Conservation Science News August 23, 2013

Highlights of the Week



We’ve been asking the wrong questions about conservation; the Natural Capital debt









We have changed our name to Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO) reflecting the expanded depth and reach of our work, building on our long-term bird ecology expertise.  Our 140 Point Blue
scientists and educators work with hundreds of partners, pointing the way forward to secure a healthy, blue planet well into the future.  We have changed our name to Point Blue
to more directly address climate change, together with other environmental threats, through nature-based solutions that benefit wildlife and people.  For more information please see From Point Reyes to Point Blue as well as our first Point Blue Quarterly.  You might also enjoy viewing our inspiring ~6 minute video introducing Point Blue that includes partner and staff highlights as well as a brief congratulatory video from Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-2).  Our new website,, is under construction through the summer. Until then, our existing website,, will remain active.





Highlights of the Week


We’ve been asking the wrong questions about conservation



Stop worrying about how species will respond to climate change – focus on how our adaptations are going to affect them

By James Watson, Monday 29 July 2013 06.24 EDT

Heavy flood waters sweep through Beichuan in southwest China’s Sichuan province. Extreme weather events are now occurring more frequently because of climate change. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

In looking at how best to protect wildlife from the growing climate change crisis, conservation scientists usually ignore the single most significant impact on fauna and flora: the changes warming drives in the behaviour of its dominant species – humans – and resultant effects on the living world and natural processes. Those effects are already driving many of the climate-related ecological shifts we are witnessing across the globe.

For example, the opening up of the Arctic for oil and gas, mining and transport routes as sea-ice retreats directly impacts polar biodiversity. Expansion of agricultural activities due to changing rainfall in the mountains of Africa’s Albertine Rift and the valleys of the Congo Basin now threatens gorilla habitat there.

Elsewhere, the construction of ineffective seawalls in Papua New Guinea to slow down the impact of sea-level rise has led to the wholesale destruction of some of the most biodiverse and protein-productive coral reefs in the world. Increasing temperatures across the high-altitude Tibetan plateau likewise contribute to a shift in the formerly stable balance between indigenous herders and wildlife, both of which graze the delicate grasslands.

The list is endless but is it not all negative. For example, in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, efforts by local communities to control a growing number of wildfire incidents, associated with a drying climate, are having a positive impact on vulnerable populations of threatened species like jaguar.

Nevertheless, it would appear that in their work on climate change, conservation scientists have forgotten a basic tenet of our field: that conservation is fundamentally about people.

A survey of the literature shows that in 2013, more than 6,500 climate-change-related papers have been published in peer-reviewed conservation journals. The vast majority of these examine how and where future temperature and rainfall changes will make species more vulnerable.

While direct threats to species are often less challenging to identify, quantify and predict, indirect threats can often be far more significant and lasting. Nowhere is this more true than with climate change. For example, while hard to perceive on the ground, the risk that a national park will likely become the best place to grow food can be the most relevant threat to species found there.

The misdirection of conservation science when it comes to climate change is not due to a lack of data or a lack of time to undertake relevant research. It is more basic than that. We’ve been asking the wrong questions.

Understanding the ecology of species and their likely responses to climate change is helpful, but understanding how humans are going to be affected by climate and what this impact will be on those species is far more important.

As a conservationist who has spent his career looking at climate change impacts, I have largely stopped worrying about working out how species are going to respond and begun focusing on how human adaptations will affect those species. It is clear to me that this is what our immediate priority should be.

Failure to predict likely human adaptations to climate change commits us to a future of reactive, emergency responses likely to be wholly inadequate to the demands of the coming century. With greater attention to this subject, we can target conservation resources preemptively to meet more effectively and efficiently what many of us believe to be the greatest global challenge of our time.

Dr James Watson directs the Global Climate Change program for the Wildlife Conservation Society and is the chair of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) climate change specialist group. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland and has recently become president-elect of the Society for Conservation Biology.


The Natural Capital Debt Bubble

By Jonathan Hughes, Councillor at the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature), | 4 August 2013

A quiet but steady revolution is taking place in the environmental movement which is having profound implications for the business community. Environmentalism in the first half of the 20th century was characterised by two main responses to the rapid intensification of man’s impact on the natural environment. The first was targeted protection of endangered species; the second was the designation of specially protected parks and nature reserves. These remain the two pillars on which the foundations of modern conservation movement are built, and have led to many notable successes from the return of the once critically endangered otter to every county in the United Kingdom, to the protection of now world-famous national parks like Yellowstone or the Serengeti. Yet, these conservation successes represent minor skirmishes in a war being lost on almost all fronts. Despite targeted species conservation projects backed by legal protection in most countries and around 13% of the world’s land surface now designated as protected areas, the global species extinction rate is running at around one thousand times the background rate as calculated from the fossil record. A quarter of all plant species are considered by the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity to be threatened with extinction and these are the same plants we rely on for our medicines, food and other raw materials. In the latter part of the 20th century, we built on the two pillars and began to deepen our understanding of our impacts on the delicate balance of environment as a system on which we are ultimately dependant for our health, well -being and prosperity. A new wave of environmental NGOs campaigned as much about the plight of humanity on a failing planet, as they did for the plight of nature. The 21st century has seen a further evolution of systems thinking to the point where we now at least understand that to restore the 60% of those ecosystems already degraded worldwide, we need a radical overhaul of economic and social policy, not just environmental policy. In effect , we are now working on building a third pillar – an ecosystems pillar – which if we succeed in getting right, might just mean we can accommodate 9 billion people on earth by the year 2050…..

The difference now is that we are getting serious about quantifying the value of nature’s stocks (natural capital) and nature’s flows (ecosystem services) in a way we have never attempted in the past. By valuing natural capital in a similar way to financial, manufactured, social and human capital, we can make decisions on the stewardship of the natural environment based on hard-nosed economics, and not just on the vitally important moral case for saving nature for nature’s sake.








New Point Blue paper with SF State and NOAA NMS published:


Using Seabird Habitat Modeling to Inform Marine Spatial Planning in Central California’s National Marine Sanctuaries

PLoS ONE August 13 2013 Jennifer McGowan, Ellen Hines, Meredith Elliott, Julie Howar, Andrea Dransfield, Nadav Nur, Jaime Jahncke


Understanding seabird habitat preferences is critical to future wildlife conservation and threat mitigation in California. The objective of this study was to investigate drivers of seabird habitat selection within the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries to identify areas for targeted conservation planning. We used seabird abundance data collected by the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies Program (ACCESS) from 2004–2011. We used zero-inflated negative binomial regression to model species abundance and distribution as a function of near surface ocean water properties, distances to geographic features and oceanographic climate indices to identify patterns in foraging habitat selection. We evaluated seasonal, inter-annual and species-specific variability of at-sea distributions for the five most abundant seabirds nesting on the Farallon Islands: western gull (Larus occidentalis), common murre (Uria aalge), Cassin’s auklet (Ptychorampus aleuticus), rhinoceros auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata) and Brandt’s cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus). The waters in the vicinity of Cordell Bank and the continental shelf east of the Farallon Islands emerged as persistent and highly selected foraging areas across all species.
Further, we conducted a spatial prioritization exercise to optimize seabird conservation areas with and without considering impacts of current human activities. We explored three conservation scenarios where 10, 30 and 50 percent of highly selected, species-specific foraging areas would be conserved. We compared and contrasted results in relation to existing marine protected areas (MPAs) and the future alternative energy footprint identified by the California Ocean Uses Atlas. Our results show that the majority of highly selected seabird habitat lies outside of state MPAs where threats from shipping, oil spills, and offshore energy development remain. This analysis accentuates the need for innovative marine spatial planning efforts and provides a foundation on which to build more comprehensive zoning and management in California’s National Marine Sanctuaries.


Citation: McGowan J, Hines E, Elliott M, Howar J, Dransfield A, et al. (2013) Using Seabird Habitat Modeling to Inform Marine Spatial Planning in Central California’s National Marine Sanctuaries. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71406. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071406


Dams Destabilize River Food Webs: Lessons from the Grand Canyon

ScienceDaily Aug. 20, 2013 — Managing fish in human-altered rivers is a challenge because their food webs are sensitive to environmental disturbance. So reports a new study in the journal Ecological Monographs, based on an exhaustive three-year analysis of the Colorado River in Glen and Grand Canyons. Food webs are used to map feeding relationships. By describing the structure of these webs, scientists can predict how plants and animals living in an ecosystem will respond to change. Coauthor Dr. Emma Rosi-Marshall, an aquatic ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, comments, “Given the degraded state of the world’s rivers, insight into food webs is essential to conserving endangered animals, improving water quality, and managing productive fisheries.”… Lead author Dr. Wyatt Cross of Montana State University comments, “Glen Canyon Dam has transformed the ecology of the Colorado River. Immediately downstream, cold, low-sediment waters have favored exotic plants and animals that haven’t co-evolved with native species. We now see reduced biodiversity and novel species interactions that have led to the instability of these river food webs.”…. Today, many ecosystems are like the Colorado River: an amalgam of native and non-native species living in human-altered habitat. The study’s authors demonstrated that large-scale modifications, like dams, can have far-reaching effects on how energy flows through food webs, altering their stability and leading to less resilient ecosystems. Cross concludes, “Looking to the future, we need to develop predictions about how disturbances spread through ecosystems, affecting the species or services upon which we depend, so we can implement proactive strategies.”…


Wyatt F. Cross, Colden V. Baxter, Emma J. Rosi-Marshall, Robert O. Hall, Theodore A. Kennedy, Kevin C. Donner, Holly A. Wellard Kelly, Sarah E. Z. Seegert, Kathrine E. Behn, Michael D. Yard. Food-web dynamics in a large river discontinuum. Ecological Monographs, 2013; 83 (3): 311 DOI: 10.1890/12-1727.1


Epic ocean voyages of coral larvae revealed
(August 20, 2013) — A computer simulation has revealed the epic, ocean-spanning journeys traveled by millimeter-sized coral larvae through the world’s seas. The model is the first to recreate the oceanic paths along which corals disperse globally, and will eventually aid predictions of how coral reef distributions may shift with climate change. … > full story



Species diversification in biodiversity hotspots
(August 19, 2013)
Biodiversification isn’t always favored by living in a hotspot of biodiversity, suggests a study of Australian wood shrubs. The finding goes against previous thinking and boosts our understanding of the factors driving biodiversity. A common view is that species in biodiversity hotspots diversify more quickly than species in less biodiverse areas. But that’s not the case for the spikey-flowered Banksia. … Bi
odiversity hotspots are frequently found in Mediterranean-climate regions, where they rival tropical rainforests for flowering plant biodiversity. But these environments typically lack features such as high rainfall or productivity that are usually linked with high plant diversity. Indeed, some of the most species-rich Mediterranean communities are found in semi-arid regions, on nutrient-poor soils. Understanding these apparent outliers on global biodiversity gradients may yield insights into the factors driving the diversification of flowering plants.full story


Forest-interior birds may be benefiting from harvested clearings
(August 21, 2013) — Wildlife biologists suggest that forest regrowth in clearcuts may be vital to birds as they prepare for fall migration. .
In an article published recently in the American Ornithologist Union’s publication
The Auk, research wildlife biologist Scott Stoleson of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station suggests that forest regrowth in clearcuts may be vital to birds as they prepare for fall migration. The study suggests that declines in forest-interior species may be due in part to the increasing maturity and homogenization of forests. Openings created by timber harvesting may increase habitat for some forest interior birds, according to Stoleson. “Humans have really changed the nature of mature forests in the Northeast,” Stoleson said. “Natural processes that once created open spaces even within mature forests, such as fire, are largely controlled, diminishing the availability of quality habitat.”.. > full story


Scott H. Stoleson. Condition varies with habitat choice in postbreeding forest birds. The Auk, 2013; 130 (3): 417 DOI: 10.1525/auk.2013.12214


Hue of barn swallow breast feathers can influence their health
(August 21, 2013) — A new study shows the outward appearance of female barn swallows, specifically the hue of their chestnut-colored breast feathers, has an influence on their physiological health. … > full story


Honeyguide birds destroy own species’ eggs to eliminate competition
(August 21, 2013) — Like cuckoos, honeyguides are parasitic birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and dupe them into raising their young. Now scientists reveal that, unlike in cuckoos, the resemblance between honeyguide eggs and those of their bee-eater bird hosts hasn’t evolved to trick hosts into accepting the imposter egg as one of their own. … > full story


Rising mountains, cooling oceans prompted spread of invasive species 450 million years ago
(August 21, 2013) — New research suggests that the rise of an early phase of the Appalachian Mountains and cooling oceans allowed invasive species to upset the North American ecosystem 450 million years ago. … > full story


Do herbicides alter ecosystems around the world? Scant research makes it hard to prove
(August 16, 2013) — The number of humans on the planet has almost doubled in the past 50 years — and so has global food production. As a result, the use of pesticides and their effect on humans, animals and plants have become more important. Many laboratory studies have shown that pesticides can harm organisms which they were not meant to affect. Intensive farming is also linked to collapsing populations of wild animals and the endangerment of species such as amphibians. Can the biochemical effects of pesticides upset entire ecosystems? … > full story

Crowdsourcing, for the Birds

Mapping Bird Species
Heat maps show the northward migration of the chimney swift as modeled by the eBird network. Brighter colors indicate higher probabilities of finding the species.

By JIM ROBBINS NY Times Published: August 19, 2013

HELENA, Mont. — On a warm morning not long ago on the shore of a small prairie lake outside this state capital, Bob Martinka trained his spotting scope on a towering cottonwood tree heavy with blue heron nests. He counted a dozen of the tall, graceful birds and got out his smartphone, not to make a call but to type the number of birds and the species into an app that sent the information to researchers in New York. Mr. Martinka, a retired state wildlife biologist and an avid bird-watcher, is part of the global ornithological network eBird. Several times a week he heads into the mountains to scan lakes, grasslands, even the local dump, and then reports his sightings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a nonprofit organization based at Cornell University….

The system is not without problems. Citizen scientists may not be as precise in reporting data as experienced researchers are, like the ones in the Breeding Bird Survey. Cornell has tried to solve that problem by hiring top birders to travel around the world to train people like Mr. Martinka in methodology. And 500 volunteer experts read the submissions for accuracy, rejecting about 2 percent. Rare-bird sightings get special scrutiny. The engine that makes eBird data usable is machine learning, or artificial intelligence — a combination of software and hardware that sorts through disparities, gaps and flaws in data collection, improving as it goes along. “Machine learning says, ‘I know these data are sloppy, but fortunately there’s a lot of it,’ ” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. “It takes chunks of these data and sorts through to find patterns in the noise. These programs are learning as they go, testing and refining and getting better and better.”

Still, some experts question eBird’s validity. John Sauer, a wildlife biologist with the United States Geological Survey, says that bird-watchers’ reports lack scientific rigor. Rather than randomness, he said, “you get a lot of observations from where people like to go.” And he doubts that Cornell has proved the reliability of its machine learning efforts. Still, the information has promise, he said, “and it’s played a powerful role in coordinating birders for recording observations, and encouraging bird-watching.” And the data are being used by a wide array of researchers and conservationists.

Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a professor of ornithology at the University of Utah who has used similar bird-watching data in his native Turkey to study the effects of climate change on birds, called eBird “a phenomenal resource” and said that it was “getting young people involved in natural history, which might seem slow and old-fashioned in the age of instant online gratification.”

…The data is also being combined with radar and weather data by BirdCast, another Cornell bird lab project that forecasts migration patterns with the aim of protecting birds as they move through a gantlet of threats. “We can predict migration events that would be usable for the timing of wind generation facilities to be turned off at night,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said. In California, biologists use the migration data to track waterfowl at critical times. When the birds are headed through the Central Valley, for example, they can ask rice farmers to flood their fields to create an improvised wetland habitat before the birds arrive. “The resolution is at such a level of detail they can make estimates of where species occur almost at a field-by-field level,” Mr. Kelling said. …



Tiny fish make ‘eyes’ at their killer

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 07:27 AM PDT

Small prey fish can grow a bigger ‘eye’ on their rear fins as a way of distracting predators and dramatically boosting their chances of survival, new research has found. Researchers have made a world-first discovery that, when constantly threatened with being eaten, small damsel fish not only grow a larger false ‘eye spot’ near their tail — but also reduce the size of their real eyes.



Newly discovered ocean plume could be major source of iron

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 02:18 PM PDT

Scientists have discovered a vast plume of iron and other micronutrients more than 1,000 kilometers long billowing from hydrothermal vents in the South Atlantic Ocean. The finding calls past estimates of iron abundances into question, and may challenge researchers’ assumptions about iron sources in the world’s seas.


Old Concrete Can Protect Lakes and Streams from Phosphorus-Laden Run-Off



August 22, 2013 — Lakes and streams are often receiving so much phosphorus that it could pose a threat to the local aquatic environment. Now, research shows that there is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent phosphorus from being discharged to aquatic environments. The solution is crushed concrete from demolition sites.. “We have shown that crushed concrete can bind up to 90 per cent of phosphorus, “says PhD student and environmental engineer, Melanie Sønderup, Department of Biology at the University of Southern Denmark….. … > full story

Sara Egemose, Melanie J. Sønderup, Malde V. Beinthin, Kasper Reitzel, Carl Christian Hoffmann, Mogens R. Flindt. Crushed Concrete as a Phosphate Binding Material: A Potential New Management Tool. Journal of Environment Quality, 2012; 41 (3): 647 DOI: 10.2134/jeq2011.0134


Ecologists get first bumblebees’ eye view of the landscape
(August 22, 2013) — Ecologists have produced the most detailed picture yet of how bumblebees use the landscape thanks to DNA technology and remote sensing. The results – which come from the largest ever study of wild bumblebee nests – could help farmers and policy makers ensure the countryside is better suited to the needs of these vital but declining pollinators. … > full story

Relating Animals to Humans Could Help Conservation Projects



August 22, 2013 — New research suggests that people’s tendency to relate more to animals that bear a resemblance to humans (anthropomorphism) could help improve public engagement with conservation … by making conservationists more aware of how people construct anthropomorphic meanings around species and how they engage with species and attribute value to their characteristics — e.g. people may attribute personhood or emotions to species that they play with, such as pets or even livestock — they can create conservation programmes which speak to people through their cultural expectations and emotional connections…. > full story


After Today, Humanity Will Spend The Rest Of 2013 Taking More Than The Earth Can Give

By Jeff Spross on August 20, 2013 at 9:20 am

Today is Earth Overshoot Day 2013: the day humanity uses up all the natural resources the planet can sustainably provide for a given year. Our ecological footprint — our pollution, fishing, agriculture, fresh water use, greenhouse emissions, etc. — uses up the planet’s biocapacity — the ability of an ecosystem to regenerate resources and absorb waste. After today, the former will overwhelm the latter for the rest of the year. We’ll be in ecological deficit, inflicting more damage on the global ecology than it can naturally repair.

It’s like drawing more money out of a bank account than the interest can replace. The account gets smaller every year, and eventually hits zero. As a result, Earth Overshoot Day has arrived earlier each year. We first overshot in the early 1970s, then in 1993 Earth Overshoot Day arrived October 21, and then on September 22 in 2003. So the gap between our ecological footprint and Earth’s total biocapacity is growing…. our ecological footprint actually leveled off in the 1970s. Because it’s like drawing down the principle in a bank account, the degeneration of biocapacity is now the main driver of overshoot. The story is basically the same for the United States specifically. Different parts of the planet overuse natural resources in different ways, thanks to unsustainable land use, waste production, air and water pollution, and of course carbon emissions and the failure to properly price the damage they cause. Those emissions now make up over half of our ecological footprint, and its fastest-growing contingent.

Population growth is a big part of this, but so is growth in the ecological footprint per capita: how much bio capacity an individual person uses up. China, for instance, has a far bigger population than the United States, but our per capita footprint is much larger.

The good news is our per capita footprint is amenable to reform. Technological innovation and energy efficiency can help us maintain productivity while consuming fewer resources. By eliminating carbon emissions, improving farming methods, reforming fishing practices, managing water and waste better, and a host of other efforts, we can reduce the strain we place on the Earth’s systems. That would hopefully give the Earth’s biocapacity a chance to regenerate.



Stranded fin whale
dies on Stinson Beach

San Francisco Chronicle ‎- August 20, 2013

A young fin whale stranded on Stinson Beach died Monday
despite veterinarians’ rescue efforts. The gray and white whale, about 42 feet long, 


Fin whale’s beach autopsy offers rare, fresh samples

Ellen Huet Updated 7:12 pm, Thursday, August 22, 2013

An excavator can’t move a 42-foot fin whale calf that beached itself then died in Stinson Beach, Calif., Monday, August 19, 2013. Crews had to work to dismantle the whale before it could be buried. It was estimated to be about a year old, and full grown fin whales can be between 40-80 tons. Photo: Sarah Rice, Special To The Chronicle

The whale, a 42-foot juvenile, had washed ashore on Upton Beach near Stinson Beach early Monday morning and stayed alive for hours, struggling to breathe as the pressure of being on land – not suspended in water – weighed on its internal organs….The team found bruising in the membrane around the whale’s heart, a huge organ about the size of a mini fridge. They found air in the subcutaneous tissue between the muscle and fat, an indication of a blow to the animal’s right side…..


Divers willingness to pay for biodiversity could help conservation efforts (August 20, 2013) — New research shows divers were willing to pay to improve the reef’s attributes and were able to differentiate and rank their preferences of biodiversity, numbers of fish and corals, coral species richness, fish species richness, coral size, coral abundance, and fish abundance. Respondents ranked biodiversity as the most desirable value, while fish abundance was the least important. … > full story


UC Davis forms ocean institute, with new undergraduate major

Sacramento Bee  – ‎August 23, 2013‎

Leveraging its little-known marine lab in Bodega Bay, the University of California, Davis, announced the formation Thursday of a new institute – and an undergraduate major – focusing on marine sciences. “People don’t think about Davis as being strong in the marine sciences because we’re in the middle of the Central Valley,” said Rick Grosberg, founding director of the new Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute. “However, the university has led many efforts in marine science and policy in the last few decades, especially coastal ocean sciences in California.”

A key component of the new institute will be an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree in marine sciences, which is expected to launch in 2014. The institute also will host the Center for Coastal Ocean Issues as a forum for collaboration among scientists, government agencies, and policymakers.

Most of the marine research emanating from UC Davis is done at its Bodega Marine Laboratory, one of the largest marine labs in California. The lab hugs a foggy and windy promontory at Bodega Bay. Its location places the lab within several marine environments, including the waters of the Bodega Marine Reserve. UC Berkeley originally owned the lab, opened in 1966, but it was taken over by UC Davis in 1984. During the summer, 160 staff members and students work at the center. About 100 are there during the school year….The research and classroom activity at the institute will continue its focus on coastal Northern California, with its research area starting north of Monterey and stretching up to the Lost Coast in Humboldt and Mendocino counties….









Antarctic krill. (Credit: Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey)

Food Source for Whales, Seals and Penguins at Risk: Warming Antarctic Seas Likely to Impact on Krill Habitats

August 22, 2013 — Antarctic krill are usually less than 6 cm in length but their size belies the major role they play in sustaining much of the life in the Southern Ocean. They are the primary food source for many species of whales, seals, penguins and fish. Krill are known to be sensitive to sea temperature, especially in the areas where they grow as adults. This has prompted scientists to try to understand how they might respond to the effects of further climate change. Using statistical models, a team of researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and Plymouth Marine Laboratory assessed the likely impact of projected temperature increases on the Weddell Sea, Scotia Sea and Southern Drake Passage, which is known for its abundance of krill. This region has experienced sea surface warming of as much as 1°C over fifty years. Projections suggest this could rise by another 1°C by the end of the 21st century. The models are based on equations which link krill growth, sea surface temperature, and food availability. An analysis of the results, published this week in the online journal PLOS ONE, suggests warming, if continued, could reduce the area of growth habitat by up to 20%….Lead author, Dr. Simeon Hill, a marine biologist at BAS, said: “Each year, growth of Antarctic krill in the Southern Ocean produces new material that weighs twice as much as all the sugar produced in the world. Krill grow fastest in cold water and any warming can slow down or stop growth, reducing the food available for wildlife. Our research suggests that expected warming this century could severely reduce the area in which krill can successfully grow.” Although there is evidence that warming seas pose a threat to Antarctic krill habitats the team of researchers believe this can be mitigated with effective fisheries management systems in place… > full story


Simeon L. Hill, Tony Phillips, Angus Atkinson. Potential Climate Change Effects on the Habitat of Antarctic Krill in the Weddell Quadrant of the Southern Ocean. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (8): e72246 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072246


New IPCC Report: Climatologists More Certain Global Warming Is Caused By Humans, Impacts Are Speeding Up

By Joe Romm on August 18, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Temperature change over past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming over the next century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature, much of which is reviewed in the new IPCC report.) The Fifth — and hopefully final — Assessment Report (AR5) from the UN Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) is due next month. The leaks are already here: Drafts seen by Reuters of the study by the UN panel of experts, due to be published next month, say it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities – chiefly the burning of fossil fuels – are the main cause of warming since the 1950s. That is up from at least 90 percent in the last report in 2007, 66 percent in 2001, and just over 50 in 1995, steadily squeezing out the arguments by a small minority of scientists that natural variations in the climate might be to blame. This is a doubly impressive story since, as we’ve reported, Reuters has slashed climate coverage and pressured reporters to include false balance. Leading climatologists who have seen drafts of the report confirm this story’s accuracy.

Of course, nothing in the report should be a surprise to readers of Climate Progress, since the AR5 is just a (partial) review of the scientific literature (see my 12/11 post, It’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ Was Manmade; It’s Highly Likely All of It Was). The draft AR5 confirms that natural forces played a very small role in warming since 1950, which again means that human activity is highly likely be a source of virtually all of the recent warming. I say the AR5 is a “partial” review that is “hopefully” the last because, like every IPCC report, it is an instantly out-of-date snapshot that lowballs future warming because it continues to ignore large parts of the recent literature and omit what it can’t model. For instance, we have known for years that perhaps the single most important carbon-cycle feedback is the thawing of the northern permafrost.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment climate models completely ignore it, thereby lowballing likely warming this century. No doubt some in the media will continue to focus on the largely irrelevant finding that the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) may be a tad lower than expected. In terms of real world warming and its impact on humans, the ECS is a mostly theoretical and oversimplified construct — like the so-called spherical cow. The ECS tells you how much warming you would get IF we started slashing emissions asap and stabilized carbon dioxide concentrations in the air around 550 parts per million (they are currently at 400 ppm, rising over 2 ppm a year, and accelerating) — AND IF there were no slow feedbacks like the defrosting permafrost.

The climate however is not a spherical cow. Every climate scientist I’ve spoken to has said we will blow past 550 ppm if we continue to put off action. Indeed, we’re on track for well past 800 ppm. And a 2012 study found that the carbon feedback from the thawing permafrost alone will likely add 0.4°F – 1.5°F to total global warming by 2100.

So the alarming disruption in our previously stable, civilization-supporting climate depicted in the top figure is our future. On our current emissions path, the main question the ECS answers is whether 9°F warming happens closer to 2080, 2100, or 2120 — hardly a cause for any celebration. Quite the reverse. Warming beyond 7F is “incompatible with organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems & has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. 4°C [7F] would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level,” as climate expert Kevin Anderson explains here.

Dr. Michael Mann emailed me:

The report is simply an exclamation mark on what we already knew: Climate change is real and it continues unabated, the primary cause is fossil fuel burning, and if we don’t do something to reduce carbon emissions we can expect far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts on us and our environment in the decades to come.

As for the seeming slowdown in global warming, that turns out to be only true if one looks narrowly at surface air temperatures, where only a small fraction of warming ends up. Arctic sea ice melt has accelerated. Disintegration of the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica has sped up. The rate of sea level rise has doubled from last century.

Finally, very recent studies of the ocean, which has absorbed the vast majority of the heat, also show global warming has accelerated in the past 15 years. Sadly, the AR5 appears to have stopped considering new scientific findings before the publication of this research….


Climate Panel Cites Near Certainty on Warming

Tim Wimborne/Reuters A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the authors are now 95 percent to 100 percent confident that human activity is the primary influence on planetary warming. The level of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is up 41 percent since the Industrial Revolution. Emissions from facilities like coal-fired power plants contribute.

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times Published: August 19, 2013 756 Comments

An international panel of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than three feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace. The scientists, whose findings are reported in a draft summary of the next big United Nations climate report, largely dismiss a recent slowdown in the pace of warming, which is often cited by climate change doubters, attributing it most likely to short-term factors. The report emphasizes that the basic facts about future climate change are more established than ever, justifying the rise in global concern. It also reiterates that the consequences of escalating emissions are likely to be profound. “It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010,” the draft report says. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”

The draft comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of several hundred scientists that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, along with Al Gore. Its summaries, published every five or six years, are considered the definitive assessment of the risks of climate change, and they influence the actions of governments around the world. Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent on efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions, for instance, largely on the basis of the group’s findings.

The coming report will be the fifth major assessment from the group, created in 1988. Each report has found greater certainty that the planet is warming and greater likelihood that humans are the primary cause. …


Changes in Ecologically Critical Terrestrial Climate Conditions

Noah S. Diffenbaugh1,2
Christopher B. Field3
Science 2 August 2013:
Vol. 341 no. 6145 pp. 486-492
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237123

Terrestrial ecosystems have encountered substantial warming over the past century, with temperatures increasing about twice as rapidly over land as over the oceans. Here, we review the likelihood of continued changes in terrestrial climate, including analyses of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project global climate model ensemble. Inertia toward continued emissions creates potential 21st-century global warming that is comparable in magnitude to that of the largest global changes in the past 65 million years but is orders of magnitude more rapid. The rate of warming implies a velocity of climate change and required range shifts of up to several kilometers per year, raising the prospect of daunting challenges for ecosystems, especially in the context of extensive land use and degradation, changes in frequency and severity of extreme events, and interactions with other stresses.



NOAA: July global temperatures sixth highest on record

August 20, 2013

According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for July 2013 was the sixth highest July since record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 37th consecutive July and 341st consecutive month (more than 28 years) with a globally-averaged temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average July temperature was July 1976 and the last below-average temperature for any month was February 1985. Many areas of the world experienced much warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, including northern South America, the western and northeastern United States, much of Africa, western and central Europe, parts of southern Asia, and most of Australia. Parts of the central and southeastern United States, small regions across northern Canada, eastern Greenland, and parts of Mongolia and eastern Siberia were cooler than average. Far northwestern Canada and part of the eastern United States were much cooler than their long-term averages. …. Record dryness was present among regions that included part of central Europe, eastern Turkey, some scattered regions in western Africa, east central Brazil, and northern coastal Chile. …Austria observed its driest July since national precipitation records began in 1858, with just 35 percent of the 1981-2010 average. Several regions received only 5 to 20 percent of their typical July rainfall. Additional information can be found on the following web sites: NOAA Climate Portal: National Snow and Ice Data Center,


Max Whittaker / Reuters Los Angeles County firefighters hike in on a fire line on the Rim Fire near Groveland, Calif., on Aug. 22. Slideshow: Western wildfires
Launch slideshow=

Raging, fast-moving California wildfire threatens Yosemite National Park

A wildfire in California is burning out of control even as more than 1,300 firefighters rush to stop its spread.

By Matthew DeLuca, Staff Writer, NBC News August 23, 2013

An out-of-control wildfire blazed near Yosemite Park on Friday as nearly 2,000 fire personnel worked to contain the Northern California blaze, the latest in a number of major wildfires to sweep the country in recent weeks. The Rim Fire had burned over 63,366 acres by 8 p.m. local time on Thursday, destroying nine structures and causing one injury as it burned in Stanislaus National Forest, according to an incident report. With more than 1,800 responders battling the blaze, the fire stood one percent contained. The fire grew on Thursday, licking the western boundaries of Yosemite National Park and sweeping away gains firefighters had made to bring the fire to five percent containment on Wednesday. California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Tuolumne County on Thursday, as costs fighting the fire hit $5.4 million. The rugged terrain consumed by the fire made it difficult for firefighters to drag in their gear, a Forest Service spokesman said. “The terrain is so difficult that you can’t go into direct attack,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Trevor Augustino said, according to Reuters…..



Beaver Creek fire threatens Sun Valley resort in Idaho

Written by
Max Ehrenfreund
Published: August 19

A wildfire that has been burning in central Idaho for 12 days continues to threaten the popular ski resort of Sun Valley:


Idaho Wildfire Rages On As Media Avoids Mentioning Climate Change

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 01:40 PM PDT

Much has been made of the fact that the Beaver Creek Fire currently sweeping through central Idaho are endangering the favorite getaways of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. Garnering much less attention in the media, however, is the role that climate change is playing in this devastating fire which now covers over 126,000 acres and is only nine percent contained in its twelfth day. The fire, now considered the top firefighting priority in the nation, despite fires burning in ten other states, was started by lightning on August 8, and has proven itself an erratic and powerful force. The combination of drought-parched land and strong winds have made it nearly impossible to contain, although 1,200 firefighters are hard at work trying to keep the blaze away from the nearly 10,000 homes believed to be currently in danger. The link between climate change and more devastating fire seasons in the west is clear. In fact, just a week or so into the Idaho blaze, Michigan State University published a paper showing that “climate change may favor larger and more destructive wildfires in the American West in the future,” and NASA just released a new animation breaking down the connection.
“A 100,000-acre wildfire used to be unusual, you would see one every few years,” Forest Service employee Carl Albury says in a NASA article. “Those type of fires are becoming a yearly occurrence.”
History speaks for itself — wildfires are becoming longer, more acres are burning, and the costs and fatalities are on the rise as well. Climate change is setting the stage for the new age of conflagration, bringing warmer temperatures and extensive, prolonged drought. Insect infestations made possible by warmer winters are also killing off huge areas of forests in the West, leaving acres of dead standing trees, ready to burn.
The seven largest U.S. fire seasons since 1960 have burned in the last thirteen years, and although 2013 may not go on record nation-wide, it has already resulted in the most destructive wildfire in in Colorado history and caused the death of nineteen firefighters in Arizona.
While aware that drought is part of the problem, major media outlets seem to avoid making the explicit connection between climate change and the Idaho wildfires.



Wildfires are increasingly expensive and dangerous to fight as more housing is built in dry areas in the West where the vegetation is highly flammable. A single spark can ignite a fire. A warning sign near Mt. Baldy, above the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. – David Weinberg

Living with fire: In the dry West, it’s not if a house will burn, it’s when

By David Weinberg Marketplace Rado Aug 19, 2013

Wildfires are burning across the West and are expected to get worse as global temperatures rise. One problem: people living in high-risk fire zones….”In Southern California, we have a total suppression strategy,” says Lorine Buckweld, a suppression battalion chief with the U.S. Forest Service. “In other words, that means every fire will be suppressed with as many resources as we can throw at them to keep them small. Because of the threat to the Wildland-Urban Interface.” The Forest Service now spends more than half of its budget fighting wildfires. Most of which they are spending fighting in and around structures, housing developments and the like, not in and around  wilderness areas.
Environmental history professor Char Miller is one of many critics who doesn’t think the public should be footing the bill to protect homes in high-risk fire zones. And he says we’re not factoring in the human cost when we build in these areas…..




Record rainfall: more than 60% of Philippine capitol under water

Posted on August 20, 2013

ABC News

August 20, 2013 MANILAFlooding caused by some of the Philippines’ heaviest rains on record submerged more than half the capital Tuesday, turning roads into rivers and trapping tens of thousands of people in homes and shelters. The government suspended all work except rescues and disaster response for a second day. Officials reported at least seven people dead, 11 injured and four missing. The dead included a 5-year-old boy whose house was hit by a concrete wall that collapsed. His two adult relatives also were injured. Throughout the sprawling, low-lying capital region of 12 million people, floodwaters made most of the roads impassable and reached waist- or neck-deep along rivers and creeks…..


Future flood losses in major coastal cities: Costly projections

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 07:26 AM PDT

Climate change combined with rapid population increases, economic growth and land subsidence could lead to a more than nine-fold increase in the global risk of floods in large port cities between now and 2050. “Future Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities,” published in Nature Climate Change, is part of an ongoing project by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to explore the policy implications of flood risks due to climate change and economic development. This study builds on past OECD work which ranked global port cities on the basis of current and future exposure, where exposure is the maximum number of people or assets that could be affected by a flood. The authors estimate present and future flood losses — or the global cost of flooding — in 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities, taking into account existing coastal protections. Average global flood losses in 2005, estimated at about US$6 billion per year, could increase to US$52 billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone….

An important finding of this study is that, because flood defences have been designed for past conditions, even a moderate rise in sea-level would lead to soaring losses in the absence of adaptation. Inaction is not an option as it could lead to losses in excess of $US 1 trillion. Therefore, coastal cities will have to improve their flood management, including better defences, at a cost estimated around US$50 billion per year for the 136 cities.
Robert Nicholls, Professor of Coastal Engineering at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study, says: “This work shows that flood risk is rising in coastal cities globally due to a range of factors, including sea-level rise.
Hence there is a pressing need to start planning how to manage flood risk now.” Even with better protection, the magnitude of losses will increase, often by more than 50 per cent, when a flood does occur. According to Dr Stephane Hallegatte, from the World Bank and lead author of the study: “There is a limit to what can be achieved with hard protection: populations and assets will remain vulnerable to defence failures or to exceptional events that exceed the protection design.” To help cities deal with disasters when they do hit, policy makers should consider early warning systems, evacuation planning, more resilient infrastructure and financial support to rebuild economies.


Stephane Hallegatte, Colin Green, Robert J. Nicholls, Jan Corfee-Morlot. Future flood losses in major coastal cities. Nature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1979


U.S. federal agencies remapping coastal areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy
(August 22, 2013) — A day after the administration released the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force progress report, three U.S. federal agencies have announced plans for remapping parts of the East Coast, where Hurricane Sandy altered seafloors and shorelines, destroyed buildings, and disrupted millions of lives last year. … > full story

Hotter, Drier Conditions Forcing Desert Plants To Migrate

Posted: 21 Aug 2013 11:39 AM PDT

Desert plants living in Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains have moved surprisingly far upslope in the past 50 years, a trend that’s likely due to warmer, drier temperatures in the region, new research has found. The study, led by researchers from the University of Arizona, surveyed the locations of desert trees and shrubs that grow along the Catalina Highway, which stretches from desert lowlands to the top of Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Researchers compared the present-day data to a 1963 survey of plant life along the road. The results were striking: of the 27 most common plant species found along the road, 15 had shifted their lower boundaries upslope, and eight of those shifted more than 800 feet upward from their 1963 lowermost boundaries. The researchers think that a warmer, drier climate is causing some plants at lower elevations to undergo water stress and die, thus moving the plant population’s range upslope. But only four of the plants extended their upper regions in order to compensate for their reduced lower boundaries, while eight lowered their upper boundaries and 15 remained unchanged — a finding that suggests shifts in climate are not just moving some plants to higher elevations, but may also also be restricting their overall habitat size. Researchers said the findings could spell trouble for the future of some plant species, especially those that experienced the most dramatic shifts in elevation: the alligator juniper, for instance, began growing at 3,500 feet in elevation in 1963, and today is found no lower than 5,000 feet up the mountainside. “If climate continues to warm, as the climate models predict, the subalpine mixed conifer forests on the tops of the mountains — and the animals dependent upon them — could be pushed right off the top and disappear, ” said Richard C. Brusca, a lead researcher on the study….


Arctic warming and our extreme weather: no clear link new study finds

By Jason Samenow, Published: August 19 at 2:59 pm

Arctic sea ice minimum 1980 vs. 2012 (NASA)

Is the dramatic decline of Arctic sea ice, spurred by manmade global warming, making the  weather where we live more extreme?  Several recent studies have made this claim.

But a new study finds little evidence to support the idea that the plummeting Arctic sea ice has meaningfully changed our weather patterns.  The research, published today in Geophysical Research Letters, says links between declining Arctic sea ice and extreme weather are “an artifact of the methodology” and not real. Earlier work, suggesting a connection between the disintegrating Arctic ice and weather mania in the mid-latitudes, is intriguing.  It is based on the idea that the jet stream – the river of high altitude winds that steers our storms and positions cold snaps and heat waves – is slowing down and weakening due to a pronounced warming in the Arctic compared to other places, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Rather than zipping right along a straight path, a more listless jet stream is now prone to straying so the theory goes. “Just as a river of water tends to meander when it reaches the gentle slopes of coastal plains, a weaker jet stream tends to have steeper north-south waves,” explained Rutgers University atmospheric professor Jennifer Francis, in a guest blog post here at CWG. “The slower the waves move, the longer the weather associated with them will persist.”… While Barnes’ study did not identify jet stream changes in the last 30 years, the most rapid decline in Arctic sea ice has occurred in the last decade – so it’s possible the Barnes’ analysis smoothed over a very recent change in jet stream behavior.  A NOAA-led study last year noted a change in Arctic winds beginning in 2007, which may have signaled the point at which this mechanism became observable. “This shift demonstrates a physical connection between reduced Arctic sea ice in the summer, loss of Greenland ice, and potentially, weather in North America and Europe,” said James Overland, of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and study lead author….


Graze and end climate change, biologist says



By Doug Struck Globe Correspondent August 6, 2013 01:39 PM

Jim Laurie figures he’s heard the solution to climate change: bring on the cows. Or sheep. Or just about any grazing animals. Laurie is a proponent of a method of restoring exhausted land that is causing a stir—if not yet an avalanche—of interest among ranchers, farmers and environmentalists. It involves bringing livestock onto spent and unproductive land for a short tour of munching—maybe a day, a few days, or a week. If there’s not enough to eat, bring feed to them, he says…..This is the theory espoused by Allan Savory, a Rhodesian biologist who has become a TED Talk star ….

Savory now says that culling was exactly the wrong approach. Without animals to disrupt the soil and fertilize it, farmlands, prairies and grasslands die. His “holistic management” approach is to let animals graze on land for short periods and then move them on, as they did naturally, before fences. Microbes, dung beetles and worms go to work, converting the animal manure to new soil—humus that holds water, loosens the ground and fosters natural grasses……… “There’s this idea that the soil will grow back if you take all the animals away,” he says. “But grasslands want to be grazed. Where you have a grazing plan, things get better.”



Global sea level rise dampened by Australia floods

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 11:16 AM PDT

When enough raindrops fall over land instead of the ocean, they begin to add up. New research led by shows that three atmospheric patterns drove so much precipitation over Australia in 2010 and 2011 that the world’s ocean levels dropped measurably.




The creatures who will let us all know when climate is in trouble

Coastal sea birds will be impacted by higher sea levels Tom McDonnell

Simon de Bruxelles Last updated at 12:01AM, August 23 2013 The Times of London

They are the trip wire — the most vulnerable species whose struggles will alert us to the consequences of climate change. The National Trust has drawn up a list of “coastal canaries” to monitor the direct impact of global warming on Britain’s wildlife. The six species include seabirds, butterflies and rare plants living on the fringes of Britain, whose environment is threatened by rising sea levels, changing weather patterns and loss of habitat. The list of “canaries” also includes species that will benefit from warmer global temperatures, such as the triggerfish, whose range has extended from the Mediterranean to North Wales in recent years. They are being called canaries after the songbirds taken underground by miners to warn of dangerous gases. Unfortunately, the precedent is not promising as by the time the mine canaries keeled over, it was often too late.

The National Trust claims that Britain’s 8,050-mile coastline is becoming increasingly “dynamic”, with the pace of change accelerating. David Bullock, the organisation’s head of nature conservation, said: “Over the past decade we’ve been developing a better understanding of how the coastline will be affected by increased coastal erosion or flooding in the future. Our six coastal ‘canaries in the mine’ indicate how plants, animals and ourselves will have to live with an increasing rate of environmental change.” The impact of climate change is already being felt, with a fourfold to fivefold increase in the number of landslips and cliff falls between July and December last year, compared with previous years. Many were caused by the higher than average rainfall. Sea levels are also predicted to rise by at least half a metre by the end of the century, which will increase the risk of flooding in low-lying coastal areas. Rising sea levels also threaten to destroy mud flats on which many species, particularly wading birds, depend.

Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s wildlife expert, said: “Wildlife which relies on the gradual erosion of soft rock cliffs, or lives on loose sand and shingle habitats, could be caught out by an increasingly mobile landscape as a result of extremes in weather.

“Climate change could change the face of our coastal flora and fauna. With rising sea levels, our rich mud flats could simply disappear,” he added. “Even on hard rock cliffs less affected by increased erosion, we are likely to see the boom and bust of more specialist plants and animals, as they suffer from increased flooding, salt deposition or drought stress.”…



How Americans Communicate About Global Warming, April 2013  

August 21, 2013 Center for Climate Change Communication George Mason University

  • Non-violent civil disobedience 

    Nearly a quarter (24%) of all Americans would support an organization that engaged in non-violent civil disobedience against corporate or government activities that make global warming worse.

    Moreover, 13% say they would be willing to personally engage in non-violent civil disobedience for the same reason.

  • Communication about global warming 

    In the year leading up to the survey, Americans were more likely to discuss global warming with family and friends (33% did so often or occasionally) than to communicate about it using social media (e.g., 7% shared something about global warming on Facebook or Twitter, 6% posted a comment online in response to a news story or blog about the topic, etc.).     

  • Influence of friends and family

    Americans are most likely to identify their own friends and family, such as a significant other (27%), son or daughter (21%), or close friend (17%), as the people who could motivate them to take action to reduce global warming.

The report includes an Executive Summary, reports trends in key indicators over the past several years, and provides a breakdown of the results across Global Warming’s Six Americas. It can be downloaded here: How Americans Communicate About Global Warming, April 2013  


Indian Farmers Cope With Climate Change and Falling Water Tables
NatGeo News Watch (blog) August 19, 2013

Climate changeis predicted to negatively impact millions of farmers across the globe, with some studies predicting up to a 40% decline in crop yields over the upcoming decades.


Warming trend a sign of climate change in Clear Lake (CA)

Santa Rosa Press Democrat  – ‎August 19, 2013 ‎

….Satellite measurements of the shallow, 68-square-mile lake’s surface water temperature show a pronounced warming since 1992, matching the trend at five other lakes in California and Nevada, including Lake Tahoe. The lakes’ warming is “primarily due to climate change,” said Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center. “No other factor could produce this degree of warming in all six lakes.” Furthermore, the warming “will impact the biology” of Clear Lake, said Schladow, a UC Davis professor of water resources and environmental engineering. Warming of the six lakes was included in a report by the California Environmental Protection Agency documenting 36 indicators of climate change from the coast to the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada. The indicators include rising sea levels ..






Farm Bill and Agriculture Appropriations – Clear as Mud

July 26th, 2013 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

The congressional month-long August recess is just a week away.  In more normal times, as those types of deadlines loom, deals get done on Capitol Hill.  Not so this year.  The path forward on a new five-year farm bill and on the set of appropriations bills to fund the government for the coming fiscal year are clear as mud.  With the federal debt ceiling to be hit this fall, it promises, sadly, to be another season of manufactured, interlocking crises in the nation’s Capitol. Unless something breaks on the farm bill next week, the situation upon Congress’ return after Labor Day will be quite stark.  There will be a total of nine legislative days before the farm bill and before all the appropriations bills, including agriculture, expire at the stroke of midnight on October 1.  To see why nine days is not a rosy prospect, let’s review where things stand, starting with the farm bill….


Climate Change: Flood Losses in Major Cities Could be Over $50 Billion by 2050

Science World Report August 19, 2013

It turns out that climate change is a lot more expensive than we may have given it credit for. As temperatures warm and sea levels rise, there’s expected to be more than a nine-fold increase in the global risk of floods in large port cities.


Al Gore: Climate change could undo gains at Tahoe (watch video)

Aug. 19, 2013 9:18 PM   |

Much has been accomplished since he and President Bill Clinton convened the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, but all stands to be lost under the impacts of a warming climate, former Vice President Al Gore said Monday.

As the keynote speaker during the 17th annual summit, Gore told a crowd of hundreds at Sand Harbor State Park that global warming continues to pose a dire threat to the planet and to the natural wonder that is Lake Tahoe, where substantial environmental gains have been achieved over the last 16 years.

He said the effective approach to dealing with Tahoe’s ecological problems could serve as a model with what needs to occur regarding climate change elsewhere….


Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming

By Ezra Klein, Published: August 21 at 3:23 pmE-mail the writer

Al Gore was vice president of the United States from 1993-2001. Since leaving politics, he’s been heavily involved in the campaign to fight global warming, even winning a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. And he says he’s more optimistic than ever that the issue has reached “a tipping point.” In this lightly edited interview transcript, he explains why.

Ezra Klein: In 2005, when “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, I remember that the hope was we could keep the carbon load in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, and the fear was we would hit 400ppm. Now we’ve hit 400ppm and people are hoping to avoid 450ppm. This seems to be getting out of hand, and fast.

Al Gore: We have already crossed the 400 parts per million mark. We crossed it earlier this year. The question now is how high it will go before we begin bending the curve. But in spite of the continued released of 90 million tons of global warming pollution every day into the atmosphere, as if it’s an open sewer, we are now seeing the approach of a global political tipping point.

The appearance of more extreme and more frequent weather events has had a very profound impact on public opinion in countries throughout the world. You mentioned my movie back in the day. The single most common criticism from skeptics when the film came out focused on the animation showing ocean water flowing into the World Trade Center memorial site. Skeptics called that demagogic and absurd and irresponsible. It happened last October 29th, years ahead of schedule, and the impact of that and many, many other similar events here and around the world has really begun to create a profound shift.

A second factor is the sharp and unexpectedly steep decrease in prices for electricity produced from wind and solar and the demand destruction for fossil fuel energy from new efficiency improvements. The difference between 32 degrees fahrenheit and 33 degrees fahrenheit seems larger than just one degree. It’s the difference between water and ice. And by analogy there’s a similar difference between renewable electricity that’s more expensive than electricity from coal and renewable electricity that’s less expensive. And in quite a few countries in the world and some parts of the United States we’ve crossed that threshold and in the next few years we’re going to see that crossed in nations and regions containing most of the world’s population.

Another way to think about this is that back when mobile telephones first appeared, the market projections for how quickly they would increase market share turned out to be not just wrong but way wrong. This is a point made by Dave Roberts at Grist, but the projections made 5-10 years ago for the installation of solar and wind technologies were, similarly, not just wrong but way wrong. We’ve seen a dramatic increase that’s far more rapid than anybody projected and it’s accelerating — not just in the United States but even more rapidly in developing countries….

But you see it at the local level a bit more than at the national level. You see these state initiatives and laws. And you see maybe the biggest shift of all in the business community. I think that in order to be competitive internationally we’ll have to make the shift towards a price on carbon. People are increasingly aware that we’re already paying the costs of carbon and so it makes sense to put a price on it….

….The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned. It’s like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace. But the political climate is changing. Something like Chris Hayes’s excellent documentary on climate change wouldn’t have made it on TV a few years ago. And as I said, many Republicans who’re still timid on the issue are now openly embarrassed about the extreme deniers. The deniers are being hit politically. They’re being subjected to ridicule, which stings. The polling is going back up in favor of doing something on this issue. The ability of the raging deniers to stop progress is waning every single day.

When that conversation is won, you’ll see more measures at the local and state level and less resistance to what the EPA is doing. And slowly it will become popular to propose steps that go further and politicians that take the bit in their teeth get rewarded. I remember when the tide turned on smoking in public places. People thought the late Frank Lautenburg was crazy for proposing a ban on smoking in airplanes, but he was rewarded politically and then politicians began falling all over themselves to do the same. That’s the optimistic scenario. And it’s not just a scenario! It’s happening now!

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re still increasing emissions. But we’re approaching this tipping point. Businesses are driving it. Grass roots are driving it. Policies and changes in law in places like india and China and Mexico and California and Ireland will proliferate and increase, and soon we’ll get to the point where national laws will evolve into global cooperation.

It Isn’t Easy Being Gore: Media Creates A Category 6 Tempest In A Teapot

By Joe Romm on August 23, 2013

Al Gore’s recent remarks regarding hurricanes were well within the spectrum of views of the climatology community on our emerging understanding of global warming’s impact on hurricane’s destructiveness.


Is Al Jazeera America Going to Change the Way Networks Cover Climate Change…

Mother Jones August 22 2013

On its first day of broadcasting, Al Jazeera America devoted 30 minutes to climate change—more time than top shows on CNN and Fox News have given to this issue in the past four-and-a-half months, combined.



How Climate Change Became A Major Factor In Australia’s Upcoming Election

ThinkProgress August 19, 2013

The economy and climate change are two of the key issues going into the election. Climate change-related events have battered Australia so severely in recent years that many of them have their own names: the Big Dry, the Black Saturday Bushfires and …



Sandhill cranes, one of the species the Interior Department says would be impacted by a spill along Keystone XL’s route.

It’s Not Just Carbon Emissions: Keystone XL Would Have ‘Permanent Impacts’ On Wildlife, Interior Department Says

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 11:28 AM PDT

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline could have serious impacts on wildlife, natural resources and visitors’ experiences in national parks, according to a letter from the Department of the Interior.

The letter was sent to the State Department on April 29 and was recently posted on the department’s website as one of the 1.2 million public comments it’s processing on its strongly-contested Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed pipeline. In the letter, the Interior Department says Keystone XL’s proposed route would cross five trails within the National Trail System as well as lands that may drain into two nationally-managed rivers. The letter also expresses concerns that the Interior Department’s comments from a previous environmental impact statement were not taken into account on the most recent one: the Interior Department said it requested the pipeline avoid wetlands and that the operations should provide certain measures to ensure water safety, comments the letter says were not addressed “in any substantive manner” by the most recent DEIS. …



California’s Carbon Trading System Is Going So Well They Sold Out Of Permits



By Jeff Spross on August 22, 2013

The latest auction for California’s carbon emissions permits had 1.62 bids for every permit available — the first time demand outpaced supply.



How One Organization Is Making Solar Energy Available To Those Who Can’t Afford It

By Katie Valentine on August 22, 2013

California-based GRID Alternatives installs solar systems on low-income households in California, Colorado and soon, in New York and New Jersey.



Raising Shasta Dam: Reclamation releases the Draft Environmental Impact Statement; public review period

June 29, 2013 by Maven

Shasta Dam Photo by Bureau of Reclamation

The Bureau of Reclamation has released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for raising Shasta Dam, opening up a 90-day public comment and review period.  The draft EIR evaluates five different alternatives that would raise the dam from 6.5 feet to 18.5 feet, enlarging the reservoir by 256,000 to 634,000 acre-feet.  A  no-action alternative is analyzed as well.

Reclamation says the project, formally called the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation, would improve the operational flexibility of the Delta watershed and increase the survival of salmon and other fish species in the Sacramento River by increasing the amount of cold water available to be released to improve downstream temperature conditions for fish during critical periods.  The project would also increase water supply and water supply reliability for CVP contractors, particularly in dry years.  There would be other benefits as well, including reducing flood damage, providing additional hydropower supplies, and improving water quality in the Sacramento River and the Delta.

Project impacts include inundation of places of Native American cultural significance, take and loss of habitat for numerous special-status species at Shasta Lake and vicinity, and cumulative effects on south Delta water levels, X2 position, and Delta outflow.  The project would also affect the McCloud River’s eligibility for listing as a federal Wild & Scenic River.

In February of 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation released a Draft Feasibility Study that determined the project was both technically and environmentally feasible, as well as economically justified; the study determined that raising the dam 18.5 feet would cost just over $1 billion dollars and would produce from $18 to $63 million in net economic benefits per year.

The project is just in its beginning stages; the Draft Feasibility Report, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and the public comments received on both documents will be used to determine next steps.  If the project is approved, it could be completed by 2021.

The 90-day formal comment period opens on July 1st.  Public workshops are scheduled in July in Redding, Sacramento, and Los Banos to discuss the documents and the upcoming public comment process.  Public hearings are being planned for September to receive formal comments.  For information on the upcoming workshops and how to submit written comments, click here. 


New group CARE worries about energy prices

David R. Baker SF Chronicle Updated 5:30 pm, Monday, August 19, 2013

California’s fight against climate change has, so far, proved popular with voters. But among businesses, it’s a very different story. While some support the state’s policies to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, others emphatically don’t. Manufacturers and oil companies in particular have sought to delay, alter or kill some of those policies, saying they will push electricity and gasoline prices through the roof. The latest salvo in this fight arrived Monday with the launch of a business group called Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy also known as CARE. The group’s home page makes its position clear. “California is approaching an energy crisis – state policies are forcing higher costs and reliability problems.”….



Raising beefier cattle just got harder

By Adriene Hill Aug 19, 2013 Marketplace

Merck withdraws, at least temporarily, a supplement widely used to bulk up cattle at feedlots….


Bloomberg: Why Sandy forced cities to take lead on climate change

From Michael Bloomberg, Special to CNN August 21, 2013 —

Water from Hurricane Sandy rushes into the Carey Tunnel in the Financial District of New York on October 29, 2012.


  • New York City Mayor Bloomberg is chairman of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
  • City leaders are taking action, not debating climate science, says Mayor
  • Hurricane Sandy emphasized importance of stronger infrastructure
  • New York is prepping for future storms and cutting emissions

Editor’s note:
Michael R. Bloomberg is the Mayor of New York City and is the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the world’s largest and innovative cities taking climate actions on a local level. “The City” is a CNN special theme week series that airs from Monday Aug 19 on “World Business Today” at 1300 GMT and “Connect The World” at 2000 GMT.

(CNN) — For the first time in human history, more than half the world’s population is living in cities, which now produce approximately 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That puts cities on the frontlines of the battle against climate change — and more and more cities are leading the charge. In New York, we began a frontal attack on climate change in 2007 with the release of our sustainability blueprint, PlaNYC — and since then we’ve made major progress. For instance, we are well on our way to meeting our goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. For coastal cities like New York, the risks of climate change are especially serious: sea levels are expected to rise by another two and a half feet in the next 40 years, making storm surges even more powerful and dangerous. And intense storms are likely to increase as the ocean’s temperatures continue to rise. But it’s not just storms. Droughts and heat waves may be longer and more intense for urban populations everywhere in the years to come. Around the world, city leaders are not wasting time debating the science of climate change or waiting around for international treaties to be signed; we are taking action. There’s simply too much to do and too much at stake. For the past two years, I have been chairman of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which includes some of the biggest and most innovative cities in the world. Thanks to C40’s research, we know that C40 Cities have taken more than 4,700 actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the possible effects of climate change. In fact, C40 has the potential to reduce emissions by more than one billion tons a year by 2030 — which is equivalent to making both Canada and Mexico entirely carbon-neutral.

…..Mayors are pragmatists, not partisans; innovators, not ideologues. We are responsible for delivering results, not debating politics. And as the world becomes increasingly more urban, the importance of bold local action — particularly on climate change — will continue to grow.

Read: Five cities battling floods, heat and storm








NPS offers new Scenario Planning Handbook

Monday, August 5, 2013

The National Parks Service announced its new guidance document: Using Scenarios to Explore Climate Change: a Handbook for Practitioners. Developed under the National Park Service Climate Change Response Strategy, this guide is part of an interdisciplinary, cross-cutting approach to addressing climate change. The overall program supports NPS efforts to understand climate science in national parks and surrounding areas and to adapt to a changing climate to promote the resiliency of our cultural and natural heritage. Actively engaging ourselves and our audiences in park stewardship is a key ingredient of the climate change communication strategy and an integral component in addressing the effects of climate change. To learn more about the National Park Service Climate Change Response Strategy, visit For more resources on Scenario Planning, see the Scenario Planning page on the California Climate Commons:



FROM EPA: To subscribe to or unsubscribe from EPA’s newsletter, go to the Newsletters page.

* Explore Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation by Region or Sector on EPA’s Climate Change Website
The changing climate impacts society and ecosystems in a broad variety of ways. For example, climate change can increase or decrease rainfall, influence agricultural crop yields, affect human health, cause changes to forests and other ecosystems, or even impact the nation’s energy supply. Climate-related impacts are occurring across regions of the country and across many sectors of the U.S. economy. EPA’s Climate Change website provides relevant resources to those interested in learning more about expected climate change impacts and adaptation options. More specifically, the website lists impacts from climate change and adaptation efforts by region or sector, and provides resources to help public officials and others with climate change adaptation planning.

*A Handbook for Local Governments on Adapting to Climate Change

The Coastal Hazards Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has developed a handbook to help local governments in North Carolina adapt to climate change. The handbook demonstrates the need for local action and explains the options that are open to local governments. The handbook was written by UNC graduate student Sierra C. Woodruff with Anna K. Schwab and Dylan Sandler and with advising from Professor David Brower and Gavin Smith, Executive Director of the Coastal Hazards Center at UNC. You can download the complete handbook here.

* Federal Agencies Prepare for Climate Adaptation
For the first time, agencies across the federal government have detailed plans identifying vulnerabilities to climate impacts and ways to reduce them. For example, the Agriculture Department’s adaptation plan describes how land restoration, wildfire management, watershed conservation and biotechnology can make the nation’s public and private lands more resilient to climate change impacts. C2ES has compiled the plans, the product of a 2009 executive order.


The San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve  is excited to announce this upcoming workshop!
Project Design and Evaluation
September 23-24, 2013 9:00am – 5:00pm both days

” How can I be sure that my projects will reach the right audience and have the right impact?”

“What can I do to make sure that my efforts go beyond ‘preaching to the choir’?”
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, this is the course for you!
The Project Design and Evaluation course provides coastal resource management extension and education professionals with the knowledge, skills, and tools to design and implement projects that have measurable impacts on the audience they want to reach. This interactive curriculum can help you increase the effectiveness of your projects by applying valid instructional design theory to their design. For more information or to register, click here.  Course Instructed by NOAA Coastal Services Center 


Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation

“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner

Deadline – Nov 5 2013

From prehistoric times to the present, human societies have successfully adapted to the challenges of a changing West, including periods of severe drought, limitations created by scarce resources and shifting cultural and economic pressures. Now, the American West is entering an era of unprecedented change brought on by new climate realities, which will test our capacity for adaptation as well as challenge the resilience of the region’s native flora and fauna. It is therefore paramount that we find and share inspiring ideas and practical strategies that help all of the region’s inhabitants adapt to a rapidly changing world. We will hear from scientists, ranchers, farmers, conservationists, urban planners and others who have bright ideas and important tools to share from their adaptation toolbox.



Resilient Cities 2013 Congress Report

This publication summarizes key issues and outcomes based on the recently concluded Resilient Cities 2013 Congress, which took place in Bonn, Germany on May 31-June 02, 2013.






99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014

Call for Proposals– Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013

Only proposals that are complete and submitted by 5:00 PM Eastern Time will be considered.

We invite proposals for Symposia, Organized Oral Sessions, and Organized Poster Sessions for ESA’s 99th Annual Meeting to be held in Sacramento, California. The theme for the 2014 meeting is “From Oceans to Mountains: It’s All Ecology.” That’s right! Ecology is everywhere. Whether we are exploring the depths of the ocean, arid desert communities, or frigid mountaintops, we find abundant ecological interaction among organisms and environment. These fascinating relationships abound in every setting. California is an especially interesting setting for studying ecology. It has all these and more! Its 160,000 square miles is a center of extraordinary biodiversity and endemism, containing more plant and animal species and more endemic species than any other state in the United States. Our theme emphasizes the inherent ecological diversity of the state, fitting well between the theme of the 99th Annual Ecological Society of America Meeting’s emphasis on learning from the past and the 100th Annual Meeting in 2015 which will develop a blueprint to shape the future.


The Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey are co-sponsors of the upcoming

Soil Science Society of America ecosystems services conference–abstracts are now being invited and are due by 12/1/2013.

March 6-9, 2014
Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA

Purpose of Conference: Soils provide provisioning and regulating ecosystem services relevant to grand challenge areas of 1) climate change adaptation and mitigation, 2) food and energy security, 3) water protection, 4) biotechnology for human health, 5) ecological sustainability, and 6) slowing of desertification. The purposes of this conference will be to evaluate knowledge strengths and gaps, encourage cross-disciplinary synergies to accelerate new learning, and prioritize research needs.

More info is available here:






NOAA Climate Program Office Releases FY14 

Federal Funding Opportunity


NOAA is accepting individual applications for nine competitions organized around the Climate Program Office’s Climate Observations and Monitoring; Earth System Science; Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections; and Climate and Societal Interactions (CSI) programs. Letters of intent are due by September 10, 2013; final applications are due by November 14, 2013. For the CSI programs, watch here for an FAQ and information about an informational teleconference on August 29 at 3pm eastern time to specifically discuss the letters of intent.

For announcements:


National Science Foundation Solicits Proposals for Water Sustainability and Climate Program


This solicitation from the seeks proposals to determine how our built water systems and our governance systems can be made more reliable, resilient, and sustainable to meet diverse needs. Successful proposals are expected to study water systems in their entirety and to enable a new interdisciplinary paradigm in water research. Projects supported under this solicitation may establish new observational sites or utilize existing observational sites and facilities already supported by NSF or other federal and state agencies. The application deadline is September 10, 2013.

For more information, click here.

NOAA Announces Solicitation for the U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observation Network

This funding opportunity invites proposals for projects that demonstrate how an operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network could be developed for the nation by establishing one or more prototype networks in U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and the EEZ. Applications are due on December 2, 2013.

 For more information, click here.








Is big desert solar killing birds in Southern California?

Judith Lewis Mernit | Aug 18, 2013 03:25 PM

The threat large-scale solar developments pose to tortoise in the desert Southwest has been well established, but what about the technology’s effect on birds?

The question has been asked before — David Danelski of the Riverside Press Enterprise reported on it in Feburary of 2012 — but it emerged most dramatically last winter during the California Energy Commission hearings on a five square mile-sized concentrating solar facility that Oakland-based BrightSource, Inc. had proposed to build near Pahrump, Nev. Concentrating solar technology uses mirrors, or “heliostats,” to focus the sun’s energy on a “power tower” where fluid flashes to steam and spins a turbine. Those mirrors create a field of solar flux up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit; biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among others, worried that “elevated levels of solar flux generated by the focused energy from the heliostats may burn and damage exposed skin and feathers” of birds flying through those fields.

Glare from Nevada Solar One, a concentrating solar plant.

Now, however, the relationship between large-scale desert solar and the avian community may be getting even worse. In July, Chris Clarke, a journalist who lives in the Mojave town of Joshua Tree, Calif., blogged about another potential impact of large-scale solar on birds, involving an entirely different type of solar technology: Large fields of photovoltaic solar panels, which turn solar radiation into electricity. Several species of water birds — great blue herons, bufflehead ducks, grebes and even a common loon — were recently found dead near First Solar’s Desert Sunlight photovoltaic field near Joshua Tree National Park. And those kinds of birds aren’t typically seen in such places — dead or alive.

What’s happening? Clarke suspects that from above, a shiny field of glass might look a refreshing respite to water birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, the ancestral migratory route that extends from South America to the Arctic. When they land and find they’re wrong, they’re too overheated or exhausted to take off again. “With millions of years of evolutionary experience telling birds that broad expanses of glare and reflectivity on the ground mean ‘water,'” he writes, “it’s not hard to figure out why water birds might veer miles out of their way to head for solar facilities.”

Dead water birds have also been found not far southeast of Desert Sunlight, at NextEra Solar’s Genesis plant, another concentrating solar facility that uses parabolic troughs of mirrors to heat fluid. If Clarke’s theory proves true, it might be that arrays of mirrors might have the same water-mimicking effect in certain regions. With 91 percent of California’s wetlands having disappeared in the past century, this stretch of desert is a particularly challenging one for migrating birds, with not much to offer between the Salton Sea to the south and wetlands farther north.

So far, though, it’s all speculation. No one expected to find these birds in the desert, and no one knows what to do now that they’re turning up dead. “We really need more robust monitoring information,” says Jane Hendron, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Palm Springs, Calif. “We don’t know if the deaths are occurring during specific times of day or night, when the moon is in a particular phase or what other complicating factors exist.” For that matter, it’s not clear that the birds deaths aren’t normal.” Absent these solar farms, how many birds would get overcome with the heat, weakness or fatigue in that part of the desert?” Hendron asks.

It’s a reasonable question, says Garry George, the director of renewable energy projects for California Audubon. Birds’ bodies decompose quickly, and the desert is full of scavengers. “A coyote would be happy to come across a great blue heron dying on the desert floor,” George says. “You’d never even know it was there.”

The bird puzzle poses the same problem that comes up almost every time an energy company develops on unoccupied desert land: The southwestern deserts just haven’t been studied enough to predict what the impact of development might be. That’s been true with the elusive desert tortoise, and now it’s proved true with birds. “Movement of birds in the desert isn’t something we know a lot about,” George says. “We know where the stopovers are, but we don’t know how they get there.” It’s one thing to map landscape corridors for migrating bighorn sheep, quite another to map migratory routes in the sky. “There’s a big data gap,” George says. Hendron says that in the future, bird monitoring will be built into applications for solar development, just as it is with wind. George is hoping that opens up new opportunities for research, such as more comprehensive mapping of migratory pathways with radar. “It’s something we’ve been advocating for years,” says George, who’s been contributing ideas to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), a massive collaborative effort to assign appropriate sites for renewable energy, due out in draft form later this year. In the meantime, he recommends following the sound guidance given by the DRECP’s independent science advisor in 2010. “Don’t permit anything you might regret,” George paraphrases. “In the desert, the impacts are permanent.”

Judith Lewis Mernit is a contributing editor for High Country News. Image courtesy of Flickr user e pants.



How shale fracking led to an Ohio town’s first 100 earthquakes
(August 19, 2013) — Since records began in 1776, the people of Youngstown, Ohio had never experienced an earthquake. However, from January 2011, 109 tremors were recorded and new research reveals how this may be the result of shale fracking. … > full story

Indian pilgrim cities to go green
June 2013
Aiming to help various faiths to make their holy cities as environmental friendly and sustainable as possible according to their religious beliefs, the International Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN) has recently launched its India chapter in July, along with ICLEI South Asia and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation.

Launched in 2012, the GPN has founding 12 cities from India, Italy, Armenia, Israel, Nigeria, China, United Kingdom and Norway. In a recent meeting in Trondheim, Norway, the network saw its membership double in size, with 16 new cities and places joining the global initiative.

Until the end of this year, ICLEI South Asia will assist member cities of the India Chapter to take green actions, conducting environmental assessment in terms of water, sanitation, ecology and energy, preparing action plans, and developing a financial opportunity report or guidebook for implementing actions on the ground.

City profiles will also be created for holy places of different faiths, including Hindu cities Rishikesh, Muni Ki Reti and Ujiain, the Muslim Nizamuddin area, Buddhist city Ladakh, Sikh city Nanded and the Christian quarter in old Goa.

For more information, write to ramiz.khan(at)




Ecuador Ditches Plan To Protect Amazon From Oil Drilling

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 06:29 AM PDT

Ecuador is abandoning an innovative plan that would have protected the Amazon rainforest from oil drilling due to lack of support from other nations and pressure to fulfill its international debts. The move not only comes as a blow to the environmentalists and indigenous groups that were fighting to protect an ecological treasure, but to those hoping it would serve as a model for providing developing countries the economic incentive to leave fossil fuel reserves untapped.

President Rafael Correa made the announcement in a televised address on Thursday, saying, “With deep sadness but also with absolute responsibility to our people and history, I have had to take one of the hardest decisions of my government.” Six years ago, Correa made the international community an offer:
come up with half of the $7.2 billion value of a 4,000 square mile section of the Amazon jungle and Ecuador would refrain from drilling for oil. Essentially, pay us to keep our oil in the ground. Despite support from celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Bo Derek and the backing of the United Nations, government response was weaker than anticipated and the Yasuni-ITT initiative only collected $13 million of the $3.6 billion target. Not only was the plan groundbreaking in its approach but designed to protect a critical habitat and slow the onslaught of climate change. This particular section of the Amazon, Yasuni national park, contains more tree species in a single hectare than in all of North America and is home to multiple indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation. And leaving the reserves in the ground would prevent the release of an estimated 400 million tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. “I believe that the initiative was ahead of our time and could not, or would not, be understood by those who are responsible for climate change,” said Correa….




Your iPhone uses more electricity than your fridge

By Claire Thompson

The global digital economy, also known as the ICT system (information-communications-technologies), sucks up as much electricity today as it took to illuminate the entire planet in 1985. The average iPhone requires more power per year than the average refrigerator. It’s like you’re walking around all day with a fridge’s worth of electricity in your pocket (but no hummus!).

This info comes from a report [PDF] by Mark Mills, CEO of the Digital Power Group, sponsored by the National Mining Association and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. So part of the report’s point is that coal keeps the iPhones on. But instead of inspiring gratitude for coal and all the blessings it bestows on us, knowing the source of all that juice just makes the digital economy’s ginormous energy footprint of even greater concern.



The ‘Whole’ Problem With Recycling



August 22, 2013 — People are psychologically hard-wired to believe that products that are damaged or that aren’t whole — such as small or ripped paper or dented cans — are useless, and this leads users to trash them … > full story


Tesla Model S Achieves Best Safety Rating of Any Car Ever Tested

Sets New NHTSA Vehicle Safety Score Record

Monday, August 19, 2013

Palo Alto, CA — Independent testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception. Approximately one percent of all cars tested by the federal government achieve 5 stars across the board. ….the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants. While the Model S is a sedan, it also exceeded the safety score of all SUVs and minivans. This score takes into account the probability of injury from front, side, rear and rollover accidents.

The Model S has the advantage in the front of not having a large gasoline engine block, thus creating a much longer crumple zone to absorb a high speed impact. This is fundamentally a force over distance problem – the longer the crumple zone, the more time there is to slow down occupants at g loads that do not cause injuries. Just like jumping into a pool of water from a tall height, it is better to have the pool be deep and not contain rocks. The Model S motor is only about a foot in diameter and is mounted close to the rear axle, and the front section that would normally contain a gasoline engine is used for a second trunk. For the side pole intrusion test, considered one of the most difficult to pass, the Model S was the only car in the “good” category among the other top one percent of vehicles tested. Compared to the Volvo S60, which is also 5-star rated in all categories, the Model S preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space vs. 7.8 percent for the Volvo. Tesla achieved this outcome by nesting multiple deep aluminum extrusions in the side rail of the car that absorb the impact energy (a similar approach was used by the Apollo Lunar Lander) and transfer load to the rest of the vehicle. This causes the pole to be either sheared off or to stop the car before the pole hits an occupant…..







Op-Ed Contributor

Welcome to the Age of Denial

By ADAM FRANK NY TIMES Op-Ed Published: August 21, 2013 759 Comments

Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, is the author of “About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang” and a founder of NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog.

In 1989, when “climate change” had just entered the public lexicon, 63 percent of Americans understood it was a problem. Almost 25 years later, that proportion is actually a bit lower, at 58 percent.

The timeline of these polls defines my career in science. In 1982 I was an undergraduate physics major. In 1989 I was a graduate student. My dream was that, in a quarter-century, I would be a professor of astrophysics, introducing a new generation of students to the powerful yet delicate craft of scientific research. Much of that dream has come true. Yet instead of sending my students into a world that celebrates the latest science has to offer, I am delivering them into a society ambivalent, even skeptical, about the fruits of science.


This is not a world the scientists I trained with would recognize. Many of them served on the Manhattan Project. Afterward, they helped create the technologies that drove America’s postwar prosperity. In that era of the mid-20th century, politicians were expected to support science financially but otherwise leave it alone. The disaster of Lysenkoism, in which Communist ideology distorted scientific truth and all but destroyed Russian biological science, was still a fresh memory. The triumph of Western science led most of my professors to believe that progress was inevitable. While the bargain between science and political culture was at times challenged — the nuclear power debate of the 1970s, for example — the battles were fought using scientific evidence. Manufacturing doubt remained firmly off-limits.


Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact. Narrowly defined, “creationism” was a minor current in American thinking for much of the 20th century. But in the years since I was a student, a well-funded effort has skillfully rebranded that ideology as “creation science” and pushed it into classrooms across the country. Though transparently unscientific, denying evolution has become a litmus test for some conservative politicians, even at the highest levels. Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists’ PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.

The list goes on. North Carolina has banned state planners from using climate data in their projections of future sea levels. So many Oregon parents have refused vaccination that the state is revising its school entry policies. And all of this is happening in a culture that is less engaged with science and technology as intellectual pursuits than at any point I can remember.

Thus, even as our day-to-day experiences have become dependent on technological progress, many of our leaders have abandoned the postwar bargain in favor of what the scientist Michael Mann calls the “scientization of politics.”

What do I tell my students? From one end of their educational trajectory to the other, our society told these kids science was important. How confusing is it for them now, when scientists receive death threats for simply doing honest research on our planet’s climate history? Americans always expected their children to face a brighter economic future, and we scientists expected our students to inherit a world where science was embraced by an ever-larger fraction of the population. This never implied turning science into a religion or demanding slavish acceptance of this year’s hot research trends. We face many daunting challenges as a society, and they won’t all be solved with more science and math education. But what has been lost is an understanding that science’s open-ended, evidence-based processes — rather than just its results — are essential to meeting those challenges.

My professors’ generation could respond to silliness like creationism with head-scratching bemusement. My students cannot afford that luxury. Instead they must become fierce champions of science in the marketplace of ideas. During my undergraduate studies I was shocked at the low opinion some of my professors had of the astronomer Carl Sagan. For me his efforts to popularize science were an inspiration, but for them such “outreach” was a diversion. That view makes no sense today. The enthusiasm and generous spirit that Mr. Sagan used to advocate for science now must inspire all of us. There are science Twitter feeds and blogs to run, citywide science festivals and high school science fairs that need input. For the civic-minded nonscientists there are school board curriculum meetings and long-term climate response plans that cry out for the participation of informed citizens. And for every parent and grandparent there is the opportunity to make a few more trips to the science museum with your children.

Behind the giant particle accelerators and space observatories, science is a way of behaving in the world. It is, simply put, a tradition. And as we know from history’s darkest moments, even the most enlightened traditions can be broken and lost. Perhaps that is the most important lesson all lifelong students of science must learn now.



To Help The Environment, Watch Sports At Your Neighborhood Bar

Posted: 19 Aug 2013 08:31 AM PDT

The English soccer season began Saturday, and thanks to NBC Sports, Americans can now add to the millions of people who watch Barclays Premier League matches each week. Combine that with the menu of viewing options already available to Americans — baseball is nearing the postseason, the NFL and college football begin soon, and basketball will be back in mere months — and we’ll be watching a lot of sports television in the fall. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but sports have a tremendous impact on our environment. The vast majority of that impact comes from fans attending games: a single match in England last year had a carbon footprint of 5,160 tons, with most of it coming from fan travel, according to a new study from environmental advocacy group Carbon Trust. Sports leagues, including England’s Football Association, the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball, have been trying to reduce the environmental impact of their stadiums and games in recent years, but fans who don’t attend events can help by choosing cleaner ways to consume sports remotely, Carbon Trust found….watching on television is maybe the most environmentally-friendly way to consume sports, which is good news, since tens of millions of people do it worldwide each week. The better news is that we can make watching on TV even more environmentally-friendly by teaming up to watch with friends. And if sports fans really want to make games a cleaner experience, they can join their friends to watch at a bar with dozens of other people. That’s something they should care about, since climate change is wreaking havoc on sports, from surfing to football and everything else. Drinking too much beer, eating gobs of food, or driving separately would offset some of the positive effects of watching at a bar, so the environmentally-conscious may want to take public transit or find a neighborhood watering hole and avoid getting too sloshed during the game. Even if you’re not the type that considers your impact on the environment in daily decisions, though, this may give us all a new excuse to join our friends at the bar for the big game — as if we needed another one. The post To Help The Environment, Watch Sports At Your Neighborhood Bar appeared first on ThinkProgress.


Earliest known iron artifacts come from outer space
(August 19, 2013) — Researchers have shown that ancient Egyptian iron beads held at the UCL Petrie Museum were hammered from pieces of meteorites, rather than iron ore. The objects, which trace their origins to outer space, also predate the emergence of iron smelting by two millennia. … > full story

Native Californians followed the greenery: Environment shaped 12,000 years of ethnic and linguistic diversity
(August 19, 2013) — California’s rich diversity of Native American ethnic-and-language groups took shape during the past 12,000 years as migrating tribes settled first on the lush Pacific coast and then in progressively drier, less-vegetated habitats, says a new study. … > full story


How sleep helps brain learn motor task

Posted: 20 Aug 2013 03:56 PM PDT

Sleep helps the brain consolidate what we’ve learned, but scientists have struggled to determine what goes on in the brain to make that happen for different kinds of learned tasks. In a new study, researchers pinpoint the brainwave frequencies and brain region associated with sleep-enhanced learning of a sequential finger tapping task akin to typing, or playing piano.


Celery, artichokes contain flavonoids that kill human pancreatic cancer cells
(August 15, 2013) — Celery, artichokes, and herbs, especially Mexican oregano, all contain apigenin and luteolin, flavonoids that kill human pancreatic cancer cells in the lab by inhibiting an important enzyme, according to two new studies. … > full story






More lightning in the forecast— SF

Kurtis Alexander Updated 8:33 pm, Tuesday, August 20, 2013

(08-20) 09:40 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — Thousands of lightning flashes lit up Bay Area skies Monday night, giving residents a show seldom seen in the region. The unusual weather – and the mostly dry lightning – is forecast to continue through Wednesday. The National Weather Service has issued a red-flag warning for much of the area because of the threat of lightning touching off brushfires on dry hillsides. Little rainfall has accompanied the storm….


Lightning strikes happened over San Francisco and the Bay Area on Monday night, August 19th, 2013. Photo: Vicki Mar, Courtesy To The SF Gate

Lightning strikes over Pacifica. Lightning strikes happened over San Francisco and the Bay Area on Monday night, August 19th, 2013. Photo: Michael Konvolinka, Courtesy To The SF Gate / Mike Konvolinka




Gorgeous Glimpses of Calamity

Man-made perils to the universe’s garden of life are evident from space.

NY Times August 18, 2013






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