Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates April 20, 2012

Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Related News Updates

April 20, 2012


Highlights of the Week  – Poll- many link extreme weather to climate change















Enjoy your weekend-








Highlight of the Week….  


In Poll, Many Link Weather Extremes to Climate Change


Gene Blevins/Reuters A tornado in Kansas last week. A new poll suggests the public feels that global warming is real.

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times Published: April 17, 2012

A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.  The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.  “Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots.” ….



Poll: Large Majority Of Americans Understand Global Warming Made Several Major Extreme Weather Events Worse Posted: 18 Apr 2012 09:24 AM PDT

A new survey finds that by 2-to-1 Americans accurately understand global warming makes a number of extreme weather events worse. This Yale survey matches a recent Brookings poll that found Americans’ understanding of climate change was increasing with more extreme weather and warmer temperatures. It also matches Yale’s earlier November survey finding. This finding matches the results of September polling by ecoAmerica:




  1. 1.    ECOLOGY

Twice as many emperor penguins as thought in Antarctica, first-ever penguin count from space shows (April 13, 2012) — A new study using satellite mapping technology reveals there are twice as many emperor penguins in Antarctica than previously thought. The results provide an important benchmark for monitoring the impact of environmental change on the population of this iconic bird, which breeds in remote areas that are very difficult to study because they often are inaccessible with temperatures as low as -58 degrees Fahrenheit. … > full story


DDT linked to long-term decline of insect-eating birds in North America, through analysis of bird droppings (April 18, 2012) — Analysis of 50 years’ bird droppings inside a large decommissioned chimney on a university campus, provided evidence that DDT and bird diet may have played a role, in a long-term decline for populations of insect-eating birds in North America. … > full story


Evolutionary History of What Mammals Eat: Some Groups of Mammals Have Changed Their Feeding Strategies Over Time

ScienceDaily April 16, 2012 — The feeding habits of mammals haven’t always been what they are today, particularly for omnivores, finds a new study. Some groups of mammals almost exclusively eat meat — take lions and tigers and … > full story


Chernobyl radiation fells female birds, making chirping more frequent from lonely males (April 19, 2012) — Birdsong is one of the joys of nature, but higher percentages of birds chirping near Chernobyl are a perverse indication of radiation contamination, according to a new study. … > full story


Evolution: Vangas beat Darwin’s finches in diversity (April 19, 2012) — The diversity of the Madagascan vangas is unique. The bird family only consists of 22 species, but these cover the whole range of body size of the passerines, the bird group vangas belong to (6,000 species). Whereas smaller species use their comparatively small bill to feed by picking up insects, the largest among the vanga species may even catch amphibians with its very large bill. Thus vangas are much more diverse than Darwin’s finches, known to be a model for rapid evolution. Vangidae are the only known birds which experienced two peaks of rapid diversification, new research suggests. For birds, only one such peak is common.  … > full story


Giant jellyfish (Nemopilema nomurai) interfere with fishing in Japan. Jellyfish are increasing in the majority of the worlds coastal ecosystems, according to the first global study of jellyfish abundance by University of British Columbia researchers. Photograph by: Shin-ichi Uye , Shin-ichi Uye

Jellyfish population on the rise, perhaps due to global warming and pollution

By Gerry Bellett, Postmedia News April 19, 2012

VANCOUVER — Global warming, pollution and human activity in marine habitats are not generally regarded as good things — unless you’re a jellyfish. Then — according to a study of the jellyfish population by University of B.C. researchers — they have an upside. Jellyfish, which give many swimmers the creeps, are increasing in the majority of the world’s coastal ecosystems, UBC researchers have found in what is being billed as the first global study of the abundance of jellyfish. The results of the study are published in this month’s edition of the journal Hydrobiologia…..



Jellyfish on the rise in world’s coastal ecosytems (April 18, 2012) — Jellyfish are increasing in the majority of the world’s coastal ecosystems, according to the first global study of jellyfish abundance. … > full story



Fence Is Behind an Explosion of Life in a Wild Corner of Hawaii

New York Times – ‎Apr 16, 2012‎

KAENA POINT, Hawaii – Before Polynesian settlers arrived here hundreds of years ago in their outrigger canoes, Hawaii had more than 120 species of birds – and no mammals to eat them. Land birds flourished in the absence of land predators, and seabirds flew in from all over the world to nest undisturbed on the ground.  All of that changed with the arrival of humans — and the dogs, cats, rats and mongooses that came with them. Hawaii became the extinction capital of the world; all but a few species of land birds disappeared or diminished to tiny numbers, and many seabirds avoided extinction only by flying to other islands.  But here on this wild, windswept point just 30 miles from Waikiki’s crowded beaches, the first predator-proof fence in the United States, built last year by Xcluder, a New Zealand company, is helping to restore the land to a pristine state and proving a boon for scientists and bird-watchers. The fine-mesh green fence zigzags about four-tenths of a mile, from the south coast to the north on Oahu’s westernmost spit of land. It is fitted with an overhang that lets rats climb out but not in. People enter through a two-door chamber, in which one door won’t open unless the other is closed.

What has resulted is a slow-motion explosion of life. ….




Plastic Garbage in Oceans: Understanding Marine Pollution from Microplastic Particles ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2012) Biologists have prepared guidelines for a more precise investigation into marine pollution from microplastic particles. …   Large quantities of globally produced plastics end up in the oceans where they represent a growing risk. Above all very small objects, so-called microplastic particles, are endangering the lives of the many sea creatures. An estimate of how greatly the oceans are polluted with microplastic particles has so far failed in the absence of globally comparable methods of investigation and data. …

Plastic bottles washed on to the beach are as much a part of the coast as the sound of seagulls. What the eye does not see are the innumerable ultra-small plastic objects which float in the water, are washed on to the beach or settle on the sea bed. Scientists refer to these plastic particles as “microplastic particles,” understanding these to mean plastic objects whose diameter is less than five millimetres — whereby the majority of microplastic particles are smaller than a grain of sand or the tip of a needle. It is this property that also makes them so dangerous to the sea dwellers. “Microplastic particles are swallowed by organisms and absorbed via the digestive tract. It has been possible, for example, to detect them in the tissue of mussels or other animals,” says Dr. Lars Gutow, biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. Toxic substances also attach to the small particles in the sea which then enter the food chain in this way and may therefore ultimately be dangerous to humans…. Based on these findings the international team of researchers has now for the first time prepared guidelines for the recording and characterisation of microplastic particles and has published these in the Environmental Science & Technology journal in which the scientists also explain the possible origins of the plastic waste. > full story



Scientists discover ‘switch’ in plants to create flowers (April 17, 2012) — Flowering is the most crucial act that plants undergo, as the fruits of such labor include crops on which the world depends, and seeds from which the next generation grows. While classic experiments have demonstrated that plants are able to adjust the timing of their flowering in response to environmental conditions, such as light and temperature, until now very little was known about what exactly triggers plants to make flowers instead of leaves. Now, a team of researchers from Singapore has discovered how this happens. … > full story


Ravens remember relationships they had with others (April 19, 2012) — In daily life we remember faces and voices of several known individuals. Similarly, mammals have been shown to remember calls and faces of known individuals after a number of years. Ravens have now been found to differentiate individuals based on familiarity. Additionally, scientists discovered that ravens can remember the closeness they had with others for three years. … > full story


California: Nonprofit Targets Island Invaders to Restore World’s Rare Species  April 10 2012  Santa Cruz Sentinel
150 miles off the coast of Baja California, jagged Guadalupe Island climbs more than 4,000 feet above the Pacific. ….By 2001, when UC-Santa Cruz conservation biologist Don Croll arrived on the island, it was mostly barren. For Croll, Guadalupe Island was an eye-opening project. It showed the power of eradications as a conservation tool; on one side of the fence there were just goats and dirt, while on the other side a rare island community flourished…Croll traveled to the island as part of a collaborative effort between Island Conservation, the Santa Cruz–based organization he co-founded, and the Mexican government. Initially the team constructed fences to stop goats from grazing around a small number of enduring native pine trees. The results were impressive. “A year later there were hundreds of seedlings. We even found species that were thought to be extinct,” says Croll. “We realized that if the goats were removed from the island, the native plant community would explode. We had to make [the eradication] happen.”

And they did. By 2007 the island was goat-free, most of them having been rounded up, shipped to the mainland and sold in butcher shops.

Until Guadalupe Island, Island Conservation had focused on seabird and native vertebrate recovery, not on plants, explains Croll. “With animals, we often wait three to five years before seeing a response to an invasive species removal. But on Guadalupe Island, plants sprang up the next year—it rained and the island came back to life.”

For Croll, Guadalupe Island was an eye-opening project. It showed the power of eradications as a conservation tool; on one side of the fence there were just goats and dirt, while on the other side a rare island community flourished…..


Egg-laying beginning of the end for dinosaurs (April 17, 2012) — Their reproductive strategy spelled the beginning of the end: The fact that dinosaurs laid eggs put them at a considerable disadvantage compared to viviparous mammals. Researchers believe they now know why and how this ultimately led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. … > full story


Understanding of hearing in baleen whales amplified (April 17, 2012) — For decades, scientists have known that dolphins and other toothed whales have specialized fats associated with their jaws, which efficiently convey sound waves from the ocean to their ears. But until now, the hearing systems of their toothless grazing cousins, baleen whales, remained a mystery, largely because specimens to study are hard to get. Now, a new study has shown that some baleen whales also have fats leading to their ears. … > full story


River otters rebounding with hospitable habitat

Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle, 04/15/12

It’s wild times in the watershed. The most happy-go-lucky denizen of Bay Area creeks is back, after a hiatus of at least three decades: the river otter. “They look like they’re having a wonderful time out there. It’s really exciting to see,” said Steve…


BrightSource officials begin relocation of tortoises Riverside Press-Enterprise, 4/17/12
Biologists for a solar project near the Nevada state line this week began relocating desert tortoises displaced by construction and said every possible precaution is being taken to ensure the animals successfully reestablish themselves nearby …. The 52 biologists working for BrightSource are relocating more than 150 tortoises, following strict guidelines established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Desert Tortoise Recovery Office.

Nesting hawks delay power line work  Riverside Press-Enterprise, 4/15/12
At least five pairs of red-tailed hawks are nesting in the path of a transmission line upgrade needed to connect a solar energy development in northeast San Bernardino County to the power grid, federal officials said. The presence of the hawks could delay some of the work for months, but a spokesman for BrightSource Energy Co. said the company still plans to begin delivering electricity early next year from the 5.6-square-mile solar plant in the Ivanpah Valley, near Primm, Nev….

Aspirin: New evidence is helping explain additional health benefits and open potential for new uses (April 19, 2012) — Researchers have discovered that salicylate, the active ingredient in aspirin, directly increases the activity of the protein AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase), a key player in regulating cell growth and metabolism. Salicylate, which is derived from willow bark, and is the active ingredient in aspirin, is believed to be one of the oldest drugs in the world with first reports of its use dating back to an Egyptian papyrus in 1543 BC. … > full story











Greenland May Be Slip-Sliding Away Due to Surface Lake Melting

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2012) — Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Such lake drainages may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, according to the researchers. “This is the first evidence that Greenland’s ‘supraglacial’ lakes have responded to recent increases in surface meltwater production by draining more frequently, as opposed to growing in size,” says CIRES research associate William Colgan, who co-led the new study with CU-Boulder computer science doctoral student Yu-Li Liang. During summer, meltwater pools into lakes on the ice sheet’s surface. When the water pressure gets high enough, the ice fractures beneath the lake, forming a vertical drainpipe, and “a huge burst of water quickly pulses through to the bed of the ice sheet,” Colgan said. The study is being published online April 16 by the journal Remote Sensing of the Environment….



The glaciers are still shrinking – and rapidly

A couple of glaciers shrinking more slowly than expected does not change the irrefutable fact that most are melting rapidly By Jonathan Bamber, Sunday 15 April 2012

Glaciers are one of the natural environments most often used to illustrate the impacts of climate change. It is fairly indisputable that in a warming world, glaciers melt faster. Yet two recent studies published in top scientific journals (more here and here) suggest that in the Himalayas the rate of mass loss has been small and overestimated, and that further west, in the Karakoram range, the glaciers are actually slightly gaining mass. Is there a conflict between these studies and the wider body of research indicating that, worldwide, glaciers have been receding for several decades?….There are more than 160,000 glaciers on the planet, less than 120 of which have continuous, long-term measurements taken. These ground-based measurements have been supplemented by data from airborne and satellite sensors. The combined records indicate that most, but not all, glacier systems have been losing mass for at least the last four decades, and that the rate of loss has been accelerating since the 1990s for key regions including Patagonia, the Canadian Arctic, Alaska and, most important of all for sea-level rise, from the great ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland. These two ice giants contain 99.5% of all land ice on Earth, and store enough ice to raise global sea level by around 64 metres. The evidence that mass loss in Greenland and west Antarctica has been accelerating since the early 1990s is irrefutable….….Most glaciologists believe we are witnessing unprecedented changes to land and sea ice. The burning question is not if, but how fast, land and sea ice will disappear, and what we can do to mitigate and adapt to these changes.


Poor spring rain projected in Africa (April 12, 2012) — Spring rains in the eastern Horn of Africa are projected to begin late this year and be substantially lower than normal. From March to May, the rains are expected to total only 60 to 85 percentage of the average rainfall in this region. This is a significant deterioration compared to earlier forecasts. … > full story


U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Headed Up Again

By JOHN M. BRODER April 16, 2012, 2:55 pm

After dropping for two years during the recession, emissions of the gases blamed for global warming rose in 2010 as the economy heated up, the Environmental Protection Agency reports. Output of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gasses were up 3.2 percent from 2009 as the nation climbed slowly out of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, the E.P.A. said. “The increase from 2009 to 2010 was primarily due to an increase in economic output resulting in an increase in energy consumption across all sectors, and much warmer summer conditions resulting in an increase in electricity demand for air conditioning that was generated primarily by combusting coal and natural gas,” the agency reported in its annual inventory of greenhouse gases. The report, produced for domestic policymakers and for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, covers emissions of the six main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It said that emissions of those gases dropped by about 8 percent from 2007 to 2009 after 15 years of fairly steady increases. Total United States emission rose 10.5 percent from 1990 to 2010…..



Climate change ‘impacts Europe’s mountain plants’

Mother Nature Network – ‎April 20, 2012

The acceleration of climate change is stressing mountain plants in Europe and driving them to migrate to higher altitudes. By Agence France-PresseFri, Apr 20 2012 at 1:10 AM EST PLANTS: An increasing number of plant species was found only on mountains



Dangerous tornado outbreak expected Saturday; Gulf of Mexico SSTs warmest on record Dr. Jeff Masters Friday, April 13, 2012

This is the warmest March value on record for the Gulf of Mexico, going back over a century of record keeping. During the first two weeks of April, Gulf of Mexico waters remained about 1.5°C above average, putting April on pace to have the warmest April water temperatures on record… All that record-warm water is capable of putting record amounts of water vapor into the air, since evaporation increases when water is warmer. Because moist air is less dense than dry air, this warm, moist air flowing northwards from the Gulf of Mexico into the developing storm system over the Plains will be highly unstable once it encounters cold, dry air aloft. The record-warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are a key reason for the high risk of severe weather over the Plains this weekend….


Weekend tornado outbreak: 1 EF-4, 2 EF-3s, 6 dead, damage near $300 million

Dr. Jeff Masters Friday, April 16, 2012 Damage surveys continue in the Plains in the wake of Saturday’s major tornado outbreak. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center logged 110 preliminary tornado reports, with an additional 10 reports from Sunday. At least one tornado was a violent EF-4, which hit mostly unpopulated areas in Ellsworth County, Kansas. The only fatalities from the outbreak occurred in Woodward, Oklahoma, where an EF-3 tornado hit at night after lightning knocked out the town’s tornado sirens. Six…




NOAA: Global temperatures in March make coolest March since 1999 even with U.S.’ record breaking warmthMonth ranks 16th warmest March for globe; La Niña expected to dissipate by end of April  According to NOAA scientists, the average global temperature for March 2012 makes it the coolest March since 1999, yet the 16th warmest since record keeping began in 1880. Arctic sea ice extent during the month was below average but was the largest extent since 2008 and one of the largest March extents of the past decade. Additionally, La Niña conditions continued to weaken during March as temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean warmed during the last two months. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, La Niña is expected to dissipate by the end of April 2012.This monthly analysis from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.


State of Himalayan glaciers less alarming than feared (April 19, 2012) — Several hundreds of millions of people in Southeast Asia depend, to varying degrees, on the freshwater reservoirs of the Himalayan glaciers. Consequently, it is important to detect the potential impact of climate changes on the Himalayan glaciers at an early stage. Glaciologists now reveal that the glaciers in the Himalayas are declining less rapidly than was previously thought. However, the scientists see major hazard potential from outbursts of glacial lakes. … > full story



Dalai Lama discusses climate change at UCSD

By John Langeler Fox 5 San Diego Reporter April 18, 2012

LA JOLLA, Calif. — Opening his visit to San Diego with good humor and peace, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began two days of discussion at University of California San Diego Wednesday. … The 14th Dalai Lama, named Tenzin Gyatso, needed few notes for a subject he is passionate about; the merging of scientific research into global warming with spiritual practice.  He was joined on stage by two world renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography researchers to discuss global warming and the need for environmental change….



Republican Meterologist: Climate Change Has Nothing To Do With Al Gore

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 08:30 AM PDT by Paul Douglas, via Bloomberg Businessweek

I’m a moderate Republican — a fan of small government, light regulation and market solutions. A serial entrepreneur, I founded companies that invented 3-D television weather graphics and the first app on a cell phone. I’m a Penn State meteorologist. My day-job since 1979: tracking weather for TV news.







2 years later: What’s latest on Gulf oil spill?

Associated Press, 04/19/12

(04-19) 14:52 PDT New Orleans (AP) — Two years have passed since the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP’s Macondo well triggered an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and spawning the nation’s worst…


Higher concentrations of heavy metals found in post-oil spill oysters from Gulf of Mexico, experts say (April 19, 2012) — Scientists have detected evidence that pollutants from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have entered the ecosystem’s food chain. Preliminary results demonstrate that oysters collected post-spill contain higher concentrations of heavy metals in their shells, gills, and muscle tissue than those collected before the spill. … > full story



Panel Faults Congress for Inaction on Drilling

By JOHN M. BRODER NY Times Published: April 17, 2012

WASHINGTON — Members of the presidential panel that investigated the 2010 BP oil rig explosion and spill sharply criticized Congress on Tuesday for refusing to act on any of its recommendations and gave the Obama administration and the oil industry mixed marks.  Their report said that federal regulators and major oil companies had generally improved the safety and oversight of drilling operations since the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst in the nation’s history. But the group said that Congress, hostile to new regulation and mired in partisan gridlock, had utterly failed.  “Across the board we are disappointed with Congress’s lack of action,” said Bob Graham, a co-chairman of the panel and a former Democratic governor and senator from Florida. “Two years have passed since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers, and Congress has yet to enact one piece of legislation to make drilling safer….


More on the Link Between Earthquakes and Fracking

By HENRY FOUNTAIN April 15, 2012, 12:00 pm

Scientists from the United States Geological Survey have cautiously weighed in on a subject that has sparked public concern in some parts of the country: spates of small earthquakes in oil- and gas-producing areas. In a report to be presented next week at a meeting of seismologists in San Diego, the scientists say that increases in the number of quakes in Arkansas and Oklahoma in the last few years are “almost certainly” related to oil and gas production. But in a summary of the report, they say they do not know if seismic activity is increasing because companies are taking more oil and gas from underground or because of “changes in extraction methodologies.”….


Texas spends Gulf oil spill cash on conservation
The Associated Press via ABC
Texas is the first state to confirm a deal to spend settlement money from the Gulf oil spill for long-term coastal conservation, working with a private nonprofit to cut through red tape and buy 80 acres of prime habitat for endangered whooping cranes. The arrangement allowed the state agency to bypass cumbersome red tape that often slows down government business and to quickly acquire land that likely would have been sold and subdivided for residential use. More

Sponging up oil spills: Nanosponges soak up oil again and again (April 16, 2012) — Researchers have discovered that adding a dash of boron to carbon while creating nanotubes turns them into solid, spongy, reusable blocks that have an astounding ability to absorb oil spilled in water. … > full story



Grandparents Oppose Tar Sands
James Hansen 17 April 2012

Alberta tar sands are estimated to be 240 GtC (gigatons of carbon); see Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) Working Group 3 report.  That is about seven times greater than the cumulative historical CO2 emissions from oil use by the U.S. (36 GtC).  U.S. oil use was 28% of global oil use for the cumulative amounts over the past 200 years.  So Alberta tar sands contain about twice the total amount of carbon emitted by global oil use in history. ….  Moreover, these numbers do not include the emissions from conventional fossil fuels used to mine and process the tar sands into useable fuel.  Nor do they include the other greenhouse gas emissions produced by the mining and processing. The global stampede to find every possible fossil fuel is not being opposed by governments, no matter how dirty the fuels nor how senseless the energy strategy is from long-term economic and moral perspectives.  Instead governments are forcing the public to subsidize the polluters, as discussed in The Case for Young People and Nature. Fortunately, people are beginning to recognize the situation.  Today the Norwegian Grandparent’s Climate Campaign, supported by 27 other organizations, delivered a demand to Statoil (Norwegian government being 2/3 owner of Statoil), the principal tar sands funder, to withdraw support for tar sands development. ….



International Bird Rescue celebrates 40 years

San Jose Mercury News – ‎April 19, 2012

Holcomb’s wish, of course, is in jest but it illustrates the dichotomy his organization, International Bird Rescue, has worked under for the last 40 years as it flies into action, at least twice a year, to save birds caught up in oil spills.



Fracking data flows from Kern oil fields Bakersfield Californian, 4/16/12
As fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, becomes more common in California and especially Kern County, state lawmakers, regulators and environmentalists are pushing for greater transparency regarding the practice. Already some oil producers are responding by voluntarily posting information about their fracking operations to an online national database,…..





  1. 4.    POLICY


Keystone pipeline “rodeo” rides again in U.S. House

Handout photograph shows the Keystone Oil Pipeline is pictured under construction in North Dakota (Handout . Reuters, Reuters / January 18, 2012)

Roberta Rampton Reuters  11:52 a.m. CDT, April 18, 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Keystone XL project for the fourth time in two years on Wednesday, but the Nebraska Republican who has championed the oil pipeline from Canada knows it well may not be the last. The pipeline, put on hold by President Barack Obama earlier this year, has taken on an outsized political profile heading into the November elections as Republicans use it to attack Obama’s economic and energy policies…



Conservation Compliance: A Key Component of the Farm Bill

As the next Farm Bill is developed, a core issue will be inclusion of conservation compliance language, according to the Wildlife Management institute. First established in the 1980’s, conservation compliance is the application of a set of minimum conservation practices that farmers must implement on sensitive lands in order to participate in some federal farm subsidy programs. Read More >>



EPA Introduces Historic New Standards To Limit Industrial Carbon Pollution

Posted: 13 Apr 2012 12:44 PM PDT

By Jorge Madrid and Celine Ramstein

For the first time in history, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to limit the carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants.  This will slow the growth of the major pollutant responsible for global climate change, which threatens the health and safety of Americans.  This new standard will have far-reaching public health impacts and finally put a limit on emissions from the single largest carbon pollution source in America: burning coal for electricity. The Carbon Pollution Standard directs new power plants that begin construction after the rule is finalized should “meet an output‐based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt‐hour.”  The typical new coal fired power plant would have to reduce their carbon pollution by 40 to 60 percent.  Natural gas power plants should be able to comply with this standard without additional controls.The proposal was published in the Federal Register today. Now an official comment period begins for the next 60 days in which the public is invited to submit comments to the EPA on this proposed rule.   EPA will probably conduct several public meetings in various major cities, too.



New EPA Rules Cut Air Pollution From Oil And Gas Drilling

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 12:30 PM PDT by Tom Kenworthy

The Environmental Protection Agency today took an important step toward reducing the harmful health effects of air pollution from oil and gas drilling operations. The agency issued new rules that will require companies to capture emissions of toxic chemicals, compounds that contribute to smog, and methane, a potent global warming gas. In a significant concession to the oil and gas industry, which has lobbied furiously to water down the requirements, the agency extended the time for full implementation to nearly three years, setting a limit of January 2015. By that final 2015 deadline, companies must have equipment in place to capture emissions through so-called “green completions.” Prior to the deadline companies will be able to flare or burn escaping gas and chemicals….


2 species of Alaska ice seals face endangered listing
The Bristol Bay Times
As many as six species of ice seals could be joining the endangered species list this summer, following final review and decisions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Of the four species of ringed seals and two distinct population segments of bearded seals, only two of them appear in U.S. or Alaskan waters. Those two are the Arctic ringed seal and the Beringia DPS bearded seal. More



Feds omit greenhouse gas from policy on polar bears
The Associated Press via the Anchorage Daily News

Polar bear management policy proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to omit regulation of greenhouse gases blamed for the climate warming that’s reducing the animals’ summer sea ice habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it is proposing a special rule clarifying how the agency will manage polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. The proposed rule, the agency said, will replace a similar special rule issued in 2008, but as before, will not change regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions. More


Wyoming predicts hunters would kill 52 wolves in initial season
The Associated Press via The Ranger
Wildlife managers estimate hunting and other causes of death should reduce Wyoming’s wolf population outside Yellowstone National Park to roughly 170 wolves by next December. The estimate from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department assumes the predator is removed from Endangered Species Act protection in the state next fall as planned. Wildlife managers say there are currently about 270 wolves in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone. More


How to curb discharge of the most potent greenhouse gas: 50-percent reduction in meat consumption and emissions (April 13, 2012) — A new study found that meat consumption in the developed world would need to be cut by 50 percent per person by 2050, and emissions in all sectors — industrial and agricultural — would need to be reduced by 50 percent if we are to meet the most aggressive strategy set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to reduce the most potent of greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide (N2O). … > full story

A Vote For Hunting And Fishing Should Be A Vote For Conservation

Posted: 17 Apr 2012 08:41 AM PDT by Christy Goldfuss

…. you don’t have to look far to explain why H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), is at the top of the to-do list…..Rep. Miller says the bill would open up hunting opportunities. In fact, it would open up protected lands to commercial activities such as road building and off road vehicle use — lands that are open to hunting, but not mechanized activities.  A Congressional Research Services report found that H.R. 4089 would essentially gut the Wilderness Act, which has protected more than 100 million acres in the U.S., much of it prime hunting and fishing lands. That is why some sportsmen actually oppose this package of bills designed to court their political support. The Nevada state coordinator of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers recently said, “sportsmen and women who enjoy the challenge and opportunity of backcountry hunting will lose those experiences if this bill becomes law.” The balance between environmental protection and hunters rights can be tenuous, sometimes creating unexpected political alliances. For example, you can find many sportsmen willing to talk about climate change, when most Republican candidates avoid it. The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 is supported by the National Rifle Association and many off road vehicle groups.  It is even rumored that the NRA will track member’s votes on this bill so they can use it as a political messaging opportunity this election season.  This seemingly puts any member of Congress who supports conservation in a difficult spot. However, some numbers from the State of the Rockies Project poll, show that conservation is extremely important to the hunting and fishing community. In Montana and New Mexico, approximately 70% of sportsmen identify as conservationists…



The new Cold War? As climate change melts polar ice cap, militaries vie for Arctic advantage By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, April 16, 1:44 AM

YOKOSUKA, Japan — To the world’s military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts…. None of this means a shooting war is likely at the North Pole any time soon. But as the number of workers and ships increases in the High North to exploit oil and gas reserves, so will the need for policing, border patrols and — if push comes to shove — military muscle to enforce rival claims.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its untapped natural gas is in the Arctic. Shipping lanes could be regularly open across the Arctic by 2030 as rising temperatures continue to melt the sea ice, according to a National Research Council analysis commissioned by the U.S. Navy last year. What countries should do about climate change remains a heated political debate. But that has not stopped north-looking militaries from moving ahead with strategies that assume current trends will continue….



NASA’s James Hansen Reviews Draft American Meteorological Society Climate Statement: Stronger But Still Inadequate

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 07:42 AM PDT by James Hansen

Many television meteorologists question manmade climate change, including ones certified by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The society’s statement on climate change is now more than five years old, overdue for a revision. A few months ago, members of Forecast the Facts called on the AMS to pass a strong, science-based information statement on climate change. After months of delay, the AMS has finally completed a draft statement. The draft is only viewable by AMS members. Climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has read the statement and offers his opinion …..

As a climate scientist, I know that there’s a huge gap between what scientists understand about climate change and what the public knows. And when TV meteorologists get the science wrong, it just furthers public confusion.The American Meteorological Society has an important role to play in clearing up the confusion by giving clear guidance to their members. I’m pleased to say that their new climate change statement is largely in line with current science, but there is an important caveat, as I will explain. Here’s what I saw when I read the statement… Overall, I’m pleased that the AMS is headed toward a strong, science-based statement, which will go a long way toward educating broadcast meteorologists who cover this important topic. I’ll be sending a note to the AMS thanking them for their progress so far, and encouraging them to continue improving upon this draft before the statement is finalized. Can you please join me by doing the same? Click here to send a note to the AMS.

Factually yours,
Dr. James Hansen
Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

P.S. If you’re interested in becoming a member of the AMS, you may do so here. Members are allowed to log in and read draft statements, including the the latest statement on climate change


SoCal’s New Sustainability Strategy Is An Impressive Step Forward

Posted: 14 Apr 2012 07:31 AM PDT by Kaid Benfield, via NRDC’s Switchboard

…  Southern California is a region much better known for environmental problems than solutions, which is precisely why its new, 25-year Sustainable Communities Strategy, adopted unanimously last week by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), is so significant. SCAG is the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, representing six counties:  Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Imperial.  Its planning area covers an astounding 38,000 square miles, including 191 cities and more than 18 million residents.  ….While the environmental facts are daunting, the good news is that the region is doing something about it. …The new plan is impressive, relying on increased investment in public transit and more walkable, transit-accessible land use patterns to reduce pollution while conserving farmland and natural areas…. These are some of its highlights:

  • The new strategy will invest $246 billion in public transportation
  • It will fund 12 major transit expansion projects in Los Angeles over the next 10 years, under LA Mayor Villaraigosa’s 30-10 plan
  • It will increase funding for bicycling and walking over threefold, from $1.8 to $6.7 billion
  • It is projected to reduce traffic congestion 24 percent per capita despite the addition of four million residents
  • It will place 60 percent more housing in transit-accessible locations
  • It will create 4.2 million jobs in the region, and place 87 percent of all jobs within a half mile of transit service
  • It is projected to reduce pollution-caused respiratory problems by 24 percent, resulting in $1.5 billion per year in health care savings
  • It will save over 400 square miles of farmland and other open space from development

For all the details, go here….




Green groups sue to stop California wind project that threatens condor Forbes, 4/13/12 Three national environmental groups today sued the BLM over its approval of the North Sky River project “a planned NextEra Energy Resources wind farm in the Tehachapi region of California that state and federal wildlife officials had warned threatens the critically endangered California condor….


California Solar Energy: Bill Would Provide Renewable Rooftops To Poor Communities  Posted: 04/17/2012 California Watch. By Bernice Yeung

San Diego is home to more than 2,600 solar residential rooftops – more than any other California city – but in the neighboring lower-income community of National City, there are only about a dozen.

A bill [PDF] before the California Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce this month seeks to equalize renewable energy installation in the state by promoting small-scale solar rooftops in the disadvantaged communities. The bill targets neighborhoods with high unemployment rates and those that “bear a disproportionate burden from air pollution, disease, and other impacts from the generation of electricity from the burning of fossil fuels,” the bill said. Bill author Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Mountain View, said the legislation would create jobs and build “cleaner, safer, and healthier neighborhoods.” “Unfortunately, California’s most vulnerable communities – those that have suffered first and worst from pollution – have not benefited much from existing renewable energy policy,” Fong said in a statement provided to California Watch. The legislation would require the state to install enough systems to produce 375 megawatts of renewable energy – or about 1,000 small-scale projects – in disadvantaged communities between 2014 and the end of 2020. Utility companies are required by a 2011 state law to achieve a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020. The renewable energy systems supported by Fong’s bill would take the form of rooftop solar installations on apartment complexes and commercial buildings, and each project would be limited to producing 500 kilowatts of power, a project the size of a typical Costco rooftop….

Advocates say passage of the bill could improve both the health and economy of these low-income communities.



Mexican senate clears way for climate bill

Reuters – ‎ April 20, 2012‎

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s Senate on Thursday passed a climate change bill aimed at encouraging a voluntary carbon emissions trading market, clearing the way for President Felipe Calderon to sign it, as expected, into law.


Corn Growers: Climate Change Is ‘A Grave Threat To Rural Livelihoods And Quality Of Life’

By Stephen Lacey on Apr 20, 2012 at 9:15 am

Corn farmers concerned about the impact of climate change are speaking out, calling the problem “a grave threat” to the nation’s agricultural sector. Responding to the increase in severe weather — and the prospects for a “quantum jump” in such devastating events — a group of corn farmers is renewing calls for policies to help cut global warming pollution. The American Corn Growers Association is highlighting statements made by its former president, saying that farmers are “at the front lines of global warming”….




Obama and Romney on energy, environmental issues

Associated Press, 04/17/12

(04-17) 11:58 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) — A look at where President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stand on energy and environmental issues: OBAMA: Ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil…


  • Ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico but has pushed for more oil and gas drilling overall. Approved drilling plan in Arctic Ocean opposed by environmentalists. Now proposes that Congress give oil market regulators more power to control price manipulation by speculators and stiffer fines for doing so.
  • Achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards for automobiles that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles. Achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source.
  • Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions. Shelved plan to toughen health standards on lung-damaging smog. Rejected Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada because of environmental concerns but supports fast-track approval of a segment of it. Proposes ending subsidies to oil industry but has failed to persuade Congress to do so.


  • Supports opening the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska; and supports exploitation of shale oil deposits. Wants to reduce obstacles to coal, natural gas and nuclear energy development, and accelerate drilling permits in areas where exploration has already been approved for developers with good safety records.
  • Says green power has yet to become viable and the causes of climate change are unknown. Proposes to remove carbon dioxide from list of pollutants controlled by Clean Air Act and amend clean water and air laws to ensure the cost of complying with regulations is balanced against environmental benefit. Says cap and trade would “rocket energy prices.”
  • Blames high gas prices on Obama’s decisions to limit oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas and on overzealous regulation.






  1. 5.    RESOURCES





NEW REPORT: Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal Habitat Restoration WASHINGTON–A landmark study released today by Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) for the first time links ecologically important coastal habitat restoration with adaptation and mitigation strategies as a way to reduce the impacts of ongoing global climate change.  The report, “Restore-Adapt-Mitigate: Responding to Climate Change through Coastal Habitat Restoration, demonstrates that large-scale coastal wetland restoration-everything from restoring salt marshes, to protecting mangroves, and creating new coastal wetland habitats-can be an integral part of public and private initiatives to combat climate change.  To download the full report, go to:




Restoration Ecology
This new text by Sigurdur Greipsson, provides a current, comprehensive look at this developing area of study that is ideal for the upper-level undergraduate or graduate level course. Divided into five natural parts, Restoration Ecology opens with a look at ecological perspectives of restoration, including nutrient cycling and factors that regulate ecosystem function.



Invasive plant presentation
Dan Glusenkamp, director of Calflora, will discuss California's first invasive plant early detection and rapid response network at noon (PST) Monday, April 23, 2012. This is one in a series of Bio Brown Bag talks organized by the Region 8 Fish and Wildlife Service Inventory and Monitoring Program. To call in, dial 866-819-2740; code 5368436. For web, visit the required fields, indicate that you have read the Privacy Policy and click on "Proceed." The meeting number is 278442982, the meeting passcode is 07212007 and the meeting host is Giselle Block.


ClimaScope is currently at (it will move sometime this summer). CLIMASCOPE allows you to view and download 21st climate projections of temperature (max, min avg), precipitation, cloud cover, vapour pressure, wet day frequency, sea surface temperature for the new RCP scenarios and SRES scenarios. Featured maps allow you to see the results for a given emissions scenario for all 18 GCMs with clicks of a mouse. Or, for a given GCM you can compare all the emission scenarios. There are also maps showing the world at global temperature rises of 2, 3 and 4C above 1961-1990 normalised across the GCMs. The projections are on a 0.5×0.5 grid and are the outputs of the MAGICC and ClimGEN models coupled together in the CIAS integrated modeling system.From there you can also access (under How to Use and About) a user’s manual, some basic videos on how to use the software, and a link to a Google Groups that has been designed to help share teaching plans, lessons and PowerPoints (none there now, I will be adding some over the next few months but hopefully others will add some as well). With registration, monthly climate change data can be downloaded. ClimaScope was designed as a graphical platform for displaying the results from the Tyndall Centre’s integrated model CIAS (and thus from the climate model Magicc and the downscaler Climgen).



TAKE THIS: Survey on the Concept of ‘Novel Ecosystems’
Got five minutes? Help SER member Matthijs Boeschoten from Utrecht University in the Netherlands with his PhD by completing this anonymous survey designed to assess the familiarity of the concept of ‘Novel Ecosystems’ among scientists and practitioners in the field of ecological restoration.



– A Science Communication Workshop –

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

9:00 am – 3:00 pm 1515 Clay Street, Oakland Ca

This one day workshop will improve your ability to communicate science and resource management messages to a variety of audiences.  Workshop leader Eric Eckl will reconnect you with the perspective that everyday citizens have on climate change and environmental protection, and will share the secret of what motivates them to take action. As you re-learn the language that a majority of people use, you’ll become more confident and successful in your efforts to educate folks about your work managing and protecting vital landscapes and habitat.

To register contact Caroline Warner – Space is limited.  Cost:  $60 (lunch provided)

Click here for more information about the Water Words that Work program.


US: USDA Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program- Closes April 23, 2012
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now accepting applications from private landowners and tribes for another round of funding for easement and restoration programs offered by the federal agency. Applications for the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) will now run through April 23, 2012.

FishAmerica Foundation Community Habitat Restoration Grants-Due April 30, 2012 FishAmerica, in partnership with the NOAA Restoration Center, awards grants to local communities and government agencies to restore habitat for marine and anadromous fish species. Successful proposals have community-based restoration efforts with outreach to the local communities. 2012 FAF-NOAA Proposals Deadline: April 30, 2012

California: Ecosystem Restoration on Agricultural Lands (ERAL)
 Grant funding applications are accepted on a year-round basis. The WCB meets four times each year, normally in February, May, August, and November to consider approval of funding for projects.


Earth Island Institute: Supporting community-based wetland restoration initiatives
Through the Small Grants Program, Earth Island Institute has been able to support locally based restoration efforts to do just that. Small grassroots efforts to restore the coastal habitats of Southern California, which have been depleted by an astounding 98%, have been slowly working to bring our wetlands back from the brink of extinction. By supporting and empowering the new restoration leaders, we ensure our collective success in restoring some of the earth’s most fragile ecosystems.


California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB)

WCB continues to provide funding for wetland, riparian, oak woodland, and other fish and wildlife habitat improvement projects and land acquisition (easement and fee title) from Propositions 40, 50, and 117.  The WCB’s Riparian, Inland Wetlands, and Oak Woodland programs continue, and are continuously open for proposal submission.

Coastal Program in San Francisco Bay  The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates a partnership program in the Bay, Delta and the estuary’s local watersheds. About $220,000 is available each year to obligate to projects that restore fish and wildlife habitat, provide essential information to decision makers advising them on habitat restoration, or performs habitat-related advocacy and outreach. The emphasis is on estuarine benefits and for “on-the-ground” projects. About 260 wide-ranging projects involving all kinds of partners have been supported since 1992. CFDA Number 15.630. Contact John Klochak, Coastal Program Manager, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 9500 Thornton Ave. Newark, CA 94560. Phone: 510-792-0717 ext 223, FAX: 510-792-5828 Email:










Nature’s Billion-Year-Old Battery Key to Storing Energy

ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2012) — New research at Concordia University is bringing us one step closer to clean energy. It is possible to extend the length of time a battery-like enzyme can store energy from seconds to hours, a study published in the Journal of The American Chemical Society shows.

Concordia Associate Professor László Kálmán — along with his colleagues in the Department of Physics, graduate students Sasmit Deshmukh and Kai Tang — has been working with an enzyme found in bacteria that is crucial for capturing solar energy. Light induces a charge separation in the enzyme, causing one end to become negatively charged and the other positively charged, much like in a battery. In nature, the energy created is used immediately, but Kálmán says that to store that electrical potential, he and his colleagues had to find a way to keep the enzyme in a charge-separated state for a longer period of time. “We had to create a situation where the charges don’t want to or are not allowed to go back, and that’s what we did in this study,” says Kálmán….

Kálmán and his colleagues showed that by adding different molecules, they were able to alter the shape of the enzyme and, thus, extend the lifespan of its electrical potential….



Secret Ingredient To Making Solar Energy Work: Salt Forbes, 4/5/12 “The solar thermal power plant business is all about big: Square miles of mirrors in the desert that surround 600-foot-tall towers to generate massive megawatts of electricity for multibillion-dollar price tags. Big Solar’s ability to compete against fossil fuels, though, could come down to grains of salt.” Scientists at a startup company “are sifting through thousands of mixtures of molten salt. They’re searching for the right combinations that will allow solar thermal energy to be stored cheaply and efficiently so it can be dispatched to generate electricity after the sun sets. In other words, the 24/7 solar power plant.” ….

Electric cars’ benefit depends on footprint

April 17, 2012 SF Chronicle They are far greener in some parts of the country than in others, scientists say….



Can We Stop The Collapse of Federal Clean Energy Support Without Talking About Climate Change Or A Carbon Price?

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 09:33 AM PDT In the next two years — assuming Congress doesn’t act — the vast majority of federal support in place for clean energy in the U.S. will be gone. As a well-researched but jaw-droppingly incomplete new report published by the Brookings Institution points out, spending levels for deploying clean energy technologies aren’t being gradually phased out; the industry is getting pushed off a cliff wearing cement shoes….



Styrofoam out of Schools  (my sister Debby Lee’s work!)

Cafeteria Culture (CafCu), founded in 2009 as Styrofoam out of Schools, catalyzed Trayless Tuesdays throughout all of NYC’s 1700 public schools eliminating an impressive 40 million styrofoam trays from production, school lunches, incinerators and landfills at no additional cost to the city.

In just one year, this innovative partnership with NYC’s Department of Education SchoolFood and Parsons the New School has achieved so much.  Now the group is working to eliminate all Styrofoam tray use and achieve zero waste cafeteria communities in public schools.  Check out the Kickstarter campaign here, a fabulous opportunity for Cafeteria Culture (CafCu)/SOSnyc to jumpstart their Arts+Advocacy campaign and heighten public awareness of the more than 3 BILLION toxic, polluting styrofoam trays that NYC public schools have thrown away over the past 20 years.


Nanocrystal-coated fibers might reduce wasted energy (April 17, 2012) — Researchers are developing a technique that uses nanotechnology to harvest energy from hot pipes or engine components to potentially recover energy wasted in factories, power plants and cars. … > full story




Ford CEO: Battery Is Third of Electric Car Cost


One of the auto industry’s most closely guarded secrets—the enormous cost of batteries for electric cars—has spilled out. Speaking at a forum on green technology on Monday, Ford Motor Co. F -0.88% Chief Executive Alan Mulally indicated battery packs for the company’s Focus electric car costs between $12,000 and $15,000 apiece. “When you move into an all-electric vehicle, the battery size moves up to around 23 kilowatt hours, [and] it weighs around 600 to 700 pounds,” Mr. Mulally said at Fortune magazine’s Brainstorm Green conference in California.  “They’re around $12,000 to $15,000 [a battery]” for a type of car that normally sells for about $22,000, he continued, referring to the price of a gasoline-powered Focus. “So, you can see why the economics are what they are.” …



Data centers in Va. and elsewhere have major carbon footprint, report says

By Juliet Eilperin, Published: April 17

To most consumers, the cloud is an abstract warehouse in the sky where we store our photos, documents and other key bits of information with a click of a button. But the technology that keeps the cloud running — data centers and mobile telecommunications networks, operating 24 hours a day — requires electricity, making it a target for environmentalists hoping to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

All but one of the nation’s major IT companies still rely on fossil-fuel energy to power more than half their cloud operations, according to a report issued by the advocacy group Greenpeace on Tuesday morning, with firms including Web Services, Apple, Oracle and Salesforce ranking toward the bottom for their carbon footprints. Dell is the only company that relies on fossil fuels for less than half of its electricity demands….








The Greatest Challenge of Our Species

By THOMAS LOVEJOY  April 5, 2012  Op-Ed Contributor  NY TIMES

In a cavernous London conference center so devoid of life as to seem a film set for “The Matrix,” 3,000 scientists, officials and members of civil society organizations met in the last week of March to consider the state of the planet and what to do about it.  The Planet Under Pressure conference is intended to feed directly into the “Rio+20” United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development this coming June, 20 years after the Earth Summit in Rio convened the largest number ever of heads of state and produced, among other things, two international conventions, one for climate change and the other for biological diversity.  While it is not as if nothing has been achieved in the interim or that scientific understanding has stood still, it is obvious that new science is not needed to conclude that humanity has failed to act at the scale and with the urgency needed. … But the issue before humanity is, in fact, bigger than fossil fuel combustion, and far bigger than climate change. The Stockholm Environment Institute summed it up nicely in an analysis that identified a planet departing from planetary boundaries in three ways: climate change, nitrogen use and loss of biodiversity.

The use and frequent overuse of nitrogen fertilizer primarily by industrialized agriculture has polluted streams and lakes, and, in turn, coastal waters around the world. The resulting dead zones in coastal waters and estuaries are devoid of oxygen and largely devoid of life. They have doubled in number every decade for four decades — an increase by a factor of 16. The amount of biologically active nitrogen in the world is twice the natural level.  The greatest violation by far of planetary boundaries is in biological diversity. This is because, by definition, all environmental problems affect living systems; biological diversity integrates them all. Running down our biological capital is pure folly.

The planet works as a biophysical system that moderates climate (global, continental and regional) and creates soil and its fertility. Ecosystems provide a variety of services, not the least of which is provision of clean and reliable water. Biological diversity is the essential living library for sustainability. Each species represents a unique set of solutions to a set of biological problems, any one of which can be of critical importance to the advance of medicine, to productive agriculture, to the biology that provides current support for humanity, and, most importantly, will provide solutions to the environmental challenge.

Looking ahead, we not only have to deal with these planetary scale problems but also find ways to feed and produce a decent quality of life for at least two more billion than the seven billion people already here. We need to do this without destroying more ecosystems and losing more biological diversity.

Human ingenuity should be up to the challenge. But it has to recognize the problem and address it with immediacy and at scale. …. An important step, a “Future Earth” organization, was announced at the conference. It will bring all the relevant scientific disciplines together to work on this, the greatest challenge in the history of our species. This is essential because many physical scientists seem blind to the importance of biology in how the living planet works, and how it can provide critical solutions. Economics and social sciences are critical as well….



Protecting environment ‘inextricably linked’ to global growth
It is easy to overlook the environment in a period of financial crisis – but the challenges of using resources sustainably and protecting biodiversity also represent an opportunity to pursue economic growth, writes Janez Potocnik is European Commissioner for the Environment.


Where’s a Yellowstone bear? Look on your phone

MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press, 04/17/12

(04-17) 12:42 PDT Cheyenne, Wyo. (AP) — Pretty soon, the best place to be on the lookout for a wolf, grizzly bear or other wildlife in Yellowstone National Park could be your phone. Just don’t be surprised if lots of other people get the same idea. New…



NASA Climate ‘Skeptics’ Respond With Science! Just Kidding

12 Apr 2012 by Dana Nuccitelli, Skeptical Science

Almost exactly two years ago, John Cook wrote about the 5 characteristics of science denialism.  The second point on the list involved fake experts. “These are individuals purporting to be experts but whose views are inconsistent with established knowledge. Fake experts have been used extensively by the tobacco industry who developed a strategy to recruit scientists who would counteract the growing evidence on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.” We have seen many examples of climate denialists producing long lists of fake experts, for example the Oregon Petition and the Wall Street Journal 16.  Now we have yet another of these lists of fake experts.  49 former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) employees (led by Harrison Schmitt, who was also one of the Wall Street Journal 16) have registered their objection to mainstream climate science through the most popular medium of expressing climate contrarianism – a letter.  As is usually the case in these climate contrarian letters, this one has no scientific content, and is written by individuals with not an ounce of climate science expertise, but who nevertheless have the audacity to tell climate scientists what they should think about climate science. It’s worth noting that when the signatories Meet The Denominator, as is also always the case, their numbers are revealed as quite unimpressive.  For example, over 18,000 people currently work for NASA.  Without even considering the pool of retired NASA employees (all signatories of this list are former NASA employees), just as with the Oregon Petition, the list accounts for a fraction of a percent of the available pool of people…..


AUDUBON ACTION ALERT We need your help fighting the latest attack that threatens birds, sea turtles, and pedestrians at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. U.S. Representative Walter Jones has introduced legislation aimed at overturning the National Park Service’s balanced, science-based new rules designed to protect nesting and young sea turtles and birds–as well as pedestrians–by managing off-road vehicle traffic. The bill would abolish the plan and allow for off-road vehicle (ORV) use across the entire park, destroying nesting sites and chicks in their wake.

***Take Action***Stop this bad beach driving bill in its tracks. Send a message to your members of Congress to let them know that you support protecting the rare birds and sea turtles of Cape Hatteras National Seashore:



Of Shifting Islands, Cars, and Climate Change  Evan Hirsche National Wildlife Refuge Association  April 18, 2012
It isn’t often that a plan to move a parking lot sparks a major controversy worthy of a Congressional hearing. Surprisingly, this is exactly what transpired in a coastal community over a proposed plan to move the beach parking lot at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Further south, a different controversy has been brewing for more than a decade in North Carolina’s Outer Banks concerning a deteriorating bridge connecting Nags Head to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge connects popular beachfront barrier islands that are traversed by a road riddled by washouts and mounting maintenance costs. Read the Full Message.


What You Should Know About Exxon-Mobil’s Science Education Ad Campaign

Posted: 16 Apr 2012 11:03 AM PDT by Dominique Browning, via Time Ideas

If you were watching the Masters golf tournament last weekend, you would have noticed it was laced with ads from Exxon Mobil calling for … better science. That’s right. The very company that funded decades of science denial takes it back. Sort of. ExxonMobil ranks high in a short list of powerful institutions that has done this country an enormous disservice in undermining the overall credibility of the scientific method in general, and climate scientists specifically….


Liquorice root found to contain anti-diabetic substance (April 17, 2012) — It provides the raw material for liquorice candy, calms the stomach and alleviates diseases of the airways: liquorice root. Chosen as the “Medicinal plant 2012,” the root has been treasured in traditional healing since ancient times. Researchers have now discovered that liquorice root also contains substances with an anti-diabetic effect. … > full story



Green-glowing fish provides new insights into health impacts of pollution (April 18, 2012) — Understanding the damage that pollution causes to both wildlife and human health is set to become much easier thanks to a new green-glowing zebrafish. The fish makes it easier than ever before to see where in the body environmental chemicals act and how they affect health. The fluorescent fish has shown that estrogenic chemicals, which are already linked to reproductive problems, impact on more parts of the body than previously thought. … > full story


How social interaction and teamwork led to human intelligence (April 19, 2012) — Scientists have discovered proof that the evolution of intelligence and larger brain sizes can be driven by cooperation and teamwork, shedding new light on the origins of what it means to be human. … > full story


Genetic similarity promotes cooperation: Study of simple organisms reveals preference for those who resemble themselves (April 18, 2012) — In a dog-eat-dog world of ruthless competition and “survival of the fittest,” new research reveals that individuals are genetically programmed to work together and cooperate with those who most resemble themselves. … > full story











The Titanic At 100 Years: We’re Still Ignoring Warnings, This Time It’s Climate Change, Says Director James Cameron Posted: 13 Apr 2012 09:31 AM PDT






A year of ships   youtube video Published on Apr 9, 2012 by BGMSMA

A looped visualization of all the voyages in the Climatological database for the world’s oceans ( as if they occurred in the same year, to show seasonal patterns in ship movements and predominant shipping lanes from 1750 to 1850. More info at





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