Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Of Interest

  1. Some can’t be persuaded on climate change. So now what?

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    • One more round of “messaging” won’t do it.
    • Just about every substantial policy shift in the US in the past 20 years has been a matter of one side overwhelming the other — of conflict, not consensus.
    • Agonism (thanks to Henderson, a climate-focused social scientist, for the tweet tip) is the view that in some contexts and within limits, political conflict is good. Sometimes conflict clarifies, educates, and leads to progress. Sometimes the right strategy is to grab and own an issue, to exclude (not invite) the other party, to tie the issue to core coalition values and use the intensity to increase the political power of the coalition.

    …..Well, as I’ve written many times, public opinion is not some great enduring mystery. There’s a decent consensus in the social sciences on what most moves public opinion: elite cues.

    And so it is with climate change. Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle has been all over this for years — see, e.g., this recent paper with McGill’s Jason Carmichael. Science-based educational campaigns have virtually no effect on climate opinion, they found. Weather events and economic swings have some temporary effects. What moves the needle are elite cues.

    That’s just a fancy way of saying that people care more about something when they see it around them, when they read it in the newspaper, see it on TV, hear politicians discussing it, see activists in the streets marching about it, watch celebrities pretending to care about it. Those are all elite cues.

    That’s the stuff that shapes ordinary people’s opinions, on all sides of the political spectrum. Very few individuals have the time and wherewithal to investigate the world’s woes independently. They absorb the values and worldviews of their tribes….

    ….the good news is that if conservative elite opinion swung around on climate change, conservative mass opinion would swing easily behind. Nobody really cares about “issues” like this beyond how they inform social identity anyway. Very few people beyond the Heritage Foundation have any independent commitment to flat-earthism on climate.

    ….Just about every substantial policy shift in the US in the past 20 years has been a matter of one side overwhelming the other — of conflict, not consensus. Some were “bipartisan” in the sense that a few legislators crossed the aisle, but partisan unity is more and more the rule in US politics. We have “weak parties and strong partisanship,” as political scientist Julia Azari puts it, which makes substantial compromise more and more difficult.

    “Pundits who say that ‘nothing can get done without bipartisan support’,” write Steven Teles, Heather Hurlburt, and Mark Schmitt in one of my favorite essays on polarization, “no longer have the evidence on their side.” In fact, that increasingly looks like the only way anything ever gets done….

    ….Agonism (thanks to Henderson, a climate-focused social scientist, for the tweet tip) is the view that in some contexts and within limits, political conflict is good. Sometimes conflict clarifies, educates, and leads to progress.

    Sometimes the right strategy is to grab and own an issue, to exclude (not invite) the other party, to tie the issue to core coalition values and use the intensity to increase the political power of the coalition.

    ….It may just be that we’re not all going to get along — that the only way to move forward on this is to fight it out.

    If that’s true, then what matters most on the left is not the breadth of agreement, but the depth. It is intensity that wins political battles. The only way Democrats can achieve progress on this is to intensify the fight.

    Tepid “free market” messages, forever hoping to win over an unwinnable right, won’t do that. They do nothing to inspire those who already care and are primed for action.

    ….The weather is only getting worse, young people are only getting more engaged, and clean energy is only getting cheaper. Climate change and clean energy will be winning issues in the long term.

    Why not claim and own them while it’s still possible? Then the GOP’s motto in the 2020s can be: “Hey, We Like Clean Energy Too!”

    In reality, Democrats probably don’t have the wherewithal to mount that kind of fight. But that’s the only thing that has a chance of breaking the stalemate. The quest to persuade US conservatives on climate change has been extraordinarily long, vigorous, and well-documented. It has also been largely fruitless. Perhaps it’s time for a little agonism.

  2. Communicating the scientific consensus on climate change helped neutralize partisan motivated reasoning and bridge the conservative-liberal divide

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    • Communicating a simple fact about the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change did not reinforce political polarization

    December 11 2017 read full article from the Center for Climate Communications at George Mason University here

    …Several recent studies have found that the more education conservatives have, the less likely they are to accept scientific findings about climate change, suggesting a motivated reasoning effect. This has led to the concern that attempts to increase public knowledge might exacerbate political polarization on the issue. Yet, most prior studies have been correlational, which leaves the most important question unanswered: Does communicating climate change facts cause issue polarization?…
    ….we found that communicating a simple fact about the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change did not reinforce political polarization. Quite the opposite: communicating the scientific consensus helped neutralize partisan motivated reasoning and bridge the conservative-liberal divide, at least on this key fact. These findings proved robust across ideology and education levels and build on our prior work illustrating that perceived scientific consensus acts as a “gateway” to other key beliefs about climate change (Ding et al., 2011; van der Linden et al., 2015).
    van der Linden, S., Leiserowitz, A., & Maibach, E. (2017). Scientific agreement can neutralize politicization of facts. Nature Human Behaviour. doi: 10.1038/s41562-017-0259-2.
    The article is available here to those with a subscription to Nature Human Behaviour. If you would like to request a copy, please send an email to, with the Subject Line: Request Scientific Agreement Paper.
  3. Ellie’s UN COP23 Bonn Blog: Chumamich for a safe climate

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    By Ellie Cohen Point Blue Conservation Science November 22, 2017

    It was an inspiring couple of weeks in Germany for the 2017 UN climate meeting representing Point Blue for its first time as an official Observer Organization.  COP23 (the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), convened by Fiji and hosted by Bonn, focused on developing the “rulebook” for implementing the 2015 Paris climate agreement to keep increases in global temperature well below 2°C or 3.6°F since the pre-industrial era.

    COP23 was the first ever with essentially two US delegations.  One was an official State Department group that generally kept a low profile (except for their “clean fossil fuel” session that was met by singing protesters!).

    US federal delegation office COP23 Nov 2017 Bonn

    The official US Delegation offices at COP23– closed door for the most part.

    The other was a group of over 2500 cities, states and businesses committed to meeting the US emissions reductions goal under the Paris accord, led by Governor Jerry Brown, former NY City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and others.  Under the slogan “we are still in,” they launched “America’s Pledge” at the alternative US Climate Action pavilion. I was honored to present (see pdf here) on California’s innovative approaches to nature-based climate solutions as part of a panel organized by The Nature Conservancy on that same stage a couple days earlier.  Click here to see my blog post with links to videos of the US Climate Action pavilion presentations and here for the full listing of COP23 on-demand videos of press conferences and other meetings.

    Ellie at UC Climate Action Center Cop23 Nov 2017

    At the US Climate Action Center.

    COP23 saw more inclusion of city and state voices, as well as more focus on women (women make up less than 6% of all the mayors in the world and less than 15% of all legislators) and the oceans.

    Mayors COP23 Summit of Local and Regional Leaders Nov 2017

    Mayors from all over the world participate in the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders.

    And, for the first-time ever, the countries (parties to the UNFCCC) agreed to work on agriculture and climate change, including how to improve adaptation, co-benefits and resilience; soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility, including water management; livestock management systems, as well as socioeconomic and food security aspects.  See here for my blog post for various views on key outcomes of COP23.

    On a personal note, it was fantastic to meet so many committed leaders from all over the world who are working towards our common goal of a safe climate and healthy planet.  In addition to meeting mayors, other elected officials, business people and top UN leaders from Pittsburgh and Peru to Kuwait and Mozambique, I had the honor of meeting colleagues from conservation non-profits across the globe.  Every time I introduced myself as being from California, I was warmly received!  And I found that Point Blue really is on the cutting edge of addressing nature-based solutions to benefit wildlife and human communities, although there is much more we need to do.

    Ellie and Mozambique Mayor Nov 2017 COP23

    With Mayor and regional leader, Maria Helena J. Correia Langa of Mandlakazi, Mozambique.

    Amidst all of the excitement, I felt that a sense of urgency was missing, not from the many scientists and civic leaders who presented, but from the formal negotiations (perhaps in part due to the lack of committed US leadership).


    Leaders of island nations call for urgent action on climate change at COP23.  Pictured: Environmental Minister from Dominica addressing closing plenary.

    Fiji, as President of COP23, had hoped to light a fire under the delegates to take whatever actions are necessary before 2020 to stay below 1.5°C.  They, along with other “small island developing states” (or large ocean states, as described by one of their leaders!), are literally on the front lines of climate change, already experiencing devastating impacts from sea level rise and extreme storm events.  Despite the ‘drua’ (traditional ocean sailing canoe) situated prominently at the conference venue, the bigger-than-life island photos adorning walls throughout and other reminders that we are all literally in the same boat, my guess is that they may also have been disappointed with the lack of significant progress.

    Gov Jerry Brown Summit Local Reg Leaders COP23 Nov 2017

    CA Governor Jerry Brown speaking at one of several COP23 appearances.

    We know we need dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas pollution and removal of warming gases from the atmosphere– including from nature-based solutions- to secure a safe climate by 2100.

    Natural Climate Solutions Nov 2017

    New study on nature-based solutions from the Nature Conservancy and other partners.

    As Governor Brown concluded at the US Climate Action Pavilion, “economy is rooted in ecosystems”…. and “we are not where we need to be to prevent catastrophic warming.” He stated emphatically that “we have to create a different consciousness about what it is to be a human being in the 21st century.”  He implored us, “Don’t be complacent.  We face unprecedented threats to everything we hold dear.  Be on the edge of your seat.  Push yourself to the furthest degree. Billions of people are depending on us to go even further.”

    Powerful… and true.

    Hilda Heine, the first woman President of the Marshall Islands, shared the meaning of the Fijian word “chumamich” – tenacity, determination, and resilience on a long sea voyage when tasked with ensuring the safety of the passengers on the journey.

    Working together with “chumamich,” each of us must redouble our efforts to secure a healthy future for us all.

    Note: Photos by Ellie Cohen/Point Blue.

  4. Opinion: Why Governor Jerry Brown Was Booed at the Bonn Climate Summit

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  5. Ellie’s Bonn Report: CA Climate Policy Innovations Panel at UN Climate Conference and More

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    by Ellie Cohen, Bonn, Germany November 9 2017

    I was honored to participate today on a panel about California’s climate leadership organized by The Nature Conservancy and held at the US Climate Action Center as part of the UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany.  I presented on recent CA policies that support improved land and soil management practices for carbon sequestration and other benefits as part of the climate change solutions tool box (see pdf here).

    This is the 23rd “conference of the parties” or COP23 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), one of three adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992.  The goal of the UNFCCC is to “prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system.”  COP23 is the first of these global meetings that does not include an official US government pavilion (see more on this here).

    COP23 TNC CA Innovations Panel Ellie speaking Nov9 2017From left to right: Louis Blumberg/TNC, Jonathan Parfrey/Climate Resolve, Nicolas Muller/UNFCCC,  Ricardo Lara/CA State Senator and Ellie Cohen/Point Blue.

    The US Climate Action Center, the first of its kind at an UNFCCC meeting, was organized by a group of mayors, business and US NGOs to show the world “we are still in!” despite contrary actions in Washington, DC.  You can see a video of our panel and other presentations along with additional information about this alternative or in UNFCCC speak- “subnational”- US presence here (you can also live stream events over the next week if you are up in the middle of the night California time!).

    Today I explored more of the huge venues that are housing COP23.  There are two main zones– the Bula Zone with its plenary halls and meeting rooms of the UNFCCC where the country delegates gather and negotiate, and the Bonn Zone where organizations, businesses and governments from all over the world highlight climate action with side events and exhibits. This conference of the parties is officially hosted by the country of Fiji. Per the UNFCCC website, “The word Bula originates from the Fijian culture and means hello as well as a blessing of health and happiness.” As an UN Observer Organization representative, I have access to both zones.  The zones are situated in a beautiful park along the Rhine River about one mile apart (with electric cars and free bicycles available to shuttle people back and forth).  More information can be found here.

    I also attended other side events (there are many going on simultaneously) including one on a new certification for city planners to raise the qualifications and status of those who assess urban greenhouse gas emissions, develop climate action plans and guide their implementation.  Presenters from the World Bank, World Resources Institute and ICLEI Sustainable Cities talked about many of the same issues we seek to address in the natural climate solutions arena– from the need to implement an adaptive management approach for testing, learning and improving efforts, to exploring approaches for scaling up, achieving broad adoption and catalyzing more action globally.

    There are some 23,000 people officially registered for this year’s COP23 in Bonn, a testament to the growing urgency of the climate crisis as well as the growing number of people actively working to solve it.  It is inspiring and hopeful to meet people from across the world who have similar aspirations of securing a healthy, equitable future for us all.  And it is fantastic to be able to help represent the great work of Point Blue and our California-based conservation community!

    PS You can follow me for photos and brief (!) observations on my twitter account: @ecohenpointblue.

  6. Point Blue becomes official UN Observer Organization for global climate meetings; heading to Bonn next week

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    • It’s official – Point Blue is selected as an Observer Organization for the UNFCCC

    by Ellie Cohen November 2 2017

    Point Blue was honored to be accepted this summer as an NGO Observer Organization to the UN’s global body that addresses climate change—the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The UNFCCC engages almost every nation in the world to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement, Kyoto Accords, and other international efforts to solve the climate crisis.

    I am thrilled to be representing Point Blue for this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP23) and will be traveling next week to Bonn, Germany for the meetings. I will also be representing my town of San Anselmo, California as a member of its Sustainability Commission at the Local and Regional Governments meetings through ICLEI.

    In Bonn, I’ll have the opportunity to interact with some of the 20,000 expected attendees from across the globe, including government delegates and many of our national and international conservation colleagues.

    I am excited to be presenting on a panel organized by our partners at The Nature Conservancy with Climate Resolve about California’s successful climate policies and practices.  I’ll be reporting about some of Point Blue’s collaborative, nature-based approaches on a global stage.

    You can follow me on Twitter @ecohenpointblue with a special hashtag #BonnBlue where I will share my observations and insights live from Bonn with you!

    Thank you for your generous support that makes Point Blue’s innovative and collaborative climate-smart conservation science possible!

  7. After the Napa Fires, a Disaster-in-Waiting: Toxic Ash

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    by Adam Rogers October 29 2017 read full Wired article here

    By any measure, the fires that tore through Northern California were a major disaster. Forty-two people are dead, and 100,000 are displaced. More than 8,400 homes and other buildings were destroyed, more than 160,000 acres burned—and the fires aren’t all out yet.

    That devastation leaves behind another potential disaster: ash. No one knows how much. It’ll be full of heavy metals and toxins—no one knows exactly how much, and it depends on what burned and at what temperature. The ash will infiltrate soils, but no one’s really sure how or whether that’ll be a problem. And eventually some of it—maybe a lot—will flow into the regional aquatic ecosystem and ultimately the San Francisco Bay….

    …”Naturally occurring, lower-severity fires can have positive impacts,” says Kevin Bladon, a forest ecohydrologist at Oregon State University. The fires free up organic carbon and put nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous into play. “But the really large, high-severity megafires that we’ve started to observe push the systems in a lot of cases too far.”

    That means dangerously large algal blooms, so-called eutrophication that can eat all the dissolved oxygen out of a waterway, making it unlivable for everything else….’

    …What makes these latest Northern California fires unique, though, is that they burned not just forest wildland but also cities. And the built environment burns differently. It gets hotter, and it leaves behind different remains. “All of a sudden you’ve got a lot of impervious surfaces,” Bladon says. “Water hits it and flows over. If there are burned materials sitting on the roads, that’s going to move very rapidly into waterways. We have no handle on that at all.” Ash science isn’t much more than a decade old; understanding urban ash science has never really been a necessity—but now megafires are coming to cities….

    …The Regional Monitoring Program for Water Quality already watches what’s in the San Francisco Bay besides water. Some of its scientists now have a proposal to monitor the Napa River for what water watchdogs call “contaminants of emerging concern.” The field is new enough that they’re not even sure what they’re looking for yet—they’re going to use “non-targeted analysis” to look for anything unexpected. The San Francisco Estuary Institute already monitors dioxins, PAHs, metals, and other stuff in the bay, but only annually or semiannually.

    That’s probably not fast enough….

  8. Cartoons

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     : California cartoons : Meyer Cartoons

    NOTE: These cartoons are opinions of the artists and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Point Blue.

  9. Mediterranean Climate Wildfires: what you can do to better protect your home and our communities

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    by Sasha Berleman, Audubon Canyon Ranch fire ecologist, for Bay Nature October 24, 2017 Read full BayNature article here

    We live in a landscape that is adapted to frequent fire, yet for a century we have been suppressing fire as much as possible, thinking we could do this indefinitely without consequence. As a result, most of our undeveloped lands across the Bay Area, and much of Northern California even, have accumulated unnatural fuel loads — dead woody debris and leaf material as well as encroaching trees that collect over time.

    Here in the Bay Area, there isn’t a “no fire” option. Because of our Mediterranean climate — wet, cool winters and hot, dry summers — fire will always be a part of our world here. Additionally, as climate change affects our summers by extending that hot, dry season and causing hotter, drier weather within it, our fire season is getting longer and becoming more extreme….

    …On the home front, make sure you are regularly cleaning and clearing debris and fuels around your home. ....go to … great instructions for creating “defensible space,” as well as types of home construction and landscaping that can make a huge difference in how your home fares in the face of fire.

    Beyond your home, voice your support for fuels treatments of all kinds across undeveloped lands. To date, land managers face immense backlash when the public hears of planned fuels treatments. It’s time to start supporting this work that so desperately needs to be done. Let your fire departments and politicians know that you support fuels treatments. Let your neighbors know how important they are. Educate yourself on the ecological adaptations of our landscapes to fire. Recommended reading: Introduction to Fire in California by David Carle....

  10. Climate change and biodiversity – recent reports and books

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    • Information on 11 reports released by NGOs, international agencies, and research centers.

    Yale Climate Connections Oct. 19 2017 read full article here

    This post highlights reports on climate change and biodiversity released by environmental organizations, international agencies, and research centers. We present these reports in chronological order; as always, the descriptions are drawn from copy provided by the publishers.

    The October 12 companion post highlighted 12 books that provide overviews of likely impacts of climate change on biodiversity, historical and species-specific case studies, surveys of habitats and ecosystems, and reflections on places, policies, and practices.

    • Species and Climate Change: More Than Just the Polar Bear, edited by Sarah Horsely (IUCN 2009, 46 pages, free download)is likely to have on land and in our oceans and rivers.
    • Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Scientific Synthesis (Arctic Council 2013, 132 pages, free download)
    • Vital But Vulnerable: Climate Change Vulnerability and Human Use of Wildlife in Africa’s Albertine Rift, by Jamie Carr, Wendy B. Foden, Gemma Goodman, Thomasina Oldfield, Thomasina, and Willow Outhwaite (IUCN 2013, 240 pages, free download).
    • Integrating Biodiversity and Climate Change Adaptation in Activity Design, edited by Jonathan Cook and Diane Adams (US AID 2015, 60 pages, free download)
    • IUCN SSC Guidelines for Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change, edited by Wendy B. Foden and Bruce E. Young (IUCN 2016, 127 pages, free download)
    • Changing Tides: How Sea-Level Rise Harms Wildlife and Recreation Economies Along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, by Lauren Anderson, Patty Glick, Shannon Heyck-Williams, and Jim Murphy (National Wildlife Federation 2016, 40 pages, free download)
    • Adapting to Climate Change: Guidance for Protected Area Planners and Managers, edited by John E. Gross, Steven Woodley, Leigh Welling, and James E.M. Watson (IUCN 2016, 129 pages, free download)
    • Options for Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in Coastal Environments: A Guide for Environmental Managers and Planners, edited by Rebecca Mant, Will Simonson, Matea Osti, Xavier de Lamo and Nanna Vansteelant. (UNEP 2016, 110 pages, free download)
    • Protected Planet Report 2016: How Protected Areas Contribute to the Goals of Biodiversity, edited by Nina Bhola, Diego Juffe-Bignolia, Neil Burgess, Trevor Sandwith, and Naomi Kingston (Protected Planet 2016, 84 pages, free download
    • State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report, by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna group (Arctic Council 2017, 200 pages, free download)
    • SOS II: Fish in Hot Water: Status, Threats, and Solutions for California Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout, based on a report by Dr. Peter B. Moyle, Dr. Rob Lusardi and Patrick Samuel (California Trout 2017, 40 pages, free download).