Conservation Science News April 26, 2013

Highlight of the Week










Highlight of the Week


Global Ponzi Scheme: We’re Taking $7.3 Trillion A Year In Natural Capital From Our Children Without Paying For It

Posted: 23 Apr 2013 09:29 AM PDT




Last week, David Roberts over at Grist flagged
a report carried out by the environmental consultant group Trucost, at the behest of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity over at the United Nations. The idea behind the report was simple. Tally up all the world’s natural capital — land, water, atmosphere, etc. — that doesn’t currently have a dollar value attached to it, and figure out the price. But the next step was where it got interesting. Figure how much of that natural capital is being consumed, depleted or degraded without the responsible party paying the cost for that use. The number the study hit on was a staggering $7.3 trillion in 2009 — about 13 percent of global economic output for that year. This brings up what economists call “negative externalities.” That’s a technical term for what happens when one actor in the economy has to pay for another actor’s mess. In a theoretically perfect market, the price of consuming, degrading or depleting a resource would be paid by the party responsible. But getting the theory of markets to map onto the real world is difficult. Dumping trash on a neighbor’s lawn is technically free, so a lot of us should be doing it more. But because we’ve built societies in which our neighbor can sue us, or the cops can fine us, we’re forced to internalize that cost. Lots of costs can only be internalized through smart institutional design and government policy, rather than by leaving the markets free to do their market thing.


What Trucost found is that when you scale this problem up globally — all the river, air, and land and air pollution that isn’t paid for, all the water and land use that isn’t paid for, and especially all the carbon emissions dumped into the atmosphere that aren’t paid for — the numbers get very big:

  • Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions: $2.7 trillion. This was by far the biggest single problem, and East Asia and North America were the two biggest culprits. That lines up with an International Monetary Fund study that determined the United States is the world’s biggest subsidizer of fossil fuels — with Asia the runner-up — because it’s failed to put a price on carbon emissions through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. Trucost assumed a social cost to carbon emissions of $106 per metric ton. That’s higher than the IMF’s assumption of $25 per ton, but well within the overall range of costs studies have found.
  • Global Water Consumption: $1.9 trillion. Wheat farming was the biggest problem here, followed by rice farming and general water supply, mainly in Asia and North Africa. That’s probably largely because developing and poorer countries have fewer institutions or infrastructure for managing water use.
  • Global Land Use: $1.8 trillion. Cattle ranching in South America came in first here, followed by cattle ranching in South Asia. Besides the usual uses, the effects of logging and fishing were also included. Trucost estimated the value of unused land using metrics laid out in the United Nations’ Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
  • Global Waste And Land, Air, And Water Pollution: $850 billion. Sulfur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate emissions were the big culprits for air pollution ($500 billion total) mainly in North America, East Asia, and Western Europe. Land and water pollution ($300 billion total) was actually mostly fertilizers, from North America, Asia, and Europe again. Global waste was the remainder, mostly hazardous materials. Trucost figured out these prices mainly through the costs of clean-up and health effects.


On top of that, the study’s next conclusion was equally dramatic: whole sectors of power generation, materials production, farming and ranching across the globe would become entirely unprofitable if they had to pay the true cost of their natural capital use. The top five biggest regional industries the study looked at are in the chart below, and even in the best case their natural capital costs effectively wipe out their revenues:


In fact, of the twenty biggest regional industries the researchers examined around the globe, none of them would be profitable. Much of the global economy, in other words, is a giant Ponzi scheme that is (temporarily) viable only because markets fail to account for the value and use of the natural ecology — on which civilization depends for its crops, water, air, its very livelihood. But that bill will ultimately be paid in full are — by our children and countless future generations…..

What We Can Do About It


In 2011, the public policy shop Demos put out a report exploring how gross domestic product has become a sort of catch-all measure of human welfare, and how inadequate it currently is to that conceptual task. One of the main reasons for that inadequacy was, not surprisingly, the fact that we don’t price so many of the benefits human beings derive from natural ecosystems. Demos suggested several ongoing projects as models for correcting that failure: There’s the aforementioned Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which attempts to put a quantifiable economic value on the ability of ecosystems to provide food, crops, fresh water, raw materials, air quality, protection against erosion, protection against storms, climate maintenance, and cultural benefits. Based off the Assessment’s work, China instituted a system of ecosystem payments to make sure incentives to conserve natural resources compete equally with incentives to consume them. The World Bank has also set up a project of six to ten countries that’s building ecosystem benefits into national accounting practices. The United States has actually been working on Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (IEEA), which was proposed by the United Nations in 1999. It constructs assessments of ecosystem values that’s directly compatible with methods already in place for national accounting. The hope is the IEEA will result in environmental policies that better weigh the value of ecosystems versus the traditional economy, and will help federal agencies better manage resources. Several governments — including Switzerland, Wales, and the United Arab Emirates — are also using the ecological footprint measure as a guide in their own management practices.


Finally, the report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative and the London School of Economists suggests that capital markets start accounting for climate change, and that regulators require companies to report the carbon emissions built into their current fossil fuel reserves — precisely the sort of price signaling that isn’t currently being done. In short, the problem is real, and enormous. America is deeply implicated, but there are already concrete models out there to start accounting for our use of the natural world on the level of both policy and economics. Can we get to work already?







Big Ecosystem Changes Viewed Through the Lens of Tiny Carnivorous Plants

Researchers use pitcher plants to identify signs of trouble dead ahead

In scientists’ eyes, each leaf of the northern pitcher plant is a small ecosystem.
Credit and Larger Version

April 22, 2013
In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.
—Kahlil Gibran

What do a pond or a lake and a carnivorous pitcher plant have in common? The water-filled pool within a pitcher plant, it turns out, is a tiny ecosystem whose inner workings are similar to those of a full-scale water body. Whether small carnivorous plant or huge lake, both are subject to the same ecological “tipping points,” of concern on Earth Day–and every day, say scientists. The findings are published in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the paper, ecologists affiliated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research site in Massachusetts offer new insights about how such tipping points happen. “Human societies, financial markets and ecosystems all may shift abruptly and unpredictably from one, often favored, state to another less desirable one,” says Saran Twombly, program director in NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

“These researchers have looked at the minute ecosystems that thrive in pitcher plant leaves to determine early warning signals and to find ways of predicting and possibly forestalling such ‘tipping points.'” Life in lakes and ponds of all sizes can be disrupted when too many nutrients–such as in fertilizers and pollution–overload the system. When that happens, these aquatic ecosystems can cross “tipping points” and change drastically. Excess nutrients cause algae to bloom. Bacteria eating the algae use up oxygen in the water. The result is a murky green lake. “The first step to preventing tipping points is understanding what causes them,” says Aaron Ellison, an ecologist at Harvard Forest and co-author of the paper. “For that, you need an experiment where you can demonstrate cause-and-effect.”

Ellison and other scientists demonstrated how to reliably trigger a tipping point. They continually added a set amount of organic matter–comparable to decomposing algae in a lake–to a small aquatic ecosystem: the tiny confines of a pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant native to eastern North America. Each pitcher-shaped leaf holds about a quarter of an ounce of rainwater. Inside is a complex, multi-level food web of fly larvae and bacteria. “The pitcher plant is its own little ecosystem,” says Jennie Sirota, a researcher at North Dakota State University and lead author of the paper…..


Whales are able to learn from others: Humpbacks pass on hunting tips
(April 25, 2013) — Humpback whales are able to pass on hunting techniques to each other, just as humans do, new research has found. … > full story

.Something’s fishy in the tree of life: Largests and most comprehensive studies of fish phylogeny
(April 19, 2013) — A team of scientists has dramatically increased our understanding of fish evolution and their relationships. The group integrated extensive genetic and physical information about specimens to create a new “tree of life” for fishes. The vast amount of data generated through large-scale DNA sequencing required supercomputing resources for analysis. The result is the largest and most comprehensive studies of fish phylogeny to date. … > full story

Biological activity alters the ability of sea spray to seed clouds
(April 22, 2013) — Ocean biology alters the chemical composition of sea spray in ways that influence their ability to form clouds over the ocean. That’s the conclusion of a team of scientists using a new approach to study tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols that can influence climate by absorbing or reflecting sunlight and seeding clouds. … > full story

Cocktail of multiple pressures combine to threaten the world’s pollinating insects
(April 22, 2013) — A new review of insect pollinators of crops and wild plants has concluded they are under threat globally from a cocktail of multiple pressures, and their decline or loss could have profound environmental, human health and economic consequences. … > full story


From Battle To Birds: Drones Get Second Life Counting Critters

NPR ‎- by Grace Hood ‎- April 25, 2013

The U.S. Geological Survey is putting remotely piloted former military planes to work in the areas of environmental and wildlife management.


Groups plant trees to help endangered Wis. birds



(AP) April 26, 2013 — Local groups are helping the Kirtland’s warbler make a comeback in central Wisconsin by planting pines that help the endangered songbird survive. Groups have begun planting seedlings, as well as native grasses and plants that protect… more »



An ancient mating dance offers ranchers, grassland birds a lifeline

By Juliet Eilperin, Sunday, April 21, 4:48 PM Washington Post

BURWELL, Neb. — Under an indigo pre-dawn sky, as a frigid wind whipped across the plains, a half-dozen brown-and-white birds emerged from tufts of dry grass. They emitted a low cooing sound, akin to the hooting of an owl. Then the greater prairie chickens started their show, scurrying around to mark their territory. When one encroached on another’s turf, the defending animal charged, forcing the interloper to leap in the air with a flurry of feathers. As the birds became more animated, the orange air sacs on each side of their necks swelled, allowing them to make a louder coo known as “booming.”

The entire display had a single intended beneficiary — a female greater prairie chicken that selects the dominant male for mating — that never bothered to appear. It might have been too cold for her. But the birds still had an audience: tourists sitting silently in a pair of parked yellow school buses with their windows cracked open. These humans may represent the prairie chickens’ best chance for survival….

The northern Great Plains — 180 million acres stretching across five states and two Canadian provinces — is one of the last three large swaths of grasslands in the world, along with two in Mongolia and Patagonia. Prairie chickens have roamed the Plains for millennia, but this region is under pressure from competing financial incentives to grow corn and soybeans or pursue wind energy and shale-oil extraction. Now an unlikely coalition of ranchers and environmentalists is working to keep the prairie intact, and in the process, preserve the animals and a traditional way of life.

As the country’s prairie shrinks — U.S. farmers converted 1.3 million acres to corn and soybean fields between 2006 and 2011, according to a recent study — the birds who depend on it are increasingly imperiled. The birds, which include the greater and lesser prairie chicken as well as several species of sage grouse, are seen by scientists and federal officials as the best indicator of how the prairie is faring. “They tell us what’s happening in that particular ecosystem, because they’re particularly sensitive,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Daniel M. Ashe. “We want to keep the prairie right side up.” But as the grasslands get plowed under for agriculture — already 95 percent of the nation’s tall-grass prairie and about 60 percent of its short-grass prairie has been turned into farmland — the number of birds that breed and nest there is declining. As a group, the nation’s 41 grassland bird species have experienced a 38.4 percent population decline between 1968 and 2010, according to Dave Ziolkowski, ornithologist for the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the lesser prairie chicken as threatened and the Gunnison sage grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act; it must reach a final decision on both species by September. Now government officials are working with private landowners to devise voluntary land management plans that could prevent the listings altogether…..

….World Wildlife Fund-U.S., which has focused on conserving the northern Great Plains, is working with the Switzers and other ranchers in the region to keep the landscape from being fragmented by farming, oil drilling and sprawl. The environmental group took Bruce Switzer and Sarah Sortum to Namibia to observe wildlife safaris four years ago; now Sortum drives tourists across the Sandhills in an open Jeep. Jill Majerus, the eco-tourism and conservation officer for WWF’s Northern Great Plains program, said she has learned that “people aren’t going to protect their environment unless there’s an economic tie to it.” Now ranchers elsewhere in Nebraska and in neighboring states have launched bird tour operations, and other prairie-chicken festivals have started as far away as Texas.

Tom Tabor, eco-tourism development consultant for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, said this sort of activity “has great potential” to generate income in areas where “bird events are going on.”

Ice tubes in polar seas — ‘brinicles’ or ‘sea stalactites’ — provide clues to origin of life
(April 24, 2013) — Life on Earth may have originated not in warm tropical seas, but with weird tubes of ice — sometimes called “sea stalactites” — that grow downward into cold seawater near the Earth’s poles, scientists are reporting. … > full story

Deep, permeable soils buffer impacts of crop fertilizer on Amazon streams
(April 24, 2013) — A new study in the fast-changing southern Amazon — a region marked by widespread replacement of native forest by cattle ranches and croplands — suggests that some of the damaging impacts of agricultural fertilization on local streams may be buffered by the deep, highly permeable soils that characterize large areas of the expanding cropland. … > full story


New Wild Pollinator Restoration Program Using Crowd-Sourced Fundraising: “Bees for Trees” Invigorates Forests, Local Economy, Honey Bee Population

Sweet Perks for Donors Include Fresh Honey and Gardener’s Supply Shopping Incentives

BURLINGTON, VT and GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA–(Marketwired – Apr 19, 2013) – To fight the devastating trend of wild pollinators and bee population decline, a U.S. based nonprofit is helping low-income families in Costa Rica become beekeepers, through Bees for Trees. By using entrepreneurship and crowd-sourced fundraising to restore forests in and improve the economy of an important wild pollinator habitat: the Nandamojo River Valley in Costa Rica, the program is hoping to expand. Costa Rica is a country with 5 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Qualifying donors to the crowdsourcing campaign will get honey, with a $25 minimum, and up to $100 off their next Gardener’s Supply purchase depending upon the level of donation: the program runs until April 26.

Restoring Our Watershed (ROW), a U.S. nonprofit with the mission of protecting the vital mountain-top to mangrove estuary ecosystem of the Nandamojo watershed, launched its Bees for Trees initiative to help local farm families increase their household income through beekeeping and raw honey production — thereby introducing more honey bees to the area and creating a revenue stream to fund reforestation of the Nandamojo River Valley’s fragile ecosystem. ROW hopes that increased awareness of honey bee and wild pollinator decline in the U.S., along with a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign will help Bees for Trees expand in 2013.

In the U.S., understanding of the important role pollinators play in food production has risen with media coverage of the mysterious honey bee problem known as “colony collapse disorder,” in which adult bees suddenly disappear from previously healthy commercial hives. The New York Times recently reported that the problem wiped out “40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables” in 2012, a “disastrous year for bees.”

Will Raap, a founder of both ROW, the Intervale Center, and earth-friendly retailer Gardener’s Supply, explained the Bees for Trees program. “New research just reported in Science indicates that honey bees and wild pollinators have the most ecosystem benefits when they work together,” he said. “Bees for Trees not only brings more honey bees to the area, it creates new, vital pollinator habitat through reforestation with native and flowering trees and improves the local economy. It may even help this damaged ecosystem avoid a pollinator crisis like the one we’re witnessing in the U.S.”

Encouraging pollinators, restoring forests and empowering families

The Nandamojo River Valley’s healthy wild pollinator population has been bolstered with honey bees through ROW’s Bees for Trees program.

“We have found a way to encourage reforestation, generate revenue to fund our organization, and help poor families earn a better living, while producing a healthy product produced on their land,” said Matt Rosensteele, executive director of ROW.



Mammal and bug food co-op in the High Arctic
(April 24, 2013) — Who would have thought that two very different species, a small insect and a furry alpine mammal, would develop a shared food arrangement in the far North? … > full story

Desertification crisis affecting 168 countries worldwide, study shows

Severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world, according to new research released by the UN

A Burkinabe man from the village of Selbo village, in northern Burkina Faso, gestures near grass he planted to help stop the advance of the Sahara desert. Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Apr 17 2013 Guardian UK Severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world, according to new research released by the UN Desertification Convention (UNCCD). The figure, based on submissions from countries to the UN, is a marked increase on the last analysis in the mid-1990s, which estimated 110 states were at risk. In an economic analysis published last week the Convention also warns land degradation is now costing US$490 billion per year and wiping out an area three times the size of Switzerland on an annual basis. “Land degradation and drought are impeding the development of all nations in the world,” UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja told RTCC.

How’s Earth’s Health? New Network to Keep Tabs  – ‎April 22, 2013‎

How healthy are America’s plants, animals and environment? A new nationwide program will help answer that question. Called the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), the program encompasses a series of monitoring stations that will measure the health of ecosystems by taking snapshots from strategically chosen locations across the country — analogous to the way an EKG monitors the health of the heart, said Lily Whiteman, a spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds NEON.

Scientists say the monitoring effort is essential because so many factors are influencing Earth’s ecosystems. To truly understand the impact of these factors, researchers need a way to watch these effects over time. Understanding the impacts will help inform policies dealing with issues ranging from global warming to urban planning.

Earth’s living systems are experiencing the greatest rates of change in history, due to land-use changes, invasive species and climate change,” said Elizabeth Blood, the NSF program director for NEON, during a teleconference on April 19. “Many of these changes will be abrupt and unpredictable.” NEON will help understand these changes, and avoid negative effects on species as much as possible, she said. “Our understanding of life’s living systems doesn’t match that of the [Earth and its geology] or the atmosphere.” NEON is beginning to come online and will begin providing data later this year, Blood said. The network will be fully operational by 2017 and is expected to continue its research for 30 years, giving scientists a vital long-term data set to understand how humans are impacting the environment, Blood said. The program will record data from 106 different spots throughout the country — 60 on land and 46 at sea, Blood said. Each site will be outfitted with various sensors to record data, as well as stations where scientists can identify and quantify species, and conduct other types of research…..



New NASA satellite takes the Salton Sea’s temperature
(April 22, 2013) — A new NASA image may look like a typical black-and-white image of a dramatic landscape, but it tells a story of temperature. The dark waters of the Salton Sea pop in the middle of the Southern California desert. Crops create a checkerboard pattern stretching south to the Mexican border. … > full story


Ant family tree constructed: Confirms date of evolutionary origin, underscores importance of Neotropics
(April 22, 2013) — Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the higher species numbers in the tropics, but these hypotheses have never been tested for the ants, which are one of the most ecologically and numerically dominant groups of animals on the planet. New research is helping answer these questions. … > full story

How trees play role in smog production
(April 25, 2013) — After years of scientific uncertainty and speculation, researchers have shown exactly how trees help create one of society’s predominant environmental and health concerns: air pollution. … > full story






Keystone species could cause ecosystem to collapse

April 22 2013 By Anastasia Poland of MSN News Photo gallery: Animals that will thrive under global warming

There are certain animals worldwide that hold a heavier sway in the balance of ecosystems, and they were dubbed “keystone species” in 1969 by American zoology professor Robert T. Paine. The theory is that like the wedge-shaped keystone (or headstone) that locks together all the pieces used in an architectural arch, there are species that keep certain ecosystems in together. Removal of the species can cause the eventual collapse of the ecosystem. Just a drop in the bucket of the keystone species affected by global warming are reviewed below.


The polar bear, long the most-often touted of threatened species, indeed is in trouble with reduction of ice pack in the Arctic. As the apex predator, the bears keep their food source population — mainly seals, but also walruses and whales — in balance. What is not commonly known is that polar bears also are good scavengers in scarcity and will move into other animals’ food source if necessary. Polar bears will happily consume fish, reindeer, birds, rodents, eggs, kelp, berries and trash left by humans — putting them in competition with arctic foxes and seagulls, instead of providing a symbiotic relationship by leaving leftover prey. The walrus is also a keystone species that is threatened in the Arctic and elsewhere. Walruses prefer to dine on mollusks such as clams, but also eat shrimp, crabs, soft corals, sea cucumbers, tube worms and the occasional seal, so the decline of walruses allows many of their prey to bloom into overpopulation. Since they rely on the ice pack for their reproductive periods, the reduction of ice separates lactating cows for longer distances from their calves in order to get to the best feeding grounds…..
Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Highest Level in 150 Years on Northeast Continental Shelf
April 26, 2013 NOAA Sea-surface temperatures in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during 2012 were the highest recorded in 150 years, according to the latest Ecosystem Advisory issued by NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC). These high sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) are the latest in a trend of above-average temperature seen during the spring and summer seasons, and part of a pattern of elevated temperatures occurring in the Northwest Atlantic, but not seen elsewhere in the ocean basin over the past century. The advisory reports on conditions in the second half of 2012. Sea surface temperature for the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem reached a record high of 14 degrees C (57.2°F) in 2012, exceeding the previous record high in 1951. Average SST has typically been lower than 12.4 C (54.3 F) over the past three decades. Sea surface temperature in the region is based on both contemporary satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements, with historical SST conditions based on ship-board measurements dating back to 1854. The temperature increase in 2012 was the highest jump in temperature seen in the time series and one of only five times temperature has changed by more than 1 C (1.8 F). The Northeast Shelf’s warm-water thermal habitat was also at a record high during 2012, while cold water habitat was at a record low level. Early winter mixing of the water column went to extreme depths, which will affect the spring 2013 plankton bloom. Mixing redistributes nutrients and affects stratification of the water column as the bloom develops.Temperature is also affecting distributions of fish and shellfish on the Northeast Shelf. The advisory provides data on changes in distribution, or shifts in the center of the population, of seven key fishery species over time. The four southern species – black sea bass, summer flounder, longfin squid and butterfish – all showed a northeastward or upshelf shift. American lobster has shifted upshelf over time but at a slower rate than the southern species. Atlantic cod and haddock have shifted downshelf. “Many factors are involved in these shifts, including temperature, population size, and the distributions of both prey and predators,” said Jon Hare, a scientist in the NEFSC’s Oceanography Branch. A number of recent studies have documented changing distributions of fish and shellfish, further supporting NEFSC work reported in 2009 that found about half of the 36 fish stocks studied in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, many of them commercially valuable species, have been shifting northward over the past four decades……

Ecology buys time for evolution: Climate change disrupts songbird’s timing without impacting population size (yet)
(April 25, 2013)Songbird populations can handle far more disrupting climate change than expected. Density-dependent processes are buying them time for their battle. But without (slow) evolutionary rescue it will not save them in the end, says an international team of scientists. Yes, spring started late this year in North-western Europe. But the general trend of the four last decades is still a rapidly advancing spring. The seasonal timing of trees and insects advance too, but songbirds like Parus major, or the great tit, lag behind. Yet without an accompanying decline in population numbers, it seems, as the international research team shows for the great tit population in the Dutch National Park the Hoge Veluwe.

“It’s a real paradox,” explain Dr Tom Reed and Prof Marcel Visser of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. “Due to the changing climate of the past decades the egg laying dates of Parus major have become increasingly mismatched with the timing of the main food source for its chicks: caterpillars. The seasonal timing of the food peak has advanced over twice as fast as that of the birds and the reproductive output is reduced. Still, the population numbers do not go down.” On the short term, that is, as Reed, Visser and colleagues from Norway, the USA, and France have now calculated using almost 40 years of data from this songbird.

The solution to the paradox is that although fewer offspring now fledge due to food shortage, each of these chicks has a higher chance of survival until the next breeding season. “We call this relaxed competition, as there are fewer fledglings to compete with,” first author Reed points out. Out of 10 eggs laid, 9 chicks are born, 7 fledge and on average only one chick survives winter. That last number increases with less competitors around.

This is the first time that density dependence — a widespread phenomenon in nature — and ecological mismatch are linked, and it is a real eye-opener. Reed: “It all seems so obvious once you’ve calculated this, but people were almost sure that mistiming would lead to a direct population decline.”

The great tits that lay eggs earlier in spring are more successful nowadays than late birds, which produce relatively few surviving offspring. This leads to increasing selection for birds to reproduce early. But the total number of birds in the new generation stays the same. “That is the second paradox,” the researchers state. “Why are population numbers hardly affected, despite the stronger selection on timing caused by the mismatch? The answer is that for selection it matters which birds survive, while for population size it only matters how many survive. Visser: “The mortality in one group can be compensated for by the success in another. But this stretching, this flexibility, is not unlimited.”

The mismatch between egg laying period and caterpillar peak in the woods will keep growing, and so will the impact following the temporary rescue, as long as spring temperatures continue to increase. “The density dependence is only buying the birds time, hopefully for evolutionary adaptation to dig in before population numbers are substantially affected,” according to Visser. The new findings can help to predict the impact of future environmental change on other wild populations and to identify relevant measures to take. Even rubber bands stretch only so far before they break.

… > full story

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


New grass hybrid could help reduce the likelihood of flooding
(April 25, 2013) — Scientists have used hybridized forage grass to combine fast root growth and efficient soil water retention. Field experiments show Festulolium cultivar reduces water runoff by up to 51 percent against nationally-recommended cultivar. … used a hybridised species of grass called perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) with a closely related species called meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis). They hoped to integrate the rapid establishment and growth rate of the ryegrass with the large, well developed root systems and efficient water capture of the meadow fescue. Over two years of field experiments in the south west the team demonstrated that the hybrid, named Festulolium, reduced water runoff from agricultural grassland by up to 51 per cent compared to a leading UK nationally-recommended perennial ryegrass cultivar and by 43 per cent compared to meadow fescue. It is thought the reduced runoff is achieved because Festulolium‘s intense initial root growth and subsequent rapid turn-over, especially at depth, allows more water to be retained within the soil. The hybrid grass also provides high quality forage with resilience to weather extremes, making the grass doubly useful to farmers….full story


Christopher (Kit) J. A. Macleod, Mike W. Humphreys, W. Richard Whalley, Lesley Turner, Andrew Binley, Chris W. Watts, Leif Skøt, Adrian Joynes, Sarah Hawkins, Ian P. King, Sally O’Donovan, Phil M. Haygarth. A novel grass hybrid to reduce flood generation in temperate regions.
Scientific Reports, 2013; 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep01683

Scientists advocate a simple, affordable and accurate technology to identify threats from sea-level rise
(April 25, 2013) — Researchers are calling for the global adoption of a method to identify areas that are vulnerable to sea-level rise. The method, which utilizes a simple, low-cost tool, is financially and technically accessible to every country with coastal wetlands. The team seeks to establish a network to coordinate the standardization and management of the data, as well as to provide a platform for collaboration. … In a bid to address this gap, the research team, comprising members from NUS and the United States Geological Survey, argues for the widespread adoption of a standardised, simple and inexpensive method to measure the vertical movement of coastal wetland surface and its constituent processes that determine whether a wetland can keep pace with sea-level rise. The method utilises a rod surface elevation table (RSET), in which a benchmark rod is drilled vertically through the soil down to the base of the mudflat. A portable horizontal arm is attached at a fixed point to measure the distance to the substrate surface. The RSET is thus a permanent reference point to measure the rate and direction of the mudflat’s surface movement. This very simple and affordable tool can be extensively replicated, thereby providing critical data on the geomorphological processes contributing to the surface elevation change at a site. The data can then be used to make inferences about a site’s long-term vulnerability to sea-level rise…..> full story


Edward L. Webb, Daniel A. Friess, Ken W. Krauss, Donald R. Cahoon, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, Jacob Phelps. A global standard for monitoring coastal wetland vulnerability to accelerated sea-level rise. Nature Climate Change, 2013; 3 (5): 458 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1756


Nitrogen has key role in estimating carbon dioxide emissions from land use change
(April 19, 2013) — A new global-scale modeling study that takes into account nitrogen — a key nutrient for plants — estimates that carbon emissions from human activities on land were 40 percent higher in the 1990s than in studies that did not account for nitrogen. Plant regrowth — and therefore carbon assimilation by plants — is limited by nitrogen availability, causing other studies to overestimate regrowth and underestimate net emissions from the harvest-regrowth cycle. … > full story


The Drought-Stricken Midwest’s Floods: Is This What Climate Change Looks Like?

The Atlantic Wire April 26, 2013

The dramatic images resulting from this week’s floods in the Midwest are, in a way, a welcome sight. Six months ago, the region was wracked by drought.


Brook trout is climate change loser; bobwhite quail could be winner

Penn Live

Apr 26 2013

Written by

Marcus Schneck

The U.S. Forest Service developed “A Climate Change Atlas for 147 Bird Species of the Eastern United States” that predicts other bird species likely to wane as a result of climate change include the yellow warbler, Savannah sparrow, song sparrow, house


Carbon Pollution: If We Don’t Change Our Direction, We’ll End Up Where We’re Headed

Posted: 19 Apr 2013 12:15 PM PDT By Dr. Jonathan G. Koomey, via

If we don’t change our direction, we’ll end up where we’re headed. Climate Progress did a great service for climate communications on March 8th, 2013 by publishing this graph of historical and projected global temperatures:

Figure 1: Historical and projected global average surface temperatures on our current trajectory for fossil fuel emissions

The historical data in the graph came from a recently published article in Science, and the projected data came from the “no-policy” case developed by the folks at MIT back in 2009. The MIT case showed about a 5 Celsius degree increase in global average surface temperatures by 2100, equivalent to about a 9 Fahrenheit degree increase…..


Figure 7: Carbon dioxide concentrations for the past 450,000 years and projected to 2100 assuming no change in policies, including other warming gases

The critical takeaway from Figures 6 and 7 is that we’re on track for more than two doublings of greenhouse gas concentrations by 2100 if we continue on our current path (greenhouse gas equivalent concentrations rise by a factor of 4.8 by 2100). Many in the media and elsewhere mistakenly focus only on the climate sensitivity, which is the expected increase in global average surface temperatures for a doubling of greenhouse gas equivalent concentrations (best estimate now is about 3 Celsius degrees, or 5.4 Fahrenheit degrees, per doubling). But it’s not just the temperature increase from a doubling of concentrations that matters, you also need to know how many doublings we’re in for…..

… The case for concern about rising greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations is ironclad, and the graphics above show one compelling way to describe that case. We’re on track for more than two doublings of greenhouse gas concentrations by 2100 when all warming agents are included. Combined with an expected warming of about 3 Celsius degrees per doubling of GHG concentrations (the climate sensitivity) that implies about a 6 Celsius degree warming commitment on our current path (the 5 Celsius degree warming calculated by MIT for 2100 is lower because it takes many centuries for the climate to equilibrate to fully account for the effects of changes in concentrations). The graphs above show a dramatic shift in the climate system caused by human activity, one that has no precedent in human history. We need to leave more than three-quarters of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we’re to stabilize the climate (for more technical backup on this point, see this classic paper by Meinshausen et al. and the technical details provided in Cold Cash, Cool Climate). It’s hard to imagine a starker challenge for humanity, but it’s one that we must confront if we’re to leave a livable world for our descendants.

Jonathan Koomey is a Professor at Stanford University and an expert on the economics of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of information technology on resource use. This piece was originally published on his blog and was reprinted with permission.

Earth’s current warmth not seen in the last 1,400 years or more, says study
(April 22, 2013) — Fueled by industrial greenhouse gas emissions, Earth’s climate warmed more between 1971 and 2000 than during any other three-decade interval in the last 1,400 years, according to new regional temperature reconstructions covering all seven continents. … > full story


How the burning of fossil fuels was linked to a warming world in 1938

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Guy Callendar’s landmark scientific paper on anthropogenic climate change

English engineer Guy Stewart Callendar who expanded on the work Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius and developed the theory called Callendar effect that linked rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere to global temperature. Photograph: University of East Anglia Archives

Seventy-five years ago this month an amateur weather-watcher from West Sussex published a landmark paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society directly linking the burning of fossil fuels to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Guy Callendar was a successful steam engineer by trade, but in his spare time he was a keen meteorologist. In April 1938, his paper, “The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature” (pdf), which built on the earlier work of John Tyndall and Svante Arrhenius, was published with little fanfare or impact. It was only in the proceeding decades that the true significance of his conclusions would be heralded.

To mark the anniversary, two modern-day climatologists have published a co-authored paper (pdf) in the same journal celebrating not just his legacy, but also illustrating with modern techniques and data just how accurate Callendar’s calculations proved to be.

Dr Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science, who co-authored the paper with Prof Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia, describes why Callendar is so significant to the development of climate science:…..








On Earth Day, where does Obama’s environmental record stand?

Posted by Juliet Eilperin on April 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm Wash Post

What better day than Earth Day — the 43rd incarnation — than to ask where President Obama’s environmental record stands at this point in his presidency, and what are the most important decisions that lie ahead of him during his second term.

First, let’s look at where he has taken action.

1. Reducing pollution from cars and light trucks. The administration has taken two major steps to clean up the U.S. passenger vehicle fleet. First, the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department have cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks, demanding that by 2025 the U.S. auto fleet must average 54.5 miles per gallon. Then, late last month, EPA proposed imposing stricter fuel and equipment standards on American autos that would reduce the amount of sulfur in U.S. gasoline by two-thirds and impose fleet-wide pollution limits on new vehicles by 2017. Car manufacturers have supported these initiatives, while oil refiners have opposed them as imposing too heavy a cost on their industry.

2. Curbing harmful emissions from power plants. EPA has taken aim at utilities–many of which are powered by coal and have been operating for more than 30 years–on multiple fronts. In December 2011 the agency  required coal- and oil-fired power plants to control emissions of mercury and other poisons for the first time. The rule, which was two decades in the making, applies to about 40 percent of the country’s roughly 1,400 coal- and oil-fired utilities that lack modern pollution controls. A year later it tightened the nation’s soot standards by 20 percent, reducing the sort of fine particle pollution leading to heart and lung disease. And on Friday EPA issued new rules limiting the kind of water utilities can discharge from hundreds of power plants. These rules, along with other initiatives aimed at governing mine waste disposal, have prompted many coal industry officials and their allies in Congress to accuse the administration of waging a “War on Coal.”

3. Adopting a broad policy for managing the nation’s ocean waters. Just last week the administration finalized its National Ocean Policy, which aims to coordinate the work of more than two dozen agencies and reconcile competing interests including fishing, offshore energy exploration and recreational activities.

4. Supporting renewable energy development. President Obama touts the fact that the amount of U.S. renewable energy doubled during his first four years in office. The administration has given billions of dollars to the wind, solar and geothermal industries through both direct subsidies and in the form of tax credits, and it has worked to streamline the permitting process on public lands and in federal waters. At least 10,000 megawatts of onshore renewable energy has been permitted on federal land already. Renewable industry advocates have embraced these policies while Republicans point to the failure of Solyndra, the solar manufacturer which cost taxpayers more than $500 million, as an example of why the U.S. shouldn’t provide financial backing for this industry.

Now to what the Obama Administration is in the midst of doing related to the environment.

1. The first-ever greenhouse gas emission limits for power plants. A year ago EPA proposed a new standard greenhouse gas standard would have required any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced; a week and-a-half ago the agency said it would delay finalizing the rule, as it is still reviewing more than 2 million comments on it.

2. A new smog rule. In September 2011, Obama decided to pull back an EPA proposal to limit ozone emissions linked to smog, on the grounds that it would hurt the economy and the government would revisit the issue in 2013 anyway. This year the agency must identify its new smog standard, which would improve air quality but potentially limit economic development in regions across the country.

3. Regulating coal ash waste. Produced by 431 coal-fired power plants, which supply 36 percent of the nation’s electricity, coal ash piles up at the rate of 140 million tons a year. The EPA has been looking at this issue ever since. Nearly three years ago the agency outlined three possible rules for storing and disposing of coal ash, but none have become final. The first would designate it a hazardous waste; the other two would regulate it as a solid waste.

And now, what the Administration may or may not do.

1. A presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline project. Sometime this year, likely in the fall, the State Department will have to decide if it will let TransCanada build a pipeline that crosses the Canada-U.S. border. Proponents said the pipeline is the safest and most efficient way to transport crude oil from Canada’s oil sands region to Gulf Coast refineries, while generating short-term, high-paying  construction jobs and ensuring a steady oil supply from one of our closest allies. Critics argue it will speed development of a carbon-intense form of oil that will exacerbate climate change, and could still spill on ecologically-sensitive habitat. Obama is likely to weigh in personally on the decision, which has been the subject of intense political debate for more than two years.

2. Curbing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. More than any other action, the single biggest climate policy Obama could undertake would be to impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions from utilities now in operation. The president has not yet said whether he will pursue this course, but EPA has given every indication it plans to pursue this policy in concert with the states over the course of the next year. No matter what the administration does, this will provoke a major political and legal battle.

3. Weigh in on whether large-scale mining operations can take place in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. EPA is now reviewing whether a proposed gold mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay would harm wild salmon habitat so significantly it should invoke the Clean Water Act to declare the area off-limits. Backers of the mining project proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian company, say it would be inappropriate for EPA to weigh in before the firm formally requests a permit.

As a second-term president, Obama is under intense pressure to deliver to the environmental constituency that helped him win reelection last fall. CREDO Mobile political director Becky Bond, whose group is lobbying against the Keystone pipeline, wrote in an e-mail, “If President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline over all of the scientific evidence, it will be remembered by history just as poorly as President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, which was based on deceptive information and burdened us with enormous financial and human cost.” And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), said in a statement that while the president’s investment in clean energy and vehicles rules have been significant “he can’t stop there.” “President Obama has said that failing to respond to climate change would ‘betray our children and future generations,’ and I know he strongly believes that,” Whitehouse said. “I hope the President continues to follow through on his commitment to address climate change, including establishing carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants and setting efficiency standards for appliances.” Even Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said Obama is in a tough position when it comes to reconciling his economic and environmental goals. “He is in an unenviable position,” Popovich wrote in an e-mail, “trying to rescue the economy and help the millions shut out of the job market at the same time he wrestles with environmental issues that could aggravate the problem if taken too far.”



If Oil Companies Can Have Master Limited Partnerships, Why Can’t Clean Energy Companies?

By Richard Caperton, Guest Blogger on Apr 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm

This week, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and a diverse group of original co-sponsors introduce a bill that would lower the cost of capital for clean energy, a critical piece of deploying clean energy at the scale needed to fight climate change. The bill — the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act — would allow renewable energy and energy efficiency to access the MLP structure. The MLP Parity Act is a common-sense bill with bipartisan, bicameral support that simply levels the playing field for clean energy. Now, when someone tells you that they have a “common-sense bill with bipartisan, bicameral support that simply levels the playing field for clean energy,” you should be skeptical. Allow me to address that skepticism…..



Fla. wildlife officials release action plan

(AP) April 26, 2013— Florida’s wildlife officials have released action plans to conserve 16 imperiled specials, including the Florida burrowing owl, Florida sandhill crane and Big Cypress and Sherman’s fox squirrels. Next, the commission will develop… more »


Thirsty States Take Water Battle To Supreme Court



by Joe Wertz April 21, 2013 5:12 AM

The audio of this story, as did a previous Web version, incorrectly says the Red River is fed by Rocky Mountain snowpack.

A dispute over Texas’ access to the Kiamichi River, which is located in Oklahoma, has started a longer legal battle that is headed to the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma and Texas will face off in the U.S. Supreme Court. The winner gets water. And this is not a game.

The court will hear oral arguments in the case of The case pits Oklahoma against Texas over rights to water from the river that forms part of the border between them. Depending on how the court decides, it could impact interstate water-sharing agreements across the country.

Keeping Up With Texas

To understand what the fight is all about, you have to go to the Texas side of the Red River. North Texas is one of the fastest-growing regions in one of the fastest-growing states. Cities like Arlington and Fort Worth have enjoyed a surge of growth that’s brought new jobs, businesses and development.

The future looks bright for this part of Texas, but it also looks dry. Drought has hit Texas particularly hard over the past couple of years. Water officials say the North Texas region’s growth is outpacing the water supply nearby.

“All of the locations — watershed locations — close by have been tapped for us,” says Linda Christie, government relations director for the Tarrant Regional Water District. The district is the water authority for an 11-county stretch of north Texas that includes Fort Worth. “So now we’re going to have to go 200, 300 miles. And most of it would be water that is being pumped uphill.”

The Red River, less than 75 miles from Fort Worth, seems like an ideal solution to the Tarrant Water District’s problem. It forms the border between Oklahoma and Texas as it flows southeast on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas and Oklahoma already have a formal agreement on how to share water from the Red River. In 1980, Congress ratified the Red River Compact, giving the two states — along with Arkansas and Louisiana — an equitable apportionment of water from the river and its tributaries…..



Climate Change Series: The Geoengineering Debate

WBUR April 26, 2013

If geoengineering is determined to be a “plan B” for addressing climate change, it may give corporations and governments license to say, “If we’re going to geoengineer in 20 years anyway, we don’t need to worry about reducing carbon emissions now.


Lisa Murkowski On Climate Change: ‘It’s Real, We Need To Fight It’

Huffington Post  – ‎Apr 25, 2013‎

Following her keynote speech at the Bloomberg New Energy conference in New York City, Murkowski discussed her views on climate change with Fortune’s Brian Dumaine. “It doesn’t make sense to argue about how much global warming is caused by man


Sonoma County kickstarts a public power agency

Operator Tech Mike Taylor is responsible for the operations of the Socrates geothermal plant at the Calpine geothermal facility in the Geysers. John Burgess / The Press Democrat

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted to implement a public power program for all homes and businesses outside city limits with plans to expand countywide. The effort seeks to eventually displace Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in the electricity supply business for 220,000 homes and businesses. About 100,000 of those metered customers are in the county’s unincorporated area. The 4-1 vote sets in motion a series of decisions geared to roll out the power plan in January. Unless customers formally opt out, they would receive power from the public agency. PG&E would continue to handle transmission, billing, metering, customer service and grid repair…


For info on similar program in Marin County see:





50 Feet of Sea Level Rise “Baked In” VIDEO

from the Vital Voices of the Environment” series. Englander has just published a book – High Tide on Main Street – that in stark terms makes the case for why dramatic sea level rise is an inevitability regardless of what steps are taken to cut CO2 emissions going forward, and why we must expeditiously implement coastal adaptation strategies anticipating the possibility of seas rising 6 feet in as few as 30 – 40 years. While those of us working actively in the conservation community are more or less familiar with some of these projections and catalysts, Englander presents it all in simple and compelling terms rooted soundly in historical data. Interestingly, John’s tone is not alarmist; instead his is a practical message reflecting irrefutable data, and emphasizes the importance of taking action while we have time. The interview is just 7 minutes, but in that time he makes things pretty clear we’ve got to act…..



Third Biennial Ocean Climate Summit– Summary Report – SF

The summary report for the Third Biennial Ocean Climate Summit, held February 20, 2013 in San Francisco, is now available through the summit website home page or directly through this link. The report includes: summit goal, objectives and structure; presentation and discussion summaries; suggestions for the Fourth Biennial Summit summarized from the post-summit evaluation; and appendices with the agenda, poster abstracts, and participant list.



CA Coastal Adaptation Program Grants (pdf)

The Ocean Protection Council, California Coastal Commission and State Coastal Conservancy announce the availability of grants to encourage local governments and other entities responsible for planning under the California Coastal Act to develop and adopt updated plans that conserve and protect coastal resources from future impacts from sea-level rise and related climate change impacts such as extreme weather events.
Applications are due July 15, 2013. They must be emailed (or postmarked) by the submission date.  We expect to award grants in the fall of 2013.  For the full grant program announcement click here




Scenario Planning (Pilot Offering!): July 15-19, 2013

Course & Class Name: Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation : FWS-2013-0715-NCTC ALC3194 

Scenario planning is a valuable decision support method for integrating irreducible and uncontrollable uncertainties into climate change adaptation and other planning in natural resource management. This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components. Participants will learn how scenario planning can be integrated into planning frameworks and be complementary with other decision support methods. This course will provide participants with the skills needed to assess the appropriateness of scenario planning for their needs, and identify the resources and expertise needed to conduct a scenario planning exercise that will meet established objectives. The course is developed in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the U.S. Geological Survey.


Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment: August 27-29, 2013

Course & Class Name: Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment : FWS-2013-0827-NCTC ALC3184 

This course is based on January 2011 publication “Scanning the Conservation Horizon – A Guide to Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment” ( The guidance document is a product of an expert workgroup on climate change vulnerability assessment convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. This course is designed to guide conservation and resource management practitioners in two essential elements in the design of climate adaptation plans. Specifically, it will provide guidance in identifying which species or habitats are likely to be most strongly affected by projected changes; and understanding why these resources are likely to be vulnerable. Vulnerability Assessments are a critical tool in undertaking any climate change planning or implementation.

Registration Information:

Important Note on registering! All participants will automatically be added to a waitlist, from which we are enrolling. 

Department of Interior (DOI) Employees  and those with a DOI Learn account (and have taken a course through DOI before).

Please register through DOI Learn





Position Available


Manager, Marine Climate Change  Conservation International’s marine climate change program provides the technical foundation for addressing climate change throughout CIs marine programs. In addition to providing strategic and technical support across the institution, the program directly supports field activities, such as vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning and implementation. Further, through the marine climate change program Conservation International (CI) is partnering to lead an international consortium that focuses on the conservation and management of coastal systems for their carbon sequestration and storage capacity. The consortium is implementing the International Blue Carbon Initiative (, which integrates targeted science, policy, and economics of coastal “blue” carbon through working groups, pilot projects, international policy, and capacity building.

This position will work closely with the Senior Director, Strategic Marine Initiatives, to support the long-term growth and success of CI’s marine climate change program. The position will be responsible for the day to day management of the blue carbon and marine adaptation programs, including project development, implementation, research, communications and broader capacity building. The position will be responsible for building and maintaining a strong network of climate change, conservation and related experts to support the work of CI and its partners. The position will be the technical point-person for supporting the field programs on marine climate change issues. The position will coordinate with the Seascapes program, Moore Center for Science, Center for Environment and Peace, other CI divisions and external partners to ensure successful completion and maximum integration of marine climate change activities at CI. For more information and to apply see:







New Report Details How National Parks Are Threatened By Oil And Gas Drilling

By Jessica Goad, Guest Blogger on Apr 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Here’s another example of how “the score card shows that the industry is winning,” as the NY Times put it last year. The National Parks Conservation Association today released a new report warning of the risks that oil and gas drilling pose to national parks.

In “National Parks and Hydraulic Fracturing:  Balancing Energy Needs, Nature, and America’s National Heritage” the group writes:

…these early indications of harm to America’s natural resources and national parks suggest the wisdom of a careful, considered approach to hydraulic fracturing, rather than blind complicity and a zealous rush toward monetary riches.

National parks are managed under a precautionary principle designed to err on the conservative side of any potentially negative impacts. The same principle should be applied to fracking activities on lands adjacent to our national parks….


What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the 2010 Gulf Spill

Apr 22, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was even worse than BP wanted us to know.

“It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work…..


EPA releases harsh review of Keystone XL environmental report

By Neela Banerjee April 22, 2013, 3:37 p.m. WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency issued a sharply critical assessment of the State Department‘s recent environmental impact review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, certain to complicate efforts to win approval for the $7-billion project. In a letter to top State Department officials overseeing the permit process for the pipeline, the EPA lays out detailed objections regarding greenhouse gas emissions related to the project, pipeline safety and alternative routes. Based on its analysis, the EPA said it had “Environmental Objections” to the State Department’s environmental assessment due to “insufficient information. ” A State Department spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. The State Department assessment concluded that Keystone XL would have a minimal impact on the environment. But the EPA analysis appears to challenge that conclusion.

DOCUMENT: EPA reviews Keystone XL
The EPA’s assessment came during the public comment period for the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the State Department issued last month. The study is supposed to be an exhaustive look at the effect of the proposed pipeline on air, water, endangered species, communities and the economy.


New battery design could help solar and wind power the grid
(April 24, 2013) — Researchers have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid. … > full story



Bloomberg Study: 70 Percent Of New Global Power Capacity Added Through 2030 Will be Renewable

Posted: 25 Apr 2013 09:45 AM PDT

According to Bloomberg’s renewable energy research team, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), 70 percent of the power generation the world will add between now and 2030 will most likely be renewable.

That would mean $630 billion in new renewable capacity investments in 2030 alone — over three times what was built in 2012, and 35 percent higher than what BNEF predicted for 2030 a year ago. So not only does renewable energy’s future look formidable, it’s looking more formidable every year we project it.

After accumulating the latest data on economic prosperity, market trends, demand growth, technology development, and likely future policies, BNEF’s modeling program spit out three projection scenarios: the optimistic “Barrier Busting” scenario, the pessimistic “Traditional Territory” scenario, and the middle-of-the-road “New Normal” scenario. The New Normal scenario is considered the most likely. It shows the investment requirement for new clean energy assets in the year 2030 at $630bn (in nominal terms), more than three times the investment in the renewable energy capacity that was built in 2012. This 2030 investment figure is 35 percent higher than that produced in Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s last global forecast a year ago, and the projection for total installed renewable energy capacity by that date is 25 percent higher than in that previous forecast, at 3,500GW.

In the power sector, the research company’s latest forecasts project that 70 percent of new power generation capacity added between 2012 and 2030 will be from renewable technologies (including large hydro). Only 25 percent will be in the form of coal, gas or oil, the remaining being nuclear.






How Resource Scarcity and Climate Change Could Produce a Global Explosion

The Nation.  – ‎April 22 2013‎

Two nightmare scenarios—a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change—are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition and conflict….


As people live longer and reproduce less, natural selection keeps up
(April 25, 2013) — In many places around the world, people are living longer and are having fewer children. But that’s not all. A study of people living in rural Gambia shows that this modern-day “demographic transition” may lead women to be taller and slimmer, too. … > full story

Let’s Rename Earth Day

Posted: 21 Apr 2013 09:25 AM PDT Joe Romm

……So I think the world should be more into conserving the stuff that we can’t live without. In that regard I am a conservative person. Unfortunately, Conservative Day would, I think, draw the wrong crowds. The problem with Earth Day is it asks us to save too much ground. We need to focus. The two parts of the planet worth fighting to preserve are the soils and the glaciers.

Two years ago, Science magazine published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of soil aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas and Oklahoma to California. The Hadley Center, the U.K.’s official center for climate change research, found that “areas affected by severe drought could see a five-fold increase from 8% to 40%.” On our current emissions path, most of the South and Southwest ultimately experience twice as much loss of soil moisture as was seen during the Dust Bowl (see “Dust-Bowlification“).

Also, locked away in the frozen soil of the tundra or permafrost is more carbon than the atmosphere contains today
(see Tundra, Part 1). On our current path, most of the top 10 feet of the permafrost will be lost this century — so much for being “perma” — and that amplifying carbon-cycle feedback will all but ensure that today’s worst-case scenarios for global warming become the best-case scenarios (see NSIDC bombshell: Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100). We must save the tundra. Perhaps it should be small “e” earth Day, which is to say, Soil Day. On the other hand, most of the public enthusiasm in the 1980s for saving the rain forests fizzled, and they are almost as important as the soil, so maybe not Soil Day.

As for glaciers, when they disappear, sea levels rise, perhaps as much as two inches a year by century’s end (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100” and here). If we warm even 3°C from pre-industrial levels, we will return the planet to a time when sea levels were ultimately 100 feet higher (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher: “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm.”). The first five feet of sea level rise, which seems increasingly likely to occur this century on our current emissions path, would displace more than 100 million people. That would be the equivalent of 200 Katrinas. Since my brother lost his home in Katrina, I don’t consider this to be an abstract issue.

Equally important, the inland glaciers provide fresh water sources for more than a billion people. But on our current path, virtually all of them will be gone by century’s end.

So where is everyone going to live? Hundreds of millions will flee the new deserts, but they can’t go to the coasts; indeed, hundreds of millions of other people will be moving inland. But many of the world’s great rivers will be drying up at the same time, forcing massive conflict among yet another group of hundreds of millions of people. The word rival, after all, comes from “people who share the same river.” Sure, desalination is possible, but that’s expensive and uses a lot of energy, which means we’ll need even more carbon-free power.

Perhaps Earth Day should be Water Day, since the worst global warming impacts are going to be about water — too much in some places, too little in other places, too acidified in the oceans for most life. But even soil and water are themselves only important because they sustain life. We could do Pro-Life Day, but that term is already taken, and again it would probably draw the wrong crowd.

We could call it Homo sapiens Day. Technically, we are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens. Isn’t it great being the only species that gets to name all the species, so we can call ourselves “wise” twice! But given how we have been destroying the planet’s livability, I think at the very least we should drop one of the sapiens. And, perhaps provisionally, we should put the other one in quotes, so we are Homo “sapiens,” at least until we see whether we are smart enough to save ourselves from self-destruction.

What the day — indeed, the whole year — should be about is not creating misery upon misery for our children and their children and their children, and on and on for generations (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?“). Ultimately, stopping climate change is not about preserving the earth or creation but about preserving ourselves. Yes, we can’t preserve ourselves if we don’t preserve a livable climate, and we can’t preserve a livable climate if we don’t preserve the earth. But the focus needs to stay on the health and well-being of billions of humans because, ultimately, humans are the ones who will experience the most prolonged suffering. And if enough people come to see it that way, we have a chance of avoiding the worst.

We have fiddled like Nero for far too long to save the whole earth or all of its species. Now we need a World War II scale effort just to cut our losses and save what matters most. So let’s call it Triage Day. And if worse comes to worst — yes, if worse comes to worst — at least future generations won’t have to change the name again.

As a penultimate thought, I suspect that many environmentalists and climate science advocates will have their own, private name: “I told you so” Day. Not as a universal as “Triage Day,” I admit, but it has a Cassandra-like catchiness, no?

Finally, perhaps we should call it “science day.” We don’t have a day dedicated to celebrating science, and don’t we deserve one whole day free from the non-stop disinformation of the anti-science crowd?

As always, I’m open to better ideas….Eaarth day?

Related Post:

An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces


Elephant bird egg sells for more than $100000

Washington Post  – ‎April 26, 2013‎

A massive, partly fossilized egg laid by an extinct elephant bird has sold for more than $100,000 at a London auction. Christie’s auction house said the winning bidder paid $101,813 for the foot-long egg, nearly nine inches in diameter.


Mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as supplements
(April 22, 2013) — Researchers have discovered that eating mushrooms containing Vitamin D2 can be as effective at increasing and maintaining vitamin D levels (25–hydroxyvitamin D) as taking supplemental vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. … > full story


Some visible signs of Lyme disease are easily missed or mistaken
(April 22, 2013) — With Lyme disease season now beginning, doctors are urged to consider Lyme disease as the underlying cause when presented with skin lesions that resemble conditions such as contact dermatitis, lupus, common skin infections, or insect or spider bites, especially where Lyme disease is endemic. New analysis establishes patients with those symptoms, rather than the classic Lyme “bulls-eye” lesion, to have been infected with the Lyme bacterium. … > full story

Study shows reproductive effects of pesticide exposure span generations
(April 22, 2013) — Researchers studying aquatic organisms called Daphnia have found that exposure to a chemical pesticide has impacts that span multiple generations — causing the so-called “water fleas” to produce more male offspring, and causing reproductive problems in female offspring. … > full story

Coffee may help prevent breast cancer returning, study finds
(April 25, 2013) — Drinking coffee could decrease the risk of breast cancer recurring in patients taking the widely used drug Tamoxifen, a study has found. Patients who took the pill, along with two or more cups of coffee daily, reported less than half the rate of cancer recurrence, compared with their Tamoxifen-taking counterparts who drank one cup or less. … > full story

More evidence berries have health-promoting properties
(April 21, 2013) — Adding more color to your diet in the form of berries is encouraged by many nutrition experts. The protective effect of berries against inflammation has been documented in many studies. Diets supplemented with blueberries and strawberries have also been shown to improve behavior and cognitive functions in stressed young rats. … > full story

Drinking one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened soft drink a day can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by 22 percent, study suggests
(April 24, 2013) — Drinking one (or one extra) 12-ounce serving size of sugar-sweetened soft drink a day can be enough to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 22 percent, a new study suggests. … > full story











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