Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Of Interest

  1. Eclipse Days Bring High Tides; Extra-High Tides Are a Preview of Sea Level Rise

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    Post your photos here- iSeeChange August 21 2017 

    Rising sea levels are already starting to flood our coastal communities. You can spot signs of change on days when the tides are extra high – as they will be on August 21, 2017, the day of a total solar eclipse.

    Extra-High Tides Are a Preview of Sea Level Rise

    Enhanced high tides happen when the sun, Earth, and moon are in near-perfect alignment, as they are every month during the full and new moon phases. At those times, the moon and Sun’s gravity add up to an extra “pull” on the Earth, making our planet’s oceans bulge more than normal. Those extra-high tides can cause flooding in homes and streets along the coast, giving us a preview of how sea-level rise will affect our communities in the future.

    How You Can Help

    Take pictures of high tides and flooding on August 21. Where do you see flooding? How does flooding affect your routine?

  2. Cartoons

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     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons

    2017 Poster 32


    It's easier to think about sex than climate change.

    2017 Toon 32

  3. Positive Disruption: LIMITING GLOBAL TEMPERATURE RISE TO WELL BELOW 2 Cº; focus on energy, ag and land use

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    From the intro:

    Today, many experts doubt that energy systems can decarbonize fast enough to prevent this scenario. But this belief is both dangerous and wrong—dangerous because despair undercuts the will to act; and wrong because this view does not take into account events already taking place that indicate a possible pathway to a rapid energy transition.

    This paper describes scenarios for transitions in energy, agriculture, and land use that together are sufficient to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5–2 C°. Unlike conventional modeling approaches, these scenarios entail patterns of disruption, innovation, and nonlinear change, harnessed at global scale, that mirror the episodic and disruptive ways that individual industries and the economy as a whole have changed historically. The great transitions in the economy, such as the Industrial Revolution, have been driven by such self-reinforcing patterns of change. Their signs are all around us….

  4. Earth Optimism Summit 2017- videos available

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    Smithsonian Conservation Commons
    April 21-23, 2017

    see full listing of videos and speakers here

    What’s Working in Conservation

    Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution in the area of global conservation with an unprecedented gathering of thought leaders, scientists, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders and international media.

    The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. We have documented the fast pace of habitat loss, the growing number of endangered and extinct species, and the increasing speed of global climate change. Yet while the seriousness of these threats cannot be denied, there are a growing number of examples of improvements in the health of species and ecosystems, along with benefits to human well-being, thanks to our conservation actions. Earth Optimism is a global initiative that celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability.

  5. US cats and dogs cause 25-30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in this country

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    The truth about cats’ and dogs’ environmental impact

    • Researcher finds that feeding pets creates the equivalent of 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year

    Posted: 02 Aug 2017 11:28 AM PDT  UCLA

    US cats and dogs cause 25-30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in this country. The nation’s 163 million cats and dogs eat as much food as all the people in France. People should keep their pets — and keep feeding them meat — but there may be steps pet owners can take to reduce their environmental impact, says a researcher.

    …”A dog doesn’t need to eat steak,” Okin said. “A dog can eat things a human sincerely can’t. So what if we could turn some of that pet food into people chow?”

    A commitment to snout-to-tail consumption, where as much rendered product as possible is produced for human use, could significantly reduce national meat consumption. Okin estimates that if even a quarter of the meat in pet food could be consumed by humans, it would equal the amount of meat consumed by 26 million Americans, nearly the population of Texas…

    Gregory S. Okin. Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (8): e0181301 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181301

  6. New poll shows Californians strongly support new climate laws

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    • Strong majorities of California adults (72%) and likely voters (66%) favor the new state law mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions; 56% of adults and 49% of likely voters support the state’s cap-and-trade program.
    • Half of Californians believe state climate policies will lead to more jobs, while most (54%) expect gas prices to rise.

    Casey Tolan July 26 2017 Mercury News see full article here

    Most Californians support the state’s policies fighting climate change — and they want state leaders to go further, a poll [by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California] released Wednesday found.

    More than half of state residents say they found it very important for California to act as a leader on climate change around the world, and two-thirds supported the state making its own climate change policies beyond those implemented by the federal government, according to a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

    “Californians continue to believe that global warming is a threat not just to the world but to quality of life and the economy in California, and they support the path that the state is on,” said Mark Baldassare, the president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute. The results suggest a strong endorsement for the strategy of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has traveled around the world to ink climate deals while also fighting for new climate change policies at home.

    An overwhelming majority of state residents are supportive of a legislative effort to power all of the state’s electricity grid through renewable sources. Senate Bill 100, which passed the State Senate in May and is expected to be debated in the Assembly next month, would require that 100 percent of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources like wind or solar power by 2045. 76 percent of adults and 71 percent of likely voters approve of that requirement — including 81 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans, the poll found.

    Half of Californians also say they’re personally willing to pay more for electricity in order to pitch in and help fight global warming, and 54 percent said they expect gas prices to rise because of the state’s climate policies.

    …And the poll found an all-time low in support for offshore drilling along the California coast — just 25 percent of residents are in favor, while 69 percent are opposed….

  7. The Uninhabitable Earth- what the science says about climate change and our future; “we should be alarmed” [must read]

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    • The science says climate change threatens nearly every aspect of human life on this planet, and that inaction will hasten the problems. In that context, I don’t think it’s a slur to call an article, or its writer, alarmist. I’ll accept that characterization. We should be alarmed….

    By David Wallace-Wells, July 14, 2017  see full article here

    We published “The Uninhabitable Earth” on Sunday night, and the response since has been extraordinary …..we are publishing here a version of the article filled with research annotations. …

    … I also believe very firmly in the set of propositions that animated the project from the start: that the public does not appreciate the scale of climate risk; that this is in part because we have not spent enough time contemplating the scarier half of the distribution curve of possibilities, especially its brutal long tail, or the risks beyond sea-level rise; that there is journalistic and public-interest value in spreading the news from the scientific community, no matter how unnerving it may be; and that, when it comes to the challenge of climate change, public complacency is a far, far bigger problem than widespread fatalism — that many, many more people are not scared enough than are already “too scared.” In fact, I don’t even understand what “too scared” would mean. The science says climate change threatens nearly every aspect of human life on this planet, and that inaction will hasten the problems. In that context, I don’t think it’s a slur to call an article, or its writer, alarmist. I’ll accept that characterization. We should be alarmed….

    Original article annoted:

    I. ‘Doomsday’

    Peering beyond scientific reticence.

    It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

    Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

    ….we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over…

    What follows is not a series of predictions of what will happen — that will be determined in large part by the much-less-certain science of human response. Instead, it is a portrait of our best understanding of where the planet is heading absent aggressive action. It is unlikely that all of these warming scenarios will be fully realized, largely because the devastation along the way will shake our complacency. But those scenarios, and not the present climate, are the baseline. In fact, they are our schedule.

    II. Heat Death

    The bahraining of New York.

    III. The End of Food

    Praying for cornfields in the tundra.

    ….The droughts in the American plains and Southwest would not just be worse than in the 1930s, a 2015 NASA study predicted, but worse than any droughts in a thousand years — and that includes those that struck between 1100 and 1300, which “dried up all the rivers East of the Sierra Nevada mountains” and may have been responsible for the death of the Anasazi civilization.

    …Remember, we do not live in a world without hunger as it is. Far from it: Most estimates put the number of undernourished at 800 million globally. Technically, the World Hunger Organization puts the number at 795 million. In case you haven’t heard this spring has already brought an unprecedented quadruple famine to Africa and the Middle East; the U.N. has warned that separate starvation events in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen could kill 20 million this year alone….

    IV. Climate Plagues

    What happens when the bubonic ice melts?

    What concerns epidemiologists more than ancient diseases are existing scourges relocated, rewired, or even re-evolved by warming…Today, even with globalization and the enormous intermingling of human populations, our ecosystems are mostly stable, and this functions as another limit, but global warming will scramble those ecosystems and help disease trespass those limits as surely as Cortés did. You don’t worry much about dengue or malaria if you are living in Maine or France. But as the tropics creep northward and mosquitoes migrate with them, you will. You didn’t much worry about Zika a couple of years ago, either…..

    But there are things we do know for sure about how climate affects some diseases: Malaria, for instance, thrives in hotter regions not just because the mosquitoes that carry it do, too, but because for every degree increase in temperature, the parasite reproduces ten times faster…

    V. Unbreathable Air

    A rolling death smog that suffocates millions.

    Our lungs need oxygen, but that is only a fraction of what we breathe. The fraction of carbon dioxide is growing: It just crossed 400 parts per million, and high-end estimates extrapolating from current trends suggest it will hit 1,000 ppm by 2100..At that concentration, compared to the air we breathe now, human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent.

    VI. Perpetual War

    The violence baked into heat.

    For every half-degree of warming, they say, societies will see between a 10 and 20 percent increase in the likelihood of armed conflict...A planet five degrees warmer would have at least half again as many wars as we do today. Overall, social conflict could more than double this century

    VII. Permanent Economic Collapse

    Dismal capitalism in a half-poorer world.

    ….a growing number of historians studying what they call “fossil capitalism” have begun to suggest that the entire history of swift economic growth, which began somewhat suddenly in the 18th century, is not the result of innovation or trade or the dynamics of global capitalism but simply our discovery of fossil fuels and all their raw power — a onetime injection of new “value” into a system that had previously been characterized by global subsistence living. Before fossil fuels, nobody lived better than their parents or grandparents or ancestors from 500 years before, except in the immediate aftermath of a great plague like the Black Death, which allowed the lucky survivors to gobble up the resources liberated by mass graves. After we’ve burned all the fossil fuels, these scholars suggest, perhaps we will return to a “steady state” global economy. Of course, that onetime injection has a devastating long-term cost: climate change…Hsiang and his colleagues estimate a one-in-eight chance of an ongoing and irreversible effect by the end of the century that is eight times worse

    …The scale of that economic devastation is hard to comprehend, but you can start by imagining what the world would look like today with an economy half as big, which would produce only half as much value, generating only half as much to offer the workers of the world. It makes the grounding of flights out of heat-stricken Phoenix last month seem like pathetically small economic potatoes. And, among other things, it makes the idea of postponing government action on reducing emissions and relying solely on growth and technology to solve the problem an absurd business calculation.  Every round-trip ticket on flights from New York to London, keep in mind, costs the Arctic three more square meters of ice….

    VIII. Poisoned Oceans

    Sulfide burps off the skeleton coast.

    Barring a radical reduction in emissions, we will see at least four feet of sea-level rise and possibly ten by the end of the century….even those above ten feet will flood much more easily, and much more regularly, if the water gets that high… At least 600 million people live within ten meters of sea level today.

    ..more than a third of the world’s carbon is sucked up by the oceans… ocean acidification…coral bleaching…

    …Carbon absorption can initiate a feedback loop in which underoxygenated waters breed different kinds of microbes that turn the water still more “anoxic,” first in deep ocean “dead zones,” then gradually up toward the surface….There, the small fish die out, unable to breathe, which means oxygen-eating bacteria thrive, and the feedback loop doubles back. This process, in which dead zones grow like cancers, choking off marine life and wiping out fisheries, is already quite advanced in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and just off Namibia, where hydrogen sulfide is bubbling out of the sea along a thousand-mile stretch of land known as the “Skeleton Coast.”

    Hydrogen sulfide is also the thing that finally did us in that time 97 percent of all life on Earth died once all the feedback loops had been triggered and the circulating jet streams of a warmed ocean ground to a halt-— it’s the planet’s preferred gas for a natural holocaust. Gradually, the ocean’s dead zones spread, killing off marine species that had dominated the oceans for hundreds of millions of years, and the gas the inert waters gave off into the atmosphere poisoned everything on land. Plants, too. It was millions of years before the oceans recovered.

    IX. The Great Filter

    Our present eeriness cannot last.

    So why can’t we see it?….Probably not, because the dilemmas and dramas of climate change are simply incompatible with the kinds of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, especially in novels, which tend to emphasize the journey of an individual conscience rather than the poisonous miasma of social fate…

    But more than half of the carbon humanity has [dumped] into the atmosphere in its entire history has been emitted in just the past three decades; since the end of World War II, the figure is 85 percent...Which means that, in the length of a single generation, global warming has brought us to the brink of planetary catastrophe, and that the story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is also the story of a single lifetime

    The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do

    Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the 1980s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we’ve found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet. But when we do truly see the world we’ve made, they say, we will also find a way to make it livable. For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable.


    The 10-Book ‘Uninhabitable Earth’ Reading List


  8. Opinion: Carmageddon is Coming- confluence of smartphone, electric vehicle and artificial intelligence to bring profound technological disruption

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    We’re on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption in transport history

    July 14 2017 Angus Hervey  see full story here

    An overlapping confluence of three different technological waves — the smartphone, the electric vehicle and artificial intelligence — have created the conditions for a technological disruption so profound it’s going to change almost everything about the way we move in modern society….

  9. Incremental steps by individuals offer opportunity to reduce GHGs to prevent 2°C of climate warming

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    Most effective individual steps to tackle climate change aren’t being discussed

    Posted: 11 Jul 2017 06:58 PM PDT

    Governments and schools are not communicating the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their carbon footprints, according to new research. The study found that the incremental changes advocated by governments may represent a missed opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beneath the levels needed to prevent 2°C of climate warming. The four actions that most substantially decrease an individual’s carbon footprint are: eating a plant-based diet [Ed. note: avoiding industrial agriculture meat no regeneratively grown], avoiding air travel, living car-free, and having smaller families.

    The research analysed 39 peer reviewed papers, carbon calculators, and government reports to calculate the potential of a range of individual lifestyle choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This comprehensive analysis identifies the actions individuals could take that will have the greatest impact on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

    Lead author Seth Wynes said: “There are so many factors that affect the climate impact of personal choices….. Those of us who want to step forward on climate need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact. This research is about helping people make more informed choices.

    Seth Wynes, Kimberly A Nicholas. The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters, 2017; 12 (7): 074024 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541

  10. Surging heat may limit aircraft takeoffs globally

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    • Study sees widespread effects on aviation from extreme heat days and global surface temperature increases

    The Earth Institute at Columbia University  13 Jul 2017 05:15 AM PDT  read full ScienceDaily story here

    Rising temperatures due to global warming will make it harder for many aircraft around the world to take off in coming decades, says a new study. During the hottest parts of the day, 10 to 30 percent of fully loaded planes may have to remove some fuel, cargo or passengers, or else wait for cooler hours to fly, the study concludes.\

    …As air warms, it spreads out, and its density declines. In thinner air, wings generate less lift as a plane races along a runway. Thus, depending on aircraft model, runway length and other factors, at some point a packed plane may be unable to take off safely if the temperature gets too high. Weight must be dumped, or else the flight delayed or canceled.

    Average global temperatures have gone up nearly 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 Fahrenheit) since about 1980, and this may already be having an effect. In late June, American Airlines canceled more than 40 flights out of Phoenix, Ariz., when daytime highs of nearly 120 degrees made it too hot for smaller regional jets to take off. Worldwide, average temperatures are expected to go up as much as another 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) by 2100. But that is only part of the story; heat waves will probably become more prevalent, with annual maximum daily temperatures at airports worldwide projected to go up 4 to 8 degrees C (7.2 to 14.4 F) by 2080, according to the study. It is these heat waves that may produce the most problems….

    …some effects could be mitigated with new engine or body designs, or expanded runways. But modifications would come at a cost, as aircraft are already highly engineered for efficiency; and expanded runways in densely packed cities such as New York are not an option. “The sooner climate can be incorporated into mid- and long-range plans, the more effective adaptation efforts can be,” said Coffel.

    Ethan D. Coffel, Terence R. Thompson, Radley M. Horton. The impacts of rising temperatures on aircraft takeoff performance. Climatic Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-017-2018-9