Conservation Science News November 1, 2013

Focus of the WeekSlowdown in CO2 Emissions Rise- sign of permanent slowdown in rate of increase?









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Focus of the Week– Slowdown in CO2 Emissions Rise- sign of permanent slowdown in rate of increase?



Report suggests slowdown in CO2 emissions rise

October 31 2013 By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News


Global emissions of carbon dioxide may be showing the first signs of a “permanent slowdown” in the rate of increase. According to a new report, emissions in 2012 increased at less than half the average over the past decade. Key factors included the shift to shale gas for energy in the US while China increased its use of hydropower by 23%. However the use of cheap coal continues to be an issue, with UK consumption up by almost a quarter. The report on trends in global emissions has been produced annually by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. It finds that emissions of carbon dioxide reached a new record in 2012 of 34.5bn tonnes. But the rate of increase in CO2 was 1.4%, despite the global economy growing by 3.5%.

This decoupling of emissions from economic growth is said to be down to the use of less fossil fuels, more renewable energy and increased energy savings. ….


Trends in global CO2 emissions: 2013 report

Report | 31-10-2013

Actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012. Yet, the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1% (or 1.4%, not accounting the extra day in the leap year), which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade. This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving.



2012 sees slowdown in the increase in global CO2 emissions

Three countries/regions remain responsible for 55% of total global CO2 emissions [China, EU, US]. Of these three, China (29% share) increased its CO2 emissions by 3%, which is low compared with annual increases of about 10% over the last decade. Although China’s CO2 emissions per capita are comparable to those in the EU and almost half of the US emissions per capita, its CO2 emissions per USD in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are almost double those in the EU and the United States and similar to those in the Russian Federation. In the United States (16% share) CO2 emissions decreased by 4%, mainly because of a further shift from coal to gas in the power sector. The European Union (11% share) saw its emissions decrease by 1.6%, mainly due to a decrease in energy consumption ( oil and gas) and a decrease in road freight transport.



An accelerated growth in renewable energy

Energy carriers in the primary energy supply all showed continuous increases over the past decade, except for nuclear energy, which decreased since 2012 in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident. Renewable energy has shown an accelerated increase since 2002: the use of hydropower has shown an accelerated growth since 2002 and its output increased by 4.3% from 2011 to 2012. The share of the ‘new’ renewable energy sources solar, wind energy and biofuels also increased at an accelerating speed: from 1992 it took 15 years for the share to double from 0.5% to 1.1%, but only 6 more years to do so again, to 2.4% by 2012.


More permanent slowdown?

The small increase in emissions of 1.1% in 2012 (including a downward correction of 0.3% for it being a leap year), may be the first sign of a more permanent slowdown in the increase in global CO2 emissions, and ultimately of declining global emissions, if (a) China achieves its own target for a maximum level of energy consumption by 2015 and its shift to gas with a natural gas share of 10% by 2020; (b) the United States continues a shift in its energy mix towards more gas and renewable energy; and (c) in the European Union, Member States agree on restoring the effectiveness of the EU Emissions Trading System to further reduce actual emissions. These preliminary estimates have been made by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The report is based on recent results from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) and the latest statistics on energy use and various other activities.






Tagging aquatic animals can disrupt natural behavior
(October 31, 2013) — American and Canadian researchers have for the first time quantified the energy cost to aquatic animals when they carry satellite tags, video cameras and other research instruments. … Studying fibreglass casts of sea turtles in a wind tunnel, the team found that while most commercially available tags increased drag by less than five per cent for large adult animals in the wild, these same devices increased drag by more than 100 per cent on smaller or juvenile animals.

“Many marine animals make yearlong breeding migrations crossing entire oceans, while others may rely on high speeds and acceleration — enabling them to catch prey or to escape predators,” says T. Todd Jones, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Hawaii, who led the study while a doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia.

“If the drag costs from carrying tags disrupts their natural behaviour, they may miss out on breeding and foraging seasons, be unable to catch enough food, or even end up becoming someone else’s meal.”

The study, published today in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, also includes a universal formula that allows scientists to calculate drag for a wide range of marine species including turtles, mammals, fish, and diving birds to inform study design…..> full story


T. Todd Jones, Kyle S. Van Houtan, Brian L. Bostrom, Peter Ostafichuk, Jon Mikkelsen, Emre Tezcan, Michael Carey, Brittany Imlach, Jeffrey A. Seminoff. Calculating the ecological impacts of animal-borne instruments on aquatic organisms. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12109


Fish Population Recovery in Marine Reserve

October 25, 2013 — Protection in the Medes Islands marine reserve started more than 25 years ago. Dusky grouper, zebra seabream and European seabass have practically reached their carrying capacity, whereas brown … > full story


Pronghorn warming to safe passages: Scientists observe as pronghorn use overpass without hesitation
(October 31, 2013) — Scientists observing the fall migration of pronghorn from Grand Teton National Park to the Upper Green River Basin announced that for the second year, the animals have successfully used the newly constructed overpasses that provide safe passage over U.S. Highway 191 in Trapper’s Point, Wyoming. More telling, the scientists report that unlike the first year, the pronghorn showed no hesitation in using the overpass and have apparently adapted to the structure. … > full story


First look at diverse life below rare tallgrass prairies
(October 31, 2013)
For the first time, a research team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has gotten a peek at another vitally important but rarely considered community that also once called the tallgrass prairie home: the diverse assortment of microbes that thrived in the dark, rich soils beneath the grass. “These soils played a huge role in American history because they were so fertile and so incredibly productive,” said Noah Fierer, a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and lead author of the study published today in the journal Science. “They don’t exist anymore except in really small parcels. This is our first glimpse into what might have existed across the whole range.”. … “It was very hard to find sites that we knew had never been tilled,” Fierer said. “As soon as you till a soil, it’s totally different. Most gardeners are familiar with that.”full story


Ancient bees could have died out with the dinosaurs

WSOC Charlotte

 – ‎Oct 26, 2013‎


According to a new study, the unknown event that killed off the dinosaurs millions of years ago could be the same event that wiped out ancient bees as well.


Local communities produce high-quality forest monitoring data, rivals that of professional foresters
(October 28, 2013) — A recent study by researchers at the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre and European and Southeast Asian institutions finds that local communities — using simple tools like ropes and sticks — can produce forest carbon data on par with results by professional foresters using high-tech devices. … > full story

Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
(October 29, 2013) — Meteorite bombardment left large craters that contained water and chemical building blocks for life, which ultimately led to the first organisms, according to one origin of life theory. … > full story

New global policy effort to tackle crisis of plastic litter in oceans urged
(October 29, 2013) — A new report explores the sources and impacts of plastic marine litter, and offers domestic and international policy recommendations to tackle these growing problems — a targeted, multifaceted approach aimed at protecting ocean wildlife, coastal waters and economies, and human health. … > full story

Bottom-feeding behavior of humpback whales confirmed
(October 30, 2013) — Scientists have confirmed that humpback whales in the southern Gulf of Maine are spending more feeding time on the ocean floor than in any of their known feeding behaviors, putting them at risk for entanglement in bottom-set fishing gear like lobster traps. … > full story

Porpoises on European coasts maintain their populations but migrate southwards
(October 30, 2013) — Seven oceanographic research vessels and three light aircraft from the SCANSII Project have recorded the abundance and distribution of small cetaceans in the waters of the European Atlantic shelf. Their results reveal that the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena, also known as the common porpoise) is the most abundant on these shores and the only species that has moved further southwards to live. … > full story

New species of dolphin found in Australian waters
(October 29, 2013) — A species of humpback dolphin previously unknown to science is swimming in the waters off northern Australia, according to biologists. … > full story


Echolocation: Bats and whales behave in surprisingly similar ways
(October 29, 2013) — Sperm whales weigh up to 50 tons, and the smallest bat barely reaches a gram. Nevertheless, the two species share the same success story: They both have developed the ability to use echolocation — a biological sonar — for hunting. Now researchers show that the biosonar of toothed whales and bats share surprisingly many similarities — even though they live in very different environments and vary extremely in size. … > full story

Earthworms invade New England
(October 29, 2013) — At least 16 species of earthworms are now found in Vermont and elsewhere in New England. All are exotic and many are invasive. As they spread, they devour organic matter, disrupting forests and releasing carbon dioxide. But they also store carbon deep in the soil. So, do the worms, on balance, slow or accelerate climate change? Vermont researchers are on the case. … > full story

Green flame moths: Scientists discover two new Limacodidae species from China and Taiwan
(October 29, 2013) — Due to their distinguishable vibrant green wing patterns the moths from the Parasa undulata group contain some of the most exciting species within the Limacodidae family. A revision of the group in China and Taiwan presents two exciting new species, with a flame-like green wing pattern and the first record of a conifer-feeding caterpillar. … > full story



Opinion: The climate change era is already upon us

We’re beyond debating the existence of climate change. Impacts we’re seeing now should compel us to reduce emissions further and start planning in earnest. It’s time to quit dithering.

By Jane Lubchenco and Thomas E. Lovejoy Oct. 28, 2013 The Daily Climate

We have been given a sobering glimpse into the speed of our changing climate and the vulnerabilities of our world. It turns out we must focus greater attention to the tropics, where so much of humanity and wildlife live, and to our oceans. While policymakers posture, dither and deny, the unraveling has already begun. A sophisticated analysis, published in the premier scientific journal Nature by a team of young scientists at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, shows that impacts of climate change are already dramatic, with much more to come. While policymakers posture, dither and deny, the unraveling has already begun. Many changes will continue in the years ahead, but we can slow them and buffer some of their impacts – if we act. Using as a baseline the observed temperatures our world has known since 1860, when records first became reliable, biologist Camilo Mora and his co-authors sought to determine when future temperatures will move beyond the bounds of historical ranges. Others have examined how average temperatures will change; the Mora team examined how the full range of temperatures is changing, compared to historic ranges.  They come to the surprising conclusion that the tropics are particularly vulnerable. A shift out of the observed range of temperatures is expected as soon as 2020. When that happens, the coldest temperatures will be warmer than the hottest in the past. The implications for people, food supplies and biodiversity are tremendous. Over the next three decades, many of the rest of the world’s ecosystems – the deserts and jungles, the temperate zones, the polar regions – will likely move outside of temperature ranges that have nurtured life as we know it. Within 35 years or so, most cities on earth will be living in a climate different from that upon which we have built our societies and civilizationExamining changes other than temperature, the University of Hawaii team found that the oceans are already outside the historic range of variability for acidity. Oceans today are 30 percent more acidic than 150 years ago. And life in oceans is already showing signs of this stress. These findings and forecasts are startling, but there is some good news: This analysis found that if we reduce the amount of climate-altering emissions over the next few decades, we have the power to slow these changes significantly. These results do not mean polar regions won’t see significant shifts. Or that ecosystems won’t prove flexible or resilient. But we have every reason to expect these climate changes will radically reorganize ecosystems, with unknown consequences to humanity. We have every reason to expect these climate changes will radically reorganize ecosystems, with unknown consequences to humanity. As a professor of marine biology at Oregon State University and former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a professor of science and public policy at George Mason University, we see in this study a powerful message to citizens and policymakers alike: It’s time to take action. A year ago, James Hansen, formerly of NASA, and his co-authors added a significant measure of understanding by looking at observed weather extremes over the last 30 years, particularly heat waves, compared to historical records. They found that we had lived through an exponential increase in outside-the-norm heat waves globally. This study by Mora and his co-authors adds an important measure to our knowledge. We’re beyond debating the existence of climate change, and onto documenting and forecasting how quickly it takes shape around us. Shouldn’t we also be acting to slow the changes and to be prepared for what has been set in motion? 

Jane Lubchenco is former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator and a professor of marine biology at Oregon State University. Thomas E. Lovejoy is professor of science and public policy at George Mason University. The Daily Climate is an independent news service covering energy, the environment and climate change. Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at]



Geoengineering the Climate Could Reduce Vital Rains

October 31, 2013 — Although a significant build-up in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would alter worldwide precipitation patterns, a widely discussed technological approach to reduce future global warming would also interfere with rainfall and snowfall, new research shows. The international study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), finds that global warming caused by a massive increase in greenhouse gases would spur a nearly 7 percent average increase in precipitation compared to preindustrial conditions. But trying to resolve the problem through “geoengineering” could result in monsoonal rains in North America, East Asia, and other regions dropping by 5-7 percent compared to preindustrial conditions. Globally, average precipitation could decrease by about 4.5 percent. “Geoengineering the planet doesn’t cure the problem,” says NCAR scientist Simone Tilmes, lead author of the new study. “Even if one of these techniques could keep global temperatures approximately balanced, precipitation would not return to preindustrial conditions.”….> full story


Simone Tilmes, John Fasullo, Jean-Francois Lamarque, Daniel R. Marsh, Michael Mills, Kari Alterskjaer, Helene Muri, Jón E. Kristjánsson, Olivier Boucher, Michael Schulz, Jason N. S. Cole, Charles L. Curry, Andy Jones, Jim Haywood, Peter J. Irvine, Duoying Ji, John C. Moore, Diana B. Karam, Ben Kravitz, Philip J. Rasch, Balwinder Singh, Jin-Ho Yoon, Ulrike Niemeier, Hauke Schmidt, Alan Robock, Shuting Yang, Shingo Watanabe. The hydrological impact of geoengineering in the Geoengineering Model Intercomparison Project (GeoMIP). Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 2013; 118 (19): 11,036 DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50868


Ocean Absorbing Heat 15 Times Faster Than Any Point in Last 10000 Years

Nature World News

November 1, 2013 The ocean is currently absorbing heat 15 times faster than at any point in the last 10,000 years, researchers have uncovered. (Photo : Reuters).


Is Global Heating Hiding out in the Oceans? Parts of Pacific Warming 15 Times Faster Than in Past 10,000 Years

October 31, 2013 — In a reconstruction of Pacific Ocean temperatures in the last 10,000 years, researchers have found that its middle depths have warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than they did during … A recent slowdown in global warming has led some skeptics to renew their claims that industrial carbon emissions are not causing a century-long rise in Earth’s surface temperatures. But rather than letting humans off the hook, a new study in the leading journal Science adds support to the idea that the oceans are taking up some of the excess heat, at least for the moment. In a reconstruction of Pacific Ocean temperatures in the last 10,000 years, researchers have found that its middle depths have warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than they did during apparent natural warming cycles in the previous 10,000.> full story



Thawing permafrost: The speed of coastal erosion in Eastern Siberia has nearly doubled
(October 29, 2013)
The high cliffs of Eastern Siberia — which mainly consist of permafrost — continue to erode at an ever quickening pace. This is the conclusion which scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Resear
ch have reached after their evaluation of data and aerial photographs of the coastal regions for the last 40 years. According to the researchers, the reasons for this increasing erosion are rising summer temperatures in the Russian permafrost regions as well the retreat of the Arctic sea ice. This coastal protection recedes more and more on an annual basis. As a result, waves undermine the shores. At the same time, the land surface begins to sink. The small island of Muostakh east of the Lena Delta is especially affected by these changes. Experts fear that it might even disappear altogether should the loss of land continue.. …
The warmer the east Siberian permafrost regions become, the quicker the coast erodes. “If the average temperature rises by 1 degree Celsius in the summer, erosion accelerates by 1.2 metres annually,” says AWI geographer Frank Günther, who investigates the causes of the coastal breakdown in Eastern Siberia together with German and Russian colleagues, and who has published his findings in two scientific articles.full story


Melting Arctic sea ice could increase summer rainfall in northwest Europe suggests new study
(October 28, 2013) — A new study offers an explanation for the extraordinary run of wet summers experienced by Britain and northwest Europe between 2007 and 2012. The study found that loss of Arctic sea ice shifts the jet stream further south than normal resulting in increased rain during the summer in northwest Europe.

Dr James Screen from the University of Exeter used a computer model to investigate how the dramatic retreat of Arctic sea ice influences the European summer climate. He found that the pattern of rainfall predicted by the model closely resembles the rainfall pattern of recent summers. The study is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Dr Screen said: “The results of the computer model suggest that melting Arctic sea ice causes a change in the position of the jet stream and this could help to explain the recent wet summers we have seen.Jet streams are currents of strong winds high in the atmosphere — around the height at which aeroplanes fly. These winds steer weather systems and their rain. Normally in summer the jet stream lies between Scotland and Iceland and weather systems pass north of Britain. When the jet stream shifts south in summer, it brings unseasonable wet weather to Britain and northwest Europe causing havoc for tourism and farming….full story





Officials Search For Plan As California Reservoirs Drop Below Half Capacity

By Ari Phillips on October 31, 2013 at 10:08 am

A Sierra Nevada reservoir. CREDIT: Shutterstock: Katarish

California is known for its massive water infrastructure in which northern reservoirs, which fill up from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, supply the populous southern and coastal regions of the state. However going into a third year of dry winter conditions, many of these northern man-made oases are at precariously low levels, hovering between one-third and one-half capacity, far less than the average for October. More than 20 million Californians and many farmers in the state’s crop-intensive Central Valley depend on northern reservoirs for their water. “Both the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project heavily depend on the Sierra Nevada snowpack,” Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources, told The Fresno Bee. “We are now facing real trouble if 2014 is dry.” Cowin said that dwindling reservoirs should be a wake-up call to Californians, and indicate that it’s time to prepare for additional water-conservation measures. Pete Lucero of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, owner of the Central Valley Project, told the Fresno Bee that January through May 2013 were California’s driest in about 90 years of recordkeeping. Currently the San Luis Reservoir, which gets water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is only 22 percent of its historical average for this time of year. At a recent workshop that brought together leaders to hear about California’s water challenges, Cowin said that decades of disagreement among environmentalists, farmers, water agencies, and other interests in various parts of California has “resulted in gridlock.” And that with “environmental laws, climate change, and population growth intensifying the conflict, there’s simply no time to waste.”…



Warm winters let trees sleep longer
(October 30, 2013) — In the temperate zones, vegetation follows the change of the seasons. Researchers have now brought a new correlation to light: The colder the winter, the earlier native plants begin to grow again. Since warmer winters can be expected as the climate changes, the spring development phase for typical forest trees might start later and later — giving an advantage to shrubs and invasive trees that don’t depend on the cold. … > full story


Reading Ancient Climate from Plankton Shells

Oct. 25, 2013 — Climate changes from millions of years ago are recorded at daily rate in ancient sea shells, new research shows. A huge X-ray microscope has revealed growth bands in plankton shells that show how shell chemistry records the sea temperature. The results could allow scientists to chart short timescale changes in ocean temperatures hundreds of millions of years ago. Plankton shells show features like tree rings, recording historical climate. It’s important to understand current climate change in the light of how climate has varied in the geological past. One way to do this, for the last few thousand years, is to analyse ice from the poles. The planet’s temperature and atmosphere are recorded by bubbles of ancient air trapped in polar ice cores. The oldest Antarctic ice core records date back to around 800,000 years ago. Results just published in the journal Earth and Planetary Sciences Letters reveal how ancient climate change, pushing back hundreds of millions of years ago into deep time, is recorded by the shells of oceanic plankton. As microbial plankton grow in ocean waters, their shells, made of the mineral calcite, trap trace amounts of chemical impurities, maybe only a few atoms in a million getting replaced by impurity atoms. Scientists have noticed that plankton growing in warmer waters contain more impurities, but it has not been clear how and why this “proxy” for temperature works. When the plankton die, they fall to the muddy ocean floor, and can be recovered today from that muddy ocean floor sediments, which preserve the shells as they are buried. The amount of impurity, measured in fossil plankton shells, provides a record of past ocean temperature, dating back more than 100 million years ago….….”These growth bands in plankton show the day by day variations in magnesium in the shell at a 30 nanometre length scale. For slow-growing plankton it opens the way to seeing seasonal variations in ocean temperatures or plankton growth in samples dating back tens to hundreds of millions of years,” says Professor Simon Redfern, one of the experimenters on the project.
“Our X-ray data show that the trace magnesium sits inside the crystalline mineral structure of the plankton shell. That’s important because it validates previous assumptions about using magnesium contents as a measure of past ocean temperature.” The chemical environment of the trace elements in the plankton shell, revealed in the new measurements, shows that the magnesium sits in calcite crystal replacing calcium, rather than in microbial membranes in their impurities in the shell. This helps explain why temperature affects the chemistry of plankton shells — warmer waters favour increased magnesium in calcite.


Oscar Branson, Simon A.T. Redfern, Tolek Tyliszczak, Aleksey Sadekov, Gerald Langer, Katsunori Kimoto, Henry Elderfield. The coordination of Mg in foraminiferal calcite. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2013; 383: 134 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2013.09.037



Managing Forests and Fire in Changing Climates

In the October 4, 2013 issue of the journal Science, seven highly respected wildland fire scientists summarize their recommendations for sustainable wildland fire and forest management in the face of climate change. In “Managing Forests and Fire in Changing Climates” , the authors present a straightforward set of policy recommendations that highlight the importance of acknowledging diversity in fire ecology among forest types, and the unsustainable nature of suppression-focused policy. Read it here


Rim Fire Near Yosemite
Fully Contained After More Than 2 Months

CBS Local ‎- October 26 2013

A wildfire that burned more than 250000 acres in and around Yosemite National Park has been fully contained, the U.S. Forest Service said this 

For more information see:


‘Orange slime’ used for fighting fires heats debate

The retardant is artificially colored bright red so that during a fire Cal Fire crews know where each drop started and left off. Cal Fire Air Technician Kevin Reed takes a handful of retardant at the Cal Fire Air Attack Base in Hemet, Calif. – one of 12 bases of its kind in California.

– Maya Sugarman

by Sanden Totten Marketplace for Tuesday, October 29, 2013

During wildfire season, the nightly news often shows images of tanker planes dropping orange liquid near the infernos. That’s fire retardant, a substance designed to slow and, in some cases, halt a blaze. On average, California uses more retardant than any other state, but some forest service employees argue the substance doesn’t work when it matters most. Up close, retardant looks like carrot juice and feels like slime.  It’s totally safe for people to touch, says Kevin Reed. He works for the state agency CalFire at Hemet Ryan Air Attack Base and is in charge of preparing the retardant.

He says it’s orange so firefighters can see it from the air. Retardant is mostly ammonium phosphate, a substance often used as fertilizer, says George Matousek with the company Phos-Chek, the only supplier of retardant in the U.S. When ammonium phosphate-covered wood feels the heat of an oncoming flame a reaction occurs, Matousek says. The phosphate converts the woody material into an almost pure form of carbon. Think of diamond or graphite. Pure carbon does not burn….



Warming will disturb balance of soil nutrients in drylands, make drylands less productive
(October 30, 2013)An increase in aridity due to global warming will disturb the balance of nutrients in the soil and reduce productivity of the world’s drylands, which support millions of people, a landmark study predicts. The research was conducted by a global collaboration of scientists who studied sites in 16 countries. It shows that increasing aridity is associated with a reduction in carbon and nitrogen in the soil and an increase in phosphorus. … The results are published in the journal Nature.

Drylands cover about 41 per cent of Earth’s land surface and support more than 38 per cent of the world’s population,” says Professor Eldridge, who also works for the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. “As the world’s population grows, people will increasingly rely on marginal lands — particularly drylands — for production of food, wood and biofuels. But these ecosystems will be severely affected by imbalances in the cycle of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.” A worldwide decrease in soil moisture ranging from 5-15 per cent has been predicted for the 2080-2099 period. Phosphorus in rocks and sediments is released into the soil by weathering, and levels are expected to increase as soils become drier and erode more. This increase in phosphorus will be accompanied by reductions in carbon and nitrogen, which are more dependent on biological processes such as litter decomposition, photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation. Reduced plant cover will also exacerbate this effect.

“Plants need all of these elements, in the correct amounts and at the right times, but increasing aridity will upset this balance, leading to a breakdown in essential soil processes,” says Professor Eldridge….. > full story


Delgado-Baquerizo, et al Decoupling of soil nutrient cycles as a function of aridity in global drylands. Nature, 2013; 502 (7473): 672 DOI: 10.1038/nature12670



Redwood trees reveal history of west coast rain, fog, ocean conditions
(October 29, 2013) — Scientists have found a way to use coastal redwood trees as a window into historic climate, using oxygen and carbon atoms in the wood to detect fog and rainfall in previous seasons. … > full story


Residents Weigh Global Benefits, Local Risks in Views of Climate Change Measures

October 31, 2013 — A survey of Indiana residents tracks public acceptance of potential measures to address climate change in their … > full story



Heat, Drought Draw Farmers Back To Sorghum, The ‘Camel Of Crops’

by Dan Charles NPR October 31, 2013 4:56 PM 4 min 19 sec

A test field of sorghum outside Manhattan, Kan., planted by Kansas State University. Dan Charles/NPR

Much of the world is turning hotter and dryer these days, and it’s opening new doors for a water-saving cereal that’s been called “the camel of crops”: sorghum. In an odd twist, this old-fashioned crop even seems to be catching on among consumers who are looking for “ancient grains” that have been relatively untouched by modern agriculture. Sorghum isn’t nearly as famous as the big three of global agriculture: corn, rice and wheat. But maybe it should be. It’s a plant for tough times, and tough places.

Sorghum “originated in the northeastern quadrant of Africa,” explains , a plant scientist from Ethiopia and professor at Purdue University. From there, it spread across Africa, India and even into China. “It’s got a lot of characteristics that make it a favorite crop for the drylands of Africa and the semi-arid tropics.”

It’s an essential source of food in those regions, but it’s not typically a big money crop. In Africa, it’s grown by subsistence farmers. It’s never gotten much attention from seed companies or investors.But it is nutritious. It can grow in soils that other plants won’t tolerate. Above all, it doesn’t need much water. Compared with corn, for instance, it needs one-third less water, and it doesn’t give up and wilt when rains don’t come on time. It waits for moisture to arrive…..



Natural Allies for the Next Sandy

Aerial image by PictometryAn aerial image of two salt marsh islands in Jamaica Bay, N.Y., where work is being done to restore the natural storm barriers.

By HENRY FOUNTAIN NY Times Published: October 28, 2013

The floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy had barely receded in New York last fall when the suggestions started coming for ways to keep the city and other low-lying areas safe in future storms. Higher flood walls and more bulkheads were needed, some experts said. Others called for even bigger engineering projects, like storm-surge barriers, to keep the water at bay. But the most intriguing suggestions involved natural approaches. Why not return New York to its glory days as an oyster capital, some argued, and build reefs in the harbor that could help beat down a storm’s waves? Why not turn Lower Manhattan into an aquatic Shangri-La, fringing it in marshland that could reduce surging storm waters? “A lot of people want wetlands to be a solution, instead of walls,” said Philip Orton, a research scientist who studies storm surges at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. “It’s a warm and fuzzy thing.” But natural features are, at best, an uncertain solution. While some natural barriers like dunes have been shown to be very effective at absorbing much of a storm’s energy — during Sandy, shore towns with dunes suffered less damage generally than those without — it is less clear that marshes, oyster reefs, kelp beds or the like provide much protection. Interactions between a storm and natural features are complex, and the dynamics of every storm are different, scientists say, making protection difficult to quantify. “There’s a lot of people saying that wetlands can reduce storm surges,” said Rusty Feagin, an ecologist at Texas A&M University. “There isn’t a lot of empirical evidence on it.” Proponents of a natural approach say their research shows that wetlands and reefs can offer some protection, especially from waves. They note that engineered solutions like sea walls have their own problems — for one thing, they can worsen flooding and erosion elsewhere. And marshes and oyster beds provide other benefits to ecosystems. Marshes, for example, can keep up with rising sea levels brought on by climate change, because as the marsh grasses slow down water, sediment carried by the water settles out, building up the soil. And oysters filter impurities, improving water quality. …



Coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change
(October 29, 2013) — Coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate warming, improving their chance of surviving through the end of this century, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new study. Results further suggest corals have already adapted to part of the warming that has occurred. … > full story


Long-term forecasts of heat waves?

Post date: October 27, 2013 UCAR

Scientists find that an atmospheric pattern can foreshadow the emergence of summertime heat waves in the United States more than two weeks in advance.



Preparing for extreme weather.
Donna Bryson October 26, 2013 Al Jazeera America
BOULDER, Colo. — Hurricane Katrina wreaks havoc on the Gulf Coast in 2005. Superstorm Sandy brings destruction to the East Coast in 2012. Heavy rains in the middle of the country lead to flooding in the rugged Rocky Mountains in 2013. Each crisis brings greater urgency to preparations for the next storm. Scientists disagree on whether climate change is causing these cataclysms, but agree that humans, whose carbon emissions have altered the environment, need to change their thinking and habits to reflect the new, powerful effects of disastrous weather. “All weather events these days are affected by climate change,” argues Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and a lead author of several assessments by the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Extreme events like Sandy “are developing in an environment that is different than it would have been without climate change,” he told Al Jazeera. For instance, climate change has made our world wetter, meaning storms pack more water power: “It rains harder, the storms tend to be a bit stronger,” Trenberth said. Environmental impact is cumulative. Take Colorado, for instance, where scientists say a native beetle that would have been kept in check by periodic cold weather thrived during warmer winters. This upset a balance that had kept beetles from infesting and killing large swaths of forest. That damage, combined with drought — like warming winters, a phenomenon Trenberth links to climate change — killed an inordinate number of trees. The dead, dry wood helped fuel major forest fires. When the fires were followed by heavier rains than usual, little vegetation was left to hold back the soil, leading to land- and mudslides this September.


UK Braces for Severe Storm

ABC News

 – ‎October 27, 2013‎


The worst storm in several years is forecast to hit the U.K. on Sunday, bringing heavy rain, hurricane-force winds and the expectation of flooding and transport disruption.


Climate change to drive annual temps to new highs within a generation, study says


 – ‎Oct 10, 2013‎


(CNN) — Average annual temperatures will start to consistently exceed the highest levels previously recorded in as little as seven years in tropical hotspots and within four decades for the majority of the globe if nothing is done to stop climate change



Humble clumps of moss yield sobering climate surprises. Oct 24 2013 Discover It has been something of an article of faith among skeptics of humanity’s role in global warming: The rise in temperatures observed in recent decades can’t be definitively pinned on humans because nature has produced temperatures during the past 11,000 years that were just as warm. But now, research involving moss that died at least 40,000 years ago has debunked this argument. …



In The Long Run, Rebuilding Coastlines Could Prove Too Costly—A YEAR AFTER HURRICANE SANDY….

NPR October 27, 2013 7:46 AM 5 min 19 sec

One year ago Tuesday, Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, devastating shoreline communities from Florida to Maine. Many of these areas have been rebuilt, including the Long Beach boardwalk, about 30 miles outside New York City. Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new boardwalk Friday. Ninety percent of the funding for the restoration came from the federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency paid $44 million to repair the devastation. … But should the federal government pay for shore restorations, when the beaches are sure to be hit and damaged by future storms? Rob Young, who directs the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, is one of many geologists who say taxpayers are shelling out too much cash to rebuild coastal areas that will continue to be ravaged by the effects of climate change. “After storms, the federal government creates this moral hazard, in my opinion,” Young says. “We spend billions of dollars rebuilding coastal communities, a lot of it in place. The argument for the spending is that the coastal economy is worth the money. But Young asks, “If the coastal economy is that strong and vibrant, why can’t they pay for the risk of being here themselves?” Young suggests that some coastal areas should be abandoned altogether because climate change is eating away at the nation’s shorelines. The primary response post-Sandy has been to elevate some homes and elevate some infrastructure,” he says. “So it’s like you’re standing in the river and the flood is coming, and instead of getting out of the river, you just roll up your pant legs, or hike up your skirt.”… Mayor Michael Bloomberg set up a task force to look at how the city could better protect itself from a rising sea level and increasing storm events linked to climate change. Seth Pinsky, who ran that task force and is now executive vice president of RXR Realty, agrees that certain parts of Manhattan are vulnerable during storms. But Pinsky says retreating is not an option. “We’re dealing with 400 years of settlement here in New York City,” he says. “In New York today, we have 70,000 buildings — representing over 500 million square feet of built area — that are in our 100-year flood plain. The idea that we’re going to be able relocate those people, their jobs, their homes, that built infrastructure in any foreseeable future is just not realistic.“….


If New York Freezes in January Blame Siberian Snow

Bloomberg ‎- October 26, 2013

Snow falling over Siberia is raising the prospect for frigid temperatures in New York come January… The weather half a world from Central Park can set off atmospheric events that result in icy air descending from the North Pole in December and January, driving U.S. temperatures down and natural gas and heating oil use up, according to Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmosphere & Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts. “It’s the best winter predictor that we have,” Cohen said in a telephone interview. “We haven’t made a forecast yet, but we’re watching it closely and the snow cover has definitely been above normal so far.” The more ground covered by snow across northern Europe and Asia at the end of October, the greater the chances of triggering a phenomenon known as the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. That would flood North America, Europe and East Asia with polar air and possibly erect a blocking effect in the North Atlantic that would bottle up the cold in the U.S. In September, 2.36 million square kilometers (911,000 square miles) of northern Europe and Asia were covered by snow, according to the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. That compared with the 1981-2010 mean of 1.5 million. “It’s running well above normal,” said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC, a commercial forecaster in Bethesda, Maryland. “Through the last week of September, it’s the highest snow total in Eurasia since 1977.” … One pattern that can negate Siberian snow is an oscillation in the stratospheric circulation of winds, said Robert Allen, an assistant professor of climatology at the University of California at Riverside. If they don’t line up right, the snow loses its ability to trigger sweeping cold events in the temperate regions, said Allen, who co-wrote a paper on the subject in 2011. The increase in Eurasian snow may be a side-effect of climate change, Allen said. The Arctic ice cap shrank to a record low last year, according to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, and always reaches its smallest in September. The added moisture in the air might fuel snowstorms, he said. ….



Dealing with climate change? Think like an octopus


Octopus in the Palma Aquarium. Photo by Morten Brekkvold/flickr

Nature has a lot to offer when dealing with risk, says University of Arizona ecologist Rafe Sagarin

By Douglas Fischer The Daily Climate Oct. 31, 2013 BOZEMAN, Mont. – When it comes to addressing climate change, the octopus can shed a lot of insight on how to handle the issue’s unexpected impacts and intractable politics.

Everything we do is about living in a world that’s full of risk. – Rafe Sagarin, University of Arizona

That, at least, is the lesson University of Arizona ecologist Rafe Sagarin draws from his observations of nature: Organisms have lived and thrived on a risk-filled planet for billions of years. They’ve done so without planning or predictions. Instead, they’ve become adept at adapting. And they’re really good at it. “Everything in nature starts with success,” he said. “Adaptability is how all biological organisms have dealt with the fact that they can never eliminate the risks.” 

Sagarin was at the Montana State University campus Tuesday for a public lecture hosted by the university’s Institute on Ecosystems. He sat with the Daily Climate before his talk and explained how his observations can apply to the climate conundrum. Sagarin, who is also the program director for the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 Ocean, has talked before businesses, the military, teachers, government agencies, even the Red Cross on this point. The lessons, he said, apply equally to all facets of our world and work. “Everything we do, whether we’re an (army) base colonel … or a teacher or a CEO, is about living in a world that’s full of risk,” he said…..Nature’s mechanisms for dealing with that are fairly simple, he added: They’re decentralized, they have redundant parts, they form highly symbiotic networks, and they iterate success. (That latter point is what gets him worked up about much of modern management theory, with its emphasis on learning from mistakes. “To start with failure is totally nonsensical. You don’t start with failure. You end with failure.”)

Applying this to climate, Sagarin sees success in the “emergent effects” of myriad other actions made in business and by society – decisions that often have nothing to do with climate change but that reduce emissions and carbon footprints anyway.

Southwest Airlines, for instance, didn’t set out to be the world’s most fuel efficient airline. It focused its corporate energies on rock-bottom ticket prices and quick airplane turnaround at the gate. But those actions, Sagarin said, have the side benefit of reducing the company’s fuel use. Similarly, a new, vertical farm and food-business incubator in Chicago called The Plant didn’t set out to reduce the carbon footprint for many businesses and residents of the city. John Edel, the founder, simply wanted a place that could support sustainable food and craft breweries. But by using brewery waste to support a fish farm and adding a bakery that brings in a lunch crowd, the plant has found a sustainable business model that happens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what about politics: If decentralization is a key part of nature’s successful adaptation strategy, what does that say for the massive United Nations climate talks set to resume in Warsaw on Nov. 12? Sagarin stopped and smiled. He’s considered this.  In an increasingly decentralized world, he said after a pause, “there are still specialized roles for a central power.” A centralized power can see the whole; it adds legitimacy; it sets boundaries. 

“Without a framework, without a body, how does the immune system work?”…..







West Coast climate pact: back to the future?

Posted on October 29, 2013 | By (David R. Baker)

It’s hard not to read through the new West Coast climate change pact without a strong sense of deja vu. Five years ago, the same three U.S. states and one Canadian province — California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia — signed an agreement to create a cap-and-trade market that would rein in greenhouse gas emissions. And they had company, with four other states and three additional provinces joining in. The results were less than impressive. California followed through, opening its carbon market last year. Quebec, another signatory to the 2008 agreement, is expected to join California’s market next year. British Columbia imposed a carbon tax. The other states and provinces all fell by the wayside, as climate change devolved into a partisan issue. So here we are again, with a new, smaller pact covering just the West Coast. Despite its reduced geographic footprint, the pact has lofty goals:

* The governors of Oregon and Washington will pursue ways to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, even though past attempts to do so died in each state’s legislature.

* West Coast governments will push the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, particularly electric cars. By 2016, ZEVs will make up 10 percent of fleet purchases for public agencies and private fleets alike.

* Washington and Oregon will adopt “low carbon fuel standards,” policies that encourage the use of alternative fuels. California and British Columbia already have those policies in place, despite court challenges to get rid of them.

* The three states and one province will deploy high-speed rail systems up and down the coast…..



‘It’s just nuts’ as wildfires drain budget yet again

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter Greenwire: Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lightning bolts rained across the West in August, sparking hundreds of wildfires in California, Oregon, Idaho and Montana and pushing the cash-strapped Forest Service to the brink. The service had at that point spent $967 million battling wildfires that had torched more than 3.4 million acres in 2013. Its emergency fund exhausted, it had about $50 million left — enough for about half a week. That’s become business as usual for an agency that’s run out of wildfire suppression funds seven times in the last 12 years. So Chief Tom Tidwell did what his predecessors had done: He raided the agency’s nonfire accounts to make up the shortfall. “I regret that we have to take this action and fully understand that it only increases costs and reduces efficiency,” Tidwell wrote in an Aug. 16 memo to his top deputies. He ordered that $600 million be borrowed, halting contracts, grants, and noncritical agency travel and hiring. The so-called fire borrowing — a result of insufficient appropriations — has happened with increasing frequency as wildfires have grown more intense and more homes are built in the forest. Unless Congress acts, wildfire costs will sap more money from the timber- and hazardous-fuel-reduction programs that are supposed to curb wildfire costs, in a vicious cycle….



Against The Tide

For centuries, the Netherlands has suffered from catastrophic floods. As the rest of the world now reckons with the same fate, the Dutch are sharing–and selling–what they’ve learned.Jeff Chu…

Visitors who come to the Netherlands in the hopes of seeing a foolproof system of flood control that they can easily duplicate back in their home countries are bound to be disappointed. The Dutch have learned the hard way that no single solution will suffice. Their rebuilding efforts since 1953 have evolved away from post-disaster clichés–We’ll show the storm who’s boss!–to something far more sophisticated. What you see there now, especially what has been built in the past few years, is indeed the architecture of the future, as the fight against rising tides goes global. But it’s also the attitude of the future. The Dutch have lately been working with nature instead of battling it, lowering barriers against the water instead of raising them. They’re harnessing the power of the cloud–enormous amounts of data and cutting-edge computer modeling–to predict the consequences of the clouds. They’re building seawalls so beautiful you wouldn’t recognize them. And as I discovered, the most important lessons they are trying to impart might not be about dikes and dunes at all.Nearly half of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of the sea, and hundreds of millions more reside in river valleys. In Hong Kong and Singapore, New York and Shanghai, thousands of acres of new waterfront land have been created through the magic buildup of landfill–and then stacked with luxury condos and gleaming office towers. Yet the risk of coastal living has grown in lockstep with that land’s soaring value. Seas are rising. And land is sinking. The soil under Jakarta, Indonesia, for instance, drained steadily of groundwater, is collapsing 4 inches a year. As scientists predict a wetter, stormier future for much of the planet, the Dutch have become a nationwide consulting company, fanning across the world to talk about water. They are working on water-related projects from the Mississippi to the Mekong, and their thinking was a cornerstone of New York’s $20 billion post–Hurricane Sandy protection plan. “We are branding this knowledge around the globe, and we are benefiting from it,” says Piet Dircke, who is widely known as the “water guru” at the Amsterdam-based engineering-and-consulting firm Arcadis. “You don’t need too many Dutch,” he says, “but a few can help you a little bit!” Dircke is a jovial evangelist for better water management, who speaks of dikes with a passion usually reserved for football teams and refers to New Orleans’s revamped levees as “absolutely fabulous!” He spends about 200 days a year away from home, and his recent itinerary reflects the demand for Dutch help: Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Dhaka, Shanghai, New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco….

…Dutch ambitions go well beyond retrofitting. Architect Koen Olthuis’s atelier,, does only water-based projects and has designed several floating houses in the Netherlands. Now, in the Maldives, he–in partnership with the developer Dutch Docklands–is building a resort, complete with an 18-hole golf course, that will float entirely on a Styrofoam-and-concrete foundation. He sees it as an early step into a wholly new market; eventually, he’d like to build floating housing for the poor in the Maldives and Bangladesh. “Building on water gives so much more freedom than land,” Olthuis says. “The next step is not going higher into the air, like 50 or 100 years ago. It’s going over the water.”

The Waterborne House: Architect Koen Oithuis astride a floating villa he designed in the village of Kortenhoef


A modern flood barrier aims to protect Verizon’s landmark building.
New York Times
October 31, 2013
To protect their Manhattan settlement in the 17th century, the English built a wall. To protect Wall Street in the 21st century, Verizon is doing much the same thing.

Land-Locked Texas Congressman Tacked On Amendment Upending National Ocean Policy

By Kristan Uhlenbrock, Guest Blogger and Michael Conathan, Guest Blogger on October 24, 2013

For the third time in the past year, Representative Bill Flores (R-TX) has succeeded in getting an amendment passed in the House that would obstruct implementation of the National Ocean Policy.



Carbon cut-off point 27 years away – study. An end to greenhouse gas emissions is possible by 2050, a report finds. But a decade before that, other researchers say, the world is set to cross a fateful threshold. Climate News Network

Developers of large buildings would have to prepare for climate change under proposed rules.
Boston Globe City officials proposed new zoning rules Tuesday that would require developers of large new buildings in Boston to submit plans to deal with flooding, heat waves, and other potential complications of climate change.


Major coastal cities face billions in flood losses.
Al Jazeera America According to a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change, average aggregated flood losses in 136 coastal cities were about $6 billion in 2005. Without any adaptation – improvements to protections and other flood mitigation efforts – those losses could rise to $1 trillion by 2050.


Fracking Goes To Sea: California Regulators Startled To Learn Of Offshore Hydraulic Fracturing

By Mark Dennin, Guest Blogger and Shiva Polefka, Guest Blogger on October 24, 2013

In recent weeks, Californians have been surprised to find out that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been secretly occurring along their coastline for years, without any analysis of its potential environmental impact.


New California fracking law triggers court action.
EnergyWire A new California law on unconventional oil drilling has been cited in a court case as a reason to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the state has failed to properly police the process known as fracking.


Fracking companies try to calm public fears with new code of conduct.
Calgary Herald Eleven companies that perform hydraulic fracturing in Canada have signed onto a new code of conduct aimed at alleviating public fears by outlining standard practices as well as guidelines companies should follow.


Some voters taking on fracking November 5, but is it a trend?
Climate Central Regulating hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is often the domain of individual states, but on election day on Nov. 5, voters in cities in Colorado and Ohio will determine whether cities in their states should be able to regulate oil and gas development themselves.


The Dangerous Bargain Harvard’s Dr. Faust Has Made With Fossil Fuels

By Joe Romm on October 23, 2013

Harvard President Drew Faust opposes divesting from companies with products and services that are destroying a livable climate for its students because they and the University use those products and services. Much like the original Dr. Faust, she is trading moral integrity for worldly gains.


Washington, D.C., gathering shows liberal disdain for Keystone XL

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter Greenwire: Friday, October 25, 2013

President Obama’s political friends yesterday left him very little room to maneuver on the politically controversial Keystone XL pipeline, taking turns panning the project at a Center for American Progress event attended by some of the most influential Democrats in Washington, D.C. Former Vice President Al Gore issued the bluntest indictment of the project, comparing American’s “addiction” to fossil fuels to a heroin addict’s need for a fix. “You know, junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and legs give out,” Gore told an appreciative crowd in a Washington, D.C., hotel ballroom.

“We are now at the point where we’re going after these dirty and dangerous carbon-based fuels,” he said. TransCanada Corp’s proposed Alberta-to-Texas pipeline would carry oil from Canada’s oil sands region to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast. Oil sands production is more carbon-intensive than most petroleum production, though how much more is subject to debate. Environmentalists say crude from oil sands carries a well-to-wheels carbon footprint that is 25 percent greater than that of conventional crude, while the State Department in its environmental analysis puts the oil sands premium at 17 percent and the industry puts it at 8 percent or less. Industry also says that moving product via pipeline is safer and cleaner than relying on rail or barge transport. The State Department is working to finalize its environmental impact analysis for TransCanada’s proposed project, but the president will have the ultimate say on whether the pipeline is permitted. Obama has committed to evaluate Keystone XL’s effect on atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions when deciding whether to allow the project to go forward. His first-term climate change “czar,” Carol Browner, said yesterday that she expected that evaluation to lead to rejection of Keystone. “I think it’s a standard that can get him to know, and that’s important, right?” she said. Green For All President and former White House adviser Van Jones said approval of the project would be untenable.”This thing will go from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico, it will risk 60 percent of our aquifers, no one knows how to clean it up,” he said, adding that anyone who believes in global warming or “high-minded American politics” or who doesn’t “want to be drinking tar” should oppose the project. Billionaire climate activist and donor Tom Steyer, who has invested heavily in political candidates like now-Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who oppose Keystone XL, said Obama must veto the project or forfeit America’s leadership on climate change internationally. He would not answer reporters’ questions after the CAP forum on future plans for his campaign against the pipeline. The only participant in the policy forum who will be directly involved in the decision on Keystone XL was Secretary of State John Kerry. The career-long advocate for climate action skirted the issue in his remarks, instead touting international energy policy as the key to combating climate change. Gore also used his address to pan the influence moneyed interests like Koch Industries have on American politics, declaring that democracy has been “hacked” and that structural changes are needed before issues like climate change can be addressed. “The Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch are full of passionate intensity,” he said, paraphrasing the famous William Butler Yeats quote. “But because they have taken so much control over the operations of our democracy doesn’t mean we cannot take it back,” he added.



Midwestern ethanol producers challenge California global-warming regulations.
Forbes A federal appeals court in California is mulling whether to reconsider a September ruling that upheld state global-warming regulations on ethanol producers. Critics say the decision gives the Golden State carte blanche to regulate virtually anything it doesn’t like.






Staggering turbines improves performance 33%
(October 30, 2013) — Researchers have found staggering and spacing out turbines in an offshore wind farm can improve performance by as much as 33 percent. … > full story


A wireless electric bus that charges instantly at every stop.
Fast Company

We told you about electric buses in Geneva that are flash-charged–which means they’re rapidly powered up via a laser-directed arm–when they approach a bus stop. Now, researchers at the Utah State University have tested an electric bus that does away with the arm and charges wirelessly through induction.


Tesla showcases West Coast charging network

David Baker SF Chronicle November 1 2013 Owners of the Tesla Motors electric Model S can now drive from San Diego to Vancouver, British Columbia, without ever paying for juice. Tesla has installed enough high-speed Supercharger stations to complete a drive up the West Coast, the Palo… more »


New recyclable building material, made partially from potatoes, could help solve waste problem
(October 31, 2013) — A new biodegradable and recyclable form of medium density fibreboard (MDF) has been created that could dramatically reduce the problem of future waste. … > full story


New ‘flexible’ power plants sway to keep up with renewables. Shifting rapidly with the weather, the supply of renewable power can be quite changeable. Most power plants, however, are anything but. Unable to ramp up or down quickly and efficiently, conventional facilities lack the ability to capitalize on a growing influx of wind and solar power to the grid. National Geographic News


Owens Valley braces for solar gold rush.
October 31 2013 Los Angeles KPCC

Owens Valley residents fear the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s proposed solar ranch will open new ways to drain resources from the valley. .. The DWP has plans to cover two square miles of the valley floor north of Lone Pine with solar panels — a project called the Southern Inyo County Solar Ranch. The panels would generate 200 megawatts, 1.5 percent of the city’s current demand. A similar project is also on the drawing board for an area near Owens Dry Lake. Howard says it’s all part of a DWP strategy to get solar power from diverse locations – including in the L.A. basin.

“We want to optimize the amount of solar in the City of L.A.,” Howard says. “But if you had all of your resources in the city, and it was an overcast day, the lights wouldn’t stay on.” More locations mean more reliability.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the plans have sparked opposition. “They’re looking here first. They should be looking here last,” said Daniel Pritchett with the Owens Valley Committee, an activist group that has long opposed the DWP’s use of valley resources…..



Solar switch forces utilities to shift priorities.
October 27, 2013 SF Chronicle Sitting on a rooftop, soaking up sun, the humble solar panel may not look like a threat to a multibillion-dollar industry. But some electric utility executives say it is. They even have a name for the nightmare scenario solar could create – the “death spiral.”


Wal-Mart Now Draws More Solar Power Than 38 U.S. States

Solar panels on the Wal-Mart in Foothill Ranch, California. Courtesy Wal-Mart

By Tom Randall Oct 25, 2013 2:25 AM PT

Solar power and keg stands have one thing in common: Wal-Mart wants to profit from them. In the race for commercial solar power, Wal-Mart is killing it. The company now has almost twice as much capacity as second-place Costco. A better comparison: Wal-Mart is converting more sun into energy than 38 U.S. states.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

In the beer department, Wal-Mart recently decided alcohol was good business and vowed to double sales by 2016. The result: 500 reps from the alcohol industry converged on the Sam’s Club auditorium in Bentonville, Arkansas, for an “adult beverages summit” focused on Wal-Mart. “It’s even selling it in garden centers,” Bloomberg News’s Renee Dudley wrote in August. With solar, will Wal-Mart have the same industry-focusing presence its had with booze? If small business is the heart of the U.S. economy, Wal-Mart is the gluteus maximus — the power muscle. The company redefines global supply chains and crunches cost reductions in just about every area it touches. More than 80 publicly traded companies rely on Wal-Mart for 10 percent or more of their annual revenue, according to Bloomberg data. “When we find something that works — like solar — we go big with it,” the company’s website proclaims….


Romanian farmers choose subsistence over shale gas.
The small hilly town of Pungesti in eastern Romania could be sitting on vast reserves of shale gas and U.S. energy major Chevron wants to find it. But the people of Pungesti want nothing to do with it.


Measuring Longview terminal’s potential impact on climate.
Longview Daily News
If a proposed Longview coal export terminal is built, 44 million tons of coal will be shipped to Asia and will contribute about 81 million tons of carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere every year when burned. Is that a lot? It depends on how you look at it.








Green Infrastructure Strategic Agenda

The US EPA has released an updated Green Infrastructure Strategic Agenda and has created a greenstream listserv featuring updates on green infrastructure publications, training, and funding opportunities. If you’re interested in joining, send an email to



Institute For Tribal Environmental Professionals

Host institutions needed for summer interns working on climate or air quality





Making Shade Coffee Work: Challenges In Telling the Bird Friendly Story,

Wednesday, November 6, 10:10-10:45 PT Webinar–Scott Weidensaul and Bill Wilson, Birds and Beans

Bird Education Alliance for Conservation BEAC for our Post Federal Government Shutdown Extravaganza BEAC Call (AKA, the Rescheduled October Webinar/Call).  BEAC calls are open to ALL – new people are welcome to participate any time, so please share this invitation widely! Learn more here: For audio you will need to call in with your phone…..To call in: US/Canada 1-866-600-3050 Mexico: 001-517-466-5793 Passcode: 9124900#  To join the web share


***EPA Webcasts

 Green Power Use and Opportunities for K-12 Schools

November 6, 1:00-2:00 PM (EST) – Sponsored by EPA’s Green Power Partnership, thiswebinar will examine how elementary, middle, and high schools can capture economic, environmental, and educational benefits by using renewable energy. 
The webinar will feature presentations by Judy Asselin, Sustainability Coordinator at Westtown School, a pre-K-12 school in Pennsylvania, and Margaret Watson, President of the Green Schools Alliance (GSA). Ms. Asselin will discuss the benefits and lessons learned from Westtown’s wide-ranging and evolving sustainability efforts, including the use of 100 percent green power, and the curricular tie-ins and campus-wide culture shift that have accompanied these efforts. Ms. Watson will present on the GSA’s work to help accelerate the adoption of renewable energy by K-12 schools. 
Webinar participants will also learn about an opportunity to join a green power purchasing consortium
 made up of K-12 schools, enabling participating schools to purchase renewable energy in a simple and efficient manner by aggregating demand and reducing administrative burdens. Register Now





The 11th Biennial State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference
Oakland Marriott Hotel, October 29-30, 2013. 

This year’s theme, “20/20 Vision: Past Reflections, Future Directions,” both celebrates the 20th anniversary of SFEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, and focuses our attention on the many challenges ahead.  If you have not already registered, please register now.  The Pre-Registration deadline is October 23rd. Conference Updates ( On-Line registration is available through October 23rd:  An updated program is available on the conference web site:


Quivira Conference 2013– Inspiring Adaptation  Wednesday, November 13 – Friday, November 15, 2013  Registration Deadlines:  November 5, 2013
“The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation. The West is less a place than a process.” – Wallace Stegner 

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




Friday, November 15, 2013 San Jose

Join Bay Area cities, counties, agencies, and environmental organizations for a day of presentations and discussion about trash reduction and prevention.  

Agenda Highlights:

*Impacts of Litter on Aquatic Environments

*Tobacco Product Litter

*Engaging the Public in Trash Reduction

*Food and Beverage Packaging

Learn More and Register


Eleventh Annual Workshop: Habitat Conservation Planning from Tahoe to the Bay

November 20, 2013, Ulatis Community Center, Vacaville  Speakers and Presentations

The Conservation Planning Partners is an ad-hoc association of eight County and Sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans.

County and sub-county scale Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans are in preparation or being implemented in a number of counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Region.  These plans provide a means for the conservation of endangered species and contribute to the ir recovery, while allowing appropriate, compatible growth and development in the metropolitan areas.


The Future of the Concrete Channel

Thursday 21 November 2013, UC Berkeley

Ubiquitous in the urban landscape, concrete channels embody a mid-20th-century attitude of subduing nature and maximizing developable land.  Yet these optimistically-engineering structures have proven hard to maintain, and society increasingly regrets the loss of riparian ecosystems and the opportunity for human recreation and renewal once offered by the natural streams.  As concrete channels inevitably age and reach the end of their design lives, river managers confront the question of what to do with this deteriorating infrastructure?  Can the channels be rebuilt or modified to pass floods increasing due to urbanization and climate change?  Or is this an opportunity to implement alternative approaches that restore valuable functions of natural rivers?  …..  The conference will wrap up with an exhibition of Concrete Channel Art.  ….For more information and to register, please visit the conference website:


The Great Basin: A Landscape Under Fire

Dec 9-10, University of Nevada, Reno

(Secretary Jewell invited keynote speaker)


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

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.  

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. Who Should Attend: City and county officials, Engineers, Floodplain managers, Landscape Architects, NGO’s, Planners, and other Decision Makers involved in Coastal Management Issues 

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 PartnershipBay Area Ecosystems Climate Change ConsortiumSan Francisco Bay Conservation and Development CommissionCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and the Bay Institute. Questions? Contact Heidi Nutters,, 415-338-3511 Feel free to forward this message to others who might be interested. 


Date CHANGED! : Rangeland Coalition Summit 2014 January 21-22, 2014  Oakdale, CA  Please note that the dates have been changed for the 9th Annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit to be hosted at the Oakdale Community Center. Mark your calendar for January 21-22, 2014, more details will be coming soon! The planning committee will have a conference call on September 11 at 9:00 AM to start planning for the event. If you are interested in serving on the planning committee or being a sponsor please contact Pelayo Alvarez:



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

March 6-9, 2014 Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sacramento, CA Sponsored by the Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and US Geological Survey. More info is available here:


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

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

Deadline for Submission: September 26, 2013




CA NRCS Announces Assistance for Catastrophic Fire Recovery

DAVIS, Calif., Oct. 18, 2013—The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced that applications will be accepted to assist private landowners in California affected by wildfires in the last 18 months. Financial assistance for implementing conservation practices may be available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Applications for this initiative can be submitted for primary consideration and ranking through Nov. 15, 2013.  “I encourage landowners who have private forestlands and rangelands that were damaged by the recent catastrophic fires to visit with their local NRCS field office about how this initiative can provide assistance to protect their natural resources,” said California State Conservationist Carlos Suarez. The purpose of the Catastrophic Fire Recovery EQIP Initiative is to provide immediate resource protection in areas burned by catastrophic fires in the past 18 months. Priority concerns include immediate soil erosion protection, minimizing noxious and invasive plant proliferation, protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and bringing back forests and restoring livestock infrastructure necessary for grazing management. Priority applications will include practices that are implemented within one year and provide immediate erosion protection, adequate livestock water, and habitat protection. Participants interested in implementing practices beyond the scope of this special and limited initiative are encouraged to apply under the regular EQIP funding opportunities. NRCS has provided leadership in a partnership effort to help America’s private land owners and managers conserve their soil, water and other natural resources since 1935.


Proposal Deadline: 3 December 2013 – Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Grants 2014

The United States Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act established an annual, competitive grants program to support projects that promote the conservation of neotropical migratory birds and their habitats in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Because our Website was not available during the U.S. Federal government shutdown, the deadline for applying to the NMBCA program has been extended, and proposals are now due no later than 3 December 2013. All applications must be submitted through, a process that requires an active “Dun and Bradstreet number” (DUNS) and active registration in the “System for Award Management” (SAM). Start preparing soon if you have never applied through, and start NOW if you do not have a DUNS! Information to help you through this process is available online at








Performing Global Warming

By ANDREW C. REVKIN October 31, 2013

Two students of global warming with a love of music explore the role of the arts in engaging the public on subtle environmental changes.You may have already heard Daniel Crawford perform his cello composition “A Song for Our Warming Planet,” built with notes representing each year’s global average surface temperature:

And you probably know about “Liberated Carbon,” my very different musical take on the age of fossil fuels. Here’s the version from my forthcoming (and first) album, illustrated with excerpts from wacky stop-motion animated films produced by Thomas Edison and other archival footage:


When to invest in the right innovations at the right moment in a product’s life cycle
(October 31, 2013) — When it comes to reducing the environmental impacts of products and services while maximizing profits, firms sometimes invest in the wrong areas. … > full story


Daylight saving time ends: Does it save energy?
Christian Science Monitor Not wanting to be outdone by the Germans, the British and Americans also adopted the practice of daylight saving time to save energy during World War I, and later again in World War II. But does it really save energy? Studies show mixed results.


Bike path proposed for Keystone pathway.
Bloomberg News The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline has gotten pretty heated and Kinder Baumgardner has an idea to cool the emotions: a really long bike path.













Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

707-781-2555 x318  | Follow Point Blue on Facebook!


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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