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Conservation Science News July 5, 2013

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Highlight of the WeekSF BAY RESTORATION- THE BATTLE FOR SOFTER SHORES

1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED

2CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS

3-POLICY

4-RESOURCES and REFERENCES

5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED

6OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST

7IMAGES OF THE WEEK

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PRBO is now Point Blue Conservation Science:  We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise.  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly.  You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2).  Our new website, www.pointblue.org, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website, www.prbo.org, will remain active.


Highlight of the Week– SF BAY RESTORATION- THE BATTLE FOR SOFTER SHORES

 

 

SF Bay Restoration: Lines in the Mud-The Battle for Softer Shores

by Ariel Rubissow Okamoto on June 30, 2013 BAY NATURE in Habitats: Freshwater, Bay, Marine, Stewardship

A complex of mature tidal channels at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. Photo: Steven dosRemedios

There’s a line in the mud in the Bay Area. It’s a blue line for hydrologists, a green line for biologists, and a red line for environmentalists. Moving the line, which was painstakingly drawn in the 1990s by those who care about wetland ecology and endangered species protection, is considered beyond the pale. ….Once upon a time we had 196,000 acres of tidal wetlands ringing San Francisco Bay. The Bay formed when ice caps melted and the seas rose 10,000 years ago, flooding river valleys as far inland as present-day Napa. Those were the days when the baylands were much more than a patch of pickleweed or a meadow of cordgrass: Creeks and rain emptied the soils and runoff of whole watersheds onto the marsh plain. Each marsh had high and low spots, varied vegetation, and branching channels so labyrinthine it wasn’t clear where one ended and another began. Forty percent of the land area of California drained into this vast estuary and through its marshes. Then, in short order, settlers dug ditches and heaped up walls of dirt, and later concrete, around all these wetlands. They drained them and sent in the horse and plow, the cow and oats. Soon thereafter cities and towns grew up on the shore and we piled up more dirt in the water–filling the Bay to get more real estate. Along the way, we lost 90 percent of our tidal wetlands…..

 

The impact of climate change on the Bay’s natural systems will be profound. Storms will be more intense and more frequent; droughts could be longer and hotter; the timing of snowmelt and runoff into the estuary will change too. “There’s big uncertainty about our end points,” says Grenier, who in the spring of 2013 was coordinating the ambitious effort to update the 1999 Goals, largely to adjust for the rising sea levels.

The climate change curveball means the Goals’ focus needs to shift to a dynamic, rather than static, end product. In pressing the “reset” button on the Goals, Grenier and the rest of her update team are concentrating on building adaptability. For example, Goals teams are talking about getting freshwater back into the marsh, to better re-create the natural gradient from land to sea and from fresh to brackish to salty marshes. This more complex marsh not only builds up elevation faster, but also sequesters more carbon. And they’re promoting using wetlands and transitional zones, rather than conventional levees, to buffer developed areas from waves and storm surges.

Selling the idea to local planning groups, experts are quick to invoke the memory of New Orleans, and to suggest that wetlands do a much better job of protecting shorelines and regional infrastructure than big levees can. “We switched gears on wetland restoration at a critical time,” says Jeremy Lowe. “The threat of more frequent flooding brought the value of these public lands more to the fore. Instead of throwing up our hands or building big structures to keep the Bay out, we’re in a good place to allow the estuary to evolve naturally and provide protection for our developed areas.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declines in ecosystem productivity fueled by nitrogen-induced species loss
(July 3, 2013) — Humans have been affecting their environment since the ancestors of Homo sapiens first walked upright, but never has their impact been more detrimental than in the 21st century. Human-driven environmental disturbances, such as increasing levels of reactive nitrogen and carbon dioxide, have multiple effects, including changes in biodiversity, species composition, and ecosystem functioning. Pieces of this puzzle have been widely examined but this new study puts it all together by examining multiple elements. …
According to the team’s recent findings,
adding nitrogen to grasslands led to an initial increase in ecosystem productivity. However, that increase proved unsustainable because the increased nitrogen resulted in a loss of plant diversity. “In combination with earlier studies, our results show that the loss of biodiversity, no matter what might cause it, is a major driver of ecosystem functioning,” said Tilman. According to the authors, previous studies have underestimated the impact of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning. “Many people expect that only rare or subordinate species will be lost and that their loss will have negligible effects on ecosystem functioning,” says lead author Forest Isbell, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior at the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul. “But we found that the most common species were lost under fertilization, creating a substantial decrease in productivity over time.” Furthermore, the results of this study show that changes in biodiversity can be important intermediary drivers of the long-term effects of human-caused environmental changes on ecosystem functioning. For example, accounting for the effects of nitrogen on plant diversity could improve predictions of the long-term impacts of nitrogen on productivity. While the researchers expect their results will be relevant in other ecosystems, they also hope to explore the practical implications of their results for sustaining forage yields in diverse pastures and hay meadows. In particular, they hope to determine whether maintaining plant diversity over time can sustain the productivity of these managed grasslands…..full story

F. Isbell, P. B. Reich, D. Tilman, S. E. Hobbie, S. Polasky, S. Binder. Nutrient enrichment, biodiversity loss, and consequent declines in ecosystem productivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1310880110

 

 

POINT BLUE in the news:

 

Snowy Plovers nest at Stinson Beach for first time in 30 years

by Claire Peaslee Bay Nature blog on June 26, 2013

An adult snowy plover leads the way. Photo: Ben Pless.

This year, a tiny shorebird that lives on sandy beaches returned to some of its former breeding locales for the first time in decades – in one instance spawning a science mystery story.

The snowy plover is a year-round resident along our coast. Its western population has been federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1993. In Central California many scientists, resource managers, and trained volunteers monitor plovers and work to protect their nests from predation and disturbance. Carleton Eyster, on the staff of Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO), is one such individual. He helps study snowy plovers near Monterey. In mid-April, on a busman’s holiday of sorts, Carleton took a stroll along the shore of Stinson Beach. From habit, he scanned the sands for plovers ‒ small, sand-colored birds that most people overlook. To his amazement, Carleton detected a handful of snowy plovers grouped at a single nest. The last time this species bred at Stinson Beach, to anyone’s knowledge, was in 1983 – fully three decades ago…..

 

 

 

Cattle Grazing and Clean Water Are Compatible On Public Lands, Study Finds

June 28, 2013 — Cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands, according to research by the University of California, Davis. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date. “There’s been a lot of concern about public lands and water quality, especially with cattle grazing,” said lead author Leslie Roche, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We’re able to show that livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals.” Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western United States each year, the study said. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.

“With an annual recreating population of over 26 million, California’s national forests are at the crossroad of a growing debate about the compatibility of livestock grazing with other activities dependent upon clean, safe water,” the study’s authors write. “We often hear that livestock production isn’t compatible with environmental goals,” said principal investigator Kenneth Tate, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “This helps to show that’s not absolutely true. There is no real evidence that we’re creating hot spots of human health risk with livestock grazing in these areas.”

The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. Nearly 40 UC Davis researchers, ranchers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California. These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus, and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander. UC Davis researchers analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorus.

The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83 percent of all sample sites and 95 percent of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for human health. The study noted that several regional regulatory programs use different water quality standards for fecal bacteria. For instance, most of the study’s sample sites would exceed levels set by a more restrictive standard based on fecal coliform concentrations. However, the U.S. EPA states that E. coli are better indicators of fecal contamination and provide the most accurate assessment of water quality conditions and human health risks.

The study also found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern. The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Region 5.

 

Leslie M. Roche, Lea Kromschroeder, Edward R. Atwill, Randy A. Dahlgren, Kenneth W. Tate. Water Quality Conditions Associated with Cattle Grazing and Recreation on National Forest Lands. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e68127 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068127

 

 

The Balancing Act of Producing More Food Sustainably

July 5, 2013 — A policy known as sustainable intensification could help meet the challenges of increasing demands for food from a growing global population, argues a team of … The article stresses that while farmers in many regions of the world need to produce more food, it is equally urgent that policy makers act on diets, waste and how the food system is governed. The authors emphasise that there is a need to produce more food on existing rather than new farmland because converting uncultivated land would lead to major emissions of greenhouse gases and cause significant losses of biodiversity. full story

 

 


A Route for Steeper, Cheaper, and Deeper Roots

 

 


July 5, 2013 — Plants with thinner roots can grow deeper, a trait which could be exploited in lands affected by drought and nutrient deprivation. New research shows that maize roots which have fewer cortical cells … > full story


Insecticide Causes Changes in Honeybee Genes, Research Finds

 

 

July 2, 2013 — Exposure to a neonicotinoid insecticide causes changes to the genes of the … > full story

 

200-Year-Old Rockfish Is Largest Fish Caught In Alaska At 40 Pounds: Oldest Ever Found?

KpopStarz July 3, 2013

200-year-old rockfish found, possibly oldest and largest rockfish

A 200-year-old rockfish was caught off the coast of Alaska by Henry Liebman, a real estate developer from Seattle. The shortraker rockfish was found 10 miles off the coast of Sitka, Alaska….

 

Powerful Animal Tracking System Helps Research Take Flight

July 3, 2013 — Call it a bird’s eye view of migration. Scientists are taking a fresh look at animal movement with a big data approach that combines GPS tracking data with satellite weather and terrain information. The new Environmental-Data Automated Track Annotation (Env-DATA) system, featured in the journal Movement Ecology, can handle millions of data points and serve a hundred scientists simultaneously, said co-founder Dr. Roland Kays, a zoologist with North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “This is a powerful tool for understanding how weather and land forms affect migration patterns,” Kays said. “Ultimately it will help us answer global questions about how changes to our planet affect animal populations and movement.”

 

Bat maps: The conservation crusade
(July 2, 2013) — Conservation efforts have taken an important step forward, thanks to observations of bats — creatures that make up a quarter of all of the UK’s native mammal species. … > full story

Surviving fasting in the cold
(July 2, 2013) — King penguin chicks survive harsh winters with almost no food by minimizing the cost of energy production. A new study shows that the efficiency of the mitochondria, the power house of the cell, is increased in fasted king penguin chicks. … > full story

 

Cockatoos ‘pick’ puzzle box locks: Cockatoos show technical intelligence on a five-lock problem
(July 4, 2013) — A species of Indonesian parrot can solve complex mechanical problems that involve undoing a series of locks one after another, revealing new depths to physical intelligence in birds. … > full story

 

Spider webs more effective at ensnaring charged insects
(July 4, 2013) — Flapping bees build up a charge of several hundred volts, enough to electrostatically draw pollen from a flower. But researchers have discovered a downside to being charged: it attracts spider silk and increases the chance that the bee or any insect will be snared by a web as it passes by. Perhaps, they say, the more flexible silk of an orb’s spiral evolved to allow wind and electrostatic charge to improve capture success. … > full story

 

Antarctic crabs may be native, evidence suggests
(July 4, 2013) — A new study has cast doubt on the claim that crabs may have disappeared from Antarctica only to return due to warming seas. … > full story

 

First supper is a life changer for lizards
(
July 3, 2013) — For young lizards born into this unpredictable world, their very first meal can be a major life changer. So say researchers who report evidence that this early detail influences how the lizards disperse from their birthplaces, how they grow, and whether they survive. A quick or slow meal even influences the lizards’ reproductive success two years later in a surprising way. … > full story

 

 

Environmental policy: Tallying the wins and losses of policy
(July 1, 2013) — In the past decade, China has sunk some impressive numbers to preserve its forests, but until now there hasn’t been much data to give a true picture of how it has simultaneously affected both the people and the environment. Scientists now offer a complete picture of the environmental and socioeconomic effects of payments for ecosystem services programs. … > full story

 

 

Major changes needed for coral reef survival
(June 28, 2013) — To prevent coral reefs around the world from dying off, deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are required, says a new study. Researchers find that all existing coral reefs will be engulfed in inhospitable ocean chemistry conditions by the end of the century if civilization continues along its current emissions trajectory. … > full story

 

 

 

New method for assessing risks from alien species
(June 28, 2013) — A new semi-quantitative method that enables researchers and others to assess the environmental impacts posed by alien species is now in use in Norway. While the method is tailored to the Norwegian environment, it can easily be adapted to other countries, and fills an international need for a quantifiable, uniform approach to classifying and assessing alien species. The publication that details the potential impacts of alien species in Norway has also just been released in English. … > full story

 

 

Nuke test radiation can fight poachers who kill elephants, rhinos, hippos
(
July 1, 2013) — Researchers have developed a new weapon to fight poachers who kill elephants, hippos, rhinos and other wildlife. By measuring radioactive carbon-14 deposited in tusks and teeth by open-air nuclear bomb tests, the method reveals the year an animal died, and thus whether the ivory was taken illegally. … > full story

 


STATE OF THE BIRDS: PRIVATE LANDS

July 2, 2013 This fourth State of the Birds report highlights the enormous contributions private landowners make to bird and habitat conservation, and opportunities for increased contributions. Roughly 60% of land area in the United States (1.43 billion acres) is privately owned by millions of individuals, families, organizations, and corporations, including 2 million ranchers and farmers and about 10 million woodland owners. More than 100 species have 50% or more of their U.S. breeding distribution on private lands.

Download the 2013 report  (PDF)

News Release (PDF)

Fact Sheet 

 

 

Hawkmoths use ultrasound to combat bats
(July 4, 2013) — For years, pilots flying into combat have jammed enemy radar to get the drop on their opponents. It turns out that moths can do it, too. … > full story

 

 

 

New Point Blue/CA Coastal Conservancy Publication:

Scenario planning for climate change adaptation: A guidance for resource managers.

Moore, S.S., N.E. Seavy, and M. Gerhart. 2013.  Point Blue Conservation Science and California Coastal Conservancy. Available on-line at: http://www.prbo.org/refs/files/12263_Moore2013.pdf

This document is a step-by-step guide to develop scenarios and use them to plan for climate change adaptation. The intended audience includes natural resource managers, planners, landowners, scientists and other stakeholders working at a local or regional scale to develop resource management approaches that take climate change impacts and other important uncertainties into account. Scenario planning is a tool that embraces uncertainty rather than trying to reduce or eliminate it. It can help resource managers generate creative approaches to climate change adaptation by thinking outside the historical or most obvious trends to incorporate uncertainty as a factor in prioritizing and taking climate-smart management actions today.  For more information, contact nseavy@pointblue.org.

 

 

 The Global Climate 2001-2010: a decade of climate extremes – Summary Report

Available online at: http://library.wmo.int/pmb_ged/wmo_1119_en.pdf

2001-2010- A DECADE OF CLIMATE EXTREMES

GENEVA 3 July 2013 – The world experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes during the 2001-2010 decade, which was the warmest since the start of modern measurements in 1850 and continued an extended period of pronounced global warming. More national temperature records were reported broken than in any previous decade, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The report, The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Climate Extremes,
analysed global and regional temperatures and precipitation, as well as extreme events such as the heat waves in Europe and Russia, Hurricane Katrina in the United States of America, Tropical Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, droughts in the Amazon Basin, Australia and East Africa and floods in Pakistan.

 

 

Limiting global warming is not enough

July 4, 2013 phys.org

So far, international climate targets have been restricted to limiting the increase in temperature. But if we are to stop the rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the loss of production from agriculture, CO2 emissions will have to fall even more sharply. This is demonstrated by a study published in Nature that has been carried out at the University of Bern. The ultimate objective of international climate policy is to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. To do this, greenhouse gases are to be stabilised at a level that is acceptable for humans and for the environment.

This climate goal is commonly expressed as an increase in the global mean temperature by a maximum of two degrees since pre-industrial times. This general direction is recognised by the majority of the world’s governments.

But now, a study carried out by climate researchers based in Bern shows that the focus on the temperature increase alone is by no means enough to meet the ultimate, overarching objective – to protect the climate system from dangerous anthropogenic interference. This is because, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 1992, the climate system comprises the “totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere and their interactions”. The Framework Convention also calls for the sustainability of ecosystems and food production. All of this can scarcely be realised by the two-degree target alone.

Six targets proposed

This is why Dr. Marco Steinacher, Prof. Fortunat Joos and Prof. Thomas Stocker are proposing a combination of six different specific global and regional climate targets (Figure 1) in their work, which has just been published in the “Nature” journal.

They say that a global temperature target is “neither sufficient nor suitable” to avoid further damage that is relevant for communities and ecosystem services. These include in particular: rising sea levels, ocean acidification – which threatens coral reefs – and production on agricultural land. ….

And the researchers ask the crucial question of what would be required in order for all of the climate targets to be met. Their unambiguous answer is that CO2 emissions have to be lowered even more radically than provided for by the two-degree target (Figure 2). “When we consider all targets jointly, CO2 emissions have to be cut by twice as much than if we only want to meet the two-degree target”, explains Steinacher. The objective of limiting ocean acidification proved particularly challenging and is achievable only through a massive reduction in the emissions of CO2.

Marco Steinacher, Fortunat Joos, Thomas F. Stocker: Allowable carbon emissions lowered by multiple climate targets. Nature, 3. Juli 2013, doi:10.1038/nature12269

 

Scientists Predicted A Decade Ago Arctic Ice Loss Would Worsen Western Droughts. Is That Happening Already?

Posted: 30 Jun 2013 09:36 AM PDT Joe Rommm

Scientists predicted a decade ago that Arctic ice loss would bring on worse western droughts. Arctic ice loss has been much faster than the researchers — and indeed all climate modelers — expected (see “CryoSat-2 Confirms Sea Ice Volume Has Collapsed“).

It just so happens that the western U.S. is in the grip of a brutal, record-breaking drought. Is this just an amazing coincidence — or were the scientists right and what would that mean for the future? I ask the authors.

Here is the latest drought monitor:

And that drought monitor predates the record-smashing heat wave now gripping the West.

Back in 2004, Lisa Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and her graduate student Jacob Sewall published an article in Geophysical Research Letters, “Disappearing Arctic sea ice reduces available water in the American west” (subs. req’d). As the news release at the time explained, they “used powerful computers running a global climate model developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to simulate the effects of reduced Arctic sea ice.” And “their most striking finding was a significant reduction in rain and snowfall in the American West”: Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air. The shift in storm tracks over North America was linked to the formation of these columns of warmer air over areas of reduced sea ice in the Greenland Sea and a few other locations, Sewall said.

I contacted Sloan to ask her if she thought there was a connection between the staggering loss of Arctic sea ice and the brutal drought gripping the West, as her research predicted. She wrote (back in late March):Yes, sadly, I think we were correct in our findings, and it will only be worse with Arctic sea ice diminishing quickly. California is currently in a drought (as I watch every day — our reservoirs are at about 50% capacity right now, and I fear for the coming fire season, owning a house that backs up to greenspace and forest).

 

She directed me to her ex-student, now Assistant Professor of Geology at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania because he had done some additional work. Sewall wrote me:

“I am attaching a more definitive study (multiple fully dynamic models with greenhouse gas forcing) on the topic from 2005. The end result is about the same as the original 2004 study, just nailed down better.Comparing current changes (2011 summer ice and 2011/2012 winter precipitation season) to the 2004 paper:

(1) Ice concentrations in August 2011 weren’t too far off from the ‘future’ in the 2004 paper. The “future” in the 2004 paper was 2050, so it seems we are moving faster than predictions (which has been seen in multiple studies of Arctic sea ice). That is likely due to the relatively conservative greenhouse gas scenarios that were used for the earlier IPCC assessments and associated simulations. Potentially the forthcoming AR5 will have more accurate/realistic/extreme responses in Arctic ice.

(2) Observed precipitation seems to be lower than in the 2004 simulations (50 – 70% of ‘normal’ in the Sierras vs ~85 – 90% of normal in the simulations) based on snowfall data from 2011/2012.

(3) The pattern of wetter conditions to the north of California is as predicted in the 2004 paper, Washington State reporting 107 – 126% of ‘normal’ precipitation, Southern Alaska reporting 106 – 148% of ‘normal’ precipitation for 2011/2012.

I think the hypothesis from 2004 and 2005 is being borne out by current changes. The only real difference is that reality is moving faster then we though/hoped it would almost a decade ago.”

 

The “more definitive” study is “Precipitation Shifts over Western North America as a Result of Declining Arctic Sea Ice Cover: The Coupled System Response” (available here). That study found that “as future reductions in Arctic sea ice cover take place, there will be a substantial impact on water resources in western North America.”

 

I asked NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth to comment on these findings and he was concerned that using an artificially high CO2 level to get the models to explore what happens when Arctic sea ice collapses might conflate the CO2 effect with the ice loss. He also added “Variations from year to year are quite large and depend hugely on ENSO in the west of N America. You cannot say whether they have come true at this point.” I asked Sewall for a reply to those comments and he wrote:

 

“Re. the point that Kevin Trenberth raises below and your e-mail just now: I am quite confident that the changes are due to the decline in Arctic sea ice. The 2004 study did not alter CO2. The study was done with a prescribed decrease in Arctic sea ice cover (and a corresponding increase in local sea surface temperatures to reflect “non-freezing” conditions). The climate response presented in the 2004 study is, thus, a clean response due only to the imposed decline in Arctic sea ice cover. In the 2005 study, I then moved to look at fully coupled models where the decline in Arctic sea ice cover was the result of warming temperatures, which were, in turn, the result of elevated CO2. This is presumably the same response we are now seeing. Those coupled simulations showed the same response in storm tracks and western precipitation that we had found earlier in the 2004 study. Kevin is correct that if I had only looked at the coupled simulations, it would be very difficult to determine if the changes in rainfall were due to the CO2 or to the Arctic ice reduction. However, because the 2004 study was a clean sensitivity study, I can confidently attribute the exact same changes seen in the simulations I viewed in 2005 as being a direct result of the declining Arctic sea ice (and, thus, an indirect result of elevated CO2). Kevin is also correct that variations from year to year are large and that the impact of Arctic ice on storm tracks varies significantly with ENSO state.

(1) In unpublished work that a student of mine did, we found that under strong El Nino conditions, Arctic ice concentration had less impact on storm tracks and precipitation in the west. Under more neutral (weak El Nino or weak La Nina) conditions, Arctic sea ice had a larger impact on storm tracks and precipitation in the west.

(2) Both the 2004 paper and the 2005 paper present results as 50 year averages. This, to some extent, takes care of the annual variability issue and suggests that sum total changes on climatic time scales will, indeed, result in dryer conditions in the west.

(3) While neither study employed ensembles, the 2005 study looks at seven different models (all with slightly different parameterizations, resolutions etc. so the effect is similar to that of a seven member ensemble) and the response, in spite of differences between the models, shows declining sea ice and declining precipitation in the American west with increases in precipitation from Oregon on northward.

If indeed this research is being confirmed, it suggests that on average — allowing for yearly variations due to ENSO — the West is going to become hotter and drier faster than people had expected.

 

NOTE: Top figure (Arctic ice) by Andy Lee Robinson.

Related Posts:

NOAA Bombshell: Warming-Driven Arctic Ice Loss Is Boosting Chance of Extreme U.S. Weather

My Nature Piece On Dust-Bowlification And the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security



El Nino Was Unusually Active in Possible Link to Climate Change

By Rudy Ruitenberg – Jul 1, 2013 1:20 AM PT

The El Nino weather pattern that can bring drought to Australia and rain to South America was “unusually active” at the end of the 20th century, possibly due to climate change, a University of Hawaii study found.

Researchers studied 2,222 tree-ring records as proxies for temperature and rainfall over the past 700 years, the university wrote in an online statement dated yesterday. The records indicate the El Nino-Southern Oscillation weather phenomenon has been increasingly active in recent decades relative to the past seven centuries. The drought associated with El Nino’s warm phase can cause smaller rice crops in Asia and cut wheat production in Australia, while the rains can cause flooding in South America and weaker cold ocean currents reduce anchovy catches off Peru. Accurately forecasting El Nino is challenging because it varies naturally over decades and centuries, the university said. “If this trend of increasing ENSO activity continues, we expect to see more weather extremes such as floods and droughts,” Shang-Ping Xie, a meteorology professor at the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center and study co-author, was cited as saying in the statement. The study found that in the year after a large tropical volcanic eruption, the east-central tropical Pacific is “unusually cool,” followed by warming a year later, the university wrote. Volcanic aerosols, like greenhouse gases, disturb the Earth’s radiation balance, it said. …

 

El Nino unusually active in the late 20th century: Is it because of global warming?
(June 30, 2013) — Reliable prediction of El Nino response to global warming is difficult, as El Nino varies naturally over decades and centuries. Instrumental records are too short to determine whether recent changes are natural or attributable to increased greenhouse gases. An international team of scientists now show that recent El Nino activity is the highest for the past 700 years, possibly a response to global warming. … > full story

Li, J., S.-P. Xie, E. R. Cook, M. Morales, D. Christie, N. Johnson, F. Chen, R. D’Arrigo, A. Fowler, X. Gou, and K. Fang. El Niño modulations over the past seven centuries. Nature Climate Change, 2013 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1936

 

Rate of temperature change along world’s coastlines changed dramatically over past three decades
(July 1, 2013) — Locally, changes in coastal ocean temperatures may be much more extreme than global averages imply. New research highlights some of the distinct regional implications associated with global climate-change. …

Their results showed a great regional diversity in warming and cooling patterns. For example, the South American Pacific coasts have been cooling over the last few decades. To some, these cooling trends may be counterintuitive, but they are consistent with global climate change predictions, such as increases in upwelling (i.e., a process that brings cold, deep ocean water to the coast).

In the North Pacific and North Atlantic, however, there has been warming trend. In some areas, the authors detected changes in temperature of +/-2.5 degrees Celsius, which is 3 times higher than the global average. Climate change is happening everywhere — just not necessarily at the same rate, or even in the same direction.” For example, if you live on Cape Cod, your conditions are warming three times faster than global averages imply, while in Santiago, Chile, coastal waters have been getting cooler. “The world is getting flatter,” said Baumann. “Coastal waters at high (cold) latitudes warm much faster than at low (warm) latitudes, hence the majority of the world’s coastal temperature gradients are getting shallower. This could cause dramatic reorganization of organisms and ecosystems, from small plankton communities to larger fish populations….
We already know, in general, that marine life changes in its characteristics along these North-South temperature gradients,” Baumann explains. “For example, many coastal fish populations differ genetically from north to south, an adaptation to grow best a local temperature conditions. With further study, we want to explore how changes in coastal ocean temperature gradients could predict large-scale changes in the ecosystem.” Baumann and Doherty’s work is especially poignant in that it echoes the importance of regional and community resiliency in dealing with the effects of climate change, which was stressed in President Obama’s address earlier this week. Regional consequences of climate change may be quite different. This study steps away from global average temperature predictions, and puts climate change in a more meaningful regional context…..full story

Hannes Baumann, Owen Doherty. Decadal Changes in the World’s Coastal Latitudinal Temperature Gradients. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (6): e67596 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067596

 

 

 

Greenhouse gas likely altering ocean foodchain: Atmospheric CO2 has big consequences for tiny bacteria
(July 2, 2013) — Climate change may be weeding out the bacteria that form the base of the ocean’s food chain, selecting certain strains for survival, according to a new study. … n climate change, as in everything, there are winners and losers. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature rise globally, scientists increasingly want to know which organisms will thrive and which will perish in the environment of tomorrow.

The answer to this question for nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis, or “blue-green algae”) turns out to have implications for every living thing in the ocean. Nitrogen-fixing is when certain special organisms like cyanobacteria convert inert — and therefore unusable — nitrogen gas from the air into a reactive form that the majority of other living beings need to survive. Without nitrogen fixers, life in the ocean could not survive for long. “Our findings show that CO2 has the potential to control the biodiversity of these keystone organisms in ocean biology, and our fossil fuel emissions are probably responsible for changing the types of nitrogen fixers that are growing in the ocean,” said David Hutchins, professor of marine environmental biology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and lead author of an article about this research that appeared in Nature Geoscience on June 30. “This may have all kinds of ramifications for changes in ocean food chains and productivity, even potentially for resources we harvest from the ocean such as fisheries production,” Hutchins said….full story


 

Climate change threatens forest survival on drier, low-elevation sites
(June 28, 2013)Predicted increases in temperature and drought in the coming century may make it more difficult for conifers such as ponderosa pine to regenerate after major forest fires on dry, low-elevation sites, in some cases leading to conversion of forests to grass or shrub lands, a report suggests.
Researchers from Oregon State University concluded that moisture stress is a key limitation for conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire, which will
likely increase with climate change. This will make post-fire recovery on dry sites slow and uncertain. If forests are desired in these locations, more aggressive attempts at reforestation may be needed, they said. The study, published in Forest Ecology and Management, was done in a portion of the Metolius River watershed in the eastern Cascade Range of Oregon, which prior to a 2002 fire was mostly ponderosa pine with some Douglas-fir and other tree species. The research area was not salvage-logged or replanted following the severe, stand-replacing fire. “A decade after this fire, there was almost no tree regeneration at lower, drier sites,” said Erich Dodson, a researcher with the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “There was some regeneration at higher sites with more moisture. But at the low elevations, it will be a long time before a forest comes back, if it ever does.” … > full story

 

Erich Kyle Dodson, Heather Taylor Root. Conifer regeneration following stand-replacing wildfire varies along an elevation gradient in a ponderosa pine forest, Oregon, USA. Forest Ecology and Management, 2013; 302: 163 DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2013.03.050

 

 

Sierra a ‘living lab’ for climate change

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press Posted:   07/01/2013 11:43:25 AM PDT Updated:   07/01/2013 11:43:27 AM PDT SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST — In parts of California’s Sierra Nevada, marshy meadows are going dry, wildflowers are blooming earlier and glaciers are melting into ice fields. Scientists also are predicting the optimal temperature zone for giant sequoias will rise hundreds and hundreds of feet, leaving trees at risk of dying over the next 100 years. As indicators point toward a warming climate, scientists across 4 million acres of federally protected land are noting changes affecting everything from the massive trees that can grow to more than two-dozen feet across to the tiny, hamsterlike pika. But what the changes mean and whether humans should do anything to intervene are sources of disagreement among land managers. “That’s the tricky part of the debate: If humans are causing warming, does that obligate us under the laws of the National Park Service to try to counteract those effects?” said Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey…..Already the American pika, a cold-loving rodent, is moving to higher elevations, and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says, “Climate change is a potential threat to the long-term survival.” The USGS’s Klinger, however, said pikas might be more resilient than the wildlife service predicts. “It doesn’t hibernate and it has dealt with expanding and contracting snow packs and changing temperatures — and yet it persists,” Klinger said. If the trends continue, some species are expected to adapt by finding more hospitable environments, scientists say. One potential place is Devil’s Postpile National Monument in the eastern Sierra, where 40 data collection devices are showing that temperature inversions caused by atmospheric pressure are filling the region of steep canyons with colder air. Scientists are studying whether other areas with similar features might serve as refuges for some species. They’re looking at establishing seed banks in the 800-acre park where several climatic regions overlap and more than 400 plants, 100 birds and 35 animals coexist. “We have an incredible living laboratory to understand what’s happening with this cold air pool,” said monument Superintendent Deanna Dulen. “We’re really trying to get a good baseline of knowledge so we can look at the changes over time. We have the potential to be a refuge, but also to be a place of increased vulnerability. There’s so much to learn.”

 

 


Farming carbon: Study reveals potent carbon-storage potential of manmade wetlands
June 24, 2013

IMAGE: This shows co-authors Blanca Bernal and Bill Mitsch taking soil cores in the Okavango Swamp in Botswana, Africa.

Click here for more information.

After being drained by the millions of acres to make way for agriculture, wetlands are staging a small comeback these days on farms. Some farmers restore or construct wetlands alongside their fields to trap nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, and research shows these systems can also retain pesticides, antibiotics, and other agricultural pollutants. Important as these storage functions of wetlands are, however, another critical one is being overlooked, says Bill Mitsch, director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park at Florida Gulf Coast University and an emeritus professor at Ohio State University: Wetlands also excel at pulling carbon dioxide out of the air and holding it long-term in soil.
Writing in the July-August issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, Mitsch and co-author Blanca Bernal report that two 15-year-old constructed marshes in Ohio accumulated soil carbon at an average annual rate of 2150 pounds per acre—or just over one ton of carbon per acre per year. The rate was 70% faster than a natural, “control” wetland in the area and 26% faster than the two were adding soil carbon five years ago. And by year 15, each wetland had a soil carbon pool of more than 30,000 pounds per acre, an amount equaling or exceeding the carbon stored by forests and farmlands. What this suggests, Mitsch says, is that researchers and land managers shouldn’t ignore restored and man-made wetlands as they look for places to store, or “sequester,” carbon long-term. For more than a decade, for example, scientists have been studying the potential of no-tillage, planting of pastures, and other farm practices to store carbon in agricultural lands, which cover roughly one-third of the Earth’s land area….Mitsch cautions: It’s easy to undervalue wetlands if we become too focused on just one of their aspects—such as whether they’re net sinks or sources of GHGs. Instead, people should remember everything wetlands do. “We know they’re great for critters and for habitat, that’s always been true. Then we found out they cleaned up water, and could protect against floods and storms,” he says. “And now we’re seeing that they’re very important for retaining carbon. So they’re multidimensional systems—even though we as people tend to look at things one at a time.”

 

 

Climate change: Disequilibrium will become the norm in the plant communities of the future
(July 1, 2013) — Global climate change will induce large changes to the plant communities on Earth, but these will typically occur with major time lags. Many plants will remain long after the climate has become unfavorable — and many new species can take thousands of years to make an appearance. Humans will play a key role in such disequilibrium dynamics. …
“Consequently, if you’re trying to practise natural forest manag
ement with natural regeneration, you may see completely different plants regenerating compared with what you had before, because the climate has shifted to become suitable for another set of species. This also makes it challenging to adhere to a management plan granting preservation status to a particular type of nature at a certain site. At such a site, the existence of a large number of fully grown specimens of an endangered species is no guarantee that there will be a next generation. This would be challenging for everyone — for the managers, for the people who use the countryside in one way or another, and also for the researchers who are used to working with ecosystems that are much more balanced. Plant life and ecosystems will become much more dynamic and often out of sync with the climate.

We’re causing so many changes to the climate, but at the same time nature is SO slow. Just think of a tree generation. Our entire culture is based on something that was, if not in complete equilibrium, then at least relatively predictable. We’re used to a situation where flora, fauna and climate are reasonably well matched. In future, this equilibrium will shift on an ongoing basis, and there will be plenty of mismatches. That’s what we’ll have to work with.”

Professor Svenning also calls for caution: “With nature in such a state of disequilibrium, human introduction of new species will play a key role. Take cherry laurel, for example, which we see in many gardens in Denmark. It’s ready to spread throughout the Danish countryside. If it were to migrate unaided from its nearest native site in South-East Europe to Denmark, it would take thousands of years. Horticulturists now help it along. This will help the species survive, but can also cause northern species in Denmark to become extinct more rapidly. The cherry laurel is an evergreen, and if it disperses on the forest floor, it may create too much shade for the existing flora on the forest floor to survive. At the same time, the disequilibrium presents the advantage that such dispersal will take decades despite the contribution of horticulturists,” Professor Svenning concludes. …> full story

 

 

Deserts ‘greening’ from rising CO2

CSIRO AUSTRALIA July 3, 2013

Increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have helped boost green foliage across the world’s arid regions over the past 30 years through a process called CO2 fertilisation, according to CSIRO research.

In findings based on satellite observations, CSIRO, in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU), found that this CO2 fertilisation correlated with an 11 per cent increase in foliage cover from 1982-2010 across parts of the arid areas studied in Australia, North America, the Middle East and Africa, according to CSIRO research scientist, Dr Randall Donohue “In Australia, our native vegetation is superbly adapted to surviving in arid environments and it consequently uses water very efficiently,” Dr Donohue said. “Australian vegetation seems quite sensitive to CO2 fertilisation. This, along with the vast extents of arid landscapes, means Australia featured prominently in our results.” “While a CO2 effect on foliage response has long been speculated, until now it has been difficult to demonstrate,” according to Dr Donohue. “Our work was able to tease-out the CO2 fertilisation effect by using mathematical modelling together with satellite data adjusted to take out the observed effects of other influences such as precipitation, air temperature, the amount of light, and land-use changes.” …..This study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and was funded by CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, Water for a Healthy Country Flagship, the Australian Research Council and Land & Water Australia.

 

Global Warming Behind Australia’s ‘Angry Summer’: Study

By Andrew Freedman

Published: June 27th, 2013 , Last Updated: June 27th, 2013

Manmade global warming was likely a significant contributing factor in Australia’s “Angry Summer” of 2012-2013, according to a new study. It was the country’s [Australia’s] hottest on record and featured devastating wildfires as well as widespread flooding. The research, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, shows that global warming has increased the chances of Australians experiencing extremely hot summers by more than five times, and is likely to raise the odds by even more in the coming decades. The study comes from researchers at the University of Melbourne, and follows the approach taken in other analyses of recent extreme heat events, such as the 2003 European Heat Wave and Russian heat wave and wildfires of 2010. Such fractional attribution studies don’t seek a single cause of a particular weather or climate event, but instead examine how some factors may have altered the risk that such an event would occur….

 

 

 

Experts See a New Normal: A Tinderbox West, With More Huge Fires

By FELICITY BARRINGER and KENNETH CHANG NY Times July 2, 2013

Scientists said the deadly blaze in Arizona and 15 others that remained uncontained from New Mexico to California were part of a warmer trend in the West that would bring more catastrophic fires.

 


Deadly Heat Wave in the West Brings Fires and Travel Delays


Joshua Lott for The New York Times People seeking refuge from the heat on Sunday went tubing on the Salt River in Arizona, east of Phoenix. The temperature in the city reached 119 degrees.

By FERNANDA SANTOS NY Times Published: June 30, 2013

PHOENIX — An unforgiving heat wave held much of the West in a sweltering embrace over the weekend, tying or breaking temperature records in several cities, grounding flights, sparking forest fires and contributing to deaths.

Chris Carlson/Associated Press The Furnace Creek area of Death Valley lived up to its name on Friday; Sunday’s high was expected to be 130 degrees.

An elderly man was found dead on Saturday in a home without air-conditioning in Las Vegas, where the city’s temperature reached 115 degrees, tying the record for the hottest June 29 since 1994. Also, more than 200 people at an outdoor concert there were treated for heat-related problems that day, 34 of them at hospitals, the authorities said. At trailheads at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada, park rangers were trying to dissuade people from hiking the same area where a Boy Scout troop leader died of heat exposure early last month, when temperatures were lower.

At Death Valley National Park in California, whose temperature of 134 degrees a century ago stands as the highest ever recorded in the world, the digital thermometer became a busy tourist attraction over the weekend. The forecast called for a high of around 130 degrees at the park’s Furnace Creek area on Sunday. Because summer brings the highest rate of deaths among migrants trying to enter the United States illegally through Arizona, the Border Patrol added extra members to its elite search and rescue team. At least seven migrants had been found dead in the desert over the past week.

 

 

Goodbye, Miami

By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin

Miami after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

By Jeff Goodell June 20, 2013 Rolling Stone 1:20 PM ET

When the water receded after Hurricane Milo of 2030, there was a foot of sand covering the famous bow-tie floor in the lobby of the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach. A dead manatee floated in the pool where Elvis had once swum. Most of the damage occurred not from the hurricane’s 175-mph winds, but from the 24-foot storm surge that overwhelmed the low-lying city. In South Beach, the old art-deco buildings were swept off their foundations. Mansions on Star Island were flooded up to their cut-glass doorknobs. A 17-mile stretch of Highway A1A that ran along the famous beaches up to Fort Lauderdale disappeared into the Atlantic. The storm knocked out the wastewater-treatment plant on Virginia Key, forcing the city to dump hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay. Tampons and condoms littered the beaches, and the stench of human excrement stoked fears of cholera. More than 800 people died, many of them swept away by the surging waters that submerged much of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale; 13 people were killed in traffic accidents as they scrambled to escape the city after the news spread – falsely, it turned out – that one of the nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, an aging power plant 24 miles south of Miami, had been destroyed by the surge and sent a radioactive cloud over the city….

 

Improving crop yields in a world of extreme weather events
(July 1, 2013) — When plants encounter drought, they naturally produce abscisic acid (ABA), a stress hormone that helps them cope with the drought conditions. Specifically, the hormone turns on receptors in the plants. Botanists have identified an inexpensive synthetic chemical, quinabactin, that mimics ABA. Spraying ABA on plants improves their water use and stress tolerance, but the procedure is expensive. Quinabactin now offers a cheaper solution. … > full story

 

 

 

 

Church Dropping Fossil Fuel Investments

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS July 3, 2013

The United Church of Christ has become the first American religious body to vote to divest its pension funds and investments from fossil fuel companies because of climate change concerns.

 

 

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Infographic, Video  http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan 

 

Obama’s New Climate Plan KQED Forum July 2, 2013

“Last week, President Obama unveiled his plan to impose new regulations on power plants, establish conditions for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and include climate change impacts in all important government decisions. We look at how effective his initiatives will be in limiting carbon pollution and what they will mean for the future of coal, natural gas and renewables. Does his plan go too far or not far enough?”

 

 

Cost of Battling Wildfires Cuts Into Prevention Efforts

Michael Ciaglo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, via Associated Press Jeremy and Kelly Beach after their home in Colorado burned down this month in the most destructive wildfire in state history. More Photos »

By JACK HEALY Published: June 27, 2013 NY Times

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — A light breeze riffled the tops of ponderosa pines and old Douglas firs on the mountains above this tourist town. It was a serene summer day, but as Jonathan Bruno wandered through the trees, he wondered how long before it all went up in flames. “It’s just a matter of time,” said Mr. Bruno, who works on forest restoration projects for a local environmental group. “I’ve been losing sleep. There’s just not enough money.” As another destructive wildfire season chars the West, the federal government is sharply reducing financing for programs aimed at preventing catastrophic fires. Federal money to thin out trees and clear away millions of acres of deadfall and brittle brush has dropped by more than 25 percent in the budgets for the past two years, a casualty of spending cuts and the rising cost of battling active wildfires. The government has cut back on programs to reduce fire risks in areas where homes and the wilderness collide. The United States Forest Service treated 1.87 million acres of those lands in 2012, but expects to treat only 685,000 acres next year. Conservation advocates say that is likely to mean fewer people working to prevent runaway fires, fewer controlled burns and fewer trucks hauling away dry brush and tinder. Trimming trees and clearing brush can make blazes less destructive, and the Forest Service said it had treated more than 26 million acres since 2000. But as the government spends an increasing amount to battle wildfires, critics say it makes little sense to cut back on prevention. “There is a growing consensus in the West that dollar for dollar, these kinds of prevention efforts are paying off,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon. “And when the big fires break out, the bureaucracy steals money from the prevention fund and the problem gets worse. The Forest Service has become the fire service.” Twenty years ago, the Forest Service spent 13 percent of its budget on fighting fires. These days, 40 percent of its money goes to firefighting, and that is still not enough to cover the bills. Forest officials went $400 million over budget fighting last year’s fires, and they expect to run over again this year. ..

Deadly fire engulfed 19 Arizona firefighters in seconds

Hotshots faced “worst case scenario” 5:35pm EDT Arizona wildfire
Hotshots faced “worst case scenario” (01:21)

By Tim Gaynor PRESCOTT, Arizona | Mon Jul 1, 2013 5:54pm EDT

(Reuters) – An elite squad of 19 Arizona firemen killed in the worst U.S. wildland firefighting tragedy in 80 years apparently was outflanked by wind-whipped flames in seconds, before some could scramble into cocoon-like personal shelters.

Details of Sunday’s deaths of all but one member of a specially trained, 20-man “Hotshots” team remained vague a day after they perished in a blaze that destroyed scores of homes and forced the evacuation of two towns in central Arizona.

But fragments of the firefighters’ final moments painted some of the picture as investigators launched a probe into exactly how the disaster unfolded.

Fire officials said the young men fell victim to a highly volatile mix of erratic winds gusting to gale-force intensity, low humidity, a sweltering heat wave and thick, drought-parched brush that had not burned in some 40 years

Senators protest cuts to wildfire prevention funds

Updated 12:08 pm, Friday, June 28, 2013

DENVER (AP) — A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is urging the Obama administration to focus more on preventing wildfires.

The administration is proposing a 31 percent cut in funding for fire prevention programs one year after record blazes burned 9.3 million acres. The federal government routinely spends so much money fighting increasingly-destructive fires that it uses money meant to be spent on clearing potential fuels like dead trees and underbrush in national forests.

In a letter to the administration, four senators call the habit “nonsensical” and said it just leads to bigger fires. They also strongly object to the proposed budget cut.

The senators who signed the letter are U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo), U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and U.S. Senator James Risch (R-Idaho).

 

6 of the World’s Most Extensive Climate Adaptation Plans

New York City’s ambitious $19.5 bln climate plan is one of many globally that seeks to adapt to higher temperatures, higher sea levels and extreme weather.

By Maria Gallucci, Inside Climate News

Jun 20, 2013

Floating pavilions in Rotterdam, Netherlands, part of a climate resiliency program launched in 2008. The bubble-shaped domes are anchored off the city’s waterfront and are a pilot for future floating urban districts that will be able to rise with the changing sea levels. Credit: The City of Rotterdam

New York City’s $19.5 billion plan to adapt to climate change may be the world’s most ambitious. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg is hardly alone in trying to find ways to prepare his city for rising seas and extreme weather as the global fight to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius fades.

Roughly 20 percent of cities around the globe have developed adaptation strategies, according to a 2011 estimate by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the United States, city, county and state governments have developed more than 100 adaptation plans, a separate count by the Georgetown Climate Center found. And through a UN-financing initiative, wealthy nations have poured $11 billion into developing countries to help on adaptation in the past few years.  

Experts interviewed by InsideClimate News said that unlike Bloomberg’s plan—which detailed 250 climate adaptation strategies and put a price tag on most of them—few other cities have outlined specific actions or provided concrete details on how government agencies should implement initiatives or pay for them.”A lot of them tend to be an overarching, big vision document,” or focus on a single, massive project, like a floodwall, said JoAnn Carmin, a professor in urban studies and planning at MIT. “In some cases, there’s no clear work plan in place.”

A lack of funding to pay for comprehensive analysis, a focus on other municipal priorities and a shortage of qualified staff is often to blame, she said. And unlike New York, which has its own panel of climate change scientists tapped from some of the best research universities, local governments rarely have access to data on the specific risks that global warming poses to their particular city. Still, adaptation strategies around the world are maturing as cities and countries build on initial efforts. And no place embodies that trend better than New York City, said Jessica Grannis, a staff attorney for the Georgetown Climate Center. “It’s a huge step forward in terms of the quality of adaptation plans that are coming up”—one that could provide a useful framework as other cities create and refine their own strategies, she said. The world could end up spending between $49 billion and  $171 billion a year through 2030 on adaptation, according to UN figures. Some scientists put the figure at up to three times that amount. Here’s a sampling of cities with some of the world’s most comprehensive initiatives…..

 

Invest, Divest and Prosper

By PAUL KRUGMAN Published: June 27, 2013 NY Times 586 Comments

It has been a busy news week, what with voting rights, gay marriage and Paula Deen. Even so, it’s remarkable how little attention the news media gave to President Obama’s new “climate action plan.” Discount, if you like, the terrific speech he gave when unveiling the proposal; this is, nonetheless, a very big deal. For this time around, Mr. Obama wasn’t touting legislation we know won’t pass. The new plan is, instead, designed to rely on executive action. This means that, unlike earlier efforts to address climate change, it can bypass the anti-environmentalists who control the House of Representatives.

 

Environmentalists seek new review of Keystone pipeline plan

By Juliet Eilperin, Published: June 27 2013 Washington Post

Six advocacy groups have asked the State Department to prepare a new environmental review of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying that evidence has emerged showing it will hurt the environment. The demand, contained in a 48-page letter, comes as President Obama has pledged to block the project, which would carry heavy crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast, if it would “significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” The letter sent Monday says that several new analyses show that the project will speed heavy crude extraction in Canada’s oil sands region. Activists say the State Department should refuse to approve the pipeline because of adverse impact on the environment. The State Department is currently responding to more than 1.2 million comments on a draft environmental assessment issued in March, which suggested that denying a permit to the pipeline firm TransCanada would have little overall climate impact because the oil would be extracted and shipped out anyway.

“Limitations on pipeline transport would force more crude oil to be transported via other modes of transportation, such as rail which would probably (but not certainly) be more expensive,” the assessment said.

The six environmental advocacy groups — Bold Nebraska, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and the Sierra Club — said that conclusion relies on “an overly-simplistic, outdated view of a rapidly-changing oil market.”

 


Bob Inglis: Conservatives Have A Climate Solution

 

 

By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 5, 2013 at 9:26 am

by Marcia G. Yerman via Moms Clean Air Force

“Conservatives have the answer. We just need to raise our hands.” This statement is from Bob Inglis, former representative of South Carolina’s 4th District. Inglis told me he believes Conservatives are an “indispensible part of the solution” to energy and environmental issues.

We spoke by telephone in a conversation that covered topics from the background of his grassroots organization, Energy and Enterprise Initiative (E&EI), to his thoughts on fracking and renewable energy. His attitude was upbeat. He is convinced that “free enterprise and accountability” can pave the way toward solving America’s energy concerns.

Inglis was clear about the need for Conservatives and Republicans to “step up and lead.” He noted that the “climate change matter was started by liberals,” so Conservatives think they have no place in the dialogue. His response to this is, “Don’t shrink in science denial.”….

 

The U.S. will stop financing coal plants abroad. That’s a huge shift.

By Brad Plumer, Published: June 27, 2013 at 3:07 pm Washington Post

One of the more significant lines in President Obama’s climate-change speech this week got relatively scant notice. In a major policy shift, Obama said he would place sharp restrictions on U.S. government financing for new coal plants overseas.

Power lines running to a coal power station in the early morning light near Johannesburg, South Africa. (EPA/KIM LUDBROOK)

The announcement comes after years of federal support for coal projects abroad, and it’s a shift that could divert billions of dollars away from a cheap source of electricity that contributes heavily to global warming.

Obama’s coal pledge also comes at a time when the World Bank is mulling a proposal to limit its lending for coal projects in developing countries.

“Today, I’m calling for an end to public financing for new coal plants overseas unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity,” Obama said in his speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday.

 

 

Lake USFS bought for $43.5M to restore above Tahoe may instead return to natural wetland

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS June 18 2013

RENO, Nevada — The U.S. Forest Service is leaning toward abandoning plans to restore a small lake overlooking Lake Tahoe to the way it was when the rich and famous vacationed at the private enclave a half century ago and instead let it return to a natural wetland.

The federal government bought Incline Lake for $43.5 million in a land deal five years ago with the intention of repairing a small dam built in 1942 and refilling the scenic Sierra lake that sits at an elevation above 8,000 feet.

Forest Service officials drained it in 2009 because the dam was unstable and vulnerable to failure in the event of an earthquake.

But now the agency is seeking public comment on a preferred alternative that would leave most of the lake empty to capitalize on its rich system of natural ponds and marshes that are rare at such high elevations.

“That’s the direction we’re proposing to head, to remove the dam and restore the area,” Cheva Heck, spokeswoman for the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, told the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://tinyurl.com/kcbhmwe ).

 

 

Agency says Pacific great white shark not in danger of extinction

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announces that the northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great white sharks does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act.

A great white shark plies waters at Guadalupe Island in 2007. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 15, 2007)

By Louis Sahagun June 28, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Friday that the northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great white sharks is not in danger of extinction and does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA had been researching the health of the great white population since last year, when the environmental groups Oceana, Shark Stewards and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition calling for endangered species protection.

The petitioners were reacting to the first census of great whites ever attempted. Conducted by UC Davis and Stanford University researchers, and published in the journal Biology Letters in 2011, the census estimated that only 219 adult and sub-adult great whites lived off the Central California coast, and perhaps double that many were in the entire northeastern Pacific Ocean, including Southern California. “We are disappointed and feel this is the wrong decision, one that flies in the face of best available science,” said Geoff Shester, Oceana’s California program director. “This battle is far from over.” NOAA scientists concluded that the white shark population is a distinct genetic group with a low to very low risk of extinction now and in the foreseeable future.

“Our team felt that there were more than 200 mature females alone, an indication of a total population of at least 3,000,” Heidi Dewar, a fisheries research biologist at NOAA, said in an interview.

NOAA’s analysis, which will be made public Monday, was based on a comprehensive review of threats to the population, direct and indirect indicators of abundance trends and analysis of fisheries by catch in the United States and Mexico, Dewar said.

Some of the data reviewed by NOAA was provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was encouraged by the results. “We will continue this work so we can gain a better understanding of population trends and the overall health of sharks that play a vital role in ocean health,” said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science at the aquarium. Chris Lowe, a professor of marine biology at Cal State Long Beach who has been conducting state and federally permitted white shark research since 2002, said NOAA’s findings confirm his own conclusion: The white shark population is rebounding for reasons that include federal laws that curb pollution, ban near-shore gill netting, protect sharks and halt the slaughter of marine mammals that sharks prey on for food.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife later this year is expected to announce its own determination of the status of the great white population. George H. Burgess, curator of the Florida Museum of Natural History‘s International Shark Attack File, is among nine scientists who recently completed an independent census that will show there are more than 2,000 adult and sub-adult white sharks off Central California. That study was not submitted for review by NOAA until after it reached its conclusion, Dewar said.louis.sahagun@latimes.com

 

 

Penguins support gorillas as biscuit makers respond to palm oil threat

Many of the biggest biscuit manufacturers have pledged to reduce the amount of palm oil in their products

Rebecca Smithers, consumer affairs correspondent guardian.co.uk, Monday 1 July 2013 01.45 EDT

Penguins are coming to the aid of gorillas, according to a survey which reveals that the UK’s leading biscuit manufacturers are responding to the environmental threats of palm oil production.

Many of the biggest names in biscuits including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and United Biscuits – which makes some of the UK’s most popular biscuits including McVitie’s Digestive and Penguin – have pledged to reduce the amount of palm oil in their products.

The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Ethical Consumer magazine together surveyed over 50 of the UK’s biggest biscuit manufacturers about their use of palm oil or its derivatives.

The top scoring companies were the Co-op, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and United Biscuits. Those at the bottom of the ranking were mostly American-based companies including Asda/Walmart, PepsiCo and Kraft, makers of Ritz and Oreo biscuits.

The project was carried out in response to the increasing threat that palm oil production is posing to the world’s rainforest and to the people that rely on these forests for their livelihoods. Palm oil is a core ingredient in many food products but companies are not required by EU law to label products containing it until December 2014…..

 

 

Is Google Funding Climate Science Denial? Jim Inhofe Fundraiser Planned For July 11

By Brad Johnson, Guest Blogger on Jul 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm

by Brad Johnson, campaign manager for Forecast the Facts

Google’s motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” but it is supporting one of the worst deniers of climate science in the world: Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). On July 11, Google is hosting a lunchtime $250-$2500 a plate fundraiser for Inhofe with the National Republican Senatorial Committee at its Washington, DC headquarters at 1101 New York Ave NW.

The Washington Post also recently revealed that Google was the biggest single donor to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner on Thursday, June 20, dropping $50,000 in support of this anti-science group. The dinner was headlined by radical global warming denier Sen. Rand Paul. CEI’s other donors include a who’s who of polluters: American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, Altria (Phillip Morris), Koch Companies, and Koch’s Americans For Prosperity. CEI is famed for its ad promoting carbon dioxide emissions: “They call it pollution. We call it life.”

CO2 does not cause catastrophic disasters,” Sen. Inhofe claimed in 2003, the first time of many he call global warming a “hoax” on the Senate floor. “Actually, it would be beneficial to our environment and the economy.”

This May, Inhofe claimed that “activists are relentless in their attempts to drum up global warming hysteria blaming our state’s successful energy sector for extreme heat temperatures.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coastal Conservancy Announces Availability of “Climate Ready” Grants

The California State Coastal Conservancy has announced the availability of funding for projects through its Climate Ready program.  The grants are intended to encourage local governments and non-governmental organizations to act now to prepare for a changing climate by advancing planning and implementation of on-the-ground actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the impacts of climate change on California’s coastal communities and natural resources.

Applications must be received via email or on a CD by August 28, 2013.  The Coastal Conservancy expects to award grants in early 2014. The Climate Ready Grant Announcement can be obtained from the Conservancy’s website.

 

 

Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages
July 24, 2013
Event will be webcast.

The National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sustainability Program (STS) and the University of California, Davis, will be holding a special event related to a new report, Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connections and Governance Linkages, which provides a decision framework for policymakers to examine the consequences and operational benefits of sustainability-oriented programs.

 

 

Past, Present, Future of Redwoods: A Redwood Ecology & Climate Symposium

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM (PDT) Save the Redwoods League

David B Brower Center 2150 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94704

Please RSVP by August 1, 2013 to confirm your seat as Symposium space is limited. Invitations are nontransferable. Click here for transit and parking information.

Questions? Contact Emily Burns, eburns@savetheredwoods.org

 

5-6 SEPTEMBER 2013 for Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference

The 4th annual Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference will be held in Portland 5-6 September 2013. The conference provides a forum for researchers and practitioners to convene and exchange scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate on people, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest. The conference attracts a wide range of participants including policy- and decision-makers, resource managers, and scientists, from public agencies, sovereign tribal nations, non-governmental organizations, and more.   As such, the conference emphasizes oral presentations that are comprehensible to a wide audience and on topics of broad interest. This conference is an opportunity to stimulate and showcase decision-relevant climate science in the Pacific Northwest….We seek presentations, either oral or poster, that describe the region’s climate variability and change over time; connections between climate and forest, water, fish, and wildlife resources; climate-related natural hazards such as wildfire, drought, flooding, invasive species and shoreline change; and the emerging science of ocean acidification.  We also seek case studies of efforts to incorporate science into planning, policy, and resource management programs and decisions; new approaches to data mining or data development; decision support tools and services related to climate adaptation; and fresh approaches or new understanding of the challenges of communicating climate science. We invite you to suggest or organize a cluster of abstracts around a theme that might be used to design a special session.  Abstract submission is now open.  Registration and lodging information will be available soon.  See http://pnwclimateconference.org/.

 

 


http://www.ser2013.org/

 

 

 

Listservers/Course Announcements

Listservers:  NCTC Climate Change Listserver (upcoming webinars and courses): send an email to Danielle Larock at danielle_larock@fws.gov   LCC listservers (see your LCC’s websiteOneNOAA Science Webinars  EPA Climate Change and Water E-Newsletter  CIRCulator (Oregon Climate Change Research Institute) Climate Impacts Group (Univ. Washington)

NCTC Course Announcements (Registration for these courses is through DOILearn )

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. This pilot course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation.

 

 


Coordinator for the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring program (IWMM)

(Note – this announcement closes July 17, 2013)

Looking for a bird conservation challenge and opportunity? A position is available to serve as coordinator for the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring program (IWMM). The position is a one-year position, renewable for up to three years, located in either Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland or at the USFWS Regional Office in Bloomington, Minnesota. To find out more about the position offering, visit Federal Business Opportunities at www.fbo.gov or FedConnect atwww.fedconnect.net and enter Reference Solicitation No. F13PS00628 in the search field.

You can find out more about IWMM by visiting http://iwmmprogram.ning.com/

Visit Avian Knowledge Alliance at: http://avianknowledgealliance.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

 

 

 

How big is the ocean? – Scott Gass

TEDEducation·477 videos

Published on Jun 24, 2013 View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-big-is-…
While the Earth’s oceans are known as five separate entities, there is really only one ocean. So, how big is it? As of 2013, it takes up 71% of the Earth, houses 99% of the biosphere, and contains some of Earth’s grandest geological features. Scott Gass reminds us of the influence humans have on the ocean and the influence it has on us.

 

 

 

 

 

Can Electric School Buses Help Solve Our Grid Problems?

Posted: 02 Jul 2013 11:22 AM PDT


An all-electric school bus. (Credit: Barry Sloan)

Renewable energy is America’s future. Climate change makes that inevitable. But America’s electricity grid will face tough new challenges as we transition away from dirty fossil fuels, and move toward clean technologies like wind and solar. For the electricity grid to operate properly, supply must always be in balance with demand. Wind and solar are variable resources, although we are getting better at predicting their availability a day or more in advance. Utilities understand that incorporating renewables to the grid has its benefits, but in order to get the most out of these energy sources, technological innovation is needed. Energy storage can allow supply at certain hours of the day to be held in reserve, and tapped to meet demand later. This makes it a unique complement to variable renewable resources like solar and wind. Utilities already use energy storage in the form of pumped hydropower, which pumps water uphill when energy supply is high, then allows the water to flow back down and generate electricity when it is needed. However, according to Scott Baker of PJM Interconnection, this process is expensive and is running out of room to grow in a renewable future. Enter an idea backed by National Strategies (NSI), PJM Interconnection, and Clinton Global Initiative with a creative solution: use electric school bus fleets as a big renewable energy storage battery

 

Antifreeze, cheap materials may lead to low-cost solar energy
(July 4, 2013) — A process combining some comparatively cheap materials and the same antifreeze that keeps an automobile radiator from freezing in cold weather may be the key to making solar cells that cost less and avoid toxic compounds, while further expanding the use of solar energy. … > full story

 

 

New system to harness energy from ocean currents
(July 2, 2013) — Researchers have created and are testing a prototype of a device to harness energy from ocean currents. … > full story

 

 

 

 

Opinionator

Let’s Not Braise The Planet

By MARK BITTMAN NYTimes Opinion July 2, 2013

Our ability to turn around the rate of carbon emissions and slow the engine that can conflagrate the world is certain. But do we have the will?

 

The Declaration of Interdependence And Jefferson’s ‘Brilliant Statement Of Intergenerational Equity Principles’

By Joe Romm on Jul 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature
and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….

 

The Saddest, Scariest Sound Ever—Global Warming (VIDEO)

Young cellist Daniel Crawford orchestrates a new way to reveal the devastating effects of climate change—through music.

July 3, 2013 by Anna Hess

… University of Minnesota undergrad Daniel Crawford has crafted an innovative way of interpreting graphs and data into a one-man concerto—his composition allows its listeners to feel the planet’s toasty metamorphosis. ….Crawford used surface-temperature data from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies to create a data sonification that transforms climate records into musical notes. In Crawford’s resulting “Song of Our Warming Planet,” each ascending halftone represents about 0.03°C of planetary warming. Each note represents a year from 1880 to 2012, and the notes are portrayed over a range of three octaves. The coldest year, 1909, is embodied by the lowest possible note on the cello, open C…..

 

 

Stanford students capture the flight of birds on very high-speed video

By Bjorn Carey Stanford Report, July 2, 2013 VIDEO

….In order to build a robot that can fly as nimbly as a bird, Lentink began looking to nature. Using an ultra-high-speed Phantom camera that can shoot upwards of 3,300 frames per second at full resolution, and an amazing 650,000 at a tiny resolution, Lentink can visualize the biomechanical wonders of bird flight on an incredibly fine scale….

 

 

Scenes from a Melting Planet: On the Climate-Change Novel

Cli-Fi- books on climate change

Posted by Carolyn Kormann
July 3, 2013

The New Yorker

“We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” President Obama said last week as he outlined his climate-change plan. The gibe was widely tweeted and repeated, the message clear: when it comes to global warming, Obama won’t tolerate any more anti-science bunk. He will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, adapt the country’s infrastructure to protect against extreme weather, and use federal funds to increase renewable-energy production. To justify all this, the President cited recent national disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, the worst wildfires in recorded history, and the most severe droughts since the Dust Bowl. He even mentioned a long-running drought that has “forced a town to truck in water from the outside.”

That town is Spicewood Beach, a subdivision in the hill country outside of Austin, Texas. In February, 2012, according to the Times, the town’s well ran dry. Four thousand gallons of water still have to be hauled in many times a day. …

 

 

From the Mouths of Babes and Birds

New York Times  – ‎Jun 30, 2013‎

Babies learn to speak months after they begin to understand language. As they are learning to talk, they babble, repeating the same syllable (“da-da-da”) or combining syllables into a string (“da-do-da-do”). But when babies babble, what are they actually doing? And why does it take them so long to begin speaking?

Insights into these mysteries of human language acquisition are now coming from a surprising source: songbirds.

Researchers who focus on infant language and those who specialize in birdsong have teamed up in a new study suggesting that learning the transitions between syllables — from “da” to “do” and “do” to “da” — is the crucial bottleneck between babbling and speaking. “We’ve discovered a previously unidentified component of vocal development,” said the lead author, Dina Lipkind, a psychology researcher at Hunter College in Manhattan. “What we’re showing is that babbling is not only to learn sounds, but also to learn transitions between sounds.”

The researchers piped in the song of an adult male zebra finch to teach young birds one song (A-B-C), then piped in a new song that required the birds to use the same syllables in a different order (A-C-B). The birds could learn the new song only after …

 

Getting kids to eat their veggies: A new approach to an age-old problem
(July 1, 2013) — Every parent has a different strategy for trying to get his or her kid to eat more vegetables, from growing vegetables together as a family to banning treats until the dinner plate is clean. New research suggests that teaching young children an overarching, conceptual framework for nutrition may do the trick. …researchers assigned some preschool classrooms to read nutrition books during snack time for about 3 months, while other classrooms were assigned to conduct snack time as usual. Later, the preschoolers were asked questions about nutrition. The children who had been read the nutrition books were more likely to understand that food had nutrients, and that different kinds of nutrients were important for various bodily functions (even functions that weren’t mentioned in the books). They were also more knowledgeable about digestive processes, understanding, for example, that the stomach breaks down food and blood carries nutrients. These children also more than doubled their voluntary intake of vegetables during snack time after the three-month intervention, whereas the amount that the control group ate stayed about the same. > full story

 

 

 

Sun Food vs. Oil Food

Michael Pollan on how changing agriculture could reverse climate change.

By Mark Hertsgaard|Posted Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at 8:41 AM

 

Eating meat is bad for the planet, right? That hamburger you’re contemplating for lunch comes from a cow that, most likely, was raised within the industrial agriculture system. Which means it was fed huge amounts of corn that was grown with the help of petroleum, the carbon-based substance that has helped drive Earth’s climate to the breaking point. In industrial agriculture, petroleum is not only burned to power tractors and other machinery used to plant, harvest, and process corn—it’s also a key ingredient in the fertilizer employed to maximize yields…. Despite its large carbon footprint, the agricultural sector is invariably overlooked in climate policy discussions.  The latest example: In his 50-minute speech on climate change last week, President Barack Obama did not even mention agriculture except for a half-sentence reference to how farmers will have to adapt to more extreme weather. ….

 

These days, however, Pollan is delivering a deeper yet more upbeat message, one he shared in an interview while promoting his new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. (Disclosure: Pollan and I have been friendly colleagues since we met at Harper’s in the early 1990s, when he was executive editor.) Now, instead of just exposing the faults of the industrial agricultural system, Pollan is suggesting radical new ways to make agriculture work for both people and the planet….

 

With the right kind of technology, Pollan believes that eating meat can actually be good for the planet. That’s right: Raising livestock, if done properly, can reduce global warming. That’s just one element of a paradigm shift that Pollan and other experts, including Dennis Garrity, the former director general of the World Agroforestry Center in Nairobi, Kenya, and Hans Herren of the Millennium Institute in Washington, D.C., are promoting. They believe that new agricultural methods wouldn’t just reduce the volume of heat-trapping gases emitted by our civilization—they would also, and more importantly, draw down the total amount of those gases that are already in the atmosphere. “Depending on how you farm, your farm is either sequestering or releasing carbon,” says Pollan. Currently, the vast majority of farms, in the United States and around the world, are releasing carbon—mainly through fertilizer and fossil fuel applications but also by plowing before planting. “As soon as you plow, you’re releasing carbon,” Pollan says, because exposing soil allows the carbon stored there to escape into the atmosphere.

 

One method of avoiding carbon release is no-till farming: Instead of plowing, a tractor inserts seeds into the ground with a small drill, leaving the earth basically undisturbed. But in addition to minimizing the release of carbon, a reformed agriculture system could also sequester carbon, extracting it from the atmosphere and storing it—especially in soil but also in plants—so it can’t contribute to global warming. Sequestering carbon is a form of geoengineering, a term that covers a range of human interventions in the climate system aimed at limiting global warming. It’s a field that is attracting growing attention as climate change accelerates in the face of continued political inaction. Last month, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million, its highest level since the Pliocene Epoch 2.6 million years ago (when a warmer planet boasted sea levels 30 feet higher than today’s—high enough to submerge most of the world’s coastal capitals). Meanwhile, human activities, from driving gas-guzzlers to burning coal to leveling forests, are increasing this 400 ppm by roughly 2 ppm a year…..

 

According to Pollan, photosynthesis is “the best geoengineering method we have.” It’s also a markedly different
method than most of the geoengineering schemes thus far under discussion—like erecting giant mirrors in space or spraying vast amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere to block the sun’s energy from reaching Earth. Whether any of these sci-fi ideas would actually work is, to put it mildly, uncertain—not to mention the potential detrimental effects they could have.

By contrast, we are sure that photosynthesis works. Indeed, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that photosynthesis is a major reason we humans can survive on this planet: Plants inhale CO2 and turn it into food for us, even as they exhale the oxygen we need to breathe.

What does all this have to do with eating meat? Here’s where Pollan gets positively excited. “Most of the sequestering takes place underground,” he begins.

“When you have a grassland, the plants living there convert the sun’s energy into leaf and root in roughly equal amounts. When the ruminant [e.g., a cow] comes along and grazes that grassland, it trims the height of the grass from, say, 3 feet tall to 3 inches tall. The plant responds to this change by seeking a new equilibrium: it kills off an amount of root mass equal to the amount of leaf and stem lost to grazing. The [discarded] root mass is then set upon by the nematodes, earthworms and other underground organisms, and they turn the carbon in the roots into soil. This is how all of the soil on earth has been created: from the bottom up, not the top down.”

The upshot, both for global climate policy and individual dietary choices, is that meat eating carries a big carbon footprint only when the meat comes from industrial agriculture. “If you’re eating grassland meat,” Pollan says, “your carbon footprint is light and possibly even negative.”

Some, but not all, of Pollan’s analysis here resembles the holistic management of grasslands advocated by Allan Savory, a biologist from Zimbabwe whose TED talk earlier this year provoked widespread interest. Savory has his critics, though, including James McWilliams, a historian at Texas State University, who wrote in Slate that the most comprehensive scholarly analyses of holistic grazing found that it did not improve plant growth or, by implication, carbon sequestration. Savory and his allies argue that the studies cited by McWilliams did not follow his prescribed methods of holistic management and thus prove nothing about it.

For his part, Pollan emphasizes that switching from corn-fed to properly grazed cows brings other benefits as well. Sequestering carbon improves the soil’s fertility and water retentiveness, thus raising food yields and resilience to drought and floods alike. Says Pollan: “I’m a believer in geoengineering of a very specific kind: when it is based on bio-mimicry”—that is, it imitates nature—”rather than high-tech interventions and when instead of being a silver bullet solution it solves multiple problems—in this case, climate change and soil quality and food security.”

Pollan calls this approach “open source carbon sequestration.” He emphasizes that more research is needed to understand how best to apply it, but he is bullish on the prospects. Using photosynthesis and reformed grazing practices to extract atmospheric carbon and store it underground “gets us out of one of the worst aspects of environmental thinking—the zero sum idea that we can’t feed ourselves and save the planet at the same time,” says Pollan. “It also raises our spirits about the challenges ahead, which is not a small thing.”
Farming Started in Several Places at Once: Origins of Agriculture in the Fertile Crescent

July 5, 2013 — For decades archaeologists have been searching for the origins of agriculture. Their findings indicated that early plant domestication took place in the western and northern Fertile Crescent. In a … > full story

 

 

Climate Change: Summer Bummer For Your Fourth Of July? (INFOGRAPHIC)

The Fourth of July in the United States means backyard barbecues, beach outings and fireworks displays for millions of Americans. But thanks to climate change, some of your favorite activities face an uncertain future.

Temperatures are rising, drought and wildfire risks are growing and coastal areas face the threat of devastating storm surges. Some of your favorite foods and beverages even face threats due to water shortages and greater losses to U.S. bee populations.

Learn more about this summer bummer in the infographic below.


Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post.

For more information about the climate risks in this infographic:

 

 

Get outside with the kids: Bay Nature’s top family picks

July 03, 2013 by Jaquelyn Davis

Lazy summer days on your hands? Now’s the time to explore nature with the kids.

 

 

 

 

 


8 New Cities Submerged as Oceans Rise in Climate Change GIFs

 

 

July 3, 2013

 

NOW, under 5 ft SLR, and under 25 ft SLR



 

 

NOW, under 5 ft SLR, 12 ft SLR and under 25 ft SLR



 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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