by KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press Sunday, March 12th 2017
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — …The Nature Conservancy (TNC) says it has $6 million from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that it’s now distributing among land trusts that must come up with five times the amount in matching funds for approved easements or acquisition… “We’re protecting lands in the three states that are identified as being resilient,” said Ken Popper, senior conservation planner with The Nature Conservancy. “In the short term, we’re looking at wildlife movements and in the long term movements of habitats….”
…the information is the result of dozens of data sets that include soil maps, vegetation maps, species distribution, moisture, elevation and the locations of roads, powerlines, cities and towns. He said the maps, available to the public, took four years to create at a cost of $350,000. The idea behind the project is for local land trusts to use the information to identify private lands that could be strongholds for species threatened by climate change. “Those refugia areas will allow plants and animals to adapt to climate change as it occurs,” Popper said….
Eating healthier food could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, suggests a new study. As it turns out, some relatively small diet tweaks could add up to significant inroads in addressing climate change….To create healthier model diets, the researchers altered the standard 2,000-calorie-a-day U.S. diet, changing the sources of about half of those calories. The different model diets progressively reduced the amount of red and processed meats, with the most stringent diet eliminating them completely. Fruit and vegetable intake was doubled, and peas and beans increased to replace the meat protein removed. Refined grains were partially replaced with whole grains. Added sugar, which Cleveland noted is a known health risk, was not reduced. Neither was dairy, eggs, fish or non-red meat.
“This means our estimates are probably very conservative, both in terms of health and climate change implications,” Cleveland said. “Just changing half of the diet and including only some of the diseases associated with diets, we found a huge effect. “Food has a tremendous impact on the environment,” he added. “That means that there is enormous potential for our food choices to have positive effects on our environment as well on our health and our health care costs.”…. The food system contributes about 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with the largest proportion coming from animal-based food. In addition, the poor quality of the standard U.S. diet — including high levels of red and processed meat and low levels of fruits and vegetables — is a major factor in a number of preventable diseases. The U.S. spends $3 trillion on health care every year — 18 percent of the gross domestic product — much of it allocated to diseases associated with poor diets…
Elinor Hallström, Quentin Gee, Peter Scarborough, David A. Cleveland. A healthier US diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both the food and health care systems. Climatic Change, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-017-1912-5
President Trump’s decision to constrain and muzzle scientific research signals an important milestone. The War on Science has shifted into high gear. This is a fight for our future, and scientists as well as citizens had better prepare for what is coming next.
At his confirmation hearings last week, the new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled the new language of this war—a subtle, yet potentially damaging form of science skepticism. Manmade climate change, he says, is “subject to continuing debate.” There is reason to be concerned about methane released by fracking, but he’s “not deeply concerned.” And research on lead poisoning is “not something [he has] looked into.”
These might sound like quibbles compared to the larger cultural and political upheavals happening in America today, but collectively, they add up to something big.
The systematic use of so-called “uncertainty” surrounding well-established scientific ideas has proven to be a reliable method for manipulating public perception and stalling political action. And while certain private interests and their political allies may benefit from these tactics, the damages are something we will all have to face.
Make no mistake: the War on Science is going to affect you, whether you are a scientist or not. It is going to affect everything—ranging from the safety of the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the kind of planet we live on. It will affect the kinds of diseases we get and the medicines we can use. It will determine our safety and security, and the privacy of our data and personal lives. It will dictate what our kids are taught in our schools, what is discussed in the news, and what is debated in the halls of Congress. It will affect the jobs we have, the kind of industries that thrive here, and what powers our economy.
The reality is that science touches everything we do, and everyone we love, which is why the War on Science is so deadly serious. This is a war that needs to be won. But in order to do so, scientists and science supporters—including those participating in the upcoming March for Science—need to take a new tack.
Here, to start with, is what we recommend:
Portray an Inclusive Vision…
Do Get Political…
Don’t Fall into the “Culture War” Trap…
Balance Facts with Meaningful Stories…
At its heart, the War on Science is often an attempt to de-regulate industry and weaken environmental laws. Stifling science—especially on topics like climate change, toxic pollution, unsustainable agriculture, and animal welfare—is part of a ploy to undermine these safeguards, and to cast doubt on inconvenient scientific truths, all in the service of profits and power.
It’s time to call out this merciless greed and ignorance. The short-term gains of a few corporations and individuals must no longer rise above our national interests, our long-term economic competitiveness, and most importantly, our individual safety, health and wellbeing.
So, let’s not be timid. Let’s call things as they are.
America has a choice to make. A choice between advancing civilization or bringing it down. A choice between knowledge and chaos.
The head of the world’s largest scientific membership organisation has given his backing for a planned protest by researchers in Washington DC.
Rush Holt, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), said that people were “standing up for science”.
His remarks reflect growing concern among researchers that science is disregarded by President Trump.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire career,” the former Democratic congressman told BBC News.
“To see young scientists, older scientists, the general public speaking up for the idea of science. We are going to work with our members and affiliated organisations to see that this march for science is a success.”…
The current political climate has spurred a growing cadre of scientists to emerge from their labs, offices and fieldwork sites to contest an administration that’s openly hostile to scientific inquiry — particularly when it comes to climate change — and coined the term “alternative facts.”
..The March for Science is the most visible piece of the new movement, with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, a private planning Facebook group with more than 837,000 members and more than 50,000 volunteers. The march has the potential to go down as one of the largest mass mobilizations by scientists in history.
It’s also faced some challenges both internally and externally. Planners have been debating appropriate symbols….some scientists have argued that taking to the streets puts the scientific enterprise in jeopardy of being seen as too politicized. Robert Young, a coastal geologist, crystallized that sentiment in a New York Times op-ed in late January.
“Trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends,” he wrote…. Ziad Munson, an expert in conservative social movements from Lehigh University, said. “Yes there is a danger of politicizing science, but the question is whether or not that ship has already sailed.”…
…Social science researchers say that getting involved is only part of the equation, and that scientists will need messages — and actions — that resonate.
By Rebecca J. Romsdahl, University of North Dakota
…..The results show that energy, economic benefits, common sense and sustainability are frames that are providing opportunities for local leaders to address climate change without getting stuck in the political quagmire. This strategy is being used across the Great Plains states, which include some of the most climate-skeptical areas of the country….
An invasive species of marsh grass that spreads, kudzu-like, throughout North American wetlands, may provide similar benefits to protected wetlands as native marsh grasses. According to new research, the invasive marsh grass’s effects on carbon storage, erosion prevention and plant diversity in protected wetlands are neutral….
…Phragmites australis, known as the common reed, is an invasive marsh grass that can spread at rates up to 15 feet per year. It thrives throughout North American wetlands, and studies have demonstrated that its densely packed growth pattern chokes out native marsh plants, thereby reducing plant diversity and habitat used by some threatened and endangered birds.
However, other studies have shown that Phragmites may help reduce shoreline erosion in marshlands and store carbon at faster rates than native grasses… The findings were encouraging.The team found no significant differences between ecosystem services of the marshes they studied, indicating that Phragmites‘ effect was largely neutral. However, Theuerkauf points out that the neutral effect could be due to the protected status of the wetlands they studied and the specific ecosystem services evaluated.
“Studies that associate Phragmites with negative impacts on wetlands are often conducted in areas that have seen significant human interventions, such as shoreline development or construction of drainage canals, whereas our study was conducted in undisturbed marsh habitat within a protected reserve system,” Theuerkauf says….
Seth J. Theuerkauf, Brandon J. Puckett, Kathrynlynn W. Theuerkauf, Ethan J. Theuerkauf, David B. Eggleston. Density-dependent role of an invasive marsh grass, Phragmites australis, on ecosystem service provision. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (2): e0173007 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0173007
Every continent save Antarctica is ringed by vast stretches of seagrass, underwater prairies that together cover an area roughly equal to California.
Seagrass meadows, among the most endangered ecosystems on Earth, play an outsize role in the health of the oceans. They shelter important fish species, filter pollutants from seawater, and lock up huge amounts of atmosphere-warming carbon.
The plants also fight disease, it turns out. A team of scientists reported on Thursday that seagrasses can purge pathogens from the ocean that threaten humans and coral reefs alike. (The first hint came when the scientists were struck with dysentery after diving to coral reefs without neighboring seagrass.)
But the meadows are vanishing at a rate of a football field every 30 minutes. Joleah B. Lamb, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University and the lead author of the new study, said she hoped it would help draw attention to their plight….
…The plants also draw fertilizer runoff and other pollutants out of the water, locking them safely away in meadow soil. Scientists have estimated that an acre of seagrass provides more than $11,000 worth of filtering every year….
In one survey, they collected seawater and put it in petri dishes to see if colonies of disease-causing bacteria known as Enterococcus grew from the samples. Levels of the bacteria in water from seagrass meadows, they found, were a third of the levels in water from other sites. In a second search, the scientists grabbed fragments of DNA floating in seawater. By examining the sequences, they identified 18 kinds of disease-causing bacteria. Water from the seagrass meadows had only half the level of this DNA, compared with water collected at other sites. The scientists next turned their attention to coral reefs around the islands. Reefs next to seagrass meadows, they found, were half as diseased as those without meadows.
…Seagrass meadows can store enormous amounts of carbon. Their soils don’t decompose because they have very little oxygen in them. As a result, seagrass meadow soil around the world has accumulated an estimated nine billion tons of carbon.
As seagrass meadows disappear, that carbon is being released back into the ocean. Some of it may make its way into the atmosphere as heat-trapping carbon dioxide. As dire as the situation has become, there is cause for hope. In recent years, Dr. Orth and his colleagues have successfully restored seagrass meadows off the coast of Virginia. “Now we have 6,200 acres of seagrass,” he said, “where in 1997 there wasn’t a single blade of grass.