Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Archive: Mar 2017

  1. It’s true: The sound of nature helps us relax

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    Posted: 30 Mar 2017 10:23 AM PDT  full ScienceDaily article here

    Playing ‘natural sounds’ affects the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects in the resting activity of the brain, new research shows.

    The gentle burbling of a brook, or the sound of the wind in the trees can physically change our mind and bodily systems, helping us to relax. New research explains how, for the first time.

    Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) found that playing ‘natural sounds’ affected the bodily systems that control the flight-or-fright and rest-digest autonomic nervous systems, with associated effects in the resting activity of the brain. While naturalistic sounds and ‘green’ environments have frequently been linked with promoting relaxation and wellbeing, until now there has been no scientific consensus as to how these effects come about. The study has been published in Scientific Reports…..

    When listening to natural sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an outward-directed focus of attention; when listening to artificial sounds, the brain connectivity reflected an inward-directed focus of attention, similar to states observed in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. There was also an increase in rest-digest nervous system activity (associated with relaxation of the body) when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds, and better performance in an external attentional monitoring task.

    Interestingly, the amount of change in nervous system activity was dependant on the participants’ baseline state: Individuals who showed evidence of the greatest stress before starting the experiment showed the greatest bodily relaxation when listening to natural sounds, while those who were already relaxed in the brain scanner environment showed a slight increase in stress when listening to natural compared with artificial sounds.

    …Artist Mark Ware commented, “Art-science collaborations can be problematic, often due to a lack of shared knowledge and language (scientific and artistic), but the team at BSMS has generously sought common ground, which has resulted in this exciting and successful outcome. We have plans to continue collaborating and I am keen to explore how the results of this work might be applied to the creation and understanding of time-based art (installations, multimedia performance, and film) for the benefit of people in terms of wellbeing and health.”

    Cassandra D. Gould van Praag, Sarah N. Garfinkel, Oliver Sparasci, Alex Mees, Andrew O. Philippides, Mark Ware, Cristina Ottaviani, Hugo D. Critchley. Mind-wandering and alterations to default mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sounds. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 45273 DOI: 10.1038/srep45273

  2. Reframing climate programs in an era of denial: Lessons from Australia

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    By Lisa Cornish 22 March 2017  see full article here

    …Following Australia’s first budget under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Australia similarly saw climate change shifted off the agenda. Its impact on the aid budget saw climate change downplayed as a priority, with terms trickling into programs associated with natural disasters, food security and agriculture.

    The impact of the U.S. decision, which essentially denies the global challenges of climate change, will be dramatically felt in African nations suffering from drought and famine and Pacific Island nations disappearing under rising the rising sea level.

    Unless climate programs are reframed. Here’s how.

    From climate adaption to disaster resilience

    For Pacific Island countries, climate adaption can include preparing for the increasing onset of natural disasters by building infrastructure, response systems and strategies. It can also include preparing communities with health-related training and equipment to save lives following a natural disaster.

    The concern of not investing in these program is that unprepared communities will see loss of life and more money will be required to help them to recover. These are important programs to continue.

    By reframing climate adaptation programs as disaster resilience programs, the conversation can change to responding to natural disasters in a cheaper and more effective manner — before the disaster hits and large sums of money are required as part of a humanitarian response.

    From clean energy and low emissions to economical living

    An important component of the aid program is clean energy projects focused on delivering solar and renewable power, services, and technology to people living in remote and rural communities.

    A key factor in the success of these programs is not only their ability to deliver green solutions, but their approach to delivering critical infrastructure without building large systems delivering to entire regions or countries.

    And they are important in building agricultural capability, empowering women, creating strong economies and building future trading partners.

    The economic feasibility of these programs may be an important factor in maintaining them in the long and short term.

    From climate science to knowledge sharing

    While there will never be a replacement for direct funds to countries, adjusting scientific programs that encourage knowledge sharing could reduce program budgets while building capacity in developing countries.

    Monitoring carbon emissions, mapping forests and monitoring changes to flora and fauna requires specialized knowledge that should exist within a developing country for sustainability of a program.

    It is not only financially beneficial but can create ongoing mentoring networks maintained after programs end.

    A focus on food security and building agriculture markets

    The ability to feed future populations is directly linked to farming communities adapting to changing climate and environmental conditions. But if we keep climate out of it, we can focus purely on the ability to deliver new approaches and measures to generate higher yield from crops and produce nutritious options to prevent a range of diseases, including those associated with obesity.

    Increasing yield and the quality of outputs not only improves the ability to feed global populations, it builds agricultural markets and stronger economies in developing countries.

    Food security programs, meanwhile, not only secure future food needs of developing countries, but also of Americans.

    Link programs to global and regional stability

    For a president strong on security at home, there is convincing research to link climate-related development issues to social, economic and political instability, which can also build ferment.

    Reframing climate programs to link their operations to reducing instability and improving safety of Americans may get the positive attention it needs.

    In the end, climate change programs can achieve a lot, and changing terminology and key phrases may mean the difference between programs being maintained or cut in the predicted aid budget slash.

  3. House Republicans climate resolution and bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

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    19 House Republicans call on their party to do something about climate change

    March 20 2017 the Guardian

    With the Republican Climate Resolution, Climate Solutions Caucus, and Climate Leadership Council, Republicans are trying to end their party’s climate denial… 19 House Republicans have taken steps to pull the party in the direction of reality, and the need to combat the threats posed by human-caused climate change.

    The Republican Climate Resolution

    Last week, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), and Congressman Ryan Costello (R-PA) led a group of 17 House Republicans in introducing a resolution that calls on Congress to develop policies to tackle climate change.

    The Republican Climate Resolution recognizes that environmental stewardship is a conservative principle, that policies should be based on scientific evidence and quantifiable facts, that climate change is having negative impacts and is viewed by the Department of Defense as a threat multiplier, and that we can and must take meaningful action to address these threats in a manner that doesn’t constrain the American economy:

    …be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.

    The Resolution has thus far been signed by House Republicans representing districts in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Nebraska, Virginia, New Jersey, Utah, Washington, and South Carolina.

    The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

    Eleven of the Resolution’s signatories are also members of the Climate Solutions Caucus, as are Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who have not yet signed the Resolution. The Climate Solutions Caucus is a bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives – currently comprised of 13 Republicans and 13 Democrats – that explores policy options to address climate change.

    Caucus members include some prominent conservative Republicans. Darrell Issa is the former chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Mia Love is viewed as a rising star in the party. Love featured in an episode of the acclaimed program Years of Living Dangerously….

  4. Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

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    Posted: 22 Mar 2017 11:31 AM PDT see full ScienceDaily article here

    The Arctic sea ice maximum extent and Antarctic minimum extent are both record lows this year. Combined, sea ice numbers are at their lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979.…”There’s a lot of year-to-year variability in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, but overall, until last year, the trends in the Antarctic for every single month were toward more sea ice,” said Claire Parkinson, a senior sea ice researcher at Goddard. “Last year was stunningly different, with prominent sea ice decreases in the Antarctic. To think that now the Antarctic sea ice extent is actually reaching a record minimum, that’s definitely of interest


    Arctic sea ice hit a record low wintertime maximum extent in 2017. At 5.57 million square miles, it is the lowest maximum extent in the satellite record, and 455,600 square miles below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum extent.
    Credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/L. Perkins

     

  5. Large Sections of Australia’s Great Reef Are Dead Due to Ocean Warming, Scientists Find

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    Washington Post March 19 2017  See full article here

    THE MEASURED warming of the planet is not hypothetical. Nor are its effects, which are happening now, not decades from now. An ecological catastrophe is unfolding off Australia’s coast: Humans are killing the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, and there’s nothing Australians on their own can do about it. We are all responsible.

    An ocean water temperature spike last year caused a massive “bleaching” event, in which colorful corals turned an antiseptic, sickly white. Scientists believe that the reef will never be the same.

    The chances of the northern Great Barrier Reef returning to its pre-bleaching assemblage structure are slim given the scale of damage that occurred in 2016 and the likelihood of a fourth bleaching event occurring within the next decade or two as global temperatures continue to rise,” a major new study in the journal Nature reported last week….

    ….Alarmingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the Australian government reports that sections of the reef are getting slammed again this year….

    There is little doubt that temperature is the culprit. Reefs far away from human runoff and other local risks are suffering. Corals in pristine water bleached just like those in dirty water. The Nature study quantified a relationship between exposure to warm water and the severity of observed bleaching.

    “Immediate global action to curb future warming is essential to secure a future for coral reefs,” the study warned. “Water quality and fishing pressure had minimal effect on the unprecedented bleaching in 2016, suggesting that local protection of reefs affords little or no resistance to extreme heat. Similarly, past exposure to bleaching in 1998 and 2002 did not lessen the severity of bleaching in 2016.”…

  6. Climate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts

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    March 21 2017

    The year 2016 made history, with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.

    WMO issued its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate ahead of World Meteorological Day on 23 March. It is based on multiple international datasets maintained independently by global climate analysis centres and information submitted by dozens of WMO Members National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and Research Institutes and is an authoritative source of reference. Because the social and economic impacts of climate change have become so important, WMO partnered with other United Nations organizations for the first time this year to include information on these impacts. WMO also prepared an interactive story map to highlight some of the main trends and events in 2016.

    This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas….

  7. Global CO2 emissions are flat for 3rd year, but need decline

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    • CO2 emissions globally have been level 3 years in a row
    • CO2 emissions decoupling from economy as new energy sources emerge
    • CO2 emissions need to decline; only 50 years left to get to zero

    Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter Monday, March 20, 2017  Full story here

    For the third year in a row, the carbon dioxide emissions that drive climate change worldwide have been level. The emissions pause is particularly noteworthy because it comes despite a growing global economy, the International Energy Agency announced. That’s a sign that carbon emissions are “decoupling” from the economy as other sources of energy come online.

    Researchers measured 32.1 metric gigatons of CO2 emissions in 2016, the same as in the previous two years. That’s even as the global economy grew 3.1 percent. The stagnation, according to IEA, is due to the growth of renewable energy, more switching from coal to natural gas, improved energy efficiency programs, and additional nuclear facilities coming online.

    … Emissions declined in both the United States and China, and stayed level in Europe. That’s because of increased natural gas usage and a reduction in coal usage in the United States and China. Dangerous smog levels in major cities have also forced the Chinese government to crack down on air pollution. In the United States, emissions dropped 3 percent, to the lowest level since 1992, as the economy grew 1.6 percent. In China, emissions declined 1 percent, while the economy grew 6.7 percent. The country also expanded the reliance of its electrical grid on hydro and wind sources as well as nuclear.

    Three years without emissions growth is notable, but it needs to be turned into a decline, said Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo in Norway. He said the ultimate goal is to get to zero, and there’s only about 50 years left to hit that target.

    “It’s a meaningful first start, some baby steps; we’re starting to turn around and look at walking in the right direction,” he said. “If emissions are going to go down, they’ve got to go flat first, so this is the first step, so the important thing is to make sure they don’t start rising again. The next thing is to concentrate on making sure they go downwards.”…

  8. New podcast ‘Evidence Squared’ on communicating science

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    New podcast ‘Evidence Squared’ on communicating science by John Cook & Peter Jacobs

    Posted on 29 March 2017 by John Cook skepticalscience.com

    Since arriving in the US two months ago, I’ve been developing a podcast with Peter Jacobs, a PhD student studying paleoclimate at George Mason University. While there are a number of podcasts about climate change, there were no podcasts about the science of science communication, how to talk about climate change. Today, we’ve launched our podcast, Evidence Squared.

    You can check us out on iTunes and listen to our first four episodes (more on those in a moment). Be sure to subscribe and rate us!

  9. Backcountry Drug War: growing pot on public lands puts wildlife, water and people at risk

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    Backcountry Drug War

    In the Golden State, dangerous drug cartels are growing pot on public lands—putting wildlife, water supplies, and outdoor enthusiasts at grave risk.

    03.28.17…A combination of ideal growing weather and proximity to tens of millions of potential customers has always made northern California a great place to grow dope. California was the first to permit medical marijuana, in 1996, and this past November, residents voted “yes” on Prop 64, making California the fifth state to legalize recreational pot. Almost two-thirds of the country’s total legal harvest comes from the Golden State. The crop brought in $2.8 billion in 2015, putting it somewhere between lettuce and grapes, and some estimates project the state’s “green gold rush” could become a $6.5 billion market by 2020.

    Even as California embraces the booming legal marijuana market, though, it is also seeing an explosion in illegal cultivation, much of it on the state’s vast and remote stretches of public land. National forests and even national parks have seen a surge in large-scale illegal “trespass grows,” some with tens of thousands of plants spread across dozens of acres. As much as 80 percent of illegal pot eradicated in California is grown on federal lands, and that’s just the fraction that authorities find….