Focus of the Week – Desalination- from California to Australia
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Focus of the Week– Desalination- from California to Australia
Kevin Fagan SF Chroncle Updated 10:52 pm, Saturday, February 15, 2014
As the drought bakes its way toward a fourth year, the state has a string of secret weapons in the works that could supply millions of gallons of new drinking water and help stave off disaster: desalination plants. Seventeen plants are in planning stages along the coast to convert salt water from the ocean or bays, including one near Concord that would serve every major water agency in the Bay Area. That plant is tentatively targeted to open in 2020, but could be kick-started earlier in an emergency, officials say – and once online, would gush at least 20 million gallons a day of drinkable water. Starting up this string of desalination plants would be no easy skate, though.
Machines that filter salt out of water still face the same opposition they have for generations from critics who say they are too expensive to run, kill fish as they suck in briny water, and spew greenhouse gases into the air from the energy they require to run. But in recent years, as technology and techniques for desalination have improved, such plants have gained momentum – enough so that in Carlsbad near San Diego, the biggest desalination facility in the Western Hemisphere is under construction and set to begin operation in two years. The $1 billion plant will tap the biggest water tank around, the Pacific Ocean. It will produce 50 million gallons of potable water daily, supplying more than 110,000 customers throughout San Diego County. Another large plant, with a potential price tag of $400 million, could begin construction in Monterey County by 2018. It would be near the only desalination plant in California that fills the needs of an entire municipality – the one that has been supplying water to Sand City, population 334, since 2010. “It’s a miracle how we managed to get this plant,” said Sand City Mayor David Pendergrass. “If we didn’t have it, the whole area would be in trouble. We’re not under any rationing here, but then we’ve been practicing conservation for years already, so we are responsible about our water use.
“I would absolutely recommend desalination for other areas.”
Bay Area project
Two hours north of Sand City, there is cautious enthusiasm for the $150 million Bay Area Regional Desalination Plant – as well as serious reservations. The biggest water agencies in the area, including San Francisco’s, have been developing the plant since 2003 and ran a successful small pilot version of it three years ago to make sure the location would work. The plant would sit in windswept Mallard Slough outside Bay Point and draw from delta waters flowing into Suisun Bay. “Certainly, the project is years out from being done, but it could be in the back of people’s minds as a ‘what if’ – and if we got into dire straits, money could be mobilized fast to finish it,” said Steve Ritchie, assistant general manager for water for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. San Francisco has been developing the plant with the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Contra Costa Water District and the Zone 7 Water Agency, which serves the Livermore region. So far the consortium has spent $2.5 million in mostly state grant money on the plan. If built, the plant would be only a supplemental source for districts that collectively distribute about 750 million gallons of water a day. But that still makes it an important potential weapon in the fight for dwindling supply, proponents said.
The agencies’ officials emphasized they would explore other options such as conservation, recycling and tapping new groundwater wells before turning to desalination. But even the prospect of the plant opening has some environmentalists concerned. New plants require electricity that puts more greenhouse gases in the air, when simple conservation methods should be encouraged instead, some say. There is also the possibility that the pumps could suck in and kill small marine organisms and fish such as the endangered delta smelt, although the Concord-area plant’s designers say that’s unlikely because of its location at the side of a flowing channel.
Also, though the delta water at Mallard Slough is brackish water rather than seawater – meaning it contains less salt and requires less energy to screen – the salinity level is expected to increase in coming decades as sea levels rise. And as the salinity goes up, so does the cost of screening the water. That cost would probably be passed on to water customers. Similar environmental and cost concerns over the past couple of years have stalled plans to build desalination plants in Santa Cruz and Marin County. “We actually support desalination when properly used, but you should look at the other options first,” said Charlotte Allen, co-chairwoman of the Sierra Club
Bay Chapter Water Committee.
The delta water plant – like the other 16 proposed along the coast and a handful of tiny plants already in use besides Sand City – would use a method called reverse osmosis, in which salty water is pulled in through filters. Typically, it takes two gallons of salty water to produce one gallon of potable water…..With better screens and technology that helps the plants power themselves by recycling the energy used to suck in water – in a way, like a hybrid car regenerates power from its own motion – the typical cost of running desalination plants can dip below $2,000 an acre-foot. Because pulling up groundwater from wells and recycling water can now cost the same or more, desalination is suddenly relatively affordable for many areas – such as the Bay Area.
Surface water from reservoirs and mountain runoff, in plentiful years, can be as cheap as $100 an acre-foot. But that bargain has become scarce in the drought. “In most areas of California we have exhausted a lot of the obvious water sources, and desalination is certainly an option – but it tends to be among the most expensive, even though the price has come down from what it was in 1991,” said Heather Cooley, a senior water researcher with the Pacific Research Institute, a nonprofit in Oakland. “Certainly there are other options that can be looked at first.” She also noted that with no sizable desalination plants operating in California, there hasn’t been much study on the full effect they could have on the coastline. “I would argue there is a risk in building too early or too big,” Cooley said. “Our understanding is improving. We know the technology works. But the challenge is that it is not appropriate in every location. “It would be better to go forward very carefully.”
Online: Complete drought coverage at www.sfgate.com/drought.
By John Roach NBC News February 17, 2014
Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state. Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people. Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water….
Cost and environmental concerns
“The trend of imported water (pricing) is definitely going up,” Heather Cooley, co-director of the water program at the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based environmental think tank, told NBC News. “We have some major infrastructure investments needed for imported water in California. I don’t have a crystal ball for what it is going to look like, but no doubt it will raise the price of imported water.” The pending price hikes for imported water as well as its uncertain reliability, she explained, are compelling reasons for municipalities to consider desalination. But, she noted, “we can’t look at these issues in a vacuum; we have to look at all the options that are available.” The sentiment is echoed by the San Clemente, Calif.-based Surfrider Foundation, which has opposed several desalination projects, including Carlsbad, on environmental grounds. For example, sucking up large amounts of seawater can kill fish and other creatures as water passes through intake screens. “Our general position is there is just a lot more that can be done on both the conservation side and the water recycling side before you get to [desalination] and we feel, in a lot of cases, that we haven’t really explored all of those options,” Rick Wilson, the organization’s coastal management coordinator, told NBC News….
Ultimately, she said, seawater desalination will become part of the solution to California’s ongoing water woes — something to consider along with other supply options, including increased wastewater recycling. “The key questions,” Cooley said of the desalination plants, “are when do you build them and how large do you build them?”
By TODD WOODY NY Times February 17, 2014, Monday
A project developed by WaterFX, a start-up in drought-stricken California, exploits two things the Central Valley possesses in abundance — fallow land and sunshine — to cut desalinization costs
FIREBAUGH, Calif. (Fresno) — The giant solar receiver installed on a wheat field here in California’s agricultural heartland slowly rotates to track the sun and capture its energy. The 377-foot array, however, does not generate electricity but instead creates heat used to desalinate water. It is part of a project developed by a San Francisco area start-up called WaterFX that is tapping an abundant, if contaminated, resource in this parched region: the billions of gallons of water that lie just below the surface. Financed by the Panoche Water District with state funds, the $1 million solar thermal desalinization plant is removing impurities from drainage water at half the cost of traditional desalinization, according to Aaron Mandell, a founder of WaterFX. If the technology proves commercially viable — a larger plant is to be built this year — it could offer some relief to the West’s long-running water wars. WaterFX faces a daunting and urgent task. The water is tainted with toxic levels of salt, selenium and other heavy metals that wash down from the nearby Panoche foothills, and is so polluted that it must be constantly drained to keep it from poisoning crops.
A solar receiver in a field in Firebaugh, Calif. It is part of a project developed by WaterFX to cleanse water at a lower cost than traditional desalinization. Peter DaSilva for The New York Times ….
This year, farmers in the Panoche district will receive no water. Last year, they received only 20 percent of their allocation, Mr. Falaschi said. In 2012, the allocation was 40 percent. Farmers elsewhere who rely on the State Water Project to irrigate 750,000 acres of farmland will also receive no water in 2014. For agricultural water districts like Panoche, solar thermal desalinization promises to solve two persistent problems. One is a chronic water shortage, even in rainy years, as regulators divert water to cities and for environmental purposes, like protecting endangered fish. The other is the growing salt contamination of agricultural land that has led farmers to abandon more than 100,000 acres in the Central Valley in recent years. For decades, water districts like Panoche have drained salty groundwater and disposed of it in places like the San Joaquin River. But new environmental restrictions ban that practice. WaterFX could reduce the volume of drainage water that needs to be diverted while providing a new supply of fresh water for irrigation that is not dependent on the vagaries of snowpack and rainfall in far-off parts of the state. “This subsurface groundwater is a possible gold mine,” Mr. Falaschi said. “You’re taking a water supply that is unusable now and you’re converting it to a usable source.”
The desalinated water is of bottled-water quality, purer than what is needed for irrigation…..
Angeles Chapter- Sierra Club Blog Monday, March 4, 2013 By Ray Hiemstra the Orange County Conservation Committee Chair for the Angeles Chapter Sierra Club.
Many people in Southern California think that we are in a perpetual drought and will not have enough water to sustain ourselves. Unfortunately, this common fear is fueling misguided support for ocean desalination, the process of removing salt from seawater to create potable water. Our fresh water supply is often wasted and underutilized, especially when 60% percent of the water we produce goes towards landscaping purposes, not human sustenance. We need to use what we have wisely, and consider innovative, cost effective and environmentally friendly supply options. There are currently 16 proposed desalination plants in California, and the idea is spreading. Desalination is the most environmentally damaging, energy intensive and expensive water supply option. In Huntington Beach, Poseidon Resources, a Connecticut-based corporation, plans to privatize a public good, and use outdated technologies to make a profit at the expense of ocean ecosystems and ratepayers wallets. Poseidon has never successfully built a large desalination plant before; they have only demonstrated that they are good at making closed-door deals.
Poseidon plans to use open ocean intake pipes, which the State of California has required all coastal power plants to discontinue using by 2020. Open ocean intakes suck in and kill billions of fish eggs, adult fish and other marine life. Not only is desalination harmful when taking water in, but also when it expels hyper saline brine, the salt by-product of the desalination process. In addition to a very high concentration of salt, brine also contains other pollutants such as heavy metals that can bioaccumulate throughout the food chain. According to a study by the Pacific Institute, “direct discharges into estuaries and the ocean disrupt natural salinity balances and cause environmental damage of sensitive marshes or fisheries.” The brine discharge from the Poseidon plant will cause a dead zone off the coast of Huntington Beach. (For more information on opposition to the Poseidon plan, go to nowaterdeal.com.
Desalination not only harms marine resources, but it also affects our climate through increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Desalination is the most energy intensive water supply option. The Poseidon Huntington Beach plant would use enough energy to power 30,000 homes. Twenty percent of California’s cumulative energy demand goes to moving and treating water. In a 2008 report, the California Air Resources Board noted that a way for the state to reach its reduced GHG goals is to replace existing water supply and treatment processes with more energy efficient alternatives. Desalination is a step in the wrong direction if we want to reach this goal.
A recently approved Poseidon desalination plant in Carlsbad was originally estimated to cost around $250 million; now it is nearly a $1 billion project. The water to be produced at the plant costs 4 to 8 times more than other water sources such as groundwater or recycled water. And rate payers are bound to a 30- year contract to buy the water. Desalination may be one of the tools that water agencies and the public choose to pursue in the future but not before fully exploring and adopting the less expensive and proven options such as promoting water use efficiency, or funding the expanded use of recycling systems such as the Ground Water Replenishment System in Fountain Valley. The system takes highly treated wastewater that would have been discharged into the ocean and purifies it at a very affordable rate. In fact, the cost of water, per acre-foot, produced at the replenishment system costs one-third of what distributed water produced from a desalination plant would cost. Capturing urban runoff from the many high volume creeks and streams throughout the region, which dump hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water a day into the ocean, is a viable and cost-effective alternative. Richard Atwater, Executive Director of the Southern California Water Committee recently stated that Southern California needs to “recognize the importance and potential of stormwater as a supplemental water supply source to what we currently import”. Much of this water should be captured and recycled to provide indirect potable water and reduce pollution to our ocean, which is required by law anyway.
Another flaw of building a desalination plant in Huntington Beach is that the Orange County Sanitation District releases millions of gallons of secondary treated water a day into the ocean less than a mile from the site for the desalination plant. Why treat wastewater, release it into the ocean, then spend $1 billion to build a plant that sucks that same water back in just to take the salt out of it? The water coming out of the sanitation district’s facility is already being treated at a level that it could be used as an indirect potable water source to expand the Ground Water Replenishment System.
Water reuse can help better utilize our current water supply, but we can also implement more conservation measures on the demand side. A cost-effective example is the move some cities are making to stop using potable water for landscaping. Reclaimed water is clean and safe enough to be utilized for irrigation. With the elimination of overwatering and the use of modern landscaping featuring California Friendly vegetation, we can drastically reduce the amount of water needed for landscaping and use the saved water for people and industry. The resulting water savings would help protect our current water supply, save ratepayers money, and reduce the need to create, or import more water. The Sierra Club realizes that desalination is a necessary option for the future, in regions that have exhausted all other options. What we are opposed to is using destructive 1960s technology that destroys our fish stocks and pollutes our ocean. Other countries have implemented desalination as a last resort when all other options have been tried. Hopefully California will do the same. The Poseidon Huntington Beach project will be the turning point on desalination is done in California and your help is needed. Watch for messages from the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter regarding opportunities to send in letters or attend meetings to stop Poseidon and protect our environment.
Desalination- overview (2005)
This website outlines various methods of desalination, their operation, costs, ecological impacts, and benefits as well as drawbacks.
This website was developed for the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire course ENPH 441:Water and Wastewater by Karen Bartosh, Stefan Boerboom, and Lisa Brzenski, and Michael Checkai. …. Any concerns over copyrighted content or inaccuracies may be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on this website was compiled December 2005.
Desalination is seen by some as a solution to the problem of a shortage of potable water. In the state of California alone the population is expected to increase by 60,000 people per year. In an effort to meet the demand for fresh water, California already has 11 seawater desalination plants in operation along the cost. An additional 21 plants are in the planning stages. Desalination technology is becoming more beneficial in the cost aspect. Over the last decade the price has gone down from $2,000 per acre foot in 1990 to $800 in 2003. (An acre foot is equivalent to 326,000 gallons or about one households use in a year). As an incentive to increase the production of desalination plants, the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California is offering subsidies of $250 per acre foot. States such as Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and New Mexico are also applying desalination technology to meet their water demand needs. There are various regulatory bodies overseeing the planning, building, and maintenance of desalination plants in the United States. Some bodies include the EPA, Coast Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Specifically California desalinations are regulated under the California Coastal Act, among others. Details of this act are discussed below.
California Costal Act and Environmental Impacts
Two sections of the California Costal Act specifically address the issues of marine life and water quality and are stated as follows:
“Marine resources shall be maintained, enhanced, and where feasible restored. Special protection shall be gives to areas and species of special biological or economic significance. Use of marine environment shall be carried out in a manner that will sustain the biological productivity of coastal waters and that will maintain healthy populations of all species of marine organisms adequate for long-term commercial, recreational, scientific, and educational purposes.”
“The biological productivity and the quality of coastal waters, streams, wetlands, estuaries, and lakes appropriate to maintain optimum populations of marine organisms and for the protection of human health shall be maintained and , where feasible, resorted through, among other means, minimizing adverse effects of waste water discharges and entrainment, controlling runoff, prevention depletion of ground water supplies and substantial interference with surface water flow, encouraging waste water reclamation, maintaining natural vegetation buffer areas the protect riparian habitats, and minimizing alteration of natural streams.” http://www.coastal.ca.gov/energy/14a-3-2004-desalination.pdf
Intake and Discharge
In the process of reverse osmosis, the technique used most in the US, for every 2 gallons of intake water, 1 gallon of potable water is produced and 1 gallon of brine is produced. Intake, the first step in desalination, and discharge can have the potential to adversely harm marine life. The California Costal Act states that the water and marine life should at the minimum be maintained, a task which intake and discharge practices can impede on. During intake, marine life can be harmed or even killed when they are pulled into the intake pipe and are unable to escape due to the large water velocity.
A solution to the intake problem is the potential use of a subsurface intake such as a beachwell or an open water intake. In areas where the soil types consist of clay, silt or unfractured rock, this alternative would not work. Ideally sandy soil would be needed to act as a natural filter. The city of Long Beach, California has proposed a system that would reduce the harmful effects of intake. They plan to use a system of pipes located underneath the sand in the ocean. Sand acts as a natural filter to the water being drawn into the plant. This system can also be used for the highly concentrated brine byproduct of desalination that is discharged. http://www.lbwater.org/desalination/Under.html
1. Reducing the intake velocity- Fish and other organisms are able to escape or avoid being pulled in when the velocity is below .5 feet per second.
2. Velocity Caps-Fish have the ability to detect changes in horizontal velocity, but have a difficult time detecting changes coming vertically. Most intake systems pull water from above, making it difficult for the fish to detect. Placing a cap on the intake and leaving a gap between the intake and the cap allows for a flow that can be detected by fish.
3. Screens and fish return systems- screens placed at the landward side of the intake system allow fish to be release into an area prior to the plant. A fish return system can be implemented in this area to route the fish back to the body of water.
The brine discharged from a desalination plant can have a saline concentration of 70,000 ppm compared to the intake water of 35,000ppm. Organisms are adapted to the natural saline concentration and most of the time cannot handle the dramatic increase in concentration. Also, organisms at different stages of their lives have different sensitivity levels to saline. “Chemicals used during the desalination process include chlorine, ozone, or other biocides, various coagulants, acids, antiscalants, and others”. http://www.coastal.ca.gov/energy/14a-3-2004-desalination.pdf
Contaminants found in the intake water also become part of the waste stream produced through desalination. The filters and membranes used in intake and the desalination process itself collect biomass. The accumulated dead organisms are forced to become part of the plants waste.
1. Location, Location, Location! – finding a proper location for discharge is crucial. Discharge should be done in areas where the population is not sensitive to changes in water quality.
2. Diffusers- allowing the discharge to be spread over a large area can result in faster diffusion into the water.
It is very important to note that the environmental impacts as well as cost and benefits vary from place to place….
AUSTRALIA AND MIDDLE EAST PERSPECTIVES:
By SARA HAMDAN NY Times January 24, 2013, Thursday
Masdar, a renewable energy company, is turning its attention to finding ways to remove the salt from seawater using solar power and other innovative technologies.
Edwina Pickles for The New York Times Government-subsidized tanks are used to capture rainwater for home in the Australian state of Queensland, part of the response to recent drought.
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
Published: July 10, 2010 NY TIMES BRISBANE, Australia — In Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, early British explorers searching for a source of drinking water scoured the bone-dry interior for a fabled inland sea. One overeager believer even carted a whaleboat hundreds of miles from the coast, but found mostly desert inside. Today, Australians are turning in the opposite direction: the sea. In one of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects in its history, Australia’s five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion on desalination plants capable of sucking millions of gallons of seawater from the surrounding oceans every day, removing the salt and yielding potable water. In two years, when the last plant is scheduled to be up and running, Australia’s major cities will draw up to 30 percent of their water from the sea. The country is still recovering from its worst drought ever, a decade-long parching that the government says was deepened by climate change. With water shortages looming, other countries, including the United States and China, are also looking to the sea.
“We consider ourselves the canary in the coal mine for climate change-induced changes to water supply systems,” said Ross Young, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia, an umbrella group of the country’s urban water utilities. He described the $13.2 billion as “the cost of adapting to climate change.” But desalination is also drawing fierce criticism and civic protests. Many homeowners, angry about rising water bills, and environmentalists, wary of the plants’ effect on the climate, call the projects energy-hungry white elephants. Stricter conservation measures, like mandating more efficient washing machines, would easily wring more water from existing supplies, critics say.
…. Besides restricting water use and subsidizing the purchase of home water tanks to capture rainwater, the state spent nearly $8 billion to create the country’s most sophisticated water supply network. It fashioned dams and a web of pipelines to connect 18 independent water utilities in a single grid. To “drought proof” the region, it built facilities for manufacturing water, by recycling wastewater, to use for industrial purposes, and by desalinating seawater. Production of desalinated water can be adjusted according to rain levels.
“When the last of the assets were coming online, it rained, as it always does,” Mr. Dennien said, adding that the region now has enough water for the next 20 years.
“We’ve got a method of operating the grid that the next time any sign of drought occurs, we can just,” he snapped his fingers, “build something else or turn something else on, and we’ve got enough water supply.” Other cities are making the same bet. Perth, which opened the nation’s first desalination plant in 2006, is building a second one. Sydney’s plant started operating early this year, and plants near Melbourne and Adelaide are under construction. Until a few years ago, most of the world’s large-scale desalination plants were in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, though water scarcity is changing that. In the United States, where only one major plant is running, in Tampa Bay, officials are moving forward on proposed facilities in California and Texas, said Tom Pankratz, a director of the International Desalination Association, based in Topsfield, Mass. China, which recently opened its biggest desalination plant, in Tianjin, could eventually overtake Saudi Arabia as the world leader, he said.
Many environmentalists and economists oppose any further expansion of desalination because of its price and contribution to global warming. The power needed to remove the salt from seawater accounts for up to 50 percent of the cost of desalination, and Australia relies on coal, a major emitter of greenhouse gases, to generate most of its electricity.
Critics say desalination will add to the very climate change that is aggravating the country’s water shortage. To make desalination politically palatable, Australia’s plants are using power from newly built wind farms or higher-priced energy classified as clean. For households in cities with the new plants, water bills are expected to double over the next four years, according to the Water Services Association.
But critics say there are cheaper alternatives. They advocate conservation measures, as well as better management of groundwater reserves and water catchments. “Almost every city which has implemented a desalination plant has nowhere near maxed out or used up their conservation potential,” said Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney. Even without restrictions, cities could easily save 20 percent of their water, Mr. White said.
He said cities should practice “desalination readiness” by drawing plans to build a plant, but should carry them out only as a last resort in the event of a severe drought.
Mr. Young of the Water Services Association said desalination in Australia costs $1.75 to $2 per cubic meter, including the costs of construction, clean energy and production. The prices are probably the world’s highest, said Mr. Pankratz of the International Desalination Association, adding that desalination was cheaper in countries with less strict environmental standards. He said the cost at a typical new plant in the world today would be about $1 per cubic meter. Opponents of desalination say that a cheaper and environmentally friendlier alternative is recycling wastewater, though persuading people to drink it remains difficult and politically delicate. The SEQ Water Grid Manager, for instance, retreated from its initial plan to introduce recycled wastewater into its drinking reservoirs after it began raining. “There’s a stigma against recycled water,” said David Mason, 40, a resident of Tugun. “But since there’s only so much water in the world, and it’s been through somebody’s body or some other place over the past 250 million years, maybe it’s not that bad. At least, it might be better than desalination.”
The Grass is Greener in Perth, a Water-Scarce City Adjusting to Climate Change
The capital of Western Australia, Perth, is at the epicenter of global climate change. The city’s strategic response offers lessons about climate change mitigation, exacerbation and adaptation. The lessons are acutely relevant to the United States, particularly California. The grass is greener and there’s lots of it in Perth, as residents who once called Great Britain home recreated lush landscapes with sprawling lawns, tidy gardens, and enormous parks. That Great Britain’s climate is cold and wet while Perth’s is hot and arid has not dampened Perth’s love affair with lawns. Nor has the soil, which is as sandy as a Florida beach rather than as loamy as an English countryside….. In 2006, Perth made a strategic choice to build a desalination plant, powered by a wind farm. The next year the city opted to build a second plant in Binningup, 150 kilometers south of Perth. This second plant will provide 100 billion liters of water every year, enough to satisfy 20 percent of Perth’s needs.
The Water Corporation proudly notes that the Binningup Desalination Plant will rely on solar and wind credits. What is less publicized is that a coal-fired power plant will actually provide the electricity to run the desalination facility. This irony of using coal, the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, has not gone unnoticed and the Water Corporation and the Western Australia Department of Water have had to fend off charges of hypocrisy….. Or, in Perth’s case, it’s exacerbation and adaptation. Perth’s use of coal will exacerbate climate change by releasing lots of CO2, but it also adapts to lower river flows and plummeting groundwater tables by finding a new supply of water — the ocean.
Perth will suffer, along with the rest of the world, from the GHGs released by the coal-fired plant. But, the consequence for climate change from the GHGs released by any single plant is trivial. It’s the combination of the small releases by millions of polluters that threatens the planet. Meanwhile, Perth gets 100 percent of the benefits from running a coal-fired desalination plant: 100 billion liters per year of fresh water. In this framing, Perth’s decision to use coal is an example of the tragedy of the commons. The air is the common pool resource and the environmental harms are the third-party consequences (or externalities), that is, costs caused by an actor but not paid for (or internalized) by that actor. The benefits to Perth are direct and immediate (new water) and the harms are diffuse and inter-generational. That’s what makes climate change such an intractable problem.
Posted on 5 June 2012 by Neil Palmer, CEO National Centre for Excellence in Desalination
Presented on World Environment Day 2012 at Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman
Australia faced a severe and prolonged drought from 1997–2009. It was considered to be a one in a thousand year event and became known as the “Millennium Drought”. During this period, increasingly severe water restrictions were imposed on consumers across Australia. Water stored in reservoirs became depleted and in some cases almost ran out. As a direct result, Governments in Australia invested heavily in climate resilient water supply technology. This included seawater reverse osmosis desalination and waste water recycling. The total amount invested was more than $US10 billion and resulted in construction of six major seawater desalination plants and one major indirect potable water reuse system.
Capacity and Cost of Australia’s Major Urban Desalination and Reuse Plants
Gold Coast (Tugun)
Brisbane Western Corridor Water Recycling Project
Perth Southern (Binningup) Stages 1 and 2
Adelaide (Pt Stanvac)
Source: ATSE: “Sustainable Water Management – Securing Australia’s Future in a Green Economy” ARC April 2012 pp 53-55
A further private desalination plant of 140 ML/d capacity has been built for Citic Asia Pacific iron ore mine near Cape Preston in northern Western Australia and a new 280 ML/d plant has been approved for construction for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam expansion project near Whyalla in South Australia, bringing the total installed capacity to more than 2200 ML/d. This is significant by world standards and also redressements very rapid development. Following this investment in water resilient infrastructure, the Australian Government funded two research centres: The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination, Australia and the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence. These Centres have each been funded $A20 million over 5 years from the Australian Government’s National Water Initiative. Desalination is sometimes termed “energy guzzling” in Australia, even though the consumption of energy for supplying a whole household with water is relatively modest (about the same as the energy used in running the household domestic refrigerator). Notwithstanding its modest power consumption, Australia’s water utilities have elected to purchase renewable wind energy to offset the entire energy budget of all the six major seawater desalination plants. It can be said that effectively these desalination plants have a negligible operating carbon footprint. In Western Australia, the Water Corporation expressed a desire for a significant portion of the renewable energy from the Southern Seawater Desalination Plant to be derived from “other than wind power” and as a result one of Australia’s largest solar power stations is being constructed near Geraldton on the mid west coast. This will supply 10% of the total energy used in the plant. Construction of the six major urban desalination plants has resulted in massive development of wind farms in Australia as a green alternative to enlarging the capacity of coal burning power stations. The National Centre of Excellence in Desalination (NCEDA) has been in operation since 2009 and has run four funding rounds with proposals being accepted from all of the 14 Participating Organisations. The funding is competitive and is highly sought after by the academic community. The NCEDA has a focus on commercialisation and projects that invent or develop new technology are highly regarded.
The NCEDA has a mandate from the Government to “efficiently and affordably reduce the carbon footprint of desalination facilities and technologies”. A number of projects are in progress to develop seriously the use of renewable resources to power desalination.
…. Australia has a great deal of land available close to the sea and the concept of a reliable, climate resilient water supply powered from renewable solar energy is very appealing in a world that is increasingly short of food….Australia has invested heavily in urban desalination and water recycling technology over the past ten years. In doing so, decisions of state Governments to power the desalination plants effectively from renewable resources has provided a big boost to the renewable energy industry as well as ensuring a secure water supply is always available, but with a very low operating carbon footprint. Research is also focusing on ways to reduce carbon footprint in a number of ways by developing renewable sources including solar, waste heat and geothermal energy to power desalination.
Social, environmental and economic issues
National Centre for Excellence in Desalination, Australia
Desalination is still a relatively controversial public issue. Most of this controversy revolves around the energy intensity of desalination and concerns over the environmental impacts of brine concentrate and other waste products. The production of data and the application of scientific rigour that provides an independent analysis and assessment of controversial issues associated with desalination would go a long way toward addressing public concerns in a constructive manner. There is an opportunity for research that assists the development of a scientifically informed public awareness program. Widespread deployment of desalination, while dependent on improvements in critical system requirements, will also require attention to environmental impact, social concerns, economic policy, and other non-technical barriers….(see list of research projects)
- Evaluating Ecological Restoration Success: A Review of the Literature
- Primed for Change: Developing Ecological Restoration for the 21st Century
- The Effectiveness of Riparian ‘Restoration’ on Water Quality-A Case Study of Lowland Streams in Canterbury, New Zealand
- Restoring the Narrative of American Environmentalism
- Ecosystem Restoration is Now a Global Priority: Time to Roll up our Sleeves
Theory on origin of animals challenged: Some animals need extremely little oxygen
(February 17, 2014) — One of science’s strongest dogmas is that complex life on Earth could only evolve when oxygen levels in the atmosphere rose to close to modern levels. But now studies of a small sea sponge fished out of a Danish fjord shows that complex life does not need high levels of oxygen in order to live and grow. … > full story
Fertilization destabilizes global grassland ecosystems
(February 16, 2014) — Fertilization of natural grasslands — either intentionally or unintentionally as a side effect of global farming and industry — is having a destabilizing effect on global grassland ecosystems. Using a network of natural grassland research sites around the world called the Nutrient Network, the study represents the first time such a large experiment has been conducted using naturally occurring sites. The researchers found that plant diversity in natural ecosystems creates more stable ecosystems over time because of less synchronized growth of plants. … “The results of our study emphasize that we need to consider not just how productive ecosystems are but also how stable they are in the long-term, and how biodiversity is related to both aspects of ecosystem functioning,” says Andy Hector.
The researchers also found that grassland diversity and stability are reduced when fertilizer is added…. > full story
Deep ocean needs policy, stewardship where it never existed, experts urge
(February 16, 2014) — Echnological advances have made the extraction of deep sea mineral and precious metal deposits feasible, and the dwindling supply of land-based materials creates compelling economic incentives for deep sea industrialization. But at what cost? Plans to begin mining nodules of valuable metals from deep ocean deposits have oceanographers concerned about the lack of public awareness or international agreements governing these habitats. “The deep sea is out of sight, out of mind … there’s a whole level of concern that isn’t being expressed when it comes to deep sea industrialization,” an expert said. … > full story
Ants build raft to escape flood, protect queen
(February 19, 2014) — When facing a flood, ants build rafts and use both the buoyancy of the brood and the recovery ability of workers to minimize injury or death. … > full story
Asian elephants reassure others in distress: First empirical evidence of consolation in elephants
(February 18, 2014) — Asian elephants console others who are in distress, using physical touches and vocalizations, new research shows. The findings are the first empirical evidence of consolation in elephants. Consolation behavior is rare in the animal kingdom, with empirical evidence previously provided only for the great apes, canines and certain corvids. … > full story
Forest model predicts canopy competition: Airborne lasers help researchers understand tree growth
(February 20, 2014) — Scientists use measurements from airborne lasers to gauge changes in the height of trees in the forest. Tree height tells them things like how much carbon is being stored. But what accounts for height changes over time — vertical growth or overtopping by a taller tree? A new statistical model helps researchers figure out what’s really happening on the ground. … > full story
Plans for a 300-kilometre waterway joining the Pacific and Atlantic oceans need independent environmental assessment, urge Axel Meyer and Jorge A. Huete-Pérez.
Last June, the Nicaraguan government granted a concession to a Hong Kong company to build a canal connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, through the Caribbean Sea. The HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (operating as HKND Group) signed a 50-year lease, renewable for another 50 years. It plans to break ground in December after spending this year establishing a route and conducting feasibility studies. Included in the concession are the rights to build and operate industrial centres, airports, a rail system and oil pipelines, as well as land expropriation and the rights to natural resources found along the canal route….
Feb. 20, 2014 — A new study has found that 42 countries or territories around the world permit the harvest of marine turtles — and estimates that more than 42,000 turtles are caught each year by these fisheries. … full story
Saving lemurs: Action plan devised to save Madagascar’s 101 lemur species
(February 20, 2014) — An Canadian primatologist has teamed with 18 lemur conservationists and researchers, many of whom are from Madagascar or have been working there for decades, to devise an action plan to save Madagascar’s 101 lemur species. The action plan contains strategies for 30 different priority sites for lemur conservation and aims to help raise funds for individual projects. Lemurs, the most endangered mammal group on Earth, represent more than 20 per cent of the world’s primates. Native only to Madagascar, more than 90 percent of the species are threatened with extinction. … > full story
By HUGH RAFFLESFEB. 17, 2014 NY TimesThe Opinion Pages|OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Hugh Raffles, a professor of anthropology at the New School, is the author, most recently, of “Insectopedia.”
THE Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing to kill New York State’s entire population of free-ranging mute swans, those graceful white water birds long treasured as symbols of romance and fidelity. New Yorkers have until Feb. 21 to submit responses to a plan that calls for the removal by 2025 of the estimated 2,200 birds by methods that could include shooting, gassing, decapitation and egg addling. Mute swans — so called because they’re not generally vocal, their most arresting sound being the beating of their wings — arrived in New York from Europe in the late 19th century, imported as aristocratic decoration for country estates. They adapted with ease and soon spread to public lands, where they were embraced for their beauty and as evidence of environmental health. Only in recent decades, as conservationists’ preoccupation with the geographical origins of species has intensified, have these immigrants with established communities on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and on Lake Ontario become perceived as a problem. The decisive moment came in 2004, when the United States Congress, under pressure from an alliance of waterfowl hunters and conservation organizations, including the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy, revised the Migratory Bird Treaty Act specifically to withdraw protection from mute swans and other nonnative species. Wildlife managers see mute swans as an invasive species, whose year-round residence, wanton appetite for subaquatic vegetation and aggressive territoriality threaten unsuspecting humans, native wildfowl such as the black tern, and dwindling wetland habitat.
But many New Yorkers have a different view. After all, these are regal birds, protected in Europe and celebrated in myth, poetry and song. Many people share W. B. Yeats’s vision of them as “mysterious, beautiful” creatures that “delight men’s eyes,” and they feel grateful for the otherworldly serenity that a mating pair or, even better, a snow-white flock can bring to the neighborhood pond in this age of municipal austerity. Mute swans are defensive, not aggressive, their advocates say. If people carelessly encroach on their nests and young, they should expect to be unequivocally rebuffed. If the birds have an appetite for subaquatic vegetation, it may have local effects, but as they compose about half of 1 percent of New York’s more than 400,000 waterfowl, the impact on the state’s ecosystems is minor. And if, as the state claims but has difficulty demonstrating, mute swans really displace New York’s native birds, there should be a debate about the criteria used to value one species over another. The state’s management plan is based on a D.E.C. study that produced some markedly inconclusive science. The threat from New York’s swans appears largely speculative: The study’s authors base their assumptions on programs to control growing numbers of mute swans in Michigan and the Chesapeake Bay, yet as the report itself shows, the birds’ populations in New York State are relatively small and currently either steady or in decline. It’s hard to resist concluding that the startling plan to eliminate the swans statewide is a case of bureaucratic overreach. Swan lovers are unlikely to be placated by the proposal to license small numbers of clipped birds on private lands.
We live on a planet where not only are the fates of all species profoundly entwined, but where, one way or another, all plants, animals and natural phenomena have been touched by our often heavy human hands. What’s more, we’ve turned out to be unreliable managers of nature, allowing our interventions to be driven by interest groups and underwritten by unholy compromises. We have swerved from paradigm to paradigm as we rewrite our models of natural processes according to contemporary fashion: Even now, for example, we struggle to determine how best to use fire in our forests, and how to cope with poorly conceived biological controls like the harlequin ladybird, a nonnative species introduced in America to tackle aphids that has displaced indigenous ladybugs.
There’s no question that species designated as nonnative can affect our ecosystems, sometimes changing them in ways that are expensive and undesirable. Dramatic examples abound — zebra mussels, cane toads, kudzu. But as more and more research is demonstrating, “nonnative” is an ideological grab bag of a category whose members are varied in their impacts and diverse in their contributions. Nonnative species may be beneficial, rather than harmful. They may also be well integrated into their environment, particularly if, like the mute swan and the honeybee — another European transplant, brought here in the early 17th century — they have been resident in their host ecosystems for a substantial amount of time.
Indeed, given the limited scale of their impact, it’s difficult to imagine that mute swans would be considered a nuisance if they were also considered native. Under these conditions, we should carefully examine the evidence offered by New York State in support of its plan and consider whether it is adequate to condemn a much-loved species and allow its wholesale killing. There’s a larger issue here. The real environmental problems faced by New York State are created not by birds, but by people. In the nearly 150 years that the mute swan has been among us, it has witnessed a radical decline in the extent of the state’s wildlife habitat and in the quality of its water and soil.
The loss of wetlands has slowed and even reversed since the low point of the 1970s, but splintering habitat, sea-level rise, legislative loopholes, untreated sewage discharge and contaminated runoff from agriculture, and adjacent development continue to threaten these vital ecosystems. Because of their limited diet, mute swans are a sentinel species, concentrating contaminants in their livers and revealing the presence of chemical toxicities in fresh water. Rather than eliminating swans, we should pay attention to their struggle to survive and what it can tell us about the state of our state.
Earth’s oceans are beginning to warm and turn acidic, endangering plankton and the entire marine food chain
by Peter Brannen AEON Magazine Peter Brannen is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, and The Guardian, among others. In 2011, he was a journalism fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Charismatic microfauna; Limacina-helicina, a small, swimming, predatory sea snail. Photo by Alexander Semenov
At the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, snowdrifts piled up outside shuttered T-shirt shops, and wind and whitecaps lashed vessels tethered to empty piers in the harbour. The flood of sun-tanned tourists and research students that descends on this place in summer was still months away. The only visitor was a winter storm that hung over the coast, making travel in and out of the cedar-shingled town impossible. In a research building downtown, at the end of a dimly lit hallway, Peter Wiebe sat with a stack of yellowed composition notebooks, reliving a lifetime spent on the ocean. Wiebe, a grizzled scientist emeritus, is transcribing his research cruise logs, which go back to 1962. His handwritten notes archive a half-century of twilit cruises in the Antarctic and languorous equatorial days surrounded by marine life. ‘It’s quite clear to me things are changing,’ he told me, after I asked him to think back on his decades on the ocean. ‘As a graduate student on one cruise, my logs talk about a hammerhead and two whitetips following the ship the whole time. On other cruises, we would fish for mahimahi and tuna, and occasionally catch a shark. Now we hardly ever see any big fish or sharks at all.’ Indeed, in oceanography, the big story over the past half century – the span of Wiebe’s career – has been the wholesale removal of the seas’ top predators through overfishing. But the story of the oceans for the coming century may be a revolution that starts from the bottom of the food chain, not the top. ‘I won’t be around to see it,’ Wiebe told me. ‘I wish I were.’
Plankton (taken from the Greek word for wanderer) are the plants, animals and microbes that are unable to overcome the influence of ocean currents, either because they’re too small, like bacteria, or because, as in the case of the indifferent jellyfish, they can’t be bothered. Wiebe’s speciality is zooplankton, the kaleidoscopic, translucent animal world in miniature, much of which feeds on even smaller photosynthetic life called phytoplankton. To make the jump from photosynthesis to fish, birds and whales, you have to go through zooplankton first.
Wiebe is part of a body of researchers worldwide working feverishly to find out how these grazers will be affected by an increasingly unfamiliar ocean, an ocean that absorbs 300,000 Hiroshimas of excess heat every day, and whose surface waters have already become 30 per cent more acidic since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. ‘When I first started, the idea that you could actually change the pH of the ocean just wasn’t there – no one expected us to be able to do it,’ Wiebe told me. ‘Certainly, no one expected us to be able to do it at the pace we’re doing it, at a pace that far surpasses anything natural that has ever happened.’….
February 20, 2014
British Antarctic Survey
New research, published this week in Science, suggests that the largest single contributor to global sea level rise, a glacier of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, may continue thinning for decades to come. Geologists from the UK, USA and Germany found that Pine Island Glacier (PIG), which is rapidly accelerating, thinning and retreating, has thinned rapidly before. The team say their findings demonstrate the potential for current ice loss to continue for several decades yet.
Their findings reveal that 8000 years ago the glacier thinned as fast as it has in recent decades, providing an important model for its future behaviour. The glacier is currently experiencing significant acceleration, thinning and retreat that is thought to be caused by ‘ocean-driven’ melting; an increase in warm ocean water finding its way under the ice shelf.
After two decades of rapid ice loss, concerns are arising over how much more ice will be lost to the ocean in the future. Model projections of the future of PIG contain large uncertainties, leaving questions about the rate, timing and persistence of future sea level rise. Rocks exposed by retreating or thinning glaciers provide evidence of past ice sheet change, which helps scientists to predict possible future change. The geologists used highly sensitive dating techniques, pioneered by one of the team, to track the thinning of PIG through time, and to show that the past thinning lasted for several decades….. “Based on what we know, we can expect the rapid ice loss to continue for a long time yet, especially if ocean-driven melting of the ice shelf in front of Pine Island Glacier continues at current rates,”…” The results are clear in showing a remarkably abrupt thinning of the glacier 8000 years ago.”
J. S. Johnson, M. J. Bentley, J. A. Smith, R. C. Finkel, D. H. Rood, K. Gohl, G. Balco, R. D. Larter, J. M. Schaefer. Rapid thinning of Pine Island Glacier in the early Holocene. Science, 20 February 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1247385
Climate Change: Unstable Atlantic Deep Ocean Circulation May Hasten ‘Tipping Point’
Feb. 20, 2014 — A new study looking at past climate change asks if these changes in the future will be spasmodic and abrupt rather than a more gradual increase in the temperature. Today, deep waters formed in the northern North Atlantic fill approximately half of the deep ocean globally. In the process, this impacts the circum-Atlantic climate and regional sea level, and it soak up much of the excess atmospheric carbon dioxide from industrialisation — helping moderate the effects of global warming. Changes in this circulation mode are considered a potential tipping point in future climate change that could have widespread and long-lasting impacts including on regional sea level, the intensity and pacing of Sahel droughts, and the pattern and rate of ocean acidification and CO2 sequestration. Until now, this pattern of circulation has been considered relatively stable during warm climate states such as those projected for the end of the century. A new study led by researchers from the Bjerknes Centre of Climate Research at the University of Bergen (UiB) and Uni Research in Norway, suggests that Atlantic deep water formation may be much more fragile than previously realised. … full story
Eirik Vinje Galaasen, Ulysses S. Ninnemann, Nil Irvalı, Helga (Kikki) F. Kleiven, Yair Rosenthal, Catherine Kissel, and David A. Hodell. Rapid Reductions in North Atlantic Deep Water During the Peak of the Last Interglacial Period. Science, 20 February 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1248667
19:00 20 February 2014 by Colin Barras
A warming world could slow the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean, potentially triggering African droughts and more rapid sea level rise around Europe. If it happens, it won’t be the first time the Atlantic has been disrupted during a warm period. Water in the Atlantic is constantly on the move. In the icy north, cool and dense surface water sinks and flows south, forming the North Atlantic Deep Water. The NADW then encourages warm surface water in the south to flow north, creating the Gulf Stream. In theory, this “conveyor belt” could weaken as a result of climate change. A hugely exaggerated version of this proposal was the premise for the film The Day After Tomorrow. But until now the evidence from warmer periods in Earth’s past suggested that temperature rises would not affect the circulation. A new study indicates otherwise. Eirik Vinje Galaasen at the University of Bergen, Norway, and his colleagues looked at deep-sea sediments from a site off the southern tip of Greenland. Sediment builds up so rapidly there that 3.5 centimetres are deposited each century, meaning that important but short-lived climate shifts show up clearly….
By Ari Phillips on February 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm
Arctic ice provides more than just homes for fish and mammals — it also slows global warming. Dwindling sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is creating large areas of relatively dark ocean surface that reduce the albedo, or reflectivity, of the polar region. More open water causes the Earth to absorb more of the sun’s solar energy rather than reflect it back into the atmosphere. A new study by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, has found that the impact this phenomenon is having on global warming has likely been substantially underestimated.
“It’s fairly intuitive to expect that replacing white, reflective sea ice with a dark ocean surface would increase the amount of solar heating,” Kristina Pistone, a graduate student at Scripps who participated in the research, said in a statement. However, the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used direct satellite measurements for the first time rather than computer models to determine that the magnitude of surface darkening has been two to three times as large as found in previous studies. “Scientists have talked about Arctic melting and albedo decrease for nearly 50 years,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a distinguished professor of climate and atmospheric sciences, said. “This is the first time this darkening effect has been documented on the scale of the entire Arctic.”
Sea ice extent on September 9, 2011, the date of minimum extent for the year. Ice-covered areas range in color from white (highest concentration) to light blue (lowest concentration). Areas where the ice cover was less than 15 percent, including open water, are dark blue, and land masses are gray. The gold outline shows the median minimum ice extent for 1979–2000; that is, areas that were at least 15 percent ice-covered in at least half the years between 1979 and 2000. Based on sea ice concentration data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. CREDIT: Climate.gov
Extreme Weather Caused by Climate Change Decides Distribution of Insects, Study Shows
Feb. 20, 2014 — Extreme weather caused by climate change in the coming decades is likely to have profound implications for distributions of insects and other invertebrates. This is suggested by a new study of … full story
Finding common ground fosters understanding of climate change
(February 17, 2014) — Grasping the concept of climate change and its impact on the environment can be difficult. Establishing common ground and using models, however, can break down barriers and present the concept in an easily understood manner, says an ecologist and modeler. Grasping the concept of climate change and its impact on the environment can be difficult. Establishing common ground and using models, however, can break down barriers and present the concept in an easily understood manner.
In a presentation at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Michigan State University systems ecologist and modeler Laura Schmitt-Olabisi shows how system dynamics models effectively communicate the challenges and implications of climate change.
“In order to face the ongoing challenges posed by climate adaptation, there is a need for tools that can foster dialogue across traditional boundaries, such as those between scientists, the general public and decision makers,” Schmitt-Olabisi said. “Using boundary objects, such as maps, diagrams and models, all groups involved can use these objects to have a discussion to create possible solutions.” … > full story
By JUSTIN GILLISFEB. 16, 2014
In delivering aid to drought-stricken California last week, President Obama and his aides cited the state as an example of what could be in store for much of the rest of the country as human-caused climate change intensifies. But in doing so, they were pushing at the boundaries of scientific knowledge about the relationship between climate change and drought. ….”I’m pretty sure the severity of this thing is due to natural variability,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist who studies water issues at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. To be sure, 2013 was the driest year in 119 years of record keeping in California. But extreme droughts have happened in the state before, and the experts say this one bears a notable resemblance to some of those, including a crippling drought in 1976 and 1977. Over all, drought seems to be decreasing in the central United States and certain other parts of the world, though that is entirely consistent with the longstanding prediction that wet areas of the world will get wetter in a warming climate, even as the dry ones get drier. What may be different about this drought is that, whatever the cause, the effects appear to have been made worse by climatic warming. And in making that case last week, scientists said, the administration was on solid ground. California has been warming along with most regions of the United States, and temperatures in recent months have been markedly higher than during the 1976-77 drought. In fact, for some of the state’s most important agricultural regions, summer lasted practically into January, with high temperatures of 10 or 15 degrees above normal on some days….The White House science adviser, John P. Holdren, said in a briefing last week: “Scientifically, no single episode of extreme weather, no storm, no flood, no drought can be said to have been caused by global climate change. But the global climate has now been so extensively impacted by the human-caused buildup of greenhouse gases that weather practically everywhere is being influenced by climate change.”…California gets much of its water from snow in the winter along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. That means 38 million people and a $45 billion agricultural economy are critically dependent on about five heavy storms a year….. “It all adds up across the Southwest to an increasingly stressed water system,” he said. “That’s what they might as well get ready for.”
By Andrew Freedman Climate Central Published: February 10th, 2014
A new study shows that there is at least a 76 percent likelihood that an El Niño event will occur later this year, potentially reshaping global weather patterns for a year or more and raising the odds that 2015 will set a record for the warmest year since instrument records began in the late 19th centuryThe study, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, builds on research put forward in 2013 that first proposed a new long-range El Niño prediction method. Although they occur in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean, the effects of El Niño events can reverberate around the globe, wreaking havoc with typical weather patterns. El Niños increase the likelihood for California to be pummeled by Pacific storm systems, for example, while leaving eastern Australia at greater risk of drought. Because they are characterized by higher than average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean, and they add heat to the atmosphere, El Niño events also tend to boost global average temperatures. By acting in concert with manmade greenhouse gases, which are also warming the planet, calendar years featuring a strong El Niño event, such as 1998, can more easily set all-time high temperature records. Today, scientists can only reliably predict the onset and severity of El Niño events by about 6 months ahead of time. And this lead time may actually decrease due to Congressional budget cuts for ocean monitoring buoys that provide crucial information for El Niño forecasting. The new study, by an international group of researchers, takes a starkly different approach to El Niño forecasting compared to conventional techniques. While the forecast models in use today tend to rely on observations of the ocean conditions and trade winds that generally blow from east to west across the tropical Pacific, the new method relies on an index that compares surface air temperatures in the area where El Niño events typically occur with temperatures across the rest of the Pacific…..
What is El Niño Taimasa? Strong El Niño events leading to lower local sea levels
(February 20, 2014) — During a very strong El Niño, sea level can drop in the tropical western South Pacific and tides remain below normal for up to a year, especially around Samoa. Scientists are studying the climate effects of this variation of El Niño, naming it ‘El Niño Taimasa’ after the wet stench of coral die-offs, called ‘taimasa’ by Samoans. … > full story
Believe It Or Not, January 2014 Was One Of The Hottest Ever Recorded
By Jeff Spross on February 21, 2014
Despite the polar vortex in America, GISS and NOAA ranked last month as the 3rd and 4th warmest January on record, respectively…..
By Ryan Koronowski on February 20, 2014 at 10:02 am
The thin blue line is this year, far lower than normal. CREDIT: National Snow and Ice Data Center
Despite the fact that large parts of the Arctic region have not been warmed by the sun for many weeks, sea ice extent in the far north dipped to record low levels in February. On the 18th, sea ice covered 5.544 million square miles of the Arctic, while the previous low on that date was in 2006, at 5.548 million square miles. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that in January, average sea ice extent was 5.30 million square miles, which was 309,000 square miles less than the 1981-2010 average. This happened as temperatures in the region rose above normal levels. As the shifted polar vortex caused temperatures to drop to colder-than-recent-normal levels in the eastern half of the United States, Arctic temperatures have spiked. From the beginning of February through Monday, Arctic temperatures were between 7.2°-14.4°F above normal. “Right now, the Arctic is pretty warm everywhere,” National Snow and Ice Data Center senior scientist Julienne Stroeve told Climate Central. “If I look at temperature anomalies, there’s a huge anomaly over the Barents Sea and Sea of Okhotsk of about 10°C (above normal) compared to 1981-2010.”…..
When coastal wetlands are drained and converted to terrestrial land uses, carbon is rapidly released back to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Restoring coastal wetlands stops the drainage-induced releases of carbon and reactivates carbon sequestration. This new report from Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) discusses the methods, approach, findings, and recommended next steps for the Snohomish Estuary as a model for improved management of coastal wetlands for climate change mitigation benefits.
As evidence mounts of the scope of climate change and its varied impacts on the world, it makes sense to consider its impact on ecological restoration projects. It is not always clear how best to accomplish this. Join the conversation: Let us know your thoughts by joining in on Society for Ecological Restoration’s LinkedIn group!
Global warming: Warning against abrupt stop to geoengineering method (if started)
(February 17, 2014) — As a range of climate change mitigation scenarios are discussed, researchers have found that the injection of sulfate particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and curb the effects of global warming could pose a severe threat if not maintained indefinitely and supported by strict reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. … > full story
Increase in Arctic cyclones is linked to climate change
(February 18, 2014) — Winter in the Arctic is not only cold and dark; it is also storm season when hurricane-like cyclones traverse the northern waters from Iceland to Alaska. These cyclones are characterized by strong localized drops in sea level pressure, and as Arctic-wide decreases in sea level pressure are one of the expected results of climate change, this could increase extreme Arctic cyclone activity, including powerful storms in the spring and fall. A new study uses historical climate model simulations to demonstrate that there has been an Arctic-wide decrease in sea level pressure since the 1800’s. … > full story
Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:11 pm LAURA LUNDQUIST, Chronicle Staff Writer | 1 Comment
Plants remove carbon gases from the air, using the carbon to build stems and leaves. Now a new study indicates that wildlands remove the most carbon, providing the most promise for minimizing climate change. In a study highlighted this month in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team of University of Montana and U.S. Geological Survey scientists presented satellite data showing that farmland and other disturbed areas process less carbon than areas where the native vegetation is undisturbed. Lead author Bill Smith said the team compared visible and infrared satellite images of natural and agricultural areas for a snapshot of the Earth’s vegetative production, which is a measure of the amount of carbon being processed. Agricultural land tends to be planted in rows alternating with uncovered soil, and every year, most plants are removed. So it wasn’t surprising that such areas took up less carbon than wild areas with a wider variety of more plants that used more carbon throughout the year. But how much more carbon? The study reported that the agriculture that exists now has reduced the Earth’s potential productivity by 7 percent. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a global average, Smith said. Some forests of the planet show bigger productivity losses than others if they’re mowed down. The rainforests of the tropics are the most productive ecosystems on the planet, locking up tons of carbon. So the productivity loss caused by tropical deforestation is double that of more temperate forests, Smith said…..
February 18, 2014 USC Sea Grant Program
Los Angeles, a metropolis perched on the edge of a coast, can expect to experience sea level rise of as much as two feet due by 2050 due to climate change, according to current projections.
In anticipation, a team from USC partnered with the City of Los Angeles to gauge the impact of the rising tides on local communities and infrastructure. The results, according to a report that was released today, are a mixed bag — but at-risk assets can be protected by proactive planning and early identification of adaptation measures, according to the report’s authors. “Some low-lying areas within the City’s jurisdiction, such as Venice Beach and some areas of Wilmington and San Pedro, are already vulnerable to flooding,” said Phyllis Grifman, lead author of the report and associate director of the USC Sea Grant Program. “Identifying where flooding is already observed during periods of storms and high tides, and analyzing other areas where flooding is projected are key elements in beginning effective planning for the future.”
Other key findings from the report include:
- The cityʼs wastewater management, storm water management and potable water systems are highly vulnerable to sea level rise.
- The Port of Los Angeles and the cityʼs energy infrastructure would be mostly unaffected by the rise in sea level due to a replacement schedule that will allow the city to prepare for future needs to change infrastructure.
- Projected flooding and erosion damage to roads along the coast could impede emergency services.
- Many cultural assets located along the coast, including museums, historic buildings and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, could face damage.
- Residents of low-lying communities, such as San Pedro and Wilmington, as well as those with older buildings and high numbers of renters, such as Venice, would be most affected by flooding. In particular, the Abbot Kinney corridor and the fragile Ballona wetlands are at risk. But the region’s wide sandy beaches, if maintained, can provide a valuable bulwark against higher waters, according to the report.
The full report is available on the USC Sea Grant website at http://www.usc.edu/org/seagrant/research/sea_level_rise_vulnerability.html
The Guardian February 17, 2014
The environmentalist floats across the flood plains in Hurley, Berkshire, one of the villages worst hit by the floods that have badly affected swaths of southern England and Wales over the last few weeks. He heads to the source of the Thames to examine how rainwater and silt from ploughed fields swell the floods downriver
• How we ended up paying farmers to flood our homes
Extreme weather images in the media cause fear and disengagement with climate change
(February 18, 2014) — Extreme weather images represent human suffering and loss. They are iconic of climate change and are symbols of its natural impacts. Reporting on extreme weather has increased over the last few years. In the past social scientists, and media and communication analysts have studied how climate change is depicted in the text of media and social media. While researchers have become increasingly interested in climate change images, they have not yet studied them with respect to symbolizing certain emotions. … > full story
Crop species may be more vulnerable to climate change than we thought
(February 20, 2014) — Scientists have overturned a long-standing hypothesis about plant speciation (the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution), suggesting that agricultural crops could be more vulnerable to climate change than was previously thought. … Unlike humans and most other animals, plants can tolerate multiple copies of their genes — in fact some plants, called polyploids, can have more than 50 duplicates of their genomes in every cell. Scientists used to think that these extra genomes helped polyploids survive in new and extreme environments, like the tropics or the Arctic, promoting the establishment of new species. However, when Dr Kelsey Glennon of the Wits School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and a team of international collaborators tested this long-standing hypothesis, they found that, more often than not, polyploids shared the same habitats as their close relatives with normal genome sizes. “This means that environmental factors do not play a large role in the establishment of new plant species and that maybe other factors, like the ability to spread your seeds to new locations with similar habitats, are more important,” said Glennon. “This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.” …> full story
Kelsey Glennon. Evidence for shared broad-scale climatic niches of diploid and polyploid plants. Ecology Letters, 2014 DOI: 1111/ele.12259
The American West could face centuries of parched land, as it has in the past.
The Dust Bowl drought in the 1930s forced many farmers off their land. This farm family makes do in a ramshackle cabin north of Shafter, California. Photograph by Dorothea Lange, Resettlement Administration/Time Life Pictures/Getty
Lisa M. Krieger for National Geographic Published February 13, 2014
A millennium ago—just yesterday, in geologic time—Native Americans waited all winter for rains that never came. They waited the next winter and the next. Then the marshes of their sacred San Francisco Bay turned from cattails to salt grass. Fishing declined and the Native Americans could no longer rely on the bounty of the bay. Finally, they left, hungry and thirsty, in search of water. Now, as modern Californians hope for fierce storms to break a dangerous dry spell, the questions arise: Is the current drought just an aberration? Or might it signal the beginning of a more fearsome era, with echoes of the ancient drought that uprooted Native Americans?
Is it a megadrought? Most scientists sidestep a yes or no answer. But they agree that the past century has been unusually moist—and warn that California is now vulnerable to a drought that is measured not in years, but decades. Perhaps even centuries….
…..But ancient clues in the landscape show this is not the first time the American West has been severely parched. It’s unlikely to be the last. And the recent spate of dry years is nothing next to the ancient “megadroughts” that have occurred multiple times in human history. “What research shows is a roughly 50- to 90-year cycle of wet and dry periods over the last few thousand years, with some droughts lasting over a decade. But between 900 and 1400 A.D., during the ‘Medieval Warm Period,‘ there were a couple of droughts that were over a century long,” said B. Lynn Ingram, professor of Earth and planetary science and geography at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the book The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow. “The 20th century was a relatively wet time, and a time when all of our modern societies were built,” she said. “We’ve had centuries where it was far drier. We’re not prepared.”
…. Another tree study, lead by University of Arkansas dendrochronologist David Stahle and Edward Cook of Columbia University, used more than 1,400 climate-sensitive tree-ring chronologies from multiple species across North America to reconstruct what’s called “the Great Pueblo Drought,” which occurred from 1276 to 1297 and may have contributed to the Anasazi tribe’s abandonment of their magnificent cliff-dwellings in the northern Colorado Plateau. Other megadrought evidence can be found in forests at the bottoms of lakes and streams, using tree-ring analysis and radiocarbon dating. Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, found a forest in the Sierra Mountains dating back to the medieval era. A drought from 850 to 1150 drained the alpine Fallen Leaf Lake, leaving it barren enough for tall trees to grow, he concluded. Then the water returned, and the trees were preserved. An 800-year-old pine branch, recently salvaged from the lake, still smells pungently of sap…..
by Hashem Said
February 18, 2014 11:53AM ET AlJazeera
If dry conditions continue, the state’s animal populations could suffer irreversible damage
If water levels remain low, California’s animals and fish could face severe conditions.David McNew/Getty Images
The future of some of California’s wildlife is under threat as the state suffers from its worst drought in 100 years. Because of record low levels of precipitation, fisheries are drying up, and animals are migrating in a desperate search for food and water.
Experts believe some wildlife has already been affected, and if the arid conditions continue, more will suffer. “We’ll have a much better idea of where we stand in two to three months,” said Jason Holley, wildlife biologist supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “However, we’re greatly concerned about many likely implications should the drought increase in severity or duration. We are preparing for the worst and hoping for a very wet late winter and spring.”…
Why give away fish flows for free during a drought?
By Jay Lund, Ellen Hanak, Barton “Buzz” Thompson, Brian Gray, Jeffrey Mount and Katrina Jessoe
With California in a major drought, state and federal regulators will be under pressure to loosen environmental flow standards that protect native fish. This happened in the 1976-77 and 1987-92 droughts, and today’s drought could become much worse. These standards demonstrate the high value society places on the survival of native fish and wildlife. In past droughts, we have given away some of these protections because of pressure to make more water available for other uses. But this time, California can do better. We can create a special water market that better meets the state’s goals of both ensuring a reliable water supply and protecting the environment. In this market, growers and cities would pay for the additional water made available from relaxed environmental standards, and the revenues would help support fish and wildlife recovery….
Glendale residents will get high tech reminders to conserve water and electricity
Los Angeles KPCC Radio, California February 17, 2014
In the face of California’s record drought, Glendale Water and Power is counting on technology to help make homeowners more aware of the electricity and water they use.
Water-saving apps turn conservation into a money-saving game
San Jose Mercury News February 16, 2014
With millions of people worried about California’s historic drought, a proliferation of free apps turn water conservation into a game while letting consumers save both water and money around the house.
(pdf) for Resource-Efficient Communities, Economic Development, and Water.
From the Office of the Governor February 19, 2014
“With California experiencing its worst water shortage crisis in modern history, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to announce legislation to immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions affecting our state and provide funding to increase local water supplies.
“This is a call to action. We must all do our part to conserve in this drought,” said Governor Brown. “The state is doing its part by providing immediate funding for drinking water, food, housing and assistance for water-conserving technologies,” said Governor Brown.
The legislation provides $687.4 million to support drought relief, including money for housing and food for workers directly impacted by the drought, bond funds for projects to help local communities more efficiently capture and manage water and funding for securing emergency drinking water supplies for drought-impacted communities. In addition, the legislation increases funding for state and local conservation corps to assist communities with efficiency upgrades and reduce fire fuels in fire risk areas, and includes $1 million for the Save Our Water public awareness campaign – which will enhance its mission to inform Californians how they can do their part to conserve water……
Highlights of the legislation include:
Enhancing Water Conservation and Improving Water Supplies
• $549 million from the accelerated expenditure of voter-approved bonds, Proposition 84 and Proposition 1E, in the form of infrastructure grants for local and regional projects that are already planned or partially completed to increase local reliability, including recapturing of storm water, expand the use and distribution of recycled water, enhance the management and recharging of groundwater storage and strengthen water conservation.
• $20 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for direct expenditures and grants to state and local agencies to improve water use efficiency, save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from state and local water transportation and management systems.
• $14 million for groundwater management across the state, including assistance to disadvantaged communities with groundwater contamination exacerbated by the drought.
• $10 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fund for the California Department of Food and Agriculture to invest in irrigation and water pumping systems that reduce water use, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
• $10 million transferred from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Fund for the DWR to establish a grant program for state and local agencies to implement residential, commercial or institutional water efficiency projects that reduce water and energy use.
• $15 million from the General Fund for Emergency Drinking Water Fund to address emergency water shortages due to drought.
• $13 million from the General Fund to augment the California Conservation Corps and local community conservation corps to expand water use efficiency and conservation activities and to reduce fuel loads to prevent catastrophic fires.
Assisting Californians Disproportionately Impacted by the Drought
• $25.3 million from the General Fund for food assistance, which will be structured to maximize the potential federal drought assistance that can be provided to provide food assistance to those impacted by the drought.
• $21 million from the General Fund and federal funds for housing related assistance for individuals impacted by the drought…..
By Ari Phillips on February 20, 2014
Politicians in California are engaged in an acrimonious back-and-forth about how to confront the crippling drought, but Democratic bills addressing the state’s long-term goal of mitigating climate change are also on the move….
The Bureau of Reclamation today announced the initial 2014 water supply allocation for Central Valley Project agricultural contractors, municipal and industrial contractors and federal refuges. The California Department of Water Resources reports that snowpack and precipitation in the Sierra Nevada are historically low and the snow-water content statewide stands at 29 percent of average for this time of year.
….Actual deliveries of water will be subject to the State Water Resources Control Board order of January 31, including any subsequent modifications and clarifications to the order. To view the January 31 order, please visit: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/docs/tucp/bd_change_order.pdf As drought conditions continue putting further stress on limited water supplies, Reclamation will work with the SWRCB, DWR and all contractors to effectively carry out project operations consistent with all applicable laws. Earlier this month, Reclamation and the Natural Resources Conservation Service announced they are leveraging federal funds for water delivery agencies and agricultural producers and will provide up to $14 million in funding for water districts and associated growers to conserve water and improve water management. The projects funded through this partnership will help communities build resilience to drought, including modernizing their water infrastructure and efficiently using scarce water resources, while continuing to support the agricultural economy.
Reclamation also recently released the 2014 CVP Water Plan that outlines numerous actions to help water users better manage their water supplies during drought conditions, such as expanding operational flexibility and streamlining the water transfer process.
- Agricultural water service contractors North-of-Delta are allocated 0 percent of their contract supply of 443,000 acre-feet.
- M&I water service contractors North-of-Delta who are serviced by Shasta Reservoir on the Sacramento River are allocated 50 percent of their historic use.
- Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, whose water supply is based upon senior water rights and is subject to pre-established Shasta Reservoir inflow criteria, are allocated 40 percent of their contract supply of 2.2 million acre-feet.
- M&I water service contractors North-of-Delta who are serviced by Folsom Reservoir on the American River are allocated 50 percent of their historic use.
- The Contra Costa Water District, which receives water directly from the Delta, is allocated 50 percent of its historic use amount of 170,000 acre-feet.
- Agricultural water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 0 percent of their contract supply of 1.965 million acre-feet.
- M&I water service contractors South-of-Delta are allocated 50 percent of their historic use.
- San Joaquin River Exchange and Settlement Contractors, whose CVP water supply allocation is subject to pre-established Shasta Reservoir inflow criteria, are allocated 40 percent of their contract supply of 875,000 acre-feet.
- Wildlife refuges (Level 2) North- and South-of-Delta, which also have allocations subject to pre-established Shasta inflow criteria, are allocated 40 percent of their contract supply of 422,000 acre-feet.
Friant Division Contractors
- Friant Division contractors’ water supply is delivered from Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River. The first 800,000 acre-feet of water supply is considered Class 1, and the next 1.4 million acre-feet is considered Class 2. Based upon DWR’s February WY 2014 Runoff Forecast, the Friant Division water supply allocation is 0 percent of Class 1 and 0 percent of Class 2.
Eastside Water Service Contractors
- Eastside water service contractors (Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District and Stockton East Water District), whose water supplies are delivered from New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River, are allocated 55 percent of their contract supply of 155,000 acre-feet.
As the water year progresses, changes to hydrology and opportunities to exercise operational flexibility of the CVP are factors and conditions that will influence future allocations. Water supply updates will be made as appropriate and posted on Reclamation’s website at http://www.usbr.gov/mp/pa/water.
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE February 18, 2014 NY Times
Tom Steyer, a retired hedge fund manager, plans to spend as much as $100 million this year on a hard-edge campaign to pressure officials and candidates to support climate change measures. The donor, Tom Steyer, a Democrat who founded one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, burst onto the national political scene during last year’s elections, when he spent $11 million to help elect Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia and millions more intervening in a Democratic congressional primary in Massachusetts. Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch. In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own. The money would move through Mr. Steyer’s fast-growing, San Francisco-based political apparatus into select 2014 races. Targets include the governor’s race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer’s group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests. Mr. Steyer also prospected for potential donors on a recent trip to New York City, where he met with aides to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has made championing climate change a focus of his post-mayoral political life, but whose own “super PAC” has focused chiefly on gun control….
….Mr. Steyer poured tens of millions of dollars into a successful 2012 ballot initiative in California that eliminated a loophole in the state’s corporate income tax and dedicated some of the resulting revenue to clean-energy projects. He also has helped finance opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, appearing in a series of self-funded 90-second ads seeking to stop the project. Those efforts cemented his partnership with Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist, and heralded the emergence of NextGen Climate, now a 20-person operation encompassing a super PAC, a research organization and a political advocacy nonprofit. The group employs polling, research and social media to find climate-sensitive voters and spends millions of dollars in television advertising to try to persuade them. It already is among the biggest environmental pressure groups in the country: For example, the League of Conservation Voters, considered the most election-oriented of such groups, reported spending about $15 million on campaign ads in 2012. And while Mr. Steyer has been critical of Democrats who waver on climate issues, he has aimed most of his firepower so far at Republicans. The new fund-raising push seeks to tap into the booming fortunes of Silicon Valley, where many donors rank climate change as their top political issue. It also signals a shift within the environmental movement, as donors — frustrated that neither Democratic nor Republican officials are willing to prioritize climate change measures — shift their money from philanthropy and education into campaign vehicles designed to win elections….
Is Tom Steyer facing a mismatch versus Kochs? Politico February 21, 2014
Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer may be pledging to spend $100 million or more to make climate change a prime election issue in 2014 and beyond, but he’s still a long way from matching the conservative empire of Charles and David Koch.
Keystone XL pipeline hits another snag. Will it ever be built? Christian Science Monitor
The Keystone XL pipeline suffered a legal setback Wednesday when a state court voided the Nebraska governor’s approval of the project. After more than five years of review, the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline still hangs in the balance. Christian Science Monitor
By CORAL DAVENPORT February 18, 2014 NY Times
President Obama will direct the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from truck tailpipes by March 2016.
February 18, 2014 3:49 PM
Buying a light bulb used to be relatively straightforward: Check your old bulb’s wattage, head to the store and pick up a new one. But the transition to energy-efficient lighting has changed that. Halogens, CFLs, LEDs, watts vs. lumens — the array of choices on the market today can make selecting the right a bulb an exercise in confusion. So here, we try to demystify the new light bulb landscape….
The Major Bulb Standards
Standard Incandescent Cost over 10 years $76.70
Incandescent bulbs give off the warm, yellowish-white light we’ve grown to love, but they are highly inefficient, losing 90 percent of their energy to heat. You can still find traditional incandescent bulbs on store shelves, but major manufacturers have stopped producing the most common varieties — meaning that 40-, 60-, 75- and 100-watt bulbs will become scarcer in the coming months. Production of specialty incandescents like three-way bulbs will continue.
Halogen Incandescent Cost over 10 years $68.19
Contrary to some reports, incandescent bulbs have not been banned. In response to a 2007 law setting higher efficiency standards, manufacturers added halogen gas to incandescent bulbs to make them burn more efficiently. Halogen incandescents give off the same light as traditional incandescents, but use 28 percent less energy. Like standard incandescents, they last about one year.
CFL Cost over 10 years $22.88
Compact fluorescents — CFLs — have come a long way since becoming widely available in the 1990s. Today, the color of the light is much improved, some bulbs can be dimmed, and the price per bulb has dropped dramatically to a few dollars or less. They use about 75 percent less energy than incandescents and have an estimated life of nine years. CFLs contain very small amounts of mercury and should be disposed of properly.
LED Cost over 10 years $16.37
Currently, LEDs make up less than 1 percent of the domestic market. But with prices dropping rapidly, adoption rates are expected to soar. LEDs use about 80 percent less energy than incandescents and have an estimated life of more than 20 years. Most LEDs can be dimmed. So far, cost has been the biggest obstacle to wider use; while 60-watt equivalent LED bulbs are now selling for less than $10, the price for higher-wattage equivalents is at least twice that.
Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, NPR research Credit: April Fehling, Andrea Hsu, Alyson Hurt, Avie Schneider and Jim Tuttle/NPR
Listen to the story– Watt’s the Deal
by NPR Staff February 18, 2014 4:06 PM
Bird habitat concern forces utilities to scrap wind farm. Bloomberg News
Three utilities scrapped plans to extend the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, saying they had doubts they could satisfy concerns about how the facility would affect the habitat of a bird in the estuary east of London.
– February 21, 2014
Birds, sharks and unexploded bombs from World War II are being blamed for holding up offshore wind farms, raising doubts about the costs of the technology.
By Emily Atkin on February 19, 2014
Despite its potential to produce more than 4,000 gigawatts of renewable energy, the United State still does not have a single operational offshore wind farm. But we’re getting closer.
New research suggests that planting gardens atop roofs or painting them white could offset both the local urban heat island effect and global warming, although one roof type does not cover all situations
Feb 14, 2014 |By David Biello
COOL ROOF: The green roof atop a post office building in Midtown Manhattan offers cooling, water filtration and even rest for weary urbanites. © David Biello
Crickets chirp and bees buzz from sedum flower to flower atop the post office in midtown Manhattan during a visit to the 9th Avenue facility on a perfect New York City fall day. On a sprawling roof that covers most of a city block a kind of park has been laid, sucking up carbon dioxide and other air pollution, filtering rainfall, making it less acidic. Such verdant roofs may form part of an effective strategy for both cooling buildings and helping combat climate change, according to new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on February 11. Other solutions cited in the study include white roofs that reflect more sunlight back to space or hybrid roofs that combine aspects of white and green, or planted, roofs. A large enough number of such roofs could “completely offset warming due to urban expansion and even offset a percentage of future greenhouse warming over large regional scales,” says sustainability scientist Matei Georgescu at Arizona State University, who lead the research. That conclusion contradicts previous findings by researchers from Stanford University, who found that reflective roofs actually might increase global warming…..
But the new research published in PNAS suggests that such white roofs would have different impacts in different places. So, in New York City any energy savings on air-conditioning in the summer are counterbalanced by increased heating usage in winter (although this can be addressed with optimal roof design or roofs with adjustable reflectivity). And white roofs can reduce precipitation as well, by reducing the amount of warm, humid air rising and, thus, the number of clouds and eventual rainfall. “Adaptation to urban-induced climate change depends on specific geographic factors,” Georgescu adds, noting that white, reflective cool roofs work well in California, but could reduce rainfall from Florida up the U.S. east coast, for example. “What works over one geographical area may not be optimal for another,” he says. Green roofs may be a better fit for New York City, for example, because they provide better insulation during winter, along with cooling benefits in the summer. Water evaporation from the plants lowers overall temperatures—and releases more humidity into the air. And, they offer ancillary benefits like green space for weary urban minds….
… Regardless, the space for reflective or even green roofs is limited. Urban areas cover less than 1 percent of the globe (although that number is likely to increase in coming decades), and less than half of that area is roof- or road-top, amenable to whitening. It also fails to capture the complexity of an urban environment, such as how replacing trees with buildings affects the water table and wind speeds. “Urbanization affects not just surface albedo,” says urban environment researcher Karen Seto of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, who was not involved in any of the research. The new PNAS study “is an innovative first step, but limited in terms of what impacts they’re looking at,” she adds.In the meantime, black roofs remain a human health risk. In the deadly Chicago heat wave of 1995 those living on the top floor of a building with a black roof were most likely to die, according to subsequent analysis. “Black roofs should be outlawed,” geochemist Wade McGillis of the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University told me during my visit to the post office green roof. “If you’re going to put up a roof, don’t put up black.
The UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy and the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (NextSTEPS) program of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis) hosted a forum in December 2013 as part of the California Climate Policy Modeling (CCPM) project. Six of the models presented at the forum included “deep GHG reduction scenarios” that achieved either a reduction of 80% in GHG emissions by 2050 or cumulatively similar emission reductions. These scenarios showed the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 8-52% below 1990 levels by 2030 through a combination of strategies that include energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-carbon transportation solutions. The CCPM is an ongoing project to bring together policy makers, modeling groups, and key stakeholders to:
1) improve the knowledge of possible scenarios for future technology adoption, energy use, air quality, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,
2) identify midpoint goals and/or targets for GHG emissions between 2020 and 2050,
3) discuss policy options for meeting the state’s climate and air quality goals, identify policy gaps, and improve existing policies and,
4) improve the state of modeling, including identifying ways to make the findings more useful and accessible to policymakers. Modeling teams represented at the forum included UC Davis; UC Berkeley; Stanford University; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; National Renewable Energy
Laboratory; and the private consulting firm E3. Representatives from the California Governor’s Office, Air Resources Board, Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission, and other stakeholders also attended the two-day conference and provided substantive input.
Annual and cumulative emissions in scenarios that achieve deep GHG emissions reductions by 2050
Key insights from the forum included:
* 2030 annual emissions range from 208-396 million metric tonnes MMT) of CO2e per year, or a reduction of 8-52% below 1990 levels.
* Demonstrating the potential significance of early reductions, cumulative emissions range from 6,492-9,205 MMT (through 2030) and 10,357-14,394 MMT (through 2050).
* De-carbonizing end-use energy consumption, including transportation and residential and commercial heating are key compliance pathways to meet the 2050 goals across all models. If pursued primarily through electrification, total electricity generation for California will rise dramatically from today’s level of approximately 323 terawatt hours (TWh) to between 436-1375 TWh in 2050.
* Estimates of renewable generation, excluding large hydroelectric, wary widely from 30-55% in 2030 increasing to 38-94% in 2050. The renewable fraction is largely driven by assumptions about the availability or lack of nuclear power and carbon capture and storage.
* Absent further policy, non-energy related and high-global-warming potential GHG emissions could exceed the 2050 emission goal even if all other emissions are zero.
* Transportation achieves the largest magnitude of GHG reductions of any sector from 2010 to 2050, while at the same time remaining the highest contributor to overall emissions of any sector with emissions of between 30-105 MMT in 2050. Zero emission vehicles including plug-in battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles dominate the light-duty market making up between 50-96% of the fleet by 2050.
* Biomass is used almost exclusively for transportation. Due to feedstock limitations, maximum penetration of biofuels in the transportation energy mix is estimated at approximately 40% across all modes supplying between 5.5-10.3 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent in 2050.
* Strategies are needed that simultaneously reduce GHG emissions, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, and/or reactive organic gases related to ozone pollution consistent with both the near-term 2023 and midterm 2032 national ambient air quality standards and long-term 2050 GHG targets. For those scenarios that are also designed to consider air quality goals, zero and near zero-emission goods movement solutions are needed by 2030, especially in the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley Air Basins.
* Estimates of average carbon mitigation cost vary between models, across sectors and time periods. One model reports the average mitigation costs (including savings from demand reduction and efficiency improvement) over the time period from 2010-2050 range from -$110 (savings) to +$220/tCO2e. In another the average mitigation cost from 2010-2050 is $109/tCO2e with the average in 2050 equal to $97/tCO2e.
* More dialogue between modelers and policymakers is needed to guide decision-making and policy design, and to improve the value of future modeling efforts. Opportunities to improve the usefulness of modeling outputs include greater representation of explicit policies, uncertainty, scenarios impacts to other non-energy related metrics (e.g. water, land-use, air quality) and the use of a broader range of performance metrics for reporting the results. Modelers would benefit from greater access to relevant government-collected data and the status and plans for current and future policies
Sustainable manufacturing system to better consider the human component
(February 20, 2014) — Engineers have developed a new approach toward ‘sustainable manufacturing’ that begins on the factory floor and tries to encompass the totality of manufacturing issues — including economic, environmental, and social impacts. It may help meet demands for higher corporate social responsibility. … > full story
Urgent need to recycle rare metals
(February 17, 2014) — Rare earth metals are important components in green energy products such as wind turbines and eco-cars. But the scarcity of these metals is worrying the European Union. … > full story
US backing first nuclear reactors in 30 years
The U.S. government has announced that it will be offering substantial loan guarantees for two new nuclear reactors, giving a major boost to what would be the first such projects to go forward in the United States in more than three decades.
Climate Central Published: February 17th, 2014 By Bobby Magill
With drought and water shortages affecting areas where much of America’s natural gas is produced, power plants making the switch to gas from coal could have other costs that may be made worse by manmade climate change. This is especially true if global warming, as studies show, intensifies drought. One of those costs is water. Natural gas is primarily produced after shale oil and gas wells are hydraulically fractured, or fracked, often using millions of gallons of water for each well. Take south Texas’ Eagle Ford shale, one of thirstiest natural gas fields in the U.S., where high water demand from the oil and gas industry is adding strain to already stressed water supplies….
Amory Lovins: Energy visionary sees renewables revolution in full swing The Guardian February 17, 2014
Amory Lovins last year harvested from his small garden more than 30 pounds of bananas, along with guava, mango, papaya, loquat, passion and other exotic fruit. Nothing remarkable in that, except that the energy analyst and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute does not live in the tropics but in an unheated house 6,500 feet up a mountain near Aspen, Colorado.
Please note that webinar space is limited.
Friday, February 28, 2014 12:00-1:00 pm, Mountain Time
Presenter: Dr. Sam Veloz, Point Blue Conservation Science
hosted by the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative!
DATE: From U.S.: 1-866-692-4541; From Mexico: 001-866-597-6485; Participant code: 92479385#
YOU MUST REGISTER TO ATTEND THIS WEBINAR 1. Go to https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/j.php?ED=266534272&RG=1&UID=1827819532&RT=MiM1 2. Register for the meeting. To view in other time zones or languages, please click the link: https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/j.php?ED=266534272&RG=1&UID=1827819532&ORT=MiM1 Once you have registered for the meeting, you will receive an email message confirming your registration. This message will provide the information that you need to join the meeting.
For help with WebEx: 1. Go to https://usgs.webex.com/usgs/mc 2. On the left navigation bar, click “Support”.
Fostering Resilience in Southwestern Ecosystems: A Problem Solving Workshop
February 25-27, 2014
This workshop will focus on answering urgent questions such as: How do managers “build resilience” when ecosystems are undergoing rapid change? What are our options when megafires remove huge swaths of forests not well adapted to this disturbance? Click here for more information or to register.
Climate-Smart Conservation NWF/NCTC ALC3195
March 4-6, 2014 Sacramento State University – Modoc Hall. Sacramento, CA 3 days /no tuition for this class.
The target audience includes conservation practitioners and natural resource managers working at multiple scales to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of their work in an era of climate change. This course is based on a forthcoming guide to the principles and practice of Climate-Smart Conservation. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners (see sidebar). …Register online at http://training.fws.gov . In partnership with staff from National Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, EcoAdapt, Geos Institute, and Point Blue Conservation Science.
Contact for Registration Questions: Jill DelVecchio at 304/876-7424 or email@example.com
Contact for Content Questions: Christy Coghlan at 304/876-7438 or firstname.lastname@example.org
San Francisco Bay NERR March 4, 2014 Contact: Heidi Nutters, 415-338-3511 -or-
Elkhorn Slough NERR March 6, 2014
Contact: Virginia Guhin, 831-274-8700 Please read the details carefully as this 1-day training is being offered in two locations!
Sponsored by: Elkhorn Slough and San Francisco Bay Coastal Training Programs Instructor: Cara Pike, TRIG’s Social Capital Project/Climate Access
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: https://www.soils.org/meetings/specialized/ecosystem-services
Cartographic Design for Geographic Information Systems (GIS)March 14-15, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Center for Integrated Spatial Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz– The Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program
Registration fee: $500 Teacher: Tim Norris, Cartography Consultant, PhD Candidate
WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT 2014 Conference
North (SF) 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.
- 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 email@example.com 415-945-1475
Stanford experts from a range of disciplines will discuss the interconnections and interactions among humanity’s need for and use of climate, energy, food, water, and environmental resources. The day will feature key authors of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change. Professor Chris Field, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, and members of the Technical Support Group will provide an overview of their major findings. Stanford students and faculty will lead an interactive breakout session on key challenges associated with climate change. A faculty panel—representing WG I, WG II and WG III—will connect the dots by evaluating some of the ways in which decisions in one resource area can lead to tradeoffs or co-benefits in others. Finally a keynote speaker will consider the impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of climate change for the Bay Area, which has billions of dollars invested in shoreline development and infrastructure. Registration is free – required.
- Stacey Bent, Professor of Chemical Engineering; Director of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy
- Noah Diffenbaugh, Associate Professor of Environmental Earth System Science; Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment
- Chris Field, Professor of Biology and of Environmental Earth System Science; Director of the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II
- Charles Kolstad, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Precourt Institute for Energy
- Jon Krosnick, Professor of Communications and of Political Science
- Katharine Mach, Carnegie Institution, Co-Director of Science, IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit
- Michael Mastrandrea, Carnegie Institution, Co-Director of Science for IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit
- Terry Root, Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment (Point Blue Science Advisory Committee member and former Board member)
April 22-24, 2014 Yosemite Valley, CA
This workshop is focused on developing an integrated view of the physical landscape, climate effects, hydrology and fire regimes of the Sierra Nevada.
Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January. Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium
Scenario Planning toward Climate Change Adaptation (pdf) WORKSHOP May 6-8, 2014 NCTC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia
This overview course will introduce the core elements of scenario planning and expose participants to a diversity of approaches and specific scenario development techniques that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components.
99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America
Sacramento, California August 10-15, 2014 http://www.esa.org/sacramento
California Adaptation Forum
August 18-20, 2014.
This two-day forum will build off a successful National Adaptation Forum held in Colorado in 2013. The attendance of many California leaders there underscored the need for a California-focused event, which will be held every other year to complement the biennial national conference. To register go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/886364449
Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert – San Francisco
San Francisco Chronicle Review by Mary Ellen Hannibal Updated 5:03 pm, Friday, February 7, 2014.
“There is grandeur in this view of life,” concludes Charles Darwin in his opus “On the Origin of Species.” “… From so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” Darwin was right about many things, including the mechanism by which the plenitude of life we know as biodiversity came to thrive on this planet. Unfortunately for us, his picture of a continuously rich congregation of interacting species has hit a big roadblock. New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert lays out the situation in “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” The activities of Homo sapiens – that’s right, us – are reducing the volume and kinds of other life-forms on the planet at a rate and magnitude that earn our moment in time its own epochal designation. By 2016, it is expected that the inherently conservative Geological Society of London will make it official: We’re living in an Anthropocene of our own devising. In her elegant and quickly paced book, Kolbert reviews the history of the very concept of extinction, noting that neither Aristotle nor Pliny nor Linnaeus ever guessed there had been life-forms on Earth that no longer exist….
….It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kolbert’s book. Her prose is lucid, accessible and even entertaining as she reveals the dark theater playing out on our globe. It is enough for one book to cover the enormous swaths of scientific territory she does here. Still, I would have liked more reference and explanation of how this accelerated take-down of creatures causes even more negative effects than the immediate one of species loss. For example, here in North America, the loss of top predators (grizzly bears and wolves) exacerbates our current ecological woes. On the East Coast, superabundant deer are decimating forests and in some communities have to be culled by hunters. These deer also bring us proliferating ticks and Lyme disease. In the West, the lack of big teeth on the landscape actually has an impact on the water system, since the over-browsing deer and elk erode the banks of creeks and rivers, and pave the way for invasive plants to further degrade nature’s operations there. Finally, while there is probably no hope for many of the Earth’s creatures no matter what we do right now, we certainly can stem this extinction crisis. With any hope, Kolbert’s readers will not be able to sleep until we all do our part to protect habitat for our co-travelers through what Darwin rightly called Earth’s grandeur. As climate change forces species to adjust how and where they live, we can help them by protecting enough natural places for them to do so.
Mary Ellen Hannibal is the author of “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last, Best Wilderness,” and winner of Stanford’s Knight-Risser Prize in Western Environmental Journalism. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Environmental Philosopher Baird Callicott has recently published a new book entitled Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic, now available from Oxford University Press. In this book, Callicott develops a new moral philosophy that is capable of engaging the most urgent and otherwise intractable ethical concern of the first century of the new millennium: global climate change. He updates and expands Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to make it relevant to contemporary concerns with regard to climate change.
San Francisco Estuary Institute-ASC Executive Director Filing date: Sunday, February 16, 2014.
USFWS- Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications – Pacific Southwest Region, Sacramento
GS-0480-15 Fish and Wildlife Administrator, Assistant Regional Director for Science
Application vacancy announcements opened today Feb 13, and will close Feb 27, 2014.
- OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
Oliver Putz Opinion SF Chronicle Updated 1:18 pm, Saturday, February 15, 2014
Bill Nye “the Science Guy” (left) listens as Ken Ham makes a point this month at a debate on evolution at Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky. Photo: Matt Stone, Associated Press
Once again the perennial talk of a “war” between religion and science is upon us. In an Internet-televised debate, creationist Ken Ham went head-to-head with TV scientist Bill Nye on the question of whether creation is a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era. Unsurprisingly, Ham insisted that it is, while Nye objected. As so often with these debates, religion and science were simplistically pitted against each other, proving once more that what the opponents in – and organizers of – that sort of spectacle are missing is the capacity for critical thinking…. How, then, can religion and science be related in a productive fashion, aside from the obvious, abandoning biblical literalism and paradoxical metaphysics? Philosopher of science Ernan McMullin proposed to look for consonance between religious and scientific knowledge claims. He argues that as long as theological doctrines and scientific theories do not contradict one another, there is no need for any conflict. Yet such consonance is only possible if both disciplines hold themselves to the highest scholarly standards and remain academically honest…
Chemist gets U.S. patent for solution to antibiotic resistance problem
(February 17, 2014) — A chemist in Copenhagen has just taken out a patent for a drug that can make previously multidrug-resistant bacteria once again responsive to antibiotics. … > full story
Wringing A Wet Towel In Space [VIDEO]: What happens if you wring out a wet towel while floating in space?
The water shouldn’t fall towards the floor because while orbiting the Earth, free falling objects will appear to float. But will the water fly out from the towel, or what? The answer may surprise you…
Tech shift: More women in computer science classes
Kristen V. Brown, San Francisco Chronicle Updated 6:03 pm, Tuesday, February 18, 2014
…but this Berkeley computer science class is at the vanguard of a tech world shift. The class has 106 women and 104 men. The gender flip first occurred last spring. It was the first time since at least 1993 – as far back as university enrollment records are digitized – that more women enrolled in an introductory computer science course. It was likely the first time ever. …Berkeley, Stanford and a handful of other universities have experienced a marked uptick in the numbers of female computer science students. Those increases have also coincided with a reimagining of computer science classes, especially introductory ones. In some cases, that meant doing away with aspects of classes that seemed to specifically discourage young women. For Garcia’s course, which is for nonmajors, the goal was to expand the class beyond “just programming,” to make it “kind of right-brained as well.” Berkeley put more emphasis on the impact and relevance of computing in the world, and added pair exercises. Each class begins with a discussion of a recent tech-related news article. Introduction to Symbolic Programming was reborn as Beauty and the Joy of Computing…..
The way a room is lit can affect the way you make decisions
(February 20, 2014) — The next time you want to turn down the emotional intensity before making an important decision, you may want to dim the lights first. A new study shows that human emotion, whether positive or negative, is felt more intensely under bright light. under bright lights emotions are felt more intensely. In the brighter room participants wanted spicier chicken wing sauce, thought the fictional character was more aggressive, found the women more attractive, felt better about positive words and worse about negative words, and drank more of the “favorable” juice and less of the “unfavorable” juice. … > full story
Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle Updated 8:47 am, Tuesday, February 18, 2014
If it’s yellow, let it mellow has been the go-to rule of water conservation for decades. The easy-to-remember adage speaks of a common-sense sacrifice made for the common good: selective flushing.
Food packaging chemicals may be harmful to human health over long term
(February 19, 2014) — The synthetic chemicals used in the packaging, storage, and processing of foodstuffs might be harmful to human health over the long term, warn environmental scientists. This is because most of these substances are not inert and can leach into the foods we eat, they say. Despite the fact that some of these chemicals are regulated, people who eat packaged or processed foods are likely to be chronically exposed to low levels of these substances throughout their lives. And far too little is known about their long term impact. … > full story
Ellie Cohen, President and CEO
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)
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