NOTE FROM ELLIE: This Guardian story I originally posted was strongly and eloquently refuted by the Acting Chief of the NRCS in an email in support of science and climate change action. Here is the text:
From: Jordan, Leonard – NRCS, Washington, DC Sent: Tuesday, August 08, 2017 1:07 PM To: Jordan, Leonard – NRCS, Washington, DC <Leonard.Jordan@wdc.usda.gov> Subject: Climate change story
As you’ve likely seen, there has been considerable news coverage during the past two days centered around two emails that discuss the use of the phrase “climate change.” The articles allege that NRCS has received direction and has provided direction to censor the use of the phrase “climate change.”
I want you all to know that this is not the case. There has never been a directive from the administration regarding the use of the phrase climate change, or any other language. There is nothing stopping you from communicating to your customers using the terminology that you see as most beneficial for getting conservation on the ground. The Department and NRCS are fact-based, science-driven, and customer-focused, and nothing about who we are or what we do has changed.
The climate change websites for both USDA and NRCS remain active. We work each day to help agricultural producers plan and implement conservation practices that sequester carbon and benefit our natural resources, enabling producers to improve their bottom line while rising to the challenge of today. With partners like Colorado State University, we’re able to offer tools like COMET-Farm, an accounting system for greenhouse gases on agricultural lands. Our Conservation Innovation Grants program continues to empower partner organizations and producers to develop cutting-edge approaches and technologies that support greenhouse gases, cleaner water and air, healthier soil and development of conservation finance systems. And this is just the beginning.
We remain committed to empowering you to do what you do best, whether you’re a district conservationist or a snow surveyor, or a biologist or a conservation technician. Our team provides one-on-one, personalized advice on the best solutions to meet the unique conservation and business goals of those who grow our nation’s food and fiber. We help people make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the health of our air, water, soil, and habitat. And we generate, manage and share the data, technology and standards that enable partners and policymakers to make decisions informed by objective, reliable science.
Nothing is going to keep us from carrying out our mission.
This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.
Stony corals may be more resilient to ocean acidification than once thought, according to a Rutgers University study that shows they rely on proteins to help create their rock-hard skeletons. ….”The bottom line is that corals will make rock even under adverse conditions…They will probably make rock even as the ocean becomes slightly acidic from the burning of fossil fuels.”
“What we’re showing is that the decades-old general model for how corals make rock is wrong,” Falkowski said. “This very careful study very precisely shows that corals will secrete proteins, and the proteins are what really forms the mineral and the proteins are very acidic, which will surprise a lot of people.”… But corals face several environmental threats over the long-run: potentially deadly bleaching from global warming and rapid temperature changes; nutrient pollution; the physical destruction of coral reefs; and ocean acidification linked to carbon dioxide emissions, Falkowski said.
Stylophora pistillata is a colorful and well-studied stony coral common in the Indo-Pacific. Credit: Kevin Wyman/Rutgers University
Stanislas Von Euw et al. Biological control of aragonite formation in stony corals. Science, 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aam6371
…The United States is one of the world’s biggest consumers, and U.S. policies can have global environmental effects. As of 2013, the world’s population would need 1.7 Earths to support its demands on renewable natural resources, according Global Footprint Network, a nonprofit organization that calculates human demands on the planet’s ecosystems.
Global Footprint Network measures human consumption relative to what the planet can regenerate with a measure called the ecological footprint. The footprint takes into account how much in biological resources, such as fishing grounds and forest land, are necessary to fulfill the consumption of a country and absorb its waste. This includes imports and excludes exports. The smaller a country’s footprint is, the better.
…Therefore, a country has an ecological deficit if its ecological footprint is greater than its biocapacity and ecological reserve if its biocapacity is greater….Though there are many solutions, the fastest way for a country to reduce its ecological footprint, according to Global Footprint Network, is to switch to greener energy sources. Even though the United States has been decreasing its ecological footprint, its consumption rate is still far from completely sustainable.
The Louisiana flood has taken at least 13 lives and damaged 40,000 homes. This multibillion-dollar disaster is a devastating example of the damage water can do and proves that a hurricane is not required to leave behind a flooding catastrophe.
This unnamed storm produced three times as much rain in Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. The multi-day rainfall totals, shown … are stunning — many in the 20-30 inch range….
Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through science, partnerships and outreach. We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future. Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.
Focus of the Week– The Paris Climate Talks
COP21: Beginner’s guide to the UN Paris climate summit
By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News, Paris 29 November 2015 From the section Science & Environment
What is the climate conference for?
In short, the world’s governments have already committed to curbing human activities such as burning fossil fuels that release the gases that interfere with the climate. But that isn’t problem solved. The difficulty comes when you try to get 195 countries to agree on how to deal with the issue of climate change. Every year since 1992 the Conference of the Parties has taken place with negotiators trying to put together a practical plan of action. This year’s COP21 in Paris is the last chance for this process. Negotiators agreed in 2011 that a deal had to be done by the end of 2015. Critics would say the problem of climate change mustn’t be that urgent if it takes 20 years to agree on a solution. But defenders argue that it’s taking such a long time because decisions are taken by consensus, meaning nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The parties believe that despite this huge limitation, it is the best way of guaranteeing fairness. We all share the planet, they say, so all should have an equal say in what happens to it.
30% rise in CO2 levels since the Industrial Revolution
4% decline in Arctic sea ice per decade since 1979
9 out of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000
Why does it have an odd name?
COP21 is short for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. That long winded title was created in Rio in 1992 where countries concerned about the impacts of climate change came together under the United Nations to do something about it. They signed a convention that came into force in 1994 and has now been ratified by 195 countries, including the United States. The key aim is the “stabilisation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.
Who will be attending?
It’s likely that around 40,000 people from all over the world will participate in the two weeks of talking in one form or another. There are huge numbers of government delegates, mainly civil servants. These groupings range in size from two-person teams to those of several hundred in the case of wealthier nations. There are a lot of lobbyists and representatives from business, industry and agriculture. And representatives from environmental groups from all walks of life. Political leaders will also come to Paris for just one day, to make speeches and encourage their negotiators towards an effective compromise. And their environment ministers will there too, at the end of the talks, to try to shape a final deal.
What are they hoping to achieve?
Think of everything in the world around you. The phone or laptop on which you are viewing this article, the food you might be eating, the clothes you are wearing. Almost everything you see, touch, feel or eat has been grown, built, powered or transported by energy that comes from fossil fuels. They’ve been brilliant for the world – enabling us to industrialise, develop, take hundreds of millions out of poverty. But the carbon dioxide created when we use these materials is having a well documented “greenhouse effect”, trapping heat on the surface of the planet. When the earth warms about 2°C above pre-industrial times, scientists say there will be dangerous and unpredictable impacts on our climate system. And we’re already half way to that danger point, So the purpose of Paris is to work out a way of limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, while allowing countries to continue to grow their economies, and providing assistance to the least developed and those most affected by rising temperatures. Simple? It’s probably the most ambitious international co-operative ideal ever proposed.
The final destination is a world where temperatures rise not much more than 2°C above the level they were in 1850-1899 period. That’s the long term aspiration countries have already agreed to. But there are big splits between countries on how to get there. Developing countries say they want the right to use fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, to help take their people out of poverty. Rich nations have had unrestricted use of these for 200 years, now it is their turn, they argue. So the Paris deal needs to find a way of balancing the need to cut these gases with the right to use them. The question of who will pay is critical. Who is going to fork out for the transition to renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, for countries that can’t afford it? Who is going to pay to help poor countries adapt to rising sea levels and more intense droughts and heatwaves? Can countries which suffer future impacts of rising temperatures sue the richer countries for emitting gases in the past that might have caused these problems? These are all tricky, contentious and divisive issues. One of the big underlying questions though is fairness. The richer countries say the world has changed since the UNFCCC started back in 1992. Back then the world was divided into developed and developing nations on the basis of income. But the divide is no longer so distinct and the richer nations want a greater number of emerging economies to shoulder the rising costs of climate change in future.
Will any of this make a difference?
Potentially a huge difference. In the 1980s scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer, and international agreement among all the countries of the world, called the Montreal Protocol, set out a way of tackling the problem. Quite quickly the world stopped using the destructive gases that caused the trouble and today the hole is healing. Tackling climate change requires similar methods but on a much larger scale. An ambitious deal in Paris would limit the use of greenhouse gases and put the world on the pathway to lessening the impacts of climate change. But the reality of politics and negotiation means we will probably get a fudgy compromise that will achieve some of that. The belief will be that over time, negotiators will strengthen the deal and ambition will increase. This is not a forlorn hope. Look how far humans can come, simply by iterating and re-iterating an idea until we make it better. I give you smart phones and the internet as examples of this approach. So despite the potential for failure and the likelihood of a messy compromise, one outcome of the Paris conference, weak or strong, is that sustainability will be at the heart of everything we attempt to do in the future. And that would be one of the greatest human achievements.
UN climate conference 30 Nov – 11 Dec 2015
COP 21 – the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties – will see more than 190 nations gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of dangerous warming due to human activities.
Analysis: Latest from BBC environment correspondent Matt McGrath
The Paris climate negotiations, explained
(~ 4 minutes)
YouTube published on Oct 27, 2015 grist.com
Has anyone ever tried to convince you to order something off a menu that you couldn’t afford? Or had a friend buy an expensive appetizer and assume you’ll help split the bill? The dynamic isn’t too far from what’s happening in climate policy right now, with hypocritical, richer countries trying to convince poorer countries that green energy is the way forward. At the end of November, diplomats will gather in Paris for the most high-stakes dinner party yet: Their orders are likely to affect our collective climate future. Check out our video above for all the savory details
Paris by numbers
40,000 – the number of people attending, including 25,000 delegates and 3,000 journalists
147 – the number of world leaders attending “leader’s day” on Monday, including Obama and Turnbull. The order in which they will speak at two consecutive speed-speaking sessions can be found here
196 – the number of countries represented
10,800 – the number of police deployed for the summit – 8,000 on the borders and 2,800 at the venue
Seven – the number of gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol: carbon dioxide (CO2); methane (CH4); nitrous oxide (N20); fluorinated gases (PFC, HFC, SF6); and, since 2013, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)
Climate Central Published: November 29th, 2015 By John Upton
Since global climate negotiations began in the 1990s, United Nations delegates have accumulated an idiosyncratic cache of climate diplomacy gobbledygook. Euphemisms have been adopted to mollify specific nations. Acronyms are based on tongue-twisting verbiage from formal agreements.
Here’s Climate Central’s guide to digesting the mumbo jumbo that’s being served up ahead of a key two-week round of climate talks in Paris, beginning today.
What it means:
At the end of every year, a session of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change is held, during which decisions that were mulled during lower-level meetings are negotiated and formalized into climate agreements. These sessions are known as conferences of the parties (COPs), and the Paris meeting will be the 21st COP.
What it means:
Unlike the Kyoto Protocol — a 1997 climate pact that sought to force specific pollution reductions on certain countries, but failed to do virtually anything to slow global warming — the hoped-for Paris agreement would see nations taking voluntary steps to stem greenhouse gas pollution. More than 100 countries have already outlined what those steps will be. The climate pledges made by those countries are called intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs.
What it means:
Carbon cap-and-trade programs, which are popping up across the globe, limit the release of greenhouse gases and tax companies that release them. Some carbon markets already traverse national borders — the European Union trading system covers 31 countries, and California’s program is linked with Quebec’s. Many countries hope a Paris agreement will explicitly allow such international trading as a tool for reducing pollution. The codewords that negotiators have adopted for carbon trading were designed to appease anti-capitalist Latin American governments, which are wary of international markets in general.
What it means: “Land use, land-use change and forestry,” which is often abbreviated to just “land use,” is responsible for about a quarter of the climate-changing pollution that’s escaping into the atmosphere every year. It remains unclear what role LULUCF will play in a Paris agreement, but it seems certain that it will play a role of some sort.
What it means:
Island states, African nations and other vulnerable countries are pushing for a system that provides funding to help them recover from disasters made worse by climate change, such as rising seas or powerful storms. Developed countries that have done the most to cause global warming fear being asked to shell out limitless compensation for bad weather. To try to assuage the rich countries, the word “compensation” has been abandoned in favor of less-frightening words.
What it means:
This anachronistic term dates back to the Kyoto Protocol, which annexed the richest countries into a single group. Each Annex I country was supposed to achieve specific reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. Economic circumstances have changed since then. Greece is an Annex I country, for example, but its per-capita GDP is less than half that of Singapore, which is a Non-Annex I country. Further, the voluntary nature of the hoped-for Paris agreement means it makes less sense now to lump countries into binary categories based on wealth. Still, “Annex I” references remain littered throughout the text of the draft Paris agreement, because some countries, such as India, have clung to bureaucratic interpretations of equity that others regard as rigid and outdated.
What it means:
The Group of 77 was formed in the 1960s, when it comprised 77 developing countries. It is now a negotiating bloc at U.N. climate talks representing more than 130 nations. It negotiates in partnership with China, even though the Chinese economy is well developed. LDC is a negotiating bloc comprising about 50 of the planet’s least developed countries, such as Burkina Faso, Vanuatu and Myanmar.
What it means: Small Island Developing States and the Alliance of Small Island States are negotiating groups comprising the nations that are most vulnerable to rising seas. These nations also tend to be poor, making the task of adapting to sea-level rise even more challenging for them — and potentially existential. These countries include Cuba, Haiti and Belize.
For the next two weeks in Paris, the future of the planet’s atmosphere is up for debate. Here, President Obama huddles with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and other world leaders at the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009.
Photo by Steffen Kugler-Pool/Getty Images
Your Jargon-Busting Guide to the Paris Climate Change Talks
On Monday, more than 140 world leaders will gather in Paris to kick off tense two-week treaty negotiations over the fate of a planet in crisis. If this were about any topic other than climate change, it might even make the news. Granted, there’s been a lot of other news out of France recently—a major climate-themed march in Paris will be canceled for security concerns. And there is going to be a lot of coverage of the Paris climate talks. But it will be nothing compared to the attention that would be paid to a last-ditch meeting to avoid a nuclear standoff—even though climate change is no less dangerous. As Climate Home previews, “a treaty at this scale has never been accomplished before, and the one under construction will affect the way the entire global economy operates.” Maybe climate change tends to take a back seat because the talks themselves are a jargon-filled monstrosity of diplomatic protocol, which means no one—not even the diplomats themselves!—understands what’s happening half of the time. Here we are, closing out what’s quite possibly the warmest year since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago, with our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide at record levels and emissions still rising. But, alas, the most interesting drama and diplomatic wrangling are buried in a sea of legalese and acronyms. Case in point: Peru’s environment minister, Manuel Pulgar Vidal—a key figure in recent years at international climate negotiations—recently tweeted a link to a document designed to provide a more-or-less official guide to the Paris talks. It’s titled: “Scenario note on the twelfth part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.” Not exactly helpful or soul-stirring. So, here is my attempt to translate diplomat-speak to commoner language, focusing on why everyone’s in Paris, what the major sticking points are, and what it all means:
“Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform,” often abbreviated ADP2, especially for hashtagging purposes, is the official title of the international climate talks. Over the last four years or so, representatives from nearly every nation on Earth have gathered about once every three months, primarily in Bonn, Germany. At these preliminary talks, ADP2 laid the framework for a draft agreement—an unwieldy 54-page document. It’s called the “Durban Platform” because back in 2011 in Durban, South Africa, world leaders agreed that the first global climate treaty would be agreed upon in 2015—which brings us to today, in Paris. This mega-gathering is officially the 21st Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, or #COP21 for short.
The text of the Durban Platform contains 1,300 square brackets that provide different options for wording. For example, here’s what the section on the global temperature target currently looks like:
In Paris, it will be the delegates’ job to eliminate the square brackets in the text.
Among the major sticking points:
How much and how fast should countries reduce their emissions?: The world’s first climate treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was signed by 165 countries in 1992. Enshrined the UNFCCC, is the idea of “common but differentiated responsibility” that although all countries should reduce their emissions, developed countries with historically high emissions—like the United States, Japan, and Germany—should make steeper cuts. Negotiations leading up to Paris produced a series of voluntary pledges, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) designed to allow countries to set their own plans, and then be shamed by the international community into ramping them up. It’s worked, sort of, but since the INDCs alone are not enough, a major topic at Paris will be coming up with a method to keep increasing the rate at which countries cut emissions.
Finance: One way to encourage climate-friendly development that is for rich countries to give poor countries lots of money. Developed countries have already committed to contributions of $100 billion per year by 2020, but there’s still no clear idea on where that kind of money would come from. Many poor countries, to their credit, have hard-coded their finance requirements into their INDC pledges, noting they’d be able to transition to renewable energy much more quickly with help from the international community.
Loss and damage: Even with rapid emissions reductions, there’s still a lot of warming in the pipeline thanks to thermal inertia in the ocean and the inherent lag in the global climate system. Basically, if we stopped all emissions now, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would quickly stabilize and then slowly decline—but elevated levels would remain for centuries, barring the widespread adoption of some sort of carbon-sucking geoengineering. That means that climate-linked disasters will continue to escalate over the coming decades, and like most disasters, they’ll hit poor and vulnerable countries the hardest. Understandably, these poor and vulnerable countries want a mechanism in place to appeal for aid and help in adapting to future weather extremes.
Ratchet mechanism: Since the Paris talks on their own won’t fix climate change, a key negotiating point will be how often countries should announce bolder targets. Rich countries are generally advocating a ramp-up in targets once per decade, while poor countries say new targets should be agreed upon once every five years. Since the U.N. climate talks operate by consensus, the strategy this time around, to avoid the failures of Kyoto and Copenhagen, is to make everything voluntary. Still, the European Union—especially host country France—wants the Paris deal to be legally binding. That would mean it would need to be approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, which is about as likely as a snowball’s chance in the Oklahoma summer. So, the U.S. is forcefully opposing strict legal language in Paris.
Some other key players to watch:
The G77 + China, which now contains 134 members (with China playing an increasingly minor role) is a major force for the interests of developing countries. China and India increasingly operate like heavyweight developed countries; they act as a sort of intermediary between the EU/U.S. and the truly threatened countries like Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and the Maldives. Among the groups advocating for the strongest possible climate deal are the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Vulnerable Countries Forum (V20), and the Least Developed Countries (LDC). Major fossil fuel producing countries like Russia, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia will advocate for the weakest deal possible.
If you’d like to follow along with the negotiations on Twitter, I’ve put together a list that includes the best climate journalists, activists, and diplomats from the talks. No matter what’s decided in Paris, it won’t immediately be enough to bend global emissions to a level consistent with the internationally agreed-upon goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But it probably will be enough to avoid the worst-case scenario. In the cards is a deal that will explicitly, for the first time, advocate for the eventual phase-out of fossil fuel use altogether—something that, absurdly, has never been enshrined in formal language at this high of a level. And that, if done in the next three decades or so, would be worth celebrating.
A selection of views of groups of delegates hunkered outside Paris addressing the array of issues in a proposed new climate change agreement.Credit IISD.ca
Finally, there’s the far left. I hope you enjoy the opening lines in “Preparing for Failure in Paris,” a piece by Jonathan M. Katz in The New Republic, as much as I did: PARIS, France—A group of radicals gathered on the periphery of the Paris climate talks Wednesday to issue a manifesto. “A transformation of the world’s entire economic system is essential,” their missive began in typically grandiose fashion. “Our economies are hard-wired to fossil fuels. To overcome this carbon entanglement, countries need to implement strong climate policies, including strengthening carbon pricing and … .”… I’ll file more as time allows. On Saturday morning (East Coast time), I’m planning to host a Google Hangout on Air to connect students in my School of The New York Times class on climate science and policy with folks in Paris. Stay tuned.
Because fish, wildlife, habitats, and cultural resources extend beyond political boundaries, there is a national need to develop resource management strategies across jurisdictions and sectors, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), initiated by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2009 and coordinated by the department’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), were created to address this national need and can point to many early accomplishments. Ultimately, the long-term success of this effort will depend on developing ways to measure and demonstrate benefits to its conservation partners and the nation…Individual LCCs have generated some early accomplishments, such as identifying partners, establishing governance structures and steering committees, and developing shared conservation and research priorities for use by all partners, says the report. It is too soon to expect the network as a whole to have made measurable improvements to managing fish, bird, and other wildlife populations and their habitats. In addition, the LCC network needs to improve its evaluation process to better capture the contributions made by all partners toward common objectives and to better measure and demonstrate benefits to its partners. The report finds that LCCs are unique in that they are designed to address landscape needs at a national level for all natural and cultural resources as well as to bridge conservation research and management. Similar federal programs are more narrowly focused and the LCCs generally seek to coordinate with other programs where their interests overlap. Moving forward, the LCC network needs to strengthen coordination with other programs that have a strong interest in landscape approaches to conservation to avoid duplicative efforts and limit demands on state agency and other partners that participate in multiple programs.
Scientists have called for a greater international collaborative effort to save the world’s migratory birds, many of which are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitat along their flight paths. More than 90 per cent of the world’s migratory birds are inadequately protected due to poorly coordinated conservation around the world, a new study published in the journal Science today reveals. Led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), the research found huge gaps in the conservation of migratory birds, particularly across China, India, and parts of Africa and South America. This results in the majority of migratory birds having ranges that are well covered by protected areas in one country, but poorly protected in another. “More than half of migratory bird species travelling the world’s main flyways have suffered serious population declines in the past 30 years. This is due mainly to unequal and ineffective protection across their migratory range and the places they stop to refuel along their routes,” says lead author Dr Claire Runge of CEED and the University of Queensland. “A typical migratory bird relies on many different geographic locations throughout its annual cycle for food, rest and breeding.
“So even if we protect most of their breeding grounds, it’s still not enough — threats somewhere else can affect the entire population,” she says. “The chain can be broken at any link.” Dr Runge explains that these birds undertake remarkable journeys navigating across land and sea to find refuge as the seasons change, from endurance flights exceeding 10,000 kilometres by bar-tailed godwits to the annual relay of Arctic terns, which fly the equivalent of the distance to the moon and back three times during their lives. Other examples include the sooty shearwater which flies 64,000 kilometres from the Falkland Islands to the Arctic, and the tiny blackpoll warbler, which flies for three days non-stop across open ocean from eastern Canada to South America…..
C. A. Runge, J. E. M. Watson, S. H. M. Butchart, J. O. Hanson, H. P. Possingham, R. A. Fuller. Protected areas and global conservation of migratory birds. Science, 2015; 350 (6265): 1255 DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9180
Digital acoustic recording tags temporarily attached to killer whales measured vessel noise reaching the whales. Photos taken under NOAA Fisheries and Department of Fisheries and Oceans research permit (No.781-1824 and 16163).
Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Northwest Fisheries Science Center
The speed of vessels operating near endangered killer whales in Washington is the most influential factor — more so than vessel size — in how much noise from the boats reaches the whales, according to a new study published in the online journal PLOS ONE. Previous studies have shown that Southern Resident killer whales alter their behavior in the presence of vessels and associated noise, which affects their ability to communicate and find food. Research has also found that the whales likely expend extra energy to call more loudly when boats are operating nearby. The new study by scientists from the University of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries is the first to examine how much noise from individual boats reaches the whales in the inland waters of Washington and British Columbia, where they are a popular attraction for recreational and commercial whale watching vessels. “It definitely seems that speed is the most important predictor of the noise levels whales experience,” said Juliana Houghton, a recent graduate of the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and lead author of the study. The whale watching fleet has increased from fewer than 20 commercial boats in the 1980s to roughly 80 boats serving about 500,000 people a year, with an estimated $70 million value to the economy of Washington and British Columbia. In addition, the whales are frequently in the vicinity of ferries as well as private whale watching, fishing, and shipping vessels. NOAA Fisheries has identified vessel traffic and noise as one of three main threats to recovery of the endangered population of resident killer whales, which now numbers about 80 animals, and has focused research on measuring and understanding the effect on the whales. These results and other studies will inform a NOAA Fisheries review of the effectiveness of vessel regulations over the coming year…
A new study offers strategic guidance on the placement of marine protected areas to meet global conservation goals. The research also shows that the United States ranks near the bottom in terms of supporting formal marine protected areas that could safeguard marine biodiversity. Thousands of marine species with mapped locations worldwide remain largely unprotected, according to a new study by a team of international marine scientists, including UC Santa Barbara’s Ben Halpern. The research also shows that the United States ranks near the bottom in terms of supporting formal marine protected areas (MPAs) that could safeguard marine biodiversity. The first comprehensive assessment of how much coverage MPAs provide for marine life worldwide examined the ranges of 17,348 species with known distributions, including whales, sharks, rays and fish. The findings appear in the journal Scientific Reports. The researchers found that 97.4 percent of marine species have less than 10 percent of their range represented in MPAs. According to co-author Halpern, these species are likely representative of the protection status of all marine species. He noted that nations with the largest numbers of “gap species” — those whose range lies entirely outside of protected areas — include the U.S., Canada and Brazil.
The increase in the number of MPAs in recent years is encouraging, but most of this increase has come from a few very large MPAs,” said Halpern, a professor at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and an associate of the campus’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. “Those very large MPAs provide important value, but they can mislead us into thinking that biodiversity is being well protected because of them. Species all around the planet need protection, not just those in some locations. Our results point out where the protection gaps exist…
Carissa J. Klein, Christopher J. Brown, Benjamin S. Halpern, Daniel B. Segan, Jennifer McGowan, Maria Beger, James E.M. Watson. Shortfalls in the global protected area network at representing marine biodiversity. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 17539 DOI: 10.1038/srep17539
Management of the world’s marine habitats needs to look beyond only Marine Protected Areas and put achieving ecosystem resilience at the top of the agenda, according to new research. Our oceans and coasts are changing rapidly due to human impacts. But our very existence depends on the resources and functions that their biodiversity and productive habitats provide. Learning to manage the habitats and biodiversity within our oceans and coasts is one of the greatest challenges of this century. Management of our coasts typically takes the approach of establishing Marine Protected Areas, controlling fishing, or regulating industrial activity. But in the face of the increasing threat of climate change we need to take measures that increase the resilience of our oceans and coasts to ensure they survive into the future (Ecological resilience is “the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb repeated disturbances or shocks and adapt to change without fundamentally switching to an alternative stable state”). The research published online this week in Marine Pollution Bulletin examined the ecosystem resilience of seagrass meadows globally. The work shows how the resilience of these productive ecosystems is becoming compromised by a range of local to global disturbances and stressors, resulting in ecological regime shifts that undermine their long-term viability…. The paper concludes by providing a series of simple actions that marine conservation managers can take to improve ecosystem resilience. Dr Richard Unsworth said: “The resilience of marine ecosystems is influenced by many factors, such as the health and proximity of adjacent habitats; the water quality; the supply of larvae and the presence of human disturbance. Management of biodiverse and important marine ecosystems like seagrass needs to consider more than just simple location specific protection, but instead consider the biological and environmental influences beyond the extent of its distribution.” Seagrass meadows are the ‘Prairies of the Sea’. They are highly productive shallow water marine and coastal habitats comprised of marine plants. These threatened habitats provide important food and shelter for animals in the sea. Globally there is estimated to be over 600000km2 of seagrass. Seagrass is important for storing carbon, providing juvenile fish nursery habitat, pumping oxygen into the air and protecting the Worlds coasts from erosion. “As most marine biodiversity remains extremely poorly represented, the task of implementing an effective network of MPAs is urgent,” noted co-author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland. “Achieving this goal is imperative not just for nature but also for humanity, as millions of people depend on marine biodiversity for important and valuable services.”
Richard K.F. Unsworth, Catherine J. Collier, Michelle Waycott, Len J. Mckenzie, Leanne C. Cullen-Unsworth. A framework for the resilience of seagrass ecosystems. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.08.016
Periods of high extinction on Earth, rather than evolutionary adaptations, may have been a key driver in the diversification of amniotes (today’s dominant land vertebrates, including reptiles, birds, and mammals), according to new research.
More than half of the world’s population is nourished by food grown with fertilizers containing synthetic nitrogen, which is needed for large crop yields but causes significant pollution. With the global population expected to increase by two to three billion people by 2050, more efficient usage of fertilizer is needed on a global scale, researchers urge.
Biologists with the Methow Valley Beaver Project release a beaver named Big Bella into a tributary of 8-Mile Creek in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Sarah Koenigsberg/ The Beaver Believers
When Chomper and Sandy met in a concrete pen in Winthrop, Washington, it was love at first sniff. He’s an inquisitive 44-pound male, busted for felling apple trees. She’s a lustrous red-blonde, incarcerated for killing cottonwoods. Sandy had first been paired with an inmate named Hendrix, but they lacked chemistry. So her handlers transferred her to Chomper’s enclosure, where she nestled among woodchips and dug into apple slices. The lovers are wards of the Methow Valley Beaver Project, a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation that, since 2008, has moved more than 300 beavers around the eastern Cascades. These beavers have damaged trees and irrigation infrastructure, and landowners want them gone. Rather than calling lethal trappers, a growing contingent notifies the Methow crew, which captures and relocates the offenders to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and state land. Why would Washington invite ditch-clogging nuisances — so loathed that federal Wildlife Services killed 22,000 nationwide in 2014 — into its wildlands? To hear Methow project coordinator Kent Woodruff tell it, beavers are landscape miracle drugs. Need to enhance salmon runs? There’s a beaver for that. Want to recharge groundwater? Add a beaver. Hoping to adapt to climate change? Take two beavers and check back in a year. Decades of research support Woodruff’s enthusiasm. Beaver wetlands filter sediments and pollutants from streams. They spread rivers across floodplains, allowing water to percolate into aquifers. They provide rearing grounds for young fish, limit flooding and keep ephemeral creeks flowing year-round. “We want these guys everywhere,” says Woodruff, a white-stubbled Forest Service biologist with an evangelical gleam in his blue eyes. On this sweltering July morning, he watches as wildlife scientists Catherine Means and Katie Weber hoist Chomper and Sandy, now caged, into the truck that will convey them to the Okanogan-Wenatchee. “We want beavers up every stream, in all the headwaters.”…
Beavers create significant amounts of dead wood into the lowland shore forests of boreal wetlands, research shows. Particularly snags and deciduous dead wood are formed through the beavers’ actions…Certain dead wood types have become exceptionally rare in managed forests, e.g. standing dead trees (snags) and deciduous dead wood. Beavers create a wide variety of dead wood types, but they particularly produce standing and deciduous dead wood. The dead wood-dependent species living at beaver sites may differ from those found in managed forests or fire areas. Doctoral student Stella Thompson suggests: “Beavers could be used to aid and uphold dead wood production in dead wood-poor lowland boreal forests. The species would concurrently facilitate the restoration and conservation of wetlands, which are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.”
Stella Thompson, Mia Vehkaoja, Petri Nummi. Beaver-created deadwood dynamics in the boreal forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 2016; 360: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2015.10.019
December 3, 2015 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco. The level of radioactive cesium isotopes in the sample, 11 Becquerel’s per cubic meter of seawater (about 264 gallons), is 50 percent higher than other samples collected along the West Coast so far, but is still more than 500 times lower than US government safety limits for drinking water, and well below limits of concern for direct exposure while swimming, boating, or other recreational activities. Ken Buesseler, a marine radiochemist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and director of the WHOI Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity, was among the first to begin monitoring radiation in the Pacific, organizing a research expedition to the Northwest Pacific near Japan just three months after the accident that started in March 2011. Through a citizen science sampling effort, Our Radioactive Ocean, that he launched in 2014, as well as research funded by the National Science Foundation, Buesseler and his colleagues are using sophisticated sensors to look for minute levels of ocean-borne radioactivity from Fukushima. In 2015, they have added more than 110 new samples in the Pacific to the more than 135 previously collected and posted on the Our Radioactive Ocean web site. “These new data are important for two reasons,” said Buesseler. “First, despite the fact that the levels of contamination off our shores remain well below government-established safety limits for human health or to marine life, the changing values underscore the need to more closely monitor contamination levels across the Pacific. Second, these long-lived radioisotopes will serve as markers for years to come for scientists studying ocean currents and mixing in coastal and offshore waters.“…
Princeton University researchers suggest in a new theory of land-biome evolution that plants are not passive features of their environments, but may instead actively behave in ways that determine the productivity and composition of their ecosystems. The theory was developed to explain why trees known as “nitrogen fixers,” which produce their own fertilizer from atmospheric nitrogen, flourish in nitrogen-rich tropical soils, but are short-lived in the nitrogen-poor soils of boreal or temperate forests. The aerial photo above shows a rainforest in Panama in which nitrogen-fixing trees are abundant (about 10 percent of all trees), diverse, and persist in both young and old forests. The researchers found that tropical nitrogen fixers evolved to stop producing nitrogen in order to compete with neighboring trees.
Credit: Photo by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
In a new global theory of land-biome evolution, researchers suggest that plants are not passive features of their environments, but may instead actively behave in ways that determine the productivity and composition of their ecosystems….The researchers developed their theory to solve a longstanding mystery in ecology of why trees that can produce their own fertilizer from atmospheric nitrogen grow where they do — they thrive where scientists suppose they shouldn’t, and struggle in seemingly ideal conditions…”Generally we think of plants as responding passively to their environment, but we found that they can in fact be quite strategic,” Hedin said. “Our theory suggests that the distribution of nitrogen fixers across biomes, and the great success of fixers in tropical forests, is a result of the evolution of ‘smart’ plant strategies in tropical forests in particular. “Tropical nitrogen-fixing plants are smart enough to know when to use costly nitrogen fixation to compete with neighboring plants, and when to turn it off, as if they are sentient beings,” he said. “Nitrogen fixers in non-tropical zones are initially super competitors but end up fueling their own demise. Because their fixation is not strategic in the long term, they spread nitrogen around to their neighbors and their neighbors overcome them.”…
….”The idea that some species have limited control over nitrogen fixation leaves them quite susceptible to a changing global environment,” Houlton said. “The unprecedented amount of nitrogen circulating though the world’s ecosystems is one of the largest impacts of humans on the planet. Will this added nitrogen remove nitrogen-fixing trees from temperate forests? The authors’ study certainly shines a light on this future possibility.” Nitrogen-fixing trees in boreal and temperate forests face additional pressure from humans, Sheffer said. The trees have evolved in accordance with the natural disturbances these forests face, particularly fire, she said. The work by her and her colleagues shows that after a disturbance nitrogen fixers “set the conditions” for the forest’s regeneration, Sheffer said. Fire suppression and forest fragmentation, however, can restrict the distribution of non-tropical nitrogen fixers, which could affect forest recovery and health overall, Sheffer said. An additional consideration is that higher temperatures related to climate change could increase the decomposition by soil organisms, which would lead to a greater carbon content in the soils of boreal and temperate regions. More carbon would mean more nitrogen, thus removing the early advantage of nitrogen-fixing trees. “Our paper shows that different strategies of nitrogen fixation evolved in the different biomes to take advantage of the typical patterns of disturbance in each of these forest biomes well before there were so many human-made disturbances,” Sheffer said. “Human activities are counteracting these evolutionary solutions,” she said. “This could affect the global carbon budget if the regrowth of temperate and boreal forests is delayed due to a shortage of symbiotic nitrogen-fixing trees.”
Efrat Sheffer, Sarah A. Batterman, Simon A. Levin, Lars O. Hedin. Biome-scale nitrogen fixation strategies selected by climatic constraints on nitrogen cycle. Nature Plants, 2015; 1 (12): 15182 DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2015.182
Trucks and machinery are pictured at a PT Exploitasi Energi Indonesia Tbk coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia east Kalimantan province, September 14, 2013. REUTERS/Zevanya Suryawan
Source: Reuters – Thu, 3 Dec 2015 22:36 GMT By Chris Arsenault
TORONTO, Dec 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – International coal mining threatens to destroy an area bigger than the size of Iceland with deforestation, a report said on Thursday. The 11.9 million hectares (46,000 square miles [29.4 million acres]) under threat are located largely in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, India, Colombia and the United States, according to the report by the Dutch environmental group Fern released during climate change negotiations in Paris. The report calculated land threatened with deforestation by existing and potential coal extraction using satellite maps to compare the size of mining operations with forested areas. Not only does coal extraction bring the threat of deforestation but also, forests take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the report said. Chopping them down for access to underground coal deposits endangers the climate, it said. “Negotiators gathering in Paris need to recognize that clamping down on coal mining would not only reduce carbon emissions, it would help to save forests and all of their benefits,” Saskia Ozinga, Fern’s climate campaigner, said in a statement. Leaders and negotiators from 195 countries are gathered in France for a summit aimed at securing a global pact on climate change. The Fern report said in Indonesia, 8.6 million hectares (33,000 square miles) of forest is threatened by mining concessions, amounting to nearly 9 percent of the nation’s forest cover. Forested area the size of 2.1 million soccer fields, equivalent to 1.3 million hectares (5,000 square miles), is under threat from coal mining in Australia, the report said….
Illegal hunting continues to be a challenge for biodiversity conservation in addition to posing a serious threat to some migratory species. The province of Gipuzkoa in northern Spain, a transit area for birds migrating between Africa and Europe, is an example of just how this illegal activity can severely affect these animals. Over the course of the year, dozens of birds will arrive to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Gipuzkoa with firearm-inflicted wounds, evidence that there are still illegal activities taking place which threaten biodiversity conservation.
Street tree biofiltration systems in Melbourne, Australia. Credit: Peter May
Urban environments struggle with contaminated water running off, causing pollution and algal blooms. In response, cities often use natural landscapes of soil, grasses, and trees. These biofiltration systems capture and filter the runoff. Researchers measured how well tree species grew when watered with stormwater, and how well they took extra nutrients out of the stormwater.
E. C. Denman, P. B. May, G. M. Moore. The Potential Role of Urban Forests in Removing Nutrients from Stormwater. Journal of Environment Quality, 2015; 0 (0): 0 DOI: 10.2134/jeq2015.01.0047
In a first-of-its-kind study, an international team tested social correlates of both objective and subjective contact with nature in a systematic way, revealing complex linkages between nature, social cohesion, and a variety of other factors.
Meet Wisdom, the oldest living, banded, wild bird. This 64-year-old bird returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge on November 19, 2015, after a year at sea. A few days later, she was observed with her mate. Wisdom departed soon after mating but refuge workers expect her back any day to lay her egg. Wisdom was first banded in 1956. And because Laysan albatross do not return to breed until they are at least five years old, it is estimated Wisdom is at least 64 years old, but she could be older. Although Laysan albatrosses typically mate for life, Wisdom has likely had more than one mate and has raised as many as 36 chicks. Laying only one egg per year, a breeding albatross will spend a tiring 130 days (approximately) incubating and raising a chick. When not tending to their chicks, albatross forage hundreds of miles out at sea periodically returning with meals of squid or flying fish eggs. Wisdom has likely clocked over six million ocean miles of flight time. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is home to the largest albatross colony in the world and 70 percent of the world’s Laysan albatross population. Midway Atoll is one of more than 560 wildlife refuges that make up the National Wildlife Refuge System. National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species and more than 1,000 species of fish. Learn more about Wisdom at: http://usfwspacific.tumblr.com.
On the edge of a dull patch of brown grass and Brooklyn weeds, a little media scrum jockeyed quietly for position.
“There you go,” the Channel 2 cameraman said to the Channel 5 cameraman. “You got him?” Twenty feet beyond their lenses, the star of the show appeared, a small finchlike bird. What he did was unremarkable: Duck, bob, peck, hop. Duck, bob, peck, hop. But how he looked doing it was off the charts: brilliant indigo head, yellow shoulders shading to chartreuse to green, with scarlet-orange underparts.
The object of fascination was a male painted bunting, an avian connoisseur of grassland never before seen in Brooklyn — and rarely found much north of Arkansas — that has drawn crowds of bird-watchers to Prospect Park since its discovery on Sunday. “It’s like the Liberace bird,” said Tom Stephenson, a bird-book author who lives near the park. On Wednesday, for a fourth straight day, the bird grazed and played hide-and-seek with birders and reporters in a swath of native grasses planted outside a skating rink complex called the LeFrak Center…
Rosabel Miro’s work helped save wetlands in the Bay of Panama from rampant development. Rosabel is a close Point Blue colleague in our Migratory Shorebird Project, as well as the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and other important wetland conservation partnerships.
December 3, 2015
On Monday the Disney Conservation Fund announced its 2015 Disney Conservation Heros, people whose efforts help to save wildlife, protect habitats, and educate communities. Selected from a pool of individuals nominated by non-profits is Rosabel Miro, executive director of Panama Audubon Society, Audubon’s BirdLife partner in Panama. Before Miro joined the staff at Panama Audubon Society, she had volunteered with the organization for seven years. She works tirelessly with government, the community and local organizations to advance conservation in Panama. Through her leadership and organization of a wide array of stakeholders, Miro was a key leader in the charge to save the Bay of Panama wetlands and encourage the government to declare the area a permanently protected wildlife refuge area….
WILDLIFE QUESTION OF THE WEEK- BLM CA
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog” – these are some of the ingredients used by the witches in Macbeth to cast spells. Why would it be a bad idea for non-witches to use newts as a spell-casting ingredient?
(a.) They have large, sharp teeth (b.) They are poisonous (c.) They carry a virus that causes warts in humans (d.) Their skins excrete a powerful hallucinogen (e.) They have very sharp barbed spikes on their forelegs Keep reading for answer at end
CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS and special DROUGHT section
California broke a record late last month: Sea levels at several tide stations in Southern California reached higher elevations than ever measured before, including during major storms. Water levels were higher than the “King Tides” that were predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), due to the ongoing El Niño, warm ocean temperatures and a minor storm. NOAA observations for San Diego, La Jolla and Santa Barbara show sea levels for November 25, 2015 higher than the maximum water levels ever recorded at these tide stations. Read More>
Elise Gornish, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in restoration ecology, and John Parodi, restoration program manager for Point Blue’s Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed, looking at a 10-year-old stream restoration project.
The revegetation of streams and creeks that crisscross California rangeland can play a significant role in helping counties meet carbon emission standards. “We have long known that stream revegetation improves wildlife habitat and enhances water quality, but that fact that the vegetation and trapped sediment capture carbon underscores the importance of this conservation practice,” said David Lewis, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) watershed management advisor for Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties. Going back to the time when Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was running long-horn cattle on a vast tract of land in Alta California, ranchers didn’t always understand the value of the trees, shrubs and grasses that grew around rangeland waterways. Vallejo removed vegetation because it provided a hideout for grizzly bears that attacked his cattle and pilfered hides being tanned. In later years, authorities coached landowners to alter streams and remove plants to increase stream flow and improve flood control. Beginning in the 1960s, the environmental impacts of removing trees and plants became apparent and public funds were made available to share in the cost of restoring streamside vegetation on private land, said Lewis, who is also director of UC ANR Cooperative Extension in Marin and Napa counties. Over a period of three years, he and a team of UC and local scientists studied the stream revegetation projects that took place from about 1970 to just recently. They documented the carbon sequestration benefits of stream revegetation and calculated the value based on the current market for carbon credits. The results were shared in a report released this month, Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Riparian Revegetation. “In Marin County, for example, the cost per metric ton for carbon dioxide equivalence sequestered with revegetation was $19.75. The carbon market is currently paying about $12.50,” Lewis said. “There is about $7 that we haven’t made up. But when you think about the other benefits of riparian restoration – reduced sediment, restored habitat for migratory songbirds and other wildlife – I would bet that value to be much greater than $7.” Lewis’ research will be of interest to county governments as they strive to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions to comply with the requirements of the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). The legislation requires California to reduce its greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. As part of the law, local governments must write a “Climate Action Plan” to report how they will monitor and track progress in reducing and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. “It may make sense for governments and project proponents to invest in creek restoration and other farm conservation practices to reach and surpass their carbon emission reduction goals,” Lewis said.
From the report: Considering only the carbon accrued at the 1 km representative site, there is 4,419 tonnes equating to 16,217 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Marin’s Climate Action Plan 2015 Update has the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 84,160 tonnes CO2e (ICF International, 2015). This amount could be offset with the implementation of 5.2 km (3.23 miles) of stream revegetation [very feasible]. Cost estimates for stream revegetation are $316 per linear meter ($96 per linear foot) or $19.75 per tonne CO2e.
In 2010, a lone grey whale was spotted in the North Atlantic – the first sighting in about 200 years. Photo: AP
In the spring of 2010, a lone grey whale was spotted off the Mediterranean coast of Israel, an event that sparked international interest for an important reason: It was the first North Atlantic sighting of a grey whale, a species nowadays restricted to the Pacific Ocean, in about 200 years. The case is just one example in a recent spate of animals turning up in places they don’t belong – generally, either Pacific species showing up in the Atlantic, or vice versa. Northern gannets, a North Atlantic species, have been spotted off the coast of California several times in recent years, for instance, while several Pacific species of auks, a type of diving bird, have recently been observed in the Atlantic. It’s a perplexing – yet apparently increasing – trend. And while animals do occasionally wander outside of their ranges, scientists are starting to believe that the recent flurry of movements between the Atlantic and Pacific ocean basins are early evidence of yet another consequence of climate change. They’re arguing that as sea ice continues to melt in the Arctic, passageways are opening for certain animals – heretofore restricted by the ice – to start moving through, enabling them to cross into new territories. This is the focus of a new paper , released in the journal Global Change Biology, that explores the recent uptick in what the authors refer to as “faunal exchange,” or the movement of wildlife between the Atlantic and Pacific ocean basins, via the Arctic. Such movements are likely to be made possible by the opening up of passageways, including the famed Northwest Passage, a shipping route through the Arctic currently largely blocked by sea ice…..
Accelerated loss of sea ice in the Arctic is opening routes connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for longer periods each year. These changes may increase the ease and frequency with which marine birds and mammals move between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean basins. Indeed, recent observations of birds and mammals suggest these movements have intensified in recent decades. Reconnection of the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean basins will present both challenges to marine ecosystem conservation and an unprecedented opportunity to examine the ecological and evolutionary consequences of interoceanic faunal exchange in real time. To understand these changes and implement effective conservation of marine ecosystems, we need to further develop modeling efforts to predict the rate of dispersal and consequences of faunal exchange. These predictions can be tested by closely monitoring wildlife dispersal through the Arctic Ocean and using modern methods to explore the ecological and evolutionary consequences of these movements.
An increase in the water temperature of the world’s oceans of around six degrees Celsius — which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 — could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis. Credit: NOAA MESA Project.
Falling oxygen levels caused by global warming could be a greater threat to the survival of life on planet Earth than flooding, according to researchers from the University of Leicester. A study led by Sergei Petrovskii, Professor in Applied Mathematics from the University of Leicester’s Department of Mathematics, has shown that an increase in the water temperature of the world’s oceans of around six degrees Celsius — which some scientists predict could occur as soon as 2100 — could stop oxygen production by phytoplankton by disrupting the process of photosynthesis. Professor Petrovskii explained: “Global warming has been a focus of attention of science and politics for about two decades now. A lot has been said about its expected disastrous consequences; perhaps the most notorious is the global flooding that may result from melting of Antarctic ice if the warming exceeds a few degrees compared to the pre-industrial level. However, it now appears that this is probably not the biggest danger that the warming can cause to the humanity. “About two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton — and therefore cessation would result in the depletion of atmospheric oxygen on a global scale. This would likely result in the mass mortality of animals and humans.” The team developed a new model of oxygen production in the ocean that takes into account basic interactions in the plankton community, such as oxygen production in photosynthesis, oxygen consumption because of plankton breathing and zooplankton feeding on phytoplankton. While mainstream research often focuses on the CO2 cycle, as carbon dioxide is the agent mainly responsible for global warming, few researchers have explored the effects of global warming on oxygen production…
Yadigar Sekerci, Sergei Petrovskii. Mathematical Modelling of Plankton–Oxygen Dynamics Under the Climate Change. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11538-015-0126-0
This undated handout image provided by Karl Bruun, Nostoca Algae Laboratory, photo courtesy of Nikon Small World, shows a number of marine diatom cells (Rhizosolenia setigera), which are an important group of phytoplankton in the oceans. Much of life on Earth depends on tiny plant plankton. They are the foundation of the bountiful ocean food web, make half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide. A new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change demonstrates that ocean acidification could dramatically impact the world’s plankton. Karl Bruun/Nostoca Algae Laborator/Nikon Small World/AP/File
Phytoplankton, micro-organisms that float, as opposed to swim, are rapidly thriving in the North Atlantic, suggesting an environmental shift that defies previous scientific predictions. Scientists have long thought that the number of plankton species would decline due to increased acidity in the oceans. However, over the last four decades or so they have grown to be much more in abundance, a new study indicates. The study, led researchers from Johns Hopkins University, shows a ten-fold increase in the number of coccolithophores, single-celled algae with a limestone shell, that are found throughout the planet’s oceans between 1965 and 2010, and a particularly sharp spike since the late 1990s. “Something strange is happening here, and it’s happening much more quickly than we thought it should,” Anand Gnanadesikan, associate professor in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins, and also one of the study’s five authors said, in a news release. During their study, the team, analyzed Continuous Plankton Recorder survey data from the North Atlantic Ocean and North Sea since the mid-1960s. This revealed that higher carbon dioxide levels in our planet’s oceans may be causing an increase in the population of coccolithophores. “Our statistical analyses on field data from the CPR point to carbon dioxide as the best predictor of the increase in coccolithophores,” Sara Rivero-Calle, a Johns Hopkins doctoral student and lead author of the study said. “The consequences of releasing tons of CO2 over the years are already here and this is just the tip of the iceberg.” According to William M. Balch of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine, a co-author of the study, scientisits have long expected that increasing ocean acidification acidity due to higher carbon dioxide would suppress these chalk-shelled organisms. The new study shows, it didn’t. “Coccolithophores have been typically more abundant during Earth’s warm interglacial and high CO2 periods,” said Balch. “The results presented here are consistent with this and may portend, like the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ where we are headed climatologically.” A study last summer projected that the balance of various plankton species will radically change as the world’s oceans increase in acidity over the next 85 years. The Christian Science Monitor reported, “By 2100, ocean acidification will have grown to such an extent that some species of phytoplankton ‘will die out, while others will flourish’“….
Globally, phytoplankton absorb as much carbon dioxide as tropical rainforests and so understanding the way they respond to a warming climate is crucial, say scientists. A new study from the University of Exeter, published in the journal Ecology Letters, found that phytoplankton — microscopic water-borne plants — can rapidly evolve tolerance to elevated water temperatures. Globally, phytoplankton absorb as much carbon dioxide as tropical rainforests and so understanding the way they respond to a warming climate is crucial. Phytoplankton subjected to warmed water initially failed to thrive but it took only 45 days, or 100 generations, for them to evolve tolerance to temperatures expected by the end of the century. With their newfound tolerance came an increase in the efficiency in which they were able to convert carbon dioxide into new biomass.
The results show that evolutionary responses in phytoplankton to warming can be rapid and might offset some of the predicted declines in the ability of aquatic ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide as the planet warms…. The underlying mechanism for the ability to tolerate warmer temperatures was an increase in the efficiency in which the alga was able to convert carbon dioxide into new biomass by reducing rates of respiration (production of carbon dioxide). It is this shift in the relative rates of respiration and photosynthesis that enabled the phytoplankton to cope with warmer temperatures. While these experiments focused on a single species and strain of phytoplankton, the researchers believe that the rapid evolution of carbon-use efficiency will apply to other species of phytoplankton and substantially improve models describing ecological and biogeochemical effects of climate change.
Daniel Padfield, Genevieve Yvon-Durocher, Angus Buckling, Simon Jennings, Gabriel Yvon-Durocher. Rapid evolution of metabolic traits explains thermal adaptation in phytoplankton. Ecology Letters, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12545
Current El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean have created high water temperatures that are seriously damaging coral reefs, including those on Christmas Island, which may be the epicenter for what could become a global coral bleaching event, report scientists….
Digital measurements of millions of trees indicate that previous studies likely overestimate the amount of carbon stored by temperate US forests, according to a new study. The findings could help scientists better understand the impact that trees have on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Although it is a well-established fact that trees absorb carbon and store it long-term, researchers are unsure how much is stored in global forests.
“Estimates of the carbon content of living trees typically rely on a method that is based on cutting down trees,” said Laura Duncanson, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It takes a lot of effort to cut down trees, particularly the biggest ones, so this just isn’t practical to do in large numbers.” Because of this limitation, field studies aim to strategically sample trees. When looking at U.S. forests, for example, on average about 30 trees of each species would be cut down and measured. Researchers would then use basic mathematical models to scale up those measurements to many thousands, or even millions, of trees, resulting in an estimate of the biomass – the amount of carbon stored – for an entire forest. In the paper, published on Nov. 24 in Scientific Reports, Duncanson and her co-investigators, Ralph Dubayah and Oliver Rourke, both from the University of Maryland, College Park, found that this widely used method tends to overestimate the height of large trees, leading to biomass figures that are much too high for temperate forests. This overestimation occurs because of a sampling bias: many more young, smaller trees get selected for analysis than older, larger trees. Because the mathematical models that predict tree biomass are mostly based on the smaller trees, the resulting models do not make accurate predictions for the largest trees.
Instead of sampling trees by cutting them down, the new study used lidar, a laser-based technique that can analyze whole swaths of forest from above. The data were provided primarily by Goddard’s Lidar, Hyperspectral and Thermal instrument, known as G-LiHT. This portable lidar can be flown on an aircraft to provide fine-scale observations with a resolution of less than 3.3 feet (1 meter) over large areas….The team determined that when the small sample sizes typical of the conventional approach were used, the figures overestimated the inferred biomass of temperate forests by 70 percent, on average. The bias that results from sampling small numbers of trees has been well studied in tropical forests. Even so, the researchers were surprised to discover the magnitude of the issue for temperate forests. “Our findings underscore the importance of sampling more trees,” said Duncanson. “When you include more trees, and especially more big trees, you get a much better idea of how much carbon is being stored.”
L. Duncanson, O. Rourke, R. Dubayah. Small Sample Sizes Yield Biased Allometric Equations in Temperate Forests. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 17153 DOI: 10.1038/srep17153
Using statistically modeled maps drawn from satellite data and other sources, scientists have projected that the near-surface permafrost that presently underlies 38 percent of boreal and arctic Alaska would be reduced by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the 21st century under widely accepted climate scenarios….
3.2 Sea levels are rising, and rising faster every year. According to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels rose an average of 1.7 millimeters a year during the 20th century. Some areas have had larger rises than others, and measurements vary from year to year at different locations. Measuring sea level is difficult. Scientists use tidal gauges and satellite altimeter data to measure these changes, and there are some questions about the precision of these tools. Variations in land level complicate matters further; it is often difficult to distinguish rising seas from falling land. And as water warms, it expands. Still, there is no question about the basic facts. Since 1993, the average rate of increase has nearly doubled, to 3.2 millimeters a year. The retreat of glaciers, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the loss of sea ice have contributed to these accelerating increases. Extreme sea levels during storm surges like that of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 have increased since 1970, mainly the result of rising seas. By 2081, yearly increases are likely to be as high as 16 millimeters a year, or about six-tenths of an inch. By the end of this century, seas will have risen by as much as three feet, and levels will almost certainly continue to rise for many centuries. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a web tool that shows the effect of changing sea levels across the country. A three-foot rise in sea level in Malibu, Calif., for example, would put many houses near Malibu Beach under water. In New York, most of Harlem River Drive and Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive south of 168th Street would be inundated, and Ellis Island would be about half its present size. In Florida, Tampa and Miami would lose large areas of land, and much of the Keys would disappear….
Global warming will progress faster than what was previously believed. The reason is that greenhouse gas emissions that arise naturally are also affected by increased temperatures. This has been confirmed in a new study from Linköping University that measures natural methane emissions. “Everything indicates that global warming caused by humans leads to increased natural greenhouse gas emissions. Our detailed measurements reveal a clear pattern of greater methane emissions from lakes at higher temperatures,” says Sivakiruthika Natchimuthu, doctoral student at Tema Environmental Change, Linköping University, Sweden, and lead author of the latest publication on this topic from her group…Now knowledge of a vicious circle emerge: greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels lead to higher temperatures, which in turn lead to increased natural emissions and further warming. “We’re not talking about hypotheses anymore. The evidence is growing and the results of the detailed studies are surprisingly clear. [DB1] The question is no longer if the natural emissions will increase but rather how much they will increase with warming,” says David Bastviken, professor at Tema Environmental Change, Linköping University.
Sivakiruthika Natchimuthu, Ingrid Sundgren, Magnus Gålfalk, Leif Klemedtsson, Patrick Crill, Åsa Danielsson, David Bastviken. Spatio-temporal variability of lake CH4fluxes and its influence on annual whole lake emission estimates. Limnology and Oceanography, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/lno.10222
Ocean heat content down to a depth of 700m. Three-month (red), annual (black) and 5-year (blue) averages are shown. Credit: NOAA NCEI
2015 likely to be warmest on record, 2011-2015 warmest five year period
Posted: 25 Nov 2015 08:37 PM PST
The global average surface temperature in 2015 is likely to be the warmest on record and to reach the symbolic and significant milestone of 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial era. This is due to a combination of a strong El Niño and human-induced global warming, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The years 2011-2015 have been the warmest five-year period on record, with many extreme weather events — especially heatwaves — influenced by climate change, according to a WMO five-year analysis. “The state of the global climate in 2015 will make history as for a number of reasons,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new highs and in the Northern hemisphere spring 2015 the three-month global average concentration of CO2 crossed the 400 parts per million barrier for the first time. 2015 is likely to be the hottest year on record, with ocean surface temperatures at the highest level since measurements began. It is probable that the 1°C Celsius threshold will be crossed,” said Mr Jarraud. “This is all bad news for the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act. We have a choice. Future generations will not.“….
Tracking the 2C Limit – October 2015
Posted on 23 November 2015 by Rob Honeycutt
This month GISS data hit a new astounding anomaly of 1.04C over their 1951-1980 baseline period. The previous record was 0.97C back in 2007. It’s possible this figure may get adjusted downward slightly in coming months, but suffice to say this is a big jump in surface temperature. Clearly this jump is by-and-large a function of the current el Nino churning away in the Pacific, but bear in mind, the surface temperature response to the el Nino is just getting started. There’s generally a 4 to 6 month delay between the el Nino and surface temperature. Given that, we should continue to see sharply increasing surface temperatures through most of the early part of 2016 before things start to settle back again….
Iowa City — NEGOTIATORS en route to the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, scheduled to begin later this month, should take a detour on rural roads here in Johnson County. A new climate narrative is emerging among farmers in the American heartland that transcends a lot of the old story lines of denial and cynicism, and offers an updated tale of climate hope. Recent polls show that 60 percent of Iowans, now facing flooding and erosion, believe global warming is happening. From Winneshiek County to Washington County, you can count more solar panels on barns than on urban roofs or in suburban parking lots. The state’s first major solar farm is not in an urban area like Des Moines or Iowa City, but in rural Frytown, initiated by the Farmers Electric Cooperative. In the meantime, any lingering traces of cynicism will vanish in the town of Crawfordsville, where children in the Waco school district will eventually turn on computers and study under lights powered 90 percent by solar energy. Inspired by local farmers, who now use solar energy to help power some of their operations, the district’s move to solar energy will not only cut carbon emissions but also result in enough savings to keep open the town’s once financially threatened school doors. Wind turbines now line cornfields across the state, providing nearly 30 percent of Iowa’s electricity production. With some $10 billion invested in wind energy and manufacturing in Iowa, Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the benefits of green jobs.
This is only a beginning, of course. Dirty coal still accounts for 60 percent of Iowa’s electricity needs. But such centralization of electricity will falter, as other towns and cities follow the lead of Bloomfield, which recently announced plans to ramp up energy-efficiency efforts and shift its municipally owned utility — one of 136 in Iowa — to 100 percent energy independence, significantly through renewable sources by 2030. But here’s the catch: Even if every coal-fired plant shuts down, land misuse still accounts for an estimated 30 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. The soils in the United States, like those of nations around the world, have lost calamitous amounts of carbon. This is where Iowa’s new climate narrative has emerged as a great story for the nation and other countries heading to Paris. Despite the fact that the United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 to be “the international year of soils,” a global soil carbon sequestration campaign — one that recognizes direct links between climate mitigation, regenerative agriculture and food security — rarely ranks at the top of any high level accords, or even conversations. Far too few climate change negotiators took notice of an important proposal called the Four Per Thousand Initiative, which France’s Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry introduced earlier this year. This proposal simply calls for a voluntary action plan to improve organic matter content and promote carbon sequestration in soil through a transition to agro-ecology, agro-forestry, conservation agriculture and landscape management. According to France’s estimates, a “.4 percent annual growth rate of the soil carbon stock would make it possible to stop the present increase in atmospheric CO2.” In effect, Mr. Schultz and Versaland have completely shifted the climate change narrative in the heartland. Today’s farmers can play a key role in climate solutions. Iowa has arguably the most altered landscape in the United States, with its native prairies having been reduced by more than 99 percent over the decades. As in other industrialized farming regions, volatile cycles of flooding, drought and erosion increasingly threaten farm and food security. According to a white paper released last spring by the pioneering Rodale Institute, which studies and promotes organic farming, if management of all current cropland worldwide shifted to a regenerative model similar to that of Versaland and other organic farming sites, more than 40 percent of annual carbon emissions could potentially be captured. What Mr. Schultz and other Iowan farmers are doing is not only groundbreaking; it’s also giving the heartland a new future. But such efforts are only a first step in what should be a global campaign. That begins by international negotiators’ committing to binding measures that increase soil organic carbon stocks as a key part of any climate solution and deal
When it comes to global greenhouse gas emissions, livestock are one of the worst offenders. The cattle industry is trying to get a grip on how to reduce its carbon footprint, and some believe that getting animals away from feedlots and back to pasture is the answer. Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media reports.
Tropical Pacific warming during El Niño increases the north-south temperature differential, strengthening/shifting the jet stream southward and bringing increased California winter precipitation. Illustration by Emily Underwood.
Interactions between El Niño and the jet stream’s seasonal cycle
Should we be worried that California has yet to experience an epic deluge so far this fall? What happened to the ostensible “parade of storms” that is so often talked about in the context of major El Niño events? I would argue that the most appropriate answers to these questions are “no” and “it’s coming,” respectively….. A strengthened subtropical jet stream—which is the primary means by which El Niño brings increased precipitation to California—is unlikely to occur prior to winter due to the intrinsic seasonal cycle of temperature variations across the Pacific Basin.
…El Niño now appears to be strongest in modern observational record
Over the past 8 or 9 months, there has been a lot of animated discussion over whether the tropical Pacific could possibly warm as much as was being indicated by the dynamical models…. earlier this week ocean surface temperatures in the canonical Niño 3.4 region reached 3C above average for the first time in recorded history, validating dynamical model forecasts made many months earlier. This weekly value exceeds the maximum weekly value recorded even during the so-called “super El Niño” events of 1982-1983 and 1997-1998. While El Niño impacts do not correlate directly with the magnitude of SST anomalies in any particular section of ocean (and we’re still some way off from an all-time record 3-monthly peak), this is still a major geophysical milestone—and one that has significant implications for the coming winter in California.
….Outlook for California Winter 2015-2016
Top-tier El Niño conditions are now an observational reality, not a prediction. As discussed above, we are now approaching the time of year when El Niño’s influence upon the Pacific storm track tends to be more pronounced. So, with that in mind, how does the upcoming winter look? In a word: wet….
The newly-released November international model ensemble (which includes ECMWF) depicts very wet conditions over California during January-March. (CPC)
….Heavy seasonal precipitation totals don’t always lead to major flooding if there are substantial breaks between incoming storms. In fact, some of California’s most widespread and most damaging individual flood events did not occur during El Niño years. But in general, high seasonal totals mean that heavy storms are more likely to coincide with wet/saturated antecedent soil conditions, and El Niño-induced increases in storm frequency make it more likely for several intense events to occur in rapid succession. Thus, flood (and mudslide) risk will likely be greatly elevated this winter, and certainly will be higher than it has been in the past five years. This risk may also be enhanced by the legacy of California’s ongoing, record drought. Chief concerns include increased flash flood/debris flow risk near high-intensity wildfire burn scars and increased risk of levee failures and river flooding due to dramatic land surface subsidence in the Central Valley.
Very strong El Niño + record warm Pacific = wild California winter
The eastern tropical part of the Pacific basin is extremely warm due to El Niño, but oceanic warmth further to the north has been even more anomalous in recent months. Virtually every ocean temperature record in existence for the northeastern Pacific has been shattered over the past six months or so. As I’ve discussed previously, some of this incredible warmth has to do with the present El Niño event, as well as dissipated energy from the “El Niño that wasn’t” in 2014. But it’s also broadly believed in the scientific community that at least some of this phenomenal Pacific Ocean warmth is due to Earth’s long-term warming trend.
The super-warm North Pacific has the potential to add extra moisture to the atmosphere this winter. While this more generalized warming is unlikely to affect the frequency of storms, it may well act to add “extra juice” to incoming systems this winter. When we consider this effect in combination with the likely increase in storm frequency due to El Niño, it’s clear the potential exists for a very active winter overall…. it’s important to point out that the planet has experienced nearly 20 years’ worth of global warming since the last big El Niño event in 1997-1998, and nearly 35 years’ worth of warming since the 1982-1983 event before it. In general, this means that there’s more moisture over the world’s major ocean basins than there used to be—which can increase the potential intensity of precipitation when it does occur. But other more complex changes have occurred in the coupled ocean-ice-atmosphere system over the past four decades that are harder to quantify, and may have less obvious (and less predictable) impacts upon overall Pacific climate. These influences could hypothetically add to (or subtract from) the overall impact of El Niño in California in the future… Despite these added uncertainties, however, it appears quite likely that the present El Niño will exert a powerful (and likely dominant) influence upon California weather this coming winter. There has never been a year in California’s history with this much advance warning regarding the potential for very heavy precipitation, and there is still time for individuals and government agencies to take steps to mitigate the related hazards likely to emerge in the coming weeks and months (fortunately, all evidence suggests that the relevant authorities are taking this El Niño seriously)…. And—as California’s state government and water agencies have gone to great lengths to emphasize—even a very wet winter in California is unlikely to erase the profound effects of California’s multi-year drought. In many ways, the present situation resembles a conundrum that the Golden State is likely to face more often in the future: how to manage a greatly increased risk of extreme precipitation and flooding despite the presence of long-term water deficits.
Numerous climate records and denial myths have fallen in 2015
John Abraham Tuesday 24 November 2015 06.00 EST Last modified on Tuesday 24 November 2015 10.18 EST
Despite the organization and funding behind groups which try to cast doubt about the causes and implications of climate change, the facts have spoken. The world continues to warm and their favorite myths have died. We know that human-emitted heat-trapping gases warm the planet. In fact, this has been known for well over a century. With modern instruments (like ocean thermometers and satellites among others) we are now measuring the change. With advanced climate models, we can predict the changes. The measurements and the predictions are in excellent agreement, despite what cable news and second-rate skeptical scientists say. And this year, the data are in. Using measurements to date, and long-term weather forecasting to predict the last 40 days of the year (while it may seem a bit early) we now know. As my colleague Dana Nuccitelli recently noted, 2015 is the hottest year on record. When the final numbers come out in January, the NOAA 2015 global averaged surface temperature anomaly over both land and ocean will be 1.6°F above the long-term average. For the NASA GISTEMP dataset, it will be 1.5°F above the long-term average. This comes on the heels of last year’s record and recent record ocean heat content. So, the bad news is we continue to break records. The good news is that the favorite myths from climate-change skeptics have taken a beating this year. Perhaps the best-known myth is the so-called “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming. This year, six individual studies have looked into this and found it incorrect. I have co-authored one of the studies, and I’ve written about some of the others here and here.
Well just today, another paper was published by Stephan Lewandowsky, James Risbey, and Naomi Oreskes that comes to the same conclusion. The paper is titled, “On the definition and identifiability of the alleged “hiatus” in global warming”. The authors assess the magnitude and significance of all possible warming trends during the past 30 years. They found that looking back in time, the current definition of a “pause” in warming, as it is used in the literature, would have been used for more than one-third of the time, even though temperatures during the past 30 years increased by 1.1°F (0.6°C). The authors included 40 peer-reviewed studies that reported on the so-called hiatus or pause, and found no consistent definition among those studies. Then, the authors used these same 40 papers and asked whether the so-called “hiatus” was unusual in the time records. They found it wasn’t. …
Changing rainfall patterns will eventually mean that the Three Gorges Dam in China, one of the world’s largest, endures more frequent shortfalls in dry seasons and more intense floods in wet seasons, a report says.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images
BEIJING — Rising seas besieging China‘s economically vital coastal zones. Mighty feats of infrastructure, like the Three Gorges Dam and railway in Tibet, strained by turbulent rainfall and the melting of frozen earth. And on the Himalayan frontiers, the risk in future decades of international conflict over dwindling water supplies after glaciers retreat These and other somber scenarios are laid out in the Chinese government’s latest scientific assessment of global warming, released just before negotiations in Paris for a new international agreement on climate change. “There’s deepening awareness of the gravity of the problems,” Zhang Haibin, a professor at Peking University who was among some 550 experts who prepared the report, said in an interview. He noted a shift since the first such assessment was issued nine years ago. “From the first to the second to this third report, the negative impacts of climate change on China are increasingly apparent. The new report went on public sale in recent days after its release by the Ministry of Science and Technology, and is available only in Chinese. It presents global warming as squeezing China from two fronts: the environmental hazards and the international response. China is increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially from rising seas and shifting rainfall and snow patterns. Yet it also faces growing international pressure to cut its greenhouse-gas pollution, which is far the most of any country, almost twice that of the second-place country, the United States.- To ward off those international demands, urges one section of the report, Beijing should be more flexible in negotiations, where China’s dual status as a huge developing economy and the biggest polluter has generated friction with the European Union and the United States and other countries that want firmer commitments for when its greenhouse-gas output will start to fall. “New arrangements in global climate governance are unavoidable,” says the report. “China should confront the vagueness of its role and change.” The latest talks start in Paris on Monday, and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be among the leaders at the opening. Mr. Xi will restate China’s longstanding position that it is still a poor, growing country, meaning it should not bear the responsibility for quantitative greenhouse-gas caps that apply to rich economies, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday. Yet one section of the new report suggests that China will have to adjust to new demands. “There is an unavoidable trend for all countries to participate in emissions cuts, and for the major developing countries to shoulder larger emissions-reduction responsibilities,” the report said. “China must fully prepare for this.” The 900-page study, “The Third National Climate Change Assessment Report,” is not a summation of established government policy; rather is a distillation of the latest science and policy options from state-appointed experts. Some of them likened it to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which summarizes advances in scientific research and their implications, with authors sometimes contradicting each other….
Cocoa pods in Ivory Coast, one of the world’s top producers of cocoa. Climate models suggest that West Africa, where much of the world’s cocoa is grown, will get drier, which could affect supply. Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images
Chances are, you’ve picked up some chatter about the new global talks on climate change. If you can’t quite see how it matters to you, personally, you might want to take a peek inside your pantry. Or your candy jar. Because it might just affect your access to everything from cheese to chocolate. “It’s very clear now that a changing climate will have a profound effect on agriculture,” says Molly Brown, a geographer at the University of Maryland. Take one simple example, she says: Vermont. Farmers in this state used to count on being able to plant corn in May, she says. But weather patterns are shifting. The month of May is now typically cold and wet, “so they’re really not able to plant their corn until the middle of June. That delays its harvest. And then we might have an early frost.” The result is less corn for Vermont’s cows, and less local milk for the state’s dairies. “It really changes the economic structure of how dairy products are produced in Vermont,” Brown says. This kind of thing is happening all over the world, sometimes with life-changing consequences….
An analysis of the climate impact of various forms of beef production is carried out, with a particular eye to the comparison between systems relying primarily on grasses grown in pasture (‘grass-fed’ or ‘pastured’ beef) and systems involving substantial use of manufactured feed requiring significant external inputs in the form of synthetic fertilizer and mechanized agriculture (‘feedlot’ beef). The climate impact is evaluated without employing metrics such as or global warming potentials. The analysis evaluates the impact at all time scales out to 1000 years. It is concluded that certain forms of pastured beef production have substantially lower climate impact than feedlot systems. However, pastured systems that require significant synthetic fertilization, inputs from supplemental feed, or deforestation to create pasture, have substantially greater climate impact at all time scales than the feedlot and dairy-associated systems analyzed. Even the best pastured system analyzed has enough climate impact to justify efforts to limit future growth of beef production, which in any event would be necessary if climate and other ecological concerns were met by a transition to primarily pasture-based systems. Alternate mitigation options are discussed, but barring unforseen technological breakthroughs worldwide consumption at current North American per capita rates appears incompatible with a 2 °C warming target.
Reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below the ‘danger level’ of two degrees Celsius, the main goal of the climate negotiations in Paris.
Our appetite for meat is a major driver of climate change.
Reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below the ‘danger level’ of two degrees Celsius.
Public awareness of the issue is low, and meat remains off the policy agenda.
Governments must lead in shifting attitudes and behaviours.
Our appetite for meat is a major driver of climate change. Reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below the ‘danger level’ of two degrees Celsius. The livestock sector accounts for 15 per cent of global emissions, equivalent to exhaust emissions from all the vehicles in the world. A shift to healthier patterns of meat-eating could bring a quarter of the emissions reductions we need to keep on track for a two-degree world.
Global meat consumption has already reached unhealthy levels, and is on the rise. In industrialized countries, the average person is already eating twice as much meat as is deemed healthy by experts. Overconsumption is already contributing to the rise of obesity and non-communicable diseases like cancer and type-2 diabetes, and it is a growing problem: global meat consumption is set to rise by over 75 per cent by 2050.
Governments are missing a key opportunity for climate mitigation, trapped in a cycle of inertia. In spite of a compelling case for addressing meat consumption and shifting diets, governments fear the repercussions of intervention, while low public awareness means they feel little pressure to intervene.
Public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is very low. There is a considerable awareness gap around the links between livestock, diet and climate change. While awareness-raising alone will not be sufficient to effect dietary change, it will be crucial to ensuring the efficacy of the range of government policy interventions required.
Governments must lead. Our research found a general belief across cultures and continents that it is the role of government to spearhead efforts to address unsustainable consumption of meat. Governments overestimate the risk of public backlash and their inaction signals to publics that the issue is unimportant or undeserving of concern.
The issue is complex but the message must be simple. Publics respond best to simple messages. Efforts must be made to develop meaningful, accessible and impactful messaging around the need for dietary change. The overall message remains clear: globally we should eat less meat.
Trusted sources are key to raising awareness. Unless disseminated and supported by trusted sources, new information that encourages shifts in meat-eating habits is likely to be met with resistance. Trust in governments varies considerably between countries, but experts are consistently seen as the most reliable source of information within a country.
Build the case for government intervention. A compelling evidence base which resonates with existing policy objectives such as managing healthcare costs, reducing emissions and implementing international frameworks will help mobilize policy-makers.
Initiate national debates about meat consumption. Increasing public awareness about the problems of overconsumption of animal products can help disrupt the cycle of inertia, thereby creating more enabling domestic circumstances and the political space for policy intervention. This is a role for governments, the media, the scientific community, civil society and responsible business.
Pursue comprehensive approaches. Shifting diets will require comprehensive strategies, which together will amount to more than the sum of their parts by sending a powerful signal to consumers that reducing meat consumption is beneficial and that government takes the issue seriously.
UNEP Paris, Dec 1, 2015: Global agriculture production is a sector most seriously affected by climate change, increased climate variability is causing more severe floods and droughts, threatening livelihoods and food security. And yet agriculture is a big part of the problem responsible for 24 % of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which cause climate change. Delegates, which included his Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, attending a packed Lima Paris Action Agenda focus event, were introduced to initiatives that both help farmers adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. The event aimed to show how effective and concrete progress that can be made when a wide, international set of stakeholders work together to build resilience and low-carbon systems of production in agricultural and food systems….Craig Hanson, Global Director of Food, Forests & Water at the World Resources Institute (WRI), a partner of the SAVE FOOD Initiative said that food waste was a huge problem with 1.3billion tons of food deliberately discarded from farm to fork. “This food waste would cover a land area the size of China, consume one quarter of the amount of water used in agriculture, and emit 8% of all greenhouse gases,” Mr Hanson said. “If food loss was a country it would be the 3rd largest GHG emitter.” France’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Stéphane Le Foll, helped launched the the 4/1000 Initiative, which aims to protect and increase carbon stocks in soils.
“We are ensuring that soil is always covered by plants in order to fix carbon and return it to the soil,” M. Le Foll said. “This is something we have been doing in France in order to boost soil carbon and is something that could be very important for many countries in Africa.” At the heart of the Agriculture Action Agenda, are six major initiatives supporting farmers, which include:
The “4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate”
Officially launched today by a hundred partners (developed and developing states, international organizations, private foundations, international funds, NGOs and farmers’ organization) the 4/1000 Initiative aims to protect and increase carbon stocks in soils. Soils can store huge quantities of carbon and contributing to limitation of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, supplementing the necessary efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally and generally throughout the economy. The partners decided to reinforce their actions on appropriate soil management, recognizing the importance of soil health for the transition towards productive, highly resilient agriculture. This initiative intends to show that a small increase of 4/1000 per year of the soil carbon stock (agricultural soils, notably grasslands and pastures, and forest soils) is a major leverage in order to improve soil fertility, resilience of farmers and contribute to the long-term objective of keeping the global average temperature increase below 2 degrees….
A new international report warns that climate change will likely have far-reaching impacts on food security worldwide, especially for the poor and those in tropical regions. The report finds that warmer temperatures and altered precipitation patterns can affect food production, transportation, and safety….
According to the guidelines provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), long-term averages should be used as weather data when calculating the carbon balance of forests. When the interannual variation caused by weather is excluded, uncertainty estimates for soil carbon stock change become unrealistically small, says a group of experts. …
By OLIVER GEDENDEC. 1, 2015 NY Times OpEd Oliver Geden heads the E.U. research division at SWP, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Berlin — OVER the last few years, the concept of a global carbon budget has established itself as a key element of the international climate policy debate. The budget defines the total amount of carbon dioxide we can emit into the atmosphere and still keep warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, the goal set by the United Nations. The concept of the budget is quite simple: If the total amount of remaining emissions is explicitly defined, then we will have a road map for political and economic action. To meet the budget, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that we would have to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by some 40 percent to 70 percent from 2010 levels by 2050. After that, emissions would have to fall to “net zero” by the end of the century. But as delegates meet in Paris this week for what is expected to be the most decisive United Nations climate summit yet, we are already in danger of busting the budget. If the plans submitted by more than 180 governments are implemented, humanity will outspend its carbon budget by 2040 at the latest. Staying within the original budget outlined by the I.P.C.C. no longer seems realistic. So what do we do? This is where magical thinking, questionable accounting and dubious expectations about future technology come into play. It is called negative emissions. Negative emissions are the flip side of emissions. The idea is to develop technology that would remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. This would allow for significantly higher fossil fuel emissions over the next few decades. To compensate, we would start removing more and more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to eventually reach the I.P.C.C.’s net zero emissions line by 2070 and go even lower afterward.
Climate problem solved — at least according to the climate models. But there’s a problem with this scenario…. The public has taken little, if any, notice of these considerations, and even policy makers are often unaware of the amount of negative emissions climate economists assume for the future. I.P.C.C. models foresee negative emissions of about 600 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2100, which equals more than 10 years of current annual emissions. This is the amount of carbon dioxide that we will somehow have to remove from the atmosphere. We need to be honest. This approach relies on some very dubious calculations and assumes the existence of technologies whose risks have not been adequately studied, let alone discussed publicly. Admittedly, not all of the technologies that could be used to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would require enormous land areas or carbon storage capacities. But that does not mean that alternative methods, such as direct air capture or liming the oceans, would face considerably less public opposition. We need to seriously discuss the effects of technologies designed to remove carbon from the Earth’s atmosphere — technologies whose large-scale use is now being assumed as a means for achieving ambitious climate goals — and to have this discussion not only among scientists, but on a political level as well. Because right now, we’re on the verge of repeating the same mistake that led to the financial crisis: relying on economic models that are completely detached from what’s going on in the real world.
Serious flaws have been found in a decade’s worth of studies about the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate. The findings, from the University of Michigan, are released as world leaders at COP21 attempt to negotiate the globe’s first internationally binding climate agreement. The U-M researchers have found that most economic analysis of carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology for coal-fired power plants severely underestimates the technique’s costs and overestimates its energy efficiency. CCS involves sucking carbon out of coal-fired power plants’ flue gases, compressing it and then injecting it deep underground. The new analysis puts the cost of reducing carbon emissions with CCS-equipped coal plants higher than any previous study — and most importantly, higher than wind and comparable to solar power. It’s the first study to confront the so-called ‘energy loop’ inherent in the CCS process. Beyond a one-time ‘energy penalty’ these plants pay because they have to burn more coal to power devices that capture carbon, the researchers say the disadvantage compounds until fuel costs leap to four times today’s accepted estimates. “The conclusion is that renewables will be a cheaper alternative to reducing carbon emissions from coal, at least in the United States and likely globally,” said Steve Skerlos, U-M professor of mechanical engineering, and civil and environmental engineering. “To us, this means policymakers need to stop wasting time hoping for technological silver bullets to sustain the status quo in the electric sector and quickly accelerate the transition from coal to renewables, or possibly, natural gas power plants with CCS.” Coal-fired power plants produce nearly a third of the world’s electricity. Today, they also emit more than half of the world’s energy-sector carbon dioxide — the primary driver of climate change. Scientists recommend reducing CO2 emissions dramatically to keep the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) over its pre-Industrial average…
By CURT STAGERNOV. 28, 2015 Curt Stager is a professor of natural sciences at Paul Smith’s College and the author of “Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.”
Paul Smiths, N.Y. — IT’S a mistake to think the climatic effects of our carbon emissions will be over within a few decades or centuries. Our intergenerational responsibilities run much deeper into the future.
In this new Anthropocene epoch, the “Age of Humans,” we have become so numerous, our technology so powerful, and our lives so interconnected that we are now a force of nature on a geological scale. By running our civilization on fossil fuels, we are both creating and destroying climates that our descendants will live in tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years from now. Carbon atoms do not disappear when we burn them into carbon dioxide. Isotopic tracer studies show that they work their way into the very fabric of life on Earth. Some of them travel up the food chain from the atmosphere to plants to animals to our dinner plates. Roughly one-eighth of the carbon in your flesh, hair and bones recently emerged from smokestacks and tailpipes. We are not only a source of air pollution — we are air pollution, and our waste fumes will henceforth be woven into the bodies of our descendants, too.
This inert fossil fuel carbon inside us has no direct effect on our health, although mercury and other pollutants that often accompany it amid industrial and automotive emissions may harm us. Most of the airborne carbon will eventually dissolve into the oceans, leaving a sizable fraction of it aloft until it, too, is removed by chemical reactions with carbonate and silicate minerals in rocks and sediments.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the natural mopping up of our mess will be extremely slow. Research by the University of Chicago oceanographer and climate scientist David Archer and others shows that the cleanup will take tens of thousands of years even if we switch quickly to renewable energy sources. When the Earth’s slow cyclic tilting and wobbling along its eccentric orbital path once again leads to a major cooling period some 50,000 years from now, enough of our heat-trapping carbon emissions will still remain in the atmosphere to warm the planet just enough to weaken that chill. In other words, our impacts on global climate are so profound that we will have canceled the next ice age.
It is now too late to stop human-driven warming altogether. Even if we wean ourselves from fossil fuels within the next few decades, our descendants will still face temperatures significantly higher than they are now — for millenniums to come. But that is no reason to delay or despair. If we don’t make the switch soon, our descendants will later be forced to do so under duress because of the depletion of finite reserves, and the artificially hotter Earth will be even poorer in species, habitats and lifestyles for thousands more generations.
What will it be like to live in a warmer world? Geological history contains numerous examples of previous natural hot spells that offer clues. First, consider the milder scenario. If we switch quickly from fossil fuels, climates might come to resemble those of the interglacial warm periods that punctuated ice ages of the last two million years. During the last interglacial, which began 130,000 years ago and lasted about 13,000 to 15,000 years, global average temperatures were 2 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than today. Enough of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melted to lift sea levels by about 20 feet, Many species and ecosystems adapted to the changes that didn’t suit them by simply migrating toward the poles. Polar bears survived, presumably because they found enough icy refuges in the high Arctic to keep them going. The warmth coaxed southern Appalachian oak-hickory-black gum forests north to upstate New York and sent hippos, elephants and other typically African animals north through Europe. Unfortunately, our Anthropocene cities, roads, farms and fences now block future migration routes, and as our excess carbon dioxide soaks into the ocean, there will be no place for shell-bearing marine creatures to migrate to as the seawater grows increasingly acidic. Furthermore, the heat-trapping gases that we release in the most moderate scenario will warm the Earth for much longer than a typical interglacial, on the order of 100,000 years. This best-case scenario is troubling, but Earth history shows us that the alternative is unacceptable. If we burn all remaining coal, oil and gas reserves within the next century or two, we could introduce a more extreme, longer-lasting hothouse much like one that occurred about 56 million years ago: the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM. Unlike the relatively mild interglacials driven by the tilt, wobble and orbit of the Earth, the PETM fundamentally transformed the planet….
…From the perspective of future generations, the whiplash and subsequent cooling that follows our own thermal peak could be as challenging as the warming. Species and cultures that will have adapted to centuries of rising temperatures, retreating ice, and advancing sea levels will then have to face strange new kinds of environmental change in reverse. For example, when global temperatures eventually begin to fall, the oceans will continue to swell because climates will still be warm enough to continue melting what remains of the polar ice sheets for thousands of years. Those who live through that long, strange period will face sea level rise and global cooling at the same time.
WE are not only warming the planet but also constructing and demolishing artificial worlds of the deep future. The thermal peak of a PETM reprise could last many thousands of years, long enough for future cultures and habitats to grow older than Babylon, and long enough for a greenhouse Earth to seem normal for hundreds of generations. But climate whiplash will eventually pull the rug out from under our later descendants. In that far future, there will be no more fossil fuels left to burn in order to sustain the artificial hothouse, and only a reduced, heat-tolerant fraction of today’s cultural and biological diversity will remain to face an age of global cooling that could last as long as half a million years, far more than the entire history of anatomically modern humans up until now. A switch from finite fossil energy to cleaner, renewable energy sources is inevitable: We are only deciding how and when to do it. That is what world leaders and policy makers will be grappling with at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change that begins Monday in Paris. Much of the environmental harm that we have already done was unintentional, but now that science has exposed our role in it a new moral dimension has been added to our actions. Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment makes it clear that to continue taking a profligate carbon path is to sin against future generations and our own human dignity. As pioneers of the Anthropocene, we are an immensely powerful force of nature and can accomplish great things if we not only learn what is scientifically true, but also do what is morally right. Pope Francis tells us that “there is nobility in the duty to care for creation.” As a climate scientist who welcomes international action to address climate change, I offer a heartfelt “Amen” to that.
Here are the latest market-tested words for selling climate action
“Let’s Talk Climate” is very, very detailed, but not in an academic way. Mostly, it is a collection of handy “Dos and Don’ts” lists, which are full of opinions on what not to say to those you are trying to climate-educate (“climate change, climate crisis, climate risk, global warming”) and what you should say (“damage to the climate”). Other rewordings to consider:
Stop it with “stop/mitigate/slow down climate change” talk. Instead, say things like “create healthy and safe communities” and “protect our families’ and children’s health.”
No more “renewable energy,” “green energy,” or “domestic energy.” Instead, try “locally made clean energy,” or the even more America-and-apple-pie version — “clean energy, made right at home.”
Cut out the talk about how doing something about climate change will make things better for you or the person who you are trying to persuade as individuals. It’s much more inspiring to say, “better for families, our children, and future generations.”
Don’t say things like “the government should do a better job of regulating oil pipelines.” A lot of people out there hate the government. Instead, talk about “fines” and “rules” for polluters — especially corporate ones.
If you’re talking to someone who is religiously inclined, there are two mini-sermons — one for Catholics (“We have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation“) and one that appears to be for more of a born-again audience (“God so loved us he created for us a pure, clean home here on Earth, vibrant with healthy nature to provide for us“).
The phrase “public transit” makes people feel resentful, and worried that you are going to take away their cars. Keep it nice and vague with the phrase “better transit.”
The word “energy” makes people feel good. America loves energy. For that reason, don’t muddle a good word by saying things like “dirty energy.” When something is gross, find a different word, like “fuel.”
And, while we’re at it, instead of calling fossil fuels “dirty,” why not call them “outdated“? Who wants to be out-of-date? America hates old stuff!….
CREDIT: Anupam Nath/AP Images
Indian girls ride a bicycle near Pobitora village in India. India has the world’s largest number of people living in extreme poverty and eliminating poverty is a top priority of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
It’s long been known which countries emit the most carbon dioxide, and thus contribute the most to climate change. But what about the carbon emissions of individual people in those countries? On Wednesday, British charity Oxfam released a study that found the richest 10 percent of people produce half of the planet’s individual-consumption-based fossil fuel emissions, while the poorest 50 percent — about 3.5 billion people — contribute only 10 percent. Yet those same 3.5 billion people are “living overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change,” according to the report. According to the data used by the report, individual consumption — as opposed to consumption by governments and international transport — makes up 64 percent of worldwide climate emissions. Oxfam estimates that the world’s richest 10 percent of people have carbon footprints that are 60 times higher as the poorest 10 percent. Any estimation that generalizes large populations is difficult to make, but researchers at Oxfam also estimate that the emissions of the world’s richest 1 percent create an even larger emissions gap: the 1 percent could emit 30 times more than the poorest 50 percent and 175 times more than the poorest 10 percent.
On November 16, DWR implemented new groundwater basin boundary regulations, a key provision of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). This implementation will give local agencies an additional six weeks to prepare requests for any basin boundary changes. DWR will accept requests from local agencies for basin boundary modifications from January 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016. Along with the implementation of the new rules, DWR also unveiled a new web-based reporting system that allows local agencies to submit basin boundary modification requests and provides public access to view basin boundary modification information. Also new, the Groundwater Basin Boundary Assessment Tool is an interactive map application that allows users to overlay Geographic Information Systems (GIS) layers onto a map of California.
Droughts could kill off the tallest trees in tropical rainforests in coming decades, a study suggests. Over a 13-year period, researchers carried out fieldwork to assess the impact of drought on trees in the Amazon. Using a large-scale drought experiment, they monitored growth, sugar levels and the performance of the water transport system in the trees.…
A new multi-million dollar desalinization plant in Sydney, Australia. The technology is controversial for its financial and environmental costs but is seen as essential in many parts of Australia, and soon California may follow. (Ashley Cooper/Corbis)
As California enters its fifth year of drought, finding fresh water and more efficient ways to use it has become more important than ever. Even if El Niño brings some relief to southern California this winter, as is currently expected, people in the state have realized that they need to prepare for a drier future. Much of California relies on Rocky Mountain snowmelt for water—and scientists have predicted that source will dwindle over the coming decades. Increasingly, California is turning to Australia for solutions. Australia, an already dry country, has suffered through similar circumstances. The southeast portion of the continent experienced the “Millennium Drought,” receiving less-than-average precipitation for more than a decade from 1997 to 2009. And the far western city of Perth is quickly becoming one of the driest in the world. “The precipitation now doesn’t fall in the right place, it doesn’t fall at the right time,” says Anas Ghadouani, executive director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities and an environmental engineer at the University of Western Australia. Transferring the lessons of Australia to California isn’t as simple as copying a list of technologies used on the southern continent and applying them to the Golden State, Ghadouani says. “You can’t just have a house with everything in it; it will be cluttered.” The trick is to find which combination of solutions will work in each city and town. “That’s what the challenge is,” he says. “What is the right solution for you?” Here are a few of Australia’s water-management methods that might help the parched state:
By the end of 2016, the people of San Diego may be drinking water drawn from the Pacific Ocean. The desalination plant slated to come online at that time in southern California has proven controversial because the technology is expensive, requires a huge input of energy to turn seawater into freshwater, kills ocean organisms sucked into the plant and releases a salty brine back into the ocean that could destabilize the ecosystem…..And the technology has proven its worth in Perth. The city now has two desalination plants, the first of which went online in 2006, and they supply about 45 percent of the city’s drinking water. “What we’re seeing is maybe a new epic in human history where we’re now beginning to look for lower-quality sources of water,” such as seawater, runoff and even wastewater, says Grant.
After you flush your toilet, wash your clothes or run the dishwater, the water flows out of your home and to a wastewater treatment plant, where solids are removed and the water is cleaned of contaminants. Traditionally, these treatment plants release their water into a river or the ocean where it is diluted, but in Western Australia, some of that water is now recycled. It irrigates golf courses and crop fields, flows through toilets or is used in industrial processes. The Water Corporation of Western Australia, which manages Perth’s water and wastewater, has set a goal of recycling at least 30 percent of wastewater by 2030. And in coming decades, some of that water could even end up as drinking water. Following a successful trial, treated wastewater will soon be pumped into Perth aquifers, replenishing what humans have removed. “We want to return every bit of water that we can to the ground and then eventually be able to use it later on,” says Ghadouani….
In Australia, “people have become really creative” about water, says Ghadouani. Greywater—the water that has been used for showers, baths and washing machines—doesn’t even need to leave the house to be reused. Diversion devices can take greywater directly to the yard or toilet. And for uses that require cleaner water, such as washing machines, homeowners can install treatment systems that filter and disinfect greywater. The water that washed your clothes last week can be cleaned in your home and used to wash your clothes the week after. Graywater reuse is now coming to California. Changes to the plumbing code were required before anyone could divert water from their sink to their lawn, and it’s still only allowed if the water pipes discharge below soil or mulch (sprinklers are a no-no, but drip irrigation would work). And companies are beginning to market greywater recycling systems to Californian homeowners. The Nexus eWater system even extracts heat from greywater to warm a home’s hot water tank.
Many American cities have embraced green infrastructure—networks of water systems and green spaces that work to clean water and provide a healthier, often more beautiful, urban environment. But water laws sometimes work against best efforts in the United States. In Colorado, for instance, it is illegal to capture rainwater, something that became legal in California only in 2012. Australians have worked to integrate green infrastructure and connect projects, Ghadouani says. Developers are now required to not only put in green space, for instance, but that space also provides specific services, such as cleaning water. During Melbourne’s drought, the city “definitely innovated in that area,” Grant says, and low-tech options proved popular. Rain barrel use, for instance, nearly doubled from 16.7 percent of households in 2007 to 29.6 percent in 2010, Grant and his team reported in WIRES Water earlier this year.
Technology, both simple and complex, has proven useful in Australia. “But honestly I think the biggest story is a behavioral story—somehow the utilities managed to mobilize people around this idea that if they didn’t change their water use behavior the city would run out of water,” Grant says. “Technology definitely helped, but it was almost marginal in terms of getting through the drought.” In Melbourne, people started taking shorter showers, and some people even began taking a bucket into the shower with them to collect water for reuse. Many of these behavioral changes stuck; even five years after the end of the drought, people were using less water than before, Grant and his team found. And when homes are built in Western Australia, builders and designers often consider how to build in systems to use less water and energy. Californians will need to change how they relate to water, similar to how Australians have dealt with their declining supplies, Grant says. But drought can be an opportunity to make changes that make cities and countries more resilient to droughts of the future. Droughts, he says, can be “the beginning of something that’s much more profound.”
Birds forage in a California rice field in September. With the drought, even some wildlife refuges don’t have enough water. Randall Benton Sacramento Bee file
Delta wetlands and wildlife refuges should be preserved
Bill before Congress would override protections for endangered species
By Rachel Zwillinger Special to The Sacramento Bee December 1, 2015 Rachel Zwillinger is water policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife’s California Program. She can be contacted at RZWILLINGER@defenders.org.
After four years of drought, California is thirsty, and concerned lawmakers want to help. Last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced plans to include a California water bill in the spending package expected to pass Congress before the year’s end. The bill is an opportunity to support smart water solutions such as wastewater recycling, stormwater capture and water-use efficiency that can help our farms, cities and ecosystems. Other legislators, however, have tried to capitalize on the drought to grab more water for agribusinesses in the Central Valley, while undermining bedrock environmental laws. Rep. David Valadao’s Western Water and American Food Security Act is a prime example. The bill from Valadao, R-Hanford, would override Endangered Species Act protections for imperiled native salmon runs, increasing the risk of extinctions among fish species that have suffered through four dry years. It could also cut back water to wildlife refuges so that some might receive barely a trickle and others nothing at all, even during times of critical need. Feinstein has indicated that legislation should not harm wildlife refuges in California. In November, she signed a letter with 24 Senate colleagues urging President Barack Obama to oppose any provisions that would undermine Endangered Species Act protections. However, if Congress passes something like the Valadao bill, the fishing industry and California’s salmon, migratory birds and other species that depend on scarce wetlands could be in further danger. The Central Valley was once a beautiful, sprawling network of freshwater wetlands that supported tens of millions of migratory birds and a diversity of other wildlife. Over time, urban and agricultural development destroyed more than 90 percent of these wetlands. Still, Central Valley wetlands support about 60 percent of the Pacific flyway’s waterfowl. Of the few wetlands that remain, some of the most important and productive lands are safeguarded in wildlife refuges that rely on water deliveries from the federal government. These wildlife refuges are critical to the millions of birds that migrate along the Pacific flyway each year and to iconic species like the bald eagle. Remember, water shortages are caused by droughts – not by the small amount of water used by refuges and wildlife. As negotiations over California drought legislation continue in Congress, we are counting on Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer to stand up to those who want to threaten the health of our rivers and wildlife refuges, and the creatures that depend on them. Sacrificing our environment won’t make it rain. It will, however, undermine the natural heritage that all Californians treasure.
Half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States come from California. Despite four years of extreme drought, the state’s agriculture industry is thriving for some farmers. Ben Bergman with member station KPCC reports.
MICHEL MARTIN: If there is a piece of fruit, a vegetable or even a nut or two on your dinner table tonight, there’s a good chance it was grown in California. That state has endured four years of extreme drought. And while some of California’s agriculture industry is suffering, a few farmers have found a way to adapt and even thrive in the dry conditions. Ben Bergman of member KPCC has this report.
BEN BERGMAN, BYLINE: Tom Rogers’ 175-acre orchard right in the middle of California might very well be the farm of the future, a future where almonds are likely to be the state’s number-one crop.
TOM ROGERS: These were some of the first almonds planted in this area, and this has been a good crop for us.
BERGMAN: In the ’70s, Rogers’ father made a prescient decision. He ditched the low-value cotton, cord and alfalfa his father grew and planted almonds. Thanks to strong demand from Asia, they’ve become a very lucrative crop. The downside is the trees require constant watering.
ROGERS: It’s a scary time. I mean, we’re very concerned about what’s going on.
BERGMAN: Because Rogers now relies 100 percent on groundwater.
ROGERS: By comparison, other years, groundwater amounted to maybe 10 to 25 percent of our annual water usage.
BERGMAN: And do you have an idea how much groundwater is left?
ROGERS: No. I’m going to be very honest – my bottom line answer is I have no clue how long the water’s going to last.
BERGMAN: So this year, Rogers made a major investment, installing a precise high-tech irrigation system that lets him stretch what little water he has as much as possible. In the middle of a row of almond trees, Rogers pulls a soil moisture probe out of the ground….
A novel way to begin understanding what happens to the globe when large cities — think Beijing, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo — reach far to get the water they need has been proposed by a group of scientists.
Photo: Franchon Smith, The Chronicle Jennifer Titus at The Urban Store shows the tubing for the overflow connection on a 50 gallon rain barrel on December 1, 2015.
Californians missed their state-ordered water savings target for the first time, regulators reported Tuesday, and there’s a counterintuitive twist: The cooler, wetter weather may be to blame. While many people found it easy to cut back on outdoor watering during the hot and dry summer — dutifully changing wasteful habits of the past — they’ve struggled to make similar gains during the fall, when indoor use is more the focus, officials said. Cities and towns collectively reduced water use 22 percent in October, compared with the same month in 2013, falling short of the 25 percent mandate that Gov. Jerry Brown set in June. Most Bay Area communities met their specific targets, which were assigned by the state in the bid to achieve the overall conservation goal. Of the region’s six largest suppliers, only the Marin Municipal Water District didn’t meet its mark. State officials said the seasonal drop-off didn’t minimize California’s generally strong conservation record during this tough year, citing a cumulative reduction since the emergency regulations took effect of 27 percent. And it’s clear not everyone is resigned to losing ground during the winter and fall. Case in point: the rain barrel. Residents in San Francisco and elsewhere appear to be increasingly turning to rainwater tubs, with names like Rain Wizard and Planter Urn, to take advantage of the wet season and take pressure off the water company. “There’s definitely an uptick in interest,” said Jeff Parker, director of marketing for the Urban Farmer Store, which sells rain-catchment supplies at its three Bay Area locations. “People are trying to get as many barrels as they can before the rains come,” he said. “We’re calling this the El Niño giveaway.” In San Francisco, where per-capita water use is relatively low, rain barrels are part of the city’s formula for success. Water officials have given away nearly 500 free barrels to promote conservation. And there’s just a few more left to hand out….
A new Government-backed code which could slash UK carbon dioxide emissions by 220 million tonnes and protect rare wildlife by restoring moors, bogs and mires has been launched. The Peatland Code is unveiled at the World Forum for Natural Capital in Edinburgh on the morning of 23 November following a successful two-year trial, which has seen businesses fund peatland restoration projects in southwest England, the Lake District and Wales. The Code is based on research by academics at Birmingham City University and the University of Leeds which revealed that sustainable business investment could reverse the degradation of peatlands and significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions. UK peatlands, which are wetlands made up of decomposed plants, currently lock away more than three billion tonnes of carbon, are the habitat of rare wildlife and act as a natural filter to drinking water — but over 80 per cent have been damaged… Prof Joseph Holden, who led research at the University of Leeds, said: “The peatlands of the UK are our own version of the Amazon rainforest. They need to be protected. They are home to some of our rare and endangered wildlife. “They also act as a huge store of carbon, with perhaps as much as 3.2 billion tonnes, greater than the amount of carbon soaked up every year by all of the world’s oceans combined. “The UK’s peatlands are also important source areas for the provision of clean drinking water while protection of many of our peatlands may reduce flood risk.” Peatlands cover around 10 per cent of the UK and store more than 20 times the amount of carbon as all the country’s forests.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) Mon Nov 23, 2015 | 3:44 PM EST
U.S. federal agencies will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their operations to 41.8 percent below 2008 levels by 2025, the White House announced on Monday. The announcement comes one week before nearly 200 countries meet in Paris to negotiate a United Nations climate change pact and eight months after President Barack Obama ordered agencies to cut its emissions by at least 40 percent by 2025. The cuts will come from across the government’s 360,000 buildings, 650,000 vehicles and from its extensive supply chain. “Federal agencies have developed targeted strategies to cut their GHG emissions by reducing energy use in their buildings, making their vehicles more efficient, using clean energy sources like wind and solar, and employing energy savings performance contracts,” the White House said.
Did you know that in the last 18 months more than 1.5 million square miles of ocean have been fully protected? That’s 62% of the fully protected areas that exist on the planet. Take, for example, New Zealand’s Kermadec Trench. As of this year, this Mission Blue Hope Spot now contains a full 239,000 square miles of marine reserve. The fascinating critters in this deep, unexplored region are surely dancing a salty jig! Friends, the global call for marine protected areas – Hope Spots! – is bearing fruit. Every new square mile of ocean that gains protection is the work of many organizations, governments and passionate individuals. We are so proud to be part of this chorus for the blue planet….
By Karl Ritter, Associated Press LE BOURGET, France — Dec 1, 2015, 6:28 PM ET
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that parts of the global warming deal being negotiated in Paris should be legally binding on the countries that sign on, setting up a potential fight with Republicans at home.
Obama’s stand won praise at the U.N. climate conference from those who want a strong agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas. But it could rile conservatives in Washington, especially if he tries to put the deal into effect without seeking congressional approval….
An analysis in the journal Science discusses the effects of measures under discussion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: Image courtesy of NASA
Paris emissions reduction pledges reduce risks of severe warming, study shows
November 26, 2015 DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
More than 190 countries are meeting in Paris next week to create a durable framework for addressing climate change and to implement a process to reduce greenhouse gases over time. A key part of this agreement would be the pledges made by individual countries to reduce their emissions. A study published in Science today shows that if implemented and followed by measures of equal or greater ambition, the Paris pledges have the potential to reduce the probability of the highest levels of warming, and increase the probability of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. In the lead up to the Paris meetings, countries have announced the contributions that they are willing to make to combat global climate change, based on their own national circumstances. These Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, take many different forms and extend through 2025 or 2030. Examples of these commitments include the United States’ vow to reduce emissions in 2025 by 26-28 percent of 2005 levels and China’s pledge to peak emissions by 2030 and increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent. In the study, the scientists tallied up these INDCs and simulated the range of temperature outcomes the resulting emissions would bring in 2100 under different assumptions about possible emissions reductions beyond 2030…..
In the study, the scientists compare the Paris commitments to a world in which countries don’t act at all or start reducing greenhouse gas emissions only in 2030. The team found that if countries do nothing to reduce emissions, the earth has almost no chance of staying under the 2 degree limit, and it is likely that the temperature increase would exceed 4 degrees. They went on to show that the INDCs and the future abatement enabled by Paris introduce a chance of meeting the 2 degree target, and greatly reduce the chance that warming exceeds 4 degrees. The extent to which the odds are improved depends on how much emissions limits are tightened in future pledges after 2030…. Iyer said the next thing to look at was the question of the kinds of policies and institutional frameworks that could pave the way for a robust process that enables emissions reduction efforts to progressively increase over time.
A. Fawcett, G. C. Iyer, L. E. Clarke, J. A. Edmonds, N. E. Hultman, H. C. McJeon, J. Rogelj, R. Schuler, J. Alsalam, G. R. Asrar, J. Creason, M. Jeong, J. McFarland, A. Mundra, W. Shi. Can Paris pledges avert severe climate change? Science, 2015; DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5761
Pricing carbon dioxide could help to end the deadlock of international climate policy. Finance ministers around the world would have reason enough to favor carbon taxes or emissions trading even if they do not take into account the risks resulting from unabated greenhouse-gas emissions, a new study shows. While the outcome of the world climate summit in Paris is uncertain, national governments and their economies can profit from taxing carbon dioxide instead of taxing capital or labor — irrespective of whether or not other countries cooperate….
The Road to Two Degrees, Part Two: Are the experts being candid about our chances?
Posted on 26 November 2015 by Andy Skuce
The first part of this three-part series looked at the staggering magnitude and the daunting deployment timescale available for the fossil fuel and bioenergy carbon capture and storage technologies that many 2°C mitigation scenarios assume. In this second part, I outline Kevin Anderson’s argument that climate experts are failing to acknowledge the near-impossibility of avoiding dangerous climate change under current assumptions of the political and economic status quo, combined with unrealistic expectations of untested negative-emissions technologies.
In plain language, the complete set of 400 IPCC scenarios for a 50% or better chance of meeting the 2 °C target work on the basis of either an ability to change the past, or the successful and large-scale uptake of negative-emission technologies. A significant proportion of the scenarios are dependent on both. (Kevin Anderson)
Kevin Anderson has just written a provocative article titled: Duality in climate science, published in Nature Geoscience (open access text available here). He contrasts the up-beat pronouncements in the run-up to the Paris climate conference in December 2015 (e.g. “warming to less than 2°C” is “economically feasible” and “cost effective”; “global economic growth would not be strongly affected”) with what he see as the reality that meeting the 2°C target cannot be reconciled with continued economic growth in rich societies at the same time as the rapid development of poor societies. He concludes that: “the carbon budgets associated with a 2 °C threshold demand profound and immediate changes to the consumption and production of energy”.
His argument runs as follows: Integrated Assessment Models, which attempt to bring together, physics, economics and policy, rely on highly optimistic assumptions specifically:
o Unrealistic early peaks in global emissions;
o Massive deployment of negative-emissions technologies.
He notes that of the 400 scenarios that have a 50% or better chance of meeting the 2 °C target, 344 of them assume the large-scale uptake of negative emissions technologies and, in the 56 scenarios that do not, global emissions peak around 2010, which, as he notes, is contrary to the historical data….
….The IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report informs us that if we want to have a better than 66% chance of avoiding a 2 °C rise in global temperatures our total emissions between 2011 and 2100 must be below 1000 Gt of CO2. Even if we held current emissions of about 35 Gt CO2 fixed (something we are not yet on track to achieve), we would use up this quota in less than 30 years. At that point, to meet the target, we would have to stop the economy cold, which won’t happen.
The real target for fossil-fuels emissions is actually smaller than 1000 Gt CO2:
Between 2011 and 2014 we emitted about 140 Gt of CO2, taking down the available budget to 860 Gt.
Anderson uses one of the more optimistic estimate of land use emissions in the IAMs for the rest of the century of 60 Gt of CO2 to reduce the budget down 800 Gt.
The industrialization of developing nations and the transition to low-carbon infrastructures in wealthier nations will see process emissions from cement manufacture rise. Even with optimistic assumptions on the deployment of new low-emissions technologies the total, across the century, will be around 150 Gt of CO2.
The budget now available for fossil-fuel emissions therefore shrinks to 650 Gt CO2, roughly two-thirds of the often-cited 1000 Gt amount.
2C, the widely reported safe global warming limit, would still mean devastation for many countries that are pushing for a more ambitious target for a climate deal in Paris – but is 1.5C realistic?
Karl Mathiesen Wednesday 2 December 2015 04.53 EST Last modified on Wednesday 2 December 2015 10.22 EST
2C – it’s become shorthand for a safe, equitable climate deal. But the science and the UN’s position is unequivocal that if the world warms 2C above the pre-industrial age by 2100, many countries will face unbearable devastation.
Of the 195 countries present at the UN climate conference in Paris, 106 of the poorest have said a target of 1.5C is the only acceptable pathway for humankind. The head of the UN’s climate process, Christiana Figueres, has also backed this goal. Despite the vast majority of media reporting, which suggests the overarching aim of the UN climate process is to reach a 2C target, the question is still very much alive. Negotiators in Paris met in a spin-off group on Monday night to discuss changing the long term goal to 1.5C. This consensus-driven group is likely to deliver a final position by Friday. It is expected that wealthy countries will prevail in keeping the 2C target. A source close to the negotiations told the Guardian that on Tuesday a Saudi Arabian official had objected to the debate, saying: “I don’t think there is any scientific finding supporting 1.5C.”
However a 2014 World Bank report, found the 1.5C target was “technically and economically feasible”. One of the co-authors of that report was Dr Bill Hare, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics. He said meeting this goal would require all action to be brought forward by a decade. This would cost roughly 50% more to achieve than 2C, but would save significantly more by averting some climate-related disasters.
Hare said the cuts to emissions required by this goal necessitated a revolution in the economy and particularly investment in disruptive technologies. Such technologies, he said, are embodied by Tesla’s rapidly improving electric vehicles and batteries and the use of biofuels for aviation. If visionary engineering projects outstrip expectations (as solar has, something even Barack Obama noted on Tuesday), they could overthrow the current models. Very quickly the impossible becomes just very hard. Or, as the Guardian overheard one Paris observer put it: “If the low hanging fruit is out of reach, cut the bloody tree down.”
The other overwhelmingly important step on the way to a 1.5C target is the load it will place on those countries who are set to emit the most over the coming decades – among those are India, Brazil and China. This has lead to divides in place of the traditional unity between developing nations. “You will see some resistance on the idea of 1.5 degrees [from China],” said Li Shuo, a campaigner with Greenpeace China, as the cuts required happen earlier and go deeper than the government is willing to concede. However Li said even the world’s biggest emitter was showing signs that it could turn on a fivepence.”Just two years ago if you asked anyone in Beijing whether they believed China’s coal consumption can decline this year, nobody would believe that,” he said. “It will decline further this year. So I think that created a lot of space for a very rapid U-turn of China’s emissions profile as well.”…
President Obama viewed a melting glacier during a tour of Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska in September. Mr. Obama is going to Paris for talks on an international agreement on climate change. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
By CORAL DAVENPORT NOV. 28, 2015 WASHINGTON — At a joint news conference here Tuesday with President François Hollande of France, President Obama veered from his focus on the terrorist attacks in Paris to bring up the huge international gathering beginning in the French capital on Monday to hammer out a global response to climate change. “What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children,” Mr. Obama said of the climate conference. The segue brought mockery, even castigation, from the political right, but it was a reminder of the importance Mr. Obama places on climate change in shaping his legacy. During his 2012 re-election campaign, he barely mentioned global warming, but the issue has become a hallmark of his second term. And on Sunday night he arrives in Paris, hoping to make climate policy the signature environmental achievement of his, and perhaps any, presidency. “He comes to Paris with a moral authority that no other president has had on the issue of climate change,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University who noted that Mr. Obama’s domestic climate efforts already stand alone in American history. “No other president has had a climate change policy. It makes him unique.”…
Secretary of State John Kerry outside the U.S. Embassy in Paris a few days after the attacks in November. DOMINIQUE FAGET/Getty
On a rainy day in mid-November, Secretary of State John Kerry stood on the bridge of the USS San Antonio, a state-of-the-art ship designed to deliver up to 800 Marines ashore via helicopters and landing craft. From the bridge, Kerry had a commanding view of Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world: aircraft carriers to the left, battleships to the right, a panorama of military power – and one that is rapidly sinking beneath the rising waters of Chesapeake Bay. As Navy officials told Kerry in an informal briefing aboard the San Antonio, the base was highly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Already, roads connecting the base to the city of Norfolk, Virginia, flood during major rainstorms. At high tide, water surges over the sea walls, threatening key infrastructure and inundating buildings. Kerry, dressed in a sharp blue suit and pink-orange tie, asked the officers about the life expectancy of the base. “Twenty to 50 years,” Capt. J. Pat Rios told him. There was a slight but perceptible pause among the naval officers and State Department officials on the bridge. It was an extraordinary moment in the annals of American military history: A U.S. naval captain had just told the secretary of state that this strategically important base, home to six aircraft carriers and key to operations in Europe and the Middle East, would be essentially inoperable in as little as 20 years. Yes, they could shore up the sea walls for a while. Yes, they could raise roads. But without the massive influx of billions of dollars to fortify and elevate the city of Norfolk, as well as the roads and railroads that connect it to the surrounding region, the base was doomed….
….As secretary of state, Kerry has accomplished a great deal, including a historic arms deal with Iran. He has also had notable failures, including an attempt to broker a peace deal in the Middle East that fell apart at the last minute. At 72, Kerry has a stamina and appetite for negotiation that are epic. His aides like to point out he has flown nearly 1 million miles since taking office in early 2013. The patrician aloofness that sometimes kept him from connecting with crowds during his 2004 presidential run is not a problem on the diplomatic circuit. “He was born to be secretary of state,” says Heather Zichal, a longtime Kerry aide who went on to become President Obama’s climate and energy adviser during his first term. In the climate wars, however, Kerry is a forgotten soldier. Al Gore won all the glory (and the ridicule), and President Obama has the muscle. But the truth is, no one has done more in the trenches of this battle than Kerry. He has been in the fight since the first Earth Day, in 1970, and has not let up since, participating in practically every climate conference and U.N. climate meeting in the past 30 years….
But the stark partisan divide on environmental policy will still make it difficult for President Obama and his successors to put in place energy and climate policies.
Editorial: What the Paris Climate Meeting Must Do NY TIMES NOV. 28, 2015
In 1992, more than 150 nations agreed at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro to take steps to stabilize greenhouse gases at a level that would “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” — United Nations-speak for global warming. Many follow-up meetings have been held since then, with little to show for them. Emissions of greenhouse gases have steadily risen, as have atmospheric temperatures, while the consequences of unchecked warming — persistent droughts, melting glaciers and ice caps, dying corals, a slow but inexorable sea level rise — have become ever more pronounced.
On Monday, in Paris, the signatories to the Rio treaty (now 196), will try once again to fashion an international climate change agreement that might actually slow, then reduce, emissions and prevent the world from tipping over into full-scale catastrophe late in this century. As with other climate meetings, notably Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009, Paris is being advertised as a watershed event — “our last hope,” in the words of Fatih Birol, the new director of the International Energy Agency. As President François Hollande of France put it recently, “We are duty-bound to succeed.” Paris will almost certainly not produce an ironclad, planet-saving agreement in two weeks. But it can succeed in an important way that earlier meetings have not — by fostering collective responsibility, a strong sense among countries large and small, rich and poor, that all must play a part in finding a global solution to a global problem.
Kyoto failed because it imposed emissions reduction targets only on developed countries, giving developing nations like China, India and Brazil a free pass. That doomed it in the United States Senate. Copenhagen attracted wider participation, but it broke up in disarray, in part because of continuing frictions between the industrialized nations and the developing countries.
The organizers of the Paris conference have learned a lot from past mistakes. Instead of pursuing a top-down agreement with mandated targets, they have asked every country to submit a national plan that lays out how and by how much they plan to reduce emissions in the years ahead. So far, more than 170 countries, accounting for over 90 percent of global greenhouse emissions, have submitted pledges, and more may emerge in Paris.
Will these pledges be enough to ward off the worst consequences of global warming? No. Scientists generally agree that global warming must not exceed 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, from preindustrial levels. Various studies say that even if countries that have made pledges were to follow through on them, the world will heat up by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That would still be much too high, and it would be guaranteed to make life miserable for future generations, especially in poor low-lying countries. But it would at least put the world on a safer trajectory; under most business-as-usual models, temperature increases could reach 8.1 degrees or higher. Eventually, of course, all nations will have to improve on their pledges, especially big emitters like China, India and the United States. If the Paris meeting is to be a genuine turning point, negotiators must make sure that the national pledges are the floor, not the ceiling of ambition, by establishing a framework requiring stronger climate commitments at regular intervals — say, every five years. This should be accompanied by a plan for monitoring and reporting each country’s performance. Earlier meetings have done poorly on this score.
Other important items dot the agenda. One is how rich nations can help poorer ones achieve their targets. Another is stopping the destruction of tropical forests, which play a huge role in storing carbon and absorbing emissions. The meeting also seeks to enlist investors, corporations, states and cities in the cause. Michael Bloomberg, who made reducing emissions a priority as mayor of New York, will join the mayor of Paris in co-hosting a gathering of local officials from around the world. The test of success for this much-anticipated summit meeting is whether it produces not only stronger commitments but also a shared sense of urgency at all levels to meet them.
Francis takes environmental message to Africa on eve of climate talks
Takes aim at those who reject the science behind global warming
Speaks to 300,000 faithful at joyous, rain-soaked ceremony
Associated Press By NICOLE WINFIELD and TOM ODULANAIROBI, Keny November 26, 2015
Pope Francis warned Thursday that it would be “catastrophic” for world leaders to let special interest groups get in the way of a global agreement to curb fossil fuel emissions as he brought his environmental message to the heart of Africa on the eve of make-or-break climate change talks in Paris. Francis issued the pointed warning in a speech to the U.N.’s regional office here after celebrating his first public Mass on the continent: A joyous, rain-soaked ceremony before 300,000 faithful that saw the Argentine pope being serenaded by ululating Swahili singers, swaying nuns, Maasai tribesmen and dancing children dressed in the colors of Kenya’s flag. Francis has made ecological concerns a hallmark of his nearly 3-year-old papacy, issuing a landmark encyclical earlier this year that paired the need to care for the environment with the need to care for humanity’s most vulnerable. Francis argues the two are interconnected since the poor often suffer the most from the effects of global warming, and are largely excluded from today’s fossil-fuel based global economy that is heating up the planet. On Thursday, Francis repeated that message but took particular aim at those who reject the science behind global warming. In the United States, that accounts for several Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers, who have opposed steps President Barack Obama has taken on his own to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “It would be sad, and dare I say even catastrophic, were special interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and interests,” Francis said. He didn’t elaborate, but in the United States at least, there is a well-funded campaign that rejects the findings of 97 percent of climate scientists that global warming is likely man-made and insists that any heating of the Earth is natural. Politicians have cited these claims in their arguments that emissions cuts will hurt the economy. Francis, who has said global warming is “mainly” man-made, said the world was faced with a stark choice: either improve or destroy the environment. He said he hoped the Paris talks would approve a “transformational” agreement to fight poverty and protect the environment by developing a new energy system that depends on minimal fossil fuel use. “Many are the faces, the stories and the evident effects on the lives of thousands of people for whom the culture of deterioration and waste has allowed to be sacrificed before the idols of profits and consumption,” he said. “We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this. We have no right.” …
A portion of a graphic in a United Nations Environment Program report shows the gap between commitments for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions filed with the United Nations by the world’s nations (the orange band) and a track (blue) deemed safe. The gray area reflects projections with no policy. Yellow is existing policies.Credit UNEP.org
‘Technology giant Bill Gates will unveil the world’s largest clean energy research and development partnership on Monday, joining in Paris with other billionaires and world leaders, several sources told ClimateWire.
The multibillion-dollar announcement will come at the opening day of landmark U.N. climate change negotiations in the French capital, and is expected to inject significant momentum to the talks. According to government and business officials knowledgeable about the announcement, a group of developing and developed countries — including the United States and India — will agree to double their research and development budgets for clean energy and form a coalition to conduct joint work. Gates and other billionaires, meanwhile, will pledge a pool of money to assist the cooperative projects. The exact spending amount was unclear yesterday, but one source put it in the billions of dollars. “This is the single biggest cooperative research and development partnership in history,” the source said.’
Of course there’s a sad irony in that last line because it shows just how underinvested the world’s major nations have been in sustaining the intellectual infrastructure generating basic insights that entrepreneurs like Elon Musk can then build into potentially transformative products. Just look at the roots of any significant energy innovation now — from LED bulbs to, yes, fracking, and you see the same pattern leading back to the space race, Cold War or 1973 oil crisis….
In the past month, congressional Republicans have subpoenaed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to gain access to the private documents and emails of scientists involved in a landmark climate change study to look for evidence of alleged wrongdoing. The attempts, by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, timed before COP-21 talks in Paris next month to negotiate a new global climate change agreement, have prompted some comparisons to Climategate. During that November 2009 scandal, the private emails of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in England were hacked and released, and their words were cherry-picked to suggest a global warming conspiracy. “This entire fiasco reminds me of another hype-driven, fact-lacking conspiracy: the so-called ‘Climategate,'” wrote Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), ranking member of the committee in a letter to Smith….
Britain’s Prince Charles has blamed climate change in part for the Syrian war and warned that global warming could exacerbate similar conflicts worldwide.
Charles’s comments — in an interview broadcast Monday — came exactly one week before the start of a United Nations climate change conference in Paris, where he plans to deliver a keynote address. Unless world leaders take action to slow the impact of climate change, “it’s going to get so much worse,” Charles warned in the interview with Sky News, which was recorded before the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.…. “And, in fact, there’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria, funnily enough, was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land.” Charles, a longtime environmentalist, is the latest person to blame the Syrian conflict on climate change. Various leading politicians, academics and military officials have made similar claims in recent years. “It’s not a coincidence that immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in a speech at Virginia’s Old Dominion University on Nov. 10. “As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region.” Climate change was “obviously” not the main reason for the crisis, Kerry added, but the drought “exacerbated instability on the ground.”
Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have made similar claims. And although the fact-checker PolitiFact found that Sanders overstated a direct link between climate change and terrorism, it rated O’Malley’s description of the “cascading effects” of climate change on instability as “mostly true.” O’Malley based his claim on a substantial March study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that the drought “had a catalytic effect with dire consequences for Syrians” — and that there is “strong evidence” that the drought was connected to climate change, lead author Colin P. Kelley wrote in a related article for the International Peace Institute at the time. The drought drove an “unprecedented rise” in Syrian food prices, leading to a “dramatic increase” in nutrition-related diseases among children in Syria’s northeastern provinces, the authors found. That led to the internal displacement of as many as 1.5 million Syrians, swelling the country’s urban centers.
“The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria, marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest,” they contend….
‘We can persuade ourselves that we are living on thin air, floating through a weightless economy. But it’s an illusion.’ Illustration: Andrzej Krauze
Economic growth is tearing the planet apart, and new research suggests that it can’t be reconciled with sustainability
George Monbiot Tuesday 24 November 2015 14.28 EST Last modified on Tuesday 24 November 2015 17.33 EST
We can have it all: that is the promise of our age. We can own every gadget we are capable of imagining – and quite a few that we are not. We can live like monarchs without compromising the Earth’s capacity to sustain us. The promise that makes all this possible is that as economies develop, they become more efficient in their use of resources. In other words, they decouple. There are two kinds of decoupling: relative and absolute. Relative decoupling means using less stuff with every unit of economic growth; absolute decoupling means a total reduction in the use of resources, even though the economy continues to grow. Almost all economists believe that decoupling – relative or absolute – is an inexorable feature of economic growth. On this notion rests the concept of sustainable development. It sits at the heart of the climate talks in Paris next month and of every other summit on environmental issues. But it appears to be unfounded. A paper published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that even the relative decoupling we claim to have achieved is an artefact of false accounting. It points out that governments and economists have measured our impacts in a way that seems irrational. Here’s how the false accounting works. It takes the raw materials we extract in our own countries, adds them to our imports of stuff from other countries, then subtracts our exports, to end up with something called “domestic material consumption”. But by measuring only the products shifted from one nation to another, rather than the raw materials needed to create those products, it greatly underestimates the total use of resources by the rich nations. For instance, if ores are mined and processed at home, these raw materials, as well as the machinery and infrastructure used to make finished metal, are included in the domestic material consumption accounts. But if we buy a metal product from abroad, only the weight of the metal is counted. So as mining and manufacturing shift from countries such as the UK and the US to countries like China and India, the rich nations appear to be using fewer resources. A more rational measure, called the material footprint, includes all the raw materials an economy uses, wherever they happen to be extracted. When these are taken into account, the apparent improvements in efficiency disappear…..
Earlier this year I received a message from a long-time reader of my Communications, who was persuaded of the urgency of the climate problem. As a significant supporter of the Democratic Party, he had the opportunity to meet President Obama, and he was preparing a specific question: would the President be willing to “meet with Jim Hansen”, who, the supporter asserted, understood the problem as well as anyone and has “some viable ways to fix the problem”?… So who does the President listen to? It is worth revealing. But first let’s note facts that must be included in honest capable advice. China now has the largest fossil fuel emissions (Fig. 1a). U.S. emissions are dwindling a bit, and they will continue to be a decreasing portion of ongoing global emissions. India, the #3 emitter behind the U.S., is moving up fast. However, human-caused climate change is not proportional to current emissions; instead, climate change depends on cumulative emissions. CO2 from early emissions is now largely incorporated into the ocean and biosphere, but it had a longer time to affect climate, compensating for the small fraction remaining in the air today. Stated differently, the date of burning is irrelevant because of the millennial lifetime in the Earth system of CO2 released in burning of fossil fuels. We see (Fig. 1b) that the U.S. is responsible for more than a quarter of global climate change. Europe is also responsible for more than one quarter. China is responsible for about 10%, India for 3% and so on. However, even Fig. 1b is misleading about responsibilities.….
Per capita responsibility for climate change (Fig. 2) has the UK, where the industrial revolution began, as most responsible, followed closely by the U.S. and Germany. Chinese responsibility is an order of magnitude smaller and India’s share is barely visible (Fig. 2). Another crucial fact is that we have already burned most of the carbon that we can afford to put into the climate system, (even under the flawed proposition that 2°C global warming is a safe “guard rail”). In other words, the West burned most of the world’s allowable carbon budget. The scientific community agrees on a crucial fact: we must leave most remaining fossil fuels in the ground, or our children and future generations are screwed. Yet Obama is not proposing the action required for the essential change in energy policy direction, even though it would make economic sense for developed and developing countries alike, especially for the common person….…I do not suggest that Obama would get prompt agreement from the U.S. Senate for a Paris accord with a carbon fee. Acceptance likely would take a number of years, but if an international framework for common domestic carbon fees is set up (with border duties on products from nonparticipating nations), pressure to join would mount as climate impacts grow. Compare that approach with the route Obama seems to be on. First, note that his signature victory (EPA regulations that reduce domestic emissions), assuming that it stands up in court, amounts to only several percent of U.S. emissions, which is about one year’s growth of global emissions during the past 14 years. Second, what is the chance that what he is proposing for Paris will fly with the U.S. Senate? Zilch. Even many Democrats would oppose it. Not much better than the Clinton-Gore 97-0 blowout. The fossil fuel industry’s ‘I am an energy voter’ campaign, energy independence, easily wins. They would laugh all the way to the bank. Obama’s climate legacy, on his present course, will be worse than a miserable failure: it will be an unnecessary miserable failure. His popularity in 2008 was 70% and his party controlled both houses of Congress. …. Obama, instead, listened to Big Green. Big Green consists of several “environmental” organizations, including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), each with $100+M budgets, each springing from high-minded useful beginnings, each with more high-priced lawyers than you can shake a stick at. EDF, with purblind equation of the sulfur and carbon pollution problems, was chief architect of the disastrous Kyoto lemon. NRDC proudly claims credit for Obama’s EPA strategy and foolishly allows it to migrate to Paris. Obama still has a chance at a positive climate legacy, if he ditches Big Green. Better to sit down with the Chinese leaders, who are technically trained, rational, and understand we are together in the same boat. We had better figure out how to plug the leaks together or we sink together. Watch what happens in Paris carefully to see if all that the leaders do is sign off on the pap that UN bureaucrats are putting together, indulgences2 and promises to reduce future emissions, and then clap each other on the back and declare success. In that case President Obama will have sold our children, and theirs, down the river.
Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle Investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer of NextGen Climate America hosts the California Climate Leadership Forum at the Kaiser Center in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, December 15, 2014.
WASHINGTON — Billionaire San Francisco environmental activist Tom Steyer is keeping alive a possible bid for governor in 2018, but in the meantime said he will spend heavily to force Republicans to address climate change in next year’s presidential election, citing evidence in an interview of a shift in GOP positioning on the issue. In the 2014 U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, Steyer spent $74 million trying to defeat GOP candidates who refused to acknowledge climate change only to see Republicans seize control of the Senate and gain two governorships. Undaunted, he said he plans to at least match that effort in the current election cycle….
Photo: Kimberly White, Getty Images For Fortune SAN FRANCISCO, CA – NOVEMBER 02: Jerry Brown speaks at the Fortune Global Forum at Fairmont Hotel on November 2, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune)
By Jon Christensen SF Chron Opinion November 25, 2015
California Gov. Jerry Brown has found a sweet spot in climate-change communication. His genius is combining what seem on the surface to be two irreconcilable rhetorical strategies: a fateful doom and gloom, on the one hand, and sunny, pragmatic optimism on the other. Scientists, advocates and other politicians should take note. This could save the world, the California way. Too often climate advocates stop at apocalypse. If we don’t change everything now, or “yesterday,” as one scientist said recently, we’re toast. Or drowned. Or something, really, really bad. The problem with this kind of message, research has shown, is that most people basically tune out right about then. If the world’s going to end, and I can’t do anything about it; I’ve got other things to worry about right now, thank you very much. Tell me when it’s over.
Compelled to conserve
Maybe it’s Jerry Brown’s Jesuit training in eschatology that makes him think a lot about the apocalypse. I know he does, because we talked about it for a few hours one day about a year ago, on a panel I moderated at Stanford University with the governor, the French philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy and others. Earlier this year, he started sounding like Jeremiah. He literally warned of a coming apocalypse if we don’t move to curb carbon emissions dramatically. He claimed that California’s epic drought — in its fourth year — and devastating wildfires were signs of the end times to come. But here’s the kicker: He didn’t stop there. In tying climate change to the drought, he told Californians they needed to change their ways. And they did, dramatically cutting their water consumption over a long, hot summer and into the fall.
This wasn’t just the result of rhetoric, of course. It was backed up by regulations. The state imposed mandatory conservation on cities, for example. But cities, except in a few special cases, haven’t compelled citizens to conserve. They’ve provided incentives for residents to tear out lawns and put in drought-tolerant landscaping, and people have voluntarily turned off sprinklers, put buckets in their showers and let their cars stay dusty. Oh, sure, there are a few flagrant free riders. And they get a lot of attention. But by combining a prophetic apocalyptic vision of the future with signs that people could understand in their own lives today, accompanied by pragmatic steps that we could all take now to avoid doom, guess what? People stepped up. In fact, this is one of the principal functions of dystopian visions, according to the great literary theorist Fredric Jameson. Science fiction is meant to be a vision of the future from which we can see our present as the past of that future. Dystopian scenarios encourage us to act in such a way that the dystopia does not come to be.
Brown has carried this insight into the larger global discourse on climate change. The apocalypse is out there, but California is taking pragmatic steps to steadily ratchet down greenhouse gas emissions to avoid it. California has made equity part of the equation, spending mitigation and adaption money in communities that most need it. The University of California — the largest university system in the world — has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025 across 10 campuses and two national laboratories. A group of 50 researchers and scholars from a wide range of disciplines just recently put together a report detailing 10 scalable solutions to climate change, many already in place in California. If these efforts were scaled up globally, along with continuing investments in new, more efficient renewable energy production and storage technologies, they would go a long way toward flatlining carbon emissions sometime around 2050 and bending the curve of global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius this century, according to these researchers.
Making personal connection
California is the eighth-largest economy in the world. It’s not an example that can be followed everywhere. But Brown has been tirelessly traveling the world striking agreements with states and provinces to create joint pledges to curb emissions and keep global warming below levels that might lead to, well, you know, a future none of us wants. Brown is taking this narrative to the global climate summit in Paris this week, where it is likely to find a friendly reception. This summit, unlike previous climate summits, which sought binding agreements to limit greenhouse gas emissions, is based on voluntary agreements. The real question is whether this approach is enough. By all the evidence, apocalyptic narratives about climate change are scaling up pretty well worldwide. Connecting climate change to people’s daily lives and experiences, and pragmatic steps that they can take individually and collectively, is the real challenge.
Two-faced Exxon: the misinformation campaign against its own scientists
But Exxon was sending a different message, even though its own evidence contradicted its public claim that the science was highly uncertain and no one really knew whether the climate was changing or, if it was changing, what was causing it … Journalists and scientists have identified more than 30 different organizations funded by the company that have worked to undermine the scientific message and prevent policy action to control greenhouse gas emissions.
Exxon has responded to the ICN allegations by pointing out that over the past three decades, the company’s scientists have continued to publish peer-reviewed climate research.
Our scientists have contributed climate research and related policy analysis to more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed publications – all out in the open. They’ve participated in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since its inception – in 1988 – and were involved in the National Academy of Sciences review of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment Report.
Finally, I’ll note that we have long – and publicly – supported a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most effective, transparent, and efficient way for governments to send a signal to consumers and the economy to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels.
While the ICN investigation focused on Exxon’s internal reports, Exxon’s spokesman pointed to the peer-reviewed scientific research published by the company’s scientists between 1983 and 2014 – 53 papers in all….I reviewed all 53 of the papers referenced by Exxon’s spokesman, and they indeed consist of high-quality scientific research. Most of them implicitly or explicitly endorsed the expert consensus on human-caused global warming; none minimized or rejected it. This means that there is a 100% consensus on human-caused global warming among Exxon’s peer-reviewed climate science research – even higher than the 97% consensus in the rest of the peer-reviewed literature.
….Much of Exxon’s early research in the 1980s dealt with climate modeling, for example projecting that the planet’s surface temperatures would warm 3–6°C above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100. Their research has often discussed the dangers associated with this degree of global warming, and many studies published by Exxon scientists investigated the possibility of mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon in the deep ocean.
The peer-reviewed research published by Exxon’s climate scientists was entirely in line with the expert consensus that humans are causing potentially dangerous global warming, and that we need to explore ways to mitigate the associated risks. While Exxon’s own scientists and research were 100% aligned with the expert consensus on human-caused global warming, the company simultaneously funded a campaign to manufacture doubt about that scientific consensus. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science found that groups with funding from corporations like Exxon have been particularly effective at polarizing and misinforming the public on climate change. Since 1998, Exxon has given over $31 million to organizations and individuals blocking solutions to climate change and spreading misinformation to the public….
NEW CONSTRUCTION WORTH BILLIONS COULD BE FLOODED WITHIN DECADES
The [SF] Bay Area’s current waterfront building frenzy includes at least $21 billion in housing and commercial construction in low-lying areas that climate scientists say could flood by the end of the century. In examining approval processes for new buildings on the edge of San Francisco Bay, our team found that some cities are greenlighting waterfront development without planning for the long term or fully accounting for the future cost of reconfiguring large projects to resist flooding. In light of a new convergence in scientific projections — in which sea level rise could drive floodwaters during extreme storms as high as 8 feet above today’s high tide — some scientists and community activists are calling for reforms. That may not happen before all these new waterfront communities and office parks get built. Developers say they can raise the land, waterproof basements and build levees and seawalls much higher to protect residents and businesses. But critics say the burden of protecting new real estate is being passed on to the taxpayers of the next two or three generations. [see more including full report here]
RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED
Photo: Mark Boster, McClatchy-Tribune News Service The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System was built in the Mojave Desert at the expense of giant tortoise habitat.
By Ted Nordhaus and Marian Swain SF Chronicle Opinion November 24, 2015 Updated: November 25, 2015 5:45pm
Federal officials announced earlier this month that 400,000 acres of public land in California’s Mojave Desert would be designated for possible renewable energy development as part of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. Seven years in the making, the plan represents a laudable effort to balance California’s long-standing commitment to the preservation of its natural heritage with its more recent commitments to address climate change. But it also reveals some hard truths about the environmental trade-offs inherent in the state’s commitment embodied in SB350 to generate 50 percent of its electricity with renewable energy by 2030. Development of large-scale renewable energy projects in California in recent years has brought with it significant impacts on wildlife habitat. The enormous Ivanpah solar thermal power plant in the Mojave, for example, cleared critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise. These impacts were not simply the result of poor siting decisions. Sunny deserts and windy ridge lines that represent good places for wind and solar farms also tend to be environmentally sensitive areas. A study from Berkeley researcher Rebecca Hernandez and colleagues found that big solar development in California has consistently come at the expense of natural ecosystems and previously undeveloped habitat. Another study found that when areas of high conservation value are excluded, the efficiency of potential renewable energy development is significantly reduced.
In response to the mounting evidence of significant environmental impacts associated with the state’s still modest wind and solar developments, renewable energy advocates have argued that, with better planning, many of those impacts could be significantly mitigated if not eliminated altogether. But despite the effort to account for wildlife habitat, hydrology, and a raft of other considerations, a careful look at the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan suggests this is unlikely to be the case. Assuming that the entire 400,000 acres designated as “Development Focus Areas” under the plan were blanketed with highly efficient solar panels, it would likely be enough to get California to 50 percent renewable electricity. But nobody expects that anything close to the entire area will be converted for clean energy projects. …..Many desert conservation advocates would prefer that the state meet its renewable energy targets through accelerated deployment of rooftop solar panels. But every serious look at what it will take to meet the state’s renewable energy mandates has concluded that doing so will require large-scale development in the California desert, a point on which government officials, the state’s utilities and California’s major environmental groups all agree.
All this points to difficult trade-offs associated with achieving California’s twin goals of 50 percent renewable energy and 80 percent lower carbon emissions. The latter task is made all the more difficult due to adamant environmental opposition to nuclear energy. Under pressure from environmental groups, Southern California Edison closed the San Onofre Nuclear Power station in 2012. Antinuclear groups are now pressing to shut down the state’s only remaining nuclear power facility, Diablo Canyon, which quietly produces 20 percent of the state’s carbon-free electricity on a 100-acre parcel near the Central California town of San Luis Obispo. Meanwhile, the state has maintained a moratorium on construction of new nuclear power plants until a permanent depository for the state’s nuclear waste has been established. Ultimately, something will have to give. Either the state will have to accept destruction of fragile desert habitats on a large scale in order to meet its climate commitments, it will have to scale back those commitments, or it will have to reconsider the ban on new nuclear energy. When it comes to energy and the environment, there is no free lunch. All energy technologies have environmental impacts. Having an honest conversation about the trade-offs associated with the state’s renewable energy commitments and its nuclear energy moratorium will be necessary if we hope to meet the state’s climate commitments while minimizing associated impacts on the natural environment.
After a decade of rapid growth in global carbon dioxide emissions, which increased at an average annual rate of 4%, much smaller increases were registered in 2012 (0.8%), 2013 (1.5%) and 2014 (0.5%). In 2014, when the emissions growth was almost at a standstill, the world’s economy continued to grow by 3%. The trend over the last three years thus sends an encouraging signal on the decoupling of carbon dioxide emissions from global economic growth. However, it is still too early to confirm a positive global trend. For instance India, with its emerging economy and large population, increased its emissions by 7.8% and became the fourth largest emitter globally….
We all know the story of how mobile phones took off in emerging markets. Suddenly small cocoa farmers in Africa who never had a landline or a computer were checking commodity prices on their smartphones. Today something similarly profound is starting to happen with renewable energy. For the first time, more than half the world’s annual investment in clean energy is coming from emerging markets instead of from wealthier nations, according to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The handoff occurred last year, and it’s just the beginning.
The chart below shows quarterly clean-energy investment in OECD countries vs. non-OECD countries. The trajectory is clear: If you’re a power plant salesperson, you’re probably going to be working with renewables in poor countries from now into the foreseeable future…
DOE’s report is a progress report on five clean energy technologies that demonstrate the nationwide shift toward a decarbonized economy. Credit: Revolution… Now
Largely seen as fringe technologies just a decade ago, clean energy resources are becoming truly mainstream in the United States. About 70% of the new generating capacity installed in the U.S. in the first six months of 2015 was renewable energy — largely wind and solar — and major states are confident enough in the resources to plan their energy futures around them. California and now New York are2015 both aiming for 50% renewables by 2030, while Hawaii wants to get to 100% renewable energy by 2045. Dozens of other states either have renewable energy mandates or are considering them. Technological advances and cost declines in a variety of clean energy resources are facilitating this shift toward clean energy. Earlier this month, the Department of Energy released a new assessment of five key clean energy technologies, outlining their price drops and deployment patterns over the past few years. The paper, “Revolution… Now,” is a report card on the state of the clean energy revolution in the U.S., outlining an industry that is maturing into a major player in the power sector in terms of generation capacity and financial clout. Here are 12 charts that show the state of the clean energy revolution underway in the U.S. right now (see above)…
To limit climate change, experts say that we need to reach carbon neutrality by the end of this century at the latest. To achieve that goal, our dependence on fossil fuels must be reversed. But what energy source will take its place? Researchers report that they just might have the answer: algae.
The damaging effects of carbon dioxide emissions from tourism could eventually be eliminated if travelers paid just US$11 per trip, according to a new study. Global tourism is largely dependent on fossil fuel energy, and emits more carbon dioxide than than all but five countries of the world. Recent estimates conclude that tourism, including transport, accommodation, and leisure activities contributed close to 5 percent of total human-made emissions of carbon dioxide worldwide.
The transportation sector has the capacity to nearly halve its carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 and, hence, to contribute far more than previously thought to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Realizing this would require further efficiency improvement and, especially, promotion of public transport in cities, alongside with a large-scale shift to electric cars, concludes a recent study.
The transport sector has the potential to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases in half by 2050, according to a new analysis. Given the continuing drop in battery prices, electric drives have bettered their position relative to engines running on biofuels or fuel cells using hydrogen, according to the authors.
RESOURCES and REFERENCES
Mill Valley, King Tides, November 2015 For more photos, see here.
Via smartphones and social media, we invite you to document “king tides” – the highest high tides of today, which will be the average water levels of the future. Everyone is welcome to participate!
Our shores are constantly being altered by human and natural processes and projections indicate that sea level rise will exacerbate these changes. King Tides images offer a living record of the changes to our coasts and shorelines and a glimpse of what our daily tides may look like in the future as a result of sea level rise.
What will happen to our coastline with sea level rise, and how will it impact your community? You can help answer these questions through snapping photos during California’s “King Tides”–the highest tides of the year. King Tides dates this season are November 24-26, December 22-24 and January 21-22. Get out during a King Tides event and take pictures of your favorite coastal spots. Make sure to share them with the California King Tides Project! Check out events on http://california.kingtides.net/.
….focus on the latest scientific, management, legal and policy advances for sustaining our groundwater resources in agricultural regions around the world. The conference will bring together agricultural water managers, regulatory agency personnel, policy and decision makers, scientists, NGOs, agricultural leaders, and consultants working at the nexus of groundwater and agriculture. The conference integrates across a wide range of topics specifically focused on this nexus: sustainable groundwater management, groundwater quality protection, groundwater-surface water interactions, the groundwater-energy nexus, agricultural BMPs for groundwater management and protection, monitoring, data collection/management/assessment, modeling tools, and agricultural groundwater management, regulation, and economics.
The Local Government Commission and the State of California are proud to host the second California Adaptation Forum in the Fall of 2016. The two-day event will be the premiere convening for a multi-disciplinary group of 1,000+ decision-makers, leaders and advocates to discuss, debate and consider how we can most effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.
The 2016 California Adaptation Forum will feature:
A series of plenaries with high-level government, community and business leaders
A variety of breakout sessions on essential adaptation topics
Regional project tours highlighting adaptation efforts in Southern California
Pre-forum workshops on tools and strategies for implementing adaptation solutions
JOBS(apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)
Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association is seeking a part-time (minimum 24 up to 28 hours per week) Outreach Specialist for the Seabird Protection Network. Exact times and days can be flexible, but a pre-determined schedule, with occasional adjustments for evening and weekend presentations and events is desired. This position requires travel within the Bay Area, and occasionally the State. Duty station is near Crissy Field in San Francisco, CA.
Submit your resume and references by December 28, 2015 to info@SeabirdProtectionNetwork.org No calls please. All Interviews are planned for early January. A January start date is preferred. This position is equivalent to a GS-9-10, depending on experience, as defined by the U.S. Government Office of Personnel Management for the locality pay area San Francisco, CA. Benefits are not included.
WILDLIFE TECHNICIANS FOR SEABIRD PROJECT
Wildlife technicians (up to 6 positions; pending available funding) are being sought to work on a seabird restoration and monitoring project for Common Murres (Uria aalge) and other seabirds along the central California coast. Two types of positions will be filled: Site Leader and Biotech. This project is conducted cooperatively by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex) and Humboldt State University. The purpose of the restoration project is to aid in restoring murre colonies that have suffered damage from oil spills, human disturbance, and other anthropogenic factors. Closing Date: Applications must be postmarked by 8 January 2016 to receive full consideration. For further information, contact Allison Fuller at (510) 7920222 ext. 225 or email at Allison.Fuller@humboldt.edu.
With leaders and activists from all over the world in Paris this week talking big-picture solutions for climate change, we wanted to talk about the little picture. The things we, as individuals, can do to help slow climate change. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Tony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, about the choices and changes people can make in their daily lives to have an impact on climate, and how much those changes really matter.
10 Things You Can Do To Go Easier On The Earth:
Insulate your home
Reuse and recycle everything you can
Turn off the lights
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs
Use new technologies, like motion sensors for lights
Take shorter showers
Eat less meat [and the right kind of meat—locally grown, grass finished with eco-friendly ranching practices]
Waste less food
Buy a more fuel-efficient car, or an electric car
Drive less (carpool, walk, bike, use public transportation, combine trips) [fly less too!!]
By the author of the number one bestseller The Weather Makers comes a groundbreaking new book of vital importance for the future of humankind.
Earth’s climate system is fast approaching a crisis. Public understanding has not kept up with the debate, and there is an absence of political leadership. Many people are less engaged with the issue of climate change than they were a decade ago, and opinion is divided between technological optimists and pessimists who feel that catastrophe is inevitable. Tim Flannery, bestselling author and one of the most influential scientists on the planet, is here to tell us that catastrophe is not inevitable, but time is running out. Around the world people are already living with the consequences of an altered climate—with intensified or more frequent storms, heat waves, droughts and floods. For some it’s already a question of survival.
Atmosphere of Hope is timed for publication in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Summit to be held in Paris in December 2015. There will be enormous coverage of the Paris conference, which is widely acknowledged as our last chance to take decisive action on a global treaty to limit warming to 2C. This book will influence the debate generated by the Paris conference and will spark a new wave of conversations around this most important of subjects.
Atmosphere of Hope is both a snapshot of the trouble we are in, and an up-to-the-minute analysis of some of the new possibilities for mitigating climate change. In his inimitable style, Tim Flannery makes this urgent issue completely accessible, a decade after the publication of his groundbreaking book The Weather Makers.
Economic growth is tearing the planet apart, and new research suggests that it can’t be reconciled with sustainability
George Monbiot Tuesday 24 November 2015 14.28 EST Last modified on Tuesday 24 November 2015 14.31 EST
We can have it all: that is the promise of our age. We can own every gadget we are capable of imagining – and quite a few that we are not. We can live like monarchs without compromising the Earth’s capacity to sustain us. The promise that makes all this possible is that as economies develop, they become more efficient in their use of resources. In other words, they decouple.
There are two kinds of decoupling: relative and absolute. Relative decoupling means using less stuff with every unit of economic growth; absolute decoupling means a total reduction in the use of resources, even though the economy continues to grow. Almost all economists believe that decoupling – relative or absolute – is an inexorable feature of economic growth.On this notion rests the concept of sustainable development. It sits at the heart of the climate talks in Paris next month and of every other summit on environmental issues. But it appears to be unfounded.
A paper published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that even the relative decoupling we claim to have achieved is an artefact of false accounting. It points out that governments and economists have measured our impacts in a way that seems irrational.
Here’s how the false accounting works. It takes the raw materials we extract in our own countries, adds them to our imports of stuff from other countries, then subtracts our exports, to end up with something called “domestic material consumption”. But by measuring only the products shifted from one nation to another, rather than the raw materials needed to create those products, it greatly underestimates the total use of resources by the rich nations….
Artist impression of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) reaching Earth. The colors represent the burst arriving at different radio wavelengths, with long wavelengths (red) arriving several seconds after short wavelengths (blue). This delay is called dispersion and occurs when radio waves travel through cosmic plasma.
Matter known as ordinary, which makes up everything we know, corresponds to only 5% of the Universe. Approximately half of this percentage still eluded detection. Numerical simulations made it possible to predict that the rest of this ordinary matter should be located in the large-scale structures that form the “cosmic web” at temperatures between 100,000 and 10 million degrees. A team led by a researcher observed this phenomenon directly. The research shows that the majority of the missing ordinary matter is found in the form of a very hot gas associated with intergalactic filaments.
Fifth Crane Race, Agamon Hula, Israel November 27th 2015
Last Friday, in beautiful wintry weather, we held our annual Crane Race, for the fifth time. The 2,500 runners included five Major Generals in regular service and reserves, 25 Jordanians and the pre-army preparatory course “Swifter than Vultures” from Ma’agan Michael who have participated in all the races. This year the half marathon race was started by Israel’s 9th President, Mr. Shimon Peres. You are invited to see the presentation of this special event at: http://bit.ly/1OwWmbf
Ariana Strozzi and Casey Mazzucchi with their flock. The couple founded Valley Ford Wool Mill in 2013 to create and promote locally grown bedding and clothing.
Sophia Markoulakis SF CHRON Updated 9:48 am, Friday, May 9, 2014
Ariana Strozzi suspected her factory-produced mattress and bedding were the cause of her respiratory ailments. After some research into the antifungal and antimicrobial properties of natural fibers, she purchased an entire wool bedding system.
“It was the best sleep of my life,” she said. With a flock of 150 sheep in West Marin, Strozzi was positioned to start a bedding company of her own. She had the fleece but nowhere to process the wool. So she co-founded Valley Ford Mercantile and Wool Mill. She processes local fleece for her bedding business and for other area wool spinners, weavers and artisans who are bringing back the area’s fiber legacy. Whether it’s wool harvested and milled by sheep ranchers in Valley Ford, cotton grown and spun in nearby Capay Valley or raw linen hand sewn by Bay Area designers, consumers are becoming more educated about the health, environmental and economic benefits of organic and locally produced fibers. Bedding is a growing niche of this cottage industry, driven, in part, by concern that people spend an average eight hours a day on top of or covered in fabric and products that harbor volatile organic compounds and flame-retardant compounds like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which have polluted bedrooms for decades. Natural fibers like wool and linen are inherently flame retardant, insulating, antimicrobial and moisture regulating.
According to wool and organic cotton producer Sally Fox ( www.foxfibre.com; www.vreseis.com), the interest in locally grown fibers isn’t new but rather a renaissance. Fox, who has been growing naturally colored cotton commercially on and off since 1982 and is now raising sheep for wool on her farm in Yolo County, says local and domestic commercial cotton growers were profitable until the globalization of the textile industry, which began after World War II and then exploded in the ’90s. The smaller farms and businesses either went out of business or went underground. “Many of us survived by reducing our customer base and catering to a high-end clientele in Japan,” says Fox. That started to change in 2010, when textile artist Rebecca Burgess began a year-long experiment in wearing only clothing sourced from products within a 150-mile radius of her home. That led to the creation of her nonprofit, Fibershed ( www.fibershed.com), which supports farmers and artisans developing regional closed-cycle textile supply chains all over the world….
IMAGES OF THE WEEK
COP21: Eco activists Brandalism launch Paris ad takeover
29 November 2015 BBC More than 600 artworks critiquing corporate sponsors of the UN summit on climate change have been installed in advertising spaces across Paris….
Image copyrightBrandalismImage caption
Image copyrightBrandalismImage caption
WILDLIFE QUESTION OF THE WEEK ANSWER
Answer : (b.) They are poisonous
“California Newt – Taricha torosa” (BLM California wildlife database)
California Newts are quite poisonous, as are all newts of the genus Torosa, so it is not advised to handle these salamanders. If you do, wash your hands before touching your eyes or anything that you might put in your mouth.