Conservation Science News August 7, 2015Leave a Comment
Focus of the Week – Dry Days Bring Ferocious Start to Fire Season; Smoke Map
2–CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS with special DROUGHT section
3– ADAPTATION and HOPE
NOTE: Please pass on my weekly news update that has been prepared for
Point Blue Conservation Science
staff. You can find these weekly compilations posted on line by clicking here. For more information please see www.pointblue.org.
The items contained in this update were drawn from www.dailyclimate.org, www.sciencedaily.com, http://news.google.com, www.climateprogress.org, www.sfgate.com, and other sources as indicated. This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.
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Focus of the Week– Dry Days Bring Ferocious Start to Fire Season; Smoke Map
Officials are warning about the potential for more catastrophe in the months ahead, as drought, heat and climate change leave the landscape ever thirstier.
By FERNANDA SANTOS NY TIMES AUG. 1, 2015
WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Another summer of record-breaking drought and heat has seized the West, setting off costly and destructive wildfires from Southern California, where a single blaze burned more than 30,000 acres of national forest east of Los Angeles, to Montana, where a fast-moving fire in Glacier National Park recently forced tourists to flee hotels, campgrounds and vehicles.
No measurable rain has fallen here in Walla Walla since May. Temperatures have broken decades-old records. And, though known for soaking skies and cool summers, Washington State is well on track to surpass last year’s wildfire season, its busiest on record. Dozens of homes and thousands of acres have burned over the past few months — in the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, in suburban communities on the edge of the wild lands, and in this city of wheat farms and vineyards where hundreds of firefighters are still battling a blaze on the western slopes of the Blue Mountains, digging and scraping the earth, building barriers of dirt to shield the dried-out forests from the approaching flames. “Our fire season started a month ahead, our crops matured weeks ahead and the dry weather we usually get in August, we’ve had since May,” said Peter J. Goldmark, Washington’s commissioner of public lands. Walking along the edge of the Blue Creek fire, burning near the Oregon-Washington border, he added, “By heavens, if this isn’t a sign of climate change, then what is climate change going to bring?”
The entire region is under duress. It has been so dry for so long that federal officials have warned about the potential for more catastrophe in the months ahead, as drought and climate change push high temperatures higher, drying already-arid lands.
The conditions vary from one area to the next: an unforgiving drought in California, where a fire captain died Thursday night while battling one of 23 wildfires burning in the northern part of the state; snow that arrived late and melted early in Idaho; extreme temperature swings in the Southwest; and grass that has turned to tinder across the Pacific Northwest. But the West’s stubborn drought seems to be especially devastating the farther north it reaches. In Alaska, 399 fires burned in June. That was nearly double the number seen in the same month in 2004 — considered to have been the state’s worst fire year on record. In the past, the fires mostly burned tundra. This year, though, several have merged and marched toward cities and small fishing villages, destroying, damaging or threatening hundreds of homes. It is all part of an extensive nationwide scorching. About 63,312 wildfires destroyed 3.6 million acres of land across the country last year, at a cost of $1.52 billion to fight the fires. Early projections have placed this year’s cost even higher, at up to $2.1 billion, well beyond the $1.5 billion set aside by the federal Interior and Agriculture Departments, which administer more than 600 million acres of public lands.
The Obama administration has asked Congress to place wildfires in the same category as hurricanes and floods, with a dedicated disaster fund to pay for their suppression. Federal agencies have been forced for years to pay for firefighting with money that had been set aside for preventive programs to minimize the long-term risk of those wildfires, compounding the problem of frequent fires. The Republican leadership in Congress has yet to endorse any of the proposals. “These are emergencies,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters recently, as she urged Congress to act. “They should be treated as such.”
…..Between 2005 and 2014, the average number of fires that burned more than 100,000 acres — known as “megafires” — increased to 9.8 per year, up from fewer than one a year before 1995, according to statistics compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center, a multiagency logistical hub in Boise, Idaho. One reason, ecologists and historians say, is the well-established link between big fires and the steady loss of moisture in forests from higher temperatures brought on by climate change. Even when it rains, as it did in Arizona this spring, there is no guarantee it will be enough. Rain needs to be sustained over long periods to end the drought affecting the West, experts say, and rising temperatures continue to increase the risk from flames….
Almost 5 million acres have burned, and scientists say the blazes are the latest sign of a region transformed
Alaska’s wildfire season of 2015 may be the state’s worst ever
By Chris Mooney July 26 2015 FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Hundreds of wildfires are continually whipping across this state this summer, leaving in their wake millions of acres of charred trees and blackened earth.
At the Fairbanks compound of the state’s Division of Forestry recently, workers were busy washing a mountain of soot-covered fire hoses, which stood in piles roughly six feet high and 100 feet long. About 3,500 smokejumpers, hotshot crews, helicopter teams and other workers have traveled to Alaska this year from across the country and Canada. And they have collectively deployed about 830 miles of hose this year to fight fires. An hour north of the state’s second-biggest city, firefighters were attacking flames stretching across more than 31,000 acres, including an area close to the Trans-Alaska pipeline system, which stretches from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. And that’s just one of about 300 fires at any given time. “People don’t fathom how big Alaska is. You can have a 300,000-acre fire, and nobody knows anything about it, because nothing’s been done about it, because of where it is,” says Tim Mowry, spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry. The staggering 2015 Alaska wildfire season may soon be the state’s worst ever, with almost 5 million acres already burned — an area larger than Connecticut. The pace of the burn has moderated in the last week, but scientists say the fires are just the latest indicator of a climatic transformation that is remaking this state — its forests, its coasts, its glaciers, and perhaps most of all, the frozen ground beneath — more than any other in America. Alaska has already warmed by more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit in the past half-century, much more than the continental United States. The consequences have included an annual loss of 75 billion metric tons of ice from its iconic glaciers — including those covering the slopes of Denali, the highest peak in North America — and the destabilization of permafrost, the frozen ground that underlies 80 percent of the state and whose thaw can undermine buildings, roads and infrastructure…..
Andrew Freeman Mashable Aug 5 2015
Drought and lightning are making for a combustible combination in California. The state is suffering through its fourth straight summer of drought, and this may be known as the summer of smoke. A staggering 10,000 national, state and local firefighters are battling fires that are popping up by the hundreds each week, the majority of which are sparked by lightning strikes from daily thunderstorms erupting over mountainous terrain, which drop little rain and cause a lot of trouble. To put the number of firefighters into perspective, that is about the number of troops the U.S. has in Afghanistan.
So far, one firefighter has died fighting California’s blazes. As of Tuesday morning, 22 large uncontained fires were still burning across the state, with the biggest and most destructive one being the Rocky Fire located in Lake County, California, about 100 miles northeast of San Francisco. The Rocky fire grew in size to more than 101 square mile, or about 65,000 acres, on Tuesday, taking advantage of abundant vegetation that had not burned in years. The fire was just 12% contained as of Tuesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire). “Tinder dry conditions from the drought continue to allow wildfires to burn at an explosive rate,” CalFire said in an August 4 fire summary. So far this year, California has seen a whopping 5,916 wildfires, which have charred 148,782 acres. CalFire says it has responded to more than 4,200 of these fires, which is about 1,500 more than the average for the year so far. With daily thunderstorms popping up across California and the West more broadly, lightning strikes are igniting more blazes that can quickly grow amid gusty winds and tinderbox dry conditions on the ground….
A fire truck moves position as flames from the Rocky fire approach near Clearlake, California, USA, 02 August 2015. EPA/NOAH BERGER
US Forest Service says 2/3 of its budget could go to fighting wildfires by 2025
By Chris Mooney August 5 2015 Washington Post
As 14 large fires rage across California, the U.S. Forest Service is sounding the alarm about the exploding cost of protecting people and property from a growing wildfire threat. In a new report released Wednesday, the agency says that while it spent 16 percent of its total budget on preparing for and fighting fires in 1995, it will spend more than half its budget this year on the same task — and a projected 67 percent or more by 2025 under current funding arrangements. By ten years from now, the agency’s expenditures for fighting wildfires as they flare up — dubbed fire suppression — are projected to increase from just under $1.1 billion in 2014 to nearly $1.8 billion. And that’s just one of a number of fire related costs; there is also an annual, fixed fire “preparedness” budget that exceeds $1 billion each year. The Forest Service report says the agency’s very mission is “threatened” by this trend of increased fires, which is having a “debilitating impact” on other Forest Service responsibilities due to a phenomenon where funds for other priorities get shifted towards immediate wildfire emergencies. “With a warming climate, fire seasons are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970,” the document reads. “The U.S. burns twice as many acres as three decades ago and Forest Service scientists believe the acreage burned may double again by mid-century.” The fact that people are building more structures in harm’s way only compounds the problem, the agency adds. “I think we’re at the tipping point, where over half of the Forest Service budget is used for fire,” said Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department includes the service. Vilsack said that to get a handle on the problem, extremely large or intense fires — which are only 1 to 2 percent of the total, but chew up 30 percent of firefighting costs — should be treated as natural disasters, much like hurricanes and floods are, and funded accordingly. Vilsack’s favored approach for such funding involves a mechanism called a “budget cap adjustment,” which can allow for added spending on disasters despite caps on total spending under 2011 budget legislation. “Unless you treat those massive fires as the emergencies that they are and fund them as such, you’re never going to get ahead of this,” Vilsack said. “You’re always going to be constantly behind, and getting further and further behind.”….
John Ross Ferrara / August 2, 2015
Today’s Calfire Fire Situation Report shows towers of smoke billowing from the 47,000-acre Rocky Fire near Clearlake. Calfire Chief of Public Information Daniel Berlant said in today’s report that drought conditions caused the fire to spread at an unprecedented rate yesterday afternoon. “The fire burned at an explosive rate,” Berlant said. “Within a five hour period, it consumed 20,000 acres. That’s a historic, unprecedented amount of acreage burned in such a short amount of time.” The fire has spread throughout Lake, Yolo and Colusa Counties. The blaze has destroyed 24 homes and 26 outbuildings so far. Firefighters are focusing their efforts on preventing the fire from jumping U.S. Highways 16 and 20. The fire is 5 percent contained….
Friday, August 7, 2015 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink
6:20 a.m. – Cal Fire will begin allowing some of the thousands of Rocky Fire evacuees to return to their homes this morning.
Battalion chief Rick Frawley says the Spring Valley area is expected to be reopened at 10 a.m. “This is one of the larger areas that was under a mandatory evacuation order going back over the last 48-72 hours.” More than 13,000 people have been affected by evacuation orders since the start of the fire. More than 5,000 structures were threatened. But crews continue to make progress. Frawley says the fire is 45 percent contained and he expects that number to reach more than 50 percent today thanks to humid weather. “But Mother Nature can be fickle. We want to make sure that we have a strategy that can adapt to any changes in weather patterns.” He says Cal Fire expects to have the blaze fully contained within a week.
Photo: NASA Earth Observatory, Courtesy A look at the Rocky Fire taken from space, courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
By Hamed Aleaziz Updated 1:39 pm, Wednesday, August 5, 2015
New pictures captured by a NASA satellite camera shows just how large the Rocky Fire, which has been called insane and unlike anything seen before by firefighters, really is. More than 3,400 firefighters are battling the enormous blaze, which has grown to more than 68,000 acres in the past week in Lake, Yolo, and Colusa counties, caused thousands of residents to evacuate and destroyed 39 homes 52 other buildings. An Operations Land Imager on a Landsat 8 satellite captured the images on Monday and NASA released them on Wednesday
Chip Taylor Monarch Watch August 7, 2015
The number of reports of sightings has increased over the last few weeks and there have been reports of eggs – lots of eggs – mostly in the regions previously identified as likely to have a good migration (Dakotas to Michigan). The number of eggs found and the distribution of these finds now leads me to suspect that the migration through the upper Midwest will be better than any migration seen since 2011. This is good news since the tagging, isotope and observational data suggest that more than 90% of the monarchs reaching Mexico originate in this region. You may recall that temperatures during the breeding seasons of 2012 and 2013 were less than ideal, resulting in population declines each year. Last year the conditions were more favorable and I predicted in May that the population would increase. It did, though not by the amount I expected. For a more detailed discussion of the current monarch population status please visit http://monarchwatch.org/blog/
Please check out the newest post in our Science for a Blue Planet blog! Published today, this is a first-person account of at-sea research on the marine ecosystem – written by Ryan Hartnett, a grad student working with Jaime and our “ACCESS” partnership with the National Marine Sanctuaries. Here’s the link to Ryan’s post:
This dynamic landscape near Lampasas bears the marks of complex management changes over time. Credit: Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Matthew Berg
Study monitors trends on woody encroachment into rangelands
August 6, 2015 ScienceDaily
Woody plant encroachment is one of the biggest challenges facing rangelands worldwide, but it consistently has been under-measured and poorly understood, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist in College Station. Dr. Matthew Berg, an AgriLife Research postdoctoral research associate in the Texas A&M department of ecosystem and science management, is trying to change both the understanding and measurement with his latest study, which was captured in the July issue of the Rangeland Ecology and Management publication. Berg used time-series aerial imagery and historical census data to quantify changes in population, land ownership patterns and woody cover between 1937 and 2012 in three different settings in Central Texas — a semi-urban watershed almost entirely within the city limits of Lampasas, rural watersheds in Lampasas County and a portion of Burnet County, and the adjoining rural watersheds in Mills County…. This study documents for the first time the relationship between human demographics and the conversion of grassland to woody plant cover, shrubs and woodlands. In this effort, the scientists were able to document the changes in grassland along with population — and for some, the results might be surprising. “What we found was unexpected,” Berg said. “What makes these relationships remarkable is the strength of the correlations for all three settings, despite large differences in both the direction and timing of changes.” Typically, it is thought that when people move into an area, they clear off the land to build their homes and eventually to build cities. But the reality is, unless they are in the agriculture business, the widespread clearing does not occur, the scientists found. “Where people moved, woody plants followed,” he said. “Only when the size of farms increased did the amount of woody plant cover decrease.”
Knowing and understanding these circumstances can help researchers develop long-term land management plans, Berg said. In addition to monitoring woody plant encroachment, studying the demographic trends could help predict where it will become increasingly difficult to apply prescribed burns and where the risk of property damage by wildfires will increase….
Posted: 30 Jul 2015 02:23 PM PDT
In research that could lead to protective probiotics to fight the ‘chytrid’ fungus that has been decimating amphibian populations worldwide, researchers have grown bacterial species from the skin microbiome of four species of amphibians.
Posted: 29 Jul 2015 08:07 AM PDT
From slight sparrows to preening peacocks to soaring falcons, birds have long been known to possess distinct abilities in their sense of smell, but little has been known about the evolution of olfaction. A large comparative genomic study of the olfactory genes tied to a bird’s sense of smell has revealed important differences that correlate with their ecological niches and specific behaviors.
Posted: 28 Jul 2015 07:00 AM PDT
A new analysis of 35 years of meteorological data confirms fire seasons have become longer. Fire season, which varies in timing and duration based on location, is defined as the time of year when wildfires are most likely to ignite, spread, and affect resources.
Humpback whales, which have long been listed as an endangered species in East and West Australia, are making a comeback. Credit: Photo by Dr. Ari S. Friedlaender, taken under NMFS permit
Posted: 28 Jul 2015 08:05 AM PDT
Australia has one of the highest rates of animal species that face extinction in the world. However, over the last decade, there have been animals that are rebounding. One example is the conservation success story of the recovery of the humpback whales that breed in Australian waters.
A new study reviews data collected in past studies and proposes a revision of the conservation status for humpback whales found in Australian waters.…
A new study involving CU-Boulder looks at the role of natural selection on three types of stick insect belonging to the species Timema cristinae. The illustration shows how green, striped, and melanistic, or brown varieties have evolved camouflaged appearances matching them to certain areas on two separate species of shrub.
Credit: Illustration credit Rosa Marin
August 6, 2015 University of Colorado at Boulder
An intriguing study involving walking stick insects shows how natural selection, the engine of evolution, can also impede the formation of new species. ….While Darwinian natural selection has begun pushing the two green forms of walking sticks down separate paths that could lead to the formation of two new species, the team found that a third melanistic, or brown variation of T. cristinae appears to be thwarting the process, said Flaxman. The brown version is known to successfully camouflage itself among the stems of both shrub species inhabited by its green brethren, he said. Using field investigations, laboratory genetics, modern genome sequencing and computer simulations, the team concluded the brown version of T. cristinae is shuttling enough genes between the green stick insects living on different shrubs to prevent strong divergent adaptation and speciation. The brown variant of the walking stick species also is favored by natural selection because it has a slight advantage in mate selection and a stronger resistance to fungal infections than its green counterparts. “This is one of the best demonstrations we know of regarding the counteractive effects of natural selection on speciation,” said Flaxman of CU-Boulder’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, second author on the new study. “We show how the brown population essentially carries genes back and forth between the green populations, acting as a genetic bridge that causes a slowdown in divergence.” A paper on the subject appeared in a recent issue of the journal Current Biology. Other study co-authors were from the University of Sheffield, Royal Holloway University of London, Utah State University, the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland….
Posted: 28 Jul 2015 07:12 AM PDT
Researchers have found they can get a good idea of a grizzly bear’s diet over several months by looking at a single hair. The technique, which measures residues of trace metals, can be a major tool in determining if the threatened animals are getting enough of the right foods to eat…..
Marie Noël, Jennie R. Christensen, Jody Spence, Charles T. Robbins. Using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) to characterize copper, zinc and mercury along grizzly bear hair providing estimate of diet. Science of The Total Environment, 2015; 529: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.05.004
The Los Angeles River as it runs along side of the city of Vernon. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)=
Renowned architect Frank Gehry is working with Los Angeles officials in the public and private sector to draft a new master plan for the redevelopment of the Los Angeles River. Gehry’s involvement is a potential turning point in the decades-long movement to transform the concrete-lined waterway that winds through the heart of the Los Angeles Basin. It promises to bestow the cachet of one of the world’s best-known artistic celebrities on a restoration effort that Mayor Eric Garcetti has placed at the center of his agenda. Many details of Gehry’s work — including exactly what his plan entails and how much it would cost — are still unknown. Two sources who have seen a presentation on the plan by Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp. officials said it appears to be a broad reworking of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan that L.A. city officials adopted in 2007 following extensive public input. That plan established the city’s long-term goals for the river; established design guidelines for the redevelopment of its banks and the surrounding areas; and laid out a detailed vision for public access to the river and the preservation of parkland and recreational areas in the 52-mile river corridor. ….Despite its potential benefits, however, the new plan is getting a cold reception from the community of activists who have helped draw attention over the years to what was once a forlorn environmental cause. Some of those activists express concern about the secrecy surrounding Gehry’s work and the near-total lack of public input to date on such a far-ranging blueprint for the river’s future. The critics also say the sudden announcement of a new direction for river redevelopment could imperil federal funding for a $1.4-billion restoration project, focused on 11 miles of the river as it winds through Northeast L.A. and the downtown area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given tentative approval to the project but has not yet decided how much of the cost it is willing to bear. Such concerns came to a head this week, when Friends of the Los Angeles River, the nonprofit group led by iconic poet and environmentalist Lewis MacAdams, sent a letter to the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp. refusing to support the project or take part in a press conference announcing Gehry’s plan that is scheduled to take place at the end of this month….
Coho and Chinook salmon survival rates are growing increasingly similar in the Northern Pacific and are influenced by El Nino-associated weather patterns, UC Davis scientists found.
Credit: Carson Jeffres/UC Davis
Coho, chinook salmon have increasingly similar survival rates
August 3, 2015 University of California – Davis
What happens at the Equator, doesn’t stay at the Equator. El Nino-associated changes in the ocean may be putting the biodiversity of two Northern Pacific salmon species at risk, according to a study….The biodiversity of two Northern Pacific salmon species may be at risk due to changes in ocean conditions at the equator, reports a study by the University of California, Davis. In the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug. 3, researchers tracked the survival of Chinook and coho salmon from hatcheries in North America between 1980 and 2006. Before the 1990s, ocean survival rates of Chinook and coho salmon varied separately from each other. However, the researchers were surprised to find that survival rates of the two species have since become increasingly similar. “Two species that historically have had different responses and seem to be very different in their coastal-wide patterns now appear to be more synchronized,” said lead author Patrick Kilduff, a postdoctoral scholar under Louis Botsford in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at the time of the study. “When salmon populations are synchronized, it’s either good for everyone or bad for everyone–similar to the stock market.” From an economic perspective, it means that when catch of one species is low, catch of the other also will tend to be low. This synchronous response to ocean conditions represents a loss in biological diversity that cannot be addressed directly by freshwater management actions, the study said. It’s not yet well understood what is causing the increasing similarity, but the researchers said it could reflect a change in coastal ocean food-web linkages or perhaps a change in the salmon species themselves. Historically, many Pacific salmon species were thought to be influenced by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), an El Nino-associated eastern Pacific warming pattern. As the nature of El Niños has changed, another ocean indicator, the North Pacific Gyre Oscillation (NPGO) has grown increasingly important, but its impact on salmon was not well-understood.
This new study found that coho and Chinook salmon survival rates along the West Coast are more strongly connected to the NPGO than to the PDO. “Changes in equatorial conditions lead to more of the large-scale Pacific Ocean variability being explained by North Pacific Gyre Oscillation, and it’s influencing the survival of salmon from Vancouver Island south to California,” Kilduff said.
D. Patrick Kilduff, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, Louis W. Botsford, Steven L. H. Teo. Changing central Pacific El Niños reduce stability of North American salmon survival rates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201503190 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1503190112
PORTLAND, Ore. | By Courtney Sherwood
Unseasonably hot water has killed nearly half of the sockeye salmon migrating up the Columbia River through Oregon and Washington state, a wildlife official said on Monday. Only 272,000 out of the more than 507,000 sockeye salmon that have swum between two dams along a stretch of the lower Columbia River have survived the journey, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries manager John North. “We’ve never had mortalities at this scale,” said North. The die-off comes as U.S. West Coast states grapple with drought conditions and the Columbia is seeing the third-highest count of sockeye returning from the ocean to spawn since 1960, federal figures show. Hot air combined with abnormally low mountain snow melt has increased water temperatures and prompted fishing restrictions and efforts to save beleaguered fish, including trucking salmon to cooler waters. The Columbia River hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-June, about a month earlier than usual, and the fish were not able to adjust, North said. Warm waters are at least partially to blame for more than 400,000 additional salmon deaths this year, hatchery officials say. The sockeye were counted between the lower Columbia’s Bonneville Dam and McNary Dam, about 150 miles upstream, en route to the Snake River tributary. Snake River sockeye, which lay their eggs in lakes, in 1991 became the first salmon named to the U.S. Endangered Species List….
The present El Niño formation has the potential to become the strongest on record. The yellow areas indicate concentrations of warming water.
Mike Moffitt Updated 11:45 am, Monday, July 27, 2015
New computer models suggest that the current El Niño formation brewing in the Pacific could become the strongest in recorded history. The broad swath of warmer-than-usual seawater is spreading and deepening. The two largest concentrations are off the coast of Peru, where water is 4 degrees Centigrade warmer than usual, and just west of Vancouver and Seattle — 3 degrees warmer. If this El Niño continues to grow, it could surpass the modern record-setting 1997-98 El Niño event, which inundated the Bay Area and the rest of California for months, causing flooding, mudslides and subsidences, and heavy snowfalls in the Sierra….
A storm lights up central California this summer. El Nino could bring more rain, but probably not enough to end the state’s unprecedented drought. Marty Bicek/ZUMA
It’ll take a lot more than one rainy season.
—By Tim McDonnell| Thu Jul. 30, 2015 6:00 AM EDT
California could be in for a wetter-than-normal winter, thanks to the mysterious meteorological phenomenon known as El Niño. Weather scientists have been watching El Niño get stronger throughout this year and think it could match or surpass the strongest on record, back in 1997. What does this mean for long-suffering California and its interminable drought? Let us explain….
Cleanup after Hurricane Sandy has proven costly for New York City – and climate change increases the odds of future flooding, say scientists. Photograph: Justin Lane/EPA
Trio of sea-level rise, storm surge and heavy rainfall exposes coastal cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Boston to potentially catastrophic flooding in future
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent Monday 27 July 2015
America’s biggest cities are at far greater risk of serious flooding in the coming decades than was previously thought, because of a “triple threat” produced under climate change, researchers said on Monday. A combination of sea-level rise, storm surge and heavy rainfall – all functions of climate change – exposes New York, Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego and Boston to a much greater degree, research published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change found. “Call it a triple threat,” said Steven Meyers, a scientist at the University of South Florida and one of the authors. “What this shows is that there is an increasing risk of compound flooding, from storm surge and rainfall at the same time.” About 40% of the US population lives in coastal cities – where flooding in the wake of storms is already proving increasingly costly in built-up areas, swamping subway lines and electricity stations. But the Nature study was among the first to explore the combined risks under climate change of sea-level rise, heavy rainfall and storm surges over broad stretches of the US coast. In the case of New York City, the risks of flooding – because of that combination of factors – has doubled over the past 60 years, the researchers found. A 4ft storm surge, combined with 5in of rainfall, could be heading New York City’s way once every 42 years, compared to about once in a century in the 1940s. The increased risk was due to the combination of storm surge, rainfall and flooding.
“They are all somehow interconnected,” said Thomas Wahl, the University of South Florida researcher who led the study. “If sea levels continued to rise, this would certainly have an effect on storm surges, and storm surges have an effect on compound flooding.” What that means is that it would not necessarily take a huge amount of rainfall to put New York or other cities underwater – a storm surge could do that on its own, Wahl said….
Posted: 28 Jul 2015 01:24 PM PDT
Scientists write that sea-level rise (3.4 mm/yr) is faster in the Chesapeake Bay region than any other location on the Atlantic coast of North America, and twice the global average (1.7 mm/yr). They have found that dated interglacial deposits suggest that relative sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region deviate from global trends over a range of timescales.
Posted: 28 Jul 2015 07:12 AM PDT
New research confirms that the land under the Chesapeake Bay is sinking rapidly and projects that Washington, DC, could drop by six or more inches in the next century — adding to the problems of sea-level rise.
‘Eco-based’ engineering systems to put sediment-laden water back on to the delta plains could prevent the loss of 500,000 hectares of wetlands in Mississippi and greatly reduce annual flood damage costs to New Orleans and the Louisiana coast. Photograph: OLI/Landsat-8/Nasa
‘Eco-based’ engineering systems may be key to protecting cities that face up to eight times more risk from rising tides, storm surges and floods, says study
Tim Radford Thursday 6 August 2015 The Guardian UK
Rich nations spend huge sums to keep the seas at bay but wealth may not save them indefinitely. New research suggests that the probability of flooding in cities and megacities built on river deltas is on the increase and over time, the Mississippi and the Rhine may become up to eight times more at hazard from rising tides, storm surges or catastrophic downstream floods. The study, published in the journal Science, calculates the challenges ahead for 48 major coastal deltas in the Americas, Europe and Asia, right now home to populations of more than 340 million people. Deltas are natural sites for cities: they offer direct access to the sea and upriver to the hinterland; their wetlands provided good hunting and, when drained, became fertile farmland, ever renewed by fresh deposits of silt from frequent flooding. So civilisation got a head start in the Nile delta, the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, the Yangtze, and elsewhere. But dams upriver to conserve water or generate electricity stopped the downstream flow of silt. The draining of the wetlands allowed the soils to compact. The abstraction of water for industry and for huge numbers of new citizens meant that soils compacted even more. The reclamation of wetlands meant that the highest tides had nowhere to go but on to the streets and into city basements. And the sea began to encroach, which meant more investment in sea defences. In the Mississippi delta, according to another study in the same journal, the citizens of Louisiana and New Orleans have bade goodbye to up to 100 sq km of land washed away every year since 1900, and in the Netherlands, after centuries of soil drainage and subsidence, 9 million people live below sea level, behind costly sea dikes. By 2100, according to recent research, as sea levels rise in line with global warming, coastal flooding could be costing nations $100,000bn a year.
Emission mission … the new additive has helped slash the cows’ methane output. Photo: Eddie Jim
Change to cow diet cuts methane emissions
August 4, 2015 Darren Gray
With the dairy, beef and sheep industries responsible for 11 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, scientists are striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and may have found the answer. A team of Victorian and international scientists has found that a new additive included in a dairy cow’s diet can cut the cow’s methane emissions when it belches by almost one third. The breakthrough, confirmed in a recent experiment, could eventually have significant ramifications for Australia’s livestock industries as scientists aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions and tackle global warming. With the dairy, beef and sheep industries responsible for 11 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, scientists are striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The 30 per cent cut in methane emissions was observed during a 12 week experiment in which the daily diet of hungry dairy cows received a minor, but beneficial tweak. About one gram of the methane inhibitor 3-nitrooxypropanol, known as NOP, was added to the daily 28 kilogram of dry matter fed to each cow….
Posted: 28 Jul 2015 08:05 AM PDT
The world’s deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according to the new research.
Icebergs recently calved off the Helheim glacier float in the Sermilik Fjord in southeastern Greenland. The glacier experienced a rapid melting event in the early 2000s, and is now Greenland’s second-fastest moving glacier. Credit: Ellyn Enderlin, University of Maine
Greenland is melting fast, and that’s bad news for sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. “I don’t mean to make it sound so scary,” reporter Ari Daniel says by satellite phone from the cusp of Greenland’s Helhiem glacier. “This is one of the fastest-moving glaciers there is [here], it moves about three feet in an hour, you can almost see it [move].” That is extraordinarily fast, so don’t assume all of Greenland’s glaciers are pushing out ice so quickly. But the fact is, Daniel says, that all across the island’s massive ice sheet, ice is moving — and melting — very fast as the air and sea around it warm. And that’s why the researchers he’s camped out with this week and next are there — to try to figure out exactly what’s happening with the Helhiem glacier, and to open a new window into what’s happening to the rest of the northern hemisphere’s only ice sheet.
How fast is it melting? How much fresh water is it pouring into the North Atlantic? How will that contribute to local and global sea level rise? And how might it affect the temperature- and salinity-driven ocean currents that regulate regional temperatures on both sides of the Atlantic? Climate change is bringing big changes to Greenland, and that could mean big trouble for the rest of the world. On the Helheim, Daniel says those changes are literally written into the rock wall of the glacier’s canyon. “As I look across the glacier now,” he says from his perch on the glacier’s rocky margin, “there’s something called the ‘bathtub ring,’ a pretty striking color contrast between the mountainous rock above the line and below the line… That was the glacier’s height back in the early 2000s, meaning that there was a kind of massive melting event within the last 10 years.” No one knows exactly why that happened. There’s a lot of melting from warm air going on in Greenland. But the rapid advance may also be due to changes from warmer seas below. “We’re seeing warmer water in the north that’s entering the fjords and starts kind of touching and tickling the glaciers,” Ari says. “That could lead to more melting.” And that, he says, has repercussions for sea level rise….
CREDIT: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko Gentoo penguins stand on rocks on the Antarctic peninsula. Forty-nine billion tons of ice (nearly 45 billion metric tons), is lost here a year according to NASA.
by Samantha Page Aug 5, 2015 1:02pm
A century’s worth of data. That’s how much researchers looked at for a new study — which showed that the world’s glaciers are melting faster than scientists think they ever have before, and that even if global warming stopped today, they would continue to melt. The observations show that “the rates of early 21st-century [glacial] mass loss are without precedent on a global scale, at least for the time period observed and probably also for recorded history,” according to the study from the World Glacier Monitoring Service, based in Zurich. The study, published last week in the Journal of Galciology, looked at more than 5,000 measurements since 1850. The melting is speeding up. Glaciers are now losing mass twice as fast as they were in the period from 1901-1950, three times as fast as in the period from 1851-1900, and four times as fast as in the period from 1800-1850, the researchers found. And the glaciers will continue to recede, even if global temperatures stabilize, the study’s lead author, Michael Zemp, told Climate News Network. “Due to the strong ice loss over the past few decades, many glaciers are too big under current climatic conditions. They simply have not had enough time to react to the climatic changes of the past,” he said. In other words, the Earth’s glaciers are melting to keep up with temperature changes that have already occurred. “In the European Alps, many glaciers would lose about 50 percent of their present surface area without further climate change,” Zemp said….
Posted: 30 Jul 2015 05:08 AM PDT
The combination of elevated levels of carbon dioxide and an increase in ocean water temperature has a significant impact on survival and development of the Antarctic dragonfish (Gymnodraco acuticeps), researchers have discovered.
Late but persistent bout of sunny weather and high temperatures threatens this year’s Arctic ice
Wednesday 29 July 2015 07.00 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 29 July 2015 07.03 EDT
Following the post of my colleague, Dana Nuccitelli on misreporting of ice trends, this article is a timely guest post by Neven Acropolis who runs the Arctic Sea Ice blog. “After the record smashing 2012 melting season had ended, Arctic sea ice watchers awaited the following melting season with a mix of anticipation and apprehension. Anticipation, because the annual ebb and flow of Arctic sea ice is one of the most spectacular natural events on the planet, accentuated by the dramatic loss of the past 30 years. Apprehension, because further losses would bring the Arctic yet one step closer to virtually ice-free conditions, an iconic image entailing many unpredictable consequences….
Posted: 30 Jul 2015 05:12 AM PDT
A new study addresses an important question in climate science: how accurate are climate model projections? Climate models are used to estimate future global warming, and their accuracy can be checked against the actual global warming observed so far. Most comparisons suggest that the world is warming a little more slowly than the model projections indicate. Scientists have wondered whether this difference is meaningful, or just a chance fluctuation.
In this May 29, 2015 photo, a man walks past a coal-powered steel plant in Tianjin, China. A new study indicates that views on air and water quality in China are also a strong indicator of people’s attitudes toward climate change. The study surveyed 119 countries around the world to identify the factors that most affect public climate change awareness and risk perception. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
By Chelsea Harvey July 27
A major concern for climate activists is figuring out what drives the public’s beliefs about climate change. This information can help scientists better engage with the public and help activists understand what factors are likely to make people take climate change seriously as a threat. Until now, most research into public attitudes on climate change have focused on Western nations, like the United States, Europe and Australia, leaving scientists with little knowledge of how much awareness there is about climate change in other parts of the world and how people feel about it. But a new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, provides a more inclusive look at the issue, giving scientists greater insight into what factors are most likely to make people care about climate change — if they know it’s happening at all….
Posted: 05 Aug 2015 11:02 AM PDT
As temperatures rise, some of the organic carbon stored in Arctic permafrost meets an unexpected fate — burial at sea. As many as 2.2 million metric tons of organic carbon per year are swept along by a single river system into Arctic Ocean sediment, according to a new study.
Posted: 03 Aug 2015 12:50 PM PDT
Greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities do not only cause rapid warming of the seas, but also ocean acidification at an unprecedented rate. Artificial carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere has been proposed to reduce both risks to marine life. A new study based on computer calculations now shows that this strategy would not work if applied too late. CDR cannot compensate for soaring business-as-usual emissions throughout the century and beyond.
Posted: 30 Jul 2015 01:20 PM PDT
In a global study of drought impacts, forest trees took an average of two to four years to resume normal growth rates, a revelation indicating that Earth’s forests are capable of storing less carbon than climate models have assumed. In the virtual worlds of climate modeling, forests and other vegetation are assumed to bounce back quickly from extreme drought. But that assumption is far off the mark, according to a new study of drought impacts at forest sites worldwide. Living trees took an average of two to four years to recover and resume normal growth rates after droughts ended, researchers report today in the journal Science. “This really matters because in the future droughts are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change,” says lead author William R.L. Anderegg, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Utah. “Some forests could be in a race to recover before the next drought strikes.” Forest trees play a big role in buffering the impact of human-induced climate change by removing massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere and incorporating the carbon into woody tissues. The finding that drought stress sets back tree growth for years suggests that Earth’s forests are capable of storing less carbon than climate models have calculated. “If forests are not as good at taking up carbon dioxide, this means climate change would speed up,” says Anderegg, who performed much of the work on this study while at Princeton University. He co-authored the study with colleagues at Princeton. He co-authored the study with colleagues at Princeton University, Northern Arizona University, University of Nevada-Reno, Pyrenean Institute Of Ecology, University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University….
W. R. L. Anderegg, C. Schwalm, F. Biondi, J. J. Camarero, G. Koch, M. Litvak, K. Ogle, J. D. Shaw, E. Shevliakova, A. P. Williams, A. Wolf, E. Ziaco, S. Pacala. Pervasive drought legacies in forest ecosystems and their implications for carbon cycle models. Science, 2015; 349 (6247): 528 DOI: 10.1126/science.aab1833
Posted: 30 Jul 2015 07:00 PM PDT
A new study has concluded California accumulated a debt of about 20 inches of precipitation between 2012 and 2015 — the average amount expected to fall in the state in a single year. The deficit was driven primarily by a lack of air currents moving inland from the Pacific Ocean that are rich in water vapor.
posted on: Monday, 23 February 2015 by: Caroline Petersen, Senior Technical Advisor and Head of UN Development Programme (UNDP’s) Biodiversity Programme
Last fall, two major international meetings on intertwined topics, biodiversity and climate change, occurred back-to-back. In Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its 12th session adopted several decisions on climate change and biodiversity, including targets for restoring and conserving ecosystems as a safeguard against climate change impacts.
Crossing over the Pacific to Lima, Peru, a few weeks later, governments participated in the negotiations over climate change commitments at the 20th session of the UNFCCC COP. There, Parties discussed forests and their contribution to mitigation. At the margins, stakeholders converged and agreed on the Lima 2014 Declaration on Biodiversity and Climate Change, recognizing the critical role of biodiversity in enhancing resilience to environmental change. It is encouraging that the linkages between climate change and biodiversity threats are increasingly being recognized. After all, there is clear evidence that the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change are intertwined, as are the objectives of the Rio Conventions. Furthermore, it is the world’s poor—more than 1.2 billion people live on less than US$1 a day—that are disproportionately affected by climate change, due to their high dependence on ecosystem goods and services for their livelihoods and subsistence. Thus, we cannot hope to address climate change, or sustainable development, without restoring and maintaining the natural ecosystems that enable us to cope with climate variability and extremes. But we can do better than just recognize the linkages between climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development. We need to aim higher to implement change. Twenty years after the UNFCCC came into force, there is still a need to make a case for integrating forests, landscapes and ecosystems into the climate change debate.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is playing an active role in breaking down institutional and thematic silos and connecting the dots between biodiversity and climate change through its Biodiversity and Ecosystems Framework 2012-2020. Launched in Hyderabad, India, at CBD COP 11, the Framework reconceptualizes UNDP’s ecosystems and biodiversity work, advancing the post-2015 development agenda emerging after the Rio+20 Summit, with the aim of promoting inclusivity, resilience and sustainability, and supporting countries in implementing CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Targets.
UNDP’s signature programmes under the Framework include one on ‘Managing and rehabilitating ecosystems for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.’ This contributes to our overall objective of maintaining and enhancing the goods and services provided by biodiversity and ecosystems in order to: secure livelihoods, food, water and health; enhance resilience; conserve threatened species and their habitats; and increase carbon storage and sequestration. This involves supporting countries in integrating climate-related risks and opportunities into national development and poverty reduction strategies and plans—drawing on traditional knowledge as well as modern technologies—to protect the natural resource base and address the needs and livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups, including women and indigenous peoples.
One example is our investment in ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), an approach that uses biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of a broader holistic adaptation strategy. UNDP’s support to countries in accessing finance and technical assistance for climate change adaptation includes exploring how to provide evidence-based knowledge on EbA and its effectiveness, in order to inform both practice and policy through lessons learned from the field. At CBD COP 12 in Pyeonchang, we highlighted how EbA can contribute to the post-2015 development agenda, drawing on examples from EbA in the Mountain Ecosystems Programme funded by the German Government and jointly implemented by UNDP, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At UNFCCC COP 20 in Lima, we showed how the same EbA Programme is assisting the Peruvian Government in applying innovative communication strategies and tools, to foster both active local participation in enhancing community resilience and adaptive management of the ecosystems that are vital for their livelihoods and well-being. It is not only imperative to enhance the synergies among the Rio Conventions, but also among the biodiversity and climate change adaptation constituencies. As UNDP has learned from our extensive work on biodiversity and climate change, we must connect the thematic, technical and political dots in order to truly achieve a “win-win” and meet biodiversity, desertification, and climate change targets.
With the Paris negotiations coming up this year, in which countries will establish a universal, binding climate agreement, there is no better time than now to place the role of healthy, resilient ecosystems in both adaptation and mitigation firmly within the climate change discussions.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty (currently the only international climate policy venue with broad legitimacy, due in part to its virtually universal membership) negotiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. The objective of the treaty is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
The treaty itself set no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. In that sense, the treaty is considered legally non-binding. Instead, the treaty provides a framework for negotiating specific international treaties (called “protocols”) that may set binding limits on greenhouse gases. The UNFCCC was adopted on 9 May 1992, and opened for signature on 4 June 1992, after an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee produced the text of the Framework Convention as a report following its meeting in New York from 30 April to 9 May 1992. It entered into force on 21 March 1994. As of March 2014, UNFCCC has 196 parties.
The parties to the convention have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The 2010 Cancún agreements state that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) relative to the pre-industrial level. The 20th COP took place in Peru in 2014.
One of the first tasks set by the UNFCCC was for signatory nations to establish national greenhouse gas inventories of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals, which were used to create the 1990 benchmark levels for accession of Annex I countries to the Kyoto Protocol and for the commitment of those countries to GHG reductions. Updated inventories must be regularly submitted by Annex I countries.
The UNFCCC is also the name of the United Nations Secretariat charged with supporting the operation of the Convention, with offices in Haus Carstanjen, Bonn, Germany. From 2006 to 2010 the head of the secretariat was Yvo de Boer. On 17 May 2010, Christiana Figueres from Costa Rica succeeded de Boer. The Secretariat, augmented through the parallel efforts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), aims to gain consensus through meetings and the discussion of various strategies.
Posted: 29 Jul 2015 11:21 AM PDT
Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population, but the paddies it’s grown in contributes up to 17 percent of global methane emissions — about 100 million tons a year. Now, with the addition of a single gene, rice can be cultivated to emit virtually no methane, more starch for a richer food source and biomass for energy production.
CARBON OFFSET BIRDING
Refuge Association August 7, 2015
In our June issue, we mentioned the efforts to connect local birding festivals with specific conservation projects: One such conservation option is carbon-offset birding, and this month’s Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival has adopted another creative example, with their own Carbon Offset Bird Project (COBP). To see how the festival organizers are handling this approach, aimed at one of their restoration mitigation sites, the Simpson Farm, and involving native planting, seeding, and invasive removal to favor the birds, see here. Also of interest was the resolution passed at last month’s BirdsCaribbean meeting in Jamaica. There, the members voted to pursue a bird-oriented carbon-offset project for their future meetings.
by Natasha Geiling Aug 7, 2015
On Thursday, New Zealand’s largest electricity and gas retailer announced it would close its last two coal-fired power plants by 2018, making the country completely coal-free…
The Center for Climate Protection just released the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Report for Sonoma County for 2014. Sonoma County produced about 3.6 million tons of GHG emissions in 2014, a decrease of about 14% from 2007 when county emissions reached a high of about 4.2 million tons. “It’s too soon to tell if this is a trend, but we believe that we’re bringing emissions down in a real and hopefully accelerating way…” More>
By Eric Holthaus August 2 2015
On Monday, President Obama will unveil the final version of the centerpiece of his climate legacy, the Clean Power Plan. The rule is designed to speed up the retirement of the nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants—the most carbon-intensive way of creating electricity—and could more than double the rate of coal plant closures by 2040. In a video preview of the new rule, Obama called the Clean Power Plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.” While that statement may be true, it’s not saying a whole heck of a lot. As I wrote last year when the rule was initially announced, many states are already well on their way to achieving the required reductions, thanks in part to a recent boom in cheap natural gas and the Obama administration’s choice of 2005 as the basis year for cuts, which was close to America’s all-time peak in carbon emissions. Obama’s plan is significant, but it’s not bold. A previous version of the targets, announced last year, would have required states to begin implementing changes to their power-producing mix in 2020. The final rule, to be announced Monday, gives states and utilities an extra two years, until 2022. The targets will vary by state, depending on their current energy mix, and states will have flexible ways of achieving emissions reductions, including an option to join an interstate cap-and-trade scheme. All this will be a heavy lift for some coal-intensive states, like Wyoming, but it’s being heralded as largely “business as usual” for some states, like Minnesota, that have already made significant efforts to shift their energy mix. We can, and should, do much more.
According to the New York Times and the independent Climate Action Tracker website—which helps keep world leaders honest in the run-up to this year’s possibly pivotal international climate negotiations in Paris—the new rule puts America on a middling emissions-reduction pathway, at best. Vox‘s Brad Plumer has calculated that the president’s rule would shave just 6 percent from U.S. carbon emissions by 2030. Climate science and international equity demand the U.S. cut emissions 80 percent by then. We’re nowhere near that pace. Still, this plan is not nothing. In its coverage, the Times includes this hopeful gem: “But experts say that if the rules are combined with similar action from the world’s other major economies, as well as additional action by the next American president, emissions could level off enough to prevent the worst effects of climate change.”
That’s a lot of hedging on which to base a climate legacy. In fact, when compared with the climate plans of his would-be successors on the left—Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley—Obama’s ranks last in terms of ambition. Clinton, who has frequently aligned herself with the president on climate, announced a preview of her own climate plan last week. It’s fractionally more ambitious than Obama’s, but it essentially just kicks the can forward another few years.
And as Slate‘s Daniel Politi writes, there’s no guarantee the plan will endure in its current form after the president leaves office. Obama’s plan faces a phalanx of attacks from the political right, and legal challenges—which may take several years—could find their way to the Supreme Court. Obama has vowed to veto any actions to weaken it from a hostile Congress as long as he remains in office. As Jason Plautz of National Journal writes, the next president may not be so climate-friendly, so the ultimate fate of Obama’s climate legacy will be in the hands of others.
In a video touting the new climate rule, Obama’s lead environmental advocate, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, said that if the rule moves forward, “We’ll know we’re doing all we can, together, to take action against climate change.” That’s simply not true. We can, and should, do much more. Last week, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen, fresh off a dire new warning about global sea levels, had harsh words for the slow, incremental progress that’s formed essentially the entirety of American’s climate ambition to date. “We have two political parties, neither one of which is willing to face reality,” Hansen told the Guardian. “Conservatives pretend it’s all a hoax, and liberals propose solutions that are non-solutions. It’s just plain silly,” said Hansen, speaking specifically of Clinton’s planned renewable energy push. “No, you cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest.”
In the end, our climate won’t care about how we fix this problem. But it’s clear that time is running out. If Obama truly wants to go all-in on climate change, he should meet Republicans where they are—as painful as that might be—and negotiate a way to pass a carbon tax. (I’m going to get a flood of email saying how naïve I am for saying that, but it’s true.) Don’t get me wrong; the Clean Power Plan, if fully enacted as it is, would definitely help reduce our carbon emissions. But to imply that Monday’s nudge toward cleaner electricity will bring about a bold new era in American climate leadership is disingenuous. Growing economic headwinds in the fossil fuel sector—particularly in the coal and oil industries—may bring about radical change much sooner than Obama’s Clean Power Plan. If Obama really wants to make a lasting impact on global warming, he can work across the aisle or across the Pacific in Beijing, to work toward implementing a meaningful, economy-wide carbon tax as quickly as possible. Just because such a breakthrough feels impossible doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.
August 3, 2015
Today President Obama released the final rules of the EPA Clean Power Plan. The plan requires states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, one of the nation’s largest sources of carbon pollution. In recent months, some Republicans in Congress and governors from coal-producing states have attacked the new plan. These attacks might suggest there is widespread public opposition to regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. However, our research finds the opposite. In our latest national survey (March, 2015), we found that a large majority of Americans support setting strict emission limits on coal-fired power plants – by more than a two-to-one margin: 70% support; 29% oppose.
Likewise, Yale’s models of public opinion in all 50 states (2014) find that a majority of Americans in almost every state support setting strict emission limits on coal-fired power plants.
Friday, July 24 2015
Kenya has pledged to cut its carbon emissions 30% below business-as-usual levels by 2030, ahead of a landmark UN climate summit in Paris later this year. The East African country is a very small carbon emitter in global rankings, on a par with Singapore and Mongolia, but the move was hailed by campaigners as evidence that developing countries could develop without fossil fuels….
U.S. EPA appears to be leaning toward giving states an extra two years—until 2022—to start cutting carbon emissions from power plants under a final Clean Power Plan rule expected to be rolled out as early as Monday. EnergyWire
posted on: Wednesday, 29 July 2015 by: Jennifer Allan, Writer/Editor, IISD Reporting Services
At the end of 2015, the world’s attention will be focused on Paris, France, where countries are due to finalize the development of a new “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.” This new agreement is due to be completed in 2015, and to take effect in 2020. Many recognize that action in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is only a fraction of the subnational, national and regional efforts by governments, companies and citizens to address climate change. In the lead up to the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UNFCCC, it is important to understand what has come before, in order to put the future climate agreement and efforts by others into context.
In this push for a new agreement, underlining the need for understanding the complex world of climate change governance, the new e-course on international climate change law by InforMEA, a project of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA) Information and Knowledge Management Initiative, is timely. This policy update will consider how an improved understanding of the history and provisions of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol can help spur action to address climate change in the future….
August 4, 2015
Commission staff are presenting the Recommended Final Draft of the Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance at the Coastal Commission hearing on August 12, 2015 in Chula Vista, CA. Download the full document here. The Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance provides an overview of best available science on sea level rise for California and recommended steps for addressing sea level rise in Coastal Commission planning and regulatory decisions. This Recommended Final Draft includes updates to reflect newly developing science, tools, and resources for sea level rise adaptation planning. It also includes revisions to address the input and feedback the Commission received during two public comment periods. Summaries of Commission staff responses to these comments are available here, and the Recommended Final Draft shows the most recent set of revisions in underline/strike through. The most significant revisions are described in the staff report for the August 2015 hearing. They include, briefly:
- New text in Chapter 8, the Legal Context of Adaptation Planning, expanding the discussion of seawalls in the context of existing development versus new development, and addressing the planning considerations of highly urbanized areas.
- New text clarifying the intent of this Guidance to focus on LCPs and CDPs, but that much of the content of the document is potentially applicable to other planning documents.
- Additional text clarifying the unique challenges faced by low-income communities and the need to include low-income persons and communities in planning efforts.
- Additional text recognizing the increasing demand for funding for sea level rise adaptation planning.
- Additional Adaptation Strategies.
- Additional Next Steps.
Revisions to the Guidance were coordinated with other California state efforts related to climate change and adaptation, including the 2014 Safeguarding California document produced by the California Natural Resources Agency. The Recommended Final Draft reflects the broad concepts and strategies in Safeguarding California – particularly the Coast and Oceans chapter – and complements it by providing information specific to the Coastal Act, including Local Coastal Programs and Coastal Development Permits….
By Carolyn Lochhead SF CHronicloe Updated 9:30 pm, Wednesday, July 29, 2015
WASHINGTON — California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a sweeping drought bill Wednesday that takes a much broader approach to the state’s water shortages than her failed effort last year to work almost exclusively with House Republicans to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers. Feinstein’s new measure is important for one big reason: Feinstein introduced it. The state’s senior senator has made herself an authority on California water policy, and no bill dealing with the state’s drought has much chance of passage without her approval. In contrast to a recently passed House measure that focuses mainly on getting water to valley farms — and rolling back environmental protections to do it — Feinstein included something for almost everyone. The California Emergency Drought Relief Act, co-sponsored by fellow California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, would supply money for desalination plants for coastal cities, new and expanded dams, groundwater-recharge projects, water recycling, and expanded habitat for fish that biologists warn are hurtling toward extinction. The legislation calls for $1.3 billion in new federal spending over the next decade, nearly half of it for dams. It would be part of a larger Western drought bill that Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is seeking to move through the Senate.
A major challenge is reconciling any Senate bill with the House’s drought legislation. The measure, crafted by San Joaquin Valley Republicans including Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader from Bakersfield, and David Valadao of Hanford (Kings County), aims squarely at delivering more water from the delta to San Joaquin Valley farms, mainly by weakening protections for fish and wildlife.
Feinstein acknowledged in an interview the criticism she drew last year when she pushed a short-term drought relief bill through the Senate without public hearings, then spent months in closed-door discussions with House Republicans on a bill much like the version they passed this year.
“This has been the most difficult bill that I’ve put together in all my time in the Senate,” Feinstein said. “There are so many different points of view, and it all depends upon who you talk to the kind of response you get.”
Feinstein noted that her critics last year, including the entire Bay Area congressional delegation, charged that she didn’t vet her bill “with anybody, so this was done in secret.”
“It was not done in secret — it was never done in secret. It’s impossible to do it in secret,” Feinstein said. “What they may have meant was, ‘Well, she didn’t give us veto over the bill.'”
This year, Feinstein incorporated ideas from Bay Area lawmakers, including a bill by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, to send federal money to cities that want to start water-recycling projects.
Feinstein said she had combed the state for ideas, consulting every major interest group as well as government policymakers and agencies. “I have talked to more than a dozen environmental groups, I’ve sent my staff out to almost 50 different projects in the state to look at them, I met with the governor and his staff, we met with farm groups,” the senator said.
This year, Feinstein said, she wanted to take a longer view that incorporates climate change and the likelihood that California’s droughts will become harsher and more frequent.
“It’s evident to me that we can’t depend on the Sierra Nevada snowpack, that this is a disappearing phenomenon, and it’s apparent to me we’re an ocean state,” Feinstein said. “We’ve got water all along one side, and desalination becomes an obvious alternative.” A $1 billion desalination plant under construction in Carlsbad (San Diego County) has caught the attention of both Feinstein and Boxer. It will be the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere and serve more than 110,000 customers in San Diego County.
Desalination is an expensive source of water, using vast amounts of electricity whose generation contributes to global warming. Intake valves in the ocean can disturb marine life. But advances in the technology have made it appealing to coastal cities with limited access to the big federal and state projects that deliver water from interior rivers.
A cyclist and vehicles negotiate heavily flooded streets as rain falls, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in Miami Beach, Fla.
BY KATIE VALENTINE JUL 28, 2015 12:57PM
Climate change is set to hit the Southeast United States and Texas hard. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Risky Business Project, a nonprofit that focuses on the economic impacts of climate change. The report, which focused on 12 states — 11 states in the Southeastern United States plus Texas — found that the increased heat and humidity that these states are expected to experience as the climate changes will put the region’s recent manufacturing boom at risk….
By TRIP GABRIEL and CORAL DAVENPORT NY Times July 27, 2015
Focusing on an issue that resonates with Democrats, Mrs. Clinton set a goal to produce 33 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027.
The Democratic frontrunner’s solar proposal has major holes if she hopes to halt global warming. What would a real climate-change candidate look like?
Wednesday 29 July 2015 15.50 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 29 July 2015 16.19 EDT
Hillary Clinton’s pledge on Sunday to support renewable energy and boost subsidies for solar panels was set up as a great unveiling – the Democratic frontrunner’s first public remarks on how her presidency would tackle climate change. Clinton’s first climate change policy pitch – for renewables to provide 33% of the nation’s electricity by 2027 – is bold, but the US must look beyond solar for a clean energy revolution
“I personally believe climate change is a challenge of such magnitude and urgency that we need a president who will set ambitious goals,” she said in a video posted to her campaign website. It wasn’t difficult to draw a sigh of relief from the progressive electorate that has heard only climate change denial – loud and triumphal – from Republican frontrunners. (Ted Cruz proudly announced in May that he had just come from New Hampshire, where there was “ice and snow everywhere”. Trump took up the issue with typical savoir faire on Monday, declining to call climate change by name: “I call it weather.”)
But for many who study climate change, Clinton’s proposal lacked the ambition and sense of urgency appropriate to the scale of the problem. In her initial policy proposal, Clinton pledged tax incentives that would help install half a billion solar panels nationwide within four years of taking office. She also pledged that the US would generate enough renewable energy to power every home in the country by 2027.
Environmentalist Bill McKibben said that while Clinton’s support for solar was necessary, it was far from a comprehensive energy policy. “Much of the impact of her climate plan was undercut the next day by her unwillingness to talk about the supply side of the equation,” he said. “Ducking questions about the Canadian tar sands or drilling in the Arctic makes everyone worry we’re going to see eight more years of an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, which is what we do not need to hear in the hottest year ever measured on our planet.” McKibben is not alone in criticizing Clinton’s energy policy for sounding like too little too late.
“It’s just plain silly,” said James Hansen, a climate change researcher who headed Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for over 30 years. “No, you cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest. Subsidizing solar panels is not going to solve the problem….
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Posted: 27 Jul 2015 12:37 PM PDT
Estimates of how much nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas and stratospheric ozone-depleting substance, is being emitted in the central United States have been too low by as much as 40 percent, a new study shows.
August 7, 2015
Shell Oil will not renew its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, citing differences with the controversial corporate lobbying group over the issue of climate change…
Posted: Friday, June 5, 2015, 4:52 PM By Michael Parr Opinion
When the Department of Energy released a report last month championing the construction of larger, more-powerful wind turbines, the wind industry unsurprisingly greeted the news with enthusiasm. By extending the “hub-height” of turbines up to 360 feet, the chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association said, wind energy could expand to all 50 states. Less ardent was the association’s response to well-documented concerns by scientists over the half-million birds that die each year from collisions with existing turbines: Some migrating birds, a spokesman said, fly too high to be harmed by rotor blades. Indeed. Some birds do fly very high. But far more travel at the very altitudes that would put them at greatest risk of colliding with these taller turbines. The risk is especially high during spring and fall, when migrating birds take to the skies in billions, many traveling vast distances between their wintering and breeding grounds. A new report last month from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls into question the wind industry’s assertion that birds fly well above wind turbines’ rotor blades. Using radar, researchers examined fall migration at two locations in Michigan. They found that the greatest density of birds and bats migrating at night occurred from 300 to 500 feet above ground. That’s almost directly at hub-height for the new generation of giant turbines. ….
Using Climate Science to Plan for a Resilient Future
August 24-25, 2015 Sacramento Convention Center
IPCC, Cal Natural Resources Agency, Cal EPA
- Facilitate the production, adoption and application of climate science with respect to California policy and local governance
- Provide a forum for sharing recent science and practical applications relevant to climate change impacts and vulnerability
- Foster the translation of regional climate change research into policy solutions
- Expand support for climate science research with applications to California’s environment, public health and economy
- Facilitate collaboration across scientific research fields and public policy silos
Are you interested in how climate change might impact your work? Interested in integrating climate change into your planning and management activities? Curious to know how others are integrating climate change science into planning and projects? On September 23rd The San Diego Management & Monitoring Program and the San Diego Climate Science Alliance are hosting a symposium of Climate-Smart Conservation case studies from the coast of Southern California. Speakers from across the region will present cutting edge efforts to collaboratively support integration of climate change effects into natural resource management. Presentations will be followed by a roundtable discussion highlighting additional local efforts to integrate climate considerations into management actions. Learn more http://californialcc.org/events/climate-smart-conservation-case-studies-southern-california-coast
This October, CalCoast™ and its allies in government, academia, and the private sector (including Strategic Advocacy Partners) will hold “Drought Symposium 15,” tentatively scheduled for Oct 20-21. We have been scouting sites in Ontario, CA; San Diego, CA; and Orange County. The symposium will focus on the drought and climate change and the mechanics of updating LCPs and General Plans, as well as how to deal with relevant statutes and regulations. CalCoast’s well-attended “Coastal Symposium 15” focused on the science of sea level rise and climate change, but due to positive feedback, and the high profile climate change and the drought have in the news (see below). The symposium will:
- Focus on practical solutions and strategies to address the California drought and climate change, such as replacement of landscaped medians, other public areas, and residential lawns with artificial turf and low-water vegetation;
- Feature recognized experts from the public and private sectors discussing innovative water conservation and water management techniques;
- Discuss the mechanics of updating General Plans and other policy documents including LCPs;
- Address drought-related statutes and regulations;
- Showcase implementation and adaptation plans from experts involved in the process.
A call for presentations will be circulated soon, but if you have an idea for a presentation or (better yet) a whole panel (90 mins), please send a message to Steve Aceti at email@example.com and John Helmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your organization is interested in becoming a sponsor or exhibitor for Drought Symposium 15, please send a message to Gracie Parisi, CalCoast’s COO, at email@example.com. If you know of any conflicts with other events this October 20-21, please let us know. And stay tuned!
2015 Southwest Climate Summit November 2-3, 2015 Holiday Inn Capital Plaza Sacramento, CA
Join us for the 2015 Southwest Climate Summit when we’ll promote Climate-Smart Conservation by bringing together managers and scientists from across the Southwest to:
- Discover emerging climate science
- Explore adaptive management application
- Share Climate-Smart Conservation results
- Discuss management and policy responses
The California LCC, Southwest Climate Science Center, USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Great Basin LCC, and Desert LCC are hosting the Summit to foster sharing of lessons learned and collaboration across the Southwestern landscape. Click here for more information.
Grand Challenges in Coastal & Estuarine Science: Securing Our Future 8 – 12 November, 2015 Oregon Convention Center | Portland, Oregon
Registration for the CERF 23rd Biennial Conference is now open! The CERF 2015 scientific program offers four days of timely, exciting and diverse information on a vast array of estuarine and coastal subjects. Presentations will examine new findings within CERF’s traditional scientific, education and management disciplines and encourage interaction among coastal and estuarine scientists and managers. Plus, there are plenty of workshops, field trips, and special events to get involved with that will make this conference one you won’t want to miss.
Abstract Submissions are OPEN for the 21st Biennial. We are currently accepting abstract submissions for workshops, oral, speed and poster presentations for the 21st Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, to take place in San Francisco from December 13-18, 2015. The submission deadline is May 15th, 2015. Workshops will be held on December 12-13th.
JOBS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)
The Director of Institutional Philanthropy (Director) will be responsible for securing foundation and agency funding for priority programs, and managing all aspects of Point Blue’s foundation relations. Reporting to the Chief Advancement Officer, the Director will collaborate with the Chief Science Officer, Group Directors, and other organizational leaders on the development and planning of strategic initiatives, assist staff scientists in the production of technical proposals and reports, write foundation proposals and reports, and support the advancement staff in written communications to major donors…
The Sonoran Joint Venture (SJV) Coordinator (vice Robert Mesta, who retired recently) is now out on USA Jobs! It is currently out under Merit Promotion, open only to current, career or career-conditional Department of Interior employees. Please share this widely and with those you may know would be a great fit to help support and lead the joint venture, its award winning team, great Board, and outstanding bi-national partnership for migratory bird conservation. This is one great opportunity for the right individual. Send us your best.
The [CA State] Coastal Conservancy
is pleased to announce a new round of competitive grants to fund multi-benefit watershed restoration and ecosystem protection projects. These grants will be funded by the Proposition 1 Water Bond approved by California voters last fall. The proposal solicitation is on our website and applications are due September 30, 2015.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for restoration projects that further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan (CWAP). For Fiscal Year (FY) 2015-2016, a total of $31.4 million in Proposition 1 funds will be made available through CDFW’s two Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs. The Watershed Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $24 million in projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, while the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $7 million in projects that specifically benefit the Delta….Approved by California voters in November 2014, Proposition 1 provides funds to implement the three broad objectives of the CWAP: establishing more reliable water supplies, restoring important species and habitat, and creating a more resilient, sustainably managed water resources system (water supply, water quality, flood protection and environment) that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades. The FY 2015-2016 Proposal Solicitation Notice, application instructions and other information about the Restoration Grant Programs are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Watersheds/Restoration-Grants. Proposals must be submitted online at https://faast.waterboards.ca.gov/. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 4 p.m.
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
Aug 2, 2015 3:15 PM Victoria Phillips
In what has to be the coolest way to draw attention to a cause, NYC’s Empire State Building was turned into a 40-story canvas Saturday night. Bringing to life manta rays, blue whales, wolves, tigers, and some of the world’s most threatened species, dozens of these majestic creatures were projected hundreds of feet above the streets of New York City in the hope of provoking both discussion and change regarding endangered wildlife. Hoping to shed some light on mass extinction practices, Academy Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos and visual artist Travis Threlkel created a documentary, Racing Extinction, that will air on the Discovery Channel in December. The duo has faith that this “projection event” will serve as a catalyst, opening people’s eyes to the real beauty around us on this planet. The project seems especially timely after the recent poaching of Cecil the lion by an American dentist. Ahead you’ll find these animals in all their glory. We dare you not to be awestruck.
Posted: 28 Jul 2015 06:23 AM PDT
Walk into a science museum, and you may read the words “paleontology” or “astronomy.” But you’re not likely to find the word “agriculture” in any science museum, even though many exhibits relate to agricultural content or practices. This is the conclusion a scientists came to when when she surveyed 29 science museums in cities of all sizes across the U.S.
Posted: 27 Jul 2015 06:25 AM PDT
Cancer can be caused solely by protein imbalances within cells, a study of ovarian cancer has found. The discovery is a major breakthrough because, until now, genetic aberrations have been seen as the main cause of almost all cancer.
Posted: 04 Aug 2015 04:40 AM PDT
What about a more chewable pasta or high protein cookies made with insects? 3-D printed food seems an interesting solution for healthier eating, spending less time to prepare meals and even fighting world hunger. But an avant-garde chef such as Ferran Adrià doesn’t seem that passionate about printing his dishes.…
Posted: 30 Jul 2015 02:26 PM PDT
The importance of a diet rich in fish oils — now a billion dollar food-supplement industry — has been debated for over half a century. A new study questions the relevance of fish oil-derived substances and their purported anti-inflammatory effects in humans.
Posted: 04 Aug 2015 05:26 PM PDT
Eating spicy food more frequently as part of a daily diet is associated with a lower risk of death, suggests a new study. The association was also found for deaths from certain conditions such as cancer, and ischemic heart and respiratory diseases.
Signe Wilkinson 08/02/15
Ellie Cohen, President and CEO
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)
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Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.