Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: climate change

  1. Wind and rain play bigger role than temperature in breeding timing of tree swallows

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    Wind, rain play key role in breeding patterns of migratory tree swallows

    April 27 2017 ScienceDaily  CU Boulder

    Wind and precipitation play a crucial role in advancing or delaying the breeding cycles of North American tree swallows… [the study] underscores the importance of considering factors beyond temperature when examining how climate change might affect species’ biological niche.

    …when…researchers tested how swallow nesting data from two different Alaskan sites corresponded with both daily and seasonal climate indicators like the number of windy days, days with measureable precipitation and average daily temperature, they found that windiness (or lack thereof) had the most consistent correlation with swallow breeding patterns over time…

    …The results showed that a long-term decline in windiness (and to a more variable extent, rain) in central Alaska over the past decade-plus correlated with the birds’ earlier breeding much more strongly than temperature, indicating that wet, windy spring weather that may have delayed egg laying in the past is now less of an impediment for the swallows.

    Rachel D. Irons, April Harding Scurr, Alexandra P. Rose, Julie C. Hagelin, Tricia Blake, Daniel F. Doak. Wind and rain are the primary climate factors driving changing phenology of an aerial insectivore. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2017; 284 (1853): 20170412 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0412

  2. Four big reasons why deniers started believing in climate change

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    Quartz April 24 2017  Full article here

    It began, like many things on Reddit, with a simple question: “Former climate change deniers, what changed your mind?” More than 600 posts later, AskReddit was able to not only offer insights into that question, but also shed some light on why people initially rejected the consensus view held by 97% of climate scientists that the Earth is rapidly warming because of human activity.

    Yale Climate Connections analyzed 66 answers describing the motivation behind the conversion. The biggest reason was a slow acceptance of clear scientific evidence [then risk of environmental damage, erratic weather and climate deniers’ lack of credibility]…..4 reasons deniers

    Seeing graphs of atmospheric carbon dioxde and overwhelming data supporting the conclusion that humans are rapidly, catastrophically warming the planet was convincing for many.…The desire to safeguard the Earth, evidence of extreme weather, and dubious sources among climate change deniers sealed the deal for most of the rest.

    But why did people reject climate change in the first place? Family was the most common reason. “Mostly because my family rigorously shot it down whenever it was remotely mentioned,” one person wrote… But personal politics and identity were a close second (and are cited as top reasons in other studies)…

    …people tend to reject the validity of scientific evidence when it conflicts with their deeply held world-views. Instead, suggests Kahan in Mother Jones, present information in ways that already align with people’s beliefs without triggering emotional, defensive responses.

    Kahan tested this concept by showing people of various viewpoints two fake newspaper articles: “Scientific Panel Recommends Anti-Pollution Solution to Global Warming” and “Scientific Panel Recommends Nuclear Solution to Global Warming.” For conservative individuals (” hierarchical individualists” in the study) who doubted climate change, the second article was far more effective at convincing them that humans caused global warming. Kahan suspects this is because the science was presented in an existing pro-industry narrative.

    How do you change peoples’ minds? Lead with values. That gives facts a chance.

  3. Climate change and the Farm Bill

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    Climate change wasn’t always the political hot potato it is today. 

    —Christian Science Monitor  Full article here

    Last month, Congress held initial hearings to inform the 2018 Farm Bill.|

    Agriculture Committee members heard about the struggling farm economy, crop insurance, and rural development. One issue that wasn’t discussed, despite its profound impact on farmers, is climate change….

    The 1990 Farm Bill included a title called the Global Climate Change Prevention Act. That title established a program at the USDA to coordinate climate-related issues within the giant agency….This work included coordinating both inter-agency work as well as representing the USDA at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which had just been established in 1988. Specifically, the new climate change program was to study the impacts of climate change (including drought, extreme weather, new pests) on crop production and explore the potential for developing more climate-resilient crops….

    …the climate change title was primarily focused on a research agenda, rather than a regulatory framework that directly threatened the agriculture or fossil fuel industries….

    …Another factor is that the fossil fuel industry hadn’t kicked into over-drive their campaign to politicize and discredit climate science. That multi-decade effort, even after company scientists at Exxon/Mobil had warned the company about climate change going back to the 1970s, shifted the political discussion around climate. Working particularly closely with the Bush-Cheney administration, the industry spent millions to sow doubts about climate science and reinforce the perception that environmentalists had conjured up climate change to advance their agenda….

    …Following the science, and what they are seeing in the field and supply chains, most major agribusiness and food companies are not waiting for Congress to act. CargillGeneral MillsMonsanto, and fertilizer giant Yara, among others, are openly touting how they are responding to climate change. Increasingly, farm groups like the National Farmers Union are pushing for reforms that support climate resilience.

    …Congressional inaction on climate change, led by Republicans, unfortunately reflects what is now a fiercely partisan issue. A recent Pew poll confirmed that political partisanship is the single biggest factor determining people’s views on climate change.That partisanship on climate change is continuing in the 2018 Farm Bill. Even as their home states struggle to recover from yet another extreme weather event—a devastating wildfire that killed more than 10,000 cattle across three states…

  4. Scientists link California droughts, floods to distinctive atmospheric waves

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    Posted: 06 Apr 2017 07:26 AM PDT  ScienceDaily full article

    The crippling wintertime droughts that struck California from 2013 to 2015, as well as this year’s unusually wet California winter, appear to be associated with the same phenomenon: a distinctive wave pattern that emerges in the upper atmosphere and circles the globe. …Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found in a recent study that the persistent high-pressure ridge off the west coast of North America that blocked storms from coming onshore during the winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15 was associated with the wave pattern, which they call wavenumber-5. Follow-up work showed that wavenumber-5 emerged again this winter but with its high- and low-pressure features in a different position, allowing drenching storms from the Pacific to make landfall.

    …The slow-moving Rossby waves at times become almost stationary. When they do, the result can be persistent weather patterns that often lead to droughts, floods, and heat waves. Wavenumber-5 often has this stationary quality when it emerges during the northern winter, and, as a result, is associated with a greater likelihood of persistent extreme events.

    …The new research indicates that the wave pattern may provide an additional source of predictability that sometimes may be more important than the impacts of sea surface temperature changes. First, however, scientists need to better understand why and when the wave pattern emerges.

    In the paper published in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, Branstator and Teng explored the physics of the wave pattern. Using a simplified computer model of the climate system to identify the essential physical processes, the pair found that wavenumber-5 forms when strong jet streams act as wave guides, tightening the otherwise meandering Rossby wave into the signature configuration of five highs and five lows.

    “The jets act to focus the energy,” Branstator said. “When the jets are present, the energy is trapped and cannot escape.” But even when the jets are present, the wavenumber-5 pattern does not always form, indicating that other forces requiring study are also at play.

    The scientists also searched specifically for what might have caused the wave pattern linked to the severe California drought to form. In the paper published in the Journal of Climate, the pair found that extremely heavy rainfall from December to February in certain regions of the tropical Pacific could double the probability that the extreme ridge associated with wavenumber-5 will form. The reason may have to do with the tropical rain heating parts of the upper atmosphere in such a way that favors the formation of the wavenumber-5 pattern.

  5. Next 10 years critical for achieving climate change goals

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    Posted: 13 Apr 2017 05:46 AM PDT  ScienceDaily article here

    In order to have a good chance of meeting the limits set by the Paris Agreement, it will be necessary to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions while preserving carbon sinks, with net emissions peaking in the next 10 years, according to a new study.

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can be reduce in two ways — by cutting our emissions, or by removing it from the atmosphere, for example through plants, the ocean, and soil. The historic Paris Agreement set a target of limiting future global average temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to even further limit the average increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Yet the timing and details of these efforts were left to individual countries.

    …”The study shows that the combined energy and land-use system should deliver zero net anthropogenic emissions well before 2040 in order to assure the attainability of a 1.5°C target by 2100,” says IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management Program Director Michael Obersteiner, a study coauthor.

    …In a “high-renewable” scenario where wind, solar, and bioenergy increase by around 5% a year, net emissions could peak by 2022, the study shows. Yet without substantial negative emissions technologies, that pathway would still lead to a global average temperature rise of 2.5°C, missing the Paris Agreement target.

    Walsh notes that the high-renewable energy scenario is ambitious, but not impossible — global production of renewable energy grew 2.6% between 2013 and 2014, according to the IEA. In contrast, the study finds that continued reliance on fossil fuels (with growth rates of renewables between 2% and 3% per year), would cause carbon emissions to peak only at the end of the century, causing an estimated 3.5°C global temperature rise by 2100.

    …According to the study, fossil fuel consumption would likely need to be reduced to less than 25% of the global energy supply by 2100, compared to 95% today. At the same time, land use change, such as deforestation, must be decreased. This would lead to a 42% decrease in cumulative emissions by the end of the century compared to a business as usual scenario.

    Brian Walsh, Philippe Ciais, Ivan A. Janssens, Josep Peñuelas, Keywan Riahi, Felicjan Rydzak, Detlef P. van Vuuren, Michael Obersteiner. Pathways for balancing CO2 emissions and sinks. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14856 DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS14856

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

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    By Lisa Cornish 22 March 2017  see full article here

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

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

    Unless climate programs are reframed. Here’s how.

    From climate adaption to disaster resilience

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

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

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

    From clean energy and low emissions to economical living

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

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

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

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

    From climate science to knowledge sharing

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

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

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

    A focus on food security and building agriculture markets

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

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

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

    Link programs to global and regional stability

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

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

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

  7. House Republicans climate resolution and bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

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

    March 20 2017 the Guardian

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

    The Republican Climate Resolution

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

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

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

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

    The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus

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

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

  8. New podcast ‘Evidence Squared’ on communicating science

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

    Posted on 29 March 2017 by John Cook

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

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

  9. Restoration resilience: buffering against climate change

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    Posted: 29 Mar 2017 11:57 AM PDT  ScienceDaily article here

    A new paper by the University of Washington and NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center aims to provide clarity among scientists, resource managers and planners on what ecological resilience means and how it can be achieved….

    ….Timpane-Padgham scoured the scientific literature for all mentions of ecological resilience, then pared down the list of relevant articles to 170 examined for this study. She then identified in each paper the common attributes, or metrics, that contribute to resilience among species, populations or ecosystems. For example, genetic diversity and population density were commonly mentioned in the literature as attributes that help populations either recover from or resist disturbance…[they then] grouped the various resilience attributes into five large categories, based on whether they affected individual plants or animals; whole populations; entire communities of plants and animals; ecosystems; or ecological processes…

    The researchers say this work could be useful for people who manage ecosystem restoration projects and want to improve the chances of success under climate change. They could pick from the ordered list of attributes that relate specifically to their project and begin incorporating tactics that promote resilience from the start.

    Specifying resilience attributes that are appropriate for the system and that can be measured repeatably will help move resilience from concept to practice,” Klinger said…”The threat of climate change and its impacts is a considerable issue that should be looked at from the beginning of a restoration project. It needs to be its own planning objective,” Timpane-Padgham said….

    Britta L. Timpane-Padgham, Tim Beechie, Terrie Klinger. A systematic review of ecological attributes that confer resilience to climate change in environmental restoration. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (3): e0173812 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173812