Conservation Science News December 6, 2013

Focus of the WeekAbrupt Impacts of Climate Change









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Focus of the Week

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises (2013)

National Academy of Sciences

Authors: Committee on Understanding and Monitoring Abrupt Climate Change and Its Impacts; Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Research Council


Climate is changing, forced out of the range of the past million years by levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not seen in the Earth’s atmosphere for a very, very long time. Lacking action by the world’s nations, it is clear that the planet will be warmer, sea level will rise, and patterns of rainfall will change. But the future is also partly uncertain — there is considerable uncertainty about how we will arrive at that different climate. Will the changes be gradual, allowing natural systems and societal infrastructure to adjust in a timely fashion? Or will some of the changes be more abrupt, crossing some threshold or “tipping point” to change so fast that the time between when a problem is recognized and when action is required shrinks to the point where orderly adaptation is not possible?

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change is an updated look at the issue of abrupt climate change and its potential impacts. This study differs from previous treatments of abrupt changes by focusing on abrupt climate changes and also abrupt climate impacts that have the potential to severely affect the physical climate system, natural systems, or human systems, often affecting multiple interconnected areas of concern. The primary timescale of concern is years to decades. A key characteristic of these changes is that they can come faster than expected, planned, or budgeted for, forcing more reactive, rather than proactive, modes of behavior.

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change summarizes the state of our knowledge about potential abrupt changes and abrupt climate impacts and categorizes changes that are already occurring, have a high probability of occurrence, or are unlikely to occur. Because of the substantial risks to society and nature posed by abrupt changes, this report recommends the development of an Abrupt Change Early Warning System that would allow for the prediction and possible mitigation of such changes before their societal impacts are severe. Identifying key vulnerabilities can help guide efforts to increase resiliency and avoid large damages from abrupt change in the climate system, or in abrupt impacts of gradual changes in the climate system, and facilitate more informed decisions on the proper balance between mitigation and adaptation. Although there is still much to learn about abrupt climate change and abrupt climate impacts, to willfully ignore the threat of abrupt change could lead to more costs, loss of life, suffering, and environmental degradation. Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change makes the case that the time is here to be serious about the threat of tipping points so as to better anticipate and prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises.


News coverage:


Tipping points: Where may abrupt impacts from climate change occur?
(December 3, 2013) ScienceDailyClimate change has increased concern over possible large and rapid changes in the physical climate system, which includes Earth’s atmosphere, land surfaces, and oceans. Some of these changes could occur within a few decades or even years, leaving little time for society and ecosystems to adapt. A new report from the National Research Council extends this idea of abrupt climate change, stating that even steady, gradual change in the physical climate system can have abrupt impacts elsewhere — in human infrastructure and ecosystems for example — if critical thresholds are crossed.

The report calls for the development of an early warning system that could help society better anticipate sudden changes and emerging impacts. …


Further scientific research and enhanced monitoring of the climate, ecosystems, and social systems may be able to provide information that a tipping point is imminent, allowing time for adaptation or possibly mitigation, or that a tipping point has recently occurred, the report says. “Right now we don’t know what many of these thresholds are,” White said. “But with better information, we will be able to anticipate some major changes before they occur and help reduce the potential consequences.” The report identifies several research needs, such as identifying keystone species whose population decline due to an abrupt change would have cascading effects on ecosystems and ultimately on human provisions such as food supply.


If society hopes to anticipate tipping points in natural and human systems, an early warning system for abrupt changes needs to be developed, the report says. An effective system would need to include careful and vigilant monitoring, taking advantage of existing land and satellite systems and modifying them if necessary, or designing and implementing new systems when feasible. It would also need to be flexible and adaptive, regularly conducting and alternating between data collection, model testing and improvement, and model predictions that suggest future data needs.



Ready — Or Not. Abrupt Climate Changes Worry Scientists Most

NPR December 03, 2013 5:01 PM

An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change. The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren’t doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts. And this is not a matter for some distant future. The Earth is already experiencing both gradual and abrupt climate change. The air is warming up slowly, and we’re also seeing rapid changes such as the melting Arctic ice cap.

….”When you think about gradual changes you can kind of see where the road is and know where you’re going,” Barnosky said at a news conference unveiling the report Tuesday. “When you think about abrupt changes and threshold effects, the road suddenly drops out from under you. And it’s those kinds of things we’re suggesting we need to anticipate in a much more comprehensive way.


Scientists know about some potential problems that could change the planet dramatically in a matter of years or decades. For example, sea level could quickly rise by as much as 25 feet if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to crumble into the sea. Yet committee chairman James White, an earth scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder, says we’re not watching that ice sheet very carefully to measure how much warming seawater is weakening the ice. “We should be measuring ocean temperatures near the ice sheet,” White said. “We should be measuring, far better, where the outlets are — where the glaciers go into the ocean. We don’t do that.


Another potential for disaster is in the Arctic. There is a huge amount of methane gas up there. The report says the region is unlikely to belch methane into the atmosphere rapidly and supercharge global warming. But government agencies aren’t keeping a close eye on methane and other greenhouse gases in the Arctic…. We know there needs to be monitoring capability,” White said. “We know we need to be watching the planet. We watch our streets, we watch our banks — if you live in the U.K. they watch everything — we watch other parts of the system very well. “But we do not watch our environment with nearly the same amount of care and zeal.” The committee didn’t just consider abrupt changes to the planet. It also looked at gradual changes that could trigger rapid disruptions for us. For example, parts of the Earth could quickly become inhospitable to crops like corn, once the temperature creeps past a certain threshold. Those concerns are greatest in the tropics and subtropics. “Probably the biggest issues are going to show up in the warm places, even though it will be easier to see them, and we will meet them sooner, in the Arctic,” says , a glaciologist at Penn State…..


Federal Study Warns of Sudden Climate Change Woes

WASHINGTON December 3, 2013 (AP) By SETH BORENSTEIN AP Science Writer

Hard-to-predict sudden changes to Earth’s environment are more worrisome than climate change’s bigger but more gradual impacts, a panel of scientists advising the federal government concluded Tuesday. The 200-page report by the National Academy of Sciences looked at warming problems that can occur in years instead of centuries. The report repeatedly warns of potential “tipping points” where the climate passes thresholds, beyond which “major and rapid changes occur.” And some of these quick changes are happening now, said study chairman James White of the University of Colorado.

The report says abrupt changes like melting ice in the Arctic Ocean and mass species extinctions have already started and are worse than predicted. It says thousands of species are changing their ranges, seasonal patterns or in some cases are going extinct because of human-caused climate change. Species in danger include some coral; pika, a rabbitlike creature; the Hawaiian silversword plant and polar bears. At the bottom of the world in Antarctica, the melting ice in the west could be more of a wild card than originally thought. If the massive ice sheet melts it may happen relatively rapidly and could raise world sea levels by 13 feet, but researchers aren’t certain how soon that may occur. However, the report had what researchers called “good news.” It said two other abrupt climate threats that worried researchers likely won’t be so sudden, giving people more time to prepare and adapt. Those two less-imminent threats are giant burps of undersea and frozen methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas, and the slowing of deep ocean currents. That slowdown is a scenario that would oddly lead to dramatic coastal cooling and was featured in the 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” Study co-author Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University compared the threat of abrupt climate change effects to the random danger of drunk drivers. “You can’t see it coming, so you can’t prepare for it. The faster it is, the less you see it coming, the more it costs,” Alley told The Associated Press. “If you see the drunk driver coming, you can get out of the way.” The scientists said the issue of sudden changes is full of uncertainties, so the world can better prepare by monitoring places like Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets more. But because of budget cuts and aging satellites, researchers have fewer measurements of these crucial indicators than they did a few years ago and will have even fewer in upcoming years, study co-author Steven Wofsy of Harvard University said. The panel called on the government to create an early warning system….


Panel Says Global Warming Risks Sudden, Deep Changes

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times December 3 2013

A scientific panel’s report ruled out some doomsday notions but said that dire climatic surprises seemed inevitable.


An Update on Risks of Abrupt Jolts from Global Warming

New York Times (blog)

Dec 3, 2013 


Written by

Andrew Revkin


The findings laid out below reinforce the reality that the biggest impacts of greenhouse-driven global warming still lie several generations in the future.





Evolution can select for evolvability, biologists find
(November 14, 2013) — Evolution does not have foresight. But organisms with a greater capacity to evolve may fare better in changing environments. This raises the question: Does evolution favor characteristics that increase a species’ ability to evolve? For several years, biologists have attempted to provide evidence that natural selection has acted on evolvability. Now a new article offers clear evidence that the answer is yes. … > full story

Ocean’s carbon dioxide uptake can impair digestion in marine animal
(November 15, 2013) — Ocean acidification impairs digestion in marine organisms, according to a new study. Researchers have studied the larval stage of green sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. The results show that the animals have problems digesting food in acidified water. … > full story


Working with Beaver to Restore Salmon Habitat

NOAA Michael Pollock, Chris Jordan, Nick Bouwes, Joseph Wheaton, Carol Volk, Nicholas Weber, Jason Hall, and Josh Goldsmith


A threatened population of steelhead in Bridge Creek, Oregon is limited by degraded stream conditions (Pollock et al. 2012).  By reconnecting portions of this incised channel with its former floodplain, we hoped to improve habitat conditions for steelhead.  Restoring connections between a channelized stream and its floodplain can increase habitat complexity in both the stream and its associated riparian zone (Pollock et al. 2007).  However, conventional stream restoration techniques can be disruptive and quite costly.  Large volumes of fill must be moved and graded with heavy equipment, exposing large areas of bare ground that require extensive re–vegetation effort (Pollock et al. 2012).  After it was breached by high flows, beaver abandoned this dam (foreground).  They rebuilt it within 1 year of reinforcement.  An additional dam built on a post line is shown upstream.   


In 2009, we began a study to restore channelized streams by encouraging a local beaver population to build longer–lived dams (Pollock et al. 2012).  Bridge Creek is a 710–km² watershed draining northwesterly into the lower John Day River.  At present, its beaver population is small, with growth impeded by short–lived dams.  Bridge Creek beaver dams are often short lived because they are built within an incised trench (Pollock et al. 2012).  This means that when annual flooding occurs, pressure from heavy flows is concentrated on the dam rather than dissipated across the floodplain.  Consequently, most beaver dams breach and fail within their first season.  We predicted that stable beaver colonies would gradually aggrade the incised reaches of Bridge Creek enough to raise the alluvial water table and reconnect the stream to its former floodplain.  Therefore, encouraging long–lived beaver dams would be a cost–effective method to produce measurable improvement in riparian and stream habitats, and subsequently in abundance of native steelhead.  Our objective is to help beaver build dams that will last long enough to lead to the establishment of stable colonies.  If this can be accomplished, the beaver dams should promote enough aggradation to reverse channel incision.  Such a reversal would yield a number of ecosystem improvements for steelhead and other species. ….



An ecosystem-based approach to protect the deep sea from mining
(December 5, 2013) — A new paper describes the expert-driven systematic conservation planning process applied to inform science-based recommendations to the International Seabed Authority for a system of deep-sea marine protected areas to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem function in an abyssal Pacific region targeted for nodule mining (e.g. the Clarion–Clipperton fracture zone, CCZ). … > full story


Five distinct humpback whale populations identified in North Pacific
(December 4, 2013) — The first comprehensive genetic study of humpback whale populations in the North Pacific Ocean has identified five distinct populations — at the same time a proposal to designate North Pacific humpbacks as a single “distinct population segment” is being considered under the Endangered Species Act. …The scientists examined nearly 2,200 tissue biopsy samples collected from humpback whales in 10 feeding regions and eight winter breeding regions during a three-year international study, known as SPLASH (Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks). They used sequences of maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA and “microsatellite genotypes,” or DNA profiles, to both describe the genetic differences and outline migratory connections between both breeding and feeding grounds. “Though humpback whales are found in all oceans of the world, the North Pacific humpback whales should probably be considered a sub-species at an ocean-basin level — based on genetic isolation of these populations on an evolutionary time scale,” said Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center and lead author on the paper. “Within this North Pacific sub-species, however, our results support the recognition of multiple distinct populations,” Baker added. “They differ based on geographic distribution and with genetic differentiations as well, and they have strong fidelity to their own breeding and feeding areas.” Humpback whales are listed as endangered in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, but had recently been downlisted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on a global level. However, two population segments recently were added as endangered by the IUCN — one in the Sea of Arabia, the other in Oceania — and it is likely that one or more of the newly identified populations in the North Pacific may be considered endangered, Baker said. How management authorities respond to the study identifying the distinct North Pacific humpback populations remains to be seen, Baker said, but the situation “underscores the complexity of studying and managing marine mammals on a global scale.” … > full story


CS Baker, D Steel, J Calambokidis, E Falcone, U González-Peral, J Barlow, AM Burdin, PJ Clapham, JKB Ford, CM Gabriele, D Mattila, L Rojas-Bracho, JM Straley, BL Taylor, UrbánR Jorge, PR Wade, D Weller, B H.Witteveen, M Yamaguchi. Strong maternal fidelity and natal philopatry shape genetic structure in North Pacific humpback whales. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2013; DOI: 10.3354/meps10508

Plastic found to account for the majority of marine microlitter accumulating in the food chain
(December 3, 2013) — Researchers have demonstrated that microplastics are transferred in the marine food web. The study also provided additional support to suspicions that many plankton organisms are unable to separate plastic particles from their natural food and that they therefore also ingest plastic. … > full story

Microplastics make marine worms sick
(December 2, 2013) — Tiny bits of plastic trash could spell big trouble for marine life, starting with the worms. Marine worms play a key ecological role as an important source of food for other animals. … > full story

Microplastic transfers chemicals, impacting health: Plastic ingestion delivers pollutants and additives into animal tissue
(December 2, 2013) — With global production of plastic exceeding 280 metric tons every year, a fair amount of it makes its way to the natural environment. However, until now researchers haven’t known whether ingested plastic transfers chemical additives or pollutants to wildlife. A new study shows toxic concentrations of pollutants and additives enter the tissue of animals that have eaten microplastic. … > full story

Tracking marine food sources
(December 3, 2013) — Scientists have developed a method to determine where animals obtain essential amino acids. They discovered that all life forms leave traces or ‘fingerprints’ in amino acids during biosynthesis. With these fingerprints, which are based on naturally occurring isotope variations, it is possible for the first time to distinguish between algal, bacterial, fungal and plant origins of amino acids through tissue samples. This discovery makes it possible to find out what animals have been feeding on without observing them directly or examining their stomach content. … > full story

Biologist develops method for monitoring shipping noise in dolphin habitat
(December 2, 2013) — A biologist has developed a system of techniques for tracking ships and monitoring underwater noise levels in a protected marine mammal habitat. The research focused on the bottlenose dolphin population in Scotland’s Moray Firth. … > full story

Sharks prefer to sneak up from behind: Caribbean reef sharks can tell if a human is facing toward them
(December 5, 2013) — “Never turn your back on a shark” is the message from a new article. Biologists contend that sharks can comprehend body orientation and therefore know whether humans are facing them or not. This ability helps sharks to approach and possibly attack their prey from the blind side — a technique they prefer. … > full story

Rising concerns over tree pests and diseases
(November 15, 2013) — New research has found that the number of pests and disease outbreaks in trees and forests across the world has been increasing. There is growing concern that aspects of globalization – in particular, high volumes and new forms of trade – may increase the risk of disease spreading and provide opportunities for genetic reassortment which can enhance pathogenicity (the ability of an organism to cause disease). … > full story


Bacteria chokes ecosystems

By Sam Harris Correspondent December 3, 2013 

Cyanobacteria – known as the “cockroaches” of aquatic environments – have been around for more than 2 billion years. Over their long evolutionary history, they have learned to tolerate many extreme conditions and are one of the toughest microorganisms on Earth. Cyanobacteria are also largely responsible for creating the oxygen-rich conditions that stimulated modern life. But the bacteria, known for their blooms, have become quite a problem in the 21st century. In a research brief letter published in the October edition of Science, researchers from UNC Chapel Hill and Oregon State University describe how outbreaks of these bacteria are choking lakes and rivers across the globe – and how such outbreaks may worsen with climate change and human development….


Reforestation in Lower Mississippi Valley reduces sediment
(December 2, 2013) — A modeling study shows that reforesting the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley can significantly reduce runoff from agricultural lands and the amount of sediment entering the area’s rivers and streams — and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. … > full story


Preventing, remediating degradation of soils in Europe through land care
(November 28, 2013) — A new research project focusing on preventing and remediating soil degradation in Europe is underway. The RECARE project is a joint initiative of 27 institutions and organizations in Europe. … > full story


Impacts of plant invasions become less robust over time: Invasive plants are more likely to be replaced by other ‘invasives’
(November 20, 2013)
Among the most impressive ecological findings of the past 25 years is the ability of invasive plants to radically change ecosystem function. Yet few if any studies have examined whether ecosystem impacts of invasions persist over time, and what that means for plant communities and ecosystem restoration. …
“We were able to take advantage of detailed studies I and others had conducted in the 1990s. We permanently marked sites we had set up and were able to go back and gain insight into how plant invasions changed over time without management,” said D’Antonio, who also is a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “Such studies are important because managers have little money to control invasive species or to study how impacts might change without management.” “Non-native plants can have very large impacts on ecosystem functioning — including altering groundwater, soil salinity or pH and pollination syndromes,” said lead author Yelenik, who earned her doctorate from UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology and now works for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center on the island of Hawaii. When D’Antonio and Yelenik revisited the study sites, they noticed that the invasive exotic perennial grasses (primarily an African invader called Melinis minutiflora) were dying, so they decided to repeat measures of nutrient cycling and plant community change. They found that the grasses’ self-reinforcing effects on soil nutrients had disappeared and the percentage of invader coverage had declined…..An important lesson here is that even if plant invasions can slow down on their own given enough time, native species may need further assistance in order to make a comeback, the researchers said. Other invaders may be poised to take advantage of reduced competition from the original invader. “Knowing the mechanisms of how and why invasions alter ecosystems is insightful for predicting what will happen, but without further management we may not get native species back,” Yelenik said. “When we see non-native species dying back and getting patchy, that may be the time to plant native species. It might turn out to be the most cost-effective way to get an ecosystem back to a more desirable state.”…full story


Crows are no bird-brains: Neurobiologists investigate neuronal basis of crows’ intelligence
(November 28, 2013) — Scientists have long suspected that corvids — the family of birds including ravens, crows and magpies — are highly intelligent. Now, neurobiologists have demonstrated how the brains of crows produce intelligent behavior when the birds have to make strategic decisions. … > full story


Why Birds Can Sleep on Branches and Not Fall Off

The Atlantic

Dec 2 2013


Written by

Alexis Madrigal


You ever see a bird clutching onto a branch high in a tree and wonder, “What happens if it falls asleep? How could it hold on?


Hummingbird metabolism unique in burning glucose, fructose equally
(December 5, 2013) — Hummingbird metabolism is a marvel of evolutionary engineering. These tiny birds can power all of their energetic hovering flight by burning the sugar contained in the floral nectar of their diet. … > full story


California water atlas seeks to clarify water issues
In California, few issues are as divisive as water. It pits North against South, fisherman versus farmer. With cycles of drought, dwindling groundwater and a future marked by a changing climate and a thirsty, booming population, no other resource is as imperiled in the Golden State.


High resolution global maps show increasing forest loss in tropics. L ATIMES The first fine-scale mapping of global forest cover shows the rate of forest loss in the tropics has increased over the past 12 years


Captive breeding for thousands of years has impaired olfactory functions in silkmoths
(November 21, 2013) — Domesticated silkmoths Bombyx mori have a much more limited perception of environmental odors compared to their wild relatives. A new study on silkmoths revealed that the insects’ ability to perceive environmental odours has been reduced after about 5000 years of domestication by humans. Scientists compared olfactory functions in Bombyx mori and in their wild ancestors. Perception of the pheromone bombykol, however, remained highly sensitive in domesticated males. … > full story

Iran’s looming environmental crisis

American Voices Joel Brinkley 12:30 p.m. CST, November 12, 2013

The world is watching the ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. They began days after tens of thousands of Iranian demonstrators screamed “Death to America!” as they remonstrated outside the former United States embassy in Tehran. That’s what the world knows of Iran — its nuclear program, the resultant economic sanctions and the nation’s turbulent relations with the West. The Iranian government talks about little else. Neither does the Western news media. In the background, however, a far more serious problem afflicts the nation that almost no one of influence in Tehran ever discusses in public. Iran is, quite literally, blowing away. Lakes and ponds are drying up. Underground aquifers that supply most of the nation’s potable water are emptying fast. More than two-thirds of the country’s land is rapidly turning to desert; just 16 percent of it remains arable. And massive dust storms sweep across the country almost daily, afflicting 23 of the nation’s 31 provinces — making it hard to breathe and killing thousands of people a year. As the Tehran Times put it, quoting Yousef Rashidi, director of Tehran’s Air Quality Control Company, “dust storms severely affect the health of citizens.” After all, massive dust storms now envelop Tehran every third day, on average, and at least 80,000 people die from strangling dust and other pollutants annually, the state’s Health Ministry reported late last month. And yet, the nation’s leaders seem never to talk about this — or do anything about it — so fixated do they remain on their nuclear program and the American “devils.” Every once in a while, though, someone does speak out, as former Agriculture Minister Issa Kalantari did in a recent Iranian newspaper article: “The main problem that threatens us” and is “more dangerous than Israel and America or political fighting” is that “the Iranian plateau is becoming uninhabitable. If the situation is not reformed, in 30 years Iran will be a ghost town.” …


Catastrophic collapse of Sahara Desert’s wildlife
(December 3, 2013) — A new study warns that the world’s largest tropical desert, the Sahara, has suffered a catastrophic collapse of its wildlife populations. … > full story

Bone grafting improvements with help of sea coral
November 29, 2013) — Sea coral could soon be used more extensively in bone grafting procedures thanks to new research that has refined the material’s properties and made it more compatible with natural bone. … > full story

Study suggests why, in some species, mere presence of males shortens females’ lifespan
(November 28, 2013) — Researchers have discovered that males of the laboratory roundworm secrete signaling molecules that significantly shorten the lifespan of the opposite sex. … > full story


Oldest large body of ancient seawater identified under Chesapeake Bay
(November 21, 2013) — USGS scientists have determined that high-salinity groundwater found more than 1,000 meters (0.6 mi.) deep under the Chesapeake Bay is actually remnant water from the Early Cretaceous North Atlantic Sea and is probably 100-145 million years old. This is the oldest sizeable body of seawater to be identified worldwide. … > full story




Sustaining Resilience at Sea


The value of a marine reserve goes beyond the obvious: new research indicates that it helps ward off some of the effects of climate change.

On the face of it, the value of a marine reserve — the equivalent of a national park or wildlife preserve on land — seems obvious. The oceans are in trouble, and setting aside regions of biodiversity, where fishing is strictly limited, if not prohibited, is one of the few effective means of protecting many species at once. But politically, there is nothing simple about creating marine reserves in international waters. Recently, China and Russia succeeded in blocking, yet again, the creation of a large marine reserve in Antarctica.
New research indicates that marine reserves may have an even greater importance than scientists previously supposed. A study recently published in Nature Climate Change found that marine reserves do more than merely shelter species that live within them. By enhancing the resilience of marine communities, reserves help ward off some of the effects of climate change, including invasion by species from warmer waters. The study was based on research conducted at the Maria Island Marine Reserve, just off the coast of Tasmania. Though the reserve was only established in 1991, data on marine life there had been collected for more than 70 years. Comparing the reserve’s ecosystem with similar but unprotected waters where fishing was allowed, scientists found greater long-term and short-term stability. The overall health of the ecosystem helped create what the authors of the study called “a feedback mechanism to promote stability.” The scientists found a substantial increase in the number of large-bodied fish and much less fluctuation, year to year, in the population of smaller fish. This is a reminder of something that all too easily goes unnoticed. How species will endure the effects of global warming depends less on the individual species than the overall health of the ecosystem it belongs to. This study also suggested another essential service that marine reserves provide. By giving us a view into a relatively unaltered past — since the 1940s in the case of Maria Island — they show how healthy ecosystems function, which will be increasingly valuable as climate change disorders them.



Rapid climate changes at end of last glaciation, but with 120 year time lag
(December 4, 2013) — Regional climate changes can be very rapid. Geoscientists now report that such a rapid climate change occurred in different regions with a time difference of 120 years. Investigation in the west German Eifel region and in southern Norway demonstrated that at the end of the last glaciation about 12,240 years before present climate became warmer, first recognized in the Eifel region and 120 years later in southern Norway. Nonetheless, the warming was equally rapid in both regions. …
The result of this study has some implications on the understanding of both past and future climate change. The assumption of an everywhere and always synchronously changing climat
e must be questioned and climate models have to better consider such regional aspects….

C. S. Lane, A. Brauer, S. P. E. Blockley, P. Dulski. Volcanic ash reveals time-transgressive abrupt climate change during the Younger Dryas. Geology, 2013; 41 (12): 1251 DOI: 10.1130/G34867.1


A Changing Climate for Endangered Species

NOAA December 4, 2013

Scientists are working to ensure that the Endangered Species Act remains effective in the face of a changing climate. A special section in the latest issue of Conservation Biology highlights their progress. Forty years ago this month the Endangered Species Act became law, and since then it has proved an effective tool for protecting species near the brink of extinction and the habitats they depend on. But the world is a very different place than it was in 1973, and federal agencies are adapting their science and management to protect endangered species against the array of threats they face today.

When the Act was written, no one was thinking about climate change. Scientists operated under the assumption that the environment varied but was not changing in any particular direction, and that the past was a good guide to the future. That is no longer the case.

How should we incorporate climate change into our decision-making under the Endangered Species Act? A special section in this month’s issue of Conservation Biology addresses this question with eight papers authored by NOAA scientists and their research partners who work on marine and aquatic species.

The language of the Endangered Species Act requires us to peer into “the foreseeable future” using the “best available science.” But future conditions are not guaranteed, and a changing climate can upset established trends. Making decisions under these conditions, and keeping up with emerging science, is a fundamental challenge when protecting endangered species. The eight research papers aim to help with that. “We identify lessons learned and try to provide some tools for when scientists decide if a species is at serious risk, develop recovery plans, and identify critical habitat,” said Michelle McClure, the NOAA Fisheries biologist who led the team of scientists contributing to this special section of the journal. Scientists have incorporated climate change modeling into several recent decisions on threatened and endangered species. Among them is the bearded seal, an Arctic species recently listed as threatened whose sea ice habitat is expected to shrink in coming decades. Another example is the 68 species of coral that are collectively under review for listing under the Act. Their future is threatened by, among other things, warming-induced bleaching and ocean acidification. “Climate change is just one more impact that you have to evaluate on top of all the other impacts that we have on endangered species,” McClure said, “But it’s bigger, it’s less fixable, and it’s more pervasive, so we have to be creative in our approach.”…


CONSERVATION BIOLOGY December 2013 Volume 27, Issue 6 Pages 1133–1494

Special Section: Incorporating Climate Change into Risk Analyses under the U.S. Endangered Species Act



350 Or Bust: Scientists Warn Even 2°C Warming Leads To ‘Disastrous Consequences’ And Must Be Avoided

By Joe Romm on December 3, 2013

Humanity is choosing to destroy a livable climate, warn 18 of the world’s leading climate experts in a new study. Led by James Hansen, they make the strongest case to date for a target of 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the air, or about 1°C (1.8°F) total warming…..Humanity is choosing to destroy a livable climate, warn 18 of the world’s leading climate experts in a new study. Led by James Hansen, they make the strongest case to date for a target of 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the air, or about 1°C (1.8°F) total warming.

Yes, we are already near 400 ppm (and rising 2 ppm a year), and have warmed more than 0.8°C since preindustrial times, so the authors understand the challenge. But in their must-read article in the journal PLOS One, the scientists argue that “aiming for the 2°C [3.6°F pathway would be foolhardy” because it “would have consequences that can be described as disastrous”: … sea level rise of several meters could be expected. Increased climate extremes, already apparent at 0.8°C warming, would be more severe. Coral reefs and associated species, already stressed with current conditions, would be decimated by increased acidification, temperature and sea level rise. More generally, humanity and nature, the modern world as we know it, is adapted to the Holocene climate that has existed more than 10,000 years.

They point that even a modest temperature rise will end the stable climate that enabled modern civilization is clear in this figure derived from another recent study:

Temperature change over past 11,300 years (in blue, via Science, 2013) plus projected warming this century on humanity’s current emissions path (in red, via recent literature).

A key point of the new study — bluntly titled “Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature” — is that 2°C warming is unlikely to be stable because it “would spur ‘slow’ feedbacks and eventual warming of 3–4°C with disastrous consequences.” As Climate Progress has previously reported, the thawing permafrost alone is projected to add as much as 1.5°F (!) to total global warming by 2100 and ocean acidification could add another 0.9°F. ….



Restore America’s Estuaries Submits First Greenhouse Gas Methodology for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration to Verified Carbon Standard

Wetland and Seagrass Restoration One Step Closer to Receiving Offsets December 5, 2013

Today, Restore America’s Estuaries submitted “Greenhouse Gas Accounting Methods for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration” to the Verified Carbon Standard to begin the approval process. This ground-breaking methodology opens the door for all tidal wetland and seagrass restoration projects that meet the eligibility conditions to calculate net greenhouse gas benefits and receive carbon credits.  “This global methodology sets the stage to connect coastal restoration and carbon finance. We expect it will stimulate coastal wetlands carbon projects around the world, from mangroves and seagrass of the Coral Triangle to rebuilding tidal marshes here in the U.S.,” said Jeff Benoit, President of Restore America’s Estuaries. Coastal blue carbon refers to the role of coastal wetlands (tidal marshes, seagrass meadows and mangroves) in contributing to the global carbon cycle. Coastal wetlands sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the form of biomass and soil carbon. Though only representing 2% of the world’s surface area they sequester 50% of the carbon that is transferred to marine soils and sediments. Coastal wetlands are under threat and represent one of the highest rates of loss for any ecosystem globally. At current rates, within 100 years most of the world’s coastal wetlands will be lost. In the United States losses are increasing as well. Restoration of coastal ecosystems brings benefits that support the livelihood of local communities, improve fisheries, reduce risk of flooding, provide future climate change adaptation benefits, and reverse ongoing greenhouse gas emissions from converted wetlands. Methodology development was lead by Restore America’s Estuaries with financial support from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Habitat Conservation, The Ocean Foundation, The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, and KBR. ….



More extreme weather events likely: Climate projections of unparalleled accuracy for the whole of Europe
(December 4, 2013) — Scientists have analyzed climate projections for the whole of Europe at an unprecedented resolution of 12 km, by downscaling the global simulations carried out for the 5th IPCC report. These simulations for the 21st century now provide a much more detailed representation of local phenomena and extreme events. Initial analyses confirm that there will be a significant increase in the frequency of extreme events, such as heavy rainfall, heatwaves and droughts. … > full story


New Jersey Shore likely faces unprecedented flooding by mid-century
(December 5, 2013) — Geoscientists estimate that the New Jersey shore will likely experience a sea-level rise of about 1.5 feet by 2050 and of about 3.5 feet by 2100 — 11 to 15 inches higher than the average for sea-level rise globally over the century. … > full story

Humans threaten wetlands’ ability to keep pace with sea-level rise
(December 4, 2013) — Left to themselves, coastal wetlands can withstand rapid levels of sea-level rise. But humans could be sabotaging some of their best
defenses, according to a new review. …
The threat of disappearing coastlines has alerted many to the dangers of climate change. Wetlands in particular — with their ability to buffer coastal cities from floods and storms, and filter out pollution — offer protections that could be lost in the future. But, say co-authors Matt Kirwan and Patrick Megonigal, higher waters aren’t the key factor in wetland demise. Thanks to an intricate system of feedbacks, wetlands are remarkably good at building up their soils to outpace sea level rise. The real issue, they say, is that human structures such as dams and seawalls are disrupting the natural mechanisms that have allowed coastal marshes to survive rising seas since at least the end of the last Ice Age. “Tidal marsh plants are amazing ecosystem engineers that can raise themselves upward if they remain healthy, and especially if there is sediment in the water,” says co-author Patrick Megonigal of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. “We know there are limits to this, and worry those limits are changing as people change the environment.” “In a more natural world, we wouldn’t be worried about marshes surviving the rates of sea level rise we’re seeing today,” says Kirwan, the study’s lead author and a geologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. “They would either build vertically at faster rates or else move inland to slightly higher elevations. But now we have to decide whether we’ll let them.”….full story


Sea-level rise to drive coastal flooding, regardless of change in cyclone activity
(December 4, 2013) — Though recent studies focus on climate change impacts on intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones, a new review shows that sea level rise and shoreline retreat are the two more certain factors expected to drive an increase in future flood risk. …
Sea level rise and its potential to dramatically change the coa
stal landscape through shoreline erosion and barrier island degradation, for example, is an under-appreciated and understudied factor that could lead to catastrophic changes in flood risk associated with tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the North Atlantic, they say. Woodruff adds, “There is general agreement that while globally, tropical cyclones will decline in frequency, their strength will be more intense. However, there is less consensus on the magnitude of these changes, and it remains unclear how closely individual regions of tropical cyclone activity will follow global trends.” Despite these uncertainties, the UMass Amherst geoscientist notes, the intensity and frequency of flooding by tropical cyclones will increase significantly due to accelerated sea level rise. Further, the geologic record provides clear examples for the importance of accelerated sea level rise in initiating significant changes in shoreline behavior.

full story


Jonathan D. Woodruff, Jennifer L. Irish, Suzana J. Camargo. Coastal flooding by tropical cyclones and sea-level rise. Nature, 2013; 504 (7478): 44 DOI: 10.1038/nature12855


While the Arctic Ocean is largely a carbon sink, parts are also a source of atmospheric carbon dioxide
(December 4, 2013) — While the Arctic Ocean is largely a carbon sink, researchers find parts are also a source of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Arctic Ocean as a whole seems to be storing more carbon than in previous years but the increase in the carbon sink may not be as large as scientists had previously thought. … > full story

Rainfall to blame for decline in Arctic peregrines
December 3, 2013) — Rain, crucial to sustaining life on Earth, is proving deadly for young peregrine falcons in Canada’s Arctic, a new study shows. … > full story


Antarctic fjords are climate-sensitive hotspots of diversity in a rapidly warming region
(December 3, 2013) — In the first significant study of seafloor communities in the glacier-dominated fjords along the west Antarctic Peninsula, scientists expected to find an impoverished seafloor highly disturbed by glacial sedimentation, similar to what has been documented in well-studied Arctic regions. Instead, they found high levels of diversity and abundance in megafauna. The difference can be explained by the fact that the subpolar Antarctic is in an earlier stage of climate warming than the Arctic. … > full story



Geoengineering approaches to reduce climate change unlikely to succeed
(December 5, 2013) — Reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface by geoengineering may not undo climate change after all. Researchers used a simple energy balance analysis to explain how the Earth’s water cycle responds differently to heating by sunlight than it does to warming due to a stronger atmospheric greenhouse effect. Further, they show that this difference implies that reflecting sunlight to reduce temperatures may have unwanted effects on the Earth’s rainfall patterns. …

Global warming alters Earth’s water cycle since more water evaporates to the air as temperatures increase. Increased evaporation can dry out some regions while, at the same time, result in more rain falling in other areas due to the excess moisture in the atmosphere. The more water evaporates per degree of warming, the stronger the influence of increasing temperature on the water cycle. But the new study shows the water cycle does not react the same way to different types of warming…..
In the new Earth System Dynamics study the authors also show how these findings can have profound consequences for geoengineering. Many geoengineering approaches aim to reduce global warming by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching Earth’s surface (or, in the pot analogy, reduce the heat from the stove). But when Kleidon and Renner applied their results to such a geoengineering scenario, they found out that simultaneous changes in the water cycle and the atmosphere cannot be compensated for at the same time. Therefore, reflecting sunlight by geoengineering is unlikely to restore the planet’s original climate. “It’s like putting a lid on the pot and turning down the heat at the same time,” explains Kleidon. “While in the kitchen you can reduce your energy bill by doing so, in the Earth system this slows down the water cycle with wide-ranging potential consequences,” he says. Kleidon and Renner’s insight comes from looking at the processes that heat and cool Earth’s surface and how they change when the surface warms. Evaporation from the surface plays a key role, but the researchers also took into account how the evaporated water is transported into the atmosphere. They combined simple energy balance considerations with a physical assumption for the way water vapour is transported, and separated the contributions of surface heating from solar radiation and from increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to obtain the two sensitivities. One of the referees for the paper commented: “it is a stunning result that such a simple analysis yields the same results as the climate models.”….full story


Can Hacking The Stratosphere Solve Climate Change?


 – ‎ December 6, 2013‎


Environmental scientist David Keith proposes a cheap and shocking way to address climate change: What if we inject a huge cloud of sulfur into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and heat?



Rising ocean acidification leads to anxiety in fish
December 4, 2013) — A new research study combining marine physiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, and behavioral psychology has revealed a surprising outcome from increases of carbon dioxide uptake in the oceans: anxious fish. Scientists have shown for the first time that rising acidity levels increase anxiety in juvenile rockfish, an important commercial species in California. … > full story


The 2014 Shrimp Season In The Gulf Of Maine Has Been Canceled

By Joanna M. Foster on December 4, 2013

On Tuesday, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries closed the Northern shrimp fishery in the Gulf of Maine citing record low stocks. .. I think everyone was startled by what we saw in 2012, and there was a lot of pressure to close down the fishery for the 2013 season,” said John Annala, Chief Scientific Officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “The survey this summer found just 20 percent of the 2012 record low, so it has fallen off incredibly sharply.” Perhaps most worrying is the fact that juvenile shrimp have not been picked up in a survey since 2010. Northern shrimp live about five years, so the lack of younger shrimp for three years straight may mean empty nets for years to come. “During the last ten years the water temperature in the Gulf of Maine has been running about 2.5 degrees Celsius or about 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the previous one hundred year average,” Annala said. “We don’t know what the thermal threshold of this species is, but the Gulf of Maine has always been the southernmost extreme of their range, so we probably don’t have much wiggle room.” Even if Northern shrimp prove themselves to be more heat tolerant than scientists predict, the warmer waters in the Gulf of Maine are proving deadly to the shrimp’s food supply, tiny zooplankton. Last spring, the usual surge in plankton never happened. Many species of plankton are also at the southernmost end of their thermal tolerance. Warmer waters are also making the Gulf more hospitable to shrimp predators like dogfish and red hake. “Decisions like this one show how fishermen are on the front lines of the battle against climate change,” said Michael Conathan, Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress in a phone interview. “This is not a nebulous, maybe-someday-in-the-future problem. This is unchecked carbon pollution affecting livelihoods here in Maine today.”….



In New Jersey Pines, Trouble Arrives on Six Legs

By JUSTIN GILLIS December 2, 2013

Scientists say the state has not adequately responded to a beetle invasion said to be caused by global warming.


2013 Set To Be One Of The Hottest Years Ever

By Kiley Kroh on November 13, 2013 A new report from the World Meteorological Organization also found that sea levels hit a record high in 2013, making coastal communities more vulnerable to devastating storms like Haiyan.


Climate change may disrupt butterfly flight seasons
(November 21, 2013) — The flight season timing of a wide variety of butterflies is responsive to temperature and could be altered by climate change, according to a new study that leverages more than a century’s worth of museum and weather records. … > full story


Researchers say Arctic Ocean leaking methane at an alarming rate
November 30 2013 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Ounce for ounce, methane has an effect on global warming more than 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and it’s leaking from the Arctic Ocean at an alarming rate, according to new research by scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Europe Could Be 9 Degrees Warmer By The End Of The Century

By Katie Valentine on December 3, 2013

New research predicts the continent to warm faster than the rest of the world, while also suffering increased droughts and deluges…. The research, which was conducted by 27 institutions and published this week in two scientific journals, found that by the end of the century, Europe could see average temperatures rise by 1 to 5 degrees Celsius, or 1.8 to 9.0 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s warmer than the IPCC’s most recent prediction of 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius of average global warming by century’s end. The research also predicts an increase in heatwaves in south and central Europe and intense rainfall and droughts in Europe overall. That prediction is in line with previous research on extreme weather and climate change and is also in line with some of the extreme weather Europe has dealt with over the last decade. This summer, in the midst of a heatwave that baked much of Europe, Austria set an all-time high temperature record after one town hit 104.9 degrees F. And in 2003, a major heatwave caused 70,000 deaths in Europe. Another recent report from the European Academies Science Advisory Council found that over the last 30 years, Europe has experienced a 60 percent increase in damage costs of extreme weather events. And in October, a report from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute noted that extreme weather is “increasing in frequency and intensity within Europe” and made predictions of increasing droughts, extreme rainfall events, and heatwaves that backed up the most recent research.

Global Carbon Project Updates Data on the Carbon Budget

On November 19, 2013, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) published its annual update on the global carbon budget and emissions trends. International goals aim to reduce global emissions in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, which requires limiting total global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 1 trillion tons. GCP’s update, Carbon Budget 2013, tracks fossil fuel emissions to better understand the world’s current climate change situation, and what changes can be made to emissions trends to stay within our carbon budget The Carbon Budget 2013 reports that annual emissions have been steadily increasing, though the major contributors to such emissions have changed within the last several years. In 2005, developing countries surpassed developed countries as the greater contributors to climate change. This is due to emission levels falling in developed countries like the European Union and the United States, but skyrocketing in developing countries like China and India. Annual CO2 emissions from developing nations, which accounted for approximately one-third of global emissions in 1990, now account for nearly 60 percent of global emissions.

Glaciers sizzle as they disappear into warmer water
(November 27, 2013) — The sounds of bubbles escaping from melting ice make underwater glacial fjords one of the loudest natural marine environments on earth, according to research. … > full story

Elucidating heavy precipitation events
November 29, 2013) — It is difficult to forecast heavy precipitation events accurately and reliably. The quality of these forecasts is affected by two processes whose relative importance has now been quantified. The French researchers have shown that these processes should be taken into account in low wind speed events. Their findings should help forecast these events, which repeatedly cause significant damage. … > full story

Lakes discovered beneath Greenland ice sheet
(November 27, 2013) — Scientists have discovered two subglacial lakes 800 meters below the Greenland Ice Sheet. Subglacial lakes are likely to influence the flow of the ice sheet, impacting global sea level change. The discovery of the lakes in Greenland will also help researchers to understand how the ice will respond to changing environmental conditions. … > full story

Subarctic lakes are drying up at a rate not seen in 200 years
(November 27, 2013) — The decrease in snowfall observed in recent years in Canada’s subarctic regions has led to worrisome desiccation of the regions’ lakes. … > full story

Drought likely to persist or develop in the Southwest, Southeastern U.S. this winter

No strong climate pattern influence anticipated through upcoming winter season

November 21, 2013

Download here. (Credit: NOAA)

Winter is likely to offer little relief to the drought-stricken U.S. Southwest, and drought is likely to develop across parts of the Southeast as below-average precipitation is favored in these areas of the country, according to NOAA’s annual Winter Outlook announced today. Drought has been an ongoing concern across parts of the Southwest and Texas for nearly three years, and after some relief during the past few months, drought is likely to redevelop during winter. Sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have been near average since spring 2012, and forecasters expect that to continue through the winter. This means that neither El Niño nor La Niña is expected to influence the climate during the upcoming winter.




How Climate-smart Agriculture Is Improving the Lives of Millions Around the World

Bruce Campbell Ph.D. Director, CGIAR Research Progam on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Posted: 11/11/2013 5:00 pm

The world’s climate is changing fast, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, no matter what measures we now take to reduce humankind’s impact on it. And as temperatures rise, rainfall patterns and amounts change, and pests and diseases find new ranges, the face of world agriculture will have to change too. Humankind is facing enormous challenges in feeding everyone on the planet. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 842 million people went hungry in 2011-13; that’s one in eight people worldwide. And the human population is still growing. By 2050 there will be another 2.4 billion mouths to feed. We will have to increase the amount of food we produce by 70 percent to meet the extra demands placed by population growth and changes in diets.

Somewhat surprisingly, agriculture has, until recently, been on the sidelines of discussions of human-induced climate change. Once largely seen as a ‘victim’ of climate change, there is now, however, a growing recognition of both the contribution agriculture has made, and continues to make, to climate change and the role it can play in mitigating the impact of human activities on climate change……he Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines climate-smart agriculture as consisting of three main pillars:

  • sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes (food security);
  • adapting and building resilience to climate change (adaptation); and
  • reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation), where possible.

But what exactly is “climate-smart agriculture”? Broadly speaking, it consists of proven practical techniques, such as mulching, intercropping, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, integrated crop-livestock management, agro-forestry, improved grazing, and improved water management, together with innovative practices, such as better weather forecasting, drought- and flood-tolerant crops, and crop and livestock insurance. A quick search online shows that many agencies and projects have are testing or promoting climate-smart agriculture, but few have shown widespread uptake. But a new booklet,
Climate-smart agriculture — Success stories from farming communities around the world, shows that climate-smart agriculture can and does make a difference to millions of people’s lives. The booklet showcases 16 examples of successful climate-smart agriculture from both developed and developing countries. These initiatives are having a widespread impact on food security, adaptation to climate change and climate change mitigation, and are being implemented over vast areas and improving the lives of millions of people.


Himalayan flowers shed light on climate change
December 3, 2013) — Flower color in some parts of the world, including the Himalayas, has evolved to attract bees as pollinators, research has shown for the first time. … > full story


Ocean’s carbon dioxide uptake can impair digestion in marine animal
(November 15, 2013) — Ocean acidification impairs digestion in marine organisms, according to a new study. Researchers have studied the larval stage of green sea urchins Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis. The results show that the animals have problems digesting food in acidified water. … > full story

Deadly storms spawned more than 80 tornadoes in Midwest

Chicago Tribune

 – ‎November 18 2013‎


The scale of Sunday’s deadly storms became clearer this morning: Six people dead in Illinois, hundreds of homes flattened and splintered, 81 tornadoes sighted through the Midwest, 358 reports of damaging winds, 40 reports of large hail.


Destroying greenhouse gases in environmentally-friendly way
(November 27, 2013) — Researchers have developed a new catalyst for the “activation” of carbon-fluorine bonds. This process has many industrial applications, among which stands out the possibility to be used to reduce existing stocks of CFCs (chloro-fluoro-carbonated compounds), known as “greenhouse gases”. CFCs experienced a huge boom in the 80s, but later they were found to destroy the ozone layer because of their photochemical decomposition when they reached the upper layers of the atmosphere. … > full story


Amazon drones: The latest weapon in combatting climate change
(November 21, 2013) — A flying, insect-like robot will give an unprecedented look at Peru’s tropical cloud forest, one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems and a key indicator of global climate change. … > full story


Wildlife could be biggest losers as South Carolina islands wash away. Dec 1 2013 Hilton Head Island Packet
Chunks of seashore are vanishing from South Carolina’s Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge as rising ocean levels and storms chew up the remote, unspoiled beaches some animals depend on for survival.


Growing Clamor About Inequities of Climate Crisis


The debate over how to address the disproportionate effects of climate change on poorer countries has gained momentum, but the steps can be politically daunting.


High-detail maps to help county reduce carbon footprint
Nov 18 2013 Santa Rosa Press Democrat



Typhoon reminds us climate change is about people

Pati Poblete Updated 6:24 pm, Friday, November 15, 2013 San Francisco Chronicle 

I have been to countless summits and conferences on climate change, sustainable development and environmental policy in Asia in the past several years. Presenters, including me, often share findings from scientific research, show intricate charts and offer better ways forward while pointing to the risks of doing nothing – rising sea levels, deforestation, land degradation. What is often missing – and what has become so painfully clear in these past few days since Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines – is that what we’re really talking about is people. Climate change is about people. It’s about livelihoods that are affected and sometimes destroyed when severe weather ravages the land they depend on for income. It’s about displacement when they are then forced to leave home in search of a better life in communities that do not have the capacity to absorb them. And it’s about survival in areas that do not have the infrastructure in place to withstand extreme weather…..


If you start geoengineering to halt global warming, don’t stop Inside Science News Service

Some scientists believe they could relieve Earth’s rising temperatures by injecting material into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight. However, new research suggests one crucial weakness of the strategy: Once you start, you had better not stop. Things would quickly get worse.





Continuing with pledge pathways to 2030 could push climate goals out of reach
December 3, 2013) — Current pledges for greenhouse gas emission reductions are inadequate and will further increase the challenge to reach internationally agreed climate targets, according to new research. …
In the absence of a global agreement on emission limits, countries instead have made voluntary pledges to reduce their emissions by 2020 with the current negotiations trying to establish international agreements for emissions reductions for the year 2030. The mitigation effort of the 2020 pledges made by countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change would result in significantly higher emissions in 2030 than what would be cost-effective in order to reach the long-term climate targets acknowledged by that treaty, according to a new study by research teams from Europe, Asia and the United States published in the journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change. “The gap between where emissions are and where emissions would need to be in order to keep climate targets within reach is getting bigger and bigger,” says IIASA Energy Program Leader Keywan Riahi, lead author of the paper published today. “Our study brings together the leading research teams in the field to systematically assess the implications of this gap.”….full story


Riahi, K., E. Kriegler, N. Johnson, C. Bertram, M. Den Elzen, J. Eom, M. Schaeffer, J. Edmonds, M. Isaac, V. Krey, T. Longden, G. Luderer, A. Mejean, D. McCollum, S. Mima, H. Turton, D. P. van Vuuren, D. Wada, V. Bosetti, P. Capros, P. Criqui, M. Hamdi-Cherif, M. Kainuma, O. Edenhofer. Locked into Copenhagen pledges – Implications of short-term emission targets for the cost and feasibility of long-term climate goals. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2013 DOI: 10.1016.j.techfore.2013.09.016


COP 19 Warsaw Wrap-Up: Where Does a Global Climate Deal Stand?

Huffington Post

 – ‎Dec 1, 2013‎


COP16 established the Cancun Adaptation Framework (CAN), which sought to enhance action on adaptation under the Convention.


Mayors ask Washington to lead — or get out of the way — on resiliency

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter Published: Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Three Democratic mayors say the federal government can help their cities prepare for climate change by offering information and support — and trying to reverse policies that have inhibited disaster planning. Visiting Washington, D.C., a week before the first meeting of the White House’s new adaptation task force, the mayors of Salt Lake City, Boulder, Colo., and Pinecrest, Fla., praised the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. But while new efforts on adaptation and mitigation are important, Boulder Mayor Matthew Appelbaum said, “the first thing the feds should do is stop making things worse.” The mayors spoke at a forum hosted by the World Resources Institute and the Union of Concerned Scientists. …..


Climate change: No longer electoral Kryptonite!

By Tom Steyer December 2, 2013 GRIST

How did things go so wrong for a conservative Republican in the coal-rich state of Virginia? Earlier this month, voters in that closely watched battleground state rejected Ken Cuccinelli’s extreme, right-wing bid for governor and dealt a serious blow to the deep-pocketed oil companies that backed his candidacy. Of course, now is when the number-crunchers confer behind closed doors, in hushed tones, about what it all really means — for the midterms in 2014 and the primaries in 2016, for soccer moms and NASCAR dads, for women’s bodies and marriage equality, and for climate change. I am here to tell you: A new political dynamic is emerging. Climate change is a winner, not a loser….


414 Cities report over 4,000 climate actions

Looking for inspiration when tackling Climate Change? In its November 2013 report, the carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR) announced that 414 cities reported over 4,000 climate actions which are either completed or in progress until 2020. 63% of the reduction commitments are above 1% per year, exceeding the value of even the most ambitious national governments under the Kyoto Protocol.


City Dwellers Are Giving Up Cars In Favor Of Subways And Bikes

By Aviva Shen on December 4, 2013

A new report finds that American cities are starting to favor more energy efficient modes of transportation.


INTERACTIVE: Fossil-Fuel Emissions by Country

NY TIMES November 16, 2013 The debate over how to address the effects of climate change emerged as a flashpoint at a United Nations meeting in Warsaw that began this week, with some countries claiming the need for reparations for most vulnerable nations. But determining each country’s degree of guilt is a complicated task.


How Bloomberg’s New Financial Tool Helps Investors Game Out The Risks Of The Carbon Bubble

By Jeff Spross on December 3, 2013

The Carbon Risk Evaluation Tool allows investors, for the first time, to game out the risks of investing in fossil fuel companies.


No climate-change deniers to be found in the reinsurance business Globe and Mail

In the offices of Munich Re, the German giant of reinsurance – the business of insuring the policies of insurers, there wasn’t much debate as the claims cheques flew out the door: The higher frequency of extreme weather events is influenced by climate change.


Banking on Coal

Published by urgewald, BankTrack, CEE Bankwatch Network and Polska Zielona Sieć

In cooperation with: Rainforest Action Network, World Development Movement, PowerShif

From the report: The Top Twenty Coal Mining Banks The following chart shows the top 20 commercial banks that have bankrolled the coal mining boom since 2005 (through mid-2013). At the top of the list are four U.S. banks, followed by banks from Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, China and Japan. Collectively, these 20 banks represent 71% of the coal financing identified in this study. A full ranking of all banks can be found in the appendix.

  • Citi
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Bank of America
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Credit Suisse
  • Industrial and Commercial
  • Bank of China
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Bank of China
  • BNP Paribas UBS
  • Barclays
  • China Construction Bank
  • Agricultural Bank of China
  • HSBC
  • China Development Bank
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Financial
  • Group Standard
  • Chartered Crédit Agricole
  • Goldman Sachs



Water shortages may make fracking impractical, industry says

The Guardian

 – ‎Nov 27 2013‎


They added: “However, where water is in short supply there may not be enough available from public water supplies or the environment to meet the requirements for hydraulic fracturing.” Water can be brought in from other areas, but this is costly …


Success of climate talks vital for 2°C target
(November 15, 2013) — Achieving a global climate agreement soon could be crucial for the objective to keep global mean temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. The challenges of meeting the long-term target will otherwise increase drastically both in terms of the required emissions reductions and economic impacts. … > full story


Climate change pledges: rich nations face fury over moves to renege

The Guardian

 – ‎November 18 2013‎


Yeb Sano, the Philippines’ lead negotiator at the UN climate change summit being held this weekend in Warsaw, spoke of a major breakdown in relations overshadowing the crucial talks, which are due to pave the way for a 2015 deal to bring down global 


California governor followed to events, heckled by environmentalists over fracking Dec 1 2013 Sacramento Bee

Environmentalists frustrated with Gov. Jerry Brown’s permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing have followed him to events throughout California, heckling him for his approval of legislation establishing a permitting system for the controversial form of oil extraction…..


Student fossil-fuel divestment movement persists.
Associated Press

The student campaign to press colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuels is entering a new phase, now that administrators at several top schools have said no.



Why Bay Area should care about California delta

Lois Kazakoff SF Chron Editorial Published 5:52 pm, Sunday, November 17, 2013

The California delta’s water woes might seem distant, but if you live in Alameda, Contra Costa or Santa Clara counties, you may drink delta water. If you savor locally caught salmon, the delta’s health is crucial to maintaining the supply. If you love the dominant feature of our home, the San Francisco Bay, you should care about maintaining freshwater flows from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Next month, the state will release the final (and 25,000-page) draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which includes a proposal to build a $14 billion “facility” and 30-foot-diameter twin tunnels to move water from the north delta to the state water pumps in the south delta. The public will then have 120 days to comment. The final document is anticipated next fall and a decision by the State Water Resources Control Board sometime thereafter…..


Brown releases proposed rules for fracking. California Gov. Jerry Brown has released much-anticipated proposed rules for fracking, a controversial technique for drilling for oil and natural gas reviled by environmentalists. The draft regulations on fracking would require state permits, testing of groundwater and notification of neighbors, and are called the toughest in the U.S. Los Angeles Times



TERM 91—Water Diversions to Rice Fields Stopped Due to Drought

The Bureau of Reclamation evoked Term 91 in parts of the Sacramento Valley and the Delta.  That means no more water diversions for rice fields beginning this week through at least mid-November.  The notice is in effect until 16 November, but land managers expect it to be extended until northern CA receives significant rainfall.  During my aerial survey this week, I estimated around 40-50% of the rice fields in the Colusa and Sutter Basins were currently flooded. 



A Balanced Oil And Gas Decision In Utah: Agency Pulls 100,000 Acres From Planned Drilling Auction

By Tom Kenworthy on November 15, 2013

The Bureau of Land Management’s Utah state office on Friday decided to defer 99,960 acres of proposed oil and gas leases in and around the San Rafael Swell, which has been considered for everything from National Monument to National Park status.


Politico: Rahm Emanuel Wanted ‘To Kill’ Steven Chu For Talking About Climate Change

By Joe Romm on November 15, 2013

Is it harder to be the chief of state for an island nation threatened by climate change — or to be a cabinet secretary threatened by the White House Chief of Staff for talking about climate change?


Goldman Sachs Advertises On #Sustainability While Pouring Millions Into Coal

By Emily Atkin on December 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm

The bank says it is helping advance clean energy by acting as the financial adviser to the shareholders of wind energy company Bons Vento during the company’s $541 million sale to Brazilian electricity generation and distribution utility company CPFL Energias Renováveis. It is important to note that Goldman did not invest in the wind company, nor did it pay the $541 million to sell it. Rather, its financial adviser services will enable the wind energy company “to benefit from CPFL Energias Renováveis’ strong management team, operational expertise and greater financial capacity to help further scale clean energy.”

Contrast that to the Rainforest Action Network’s most recent Coal Finance Report Cards, which cite Goldman as large supporters of both mountain-top removal (MTR) coal mining and coal-fired power plants. The process of MTR uses explosives to blow up mountains in order to access coal reserves, forcing rocks and soil into valleys and increasing concentrations of mercury and arsenic in water supplies. Until this year, Goldman did not have any policy statements addressing the issue of MTR mining and its associated risks, while doing business in 2011 with Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources — the two largest MTR companies. Now, Goldman does have a due diligence policy for MTR transactions, which states that “we review companies’ environmental, health and safety track record, regulatory compliance, litigation and local community issues, remediation methods, and impact on water quality.” In 2012, Goldman financed both Alpha and Walter Energy, which cumulatively produced 29.42 percent of MTR coal mined in Appalachia that year, the RAN’s report said. In terms of coal-fired power involvement, Goldman provided $252 million in financing “as a lead arranger or lead manager in transactions” with coal-fired power companies profiled in the RAN’s 2013 report. Coal-fired power companies financed by Goldman include American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings, FirstEnergy, NRG Energy, and the Southern Company.

Goldman has recently indicated that the “window for profitable investment in coal mining is closing,” saying in a recent research paper that that competition from gas and renewable energy is slowing down the market; environmental regulations are discouraging coal-fired generation; and that improvements in energy efficiency are making investments there more viable. But Goldman’s pessimistic view of coal, according to its paper, is not based around a belief that action to address climate change will stop the coal market. In fact, the paper said, “climate change has been displaced by other issues as a top concern.” However, the bank said “a catastrophic weather event such as an ice-free summer at the North Pole, a particularly destructive hurricane season in North America or a weather disruption that materially impacts agricultural output. Under such a scenario, governments may be forced to respond with drastically tighter environmental regulations that would further erode the long term demand for coal.”…


A New Alliance on Climate Change


In an effort to compensate for the failure of central governments to address the dangers of climate change with comprehensive national policies, cities, states and regions have developed their own strategies to rein in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. California’s ambitious plan aims to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050 by requiring cleaner cars, more energy-efficient buildings and renewable fuels. Nine northeastern states have joined in a regional trading program aimed at reducing power-plant emissions.


Contributing Op-Ed Writer

Australia’s Politics of Global Warming

By JULIA BAIRD Published: November 14, 2013

SYDNEY — Huge clumps of strange, pink-stringed jellyfish drifted into the protected bay near my home in Sydney last year. Thousands swarmed under the surface, stinging indiscriminately. I swam through them in a full-body wet suit for several long months with my swimming group, wondering if warmer currents had changed the habitat patterns. Scientists are now talking about a peculiar “jellification” of the sea, prompted by climate change. We smeared ointments on our faces and packed antihistamines and creams for the red welts on our exposed skin.








Obama Executive Order: Federal Government Must Triple Renewable Energy In 7 Years

By Emily Atkin on December 5, 2013 at 11:28 am

When President Obama made his second State of the Union address, he talked extensively about the importance of addressing global climate change. “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more,” he said. “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” Obama now seems to be making good on those statements. On Thursday, the administration released an executive order directing the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy by 2020, which would bring the government’s renewable energy usage to 20 percent. The order will apply to all federal agencies, including the military. The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the executive order before it was published, noted that the federal government itself occupies approximately 500,000 buildings and operates 600,000 vehicles, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services. The order does not disclose the cost of the transition, but says the goal will be reached “to the extent economically feasible and technically practicable.” ….


What happens when the energy price falls to zero?
Renew Economy
Numerous studies tell us that 100% renewables is possible, and cost effective. But how to structure an energy market where there is no fuel cost? Germany is already grappling with this dilemma, and the world is watching with interest.



Guatemala’s ambitious project to capture 1.8 million tons of carbon. An ambitious agroforestry project to be developed over the next 20 years in a Guatemalan reserve for protecting water springs, seeks to capture 1.8 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to help correct climate change on the planet. Latin American Herald Tribune

Biotemplated design of piezoelectric energy harvesting device developed
(December 3, 2013) — Scientists have developed a biotemplated design for a flexible piezoelectric energy harvesting device, called a “nanogenerator.” … > full story

Specially designed nanostructured materials can increase the light-absorbing efficiency of solar cells
(November 20, 2013) — The Sun is our most promising source of clean and renewable energy. The energy that reaches Earth from the Sun in an hour is almost equivalent to that consumed by humans over a year. Solar cells can tap this massive source of energy by converting light into an electrical current. However, these devices still require significant improvements in efficiency before they can compete with more traditional energy sources. New research has increased the light-absorbing efficiency of solar cells. … > full story

Breakthrough for biofuel production from tiny marine algae
(November 20, 2013) — Researchers have developed a method for greatly enhancing biofuel production in tiny marine algae. … > full story


Urban Schools Aim for Environmental Revolution

Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Kindergartners in Manhattan being served lunch on plates made from sugar cane, which are expected to replace plastic foam trays next year in six districts.

By MICHAEL WINES NY Times Published: December 1, 2013 46 Comments

Nothing seemed special about the plates from which students at a handful of Miami schools devoured their meals for a few weeks last spring — round, rigid and colorless, with four compartments for food and a fifth in the center for a carton of milk. Six big-city school districts are working to persuade suppliers to sell healthier and more environment-friendly products, like compostable food trays.

The new plates can be thrown away with any uneaten food and turned into compost. Looks, however, can be deceiving: They were the vanguard of what could become an environmental revolution in schools across the United States. With any uneaten food, the plates, made from sugar cane, can be thrown away and turned into a product prized by gardeners and farmers everywhere: compost. If all goes as planned, compostable plates will replace plastic foam lunch trays by September not just for the 345,000 students in the Miami-Dade County school system, but also for more than 2.6 million others nationwide. …


Shale revolution spreads with record wells outside US: Energy consultants. The hydraulic fracturing of shale in search of oil and gas has hardly started outside the U.S., but that’s changing. A record 400 shale wells may be drilled beyond U.S. borders in 2014, with most in China and Russia, according to energy consultants Wood Mackenzie Ltd. Bloomberg News







CALCC Climate Commons new highlights:



  • King Tide Dates for 2013/2014

    December 30th-31st
    January 1st-2nd  
    January 29th-31st

    For specifics on when the King Tides will occur in your area and how high they will be, check out the tide height and times information here.





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. 


Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS)  January 17-18, 2014, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program and Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz Registration fee: $500 Instructor: Barry Nickel, Director of the Center for Integrated Spatial Research

This course is an introduction to the concepts and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The course presents conceptual and practical discussions of the analysis of spatial information with the addition of exercises using the ESRI ArcGIS suite of applications. The class is designed to provide a basic introduction to GIS including spatial data structures and sources, spatial tools, spatial data display and query, map generation, and basic spatial analysis using ArcGIS software. It is the foundation for the rest of the classes offered in our GIS series.

Course Format: Approximately 50% lecture and 50% lab exercise. Please Note – There is a lot of information presented in this workshop in a short amount of time. We will maintain a fast pace, so please be prepared.


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:


Communicating Climate Change: Effective skills for engaging stakeholders, partners and the public

Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs

Presenter: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access 

San Francisco Bay NERR                               or                                         Elkhorn Slough NERR

 February 4, 2014                                                                                         February 6, 2014

Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511                                                   Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700


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:



North Bay Watershed Association  Friday, April 11, 2014  NOVATO, CA  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM PDT

The conference will bring together key participants from around the North Bay to focus on how we can work together to manage our water resources.

Keynote Speakers

  • Mark Cowin, Director, CA Department of Water Resources
  • Jared Huffman, U.S. Congressman, California 2nd District
  • Felicia Marcus, Chair, State Water Resources Control Board

For more information or questions contact: Elizabeth Preim-Rohtla North Bay Watershed Association 415-945-1475


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





National Audubon Society: Policy Director for California, based in San Francisco or Sacramento.

Climate Protection Campaign Director of Development and Communications– Santa Rosa, CA (Sonoma County)

WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) Director









Nelson Mandela’s Legacy for Climate Hawks: ‘It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done’

By Joe Romm on December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at age 95, leaves two legacies for climate hawks — the necessity of persistence and the value of divestment. Who among us can even imagine the persistence required of a man who spent more than 27 years in jail — from 1962 to 1990 — in his quest to end Apartheid? But his indefatigable spirit triumphed, and he was elected the first black president of South Africa a little more than 4 years after his release. His forbearance and moral sensibility prevented what many saw as an inevitable civil war and achieved, instead, national reconciliation.

Desmond Tutu wrote in a 2010 WWF editorial: “Last month we saw celebrations marking 20 years since the release of Nelson Mandela. That historic day signaled a turning point in the path this country was to take; we embarked on a new journey filled with hope for the future. Indeed, there were many who had to pinch themselves when it happened, so bleak were the preceding months and years during which many South Africans saw their country in crisis. The global movement urging action on climate change should take heart from that great event…. It took individual and collective activism and a sense of urgency and responsibility to change our nation. Twenty years later that’s what it will take to change the world.”

Climate hawks have already begun to take a page out of the strategy that helped bring down apartheid. Bill McKibben discussed that very point in a 2012 National Journal profile: McKibben now plans to pressure U.S. institutions, starting with universities, to end their financial investments in oil, gas, and coal companies. He’ll launch a 20-college tour, joined by Nobel laureate and South African human-rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to pressure university boards, via student protests, to end university endowment’s holdings in fossil fuels.

“Two hundred colleges divested their holdings in companies that did business with South Africa. And when Nelson Mandela got out of prison, the first place he came was not the White House—it was California to thank University of California students who had helped get their system to divest $3 billion in holdings in South Africa,” McKibben said. “As Desmond Tutu says, this is the next great moral issue that we face, and the same kind of tactic is what’s necessary to face it.”

Economy-wide divestment from fossil fuels is inevitable (see “Invest, Divest: Renewable Investment To Hit $630 Billion A Year In 2030, Fossil Fuel Stocks At Risk Today”). But, as I’ve written, we are poised to miss the window to avert catastrophic climate change by just a decade or two — resulting in possibly hundreds of years of misery for billions and billions of people. That’s why climate hawks must redouble our efforts against our redoutable opponents. Indeed, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote in 2010 that this was the heartening lesson Mandela’s persistence held for those tackling “the great causes of today” such as climate change: “And so the lesson of the South African struggle is surely that change never comes without a fight, but when we fight, progressives can change the course of history.”

Mandela famously said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.” But he had so many inspirational quotes. In his 1995 book, “Long Walk to Freedom,” he wrote, “There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

And, finally, he also wrote this: I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

Emily Atkin assisted with the research on this piece. Photo via iHeartClimateScientists.




Nelson Mandela’s legacy to climate change activists

Last updated on 6 December 2013, 10:05 am

Former South African President’s philosophy and life offers important lessons for climate justice campaigners, writes
Alex Lenferna

(Pic: Flickr/Symphony Of Love)

By Alex Lenferna

“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation” 

As the life of one of the world’s great heroes draws to a close it provides an important opportunity to reflect back on Nelson Mandela’s long and courageous life in order to draw inspiration from one of the world’s moral stalwarts who weathered the storms of oppression, racism, injustice and inequality & not only managed to come out of the other side a smiling, compassionate & forgiving leader, but in doing so navigated a path through those storms which has helped to inspire generations of leaders to come.

While climate change was not the issue that defined Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, a reflection on Mandela’s philosophy and life reveals a profound overlap with the principles and commitments of the climate justice movement, and therein lies many important lessons not only for the climate community but for humanity as a whole to learn from.

One prominent example is Mandela’s commitment to a cosmopolitan ethic of Ubuntu. Contrary to a strong individualism which permeates the Western world, the ethic of Ubuntu when combined with Mandela’s cosmopolitan valuing of all humanity, says that our own identity and well-being is tied into that of our community, the global community of humanity….. As we figure out how to respond to this crazy climate predicament we are in, reflecting on the life and struggles of Nelson Mandela can provide many important lessons as to how we make the seemingly impossible possible and become Mandela’s great generation, remembering , in the words of Mandela, that “it always seems impossible until it’s done“. – See more at:


Oh, Amazon? Birds Are Going to Attack Those Delivery Drones.

Slate Magazine (blog)

December 5, 2013


Smaller birds also bravely shoo away potential threats, including raptors. Kingbirds are most famous for this behavior and can sometimes be seen riding the backs of much larger birds, escorting them out of the area. It’s impressive behavior when seen


Study: It’s not easy ‘being green’
(December 2, 2013) — Think you don’t recycle enough? You’re not alone. However, people’s ability to overcome self-doubt plays a critical role in how successfully they act in support of environmental issues, according to a new study. … > full story


Can certain herbs stave off Alzheimer’s disease?
(November 15, 2013) — Researchers have found that antioxidant extracts from spearmint and rosemary fight mild cognitive impairment in an animal model. … > full story

The heart’s own stem cells play their part in regeneration
(November 28, 2013) — Up until a few years ago, the common school of thought held that the mammalian heart had very little regenerative capacity. However, scientists now know that heart muscle cells constantly regenerate, albeit at a very low rate. Sca1 stem cells replace steadily aging heart muscle cells, new research shows. … > full story

Evidence of ancient human history encoded in music’s complex patterns
(November 19, 2013) — Just as fragments of ancient pottery and bones offer valuable information about human history, music can also reveal clues about the past, according to new research. … > full story


New research shows promise for possible HIV cure
(December 3, 2013) — Researchers have used radioimmunotherapy to destroy remaining human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected cells in the blood samples of patients treated with antiretroviral therapy, offering the promise of a strategy for curing HIV infection. … > full story





Watch our planet’s impending climate disaster unfold from space. This four-minute video lays out what will happen to the planet if we continue on our present course. Which is a bummer, but at least it looks beautiful. Fast Company


National Geographic

National Geographic Maps Our Coastline After We Melt All Earth’s Ice, Raising Seas Over 200 Feet

By Joe Romm on November 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm




Seeds of our culture war were there at the first Thanksgiving






Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

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