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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Archive: Mar 2017

  1. Science not Silence: Point Blue and the March for Science

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    • Science is essential to democracy
    • Scientists should advocate for science
    • Point Blue supports its staff attending the March for Science, April 22, 2017

    March 17, 2017  by Ellie Cohen

    Recent efforts to silence government scientists and decimate research budgets, particularly around climate change, are deeply disturbing. These attacks raise serious questions about the role of scientists in a democracy. Should scientists advocate for science? Or by doing so, do they add to fuel to the fire of partisan politics and weaken public support for science?

    There is a growing movement to speak out within the science community. A recent march in Boston drew thousands with placards including Science not Silence, Science Does Not Discriminate, and Facts Matter. The next focal point is the “March for Science” in Washington, DC and across the country, on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22.  It is endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America, among others.

    Science is inherently non-partisan, built on systematic, transparent and peer-reviewed inquiry and observation.  In that light, I believe scientists should advocate for science and scientific findings. However, there is an enormous divide between how most scientists view the world versus the general public.  Scientists need to significantly improve how we communicate what we do and the value of our work to society.

    The March is an opportunity to instruct and catalyze scientists to reach out across the political and social spectrum. Just as science builds bridges across cultural divides in ways that few other disciplines can, the March for Science offers an opportunity for cross-boundary community-building. It is a chance to tell our stories about how science drives human understanding, economic innovation and our collective well-being.

    The March also provides a platform to communicate the foundational nature of science to a healthy, vibrant democracy. We need to share how science helps humanity discover and illuminate truths upon which policy makers can act to better the lives of the people they serve.

    It seems to me that advocating for science is especially urgent today in the face of accelerating climate change and the loss of ecosystem services which threaten life as we know it.

    Along the lines of Rabbi Hillel’s sage words from 2,000 years ago, if scientists don’t stand up for science, who will? And what better time than now?

  2. TNC distributing $6m for climate-smart land trust efforts in West

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    Conservation group maps land protection strategy in West

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) — …The Nature Conservancy (TNC) says it has $6 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that it’s now distributing among land trusts that must come up with five times the amount in matching funds for approved easements or acquisition… “We’re protecting lands in the three states that are identified as being resilient,” said Ken Popper, senior conservation planner with The Nature Conservancy. “In the short term, we’re looking at wildlife movements and in the long term movements of habitats….”

    …the information is the result of dozens of data sets that include soil maps, vegetation maps, species distribution, moisture, elevation and the locations of roads, powerlines, cities and towns. He said the maps, available to the public, took four years to create at a cost of $350,000. The idea behind the project is for local land trusts to use the information to identify private lands that could be strongholds for species threatened by climate change. “Those refugia areas will allow plants and animals to adapt to climate change as it occurs,” Popper said….

    TNC maps and data available here

  3. Oceans warming 13% faster than thought, warming doubled in last 2 decades

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    New study improves estimates of the rate of ocean warming – a critical component of climate change

    • rate of CO2 into atmosphere 40% higher since 1980
    • ocean is warming about 13% faster than we previously thought.
    • ocean warming has accelerated– from 1992 its is almost 2x warming rate from 1960.
    • it is only since about 1990 that the warming has penetrated to depths below about 700 meters.

    New research has convincingly quantified how much the Earth has warmed over the past 56 years. Human activities utilize fossil fuels for many beneficial purposes but have an undesirable side effect of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates. That increase – of over 40%, with most since 1980 – traps heat in the Earth’s system, warming the entire planet….

    …Since about 2005 a new type of sensing device has been deployed (the Argo float system). These floats (approximately 3500 in total at any time) are spread out across oceans where they autonomously rise and fall in the ocean waters, collecting temperature data to depths of 2000 meters.  When they rise to the ocean surface, they send their data wirelessly to satellites for later analysis. Hence we can now map the ocean heat content quite well…

    …a paper just published today in Science Advances uses a new strategy to improve upon our understanding of ocean heating to estimate the total global warming from 1960 to 2015….shows we are warming about 13% faster than we previously thought. Not only that but the warming has accelerated. The warming rate from 1992 is almost twice as great as the warming rate from 1960. Moreover, it is only since about 1990 that the warming has penetrated to depths below about 700 meters….

  4. Tribute to Science and Democracy: Eight Great Quotes by U.S. Presidents

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    Union of Concerned Scientists Blog by , former analyst, Center for Science & Democracy | July 3, 2013, 2:11 pm EDT

    From George Washington to Barack Obama, in the words of both Republicans and Democrats, our presidents express continuity in their thinking about the essential role of science in American society.  Below are 8 of my favorite quotes and why I think each one is important. I invite you to share your favorite patriotic quotes about science and democracy in the comments…

    ….2)           “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” James Madison. Epilogue: Securing the Republic. Chapter 18.

    Madison rocks!! That is all. Go read the quote again. Madison wouldn’t know what “rocks” means, but he’d ask questions and figure it out. We need the tools to do that, too. In today’s world, access to “popular information” means transparency. It means public access to information—this kind and this kind. It means education. It means science literacy, effective science communication, and scientists engaging with policy makers and fellow citizens every chance they get.

    1)           “Now and in the years ahead, we need, more than anything else, the honest and uncompromising common sense of science. Science means a method of thought. That method is characterized by open-mindedness, honesty, perseverance, and, above all, by an unflinching passion for knowledge and truth. When more of the peoples of the world have learned the ways of thought of the scientist, we shall have better reason to expect lasting peace and a fuller life for all.” Harry S. Truman, “Address to the Centennial Anniversary AAAS Annual Meeting (1948)”

    What I like about Truman’s message is its democratizing spirit. Truman is saying that you don’t have to be a scientist in order to think like one.  And he is saying that those qualities—those habits of mind—that bring us greater scientific knowledge are the same that bring us greater peace and prosperity.

    To life, liberty, and the pursuit of science!

  5. Climate change: How do we know? NASA

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    The Evidence on NASA’s website

    The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

    Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
    – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 

    The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.1

    Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.

    The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.

    Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.3

    The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:


    Sea level rise

    • Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century

      Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.4Image: Republic of Maldives: Vulnerable to sea level rise


    Global temperature rise

    • All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880
      All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880.5 Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.7

    Warming oceans

    • The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969
      The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.8

    Shrinking ice sheets

    • The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass

      The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.Image: Flowing meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet


    Declining Arctic sea ice

    • Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades

      Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.9Image: Visualization of the 2007 Arctic sea ice minimum


    Glacial retreat

    • Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.

      Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.10 Image: The disappearing snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro, from space.


    Extreme events

    • Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
      The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.11

    Ocean acidification

    • Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent
      Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent.12,13 This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.14,15

    Decreased snow cover

    • Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier
      Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.16

    References

    1. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers, p. 5

      B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere,” Nature vol 382, 4 July 1996, 39-46

      Gabriele C. Hegerl, “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method,” Journal of Climate, v. 9, October 1996, 2281-2306

      V. Ramaswamy et.al., “Anthropogenic and Natural Influences in the Evolution of Lower Stratospheric Cooling,” Science 311 (24 February 2006), 1138-1141

      B.D. Santer et.al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes,” Science vol. 301 (25 July 2003), 479-483.

    2. In the 1860s, physicist John Tyndall recognized the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and suggested that slight changes in the atmospheric composition could bring about climatic variations. In 1896, a seminal paper by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted that changes in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect.

    3. National Research Council (NRC), 2006. Surface Temperature Reconstructions For the Last 2,000 Years. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

      http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page3.php

    4. Church, J. A. and N.J. White (2006), A 20th century acceleration in global sea level rise, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L01602, doi:10.1029/2005GL024826.

      The global sea level estimate described in this work can be downloaded from the CSIRO website.

    5. http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20160120/  
      T.C. Peterson et.al., “State of the Climate in 2008,” Special Supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 90, no. 8, August 2009, pp. S17-S18.

    6. I. Allison et.al., The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science, UNSW Climate Change Research Center, Sydney, Australia, 2009, p. 11

      http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20100121/

      http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/ 01apr_deepsolarminimum.htm

    7. Levitus, et al, “Global ocean heat content 1955–2008 in light of recently revealed instrumentation problems,” Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L07608 (2009).

    8. L. Polyak, et.al., “History of Sea Ice in the Arctic,” in Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitudes, U.S. Geological Survey, Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Product 1.2, January 2009, chapter 7

      R. Kwok and D. A. Rothrock, “Decline in Arctic sea ice thickness from submarine and ICESAT records: 1958-2008,” Geophysical Research Letters, v. 36, paper no. L15501, 2009

      http://nsidc.org/sotc/sea_ice.html

    9. C. L. Sabine et.al., “The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2,” Science vol. 305 (16 July 2004), 367-371

    10. National Snow and Ice Data Center

      C. Derksen and R. Brown, “Spring snow cover extent reductions in the 2008-2012 period exceeding climate model projections,” GRL, 39:L19504

      http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/snow_extent.html

      Rutgers University Global Snow Lab, Data History Accessed August 29, 2011.

  6. New Bipartisan Congressional Caucus Formed to Support Our Nation’s Estuaries

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    Restore America’s Estuaries  Full article here
    WASHINGTON, DC – March 6 2017

    U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rick Larsen (D- WA) have founded and will serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Estuary Caucus in the 115th Congress. The new caucus will give our nation’s estuaries a stronger voice and presence in Washington by uniting lawmakers from across the country in support of these critical ecosystems. For years Congress has worked in bipartisan fashion to implement and support initiatives aimed at protecting the many unique estuaries in the United States. To date, a total of 27 House Members from around the nation have joined the new Congressional Estuary Caucus….

  7. Climate study: More intense and frequent severe rainstorms likely

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    Climate study: More intense and frequent severe rainstorms likely

    Posted: 07 Mar 2017 07:03 AM PST

    A climate scientist confirms that more intense and more frequent severe rainstorms will likely continue as temperatures rise due to global warming, despite some observations that seem to suggest otherwise…

    Guiling Wang, Dagang Wang, Kevin E. Trenberth, Amir Erfanian, Miao Yu, Michael G. Bosilovich, Dana T. Parr. The peak structure and future changes of the relationships between extreme precipitation and temperature. Nature Climate Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3239

  8. Diet and global climate change

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    Diet and global climate change

    Posted: 08 Mar 2017 12:44 PM PST

    Eating healthier food could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, suggests a new study. As it turns out, some relatively small diet tweaks could add up to significant inroads in addressing climate change….To create healthier model diets, the researchers altered the standard 2,000-calorie-a-day U.S. diet, changing the sources of about half of those calories. The different model diets progressively reduced the amount of red and processed meats, with the most stringent diet eliminating them completely. Fruit and vegetable intake was doubled, and peas and beans increased to replace the meat protein removed. Refined grains were partially replaced with whole grains. Added sugar, which Cleveland noted is a known health risk, was not reduced. Neither was dairy, eggs, fish or non-red meat.

    “This means our estimates are probably very conservative, both in terms of health and climate change implications,” Cleveland said. “Just changing half of the diet and including only some of the diseases associated with diets, we found a huge effect. “Food has a tremendous impact on the environment,” he added. “That means that there is enormous potential for our food choices to have positive effects on our environment as well on our health and our health care costs.”…. The food system contributes about 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with the largest proportion coming from animal-based food. In addition, the poor quality of the standard U.S. diet — including high levels of red and processed meat and low levels of fruits and vegetables — is a major factor in a number of preventable diseases. The U.S. spends $3 trillion on health care every year — 18 percent of the gross domestic product — much of it allocated to diseases associated with poor diets…

    Elinor Hallström, Quentin Gee, Peter Scarborough, David A. Cleveland. A healthier US diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both the food and health care systems. Climatic Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-017-1912-5