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Conservation Science News January 18, 2013

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Highlight of the WeekNew Architecture for Sustainable Development









Highlight of the Week– New Architecture for Sustainable Development



Sustainable Development Goals for people and planet, David Griggs et al, Nature Full size

Scientists Propose a New Architecture for Sustainable Development



By ANDREW C. REVKIN March 21, 2013


As a United Nations working group negotiates a set of “sustainable development goals,” 10 scientists and development analysts, in a commentary published today in Nature, have proposed a fundamentally different way to frame this concept. (Click here for relevant Dot Earth posts.) Over the last several decades, sustainable human development has been conceived largely as the outcome of balanced work on three “pillars” — economic and social development and environmental protection. The authors, building on arguments that have been brewing for awhile, say that these concepts are instead nested one inside the next, not separate free-standing realms. Here’s how one author put it in a statement released today: “As the global population increases towards nine billion people sustainable development should be seen as an economy serving society within Earth’s life support system, not as three pillars,” says co-author Dr. Priya Shyamsundar from the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, Nepal. Owen Gaffney, an author of the commentary and communications director for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, sent a “Your Dot” contribution offering more background on this proposal:

Here’s Gaffney’s piece:

Redefining Sustainable Development in the Anthropocene

Last week, the UN’s 2013 Human Development Report issued a stark warning: “Environmental inaction, especially regarding climate change, has the potential to halt or even reverse human development progress.” Thanks to the unstoppable rise of the South, that progress has been spectacular to date. Both India and China have doubled their output per person in less than 20 years. But how can development continue without it costing the Earth? Air pollution in China is so bad that many cities are permanently shrouded in a toxic cloud, and lung cancer rates have soared in the past decade. There are no easy solutions.

At the United Nations Rio+20 Earth summit last year, 192 countries agreed to create a set of universal Sustainable Development Goals. These are set to follow the Millennium Development Goals, due to end in 2015, which successfully focused significant funds and political energy towards eight poverty-related goals. New goals could change the playing field for social and economic development in the coming decades. As nations gear up to formulate these goals they need to acknowledge the state of planet and the scale of civilization. We use an area the size of South America to grow our crops. An area the size of Africa is cleared for our livestock. Humans are profoundly altering the face of Earth. But it goes much further than this. We are altering the carbon, nitrogen, water and phosphorus cycles.  We are now the dominant force changing Earth’s life support system – the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, forests, ice sheets and biodiversity that allow us to thrive and prosper. These changes underwrite a whole new understanding of our place in the world. That change is encapsulated in the concept of the Anthropocene – that we have pushed Earth into a new geological epoch of our own creation.

Our number one task as a global species with an almighty footprint is how to maintain Earth’s life support system while providing food and a decent quality of life to seven billion people climbing to nine or more. So now comes the hard part. Somehow the development goals must connect the dots between development and protection of Earth’s life support system. Also, very practically, the goals must be simple, easy to communicate and have buy-in from everyone. Albert Einstein once said that if he had a problem to solve in just one hour, and it was terribly difficult, and his life depended upon it, he would spend the first 55 minutes framing the problem. The way we define a problem illuminates the solution. For the past 26 years, a single definition of sustainable development has ruled: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” And a single concept has shaped international policy: the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.

In the Anthropocene we must abandon old thinking. We need to redefine the problem. By replacing the three pillars with a clear and simple idea: an economy, within society, within Earth’s life support system. A healthy planet is a prerequisite for healthy, thriving, prosperous lives. From this we need a new definition for sustainable development: “development that meets the needs of the present while safeguarding Earth’s life-support system, on which the welfare of current and future generations depends”. To deliver on this new definition, we need measurable and achievable sustainable development goals. Moreover, the goals must not stop at the nation state. They need to inspire countries, states, cities, organizations, companies and people everywhere. These should be goals for humanity.
Ultimately the goals are a political decision, but science can help to ensure they meet these core objectives.

This week an international team of scientists and experts including myself produced an analysis of how it’s possible. The group identified six universal goals: Lives and Livelihoods, Food Security, Water Sustainability, Clean Energy for All, Healthy Ecosystems and Effective Governance. Each goal will be met by reaching a set of quantifiable targets beneath the goal such as halving the number of people living on less than a dollar a day, improving the lives of slum-dwellers, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Much more work will need to be done to create sound, measurable targets. Targets for each goal will span economic, social and environmental domains. For instance, food security should seek to end hunger and improve the efficiency of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers. Poverty elimination is addressed by providing food, water and energy – the basic needs – plus, gainful employment through the goal on lives and livelihoods. Energy for all is linked to ending harmful subsidies on fossil fuels and unsustainable agriculture. And economic growth must be based on sustainable production and consumption: we need to change the global economic playing field.

Success for the universal Sustainable Development Goals is contingent upon two things: bottom-up support from all sectors of our global society plus strong leadership. In our highly interconnected and networked world, we need the power of self organization to drive global leadership. ….






Invasive species: Understanding the threat before it’s too late
(March 22, 2013) — Catching rides on cargo ships and fishing boats, many invasive species are now covering our shorelines and compromising the existence of our native marine life. Scientists have examined what factors allow some invasive species to survive in their new environments and others to fail. … > full story


Losing wetlands to grow crops
(March 24, 2013) — Getting enough to eat is a basic human need – but at what cost to the environment? New research demonstrates that as their crops on higher ground fail due to unreliable rainfall, people in countries like Uganda are increasingly relocating to wetland areas. Unless the needs of these people are addressed in a more sustainable way, overuse of wetland resources through farming, fishing, and hunting will continue. … > full story

Acoustic monitoring of Atlantic cod reveals clues to spawning behavior
(March 23, 2013) — For decades researchers have recorded sounds from whales and other marine mammals, using a variety of methods including passive acoustic monitoring to better understand how these animals use sound to interact with each other and with the environment. Now, for the first time, researchers report using this technology to record spawning cod in the wild. … > full story


Risk to endangered whales from ships in southern California analyzed in new study
(March 25, 2013) — Researchers have identified areas off southern California with high numbers of whales and assessed their risk from potentially deadly collisions with commercial ship traffic. … > full story

Redfern, J. V., M. F. McKenna, T. J. Moore, J. Calambokidis, M. L. DeAngelis, E. A. Becker, J. Barlow, K. A. Forney, P. C. Fiedler, and S. J. Chivers. 2013. Assessing the risk of ships striking large whales in marine spatial planning. Conservation Biology 27:292-302.

Geese in a corn field Jimmy Smith/Flickr

Not Just the Bees: Bayer’s Pesticide May Harm Birds, Too

—By Tom Philpott
Wed Mar. 27, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Once again this spring, farmers will begin planting at least 140 million acres—a land mass roughly equal to the combined footprints of California and Washington state—with seeds (mainly corn and soy) treated with a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Commercial landscapers and home gardeners will get into the act, too—neonics are common in lawn and garden products. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know all of that is probably bad news for honeybees and other pollinators, as a growing body of research shows—including three studies released just ahead of last year’s planting season.



What a bunch of dodos! Catastrophic mass extinction of birds in Pacific Islands followed arrival of first people
(March 25, 2013) — The demise of the dodo is one of the better known bird extinctions in the world, but its sad fate was anticipated a thousand times over by its Pacific cousins. … > full story


Peak Farmland?

More land for nature in our future

Ronald Bailey | March 22, 2013

“Humanity now stands at Peak Farmland, and the 21st century will see release of vast areas of land, hundreds of millions of hectares, more than twice the area of France for nature,” declared Jesse Ausubel, the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University, in a December lecture. Ausubel was outlining the findings in a new study he and his collaborators had done in the Population and Development Review. Unlike other alleged resource “peaks,” peak farmland reflects not the exhaustion of resources but the fruits of human intelligence and growing affluence.



Nature versus nurture: Better looking birds have healthier babies, finds study of great tits
(March 24, 2013) — A female great tits’ (Parus major) appearance is shown to signal healthy attributes in offspring in a new paper. The black stripe across her breast and white patches on her cheeks correlate to a chick’s weight at two weeks and immune strength respectively — though the former seems to signal a genetic benefit and the latter can affect an ‘adopted’ chick’s health, suggesting nurture is involved. … > full story


Homeowner groups can support native species in suburbia
(March 25, 2013) — Although it’s known that home construction in suburban areas can have negative impacts on native plant and animals, a recent study suggests that well-managed development such as provided by homeowners associations can support native wildlife and promote species diversity. … > full story


Hope for Galapagos wildlife threatened by marine invaders
(March 26, 2013) — Increasing tourism and the spread of marine invasive non-native species is threatening the unique plant and marine life around the Galapagos Islands. … > full story


Genomes of peregrine and saker falcons throw lights on evolution of a predatory lifestyle
(March 25, 2013) — Researchers have completed the genome sequencing and analysis of two iconic falcons, the peregrine and saker falcons. The work provides an invaluable resource for the deep understanding of the adaptive evolution in raptors and the genetic basis of their wide distribution. … > full story


Uncovering Africa’s oldest known penguins
(March 26, 2013) — Africa isn’t the kind of place you might expect to find penguins. But one species lives in Africa today, and new fossils confirm that as many as four penguin species coexisted on the continent in the past. Exactly why African penguin diversity plummeted is still a mystery, but changing sea levels may be to blame. The fossils represent the oldest evidence of penguins in Africa, predating previously described fossils by 5 to 7 million years. … > full story





State’s small snowpack raises chillsCA has driest first quarter on record

By Peter Fimrite SFChron March 29 2013

The sprinklings of rain and dustings of snow that will fall on California over the next few days are not going to make up for three of the most remarkably dry months in state history, water resources officials said Thursday. The mountains of the Sierra, which were buried in giant mounds of snow as the new year began, are now comparatively bare. The monthly measurement of the state’s frozen water supply Thursday found 52 percent of the normal snowpack for April 1. “This is more gloomy news for our summer water supply,” said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources. “This is more gloomy news for our summer water supply,” said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources. The amount of water in the snowpack at this time of year is extremely important, he said, because the largest proportion of the ice that melts in the Sierra after April 1 is captured in nearby reservoirs. That water used to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and quench the thirst of most of California’s 37.8 million people. Paltry precipitation has been a statewide issue over the past three months, which is unusual because those 90 days are normally the rainiest time of the year, said Jan Null, a meteorologist for Golden Gate Weather Services and an adjunct professor of meteorology at San Francisco State University.

Driest on record

Null, a former lead forecaster for the National Weather Service, said that as of Thursday, a total of 1.72 inches of rain had fallen in San Francisco in January, February and March, the driest first three months of the year in the city since records began in 1850. That’s compared with a long-term average of 12.39 inches for those three months, which accounts for more than half of San Francisco’s average annual rainfall of 23.65 inches, he said. “Those three months are critical,” he said.

High ridge lingers

The unusually dry weather was caused by a ridge of high pressure that has lingered over the West Coast, pushing storms north of California and over the eastern half of the country. It is why the Plains and Eastern United States have been pounded by storms and, in some cases, record cold.Null said San Francisco is usually a good gauge of statewide precipitation trends. The city also has the longest consecutive rainfall record in the state. The snow water content in the Central Sierra, which includes the Lake Tahoe area, is now 57 percent of normal, based on the average of 40 electronic monitoring stations. That’s compared with 90 percent of normal two months ago and 134 percent of normal on Jan. 2, when the first snow survey of the year was conducted. The Northern Sierra is at 55 percent of normal, and the Southern Sierra at 40 percent of normal. Only 13 inches of snow – 32 percent of the long-term average – was measured Thursday in the meadow behind Phillips Station, a historic, privately owned cabin near Echo Summit. That’s compared with 4 feet three months ago. An average of 15 inches of water was found in the snow throughout the Sierra, based on measurements from more than 300 sites.

Not all bad

Still, Null said, things aren’t all bad. Despite three months of dry weather, San Francisco has still gotten 71 percent of normal precipitation for the season, which goes from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013, thanks to an abnormally wet November and December. The state’s water supply is also in good shape – at least right now – for the same reason. Lake Oroville, the primary storage reservoir for the State Water Project, is at 83 percent of its capacity, which is 108 percent of average for this time. The water project provides water to 29 public agencies, which supply more than 25 million Californians and irrigate nearly a million acres of farmland. Shasta Lake, which is part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation‘s Central Valley Project and is the largest reservoir in the state, is at 82 percent of capacity, or 102 percent of normal. Nevertheless, pumping restrictions between November and February designed to protect migrating fish reduced the supply at the San Luis Reservoir – an important summer supply pool for both the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, according to Cowin. The reservoir is only 63 percent full, he said.

Summer melt season getting longer on Antarctic Peninsula
(March 27, 2013) — New research from the Antarctic Peninsula shows that the summer melt season has been getting longer over the last 60 years. Increased summer melting has been linked to the rapid break-up of ice shelves in the area and rising sea level. … > full story



Arctic Ice Hits Annual Max and it’s 6th Lowest on Record

Published: March 26th, 2013 , Last Updated: March 26th, 2013

By Andrew Freedman and Michael D. Lemonick

The skin of sea ice that covers the Arctic Ocean has reached its maximum extent for 2013, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Monday, and the annual melt season has begun. As of March 15, ice covered 5.84 million square miles of ocean, the sixth-lowest since satellite observations began in the 1970’s, and 283,000 square miles lower than the 1979-2000 average. Reflecting the influence of global warming, the 10 lowest sea ice maximums have all occurred over the past 10 years.

Last summer’s ice minimum, moreover, was the lowest on record, with 2007 coming in a distant second. Taken together, it’s one more sign that the planet is warming under the influence of heat-trapping greenhouse gases….



Doubling Of CO2 Levels In End-Triassic Extinction Killed Off Three Quarters Of Land And Sea Species

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 09:26 AM PDT

“There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record.” That’s from a 2010 special issue on climate change and biodiversity from the UK’s Royal Society. In 2011, a Nature Geoscience study found humans are spewing carbon into the atmosphere 10 times faster now than 56 million years ago, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a time of 10°F warming and mass extinction.

An even more ancient extinction is the subject of a new study in Science (subs. req’d), with the tongue-twister title, “Zircon U-Pb Geochronology Links the End-Triassic Extinction with the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province.”

As the MIT News release puts it:

Some 200 million years ago, an increase in atmospheric CO2 caused acidification of the oceans and global warming that killed off 76 percent of marine and terrestrial species on Earth.

Whereas human activity is the source of the rapid surge in CO2 emissions today, the source of the surge 200 million years ago is now widely thought to be volcanoes:

… most scientists agree on a likely scenario: Over a relatively short period of time, massive volcanic eruptions from a large region known as the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) spewed forth huge amounts of lava and gas, including carbon dioxide, sulfur and methane. This sudden release of gases into the atmosphere may have created intense global warming and acidification of the oceans that ultimately killed off thousands of plant and animal species.

Now researchers at MIT, Columbia University and elsewhere have determined that these eruptions occurred precisely when the extinction began, providing strong evidence that volcanic activity did indeed trigger the end-Triassic extinction.

Today, of course, notwithstanding the claims of some disinformers, “Humans emit 100 times more CO2 than volcanoes,” as Skeptical Science explains in one of their classic myth-debunking posts.

So what is the connection between what happened in the End-Triassic Extinction and our current mass extinction? As ClimateWire (subs. req’d) explains:

“In some ways, this event is analogous to the present day,” said study lead author Terrence Blackburn, of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Morgan Schaller, a research associate in earth systems history at Brown University, has previously published work in Science showing that these massive eruptions led to a doubling of carbon dioxide levels from 2,000 parts per million to 4,400 ppm.

Although researchers are not sure how quickly this doubling occurred, it could have been within a period as short as 1,000 years.

This leads them to draw analogies between today’s rapid CO2 increase and the past. Even though the base-line levels of CO2 were much higher 200 million years ago, a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations leads to a 3 degree Celsius increase whether it’s from 2,000 to 4,000 ppm or from 280 to 560 ppm, Schaller said….

Paul Olsen, a geologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a co-author on the paper released yesterday, said the extinction, however it happened, occurred in 20,000 years or less — but like the speed of the carbon dioxide doubling, it could have been a lot less.

In any case, what humans are doing to the biosphere today is mostly without precedent in the geologic record and poised to be far worse than most previous extinctions, according to recent research:

There will always be zoos … won’t there?


How climate change threatens the seas


Mar 27, 2013

Written by

Dan Vergano

“Ocean acidification,” the shifting of the ocean’s water toward the acidic side of its chemical balance, has been driven by climate change and has brought increasingly corrosive seawater to the surface along the West Coast and the inlets of Puget Sound …



Misunderstanding Of Climate Change Concepts May Be Stalling Global Action, New Study Suggests

Posted: 03/28/2013 5:59 pm EDT  |  Updated: 03/28/2013 6:02 pm EDT

From Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman:

There is widespread confusion about the near-term benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and that misunderstanding may be complicating the formidable task of reducing manmade global warming, argue two climate researchers in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science.

The scientists, Damon Matthews of Concordia University in Montreal and Susan Solomon of MIT, make the case that policymakers, the media, and to some extent the public have misunderstood the implications of two key concepts — the “irreversibility” of climate change, and the amount of global warming already in the pipeline due to historical greenhouse gas emissions.

The duo challenge what they say have become pervasive misinterpretations of recent scientific results, including findings from a 2010 National Research Council report they helped write that said that the amount of global warming to date is essentially irreversible on the timescale of about 1,000 years. That study has been repeatedly cited by policymakers to justify delays in tackling carbon emissions by making global warming appear to be inexorable, regardless of what actions are taken.

But Matthews and Solomon rebut that justification, writing instead that, “the irreversibility of past changes does not mean that future warming is unavoidable.”

In addition, they said the notion that global warming would continue to take place even if the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were to be frozen at current levels — rather than increasing year-after-year as they are now — has also helped justify inaction.

These findings have “been misinterpreted to mean that the rate of increase in Earth’s global temperature is inevitable, regardless of how much or how quickly emissions decrease,” the Science article said.

In an interview, Matthews said that confusion over the irreversibility and the amount of future warming that is already baked into the climate system has been widespread, and is serving to overcomplicate the global-warming issue, which is already challenging. “Anything that makes the problem seem more complicated than it is, is disempowering I think,” Matthews said.



With Drought Season Off to a Bad Start, Scientists Forecast Another Bleak Year

Current climate-induced drought is slipping into a trend that scientists say resembles some of the worst droughts in U.S. history, like the Dust Bowl.

By Katherine Bagley, InsideClimate News

Mar 28, 2013

U.S. Drought Monitor map from March 19, 2013, courtesy of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center

Drought conditions in more than half of the United States have slipped into a pattern that climatologists say is uncomfortably similar to the most severe droughts in recent U.S. history, including the 1930s Dust Bowl and the widespread 1950s drought. The 2013 drought season is already off to a worse start than in 2012 or 2011—a trend that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say is a good indicator, based on historical records, that the entire year will be drier than last year, even if spring and summer rainfall and temperatures remain the same. If rainfall decreases and temperatures rise, as climatologists are predicting will happen this year, the drought could be even more severe. The federal researchers also say there is less than a 20 percent chance the drought will end in the next six months.  “There were certainly pockets of drought as we went into spring last year, but overall, the situation was much better than it is now,” said Tom Karl, a climatologist and director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “We are going to have to watch really closely … Last year was bad enough.”….



How to Abuse Statistics: Claim Global Warming Stopped in 1998

Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:23 PM GMT on March 27, 2013 +55

One often hears the statement in the media that global warming stopped in 1998, or that there has been no global warming for the past 16 years. Why pick 16 years? Why not some nice round number like 20 years? Or better yet, 30 years, since the climate is generally defined as the average weather experienced over a period of 30 years or longer? Temperatures at Earth’s surface undergo natural, decades-long warming and cooling trends, related to the La Niña/El Niño cycle and the 11-year sunspot cycle. The reason one often hears the year 1998 used as a base year to measure global temperature trends is that this is a cherry-picked year. An extraordinarily powerful El Niño event that was the strongest on record brought about a temporary increase in surface ocean temperatures over a vast area of the tropical Pacific that year, helping boost global surface temperatures to the highest levels on record (global temperatures were warmer in both 2005 and 2010, but not by much.) But in the years from 2005 – 2012, La Niña events have been present for at least a portion of every single year, helping keep Earth’s surface relatively cool. Thus, if one draws a straight-line fit of global surface temperatures from 1998 to 2012, a climate trend showing little global warming results. If one picks any year prior to 1998, or almost any year after 1998, a global warming trend does result. The choice of 1998 is a deliberate abuse of statistics in an attempt to manipulate people into drawing a false conclusion on global temperature trends. One of my favorite examples of this manipulation of statistics is shown an animated graph called “The Escalator”, created by (Figure 1)…..


Predictions of climate impacts on fisheries can be a mirage
(March 25, 2013) — In the early 1940s, California fishermen hauled in a historic bounty of sardine that set the backdrop for John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” novel. But by the end of the decade the nets came up empty and the fishery collapsed. Where did they all go? According to a new study, the forces behind the sardine mystery are a dynamic and interconnected moving target. … > full story

Elevated carbon dioxide in atmosphere trims wheat, sorghum moisture needs
March 25, 2013) — Agronomy researchers found that elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere have an upside — a reduced need for moisture in some important crops. … > full story

Climate models are not good enough, researcher argues
(March 25, 2013) — Only a few climate models were able to reproduce the observed changes in extreme precipitation in China over the last 50 years. … > 

Insect pests more plentiful in hotter parts of city than in cooler areas
(March 27, 2013) — Higher temperatures in cities can be a key driver of insect pest outbreaks on trees in urban areas, according to new research. … > full story

How Climate Change Could Eventually End Coffee

U.S. News & World Report  – ‎Mar 27, 2013‎

Millions around the world wake up and brew a cup of coffee before they start their day. But for many involved in the industry, a caffeine buzz isn’t keeping them up at night—instead, what’s causing insomnia is the increasing difficulty that climate …..


A Hot Topic: Climate Change Coming To Classrooms

NPR  – ‎Mar 27, 2013‎

By the time today’s K-12 students grow up, the challenges posed by climate change are expected to be severe and sweeping.






Senate Gone Wild: Vote To Approve Keystone Passes, Decision Still Lies With White House

Posted: 22 Mar 2013 04:33 PM PDT

Tonight, 62 Senators voted for an amendment to the Fiscal 2014 Budget Resolution that attempts to give Congress the power to approve the Keystone pipeline. This is despite the fact that the pipeline would do nothing to make the country more energy independent, and would create far fewer jobs than its supporters claim.

While some conservatives may claim the pipeline would create “more than 20,000 direct jobs,” the most recent State Department impact assessment found that the pipeline would directly create only “3,900″ temporary construction jobs. After construction is complete, the operation of the pipeline would only support 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, with “negligible socioeconomic impacts.” Moreover, only 10 percent of the total workforce would be hired locally. For perspective, our country had 3.4 million green energy jobs in 2011 and it was the fastest-growing industry in the country.


Sequestration Cuts Hit The National Parks Hard

By Jessica Goad, Guest Blogger on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:16 am

The effects of massive government budget cuts that took effect on March 1 are being felt across the country already, from the closure of air traffic control towers to cancellation of White House tours to hundreds of thousands of furloughs. Another agency that is beginning to make cuts — just as the spring and summer tourism seasons kick off — is the National Park Service.

The park service faces an approximately 6 percent cut under sequestration and a recently-passed funding bill which means major impacts on how the parks function and the visitor experiences at them. A memo from park service Director Jon Jarvis on March 8 warned that permanent positions will not be filled, and he wrote:

… we will hire over 1,000 less seasonal employees this year. Seasonal employees are our utility infielders, the “bench” we turn to when fires break out, search and rescue operations are underway, and every other collateral duty. Many of these folks return year after year — they are the repositories of amazing institutional knowledge.

In total, 3,000 jobs at the agency may be affected. Here are some of the national park superintendents who are being forced to make hard choices about their parks and staffs:….



Wildlife agencies create a consensus plan for adapting to climate threats  – March 28 2013‎

And the nation’s resource agencies need to improve their coordination starting now, with emphasis on critically important steps that can be taken in the next five years.



Obama’s budget to be released April 10


President Obama will release his budget on April 10, principal deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday. The president’s budget is formally due on the first Monday in February, but the White House has said that its two-month delay was in part due to the administration’s focus on sequestration.


IMF: Want to fight climate change? Get rid of $1.9 trillion in energy subsidies.

Posted by Brad Plumer on March 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm

What’s the simplest way to tackle global warming? Make sure that fossil fuels are priced properly and not subsidized. Is it really that easy?

That’s the core idea behind a large new report (pdf) from the International Monetary Fund, which argues that the world “misprices” fossil fuels to the tune of some $1.9 trillion per year.

Eliminating these subsidies, the IMF argues, and replacing them with appropriate carbon taxes could cut global greenhouse-gas emissions by 13 percent, curtail air pollution, and shore up the finances of many poorer countries now in debt trouble.

So let’s take a closer look at the IMF’s numbers. Energy subsidies, the report argues, come in two very different flavors:…



Climate change poll: Most want to prepare, few want to pay

Politico  – ‎March 28, 2013‎

WASHINGTON – A new national survey says 82 percent of Americans want to prepare now for rising seas and stronger storms from climate change. But most are unwilling to spend the money to keep the beach where it is. The poll by Stanford University …




Video: The Price OF Carbon Requires A Price ON Carbon

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 08:35 AM PDT

This video produced by the Climate Reality Project featuring Reggie Watts demonstrates the argument that because carbon pollution costs us money, the world should put a price on carbon.

It’s important to remind viewers that it should be the polluters paying for what their products cost all of us — that they should not simply pass on the costs to everyone else. These companies already know carbon emissions will affect their bottom lines. But it’s difficult to ask consumers to pay double for fossil fuel addiction when these large companies and utilities slow-walk toward renewable energy. Especially when polluters’ products cause so many dangerous and expensive impacts.

So what’s the answer? The Center for American Progress has a report detailing what a carbon tax should look like, including ways to “minimizing harm to vulnerable consumers and businesses, growing the economy with investments in clean energy infrastructure and other infrastructure that makes communities more resilient in the face of climate change, and reducing the deficit burden on future generations.”

What do you think a price on carbon should look like?





Best apps… For bird-watching

Source: The Washington Post







Clean electricity from bacteria? Researchers make breakthrough in race to create ‘bio-batteries’
(March 25, 2013) — Scientists have made an important breakthrough in the quest to generate clean electricity from bacteria. New findings show that proteins on the surface of bacteria can produce an electric current by simply touching a mineral surface. The research shows that it is possible for bacteria to lie directly on the surface of a metal or mineral and transfer electrical charge through their cell membranes. This means that it is possible to ‘tether’ bacteria directly to electrodes – bringing scientists a step closer to creating efficient microbial fuel cells or ‘bio-batteries.’ … > full story

For Powering Cars, Solar-Electric Is ‘Orders Of Magnitude’ More Efficient Than Biofuels

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 12:17 PM PDT

Climate Progress recently reported on a study that found both economic and environmental benefits if homes in the northeastern United States upgraded older heating systems by moving from heating oil to switchgrass. However, one point to emphasize was the findings were specific to those circumstances — the region, the homes, and that particular use. Switchgrass was not nearly as good an idea for electricity generation or transportation fuel. Further confirming the need for a diversity of renewable solutions to our energy needs, a recent study determined that electricity generated by solar beats out biofuels for powering cars under myriad scenarios. The report, put together by a team from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and published in
Enviornmental Science and Technology, compared five different approaches to see what was the most efficient way to power a compact passenger vehicle for every 100 kilometers driven:

The analysis considered land-use, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and took into account the production and use life cycles of both the fuels themselves and the vehicles they power….



IMF Study: United States Is World’s Number One Fossil Fuel Subsidizer

Posted: 29 Mar 2013 09:24 AM PDT

Between directly lowered prices, tax breaks, and the failure to properly price carbon, the world subsidized fossil fuel use by over $1.9 trillion in 2011 — or eight percent of global government revenues — according to a study released this week by the International Monetary Fund.

The biggest offender was by far the United States, clocking in at $502 billion. China came in second at $279 billion, and Russia was third at $116 billion. In fact, the problem is so significant in the U.S. that the IMF figures correcting it will require new fees, levies, or taxes totaling over $500 billion a year, or more than 3 percent of the economy. The most significant finding is that most of the problem — a little over $1 trillion worth — is the failure to properly price carbon pollution. Global warming is the ultimate example of a “negative externality” — a market failure in which one market actor enjoys the benefits of an exchange while another actor pays the costs….



A marine animal to feed your eco-car
(March 25, 2013) — The marine animal tunicate can be used both as biofuel and fish food, according to new research. On the ocean floor, under the pier, and on ship ropes – that’s where the tunicates


New Ultra-Thin Solar Cell Could Massively Boost Battery Life Of Personal Mobile Devices

Posted: 24 Mar 2013 05:21 AM PDT

A Silicon Valley solar company has developed a method for manufacturing light, ultra-thin, flexible, and durable solar cells that manage to convert a record 30.8 percent of the energy in light into electricity. The company, Alta Devices, previously set a record of 28.8 percent conversion efficiency with another form of solar cell.

It hopes its latest creation could be adapted to fit small mobile devices such as smartphones and iPad tablets, which until now have only been able to fit conventional solar cells that are much less efficient and charge slowly.

Here’s the quick summary, via Energy Matters:

Alta Devices has announced a record 30.8 percent efficiency with its latest generation dual-junction thin-film solar cell, a breakthrough the company says has the potential to vastly improve the battery life of mobile systems…..


Different Kind Of Boom: Replacing Extracted Oil And Gas With Toxic Wastewater Causes Earthquakes

Posted: 27 Mar 2013 02:06 PM PDT

After pulling massive amounts of fossil fuels out of the Earth’s crust so we can burn it up into our atmosphere, we have a good sense of where the stuff goes. Our oceans. A global greenhouse. Our lungs. But what happens to the ground formerly occupied by those fossil fuels?


Rare New Zealand birds recovering from maritime oil spill

WELLINGTON, March 27 (Xinhua) — One of the world’s rarest birds appears to have recovered in numbers after New Zealand’s worst-ever maritime environmental disaster, experts announced Wednesday. Monitoring of the New Zealand dotterel population, which is endangered and estimated to number just 1,700 in the wild, showed birds captured after the oil spill from a Liberian-registered cargo ship in October 2011 had recovered well, according to the Massey University…


Trees used to create recyclable, efficient solar cell
(March 26, 2013) — Researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees. Just as importantly, by fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle. … > full story


New bone survey method could aid long-term survival of Arctic caribou
(March 27, 2013) — A study adds critical new data for understanding caribou calving grounds in an area under consideration for oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. … > full story






First migration from Africa less than 95,000 years ago: Ancient hunter-gatherer DNA challenges theory of early out-of-Africa migrations
(March 22, 2013) — Recent measurements of the rate at which children show DNA changes not seen in their parents — the “mutation rate” — have challenged views about major dates in human evolution. In particular these measurements have made geneticists think again about key dates in human evolution, like when modern non-Africans split from modern Africans. The recent measurements push back the best estimates of these dates by up to a factor of two. Now, however scientists present results that point again to the more recent dates. … > full story


New evidence ancient asteroid caused global firestorm on Earth
(March 27, 2013) — A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80 percent of all Earth’s species, says a new study. … > full story


Cooling on Warming

By GAIL COLLINS NYT Published: March 27, 2013 435 Comments

Is spring actually here? We are definitely getting tired of snow stories. It’s time for some sun. And then the drought stories!

At which point we will ask ourselves: What ever happened to worrying about global warming? You may remember what a big deal President Obama made about climate change in his Inaugural Address. It definitely looked as if the ozone layer was making a comeback. Later, in the State of the Union speech, Obama came back to his battle cry again and urged Congress “to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.”

Urging the House and Senate to follow the lead of the two most notorious shape shifters in recent political history was perhaps not a favorable omen.

Nor was the fact that earlier this month, a deeply noncontroversial Senate resolution commemorating International Women’s Day had to be taken back and edited because someone objected to a paragraph — which had been in an almost identical version passed in the last Congress — stating that women in developing countries “are disproportionately affected by changes in climate because of their need to secure water, food and fuel for their livelihood.”


Road traffic pollution as serious as passive smoke in the development of childhood asthma
(March 21, 2013) — New research conducted in 10 European cities has estimated that 14 percent of chronic childhood asthma is due to exposure to traffic pollution near busy roads. … > full story














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