a new approach to protecting and restoring grasslands.


Discards ban could impact seabird populations
(March 14, 2013) — Species of seabirds could successfully return to their natural foraging habits following changes to European fisheries policies, scientists have suggested. … > full story


Logging debris gives newly planted Douglas-fir forests a leg-up
(March 12, 2013) — The downed limbs and other woody debris that are inevitable byproducts of timber harvest could be among the most important components of post-harvest landscapes, according to a new study. …

“At levels typically left after forest harvesting, where 40 percent of the ground is covered by logging debris, we found that debris inhibited the growth of competing herbaceous vegetation and so preserved soil water,” said Tim Harrington, a research forester with the station and the study’s lead. “This means that just leaving typical levels of debris in place after forest harvesting helps new Douglas-fir seedlings to become established.”full story

Timothy B. Harrington, Robert A. Slesak, Stephen H. Schoenholtz. Variation in logging debris cover influences competitor abundance, resource availability, and early growth of planted Douglas-fir. Forest Ecology and Management, 2013; 296: 41 DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2013.01.033

Spain: Technologies At the Service of Ecosystem Restoration
Researchers at the Universidad Politecnica of Madrid have developed techniques for species recovery of damaged ecosystems in dry Mediterranean regions. The ecosystem restoration in semidry areas is a priority and a complex challenge due to the difficulties presented by natural agents to restoration. The massive implantation of vegetal covers over the whole field would be a solution, but it is an expensive task and it has high failure rates. Therefore, searching for other possible solutions, a researcher at the School of Forestry of the UPM along with experts from other institutions have launched a strategy to boost the restoration process by introducing key species in specific areas or in diversity in the shape of islands.


The Not-So-Mysterious Loss of Salt Marshes and Ecosystem Services

By Paige Brown | March 12, 2013 |  Scientific American

Mosquitos by the droves. Polluted coastal waters. Increased storm surge vulnerability. Loss of habitat for crabs, shellfish and vast numbers of beautiful bird species including sparrows and rails [1]. These are just some of the potential consequences of loss of salt marshes around the country, many of which are now listed as “habitats of concern.”[2]

Salt marshes are among the most ecologically productive and diverse ecosystems in the United States. They provide important services such as floodwater storage and storm protection for coastal cities such as New Orleans. Healthy marshes also serve essential roles in carbon sequestration, a service of primary concern at current emission rates of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, nutrient removal and water purification.

However, global climate change and sea level rise, agricultural and industrial development and loss of sediment supply are contributing to dramatic rates of wetland loss worldwide. In the Gulf Coast region, these and other factors – many still largely under-studied – are driving salt marsh loss at unprecedented rates. While salt marches are famously valued for their function in nutrient removal, improving water quality by filtering runoff and removing sediment, nutrients, pesticides, metals, and other pollutants [3], new research suggests that these marshes are not impervious to the damaging effects of natural and artificial nutrient accumulation…..

“We wanted to understand the impacts of increased nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus – also known as coastal eutrophication – on all aspects of saltmarshes, from plant production, to decomposition, to food webs that lead to fish and birds, to the long-term ability of marshes to keep up with sea-level rise,” Deegan said.

In a nine-year whole-ecosystem experiment, Deegan and colleagues used a microcomputer to add controlled amounts of a solution of concentrated nitrogen and phosphorous to incoming tidal water in tidal creeks in Plum Island Estuary [4], allowing the water to flood the marsh the way enriched coastal waters would in real-world processes. The site of the study, a large marsh in northeastern Massachusetts, is otherwise generally untouched by nutrient pollution. The experiment involved adding nutrients to the twice-daily flooding tides for a total of nine years, from 2004 to 2012, during growing seasons, enriching about 30,000 square meters of marsh in several experimental creek systems. In this way, the researchers could definitively study the impacts of nutrient addition on salt marsh health.

“This experiment is unique in the world – and given some of the difficulties we encountered we have a better appreciation for why!” Deegan said. “For example, it can be challenging to keep electrical components and computers working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the growing season for 9 years in a salt water environment.”

Despite physical challenges, the whole-ecosystem experiment paid off in a big way, providing results not predicted by previous marsh models based on small plot experiments.

“Our biggest success is that we have found responses that simply would not be observed if we had added dried fertilizer to small sections of the marsh as is typically done. Our experiment allowed the interaction of many parts of the marsh resulting in an unexpected response – the creek banks fell apart.”

“In only five to seven years, the edge of the marsh is literally falling apart,” Fleeger said in an official university press release [5]……


Whale’s streaming baleen tangles to trap food
(March 13, 2013) — Many whales filter food from water using racks of baleen plates in their mouths, but no one had ever investigated how baleen behaves in real life. According to an expert, baleen was viewed as a static material, however, he discovered that baleen streams in water just like long hair and fringes from adjacent baleen plates tangle to form the perfect net for trapping food at natural whale swimming speeds. … > full story


Causes of 2011 Arctic ozone hole determined
(March 11, 2013) — A combination of extreme cold temperatures, human-made chemicals and a stagnant atmosphere were behind what became known as the Arctic ozone hole of 2011, a new study finds. … > full story

Protected areas successfully prevent deforestation in Amazon rainforest
(March 8, 2013) — Strictly protected areas such as national parks and biological reserves have been more effective at reducing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest than so-called sustainable-use areas that allow for controlled resource extraction, researchers have found. … > full story


CITES makes historic decision to protect sharks and rays
(March 14, 2013) — CITES plenary today accepted Committee recommendations to list five species of highly traded sharks under the CITES Appendices, along with those for the listing of both manta rays and one species of sawfish. … > full story


Black-throated blue warblers fight coffee pests in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. CC/Flickr/jerryoldenettel

Why do birds matter? Interesting answers from Audubon and beyond

By Ron Meador | 09:37 am March 2013A magazine devoted to the single subject of “Why Birds Matter” might have proved irresistible even if it weren’t an issue of Audubon, which certainly knows the territory. And then there was the gorgeous, approximately life-size cover photo of a Florida grasshopper sparrow, about to follow the passenger pigeon into history.

So when the March-April issue turned up a few days ago, this novice birder parked by a sunny window with a view of the suet feeders and read it from cover to cover, learning that birds matter to Audubon writers and editors because:

In an economic analysis released in 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calculated that, based on a 2006 survey, birders spend $12 billion annually on travel, plus an additional $24 billion on equipment like binoculars, camping gear and nest boxes. That money ripples through the economy and generates $82 billion in output, employs 671,000 people, and enriches state and federal governments by $10 billion.

These ways of valuing species are of course familiar to the conservation-minded, whether or not their particular interests run to birding, though I imagine there are fresh examples for almost every reader.


Some Primitive Birds Flew With 4 Wings, Study Says



New York Times  – ‎Mar 15 2013‎

First, paleontologists spread the word that modern birds are actually living dinosaurs. Then came the news from China that some dinosaurs and related reptiles long ago seemed to be marvelous four-winged creatures, seemingly on standby at some runway


Toxic Threats to Grassland Birds

New York Times  – ‎Mar 11, 2013‎

Ornithologists agree that in the United States no group of birds is declining faster than the grassland species that live in or migrate through agricultural areas…. But a new study by two Canadian toxicologists raises an old specter. They found that collapsing bird populations were more strongly correlated with insecticide use than with habitat alteration — that, in fact, pesticides were four times more likely to be linked with bird losses than any other cause…..


Farmers who commit totally to sell locally can make a profit
(March 8, 2013) — Farmers can make a profit selling their produce directly to local businesses, but they must not let possible new costs weaken their commitment to the new venture, according to an international team of researchers. … Farmers can capture additional revenue for the venture through higher prices and improved sales margins, the researchers said. “The local foods movement is huge and retailers are wishing to meet the desires of their customers,” Sharma said. “Other research conducted by our team has found that 40 percent or more of people will pay a premium for identified local ingredients.” Most local outlets can charge a slightly higher price for goods, giving farmers a premium on products sold to those businesses. Selling produce themselves, instead of through a distribution company, may also improve margins for the farmers, since they are not losing revenue to the distributor.

“Farmers may find that their margins may be higher when they sell locally,” Sharma said. “They are cutting out the middleman.”….full story



Turning Off the Dams and Letting Rivers Come Alive
River restoration is a societal goal in the United States. As a new book contributing to the GSA’s Reviews in Engineering Geology series was about to be submitted for publication, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation turned off the generators to the Elwha Dam in Washington State. This collection of 14 research papers focuses on what is currently known about the impacts of removing dams and the role of dam removal in the larger context of river restoration. Editors Jerome De Graff of the U.S. Forest Service and James Evans of Bowling Green State University write, “It seems fitting that publication of this volume and the actual start of restoration on the Elwha River should coincide.” The book has 14 chapters grouped by topic with a numerous case studies about specific river restoration projects around the United States.


Monarch butterflies numbers down again
(March 13, 2013) — Bad news again for the Monarch butterfly: Drought conditions and historic wildfires the past few years continue to decrease their numbers as they wing across Texas this spring. Worse news: milkweed plants – the only kind they need to survive – are also not in plentiful supply. … > full story


Aging Sewers Are Ruining Watersheds, Ecosystems

Laboratory Equipment  – ‎March 12, 2013‎

Aging sewer systems are spilling a considerable amount of nitrogen into urban watersheds, diminishing both the quality of water and ecosystems’ habitats. However, many studies documenting the impacts of nitrogen on urban environs have not properly …


‘Marshall Plan’ for African wildlife?
(March 8, 2013) — African lions and villagers would benefit from fences to protect them from each other, according to a new study. … > full story


Fungi may be able to replace plastics one day
(March 12, 2013) — Fungi, with the exception of shitake and certain other mushrooms, tend to be something we associate with moldy bread or dank-smelling mildew. But they really deserve more respect, say researchers. Fungi have fantastic capabilities and can be grown, under certain circumstances, in almost any shape and be totally biodegradable. And, if this weren’t enough, they might have the potential to replace plastics one day. The secret is in the mycelia. … > full story


(credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images)

NJ Town Strings Up Dead Birds To Keep Vultures Away

March 13, 2013 10:59 AM

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) — The dead vulture’s feathers snap and crack, breaking apart as its frozen wings are spread for one last flight.

It will soon soar gracefully — albeit briefly — into a tree in this hilly New Jersey suburb, hoisted to a branch where it will hang, upside down, until spring.

Wildlife officials say it’s a sure-fire way to get an estimated 100 black and turkey vultures from roosting in the neighborhood, leaving behind foul-smelling and acidic droppings on roofs and lawns, creeping out residents and even their pets. Before the black vulture’s carcass is strung up, nearly a dozen vultures glide over Bridgewater on a cool, gray Monday morning. Some perch in trees. One rests on a chimney-top. Neighborhood residents watched as wildlife specialist Terri Ombrello launched a weighted fishing line over a branch with a sling shot. She took turns with partner Nicole Rein tying the bird’s legs with another line then pulled the bird about 30 feet off the ground. Vultures may like to eat road kill but it turns out they don’t like the sight of their own dead upside down…..





Plankton adjusts to changing ocean temperatures
(March 8, 2013) — 3-D imaging reveals that marine plankton automatically adjusts swimming technique in dense viscosity, but only due to temperature changes, not pollution. … “The purpose of the study was in trying to determine the effects of climate change at the very base of the food chain,” Sheng said…..As one of the most abundant animal groups on the planet, many species, including many commercially important fish species, rely on planktonic copepod nauplii at some point during their life cycle. Understanding the ability of these animals to respond to changes in the environment could have direct implications into understanding the future health of our oceans. By independently varying temperature and viscosity, Sheng recorded their movements with 3-D high speed holographic techniques developed by the Sheng lab at Texas Tech. “At 3,000 frames per second, it was like tracking a racecar through a microscope,” Sheng said. “We were able to determine that the plankton adapted to changes in viscosity by altering the rhythm of its pulsing appendage.” The response, built-in to its natural muscle fiber, was only triggered by changes in temperature, Sheng said. It could not compensate for changes in viscosity due to environmental pollution, such as algae blooms or oil spills.> full story

Amplified greenhouse effect shaping North into South
(March 10, 2013) — As the cover of snow and ice in the northern latitudes has diminished in recent years, the temperature over the northern land mass has increased at different rates during the four seasons, causing a reduction in temperature
and vegetation seasonality in this area. In other words, the temperature and vegetation at northern latitudes increasingly resembles those found several degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 30 years ago, new research shows. .
On the amplified greenhouse effect, Prof. Ranga Myneni, Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University and lead co-author says “A greenhouse effect initiated by increased atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gasses — such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane — causes the Earth’s surface and nearby air to warm. The warming reduces the extent of polar sea ice and snow cover on the large land mass that surrounds the Arctic ocean, thereby increasing the amount of solar energy absorbed by the no longer energy-reflecting surface. This sets in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement between warming and loss of sea ice and snow cover, thus amplifying the base greenhouse effect.””The amplified warming in the circumpolar area roughly above the Canada-USA border is reducing temperature seasonality over time because the colder seasons are warming more rapidly than the summer,” says Liang Xu, a Boston University doctoral student and lead co-author of the study. “As a result of the enhanced warming over a longer ground-thaw season, the total amount of heat available for plant growth in these northern latitudes is increasing. This created during the past 30 years large patches of vigorously productive vegetation, totaling more than a third of the northern landscape — over 9 million km2, which is roughly about the area of the USA — resembling the vegetation that occurs further to the south,” says Dr. Compton Tucker, Senior Scientist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland... > full story


Heat-stressed cows spend more time standing
(March 12, 2013) — Animal scientists have found that cows stand for longer bouts of time on hot days. Standing allows cows to cool off, but standing also uses up more energy. If cows are encouraged to lie down, they may be more healthy and productive. … > full story


Large plastic bags in unique experiment to study ocean acidification
(March 13, 2013) — To study the effects of ocean acidification, ten huge plastic containers called mesocosms are placed in the Gullmar Fjord in Sweden. The project is unique: mesocosms of this size have never been used for such a long period of time. … > full story


Are tropical forests resilient to global warming?
(March 10, 2013) — Tropical forests are less likely to lose biomass – plants and plant material – in response to greenhouse gas emissions over the twenty-first century than may previously have been thought, suggests a new study. … > full story



Remote clouds responsible for climate models’ glitch in tropical rainfall
(March 11, 2013) — New research shows that cloud biases over the Southern Ocean are the primary contributor to the double-rain band problem that exists in most modern climate models. … > full story

Monsoon failure key to long droughts in Southwest
(March 11, 2013) — Long-term droughts in the Southwestern North America often mean failure of both summer and winter rains, according to new tree-ring research. For the severe, multi-decadal droughts that occurred from 1539 to 2008, both winter and summer rains were sparse year after year. The finding contradicts the commonly held belief that a dry winter rainy season is generally followed by a wet monsoon season, and vice versa. … > full story


Eyjafjallajokull volcano

Volcanic Aerosols Tamped Down Recent Surface Warming

Posted: 11 Mar 2013 07:32 AM PDT

The last decade was the hottest on record. And the data make clear the planet is still warming, despite deniers’ disinformation to the contrary. But a new study does explain one reason surface temperatures did not rise quite as much as scientists expected in the past decade – JR.

CIRES News Release

In the search for clues as to why Earth did not warm as much as scientists expected between 2000 and 2010, researchers have discovered the answer is hiding in plain sight. The study, led by a scientist from NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), showed that dozens of volcanoes spewing sulfur dioxide have tempered the warming.

The findings essentially shift the focus away from Asia, including India and China, two countries that are estimated to have increased their industrial sulfur dioxide emissions by about 60 percent from 2000 to 2010 through coal burning, said lead author Ryan Neely, a CIRES scientist working at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions from Earth’s surface eventually rise 12 to 20 miles into the stratospheric aerosol layer of the atmosphere, where chemical reactions create sulfuric acid and water particles that reflect sunlight back to space, cooling the planet.

Neely said previous observations suggest that increases in stratospheric aerosols since 2000 have counterbalanced as much as 25 percent of the warming scientists attribute to human greenhouse gas emissions. “This new study indicates it is emissions from small to moderate volcanoes that have been slowing the warming of the planet,” said Neely.

A paper on the subject was published online in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Co-authors include Professors Brian Toon and Jeffrey Thayer from CU-Boulder; Susan Solomon, a former NOAA scientist now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Jean Paul Vernier from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; Christine Alvarez, Karen Rosenlof and John Daniel from NOAA; and Jason English, Michael Mills and Charles Bardeen from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

The new study relies on long-term measurements of changes in the stratospheric aerosol layer’s “optical depth,” which is a measure of transparency, said Neely.  Since 2000, the optical depth in the stratospheric aerosol layer has increased by about 4 to 7 percent, meaning it is slightly more opaque now than in previous years.

The biggest implication here is that scientists need to pay more attention to small and moderate volcanic eruptions when trying to understand changes in Earth’s climate,” said Toon of CU-Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. Overall these eruptions are not going to counter the human caused greenhouse warming, he said.  “Emissions of volcanic gases go up and down, helping to cool or heat the planet, while greenhouse gas emissions from human activity just continue to go up.”….

Canadian Arctic glacier melt accelerating, irreversible, projections suggest
(March 12, 2013) — Ongoing glacier loss in the Canadian high Arctic is accelerating and probably irreversible, new model projections suggest. The Canadian high Arctic is home to the largest clustering of glacier ice outside of Greenland and Antarctica — 146,000 square kilometers (about 60,000 square miles) of glacier ice spread across 36,000 islands. … > full story


Dried sunflowers are seen in a field near the Bulgarian capital Sofia in August 2012. After the harshest winter in decades, the Balkans were facing the hottest summer and the worst drought in nearly 40 years. The record-setting average temperatures — steadily rising over the past years as the result of the global warming — have ravaged crops, vegetable, fruit and power production in the region which is already badly hit by the global economic crisis. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

Global Warming Has Already Caused Unprecedented Change

March 11, 2013 by John Light

A new study published in the journal Science provides context for just how dramatic our planet’s recent warming trend is. In the last century, during which humans have been burning fossil fuels on a widespread scale, the planet’s temperatures have changed more dramatically than they had during all of recorded human history — more dramatically than they had since the last ice age ended.

“We already knew that on a global scale, Earth is warmer today than it was over much of the past 2,000 years,” said Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University, the paper’s lead author. “Now we know that it is warmer than most of the past 11,300 years.” The planet’s gradual warming and cooling phases are largely caused by the Earth’s tilt as it orbits around the sun. During the period the OSU and Harvard University research team reconstructed, temperatures increased gradually until about 7,000 years ago, then began decreasing again. If not for human influence, Earth would be in a very cold period today. But soon after the industrial revolution happened, the planet began to warm.

“This research shows that we’ve experienced almost the same range of temperature change since the beginning of the industrial revolution as over the previous 11,000 years of Earth history — but this change happened a lot more quickly,” said Candace Major, program director in the National Science Foundation, which helped fund the study.

Researchers said that if this trend continues, the planet will be warmer in 2100 than at any point during the last 11,300 years for which they have data.

What will that mean for America?

A draft of a report released by a government advisory committee in January gives us some idea. The analysis, by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC), details how climate change will devastate different regions of the U.S. and specific sectors of the American economy. Some examples: Areas where agriculture takes place will shift, and by 2050, most of climate change’s impacts on American agriculture will be negative. Summer droughts will intensify because of changes in precipitation and rising temperatures. In the long run, many southern American states and Hawaii could experience water shortages because of rising temperatures and falling levels of rainfall. America’s transportation infrastructure will be incapacitated. Current health crises will be amplified and new ones will emerge. Plant and wildlife in some regions will change so much as to make the given region “almost unrecognizable.” The list of what America has to prepare for is long, and communities around the country will experience their own spectra of different, devastating effects…..




Increase in heavy rainfalls over past 60 years in upper Midwest, US
(March 13, 2013) — Heavy rains have become more frequent in the upper Midwest over the past 60 years, according to a new stud. The trend appears to hold true even with the current drought plaguing the region, the study’s main author says. … > full story



Hurricane Sandy approaches the Atlantic coast of the U.S. in the early morning hours of October 29, 2012. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using VIIRS Day-Night Band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership.)

In a Warming World, Storms May Be Fewer but Stronger

Scientists Investigate How Climate Change Affects Extreme Weather

By Adam Voiland Design by Robert Simmon March 5, 2013 NOAA Earth Observatory

Few images are as beautiful and as terrifying as a satellite view of a hurricane about to make landfall. On October 29, 2012, the Suomi NPP satellite captured an ominous nighttime view of Sandy—an enormous hybrid storm that was part hurricane, part Nor’easter—churning off the coast of New Jersey. The string of city lights that stretches from Washington to Boston was mostly gone, blanketed by thick, ghostly storm clouds. One of the most brightly lit cities in the world, New York, was little more than a faint smudge through Sandy’s clouds. In a matter of hours, that smudge of light would go dark. Large swaths of Manhattan were under water. The Rockaways were on fire. Rooftops along the New Jersey shore became temporary islands for people escaping a wall of seawater that surged inland…..



Mitigating Climate Change? Guiding Responsible Research in Geoengineering

Science Daily (press release)  – ‎ ‎

Mar. 14, 2013 – Geoengineering, the use of human technologies to alter Earth’s climate system — such as injecting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to scatter incoming sunlight back to space — has emerged as a potentially promising way .



Day 2: Penguins in decline as climate change decimates food supply

By Kerry Sanders, NBC News Correspondent March 11, 2013

It’s hard to believe when each day of a trip tops the last, but Antarctica was just that: A show-stopper every day.

The weather shifted on our second day. The wind picked up and the temperatures dropped. We hit about 31 degrees, and it started to flurry. But with a steady 17-mph wind, and some gusts into the 30-mph range, it became uncomfortable.  Of course, I was aboard the Quark Expedition ship, a 400-foot long ice-resistant vessel, where it’s only a few steps away from the deck to the warmth inside the cabins. I had hoped to experience a landing at Planeau Bay, but the weather remained uncooperative. We did venture out in choppy two-foot swells by way of the smaller Zodiac vessels….






Draft Bill Released By Rep. Waxman and Sen. Whitehouse Would Price Carbon And Reduce Emissions

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 01:06 PM PDT

…..Today, legislators from the House and Senate responded to the President’s call. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) released a discussion draft of a bill that would charge polluters for the carbon pollution they release into the air, reducing the pollution responsible for fight climate change.

In December 2012, CAP established five principles for a progressive carbon fee. This fee should:

The draft bill from Waxman, Whitehouse, Blumenauer, and Schatz meets these principles. It suggests a price of $15-30 per ton of carbon dioxide, which is sufficient to significantly reduce pollution. The bill collects the fee from midstream entities that already report greenhouse gas pollution data to the government, so it creates no large new bureaucracy. The draft also seeks comment on the best ways to spend the revenue, including consumer protection and deficit reduction.



OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Conservatives, industry strike back on carbon and oil taxes

By Ben Geman and Zack Colman – 03/12/13 06:59 PM ET

The conservative House Republican Study Committee and a number of outside groups will continue a trend: publicly slamming carbon tax proposals that already lack political traction. Their Capitol Hill press conference will feature lawmakers and groups like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and Americans for Prosperity, and discuss the “harmful impacts of a carbon tax on American families and small businesses,” an advisory states. The House lawmakers will introduce a resolution “opposing efforts to implement a national carbon tax.” The White House has said repeatedly that it’s not going to pitch a carbon tax, and the concept lacks enough support to clear either chamber of Congress. But the idea has gained more currency in policy-wonk circles of late as a way to address emissions and, perhaps, help tackle the deficit (although some plans would offset the revenue with cuts to other taxes)….



NYTimes Editorial

When to Say No
Published: March 10, 2013 346 Comments

The State Department’s latest environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline makes no recommendation about whether President Obama should approve it. Here is ours. He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem.

The 875-mile pipeline avoids the route of an earlier proposal that traversed the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills of Nebraska and threatened an important aquifer. It would carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to pipelines in the United States and then onward to refineries on the Gulf Coast. From there, most of the fuel would be sent abroad.

To its credit, the State Department acknowledges that extracting, refining and burning the oil from the tar-laden sands is a dirtier process than it had previously stated, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent higher than the average crude oil used in the United States. But its dry language understates the environmental damage involved: the destruction of the forests that lie atop the sands and are themselves an important storehouse for carbon, and the streams that flow through them. And by focusing on the annual figure, it fails to consider the cumulative year-after-year effect of steadily increasing production from a deposit that is estimated to hold 170 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered with today’s technology and may hold 10 times that amount altogether.

It is these long-term consequences that Mr. Obama should focus on. Mainstream scientists are virtually unanimous in stating that the one sure way to avert the worst consequences of climate change is to decarbonize the world economy by finding cleaner sources of energy while leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Given its carbon content, tar sands oil should be among the first fossil fuels we decide to leave alone.

Supporters of the pipeline have argued that this is oil from a friendly country and that Canada will sell it anyway. We hope Mr. Obama will see the flaw in this argument. Saying no to the pipeline will not stop Canada from developing the tar sands, but it will force the construction of new pipelines through Canada itself. And that will require Canadians to play a larger role in deciding whether a massive expansion of tar sands development is prudent. At the very least, saying no to the Keystone XL will slow down plans to triple tar sands production from just under two million barrels a day now to six million barrels a day by 2030.

The State Department will release a fuller review in early summer, and at some point after that the White House will decide. That decision will say a lot about whether Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are willing to exert global leadership on the climate change issue. Speaking of global warming in his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama pledged that “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” Mr. Kerry has since spoken of the need to safeguard for coming generations a world that is not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts and other destructive forces created by a changing climate.

In itself, the Keystone pipeline will not push the world into a climate apocalypse. But it will continue to fuel our appetite for oil and add to the carbon load in the atmosphere. There is no need to accept it.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on March 11, 2013, on page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: When to Say No.



Bloomberg Announces Mayors’ Summit To Fight Climate Change

March 12, 2013 8:14 PM

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A summit of city mayors will convene in February of next year in Johannesburg, to discuss ways to fight global climate change. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who serves as chairman of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, announced plans Tuesday along with Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau for the fifth biennial C40 Cities Mayors Summit. “Cities around the world, particularly C40 cities, are taking meaningful actions that have quantifiable outcomes. As a result – as our research shows – we are having a real impact combating the impacts of global climate change,” Bloomberg said in a news release. “While nations and international bodies meet to talk about these issues, the C40 Cities Mayors Summit is focused on the concrete actions we can take to protect the planet and grow our cities.” C40 was started in 2005 and is a network of cities around the world looking to implement local actions that can impact climate change.

The group notes that while cities only occupy 2 percent of the whole land mass of the earth, they contain more than 50 percent of its population. Cities also use two thirds of the earths’ energy and generate over 70 percent of its carbon emissions…..



Federal Agencies Tackle Climate Change

By Pam Radtke Russell Roll Call Staff March 12, 2013, 6:08 p.m.

After Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers worked on levee improvements in New Orleans to avoid the construction shortfalls that occurred during the 2005 storm. Climate adaptation is becoming part of business for federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, which is building new levees, dams and buildings to withstand higher sea-level rise and extreme weather events.

As Congress remains unwilling and unable to deal with climate change, federal government agencies — even without the blessing of lawmakers — have been thinking about, and quietly acting on, climate change for years. The Army Corps of Engineers, for instance, is building new levees, dams, buildings and other infrastructure to withstand higher sea-level rise and more extreme weather events. The Defense Department is making decisions about its current and future installations based on the expectation that sea levels will rise. And NASA has assessed its sites and is considering how to manage higher water at places such as Cape Canaveral, Fla. Climate adaptation is becoming part of the normal course of business for some federal agencies.

“If you get the processes into the bones of the organization, you can weather out the political climate,” said William D. Goran, director of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Center for the Advancement of Sustainability Innovations. Adapting to climate change is easier to tackle than mitigating the causes of global warming because efforts to stem greenhouse gas emissions have to be undertaken globally to have an effect. Adaptation consists of actions that each agency can take on its own. “For the future,” Goran said, “we are going to have to adapt.”

There are signs that the political climate is becoming more receptive to addressing climate adaptation. The supplemental bill to assist areas affected by Superstorm Sandy required the Army Corps of Engineers to assess and evaluate its infrastructure for future storms….


Dems launch series of climate change speeches to fight GOP ‘climate deniers’

By Pete Kasperowicz – 03/12/13 02:40 PM ET

House Democrats will make a series of speeches on the House floor in the coming weeks to call for a congressional response to climate change.
“There are a number of us who plan on speaking every day on the House floor on the need for Congress to take action on climate change,” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said on the House floor.

“We’re making this commitment because this chamber is filled with such a large collection of climate deniers,” he said. “It’s here in Congress, though, where a long-term strategy to address this issue will have to be crafted if we’re to avoid the worst-case scenario and the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

“There should be complete consensus on the science of climate change — that the higher concentrations of greenhouse gasses over the past 50 years are due to human activity, that the rapid increase in global temperature could not have been caused by natural factors alone, and that the severe temperatures and extreme weather events we’ve experienced in recent years, including the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, all fit into the predictive pattern of global climate change.”


Climate changed pegged as biggest threat to Pacific security by US Navy …

The Verge  – ‎March 12, 2013‎

The commander of the US Navy’s Pacific operations is warning that the impact of climate change will be the biggest new security threat to the region, which is already volatile due to threats by North Korea’s government and China’s growing military power.


George Shultz: “I drive on sunshine”

Carolyn Lochhead SF Chronicle March 10 2013

Republican eminence grise George Shultz addressed a packed room on Capitol Hill Friday to press for a carbon tax. He spent three days in Washington with scientists from MIT and Stanford to talk about advances in alternative fuels, including a potential “game changing” breakthrough under way at Stanford that could quadruple the driving range of lithium ion batteries, putting electric cars on a par with internal combustion engines. A Californian now at the conservative Hoover Institution who taught economics at MIT and the University of Chicago and is one of only two people ever to hold four cabinet posts, Shultz proposed putting all forms of energy “on a level playing field” by incorporating the cost of the carbon pollution they emit by taxing carbon at its source. Not including carbon emissions in the price of energy, he said, is like a football game where Cal gets 6 downs and Stanford gets two.

Once carbon pollution is included in energy prices, Shultz would “wipe out” subsidies to all fuels, fossil, nuclear and renewable, and let market forces determine the mix. Carbon tax revenues under his plan would be remitted to consumers periodically in the form of a “carbon dividend check.” Modeled on Alaska’s Permanent Fund, the plan is similar in concept to legislation proposed by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) except that it would remit all revenues to consumers…..









Webinar: Understanding and Overcoming Barriers to Adopting Living Shorelines
Thursday March 21, 2013 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM EDT
— an online event.
Living shorelines provide a “softer,” more natural response to flooding and erosion. However, this type of response is often more difficult to implement than “hard armoring” (such as levees). Please join us for a webinar on March 21 as experts discuss a Georgetown Climate Center report that analyzes the regulatory challenges to implementing living shorelines and presents different methods states could use to encourage these types of projects. Practitioners in Maryland and Alabama will also discuss their experiences integrating living shorelines into their own state programs. This is the second webinar in a series that features planning and policy experts who seek to help coastal communities make the tough decisions necessary to adapt to climate change. Please RSVP for the webinar below. To receive the call-in number, materials, and webinar details, please complete the registration process.
Register Now!
EPA —Webcast #1: Achieving Buy-In for Adaptation

The first webcast will be held from 1:00pm-2:30pm EDT on Thursday, March 21st and will address the challenge of achieving community buy-in for adaptation projects. Through presentations on best practices, case studies, and an interactive panel, experts will discuss how to integrate resilience considerations into mainstream decision-making and how to simultaneously address mitigation and adaptation. Register now.


Webcast #2: Overcoming the Uncertainty Barrier to Adaptation

The second webcast will be held later in the spring (date/time TBD) and will address the challenge of planning for climate change in the face of uncertainty. Through presentations on best practices, case studies, and an interactive panel, experts will discuss how to look at historical information to understand future vulnerability and how to use downscaling tools that are appropriate for local governments of various sizes and capacities.

Webcast #3: Attracting Funding for Adaptation

The third webcast will be held later in the spring (date/time TBD) and will focus on how to secure funding for adaptation. The presentations will provide examples of how communities of various sizes have attracted funding and provide available resources for participants to identify appropriate funds. The experts who present on this webcast will discuss how to maximize funding by mainstreaming adaptation planning and how to simultaneously address adaptation and mitigation.

Northern Sierra Nevada Foothills Wildlife Connectivity Project Conservation Partners Meeting– April 5th, 2012 9:00 am – 12:30 pm
Hosted at The Federal Building 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA

PROJECT BACKGROUND: The Sierra Nevada foothills wildlife connectivity project focuses on the northern Sierra Nevada foothills (NSNF), encompassing a narrow band
of low to mid-elevation habitat approximately 275 miles long that runs from Shasta County to Madera County. The NSNF represents an important movement corridor between the low elevations of the Central Valley and the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. The foothills provide key habitat areas for species such as mule deer that migrate seasonally between high elevations in the Sierra’s during the summer and lower elevations in the foothills during the winter. The oak woodlands in the foothills also provide an important food source (acorns) for many species ranging from birds, to rodents, to large mammals.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES: The objective of this project is to build on the statewide California Essential Habitat Connectivity model completed in 2010.  This project will take a finer-scale look at connectivity within the NSNF and between the NSNF and adjacent protected lands in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada, using species-specific data to model connections between blocks of protected lands.

MEETING GOAL is to identify wildlife connectivity areas (wildlife linkages) across the foothills ecoregion. We need to have participation from interested organizations/agencies/individuals to identify lands to connect the Sierra Nevada Mountains, foothills and Central Valley. We intend to make the resulting wildlife linkages map widely available for incorporation into conservation planning activities including wildlife crossings, conservation prioritization and land-use planning.

EXPERTISE IS NEEDED from local land trusts, agencies, universities and other organizations to identify lands that are vital for wildlife connectivity. The workshop will provide a forum for gathering local and regional knowledge about wildlife movement patterns and important conservation lands across the ecoregion. Please bring any land ownership/management GIS data that may help identify boundaries of conservation lands.

**Please RSVP to Crystal Krause ( by March 22.**


July 15-19, 2013 – “Scenario Planing toward Climate Change Adaptation” ALC3194 – development led by the Wildlife Conservation Society

August 27-29, 2013 – “Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” ALC3184

October 28-November 1, 2013 – “Climate Smart Conservation” ALC3195 – development led by the National Wildlife Federation.

Registration for these courses is through DOILearn at


2013 Conservation Easement Applications for Wetlands and Grasslands- Due April 5
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in California has set April 5, 2013, as the deadline for considering projects for the 2013 Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) funding. WRP is a voluntary program that provides farmers, ranchers and other private landowners compensation for land placed in wetland conservation easements, and cost-share funding for restoring degraded wetlands. WRP includes permanent easements that pay 100 percent of the easement value and restoration costs, and 30-year easements that pay up to 75 percent of the easement value and restoration costs. WRP also offers a 10-year restoration-only option without an easement.


The Coastal-Marine Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network ( is a respected global network of conservation and resource management practitioners coordinated by NatureServe. The network promotes methods and tools for improving conservation and management in coastal and marine environments and their watersheds.


NatureServe ( is an international conservation nonprofit dedicated to providing the scientific basis for effective conservation action. Its network of more than 80 member organizations collects and maintains a unique body of knowledge about the species and ecosystems of the Western Hemisphere. Its scientists, technologists, and other professionals build on this scientific information to provide information products, data management tools, and biodiversity expertise that helps meet local, national, and global conservation needs throughout the Americas and around the world.







Can The Empire State Go Green? New Study Says New York State Can Be 100% Renewable By 2050

Posted: 14 Mar 2013 08:46 AM PDT

A new study out of Stanford University, scheduled to be published in the journal Energy Policy, argues that New York State can eliminate fossil fuels from its energy mix entirely by 2050. Written by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi — who helped produce a similar plan for the world as a whole in 2009 — along with several other coworkers, the report suggests that New York State’s end-use power could be supplied by a mix of various forms of solar, wind power, and water-based and geothermal sources. That goal could be met as early as 2030, and all conventional fossil fuel generation would be phased out no later than 2050….

major points of the plan are:

Delucchi went into more detail with NY Times blogger Andrew Revkin on how the study’s authors think these goals could be hit in practical terms.

The plan also involves deploying a smart grid to manage these various energy sources, as well as integrating weather forecasting into operations. The researchers chose not to include natural gas since it remains an emitter of carbon dioxide and methane, and because the extraction of natural gas remains highly carbon-intensive. More interestingly, they decided not to include biofuels either, due to their inefficiency in comparison to electricity for transportation, the high land-use required to grow either corn or cellulosic feedstocks in comparison to land-use of wind, and because the agricultural production of biofuel crops offsets a lot of the carbon reduction and creates other pollution.

According to Stacy Clark at HuffPost, Jacobson estimated the total cost for the project at $600 billion — no small ask. However, Jacobson and his co-authors also estimate the project would create 4.5 million jobs during construction, and maintain 58,000 permanent jobs thereafter. Using rough metric’s economists have developed for estimating the financial value of a human life, as well as the costs to New York State from deaths due to pollution-induced illnesses, they also estimate the project would pay for itself in 17 years.

Let’s get started.



In Search of Energy Miracles

By JUSTIN GILLIS (NYT) March 12, 2013 Compiled: 12:55 AM

At a legendary but secretive laboratory in California, Lockheed Martin is working on a plan that some employees hope might transform the world’s energy system: a practicable type of nuclear fusion. Some 900 miles to the north, Bill Gates and another Microsoft veteran, Nathan Myhrvold, have poured millions into a company developing a fission reactor that could run on today’s nuclear waste. And on the far side of the world, China has seized on discarded American research to pursue a safer reactor based on an abundant element called thorium.

Beyond the question of whether they will work, these ambitious schemes pose a larger issue: How much faith should we, as a society, put in the idea of a big technological fix to save the world from climate change? A lot of smart people are coming to see the energy problem as the defining challenge of the 21st century. We have to supply power and transportation to an eventual population of 10 billion people who deserve decent lives, and we have to do it while limiting the emissions that threaten our collective future.

Yet we have already poured so much carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere that huge, threatening changes to the world’s climate appear to be inevitable. And instead of slowing down, emissions are speeding up as billions of once-destitute people claw their way out of poverty, powered by fossil fuels. Many environmentalists believe that wind and solar power can be scaled to meet the rising demand, especially if coupled with aggressive efforts to cut waste. But a lot of energy analysts have crunched the numbers and concluded that today’s renewables, important as they are, cannot get us even halfway there. “We need energy miracles,” Mr. Gates said in a speech three years ago introducing his approach, embodied in a company called TerraPower. ….



Obama Seeks $2 Billion in Research on Cleaner Fuels

New York Times Mar 15 2013

WASHINGTON – With few options available for financing his clean-energy ambitions, President Obama on Friday will propose diverting $2 billion in revenue from federal oil and gas leases over the next decade to pay for research on advanced vehicles, …


The Facts on Fracking

By SUSAN L. BRANTLEY and ANNA MEYENDORFF (NYT) March 14, 2013 Compiled: 12:57 AM

Environmentalists should consider the pros and cons of fracking in comparison with other technologies. …So, should the United States and Europe encourage fracking or ban it? Short-run economic interests support fracking. In the experience of Pennsylvania, natural gas prices fall and jobs are created both directly in the gas industry and indirectly as regional and national economies benefit from lower energy costs. Europe can benefit from lessons learned in Pennsylvania, minimizing damage to the local environment. The geopolitical shift that would result from decreasing reliance on oil, and more specifically on Russian oil and gas, is one that European politicians might not want to ignore. And if natural gas displaces coal, then fracking is good not only for the economy but also for the global environment. But if fracked gas merely displaces efforts to develop cleaner, non-carbon, energy sources without decreasing reliance on coal, the doom and gloom of more rapid global climate change will be realized.









No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy.

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN NY Times Published: March 9, 2013


I HOPE the president turns down the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Who wants the U.S. to facilitate the dirtiest extraction of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada’s far north?) But I don’t think he will. So I hope that Bill McKibben and his coalition go crazy. I’m talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change. We don’t get such an opportunity often — namely, a second-term Democratic president who is under heavy pressure to approve a pipeline to create some jobs but who also has a green base that he can’t ignore. So cue up the protests, and pay no attention to people counseling rational and mature behavior. We need the president to be able to say to the G.O.P. oil lobby, “I’m going to approve this, but it will kill me with my base. Sasha and Malia won’t even be talking to me, so I’ve got to get something really big in return.”


Face it: The last four years have been a net setback for the green movement. While President Obama deserves real praise for passing a historic increase in vehicle mileage efficiency and limits on the emissions of new coal-fired power plants, the president also chose to remove the term “climate change” from his public discourse and kept his talented team of environmentalists in a witness-protection program, banning them from the climate debate. This silence coincided with record numbers of extreme weather events — droughts and floods — and with a huge structural change in the energy marketplace.


What was that change? Put simply, all of us who had hoped that scientific research and new technologies would find cheaper ways to provide carbon-free energy at scale — wind, solar, bio, nuclear — to supplant fossil fuels failed to anticipate that new technologies (particularly hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling at much greater distances) would produce new, vastly cheaper ways to tap natural gas trapped in shale as well as crude oil previously thought unreachable, making cleaner energy alternatives much less competitive.


It’s great that shale gas is replacing coal as a source of electricity, since it generates less than half the carbon dioxide. As the oil economist Philip Verleger Jr. notes in the latest edition of the journal International Economy, these breakthroughs will also lead to much more oil and gas at lower prices, which will help American consumers, manufacturers and jobs. But, he adds, “it will be harder and harder to push for renewable energy programs as hydrocarbon prices fall,” and “the new technologies that allow us to tap shale oil and shale gas could release vast quantities of methane” if not done properly. Methane released in the atmosphere contributes much more to climate change than CO2.


If Keystone gets approved, environmentalists should have a long shopping list ready, starting with a price signal that discourages the use of carbon-intensive fuels in favor of low-carbon energy. Nothing would do more to clean our air, drive clean-tech innovation, weaken petro-dictators and reduce the deficit than a carbon tax. One prays this will become part of the budget debate. Also, the president can use his authority under the Clean Air Act to order reductions in CO2 emissions from existing coal power plants and refiners by, say, 25 percent. He could then do with the power companies what he did with autos: negotiate with them over the fairest way to achieve that reduction in different parts of the country. We also need to keep the president’s feet to the fire on the vow in his State of the Union address to foster policies that could “cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.” About 30 percent of energy in buildings is wasted.


Finally, the president could make up for Keystone by introducing into the public discourse the concept of “natural infrastructure,” argues Mark Tercek, the president and chief executive of The Nature Conservancy, and the co-author of “Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature. “Forests, wetlands and other ecosystems are nature’s infrastructure for controlling floods, supplying water, and doing other things we need to adapt to climate change,” Tercek wrote in an e-mail. “Before Hurricane Sandy, Cape May, N.J., had the foresight to restore its dunes and wetlands to provide storm protection and wildlife habitat. When Sandy struck, Cape May was spared the damage that neighboring towns suffered.”


Since the president is rightly calling for infrastructure investment, which makes sense at a time of high unemployment, added Tercek, “he should emphasize natural infrastructure as well. Federal programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Farm Bill can be expanded to make communities more resilient; changes in the tax code and other federal rules can incentivize private investment.” So, sure, we need to be realistic about our near-term dependence on fossil fuels, or we will pay a big price. But we also need to be realistic about the need to keep building a bridge to a different energy future, or we will pay an even bigger price. Let’s make sure we don’t forget the latter in the Keystone debate.




Awesome Star-Studded Music Video: Don’t Frack My Mother!

Posted: 12 Mar 2013 11:04 AM PDT

Sean Lennon, Yoko Ono, and a flotilla of celebrities sing a song titled “Don’t Frack My Mother” that opposes fracking in New York State. The video has some actual information in it, but you’ll get distracted by the sustained barrage of familiar faces. And the fact that they rhyme:

Now we can’t afford for this world to get hotter


And we can’t afford polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons in our water

That’s gotta be a first time PAHs have appeared in a pop song









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