Highlight of the Week – Terrestrial Ecosystems at Risk, Increasing Water Scarcity (new Potsdam studies), and Earth’s Impending Tipping Point
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Focus of the Week– Terrestrial Ecosystems at Risk, Increasing Water Scarcity (new Potsdam studies), and Earth’s Impending Tipping Point
Oct. 8, 2013 — Over 80% of the world’s ice-free land is at risk of profound ecosystem transformation by 2100, a new study reveals. “Essentially, we would be leaving the world as we know it,” says Sebastian Ostberg of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. Ostberg and collaborators studied the critical impacts of climate change on landscapes and have now published their results in Earth System Dynamics, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). The researchers state in the article that “nearly no area of the world is free” from the risk of climate change transforming landscapes substantially, unless mitigation limits warming to around 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Ecosystem changes could include boreal forests being transformed into temperate savannas, trees growing in the freezing Arctic tundra or even a dieback of some of the world’s rainforests. Such profound transformations of land ecosystems have the potential to affect food and water security, and hence impact human well-being just like sea level rise and direct damage from extreme weather events.
The new Earth System Dynamics study indicates that up to 86% of the remaining natural land ecosystems worldwide could be at risk of major change in a business-as-usual scenario (see note). This assumes that the global mean temperature will be 4 to 5 degrees warmer at the end of this century than in pre-industrial times — given many countries’ reluctance to commit to binding emissions cuts, such warming is not out of the question by 2100. “The research shows there is a large difference in the risk of major ecosystem change depending on whether humankind continues with business as usual or if we opt for effective climate change mitigation,” Ostberg points out. But even if the warming is limited to 2 degrees, some 20% of land ecosystems — particularly those at high altitudes and high latitudes — are at risk of moderate or major transformation, the team reveals.
- S. Ostberg, W. Lucht, S. Schaphoff, D. Gerten. Critical impacts of global warming on land ecosystems. Earth System Dynamics Discussions, 2013; 4 (1): 541 DOI: 10.5194/esdd-4-541-2013
More Than 500 Million People Might Face Increasing Water Scarcity
ScienceDaily Oct. 8, 2013 — Both freshwater availability for many millions of people and the stability of ecosystems such as the Siberian tundra or Indian grasslands are put at risk by climate change. Even if global warming is limited to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, 500 million people could be subject to increased water scarcity — while this number would grow by a further 50 percent if greenhouse-gas emissions are not cut soon. At five degrees global warming almost all ice-free land might be affected by ecosystem change. “We managed to quantify a number of crucial impacts of climate change on the global land area,” says Dieter Gerten, lead-author of one of the studies. Mean global warming of 2 degrees, the target set by the international community, is projected to expose an additional 8 percent of humankind to new or increased water scarcity. 3.5 degrees — likely to occur if national emissions reductions remain at currently pledged levels — would affect 11 percent of the world population. 5 degrees could raise this even further to 13 percent. “If population growth continues, by the end of our century under a business-as-usual scenario these figures would equate to well over one billion lives touched,” Gerten points out. “And this is on top of the more than one billion people already living in water-scarce regions today.” Parts of Asia and North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East are particularly vulnerable.
Even greater changes ahead for the green cover of our planet
For the green cover of our planet, even greater changes are in store. “The area at risk of ecosystem transformation is expected to double between global warming of about 3 and 4 degrees,” says Lila Warszawski, lead author of another study that systematically compared different impact models — and the associated uncertainties — in order to gain a fuller picture of the possible consequences of climate change for natural ecosystems. This is part of the international Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP). A warming of 5 degrees, likely to happen in the next century if climate change goes on unabated, would put nearly all terrestrial natural ecosystems at risk of severe change. “So despite the uncertainties, the findings clearly demonstrate that there is a large difference in the risk of global ecosystem change under a scenario of no climate change mitigation compared to one of ambitious mitigation,” says Sebastian Ostberg, lead author of the third study. The regions at risk under unabated global warming include the grasslands of Eastern India, shrublands of the Tibetan Plateau, the forests of Northern Canada, the savannas of Ethiopia and Somalia, and the Amazonian rainforest. Many of these are regions of rich and unique biodiversity. The combined changes to both water availability and ecosystems turn out to be nonlinear. “Our findings support the assertion that we are fundamentally destabilizing our natural systems — we are leaving the world as we know it,” says Wolfgang Lucht, one of the authors and co-chair of PIK’s Research Domain of Earth System Analysis.
“This is not about ducks and daisies, but the very basis of life”
The studies use a novel methodological approach, introducing new measures of risk based on changes of vegetation structure and flows and stores of carbon and water. To this end, biosphere simulation models were used to compare hundreds of climate change scenarios and highlight which regions may first face critical impacts of climate change. “The increase in water scarcity that we found will impact on the livelihoods of a huge number of people, with the global poor being the most vulnerable,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the co-authors and director of PIK. This might get buffered to some extent through adaptation measures such as expanding of irrigated cropland. However, such an expansion would further increase the pressure on Earth’s ecosystems and water resources. “Now this is not a question of ducks and daisies, but of our unique natural heritage, the very basis of life. Therefore, greenhouse-gas emissions have to be reduced substantially, and soon.”
- Dieter Gerten, Wolfgang Lucht, Sebastian Ostberg, Jens Heinke, Martin Kowarsch, Holger Kreft, Zbigniew W Kundzewicz, Johann Rastgooy, Rachel Warren, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. Asynchronous exposure to global warming: freshwater resources and terrestrial ecosystems. Environmental Research Letters, 2013; 8 (3): 034032 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034032
By Rudy Ruitenberg – Oct 8, 2013 9:03 AM PT
Water scarcity will increase around the world due to climate change, with more than 500 million people affected if mean global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), based on modeling studies by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, or PIK. An additional 8 percent of humankind may face new or worse water scarcity with 2 degrees warming, the target set by international climate negotiators, the German government-funded institute wrote in a news release today. That could reach 13 percent in the case of a 5-degree-Celsius rise, which is probable if climate change goes on unchecked, PIK said. Two degrees warming would cause “substantial” ecosystem changes in regions that cover 1 percent of the unique habitat of higher plant species, while at 5 degrees warming that would rise to 74 percent, according to the research. About 1.3 billion people already live in water-scarce regions, according to the institute. The institute calculated 152 scenarios using 19 climate change models, and said the projections for the affected population by 2100 carry a greater than 50 percent confidence. “Our findings support the assertion that we are fundamentally destabilizing our natural systems,” Wolfgang Lucht, one of the study co-authors, was cited as saying in the statement. “We are leaving the world as we know it.” A business-as-usual scenario modeled by the institute, with 5 degrees warming and a continued increase in the global population, would result in more than 1 billion additional people affected, PIK wrote. “The findings clearly demonstrate that there is a large difference in the risk of global ecosystem change under a scenario of no climate change mitigation compared to one of ambitious mitigation,” Sebastian Ostberg, one of the study authors, was cited as saying. …
Scientists Uncover Evidence of Earth’s Impending Tipping Point
By Steve Carr — June 07, 2012 Image courtesy of Cheng (Lily) Li.
A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that could have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation. “It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” said Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a review paper appearing in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature. “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life including for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.”
The result of such a major shift in the biosphere would be mixed, Barnosky noted, with some plant and animal species disappearing, new mixes of remaining species and major disruptions in terms of which agricultural crops can grow where.The Nature paper, in which the scientists, including University of New Mexico Distinguished Professor of Biology James H. Brown, compares the biological impact of past incidences of global change with processes currently underway and assess evidence for what the future holds, appears in an issue devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the paper, 22 internationally known scientists describe an urgent need for better predictive models based on a detailed understanding of how the biosphere has reacted to rapidly changing conditions, including climate and human population growth, in the distant past. “There are seven billion people worldwide and a giant global economy,” said Brown. “We have the data and if you do the arithmetic, the current situation is unsustainable” said Brown. “We have created a giant bubble of population that must either be deflated gradually or it will burst catastrophically with deprivation and misery everywhere. No one will be immune.”
How Close Is a Global Tipping Point?
The authors of the Nature review – biologists, ecologists, complex-systems theoreticians, geologists and paleontologists from the United States, Canada, South America and Europe – argue that although many warning signs are emerging, no one knows how close to a global tipping point Earth is, or whether it is inevitable. The scientists urge focused research to identify early warning signs of a global transition and acceleration of efforts to address the root causes. “We really do have to be thinking about these global scale tipping points, because even the parts of Earth we are not messing with directly could be prone to some very major changes,” Barnosky said. “And the root cause, ultimately, is human population growth and how many resources each one of us uses.” “What we’ve done as a society,” said Brown, “is to create a bubble of population and economy, which is totally dependent on non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and metals on unsustainable use of renewable resources such as water and fisheries. Flows of these resources to support local and regional economies must come from the global system, where they are simply running out.”
Coauthor Elizabeth Hadly from Stanford University thinks that “We may already be past these tipping points in particular regions of the world. I just returned from a trip to the high Himalayas in Nepal where I witnessed families fighting each other with machetes for wood…wood that they would burn to cook their food in one evening. In places where governments are lacking basic infrastructure, people fend for themselves and biodiversity suffers. We desperately need global leadership for planet Earth.” The authors note that studies of small-scale ecosystems show that once 50-90 percent of an area has been altered, the entire ecosystem tips irreversibly into a state far different from the original in terms of the mix of plant and animal species and their interactions. This is typically accompanied by species extinctions and a loss of biodiversity. Currently, to support a population of seven billion people, about 43 percent of Earth’s surface has been converted to agricultural or urban use, with roads cutting through much of the remainder. The population is expected to rise to nine billion by 2045; at that rate, current trends suggest that half Earth’s land surface will be disturbed by 2025. To Barnosky, this is disturbingly close to a global tipping point. “Can it really happen? Looking into the past tells us unequivocally that yes, it can really happen. It has happened. The last glacial/interglacial transition 11,700 years ago was an example of that,” Barnosky said, noting that animal diversity still has not recovered from extinctions during that time. “I think that if we want to avoid the most unpleasant surprises, we want to stay away from that 50 percent mark.”
Global Change Biology
The paper emerged from a conference held at UC Berkeley in 2010 to discuss the idea of a global tipping point, how we’d recognize it and how we could avoid it. Twenty-two of the attendees eventually summarized available evidence of past global state-shifts, the current state of threats to the global environment and what happened after past tipping points. They concluded that there is an urgent need for global cooperation to reduce world population growth and per-capita resource use, replace fossil fuels with sustainable sources, develop more efficient food production and distribution without taking over more land, and better manage the land and ocean areas not already dominated by humans as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Barnosky, et al Nature 486, 52–58 (07 June 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11018 Published online 06 June 2012 ABSTRACT: Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‘tipping point’ highlights the need to improve biological forecasting by detecting early warning signs of critical transitions on global as well as local scales, and by detecting feedbacks that promote such transitions. It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.
Short VIDEO with Tony Barnosky
Oct. 10, 2013 — How can biodiversity be preserved in a world in which traditional ecosystems are increasingly being displaced by “human-made nature”? Biologists at the TU Darmstadt and ETH Zurich have developed a new concept for conservation measures that incorporates current landscapes formerly considered ecologically “of little value.” Numerous experiences from islands have shown that this concept has a positive effect on biodiversity. Now the authors are proposing applying these lessons learned to other landscapes. In a human-dominated world that contains only little “historical” nature, the term ecosystem can no longer be a synonym for unspoilt nature. The term “novel ecosystems” was coined a few years ago to describe disturbed ecosystems in which biodiversity has been significantly altered as the result of human intervention. “In our new conservation framework we argue that this strict distinction between historic and novel ecosystems should be reconsidered to aid conservation,” pollination biologist Dr. Christopher Kaiser-Bunbury describes the approach, which is not without controversy.
On continents with vast natural parks, such as the USA and Africa, critics fear that the new concept could weaken the protection of historic nature by, for instance, redirecting financial resources towards more active intervention and design of ecosystems. The team of Darmstadt and Zurich biologists, however, propagates a reconciling approach. “Our framework combines strategies that were, until now, considered incompatible. Not only historic wildlands are worth protecting, but also designed cultural landscapes. Given the increased anthropogenic pressure on nature, we propose a multi-facetted approach to preserve biodiversity: to protect historic nature where ecologically viable; to actively create new, intensively managed ecosystems; to accept novel ecosystems as natural, wild landscapes; and to convert agricultural and other cultivated landscapes while generally maintaining land-use priorities.” New ecosystems may also include maize fields and banana plantations, as agricultural land can be used to preserve biodiversity. In fact, necessary measures are relatively easy to implement and comparatively inexpensive. Trials in Europe involving hedges and meadow strips along fields, for example, have shown that many animal species use these areas for feeding and nesting. Such modifications also create corridors between habitats that are traditionally worth protecting. “The individual measures proposed here are not novel but what is needed is an overall concept that combines these measures on a landscape level. And this is something that has been tested on many oceanic islands — with considerable success.”… On the Seychelles, for instance, the combined conservation measures include the strict protection of natural cloud forest on a few mountain tops, the management of abandoned cinnamon plantations, and green urban areas such as gardens. The recovery of threatened species and a halt to the decline of native biodiversity are indicators of the success of these conservation strategies. “At the same time, though, we need to know more about how invasive species influence biodiversity,”…
Christoph Kueffer, Christopher N Kaiser-Bunbury. Reconciling conflicting perspectives for biodiversity conservation in the Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2013; : 130909062254005 DOI: 10.1890/120201
Wetland restoration in the northern Everglades: Watershed potential and nutrient legacies
(October 10, 2013) — To most people, restoration of Florida’s Everglades means recovering and protecting the wetlands of south Florida. What many don’t realize is how intimately the fortunes of the southern Everglades are tied to central Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and lands even further north. … But this natural path of water has been greatly altered by people, leading to a host of environmental problems that state and federal scientists, policy makers, conservationists, and private landowners are now trying to solve. ….One of the big challenges is nutrient pollution. Land in the northern Everglades is mostly privately owned, and urbanization and agriculture now send runoff laden with fertilizers and other contaminants into Lake Okeechobee. This nutrient-contaminated water would damage the delicate southern Everglades should it reach them. So, much of the water that historically flowed south from Lake Okeechobee is now diverted to estuaries on Florida’s east and west coasts. As a result, the southern Everglades are somewhat starved for water, while the coastal estuaries receive far too much from the lake. Although a connection hasn’t been definitively made, heavy flows of nutrient-rich freshwater into the estuaries are suspected in die-offs of eelgrass, manatees and pelicans; huge blooms of algae; and zones of oxygen-starved water, Bohlen says…Cattle ranching is the main land use directly north of the lake. So, one restoration practice is to pay ranchers to restore wetlands or create ponds to hold water on their lands. This way, water from the northern Everglades doesn’t flow as quickly or in as large amounts into Lake Okeechobee, taking pressure off the lake, its dike, and the estuaries. It may also be cheaper to store water in this manner, rather than in huge public works projects. Plus, by holding back some water in restored marshes or ponds “in theory, at least, you’ll also be holding back some of the nutrients,” Bohlen says. Restored wetlands are generally very good, in fact, at removing nitrogen from the system….. > full story
The Alpine swift stays aloft for 200 days while migrating between Africa and Europe, a study has found. (Daniele Occhiato / August 29, 2010)
By Monte Morin LA TIMES October 8, 2013, 2:29 p.m. Talk about a red-eye flight! After attaching electronic monitors to half a dozen Alpine swifts,
researchers say they were shocked to discover that migrating birds flew nonstop for 200 days. That’s right, the birds remained airborne for more than six months, eating, drinking and sleeping on the fly, so to speak. Swiss scientists recently published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. Since the 1970s, ornithologists have speculated that the Alpine swift’s smaller cousin, the common swift, stayed airborne for much of the year, although that concept is based mostly on short-term radar data. In fact, only aquatic animals like dolphins have been proven capable of such long-term locomotion. (Unlike humans, dolphins sleep by resting one half of their brain at a time.) Recently however, researchers at the Swiss Ornithological Institute and the Bern University of Applied Sciences, captured six Alpine swifts prior to their epic migration to Western Africa. Each of the birds was harnessed with an electronic monitor that was slightly smaller than a postage stamp. The devices used sunlight to track the bird’s location, and also measured changes in their body position and movement. When the birds returned to Switzerland six to seven months later, three of them were recaptured and their data downloaded. (Monitors with radio transmitters would have been too heavy for the birds.) At first, lead study author and ornithologist Felix Liechti said he did a double-take when he looked at the data. From late September until about early spring, it appeared the birds did not stop moving. “It seemed to me unlikely that they did not rest somewhere on trees or cliffs,” Liechti said. “I was very surprised.”
What Liechti and colleagues found was that during the daytime, the birds activity and pitch measurements showed that they were not resting on the ground. Also, at night the birds greatly reduced their wing flapping and appeared to be gliding for long distances.
And how did they eat and drink? Swifts feed on so-called aerial plankton, bugs and spiders that are swept into the sky by high winds. Scientists believe they get much of their water from this prey, however they are able to skim ponds and lakes while in flight, like swallows, Liechti said. The epic flight began just after mating season in Europe and seemed to last throughout their wintering time in Africa. Only when the birds began to return to Europe in the spring, and had crossed the Sahara Desert, did they appear to take rest breaks. “I think this might have had to do with limited food resources in the air,” Liechti said. It remains unclear why the birds would choose to expend so much energy on long-haul flights. “We can only speculate as to what the profit is of staying airborne all the time,” Liechti said. “Is it avoiding predation? Parasites? We don’t know.”
The logger that was attached to the birds to collect light and acceleration data over the course of the Avian swift’s yearlong migration cycle.
Credit: Swiss Ornithological Institute
October 10, 2013
(Phys.org) —Birds, such as great and blue tits, scout for food in the morning but only return to eat it in late afternoon to maximise their chances of evading predators in the day without starving to death overnight, Oxford University research has …
Longer Life for Humans Linked to Further Loss of Endangered Species
At the Solvay Conference on Physics in 1927, the only woman in attendance was Marie Curie (bottom row, third from left). Mondadori Portfolio, via Getty Image
By EILEEN POLLACK NYTIMES Published: October 3, 2013 933 Comments
Last summer, researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts. The new study goes a long way toward providing hard evidence of a continuing bias against women in the sciences. Only one-fifth of physics Ph.D.’s in this country are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American; of all the physics professors in the United States, only 14 percent are women. The numbers of black and Hispanic scientists are even lower; in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics. The reasons for those shortages are hardly mysterious — many minority students attend secondary schools that leave them too far behind to catch up in science, and the effects of prejudice at every stage of their education are well documented. But what could still be keeping women out of the STEM fields (“STEM” being the current shorthand for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics”), which offer so much in the way of job prospects, prestige, intellectual stimulation and income? As one of the first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics from Yale — I graduated in 1978 — this question concerns me deeply. I attended a rural public school whose few accelerated courses in physics and calculus I wasn’t allowed to take because, as my principal put it, “girls never go on in science and math.” Angry and bored, I began reading about space and time and teaching myself calculus from a book. When I arrived at Yale, I was woefully unprepared. The boys in my introductory physics class, who had taken far more rigorous math and science classes in high school, yawned as our professor sped through the material, while I grew panicked at how little I understood. The only woman in the room, I debated whether to raise my hand and expose myself to ridicule, thereby losing track of the lecture and falling further behind….
Plastic Waste Is a Hazard for Subalpine Lakes Too
Oct. 7, 2013 — Many subalpine lakes may look beautiful and even pristine, but new evidence suggests they may also be contaminated with potentially hazardous plastics. Researchers say those tiny microplastics are likely finding their way into the food web through a wide range of freshwater invertebrates too… the problem of plastic pollution isn’t limited to the ocean. “Next to mechanical impairments of swallowed plastics mistaken as food, many plastic-associated chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, or acutely toxic,” said Christian Laforsch of the University of Bayreuth in Germany. “Moreover, the polymers can adsorb toxic hydrophobic organic pollutants and transport these compounds to otherwise less polluted habitats. Along this line, plastic debris can act as vector for alien species and diseases.”….
Evolutionary question answered: Ants more closely related to bees than to most wasps
(October 8, 2013) — Genome sequencing and bioinformatics resolves a long-standing, evolutionary issue, demonstrating that ants and bees are more closely related to each other than they are to certain wasps. … > full story
Published October 09, 2013 FoxNews.com
A reconstruction of a two-tailed 120-million-year-old Jeholornis. (Aijuan Shi/National Geographic)
120-million-year-old bird sported not one, but two tails, paleontologists found. The discovery alludes to a complicated evolutionary path in the tails of birds we see today, National Geographic reported. The second-oldest known bird, Jeholornis, lived in what is today China along with other feathered prehistoric animals. Fossils show the Jeholornis was the size of a turkey, had claws on its winged forelimbs with three small teeth in its lower jaw. Now, paleontologists are looking at the rear end of the large birds. They not only possess a long-fan feathered tail but also a second tail frond. “The ‘two-tail’ plumage of Jeholornis is unique,” according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study was led by Jingmai O’Connor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Penguins at the London Zoo. Last year, six penguins died of malaria at the zoo. Ben Stansall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. NYTIMES Published: October 6, 2013
Zoos all around the world love penguins. They’re cute, they don’t require much space, they never eat zookeepers. And children adore watching them, especially at feeding time. But as carefree as they might look, torpedoing through the water or rocketing into the air like a Poseidon missile, zoo penguins are stalked by an unrelenting killer: malaria.
“It’s probably the top cause of mortality for penguins exposed outdoors,” said Dr. Allison N. Wack, a veterinarian at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, which is building a new exhibit that will double its flock to 100 birds. If left untreated, the disease would probably kill at least half the birds it infected, though outbreaks vary widely in intensity.
The avian version is not a threat to humans because mosquitoes carrying malaria and the parasites are species-specific; mosquitoes that bite birds or reptiles tend not to bite mammals, said Dr. Paul P. Calle, chief veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs New York City’s zoos. And avian malaria is caused by strains of the Plasmodium parasite that do not infect humans.
But for penguins in captivity, the threat is so great that many zoos dose their birds in summer with pills for malaria, said Dr. Richard Feachem, director of global health at the University of California, San Francisco.
Last year, six Humboldt penguins in the London Zoo died of malaria.
London is also where the first case of penguin malaria was diagnosed almost a century ago; it was found in a King penguin in 1926.
Since then, there have been many outbreaks of avian malaria, including at zoos in Baltimore, South Korea, Vienna and Washington, D.C….
All dried up.
October 11, 2013 Economist
China is running out of water, but the government’s remedies are potentially disastrous. One-third of Yellow River and its tributaries are unfit even for agriculture. Four thousand petrochemical plants line its banks. China hopes to follow America into a shale-gas revolution. But each well needs 15,000 tonnes of water a year to run. And then there are the coal plants. ….
Oct. 04, 2013 Science Friday
The global population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. In his new book, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?, author Alan Weisman asks how we got here, how many people the planet can support, and what we can do to stabilize growth. Weisman tells SciFri how cultural, scientific, and political communities across the globe are tackling these issues.
Low water and high hopes – KLAMATH BASIN
By DEVAN SCHWARTZ H&N Staff Reporter Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013 11:45 pm
Summer has turned to fall in the Klamath Basin, the salmon are filling the Klamath River, and many are reflecting on a difficult and dramatic water year marked by drought and water shutoffs. Some irrigators barely got by; others have been dry for months. Klamath Basin residents started expecting trouble when winter skies dried up and precipitation slowed in the early weeks of 2012. Ample rain and snowfall are important factors in filling Upper Klamath Lake and tributary rivers that provide water for irrigation, stream health and other uses. A unique confluence of factors brought water resource issues to the surface in the Klamath Basin this year.
- First, extreme drought conditions created a premium on water supplies and highlighted many competing water needs.
- Second, a new joint biological opinion crafted by federal agencies changed the mandates for amounts of water required to be kept in Upper Klamath Lake for endangered sucker and to flow down the Klamath River for endangered coho salmon.
- Third, the first enforceable year of state water rights came into effect after a 38-year legal battle.
- Fourth, calls for water made by senior water rights holders set into motion water regulation in the upper Klamath Basin. The spigots were turned off for many farmers and ranchers for the first time. About 110,000 irrigated acres were affected.
- Fifth, a lack of water largely dried up the area’s national wildlife refuges. Lower Klamath Lake, an important refuge for waterfowl and other species, reached its driest point in 70 years, according to the refuge complex manager.
- Sixth, low water on the Klamath River created a tense situation for groups with a big interest in salmon runs. Central Valley Project farmers sued to block the release of water from the Trinity River (the Klamath River’s largest tributary) intended to prevent a likely fish kill. A judge ruled the releases should resume.
- Finally, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., recognized these issues and assembled a task force to address regional water issues and seek long-term solutions for the Klamath Basin. Their work is ongoing and may be delayed by the federal government shutdown.
All of these factors, and others, reinforce the complexity of the Klamath Basin and the call of many stakeholders to seek common solutions to natural resource challenges.
A new paper based on top climate models says that by about 2047, average temperatures across the globe will be higher than any highs recorded previously, with tropics hit earlier.
By JUSTIN GILLIS October 9, 2013 NY Times
If greenhouse emissions continue their steady escalation, temperatures across most of the earth will rise to levels with no recorded precedent by the middle of this century, researchers said Wednesday. Scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa calculated that by 2047, plus or minus five years, the average temperatures in each year will be hotter across most parts of the planet than they had been at those locations in any year between 1860 and 2005. To put it another way, for a given geographic area, “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,” said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature. Unprecedented climates will arrive even sooner in the tropics, Dr. Mora’s group predicts, putting increasing stress on human societies there, on the coral reefs that supply millions of people with fish, and on the world’s greatest forests. “Go back in your life to think about the hottest, most traumatic event you have experienced,” Dr. Mora said in an interview. “What we’re saying is that very soon, that event is going to become the norm.” The research comes with caveats. It is based on climate models, huge computer programs that attempt to reproduce the physics of the climate system and forecast the future response to greenhouse gases. Though they are the best tools available, these models contain acknowledged problems, and no one is sure how accurate they will prove to be at peering many decades ahead. The models show that unprecedented temperatures could be delayed by 20 to 25 years if there is a vigorous global effort to bring emissions under control. While that may not sound like many years, the scientists said the emissions cuts would buy critical time for nature and for human society to adapt, as well as for development of technologies that might help further reduce emissions. Other scientists not involved in the research said that slowing emissions would have a bigger effect in the long run, lowering the risk that the climate would reach a point that triggers catastrophic changes. They praised the paper as a fresh way of presenting information that is known to specialists in the field, but not by the larger public. “If current trends in carbon dioxide emissions continue, we will be pushing most of the ecosystems of the world into climatic conditions that they have not experienced for many millions of years,” said Ken Caldeira, a climate researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif. The Mora paper is a rarity: a class project that turned into a high-profile article in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals….
Urgent new time frame for climate change revealed by massive analysis
(October 9, 2013) — The seesaw variability of global temperatures often engenders debate over how seriously we should take climate change. But within 35 years, even the lowest monthly dips in temperatures will be hotter than we’ve experienced in the past 150 years, according to a new and massive analysis of all climate models. The tropics will be the first to exceed the limits of historical extremes and experience an unabated heat wave that threatens biodiversity and heavily populated countries with the fewest resources to adapt. … > full story
Camilo Mora, Abby G. Frazier, Ryan J. Longman, Rachel S. Dacks, Maya M. Walton, Eric J. Tong, Joseph J. Sanchez, Lauren R. Kaiser, Yuko O. Stender, James M. Anderson, Christine M. Ambrosino, Iria Fernandez-Silva, Louise M. Giuseffi, Thomas W. Giambelluca. The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability. Nature, 2013; 502 (7470): 183 DOI: 10.1038/nature12540
Tropics first region on globe to hit a new climate era, research finds.
Daily Climate Forget, for the moment, melting Arctic ice and polar bears. The tropics – and the 5.5 billion people living there – will be the first region on the globe to experience a “radically different” climate
Inconvenient Uncertainties– NY TIMES Opinion
By GERNOT WAGNER and MARTIN L. WEITZMAN OPINION NY TIMES Published: October 10, 2013 Gernot Wagner is a senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Martin L. Weitzman is a professor of economics at Harvard University. They are co-authors of the forthcoming book “Climate Shock.”
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — THE headline in The New York Times yesterday was succinct. “By 2047, Coldest Years May Be Warmer Than Hottest in Past, Scientists Say.” Not, say, “around 2050” or “within our lifetime.” The specificity makes the crisis feel real, imminent and terrible. Call it a convenient truth. The story was about a new study published this week in the journal Nature that calculated that by 2047, the average temperature will be hotter across most parts of the planet than it had been at those locations in any year between 1860 and 2005.
In truth, attention to the year 2047 is misguided. Climate around the world has already changed to a point where we can perceive humanity’s fingerprint. Extreme weather events like the two hurricanes that hit New York City in the past two years are going to be only more intense in the future.
The study’s authors acknowledged the uncertainties, adding a margin of error of five years to the 2047 estimate. The date will occur at different times in different places, with the tropics being the most immediately vulnerable.
Their caveats underscored the uncertainties inherent in making predictions about our climate future. Specificity can help reduce the numbing complexity of climate change to something that we can all understand — and fear. And perhaps that is the first step in mobilizing to fix the problem. But scientists speak in probabilities. They can measure where we are and venture predictions of where we are going; they cannot tell us precisely where temperatures will end up, what the impacts will be, and where important tipping points lie along the way.
Global atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million earlier this year — higher than at any time in the last three million years. Even at these concentrations, we are facing enormous uncertainties. Roughly three million years ago, global sea levels were 50 to 80 feet higher than today, and camels lived in Canada, which just goes to show how large the uncertainties truly are. We aren’t anywhere close to turning this around. The atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are still going up, and that increase is still accelerating.
What this will mean for future temperatures is hard to pinpoint with precision, but we estimate that without further action to reduce emissions, the planet is on track to see the eventual global average rise by at least 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. This is most likely past the point when we will see the melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica, raising sea levels by dozens of feet. But putting too much emphasis on one particular temperature figure is like zeroing in on the year 2047. What is scarier still is the uncertainty about the truly extreme outcomes. Our own calculations estimate that there is a roughly 5 percent to 10 percent chance that the eventual average temperature could be 6 degrees Celsius higher, rather than 3. What this would mean is outside anyone’s imagination, perhaps even Dante’s. We can obsess about all of these scenarios.
A rise of three degrees would be bad enough. But when you factor in the uncertainty, there is even more reason to put global warming on an even more sharply decreasing path.
The best way to do that would be to put a global price on carbon dioxide pollution. Making it more expensive to pollute would redirect the ingenuity, effort and money from a high-carbon, low-efficiency economy to creating a new, low-carbon, high-efficiency one. The world is a messy place. The scientific method imposes some order, but in the case of climate change, that order is probabilistic. For the sake of science and the planet, we should not become distracted by a false sense of certitude. Imprecise truths are the most inconvenient ones. We know enough to act now. What we don’t know should prompt us to even more decisive action.
By Joe Romm on October 8, 2013 at 5:32 pm
The Paleoeocene’s 40-foot Titanoboa
The Paleocene/Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) and associated carbon pulse “are often touted as the best geologic analog for the current” manmade rise in CO2 levels, as a new study notes.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, “Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum,” concludes that sediment data indicates the carbon was released in the geologic blink of an eye. As the news release explains, Rutgers geologists Morgan Schaller and James Wright argue that:
… following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years. Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years. “We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically — as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,” Wright said. “The oceans become acidic and the world warms up dramatically. Note that if we stay anywhere near our current emissions path, we are headed for a tripling or quadrupling of CO2 concentrations from preindustrial levels. The nature of the PETM carbon burst has been a puzzle to scientists for a long time, but “Wright and Schaller’s contention that it happened so rapidly is radically different from conventional thinking, and bound to be a source of controversy, Schaller believes.” Still, any study offering new answers on the PETM merits attention, given the prospect that we might be doing something similar today….
James D. Wright and Morgan F. Schaller. Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum. PNAS 2013 110 (40) 15908-15913; published ahead of print September 16, 2013 (subscription required)
Plant Diversity May Affect Climate–vegetation Interaction
October 7, 2013 — Biologists have analyzed to what extent plant diversity influences the stability of climate–vegetation interaction… On the one hand, some plant types in their model are sensitive to changes in precipitation, leading to an unstable “vegetation-climate” system i.e. abrupt changes in vegetation cover and precipitation may occur if only these plants are prevalent. On the other hand, other plant types that are more drought-resistant and more resilient to minor changes in precipitation are considered in their model. If both plant types interact with the climate simultaneously, then plant diversity tends to attenuate the instability of the interaction between climate and vegetation. The system shows strong fluctuations, as can be seen from Kroepelin’s data, but abrupt changes do not occur anymore. Interestingly enough, the “vegetation-climate” system also stabilizes if sensitive plant types, distinguishing themselves only by different thresholds are mixed in the model. Some plant types are sensitive to minor changes in precipitation in humid climate while others can survive on a limited amount of water, but react rapidly with the onset of aridity. However, this system is only seemingly stable and may hide instability: If some plant types were removed or introduced, an abrupt shift in vegetation cover and precipitation may occur as a surprise…. > full story
M. Claussen, S. Bathiany, V. Brovkin, T. Kleinen. Simulated climate–vegetation interaction in semi-arid regions affected by plant diversity. Nature Geoscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1962
As Sea Level Rises, Everglades’ Freshwater Plants Perish
October 10, 2013 — Satellite imagery over the southeastern Everglades confirms long-term trends of mangrove expansion and sawgrass habitat loss near the … > full story
The tundra: A dark horse in planet Earth’s greenhouse gas budget
(October 10, 2013)
— There are huge amounts of organic carbon in the soil beneath the tundra that covers the northernmost woodless areas of the planet. New research findings show that the tundra may become a source of CO2 as the climate becomes warmer. .. We can see that the annual release of CO2 from living organisms increases linearly as the temperature increases, measured as the average temperature in July. However, it seems that the ability of the photosynthesis to assimilate carbon stops increasing when the temperature in July rises above approx. seven degrees Celsius, which has occurred several times in past years. This means that the tundra may become a CO2 source if the current strong climate warming continues as expected,” says Magnus Lund, before pointing out that the fear that the tundra can develop into a source of CO2 is based on a very limited number of measurements. “It’s a problem in the Arctic that we don’t perform measurements at enough locations. The variation between locations is substantial both for CO2 and not least for methane….Magnus Lund emphasises that, in decades to come, from an Arctic perspective, methane will remain the primary contributor to Earth’s greenhouse gas budget. In 2007, researchers from the Zackenberg research station in Northeast Greenland made a surprising discovery: In autumn, when the surface of the tundra freezes and ice is formed, large quantities of the powerful greenhouse gas methane are released. In fact, the quantities released were so large, that the annual methane emissions had to be doubled in the calculation of the tundra’s methane budget. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, its effect is 20-25 times as strong as that of CO2. Methane, therefore, still plays a central role for the research performed at Zackenberg. Recent studies have shown that the formation of methane is closely linked to the tundra’s water content — as implied by the term “swamp gas.” The more water is present in the tundra, the more methane is formed. And vice versa, where there is less water, the presence of oxygen will provide the basis for formation of CO2.
In this way, the soil’s water content plays an important role in determining what will happen with the carbon below the tundra. Areas that become drier will give rise to increased CO2 emissions, whereas areas that become more moist will cause the emissions of methane to increase. The water balance is affected by the temperature and precipitation, but also by the soil’s content of ice…..> full story
Massive Spruce Beetle Outbreak in Colorado Tied to Drought
October 10, 2013 — A new University of Colorado Boulder study indicates drought high in the northern Colorado mountains is the primary trigger of a massive spruce beetle outbreak that is tied to long-term changes in sea-surface temperatures from the Northern Atlantic Ocean, a trend that is expected to continue for decades….The new study also puts to rest false claims that fire suppression in the West is the trigger for spruce beetle outbreaks, said Veblen…..The strongest climate correlation to spruce beetle outbreaks was above average annual values for the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, or AMO, a long-term phenomenon that changes sea-surface temperatures in the North Atlantic. Believed to shift from cool to warm phases roughly every 60 years, positive AMO conditions are linked to warmer and drier conditions over much of North America, including the West.… The area of high-elevation forests affected by spruce beetles is growing in the West, Hart said. “In 2012, U.S. Forest Service surveys indicated that more area was under attack by spruce beetles than mountain pine beetles in the Southern Rocky Mountains, which includes southern Wyoming, Colorado and northern New Mexico,” she said. “The drought conditions that promote spruce beetle outbreak are expected to continue.”…. full story
Sarah J. Hart, Thomas Thorstein Veblen, Karen S. Eisenhart, Daniel Jarvis, Dominik Kulakowski. Drought induces spruce beetle(Dendroctonus rufipennis)outbreaks across northwestern Colorado. Ecology, 2013; : 130915103518007 DOI: 10.1890/13-0230.1
Oct. 7, 2013 — Hurricane Sandy landed right on top of Dr. Tracy Quirk’s wetland monitoring stations — but it wasn’t all bad news. Quirk, an assistant professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science at Drexel University, had been performing wetland research for several years at monitoring sites in Barnegat and Delaware Bays in New Jersey. Recording devices installed at these sites continuously measured water level and salinity for a wide range of wetland studies at Drexel and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
….There was some good news from the marshes: Although some water-level recorders were over-topped and stopped recording (making it difficult to use direct measures of the water height), there was evidence of marsh swelling during the storm. That swelling is an indication of marshes’ ability to absorb some of the storm surge — which, in hard-hit urban areas, had resulted in high water marks up to seven feet during Hurricane Sandy. Quirk points out that resilient, healthy wetlands near coastal areas have a key role in protecting local communities from hurricane-induced storm surges and flooding.
“Imagine having a marsh in front of your house instead of concrete,” Quirk said. “Paved areas make flooding worse because water has nowhere to go.” In her post-Sandy research, Quirk was interested in finding out whether the storm affected how the marshes sustain themselves. The disturbance of an intense storm could alter the delicate equilibrium between flooding, vegetation growth and sediment deposits in wetland ecosystems — either temporarily or long-term. That’s where the bad news comes in. As she works through the data analysis this fall, Quirk said she hasn’t found much sign of sediment deposits, before or after the hurricane struck. Sandy had the potential to deposit a lot of sediments, fast, which would have been good for building up wetlands. Hurricane Irene in 2011 had been associated with a bump up in wetland accretion by several millimeters at a number of locations in the region — a bonus growth equivalent to the amount that typically accrues in an entire year. “Sediment-limited systems like coastal lagoon marshes largely depend on deposition by storms to vertically adjust elevation, so they don’t sink relative to sea level,” Quirk said. “In places where we have ongoing monitoring, the evidence suggests that some sites are subsiding — sinking below the surface — rather than increasing elevation at a rate similar to local sea level rise. Surface deposition would be a good thing for these marshes.” Any number of reasons could explain why those hoped-for sediment deposits didn’t materialize, she said. Maybe the unusually high tide during Hurricane Sandy caused less suspension of sediments in the storm-surge waters. Or maybe the storm water did carry sediments and plant debris, but dropped them on the barrier island or inland along the tree line and not at her sampling sites in the marsh interior….Whatever the reason, Quirk’s findings point to cause for continued concern over the coastal marshes’ future.“These salt marshes provide a number of extremely valuable ecosystem services and benefits to society,” she said. Storm surge protection is just one of these. Coastal marshes also provide excellent habitat for commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish, especially as a nursery ground for these animals. They’re also important for storing, transforming and removing nutrients that can be harmful to the aquatic ecosystems….
By Joanna M. Foster on October 10, 2013 at 4:44 pm
As the U.S. east coast prepares to mark the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the east coast of India is bracing for what is rapidly becoming a potentially catastrophic cyclone.
Meteorologists monitoring Cyclone Phailin in the Bay of Bengal have recorded an alarming recent increase in the storm’s intensity over the course of the day. The cyclone’s maximum sustained wind speeds have doubled to a terrifying 160 mph, easily upgrading the storm to a Category 5 Hurricane. In addition to being powerful, Phailin is massive, similar in size to hurricane Katrina — approximately half the size of India. A category 4 hurricane that formed in the Bay of Bengal in 1999 battered the Indian state of Odisha for over 30 hours and killed 15,000 people. The Indian government has begun evacuating low-lying areas in two states and has advised farmers to harvest whatever they can salvage from their fields before the cyclone sweeps in. The army, navy, and air force have been placed on standby. …
BBC NEWS October 11, 2013 More than 200,000 people in India are being evacuated as a massive cyclone is sweeping through the Bay of Bengal towards the east coast.
Calls for salvage logging, restoration and reforestation projects in scarred wilderness spark controversy over how to proceed.
By Louis Sahagun LATIMES October 6, 2013, 6:37 p.m. BUCKHORN MEADOWS, Calif. — Calls for massive salvage logging, restoration and reforestation projects in the 257,000 acres of public wilderness scarred by the Rim fire have ignited controversy over how to proceed with the largest recovery effort undertaken in the Sierra Nevada. “We’re hoping to negotiate our way through this, but we need the infrastructure and personnel,” said Jerry Snyder, a spokesman for the Stanislaus National Forest. “This effort will be huge, so we’ll also need additional help from Washington.” But time is running out. The fire left behind about 1 billion board feet of salvageable timber, much of which could be rendered worthless by fungus and wood-boring beetles within a matter of months. At least 200 miles of roads are endangered by collapsing trees and fallen power poles. Existing culverts are no match for mudslides expected to choke Sierra streams after winter rains hit the fire-stripped slopes. Then there is the federal government shutdown, which could hamper firefighters’ efforts to mop up hot spots smoldering since the fire — touched off in August by a hunter’s illegal campfire — burned across the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park and private holdings. Although no one disagrees with the need for safety in an area so badly damaged by fire that much of it will remain closed for a year or more, there are disagreements about everything else.
On one side are those — mostly federal land managers and timber industry advocates — who want to get large-scale salvage logging approved before snow starts to fall. Reforestation projects later in the year, they say, would also boost economic activity in a region with only 30% of the mills it had a decade ago. “No doubt there’s more timber out there than can be absorbed by the mills,” said Mike Albrecht, president of the Calaveras County forest products firm Sierra Resource Management. “But I want to see that become the problem, not that we can’t get the wood to the rails.”
A week ago, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) introduced a controversial measure that would expedite salvage logging in the national forest and Yosemite by suspending environmental reviews and forestalling litigation by environmentalists, which, he said in an interview, “run the clock out on recovery of fire-killed timber.” But critics argue that such proposals — coupled with global warming, inadequate federal funding to manage replanted forests and unnaturally dense vegetation resulting from strict fire suppression policies — would only set the stage for more catastrophic blazes. Beyond that, salvage logging operations and tree plantings do not always go as planned.
In 2011, Forest Service crews planted nearly a million pine and fir trees to try to reclaim land scorched clean by the devastating Station fire in Los Angeles County. Most died within months.
Funding for federal reforestation efforts typically includes proceeds from salvaged timber sales, such as those that followed the Stanislaus Complex fire in 1987. However, millions of pine trees planted over 145,000 acres damaged by that blaze 26 years ago were consumed by the Rim fire.
Logs salvaged from last year’s 1,150-acre Ramsey fire remain unsold, forest service officials said.
Justin Augustine, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, argues that high-severity fire is a natural component of healthy Sierra Nevada forests. Claims about excessive fire severity are often used to justify and hasten what he described as “unnecessary salvage logging operations.”
“Salvage logging for other than safety concerns is barbaric,” Augustine said.
Malcolm North, a scientist at the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station in Davis, Calif., would not go that far.
“Post-fire salvage doesn’t help the environment because snags are important to wildlife and influence how the forest recovers,” North said. “But it’s a tough situation for the Forest Service, which has more houses embedded in the forests they manage. As a result, their approach to fire is containment, which can have negative consequences for the natural environment.”….
Shasta County firefighters Zach Lacy (L) and Bob Baker spray water on a home burnt by the Clover Fire in Happy Valley, California September 10, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Max Whittaker
By Laura Zuckerman Thu Oct 10, 2013 10:09pm EDT (Reuters) – The number of homes at risk from wildfires in western U.S. states jumped 62 percent in the past year as more properties were developed in fire-prone areas, according to a report released on Thursday. About 1.2 million homes valued at more than $189 billion are at high to very high risk from wildfires in California and a dozen other Western states, according to CoreLogic Inc, a data and analytics company. The study comes near the close of a 2013 fire season that saw the most destructive fire in Colorado history, marked one of the largest burns on record in California, caused the deaths of 33 firefighters and strained U.S. Forest Service firefighting resources.
The report highlighted a boom in construction in areas located between towns and hinterlands as a key new risk factor that drove the number of homes at risk up sharply from last year when the report estimated 740,000 homes worth $136 billion were threatened. “As cities grow in population, they tend to expand outward into formerly undeveloped wild land areas,” Thomas Jeffery, senior hazard scientist for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions said in a statement. “Wind-blown embers can travel … and ignite homes located far away from an actual fire,” he said.
From 1990 to 2008, there were close to 17 million new homes built in the United States. About 10 million were located in areas “potentially exposed to higher wildfire-risk zones,” the report said…
(Tom Stienstra/The Chronicle) John Fauls and Sally Anderson, on vacation from Australia, said they were touched by view from Rim of the World Vista — everything in their view burned in Rim Fire
Tom Stienstra SF Chronicle October 6, 2013 Groveland, Tuolumne County – From the interior of the Rim Fire, charred, dead trees stretch for miles down the canyon and across to a bare mountain face incinerated into a moonscape. Yet across the blackened earth, gray ash and tanged scent of burned wood, a bracken fern sprouted last week and stretched skyward, as life emerged anew. Amid downed trees and charred ground, a lone deer found a small, fresh patch of grass that pushed up from the ash. In areas where oaks were charred by ground fires but yet survived, chipmunks and squirrels searched and found acorns for their winter stashes. The land’s rebirth has started, campgrounds and recreation facilities have been largely protected, and the landscape has begun to heal after the Rim Fire reached 92 percent containment. Ground fires still consume brush in the Yosemite Wilderness south of remote Kibbie Lake. In the interior of Stanislaus National Forest, fires burn toward each other to eventual collision and flameout. Across the range, some stumps still smolder, smoke and burn into their root systems. The Rim Fire will end as the third largest in California history (since 1932, when records became verifiable): 257,135 acres and 402 square miles. It is also one of the best-known wildfires in the world, with its location overlapping the western boundary of Yosemite National Park in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
By Kiley Kroh on October 10, 2013 at 9:03 am
BOULDER, COLORADO — ……
Driving down Fourmile Canyon after severe flooding and mudslides. CREDIT: Kiley Kroh
….It began raining in the Boulder area on September 9, 2013. But, unlike most rainstorms this year, it didn’t stop. Mike Chard, Director of Boulder County’s Office of Emergency Management remembers the exact moment he realized they were facing a catastrophic event. His office had prepared for serious flood risk in the region and was closely monitoring the weather, but sometime around 5:00p.m. on September 11, he knew something was different: “We had never seen that many storm gauges popping into alarm that quickly.”
Around the same time, Gibson had his own moment of realization. “We knew that we were in for a major, major event when we were getting reports out of El Dorado Canyon, Fourmile Canyon, Twomile Creek, St. Vrain … [It] literally covered 100 linear miles along the Front Range.” And then, says Chard, “All heck just broke loose and everything was flooding.” In one week, Boulder received 17.15 inches of rain — an unprecedented amount, given the average for an entire year in the area is just under 21 inches. The 9.08 inches of rain Boulder received on September 12 set an all-time single-day record, smashing the previous high mark by nearly 800 percent. The floods impacted 17 counties, covering an area of 4,500 square miles — roughly the size of Connecticut. ….
Sept. 30, 2013 | KUOW
…The mussels the Willifords ate around the campfire that night were indeed poisoned. But it was a natural type of poison. The shellfish had sucked up a toxin produced by a certain type of algae called dinophysis. Dinophysis has been found around the world and documented in Northwest waters for decades. But scientists think it’s becoming more toxic as ocean conditions change, in part due to climate change….
Science Daily (press release)
– October 10, 2013
Oct. 10, 2013 – One of the most controversial issues emerging from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is the failure of global climate models to predict a hiatus in warming of global surface … A new paper published in the journal Climate Dynamics suggests that this ‘unpredictable climate variability’ behaves in a more predictable way than previously assumed. The paper’s authors, Marcia Wyatt and Judith Curry, point to the so-called ‘stadium-wave’ signal that propagates like the cheer at sporting events whereby sections of sports fans seated in a stadium stand and sit as a ‘wave’ propagates through the audience. In like manner, the ‘stadium wave’ climate signal propagates across the Northern Hemisphere through a network of ocean, ice, and atmospheric circulation regimes that self-organize into a collective tempo. The stadium wave hypothesis provides a plausible explanation for the hiatus in warming and helps explain why climate models did not predict this hiatus. Further, the new hypothesis suggests how long the hiatus might last….
The sensitivity of the climate is not as important as how much carbon we can ‘safely’ emit, as these graphs show
October 7, 2012 The Guardian UK
Millions of words have been written about the new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But for me, two key messages stand out – one for its importance, the other for its lack of importance, relative to the attention that it has received. Since our interactive graph about temperatures in your lifetime has generated so much interest, I thought I’d do a graph to explain each of these two points too….
By Rebecca Leber on October 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm
For a meteorologist like Eric Holthaus, the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is something like waiting for the Super Bowl for six years. Holthaus, who writes for Quartz and formerly for the Wall Street Journal, was awake at 4 a.m. on a Friday morning reading through the summary that made it clear the world is running out of time to act. Boarding a plane home to Wisconsin, he broke down in tears. He determined to stop flying, a decision that has gained national attention. “It’s not worth the climate,” one of his tweets said.
IPCC’s conclusion, in short, is that scientists are unequivocally certain that the Earth is warming and that humans are the dominant cause. Without immediate action to curb emissions, the world has little chance to limit warming to 2°C. We only need to burn 10 percent of fossil fuels reserves to blow past that upper limit.
But Holthaus’ biggest moment of disillusionment was reading what scientists had to say about geoengineering that attempts to reverse climate change by changing the climate system. These last-ditch concepts can resemble costly sci-fi-like schemes and carry their own severe risks, like massive aerosol injection into the atmosphere. He knew this already, but it meant something different to see it in a document approved by 195 member countries.
In an interview with Climate Progress, Holthaus said he thought, “Well, that’s it,” as he read the report. “There’s no way we can wait anymore for world leaders to take action on this.” That’s what made him decide, as a as a meteorologist who has covered climate change for more than 10 years, to stop flying. He doesn’t consider it a drastic change, but leading by example.
“I do everything, I recycle, I don’t own a car, I’m a vegetarian, all of the things that are reducing my carbon footprint. But I also fly 75,000 miles a year,” he said. “So when I plugged that in a carbon calculator, it’s like, wow, I have double the emission of the average American and here I am every day telling people to take action and I’m not doing it myself.”
Conservative media have treated Holthaus with as much respect as they treat mainstream climate science. Drudge linked to it, while Fox News’ The Five ridiculed him, calling him, “a kook.” In that case, Holthaus said at least he’s glad he successfully got Fox to discuss climate change on air for 4 minutes. Otherwise, he says he’s had overwhelmingly positive reaction, from colleagues and people who have looked at their carbon footprint of daily activities like shopping or meat consumption. For people who don’t drive much but fly often, planes can account for three-quarters of a person’s emissions.
By Joanna M. Foster on October 9, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Trees sinking into thawing permafrost are called “drunken forests” in Alaska.
On September 18, just a few days before the IPCC released its 5th assessment report on the state of the warming planet, the Alaskan city of Fairbanks was dusted with the year’s first snow, a full two weeks earlier than expected. Those who claimed that the premature winter wonderland was evidence that the planet is as chilly as ever must have overlooked all the trees in Alaska which tilt an odd angles, the cracked and pothole-ridden roads, and the houses that appear to be sliding downhill on level ground….. New research released this week has shown that another once icy area, the Hudson Bay lowlands, is also becoming decidedly less frozen. Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers from Queen’s University report that this area of rivers, lakes and peat bogs, long considered an ecological refuge of steady temperatures, in the especially climate-sensitive Arctic, has been warming at alarming rates since the 1990s. Over the last two decades, the Hudson Bay Lowlands have warmed by about three degrees Celsius, which has pushed the once ice-choked bay over a tipping point and on a path toward accelerated warming in the years to come. Sediment core samples from the bottom of lakes in the region show that the animal and plant life that form the foundation of the ecosystem have already changed dramatically, which will cause cascading effects higher up the food chain.
Alaska sinks as climate change thaws permafrost video and photos
As temperatures rise, more of Alaska’s land — known as permafrost, because it’s perennially frozen underground — is thawing and causing billions of dollars in damages, reports USA TODAY’s Wendy
Koch. The thawing of permafrost — frozen ground covering most of Alaska — doesn’t just damage roads, buildings and airport runways. It also releases vast amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
Wendy Koch, USA TODAY 9:41 a.m. EDT October 9, 2013 NORTH POLE, Alaska — Up the road from Santa Claus Lane, past the candy cane-striped streetlamps, Cathy Richard’s backyard has a problem that not even elves — or the big guy in red — could fix. The wood deck moves up and down, like a slow-motion sleigh. “You leave for work and when you come home, it can be 7 inches higher,” says Richard, 36, a married bookkeeper and mom of three children. She knows the Grinch involved. Her home in this Fairbanks suburb, built in 2007, sits on land that thaws and refreezes so the concrete pillars holding up her deck have crumbled. The front walkway and garage floor are also cracking, and the lumpy lawn has fissures. Bad news for Richard — and, for the rest of us. Warmer temperatures are thawing the surface layer of land that covers most of Alaska and is known as permafrost (frozen below for at least two years in a row.) This thawing not only damages roads, buildings and airport runways, but also releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases that further warm the atmosphere — not just over Richard’s house but worldwide. The nation’s last frontier is — in many ways — its ground zero for climate change. Alaska’s temperatures are rising twice as fast as those in the lower 48, prompting more sea ice to disappear in summer. While this may eventually open the Northwest Passage to sought-after tourism, oil exploration and trade, it also spells trouble as wildfires increase, roads buckle and tribal villages sink into the sea.
On Aug. 26, a worker with the Alaska Department of Transportation secures sheets of polystyrene insulation to a road in Fairbanks, Alaska, that was damaged by permafrost thawing and will be repaved on top of the insulation. The sheets will minimize thawing in the future.(Photo: Wendy Koch, USA TODAY)
USA TODAY traveled to the Fairbanks area, where workers were busy insulating thaw-damaged roads this summer amid a record number of 80-degree (or hotter) days, as the eighth stop in a year-long series to explore how climate change is changing lives. The pace of permafrost thawing is “accelerating,” says Vladimir Romanovsky, who runs the University of Alaska’s Permafrost Laboratory in Fairbanks. He expects widespread degradation will start in a decade or two. By mid-century, his models suggest, permafrost could thaw in at least a third of Alaska and by 2100, in two-thirds of the state.
“This rapid thawing is unprecedented” and is largely due to fossil-fuel emissions, says Kevin Schaefer of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. He says it’s already emitting its own heat-trapping carbon dioxide and methane, but the amount will skyrocket in the next 20 to 30 years. “Once the emissions start, they can’t be turned off.”….
Climate change and how NZ cities are preparing for it
By Andy Kenworthy 11:52 PM Sunday Oct 6, 2013 NZ Herald
Element takes a look at what authorities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are expecting, how they are trying to minimise damage and preparing for the worst. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that the battle for global sustainability will be won or lost in the world’s cities. Cities and urban areas are estimated to account for 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and more than half of the world’s population live in them, so what we do in our urban centres will, to a large extent, define the future of our world. Governments are struggling to agree on action against climate change, but thankfully many city authorities are just getting on with tackling the problem as best they can. Element takes a look at what authorities in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are expecting, how they are trying to minimise the damage and preparing for the worst, and how their plans shape up against those elsewhere….. Then there’s Auckland’s iconic coastline. Last year the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research predicted sea level rises of 0.5m to 1.5m by 2100. Another study by the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington warned that the rate of sea level rise is likely to increase towards the second half of this century, meaning action cannot be delayed. The Institute even goes so far as to suggest a retreat from sea-front homes and businesses in Mission Bay, Kohimarama and Kawakawa Bay, although it acknowledged that the unpopularity of such an approach means it is unlikely to be pursued. Auckland Council has set a target to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, based on 1990 levels. According to the Plan: “This will require a transformation from a fossil fuel-dependent, high energy-using, high-waste society to an ‘eco – or liveable – city’. This is typified by sustainable resource use, a quality compact form, an eco-economy, and transport and energy systems that are efficient, maximise renewable resources and minimise reliance on fossil-based transport fuels.”… Wellington’s City Council’s Climate Change Action Plan, regularly updated since it was first created back in 2007, prepares for sea-level rise, storm-surges, flooding, slips, and extreme storms, but also for the difficulty in maintaining water supply in the summer months due to reduced rainfall, higher temperatures and increased demand. ..To adapt to what’s coming, the city has commissioned a large amount of research on the potential impacts, including possible sea-level-rise scenarios from 0.5 to 2.5 metres. The authority is using that to inform everything from the design of stormwater drain systems to entire coastal dune landscapes.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has said: “Cities, rather than countries, are taking the lead on climate change issues. We need to take a climate change lens to all of Council’s activities and programmes.
Shutdown may force evacuation of US research stations.
Lauren Morello 04 October 2013
The South Pole’s Amundsen–Scott station would be left with only a skeleton crew if funding is not restored. Peter Rejcek, National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is likely to cancel the US Antarctic programme’s upcoming field season if the US government shutdown persists through mid-October — jeopardizing hundreds of scientists’ work in glaciology, ecology and astrophysics. ….Also affected would be the study of Antarctica’s subglacial lakes, pristine environments that have been isolated for millions of years. Ross Powell, a geologist at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, had planned to continue his study of Lake Whillans, a body of water trapped 800 metres under a glacier. Earlier this year, a drilling expedition reached the lake, and researchers found communities of bacteria. Powell is now trying to understand how isolated the lake is — whether it connects to nearby subglacial streams, and how that network of water affects the glacier’s flow into the Ross Sea. But the project has already been forced to cut eight scientists, and the planned number of days for field research this year was cut in half, to 10, because sequestration reduced the NSF’s Antarctic science budget. Now, Powell says, “it’s all up in the air.” Like other researchers, Powell says that he has not heard from the NSF directly about the possibility that the Antarctic season will be cancelled. Mahlon Kennicutt, a retired oceanographer and a former president of the 31-nation Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, says the shutdown complicates an already unstable funding situation for US Antarctic science. Last year, a blue-ribbon panel commissioned by the NSF warned that logistical costs — including transportation and support personnel — now consume 85–90% of the US Antarctic programme’s budget. That is partly a consequence of operating on the coldest, driest and highest continent on Earth, and partly a consequence of the country’s crumbling polar infrastructure, the panel warned. Now, sequestration and the shutdown are magnifying that problem, Kennicutt says. “Science will inordinately bear the brunt of these fiscal problems. This is a long-term issue. You have to wonder if there is a point at which this just can’t function.”
The widening impact of the US government shutdown
( 19′ 06″ ) RADIO NEW ZEALAND
09:08 Gregory Valliere, Chief Political Strategist of Potomac Research Group and Grant Ballard, chief science officer at Point Blue Conservation Science.
Carl Nolte SF Chronicle Updated 11:06 pm, Thursday, October 10, 2013
The government shutdown is having a patchwork effect in the Bay Area, with some public areas open while others are closed – a confusing and complex situation that is causing economic hardship to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the historic Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco is closed because it is owned by the National Park Service and operated by a private concessionaire. But the luxurious Cavallo Point lodge, spa and restaurant on national parkland at Fort Baker in Marin County is open because it is leased to an operator under a different set of federal rules. And while the vast Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which stretches from Tomales Bay to the Santa Cruz Mountains, is closed to the public, the Presidio of San Francisco surrounded by the recreation area operates under a separate federal law and is open.
Louis’ Restaurant, a diner just up the street from the Cliff House, is on national parkland, has a lease and is still serving. It’s complicated. ….The federal government is by far the largest single landowner in the Bay Area, and also in California – 45 percent of the state is owned by the federal government, including nine national parks and 15 national forests. The land is administered under a number of very different laws. The Cliff House, along with big and small operations in national parks, was closed as of Oct. 1, when Congress shut off federal money for many government operations. Everything shut down, from the ferry service that takes tourists to the Statue of Liberty to the boats that go to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Yosemite and all the other national parks were closed. Since the parks were closed, so were the famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite and even the not-so-famous snack bar at Stinson Beach in Marin County. However, there are exceptions: The Cavallo Point Lodge in Marin, a high-end destination resort, stayed open. It is taking reservations for rooms ranging from $470 a night to $779 for a special Girlfriends’ Getaway package, including valet parking, spa, credit and a yoga class. Business is “very good,” said Euan Taylor, Cavallo Point’s general manager. At San Francisco’s Cliff House, meanwhile, Hountalas, who owns the business with his wife, Mary, said they have suffered “considerable financial loss.” The difference, as explained by Alexandra Picavet, a National Park Service spokeswoman, is that the Cliff House and other park concession operators run under one legal arrangement and Cavallo Point under another.
The 150-year-old Cliff House was privately owned until the National Park Service bought it from George Whitney for $3.8 million in 1977. The building was then renovated and run under a concession contract by the Hountalas family. …Cavallo Point, part of the old Fort Baker military reservation, was leased to a resort operator under what Picavet calls “a different legal agreement.”
Taylor said the resort hotel and spa, which advertises itself as being “in the center of the Golden Gate National Parks,” has a long-term lease. It is operated by Passport Resorts under an agreement described as “a public-private partnership.”….
By NEENA SATIJA Published: October 10, 2013 NY Times
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is appealing a lawsuit that it has already won — one that was filed by children. Environmental advocates say the appeal shows that the state will go to any lengths to fight the suggestion that it address climate change. As part of a national environmental movement, a group of young people in 2011 demanded that the commission enact steps to reduce greenhouse gases. The agency refused, and the young people’s parents sued on their behalf. A year later, District Judge Gisela D. Triana of Travis County ruled in the agency’s favor, saying it could use its own discretion and decide not to institute greenhouse gas regulations. But the commission still appealed, insisting that the court did not have jurisdiction over the case to begin with and that Judge Triana had made an “improper declaratory judgment” — that Texas is responsible for protecting “all natural resources of the state including the air and atmosphere.” Judge Triana agreed with the plaintiffs that a tenet of United States common law known as the public trust doctrine required the government to protect the atmosphere as a resource for public use. The agency had disagreed, saying Texas’ duty to protect resources under public trust were “limited to the waters of the state.” State lawyers late last month argued in front of the Texas Third Court of Appeals that Judge Triana’s comments were beyond the scope of the case and should be vacated. “Isn’t it a little disconcerting to have the state want that wiped off the books?” said Adam Abrams, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “Is it really so far-fetched to think that the air and the atmosphere belong to all of us?” Mr. Abrams called the appeal “a waste of taxpayer dollars.” Terry Clawson, an agency spokesman, said its costs associated with the case were mostly “internal.” “The T.C.E.Q. has concerns with how the district court opinion addressed the matter of public trust doctrine,” Mr. Clawson added. “The scope of this doctrine is a very important issue, which deserves to be fully vetted.” But David Spence, a professor of business and law at the University of Texas at Austin, said the scope of public trust was more symbolic than practical. “In a sense it’s a kind of low-stakes argument,” Mr. Spence said. “The public trust doctrine in the U.S. is a fairly weak thing.” (The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune.) Each state applies the principle differently, and few have used it with much force. The doctrine has generally been successful only at protecting open beaches for public use, Mr. Spence said. Still, even if Judge Triana’s statement does not mean much in practice, the environmental movement has seen it as symbolic — and the state has seen that as a threat. …
By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune Posted: 10/08/13, 6:09 PM PDT | Updated: 19 hrs ago
Robert Haw says solving the problem of global warming is easy. No, really. He’s dead serious. Haw has a bona fide plan and he’s taking it to each of the 535 members of Congress. As president of the Pasadena-Foothills Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, the JPL scientist from Altadena says his group is creating a buzz in Washington with a rebate version of a revenue-neutral carbon tax that combines market forces with consumerism to drive up the cost of fossil fuels and make renewable energy more affordable. So far, the plan has picked up endorsements from former Secretary of State George Schultz and supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, who was an adviser to Ronald Reagan. But the most important person to convince is the ordinary American, Haw said. His group is succeeding on that front, too. When Haw started the Pasadena-Foothills chapter a year ago, there were 33 chapters. Today there are 108 chapters. “We’ve been doubling in size every year,” he said. Citizens Climate Lobby aims to convert Americans to the belief that the problem of rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, more droughts and melting glaciers is indeed fixable in our lifetime. “We want to explain this to people, so they will know that there is a solution,” Haw said calmly while sipping coffee at a local Starbucks. “People go off and wail to themselves. But they don’t have to. We can solve this. It is surprisingly easy.”
Here’s how CCL’s plan would work: Congress would enact a carbon tax starting at $25 per ton of carbon dioxide that would rapidly rise about $10 each year. The tax would be applied upstream — to oil wells, natural gas sites, coal mining. These are sources that produce carbon dioxide and methane, greenhouse gases which are contributing to global warming. The goal is to limit the temperature rise to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, about half the rise that’s expected by the United Nations by the year 2100. The tax most likely would raise gasoline prices by 10 to 12 cents per gallon, and electricity rates would rise between one-half and 1 cent per kilowatt hour. The tax money collected would go to Americans in the form of a rebate check every month or every year. Each adult would receive $270 in the first year, and $1,630 annually after 10 years. Children would get half a share, or about $815 a year, up to two children per household. The maximum rebate per household would be $4,890 a year…..
Potsdam Institute October 9, 2013 Further delay in the implementation of comprehensive international climate policies could substantially increase the short-term costs of climate change mitigation. Global economic growth would be cut back by up to 7 percent within the first decade after climate policy implementation if the current international stalemate is continued until 2030 — compared to 2 percent if a climate agreement is reached by 2015 already, a study by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) shows. Higher costs would in turn increase the threshold for decision-makers to start the transition to a low-carbon economy. Thus, to keep climate targets within reach it seems to be most relevant to not further postpone mitigation, the researchers conclude. Read more…
Why Your Hunting Trip Might Be Ruined By The Shutdown
By Jessica Goad, Guest Blogger and Matt Lee-Ashley, Guest Blogger on October 4, 2013
Many of the nation’s best places to hunt and fish are closed, including the 329 national wildlife refuges where hunting is permitted and the 271 refuges that are open to fishing….
Salvaging roadkill for the dinner table is not only legal starting this month in Montana, but state officials plan to let drivers who accidentally kill big game to simply print out permits at home that allow them to harvest the meat.
Article by: MATT VOLZ , Associated Press Updated: October 10, 2013 – 11:45 AM HELENA, Mont. — Salvaging roadkill for the dinner table is not only legal starting this month in Montana, but state officials plan to let drivers who accidentally kill big game to simply print out permits at home that allow them to harvest the meat.
Later on, there will be an app for that. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved regulations Thursday that allow people to go online for permits to salvage for food the animals they hit and kill within 24 hours of the fender-bender. No need to present the carcass to a law-enforcement official in person within a day of a crash, as was originally planned. Now drivers will be able to apply on a website and print out permits from their own computers. And a request for bids is being issued to develop a smartphone application for roadkill permits, said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency….Montana lawmakers earlier this year passed the bill allowing motorists to salvage deer, elk, moose and antelope struck by vehicles. Supporters who didn’t want to see the meat go to waste won out over skeptics who wondered whether the meat would be safe for human consumption. Other doubters stewed over whether drivers would intentionally gun their engines whenever they spotted an animal in the road….
The Legislature left it to the state agency to sort out the details and how to issue roadkill permits. FWP released its proposed rules this summer, among them: the salvaged meat has to be eaten, not used
They own the house, but not what lies beneath. October 9, 2013 Reuters Across the United States, thousands of families are moving into new houses where, amid an unprecedented energy boom – and often unbeknownst to them, their builders or developers have kept the mineral rights for themselves. …the phenomenon is rooted in recent advances in extracting oil and gas from shale formations deep in the earth, fueling the biggest energy boom in modern U.S. history. Horizontal drilling and the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” have opened vast swaths of the continental United States to exploration. As a result, homebuilders and developers have been increasingly – and quietly – hanging on to the mineral rights underneath their projects, pushing aside homeowners’ interests to set themselves up for financial gain when energy companies come calling. This is happening in regions far beyond the traditional American oil patch, which has a long history of selling subsurface rights. “All the smart developers are doing it,” says Lance Astrella, a Denver lawyer who represents mineral-rights owners, including homebuilders, in deals with energy companies.
Among the smart ones are private firms like Oakwood Homes in Colorado, the Groce Companies in North Carolina, Wynne/Jackson in Texas, and Shea Homes, which builds coast to coast. Publicly traded companies that engage in the practice include the Ryland Group, Pulte Homes and Beazer Homes, according to oil and gas attorneys and public land records.
Europe votes to tighten rules on fracking. October 10, 2013 New York Times
European Union lawmakers voted narrowly on Wednesday to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits before they deploy a technique known as fracking to recover natural gas from shale rock. The technique involves shooting a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals under pressure into shale to break it up and release the gas. France has already banned the technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing. And it has produced protests in Britain. The rules were narrowly approved by the European Parliament, which is meeting this week in Strasbourg, France, and still must undergo another round of voting in the Parliament once an agreement on final language is reached with European Union governments. Shale gas projects that do not use fracking would not be covered by the rules, which update environmental legislation in Europe. Even so, the result is a setback for the shale-gas industry in Europe, where it is far less developed than in the United States and where many citizens are more concerned about the environmental impact of recovering the gas than about finding new sources of hydrocarbons as a way of combating stubbornly high energy prices. .. But the concerns about shale gas exploitation in Europe run deep, particularly in some of the more populated parts of Europe including southern England, where the opposition to fracking has prompted protests. In addition to using significant amounts of water, the process may lead to leakages of significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to climate change. According to the rules approved Wednesday, the shale gas and infrastructure projects would need audits based on “the direct and indirect significant effects” on human health, species and their habitats, land, water and climate.
October 6, 2013 at 6:00 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
WASHINGTON — Inspired by the five-year fight over Keystone XL, U.S. Rep. Gene Green is pushing legislation that would smooth the approval process for pipelines and power lines that cross U.S. borders.
But the success of that bill depends on divorcing it from the high-profile Keystone XL pipeline fight. “We have to get past Keystone,” said Green, D-Houston. “This does nothing to Keystone XL. This is for the future.” The bill introduced by Green and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., aims to write new rules for the federal government’s review of border-crossing energy infrastructure projects that have yet to be proposed, effectively replacing an ad hoc presidential permit process created by a smattering of executive orders. For instance, the State Department is tasked with vetting proposed oil pipelines, like TransCanada’s Keystone XL project, under an executive order issued by former President George W. Bush in 2004. But when it comes to natural gas pipelines that would cross U.S. borders, a 60-year-old presidential directive gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the responsibility for issuing or denying presidential permits. And for electric transmission infrastructure, the presidential permit decision rests with the Energy Department, under executive orders signed in 1954 and 1978. Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, called the current approach a “not-very-coherent process that has grown up over the last 50 or 60 years without a lot of thought to it.” Some energy analysts and industry representatives warn that presidential permit reviews could bog down even more, as companies look to build new pipelines and power lines moving North American electricity, oil and gas across Mexico, Canada and the United States. “We’re trying to bring some certainty to the process,” Green said, noting that Keystone XL showed that “the process for cross-border pipelines is pretty confusing.” He predicts more pipelines and power lines in the future.
“We are going to see these cross-border pipelines and electricity grow,” he said. “If we really are going to have a North American energy market, we need to be able to easily move that product back and forth.”
The demand for infrastructure to move more oil, gas and power could be fed by greater production across North America, as energy companies use hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to extract newly accessible fossil fuels from dense rock formations. Energy reforms in Mexico also could spur more activity. Bill co-sponsor Upton says the continent’s expanding energy potential requires a new “architecture of abundance.” “As energy production grows across the United States, building the infrastructure to move these supplies to consumers is emerging as the real challenge of the 21st century,” he said.
U.S. climate credibility getting fracked: scientists.
October 11, 2013 Climate Central As fracking catapults the United States to the top of the list of the world’s largest crude oil and natural gas producers, climate scientists worry that the nation’s booming fossil fuels production is growing too quickly with too little concern about its impact on climate change, possibly endangering America’s efforts to curb global greenhouse gas emissions…..
By KEVIN BEGOS and MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press October 7, 2013 – PITTSBURGH
For years, activists have warned that fracking can have disastrous consequences _ ruined water and air, sickened people and animals, a ceaseless parade of truck traffic.Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas. In one northeastern Pennsylvania village that became a global flashpoint in the debate over fracking, the switch has raised more than a few eyebrows. A few weeks ago, Victoria Switzer and other activists from Dimock endorsed a candidate for governor who supports natural gas production from gigantic reserves like the Marcellus Shale, albeit with more regulation and new taxes. Dimock was the centerpiece of “Gasland,” a documentary that galvanized opposition to fracking, and Switzer was also featured in this summer’s “Gasland Part II,” which aired on HBO. “We had to work with the industry. There is no magic wand to make this go away,” said Switzer, who recently formed a group that seeks to work with drillers on improved air quality standards. “Tunnel vision isn’t good. Realism is good.” For Switzer, the endorsement was a nod to reality; for some of her onetime allies, a betrayal. Either way, it was a sign that anti-drilling activism is evolving, with some opponents shifting tactics to reflect that shale gas is likely here to stay….
By Tom Kenworthy on October 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm
Flood waters swamped well pads and in some cases dislodged storage tanks in Weld County. CREDIT: AP Photo/Ecoflight, Jane Pargiter
Last month’s widespread and unprecedented flooding in Colorado caused the release of more than 43,000 gallons of oil and more than 18,000 gallons of so-called “produced water” that flows back during the oil and gas development process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Those totals are likely to rise, as state oil and gas commission inspectors have yet to evaluate about a fifth of the areas affected by flooding. “I think if we have another week of good weather we’ll be able to say we’ve been through all of it,” said Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Natural Resources…..
In remote field, North Dakota oil boom suffers first big spill. October 10, 2013 Reuters
A Tesoro Logistics LP pipeline has spilled more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil into a North Dakota wheat field, the biggest leak in the state since it became a major U.S. producer. The six-inch pipeline was carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale play to the Stampede rail facility outside Columbus, North Dakota. The affected part of the line has been shut down, Tesoro said. Farmer Steven Jensen discovered the leak on September 29 while harvesting wheat on his 1,800-acre farm, about nine miles northeast of Tioga, North Dakota…..
Tom Pennington for The Texas Tribune Drought has caused shortages of water for cooling at Martin Lake, a coal-fired plant in East Texas, according to the Department of Energy.
By JIM WITKIN NY Times Published: October 8, 2013
WITH so much focus on carbon emitted from the nation’s power plants, another environmental challenge related to electricity generation is sometimes overlooked: the enormous amount of water needed to cool the power-producing equipment. In the United States almost all electric power plants, 90 percent, are thermoelectric plants, which essentially create steam to generate electricity. To cool the plants, power suppliers take 40 percent of the fresh water withdrawn nationally, 136 billion gallons daily, the United States Geological Survey estimates. This matches the amount withdrawn by the agricultural sector and is nearly four times the amount for households. Battles for water among these competing interests are becoming more common, and power plants are not always winning. A recent analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed many examples from 2006 to 2012 of plants that had temporarily cut back or shut down because local water supplies were too low or too warm to cool the plant efficiently. Proposals to build new plants are also under increased scrutiny, especially in water-stretched regions. The proposed White Stallion coal plant in Texas drew opposition in part because of the plant’s water demands. The project was abandoned this year. Making homes and buildings more energy efficient and using more renewable energy would reduce some of the strain on freshwater supplies. Still, about 84 percent of the nation’s electricity will most likely come from thermoelectric plants by 2040, according to the Energy Information Administration. Ensuring that there is enough water for all competing needs will require better technology and better policy, industry watchers say. …
How Denmark turned an efficiency obligation into opportunity.
Oct 8 2013 Midwest Energy News
COPENHAGEN—In the U.S., there’s rising anxiety and speculation about how flat or falling electricity demand could affect utilities’ long-term business models. Here in Denmark, though, electric companies have long operated in a slow- or no-growth market, and they continue to invest in further lowering customers’ energy use. The Danish efficiency scheme has become the model for a new European Union efficiency law currently being implemented, and it could offer ideas and inspiration for U.S. policymakers, too, as they attempt to design incentives that can convince electric utilities to take a lead role in helping customers use less of the very product they sell. Denmark has steadily invested in energy conservation ever since the 1970s energy crisis, when an Arab oil embargo caused fuel shortages and skyrocketing prices. As President Reagan was pulling solar panels off the White House roof, Denmark continued to spend money improving its building and power plant efficiency. The country’s conservation commitment recently increased with a 2012 agreement that’s expected to cut energy use 12 percent by 2020 compared to 2006. The pact has also generated demand for energy efficiency services, prompting several utilities to launch new businesses to capitalize on the opportunity. “A lot of the companies now as see this as a potential to increase their market in advising on energy savings,” says Tina Sommer Kristensen, administrator for Denmark’s Department of Buildings and Energy Efficiency….
Energy efficiency – revolutionized by cyber networks – may carry the same impact as a new oil boom. Electricity users are seeing power in their ‘negawattage’ as they cut their bills by 90 percent.
By David J. Unger, Staff writer / October 6, 2013
The old metal-halide fixtures cast a sour yellow hue on the stacks of cardboard boxes inside the storage facility. They hummed incessantly and burned out well before their due. So Mr. Raymond, the landlord, replaced them with a brighter, smarter Web-enabled lighting system. He hoped it would help attract and retain tenants in the increasingly competitive warehouse market on Chicago’s Southwest Side. But when the next utility bill arrived, something looked very wrong. The bill appeared to show only partial electricity use, and the bottom line was a tenth of what it normally was. The tenant thought the new lights might be broken, but as far as Raymond knew, they worked just fine. The local utility couldn’t believe it either. Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) dispatched an engineer to double-check that the meter was operating properly, Raymond recalls, and later hired a consultant to monitor the lights.
Everything checked out. The meter worked. The lights shone. The partial electricity use wasn’t a result of the “intelligent” lighting system working improperly. It was a result of it working exactly as designed – and better. “We were amazed,” Raymond says. “We thought it’d be around 80 to 90 [percent savings], and it turned out to be more than 90.” Annual electricity costs at the 177,413-square-foot warehouse dropped from about $50,000 a year to less than $5,000, and ComEd awarded Raymond a $65,176.90 efficiency rebate. Today, Raymond walks under a cool, white glow in Warehouse No. 5, extolling those lights with the intimate reverence typically reserved for the latest smart phone or luxury car. Forklifts beep past as he strolls through rows of boxes filled with the empty plastic bottles made in an adjoining plant. Twenty feet above his head, networked clusters of light-emitting-diode (LED) bulbs brighten as he moves near them and dim as he walks away. “I assure you, you’ve never seen anything like this on a lighting system before,” Raymond says back in an office where he demonstrates the lights’ online interface, which tracks consumption data. Laughing, he adds, “This is the type of thing you’d see on ‘Star Trek.’ ”
Call it “intelligent efficiency,” or “cleanweb.” Call it the “soft grid,” or the “enernet.” There’s a host of buzzwords to describe the growth of Internet-enabled efficiency, and they all mean slightly different things. But they all pose the same underlying question: How can we harness the power of the Web to consume less energy? Their end goal is identical: a resource as clean as wind or solar, but as light and gossamer as a cloud. Internet communications, inexpensive sensors, and data analytics are enabling a high-tech, holistic approach to energy efficiency. In the past it was, “How do I design an efficient light?” Now it’s, “How do I design a whole network of efficient lights that talk to one another via Web communications, adjust output automatically, and report back through online data portals that optimize performance?”
This mash-up of energy industry and information technology gives efficiency a shiny interactivity that expands the conversation beyond “eat-your-vegetables” lectures about insulation and compact fluorescent light bulbs. It promises an energy reduction boom to parallel the oil and gas production boom that has transformed the global energy landscape…..
In what has to be one of the most innovative ideas to come along in the solar energy industry, an Oakland, CA company has hit upon crowdsourcing as a way to fund solar energy projects and turn a profit for investors. So now you can put your money where your mouth is regarding green energy, help to fund projects that will benefit the environment and earn money while doing so. It’s a uniquely American approach that combines the best traditions of activism and capitalism all wrapped up in a smart, sustainable package.
Mosaic’s solar roof project atop an Oakland, CA building.
The company, Mosaic, connects people with solar projects and offers some great returns on investments. First launched in January of this year, Mosaic has quickly gathered steam. Unlike Wall Street, you don’t need a big hunk of cash to get started. For as little as $25, you can invest in solar projects offered on the company’s website. Here’s how it works. First thing you do is sign up at the Mosaic site. Then you browse the available investment opportunities. Investments are actually notes – you are holding a loan (referred to as a Note) on a particular project, along with other investors. The projects are listed with information regarding how long the note will be in force, how much has already been funded, and the rate of interest that will be paid over the course of the loan. Funding is limited to a 90 day window. Once the loan is funded and the projects begin to generate revenue by selling the power generated, the investors begin receiving monthly repayments, which include part of the principal as well as interest payments. The repayments are kept in an account that is FDIC insured and you can either invest in new projects or transfer the money into your checking or savings accounts.
So how much can you earn? The interest rates paid to investors range from 4% to 6%, depending on the project. That’s quite a rate of return, particularly when compared to the interest paid on regular savings accounts or Certificates of Deposit. It even beats the returns on a lot of stocks. Exxon (XOM), the filthy fossil fuel company that rakes in profits hand over fist, pays an annualized dividend of 2.85%…
—By James West
VIDEO | Thu Sep. 12, 2013 3:00 AM PDT
The outward statecraft of the recent G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, was dominated by disagreements over Syria. But behind the scenes, leaders were busy agreeing on something they rarely find common ground on: climate change. Thirty-five nations and the European Union decided to curb hydrofluorocarbons, a set of powerful heat-trapping gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning, heat pumps, and insulation. This follows a deal earlier this year between China and the United States, in which President Obama and President Xi agreed to limit these greenhouse gases. So, what are HFCs and why are they important to climate change? Yes, carbon dioxide is the big culprit when it comes to climate change. HFCs represent only a small fraction of total greenhouse gases—and they are short-lived compared to CO2—but they pack a real punch in terms of what scientists call “global warming potential,” which they rate as many hundred times more powerful than that of carbon dioxide. Bucking the general international trend in climate talks, there’s actually a history of agreement about limiting these types of gases. When scientists discovered the hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s, the world came together to sign the Montreal Protocol, phasing out the use of ozone-killing chlorofluorocarbons; that treaty is now universally ratified, and the ozone layer is recovering. Their industrial replacements were HFCs, and while these gases didn’t attack the ozone layer—Earth’s precious protective shield—they still trap a lot of heat, adding to global warming. Scientists say that if HFCs aren’t curbed in the same way as their CFC cousins, this whole family of gases—called halocarbons—could accelerate the next century’s expected warming by about 20 years.
October 2, 2013 Salvatore Cardoni
Photos: Francis Demange/Getty Images
Vauban, Germany– One of Europe’s most successful experiments in green living, Vauban, Germany, a suburb of Freiburg, is virtually motor vehicle-free. Yes, it’s 5,300 residents are technically allowed to own cars, but there are only two spots to park—”large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home,” reports the New York Times. That exorbitant price tag is an effective deterrent: 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not even own a car, and 57 percent sold a car to move there.
SIERRA CLUB: As of October 3rd, over 1,000 Sierra Club supporters have gone solar!
We’re celebrating this solar victory by offering you a special deal this month when you go solar with the Sierra Club and Sungevity:
October Only: Go solar with the Sierra Club and Sungevity and get $1,000 and send $1,000 back to your local Sierra Club chapter….
By Jeff Spross on October 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm
CREDIT: Nissan / Engadget
The amount of electric cars sold in America is up over 447.95 percent over where it was at this time last year. Those are the latest numbers as reported by EVObsession, which also show that combined sales of all-electric cars and hybrids is up 30.11 percent….
Domestically, there is negative news as well. Honda’s electric and hybrid sales are down a slight 5.5 percent, but GM’s combined sales are down a larger 9.3 percent. GM’s raw numbers are also bigger: a drop from 42,446 sales to 38,498 sales. But the company may be able top turn that around in the future. It’s planning the release of a new electric car with an overhauled battery, a 200 mile range, and for a price of less than $30,000…..
By Ari Phillips on October 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm
AUSTIN, TX — With the recent devastating floods in Colorado washing away communities, ruining expensive infrastructure, and causing untold environmental harm, it’s hard to see what benefit could come from such a treacherous event.
This week, a SXSW Eco presentation by Rives Taylor suggested that floodwaters could be used as assets to address water shortages during drought. Rives is a principal in the Houston office of Gensler, member of the Houston Mayor’s Water Conservation Task Force, and architecture teacher at the University of Houston and Rice University.
Floods now affect an estimated 520 million people annually, causing global economic losses between $50 and $60 billion, according to data from the 5th International Conference on Flood Management.
In the talk Taylor argued that while our immediate response to getting rid of offending flood or storm water as fast as possible is natural in the face of disaster, there are ways to better design cities to redirect and leverage the power of this water, and even turn it into an amenity.
“We overbuild our cities with concrete, asphalt, and buildings that get rid of what used to be nature, which is what used to take the water and make it a positive thing,” Taylor said. “We now look at rainwater — stormwater — as a bad, negative thing. Something to get rid of really really quickly. But doesn’t it make sense that we turn that water into gold and look at it as something we should harvest and celebrate?”
Cows saving the planet? Why not? An idea that sounds preposterous begins to make sense when you take a soil’s-eye view of our current ecological predicament. Cattle, like all grazing creatures, can, if appropriately managed, restore land and help build soil. Rebuilding soil is only one aspect of this important, paradigm-shifting book. Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil’s pivotal role in our ecology and economy and an antidote to those awash in despairing environmental news. It is also an important call to action on behalf of the soil—and, by extension, those of us who benefit from it. Please click here for a review of Cows Save the Planet. You can go to the HMI store to take advantage of our featured book sale.
Posted by Chris Mooney on Friday, September 27, 2013
Alan Weisman, bestselling author of The World Without Us, tackles the world’s exploding human population in his new book, Countdown.
“Population is a loaded topic, and people who otherwise know better, great environmentalists, often times are very, very timid about going there,” Weisman explains on the podcast. “And I decided as a journalist, I should go there, and find out, is it really a problem, and if so, is there anything acceptable that we can do about it?”
The World Without Us imagined a planet rapidly returning to a natural state in the absence of humans. Where that book represented an ambitious thought experiment, Weisman’s new book is an experience. He traveled to 21 countries—from Israel to Mexico, and from Pakistan to Niger—to report on how different cultures are responding to booming populations and the strain this is putting on their governments and resources.
Strikingly, he found that countries are coping (or not coping) with this problem in vastly different ways. For instance:
* Pakistan: Current population: 193 million. “By the year 2030, they’re going to have about 395 million people,” Weisman says. “And they’re the size of Texas.” (Texas’s population? 26 million.)
* The Philippines: Current population: nearly 105 million. “As the rest of the planet’s population quadrupled in a century, the head count here quintupled in half that time,” Weisman writes in Countdown * Iran: Current population: nearly 80 million. Yet unlike Pakistan and the Philippines, Weisman says, Iran managed its population growth with “probably the most humane program ever in the history of the planet. They got down to replacement rate a year faster than China, and it was a totally voluntary program. No coercion at all.” (Note, though, that as Weisman explains in his book, there was one Iranian government “disincentive” to having a large number of children: “elimination of the individual subsidity for food, electricity, telephone, and appliances for any child after the first three.”)….
Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience
December 12, 2013
9:30am – 4:30 pm David Brower Center, Kinzie Room 741 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710
A workshop sponsored by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center.
Green Infrastructure incorporates the natural environment and constructed systems that mimic natural processes in an integrated network that benefits nature and people. A green infrastructure approach to community planning helps diverse community members come together to balance environmental and economic goals. This day-long workshop will include a morning introductory course and afternoon panels by local experts. The morning course, led by NOAA Coastal Services Center staff, will introduce participants to the fundamental green infrastructure concepts that play a critical role in making coastal communities more resilience to natural hazards. Through lectures, group discussion, and exercises, participants will identify natural assets in their communities that improve coastal resilience and will identify key stakeholders and planning processes that can support green infrastructure design and protection. During the afternoon, we will delve into the nuts and bolts of green infrastructure projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. We will hear from local experts who are implementing green infrastructure on the ground at multiple scales, from street projects to watersheds. The afternoon panels will be moderated for lively discussion. Who Should Attend: City and county officials, Engineers, Floodplain managers, Landscape Architects, NGO’s, Planners, and other Decision Makers involved in Coastal Management Issues
Registration: To register, click here. Registration is limited to 41 participants and is expected to fill fast. The deadline to register is December 6, 2013.
This workshop is being developed in partnership by the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NOAA Coastal Services Center. In addition, an advisory committee have provided feedback on the training including participants from: San Francisco Estuary Partnership, Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, California Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Institute. Questions? Contact Heidi Nutters, email@example.com, 415-338-3511 Feel free to forward this message to others who might be interested.
National One Water Leadership Summit
September 23-26, 2013
Community Conservation Solutions showcased the Green Solution for transforming our water pollution problem into a sustainable source of clean, usable water at the National One Water Leadership Summit
in Los Angeles, hosted by the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation. Click here to read more.
CCS’ metrics-driven Green Solution tool provides a prioritized “road map” showing where – and in what order – to implement “smart” stormwater capture projects to maximize water quality, water supply, conservation, and park-poor urban communities….
Middle East and Birds
1. See enclosed a lovely school program for thousands of schools throughout North America, accompanied by articles and educational activities. The program was developed by a leading website (a 3 minutes animation is included) specializing in programs intended to encourage students to follow in the footsteps of researchers and promote enthusiasm and interest in research. This time “my story” was presented: http://israel21c.org/environment/the-man-who-taught-me-to-fly/
2. A Seminar on The use of Barn Owls and Kestrels as biological Pest control agents in agriculture was held in Sde Eliyahu . 70 Arab farmers from Beit Netofa Valley, Galilee, Israel, from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority participated in what was a very successful day: http://ks.birds.org.il/DATA/SIP_STORAGE/FILES/4/2584.ppt
Prof. Yossi Leshem
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
By ANDREW C. REVKIN NYTIMES Oct 6 2013
Earlier this year, I took part in a fast-paced tour of the science of climate change at the Seattle Science Festival. I posted on the event at the time, but the Pacific Science Center has uploaded better video versions.
Richard Alley of Penn State talked about the hunt for “climate zombies” and explained why climate science is solid. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research dug into the physical science underpinning knowledge of the human role in global warming.
My job was to describe the empirical social science that, in part, explains why more climate science hasn’t led to more climate-smart energy action, but also hints at paths forward even in an era of intense political polarization.
I started by examining the deeply divergent climate change views of four Nobel laureates in physics and reviewed the valuable work on “cultural cognition” by Dan Kahan and others. Read on for a few transcribed moments, starting with my admission that, on some points, I am a climate denier:
We’ve heard this term climate denier. There are actually professional deniers whose job is to cast doubt on global warming. No question about it. But I was in denial on climate for decades. I expected more information would change the world, just as many scientists do…. And then there’s this idea out there that if you just clear away the disinformation, we’ll magically decarbonize…. I show a slide of a cartoon illustrating why the problem is not nearly that simple….
The Higgs Boson, Part I (short explanation- worth watching!)
Air Pollution and Psychological Distress During Pregnancy
October 7, 2013 — Maternal psychological distress combined with exposure to air pollution during pregnancy have an adverse impact on children’s behavioral development. The study shows that maternal demoralization, a … > full story
Two genes linked to increased risk for eating disorders
(October 8, 2013) — Scientists have discovered — by studying the genetics of two families severely affected by eating disorders — two gene mutations, one in each family, that are associated with increased risk of developing eating disorders. … > full story
3-D printed microscopic cages confine bacteria in tiny zoos for the study of infections
(October 7, 2013) — Researchers have used a novel 3-D printing technology to build homes for bacteria at a microscopic level. Their method uses a laser to construct protein “cages” around bacteria in gelatin. The resulting structures can be of almost any shape or size, and can be moved around in relationship to other structures containing bacterial microcommunities. … > full story
October 10, 2013
The discovery of the first chemical to prevent the death of brain tissue in a neurodegenerative disease has been hailed as the “turning point” in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Wall Street Journal October 7, 2013 (a sampling below- click on link above to see the full set)
British photographer Sean Gallagher spent the past seven years casting the spotlight on China’s environmental crises. Here, a man walks over rocks near to a glacial lake that has formed at the base of the Dagu Glacier on the southeast edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The glacier has been…