Conservation Science News April 25, 2014

Focus of the Week — IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change










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The items contained in this update were drawn from,, SER The Society for Ecological Restoration,,,, The Wildlife Society NewsBrief, CA BLM NewsBytes and other sources as indicated.  This is a compilation of information available on-line, not verified and not endorsed by Point Blue Conservation Science.  
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Focus of the WeekIPCC: Mitigating Climate Change




We’re Running Out of Time to Stop Global Warming, UN Says


In this picture taken Thursday, April 3, 2014, giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler near the city of Grevenbroich, western Germany. Coal is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Image: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

By Andrew Freedman April 13, 2014


The window of opportunity to avoid an amount of global warming that global leaders have agreed would be “dangerous” is rapidly closing, with just a decade left for the world to begin undertaking sweeping technological and governmental actions to rein in emissions of global-warming gases such as carbon dioxide, according to a new United Nations report released Sunday in Berlin.
After that, it becomes far more difficult and expensive to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid dangerous amounts of warming. Given recent emissions and temperature trends, the world is on track to see an increase in global average surface temperatures of up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century, the report says. This could have disastrous consequences by dramatically raising global sea levels, melting land-based ice sheets, and leading to more heat waves and extreme precipitation events, among other impacts.


The report, the third and final installment of the latest comprehensive review of climate science from the Nobel Prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), analyzes more than 1,000 scenarios of potential economic growth and environmental changes to determine how to minimize global warming. The report is simultaneously optimistic and grim in tone, since it concludes there is time and pre-existing technological knowledge available to meet the goals that leaders set out in a non-binding agreement in 2009, yet lays bare the sheer scope of the challenges that lie ahead. The central task for scientists, engineers and policymakers is to figure out how to facilitate continued economic and population growth, without also causing emissions to skyrocket at the same time, the report says.


Figuring out how to do that gets at the core of global-development issues and the sharp climate-policy divide between industrialized and developing nations. Government representatives meeting in Berlin last week to approve the report, objected to language in the widely read summary for policymakers that suggested developing countries have to do more to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, according to the New York Times. However, such language remained in the lengthy technical report. Text discussing transfers of funding to developing countries to assist them in growing their economies without boosting emissions was also removed from the summary, The IPCC’s fifth assessment provides the foundation for upcoming rounds of negotiations to craft a new global climate treaty, starting with a high-level climate summit in New York this September, and culminating in another summit in Paris next year. The next treaty is supposed to be enforced by 2020. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report underscores the need for action by 2015. “So many of the technologies that will help us fight climate change are far cheaper, more readily available and better performing than they were when the last IPCC assessment was released less than a decade ago,” Kerry said in a statement. “This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity.”

Here are some of the report’s key findings:


Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change

IPCC Working Group III Contribution to AR5

Concluding four years of intense scientific collaboration by hundreds of authors from around the world, this report responds to the request of the world’s governments for a comprehensive, objective and policy neutral assessment of the current scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change. The report has been extensively reviewed by experts and governments to ensure quality and comprehensiveness. The quintessence of this work, the Summary for Policymakers, has been approved line by line by member governments at the 12th Session of IPCC WG III in Berlin, Germany (7-11 April 2014).

Summary For Policymakers Final Draft



The participation of experts from around the globe is one of the IPCC’s key characteristics. For the preparation of the WGIII AR5, the WGIII Co-Chairs Ottmar Edenhofer (Germany), Ramon Pichs-Madruga (Cuba) and Youba Sokona (Mali) coordinated the efforts of a diverse team of contributors. This team provided a unique breadth and depth of knowledge from various backgrounds, from various scientific disciplines and from diverse regional and cultural affiliations. All authors and reviewers contributed their time, expertise and efforts on a voluntary basis to provide a global consensus view of the scientific knowledge on mitigating climate change.

A total of 235 Coordinating Lead Authors and Lead Authors, 38 Review Editors from 58 countries and 176 contributing authors contributed to the preparation of WGIII AR5. Overall responsibility lies with the WGIII Co-Chairs and the WGIII Bureau…



IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change More Challenging Than Ever

Science AAAS

Apr 14, 2014


Written by

Eli Kintisch


BERLIN—Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem. That’s the grim picture painted by a major report on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions released today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an energy expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was a co-chair of the roughly 500-page report, in a statement. The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers, says energy expert Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “To greatly reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions, we must revolutionize our systems of energy production and consumption,” he says. And that’s a “long, hard, and costly undertaking.“…





Point Blue and partners in the News:


Irrigated agriculture — precious habitat for the long-billed curlew

April 16th, 2014

Despite the recent rainfall, California is still in a drought, so not only are water supplies limited, but demand for water is increasing from a variety of uses. In a recent study published by Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) and Audubon California in the journal Western Birds, scientists document the importance of irrigated agricultural crops in California’s Central Valley to a conspicuous shorebird. Crops like alfalfa provide critical habitat for the Long-billed Curlew, the largest shorebird in North America and a species of continental conservation concern. As the drought continues, mirroring conditions that are projected to be more common in the future, scientists say the need for allocating water reliably to wetlands and flooded agricultural lands will only grow stronger for wetland-dependent birds. “Curlews can’t survive in the Central Valley without irrigated agriculture, given the loss of most of their historic shallow-water habitats in summer and fall,” says Dave Shuford, Point Blue ecologist and lead author of the publication. The Central Valley’s protected wetlands (federal wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas, and private lands) and certain types of agriculture (e.g. rice, alfalfa), provide nearly all of the habitat used by millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, and other waterbirds every fall, winter, and spring. In early fall—the driest time of year in the Valley—it is especially important that these birds can find flooded fields and wetlands for their survival. In the study, Point Blue scientists, Audubon California, and a host of volunteers studied the curlews for three years. Observers recorded over 20,000 curlews: about 93% were in the central and southern portions of the Central Valley, concentrating in areas extensively flood irrigated for alfalfa and irrigated pasture. “Millions of migratory birds rely on the flooded agricultural fields each year. Conservation and agricultural groups can work together to benefit birds and people,” says Meghan Hertel, Audubon Working Lands Director. In the future, irrigated agriculture will face increased water costs driven by competing needs of an increasing human population and probably drier conditions under a changing climate. These threats might be offset if a program of economic incentives can be devised for farmers to maintain flooding of crops, such as alfalfa and irrigated pasture, to the benefit of both farmers and curlews.

More information:
Shuford, W. D., G. W. Page, G. M. Langham, and C. M. Hickey. 2013. The importance of agriculture to Long-billed Curlews in California’s Central Valley in fall. Western Birds 44:196-205.


Irrigated agriculture: precious habitat for the long-billed curlew
(April 16, 2014) ScienceDaily– Despite the recent rainfall, California is still in a drought, so not only are water supplies limited, but demand for water is increasing from a variety of uses. In a recent study, scientists document the importance of irrigated agricultural crops in California’s Central Valley to a conspicuous shorebird. … > full story

Alternative identification methods for threatened species urged
(April 17, 2014) — With global climate change and rapidly disappearing habitat critical to the survival of endangered species, there is a sense of urgency to confirm the return of animals thought to be extinct, or to confirm the presence of newly discovered species. Researchers want to change how biologists think about collecting ‘voucher’ specimens for species identification, suggesting current specimen collection practices pose a risk to vulnerable animal populations nearing extinction. … > full story


Result of slow degradation on environmental pollutants
(April 14, 2014) — Why do environmental pollutants accumulate in the cold polar regions? This may not only be due to the fact that many substances are less volatile at low temperatures, as has been long suspected, but also to their extremely slow natural degradation. Although persistent environmental pollutants have been and continue to be released worldwide, the Arctic and Antarctic regions are significantly more contaminated than elsewhere. The marine animals living there have some of the highest levels of persistent organic pollutant (POP) contamination of any creatures. … > full story


Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years
(April 17, 2014) — Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter forest conditions and management needs in the Northern United States have been outlined in a new report. “The northern quadrant of the United States includes 172 million acres of forest land and 124 million people,” said one researcher. This report “is helping identify the individual and collective steps needed to ensure healthy and resilient futures for trees and people alike.”
The report — Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter forest conditions and management needs in the Northern United States — was published recently by the journal
Forest Science and is part of the Northern Forest Futures Project, an effort led by the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station to forecast forest conditions over the next 50 years in the 20-state region extending from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland. The study is available at: … > full story


Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Yields Remarkable Returns

Andrew Burger | Thursday April 17th, 2014

In an increasingly urbanized, technologically complex and consumption-driven society, it’s easy to lose sight of the advantages and benefits to be realized, as well as our fundamental reliance on, ecosystems and the services they provide. Yet even as our preoccupation with jobs, economic growth and development has continued to intensify, we’ve been gaining greater understanding, and appreciation, of the value of ecosystems and ecosystem services — not just in terms of environmental health and safety, but for their economic and broader social value as well. On April 9, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Oxfam America released, “The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems,” a report that highlights the remarkable economic value and benefits realized by coastal ecosystem restoration projects carried out right here in the U.S.

Coastal ecosystem restoration: More job creation than offshore oil and gas development

The CAP-Oxfam America study of coastal ecosystem restoration projects revealed some surprising economic results. As NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management Mark Schaefer elaborated in a news release.


Controversy over nitrogen’s ocean ‘exit strategies’ resolved
(April 11, 2014) — A decades-long debate over the dominant way that nitrogen is removed from the ocean may now be settled. Researchers found that both of the nitrogen ‘exit strategies,’ denitrification and anammox, are at work in the oceans. The debate centers on how nitrogen — one of the most important food sources for ocean life and a controller of atmospheric carbon dioxide — becomes converted to a form that can exit the ocean and return to the atmosphere where it is reused in the global nitrogen cycle. … > full story


Declining catch rates in Caribbean Nicaragua green turtle fishery may be result of overfishing
April 16, 2014) — A 20-year assessment of Nicaragua’s legal, artisanal green sea turtle fishery has uncovered a stark reality: greatly reduced overall catch rates of turtles in what may have become an unsustainable take, according to conservation scientists. Growing up to 400 pounds in weight, the green turtle is the second largest sea turtle species next to the leatherback turtle. In addition to the threat from overfishing, the green turtle is at risk from bycatch in various fisheries, poaching of eggs at nesting beaches, habitat deterioration and loss due to coastal development and climate change effects, and pollution. … > full story


Diverse gene pool critical for tigers’ survival, say experts
(April 16, 2014) — Increasing tigers’ genetic diversity — via interbreeding and other methods — and not just their population numbers may be the best solution to saving this endangered species, according to research. Iconic symbols of power and beauty, wild tigers may roam only in stories someday soon. Their historical range has been reduced by more than 90 percent. But conservation plans that focus only on increasing numbers and preserving distinct subspecies ignore genetic diversity, according to the study. In fact, under that approach, the tiger could vanish entirely. … > full story


Life finds a way: the surprising biodiversity of cities

Nika Levikov April 11, 2014

Public perception of wildlife tends to be tied to natural habitats such as forests, ocean and other wild settings. However, cities can provide habitat for many animals and plants. In the largest global assessment of urban biodiversity to date, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, researchers examined the biodiversity of urban areas and found that cities are home to a surprising number of species. The study underlines the conservation importance of preserving and creating green spaces when it comes to urban planning. The study focused on 54 cities for birds and 110 cities for plants in 36 countries across six continents. The researchers collected and analyzed data from various sources, including databases, surveys and existing literature and found that, on average, 20 percent of the bird species and five percent of the plant species of the regions they examined occur in urban areas. In addition, the number of different species, known as “species richness,” strongly correlated with city size, with bigger cities having larger numbers of different species….


California mulls wolf listing amid hunts elsewhere

By SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press Updated 4:16 pm, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This April 18, 2008, file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a gray wolf. The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday April 16, 2014, will consider listing the gray wolf as an endangered species. The wolf has been absent from California since the 1920s, but the appearance of a lone wolf in recent years in the north state has advocates pushing for protection in the hope that it will return in greater numbers. Photo: Uncedited, AP

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — While much of the country has relaxed rules on killing gray wolves, California will consider protecting the species after a lone wolf from Oregon raised hopes the animals would repopulate their historic habitat in the Golden State. The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday postponed for three months a decision on whether to list the gray wolf as endangered. Commissioners heard impassioned arguments from environmentalists who want the wolves to again to roam the state and from cattle ranchers who fear for their herds. “I think we made them blink,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity, which leads the push for protection. “I think they heard our arguments.” State wildlife officials say they don’t support the listing because wolf packs haven’t roamed in California for nearly a century and there’s no scientific basis to consider ….



Unprecedented experiment to revive chinook salmon

Waters may hold secret to spawning

April 10 2014 Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle

A chinook salmon smolt swims in a holding tank on the Merva W fishing boat in Rio Vista, Calif. on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, before it’s released into the bay near Tiburon by state fish and game officials.

Three hundred thousand juvenile chinook with tiny coded chips lodged in their heads were released in Rio Vista and under the Golden Gate Bridge over the past two days in an experiment to determine optimal conditions for hatchery-raised salmon to survive and imprint on their native rivers. The 6-month-old, pinkie-size fish from the Feather River hatchery near Oroville (Butte County) were separated into three groups of 100,000 and subjected to widely varying conditions before the release to see which method best helped the fish survive in the wild. Biologists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are focusing mainly on the group that was loaded Tuesday into the hold of a fishing boat in the delta town of Rio Vista and transported down the Sacramento River to the Golden Gate, where they were released Wednesday. That group of smolts swam through freshwater, brackish water and salt water that was circulated through the hold of the boat as they traveled from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta downriver to the bay. ….It is possible to track the chinook from cradle to grave, so to speak, because of their unique ability to return after three years in the ocean to almost the exact spot on the river where they were born. They do this through a process called imprinting, which begins when the water that flows over their eggs leaves chemical cues…..


Bay Area programs offer hope for dwindling frog population

Carolyn Jones Updated 8:05 am, Saturday, April 12, 2014

Starkey holds a yellow-eyed ensatina salamander, an amphibian found on the West Coast and in Mexico. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

It’s not easy hunting frogs. For starters, there aren’t many frogs left. If you want to find a frog, you’re best off in the flatlands of Madagascar, or maybe Papau New Guinea. But everywhere else? They’ve pretty much croaked. “It’s grim,” said David Wake, an integrative biology professor at UC Berkeley and an expert on amphibians. “We actually have quite a few species, but the problem is, they’re almost all in trouble.” Frogs across the globe, from the creeks of the Bay Area to the rain forests of Panama, are diminishing rapidly. About 50 percent of amphibian species worldwide are threatened or endangered, a higher number than any other vertebrate. Where frogs once happily hopped in backyards, ponds and streams, those places are now ribbit-less. But the best hope for the slimy bug-eaters may lie in the Bay Area, where an increasing number of frog experts are pioneering research, education and captive breeding programs. The latest entry is Save the Frogs, the world’s only nonprofit dedicated solely to saving amphibians, which recently opened its headquarters and a gift shop in Berkeley. “I fell in love with frogs, and I realized that the greatest threat to frogs is people’s lack of awareness,” said Kerry Kriger, an environmental biologist who founded Save the Frogs six years ago. “I think when we protect frogs, we can protect the whole environment.” That’s because frogs are a critical link in the food chain, he said. They eat huge quantities of bugs, especially mosquitoes, and are a favorite snack for a host of predators in creeks, ponds, forests and wetlands. Kriger and his crew visit schools, work on legislation to ban pesticides, persuade restaurants not to serve frog legs, and encourage people to build frog ponds. They’re working with Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella (Riverside County), to declare the endangered red-legged frog – made famous in Mark Twain‘s tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” – as the official state amphibian….


How the public can contribute

— Don’t use pesticides.

— Build a frog pond in your backyard.

— Don’t eat frog’s legs.

— Don’t buy wild-caught frogs as pets.

— Drive slowly on wet nights.

— Be eco-friendly in general: Recycle, save water, use less plastic, buy organic and educate yourself on environmental issues.



Shade grown coffee shrinking as a proportion of global coffee production
(April 16, 2014) — Over the past couple of decades, global coffee production has been shifting towards a more intensive, less environmentally friendly style, a new study has found. That’s pretty surprising if you live in the U.S. and you’ve gone to the grocery store or Starbucks, where sales of environmentally and socially conscious coffees have risen sharply and now account for half of all U.S. coffee sales by economic value. … > full story


17 April 2014, 11:27 am

National Park Week (April 19 – April 27) starts with free admission this weekend to all 401 of America’s National Parks; a gathering of all the living Directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Secretary Jewell travels to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to give the commencement address at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI); the Integrated Wildland Fire Information Reporting system (IRWIN) is among the tools that will be used to fight wildfires this year; and the Interior Museum’s “Posterity” exhibit looks back at the some vintage promotional art from the WPA.




Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water

Fish will make themselves vulnerable by being attracted to predator odour and exhibiting bolder behaviour

Oliver Milman, Sunday 13 April 2014 13.00 EDT

A lemon damselfish finding shelter in coral. Exposure to CO2 will make it more adventurous, and endanger its life. Photograph: Bates Littlehales/Corbis

Escalating carbon dioxide emissions will cause fish to lose their fear of predators, potentially damaging the entire marine food chain, joint Australian and US research has found.

A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University and the Georgia Institute of Technology found the behavior of fish would be “seriously affected” by greater exposure to CO2. Researchers studied the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally occurring CO2 vents in Milne Bay, in eastern Papua New Guinea. They found that fish living near the vents, where bubbles of CO2 seeped into the water, “were attracted to predator odour, did not distinguish between odours of different habitats, and exhibited bolder behaviour than fish from control reefs”. The gung-ho nature of CO2-affected fish means that more of them are picked off by predators than is normally the case, raising potentially worrying possibilities in a scenario of rising carbon emissions. More than 90% of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is soaked up by the oceans. When CO2 is dissolved in water, it causes ocean acidification, which slightly lowers the pH of the water and changes its chemistry. Crustaceans can find it hard to form shells in highly acidic water, while corals risk episodes of bleaching….


Ocean acidification robs reef fish of their fear of predators
(April 13, 2014) — Research on the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally-occurring carbon dioxide seeps in Milne Bay in eastern Papua New Guinea has shown that continuous exposure to increased levels of carbon dioxide dramatically alters the way fish respond to predators.  … > full story


Odds that global warming is due to natural factors: Slim to none

McGill University April 11, 2014

Polar bear in melting Arctic. Statistical analysis rules out natural-warming hypothesis with more than 99% certainty. Credit: © st__iv / Fotolia

An analysis of temperature data since 1500 all but rules out the possibility that global warming in the industrial era is just a natural fluctuation in the earth’s climate, according to a new study by McGill University physics professor Shaun Lovejoy. The study, published online April 6 in the journal Climate Dynamics, represents a new approach to the question of whether global warming in the industrial era has been caused largely by man-made emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Rather than using complex computer models to estimate the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions, Lovejoy examines historical data to assess the competing hypothesis: that warming over the past century is due to natural long-term variations in temperature….


March was the 4th warmest on record globally. March 2014 was the fourth-warmest March on record globally, according to recently released NASA data, making it the 349th month — more than 29 years — in which global temperatures were above the historic average. Climate Central


Biologists help solve fungal mysteries, inform studies on climate change
(April 17, 2014) — A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate change. Huge populations of fungi are churning away in the soil in pine forests, decomposing organic matter and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. … > full story

Methane climate change risk suggested by proof of redox cycling of humic substances
(April 17, 2014) — Disruption of natural methane-binding process may worsen climate change, scientists have suggested, painting a stark warning on the possible effects of gases such as methane — which has a greenhouse effect 32 times that of carbon dioxide. Researchers have shown that humic substances act as fully regenerable electron acceptors which helps explain why large amount of methane are held in wetlands instead of being released to the atmosphere. … > full story


Drunken trees: Dramatic signs of climate change. Sarah James, an Alaska Native elder, says global warming is radically changing her homeland. Even the forests no longer grow straight. Melting ground has caused trees to tilt or fall. National Geographic News


Warm U.S. West, cold East: 4,000-year pattern; Global warming may bring more curvy jet streams during winter
(April 16, 2014) — Last winter’s curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A new study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, and suggests it may worsen as Earth’s climate warms. If this trend continues, it could contribute to more extreme winter weather events in North America, as experienced this year with warm conditions in California and Alaska and intrusion of cold Arctic air across the eastern USA,” says geochemist Gabe Bowen, senior author of the study. The study was published online April 16 by the journal Nature Communications.

A sinuous or curvy winter jet stream means unusual warmth in the West, drought conditions in part of the West, and abnormally cold winters in the East and Southeast,” adds Bowen, an associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. “We saw a good example of extreme wintertime climate that largely fit that pattern this past winter,” although in the typical pattern California often is wetter. It is not new for scientists to forecast that the current warming of Earth’s climate due to carbon dioxide, methane and other “greenhouse” gases already has led to increased weather extremes and will continue to do so. The new study shows the jet stream pattern that brings North American wintertime weather extremes is millennia old — “a longstanding and persistent pattern of climate variability,” Bowen says. Yet it also suggests global warming may enhance the pattern so there will be more frequent or more severe winter weather extremes or both. “This is one more reason why we may have more winter extremes in North America, as well as something of a model for what those extremes may look like,” Bowen says. Human-caused climate change is reducing equator-to-pole temperature differences; the atmosphere is warming more at the poles than at the equator. Based on what happened in past millennia, that could make a curvy jet stream even more frequent and-or intense than it is now, he says. … > full story


Zhongfang Liu, Kei Yoshimura, Gabriel J. Bowen, Nikolaus H. Buenning, Camille Risi, Jeffrey M. Welker & Fasong Yuan. Paired oxygen isotope records reveal modern North American atmospheric dynamics during the Holocene. Nature Communications, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4701



Study Ties Epic California Drought, ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change

By Joe Romm on April 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

In this Feb. 4, 2014 file photo a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file

Natural variability alone cannot explain the extreme weather pattern that has driven both the record-setting California drought and the cooler weather seen in the Midwest and East this winter, a major new study finds. We’ve reported before that climate scientists had predicted a decade ago that warming-driven Arctic ice loss would lead to worsening drought in California. In particular, they predicted it would lead to a “blocking pattern” that would shift the jet stream (and the rain it could bring) away from the state — in this case a “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” of high pressure.

A new study in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d) takes the warming link to the California drought to the next level of understanding. It concludes, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.” The NASA-funded study is behind a pay wall, but the brief news release, offers a simple explanation of what is going on. The research provides “evidence connecting the amplified wind patterns, consisting of a strong high pressure in the West and a deep low pressure in the East [labeled a ‘dipole’], to global warming.” Researchers have “uncovered evidence that can trace the amplification of the dipole to human influences.”

As this figure shows, the amplitude of the dipole driving the extreme nature of the California drought is much higher than can be explained purely by natural causes, and greenhouse gases are needed to explain the difference. The release explains: “… it is important to note that the dipole is projected to intensify, which means more extreme future droughts for California. Historical data show that the dipole has been intensifying since the late 1970s.
The intensified dipole can be accurately simulated using a new global climate model, which also simulates the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Simulations with only natural variability show a weakening dipole, which is opposite to what is currently being observed. Moreover, the occurrence of the dipole one year before an El Nino/La Nina event is becoming more common, which can only be reproduced in model simulations when greenhouse gases are introduced into the system.”

This research fits a growing body of evidence — documented by Senior Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro and others — that “global warming is increasing the atmosphere’s thickness, leading to stronger and more persistent ridges of high pressure, which in turn are a key to temperature, rainfall, and snowfall extremes and topsy-turvy weather patterns like we’ve had in recent years.” The new study’s lead author, Dr. Simon Wang of the Utah Climate Center, told me in an email: “I personally think that the debate over global warming leading to stronger blocking has passed. The ongoing challenge is how we predict WHEN and WHERE those blocking will happen and affect WHICH region.”

I asked one of the country’s top climatologists, Dr. Michael Mann, what he thought of this new research. I’ll give him the final word: “We know that human-caused climate change has played a hand in the increases in many types of extreme weather impacting the U.S., including the more pronounced heat waves and droughts of recent summers, more devastating hurricanes and superstorms, and more widespread and intense wildfires. This latest paper adds to the weight of evidence that climate change may be impacting weather in the U.S. in a more subtle way, altering the configuration of the jet stream in a way that disrupts patterns of rainfall and drought, in this case creating an unusually strong atmospheric “ridge” that pushed the jet stream to the north this winter along the west coast, yielding record drought in California, flooding in Washington State, and abnormal warmth in Alaska. The recent IPCC assessment downplays these sorts of connections, making it very conservative in its assessment of risk, and reminding us that uncertainty in the science seems to be cutting against us, not for us. It is a reason for action rather than inaction.”



More, Bigger Wildfires Burning Western US Over Last 30 Years

Apr. 17, 2014 Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years — a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become more severe in the coming decades, according to new research. The number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.

The total area these fires burned increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year — an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the study. Individually, the largest wildfires grew at a rate of 350 acres a year, the new research says. “We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than one percent,” said Philip Dennison, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and lead author of the paper. The study’s authors used satellite data to measure areas burned by large fires since 1984, and then looked at climate variables, like seasonal temperature and rainfall, during the same time. The researchers found that most areas that saw increases in fire activity also experienced increases in drought severity during the same time period. They also saw an increase in both fire activity and drought over a range of different ecosystems across the region. “Twenty eight years is a pretty short period of record, and yet we are seeing statistically significant trends in different wildfire variables — it is striking,” said Max Moritz, a co-author of the study and a fire specialist at the University of California-Berkeley Cooperative Extension….While other studies have looked at wildfire records over longer time periods, this is the first study to use high-resolution satellite data to examine wildfire trends over a broad range of landscapes, explained Littell. The researchers divided the region into nine distinct “ecoregions,” areas that had similar climate and vegetation. The ecoregions ranged from forested mountains to warm deserts and grasslands. Looking at the ecoregions more closely, the authors found that the rise in fire activity was the strongest in certain regions of the United States: across the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada and Arizona- New Mexico mountains; the southwest desert in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Texas; and the southern plains across western Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and eastern Colorado. These are the same regions that would be expected to be most severely affected by changes in climate, said Dennison…. full story

Philip E. Dennison, Simon C. Brewer, James D. Arnold, Max A. Moritz. Large wildfire trends in the western United States, 1984-2011. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL059576


Fire and drought may push Amazonian forests beyond tipping point
(April 14, 2014) — Future simulations of climate in the Amazon suggest a longer dry season leading to more drought and fires. Scientists have published a new study on the impacts of fire and drought on Amazon tree mortality. Their article found that prolonged droughts caused more intense and widespread wildfires, which consumed more forests in Amazonia than previously understood. … > full story



Climate paradox deciphered from the Miocene era
(April 11, 2014) — A supposed climate paradox from the Miocene era has been deciphered by means of complex model simulations. When the Antarctic ice sheet grew to its present-day size around 14 million years ago, it did not get colder everywhere on the Earth, but there were regions that became warmer. This appears to be a physical contradiction, and this research aims to address that. … > full story





Climate Change Drying Out Southwest Now, With Worse To Come For A Third Of The Planet

By Joe Romm on April 11, 2014 at 5:52 pm


Two new studies confirm that warming-driven climate change is already drying the U.S. Southwest and other parts of the globe. More worrisome, nearly a third of the world’s land faces drying from rising greenhouse gases — including two of the world’s greatest agricultural centers, “the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China.”

These studies add fuel to the growing bonfire of concerns about climate change and food security. As I wrote in the article on Dust-Bowlification I did for the journal Nature in 2011, “Feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate may well be the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced.”

The fact that global warming is already drying out large parts of the planet — and that it is on track to get much, much worse — is well understood by climate scientists. Because this drying may be the single most consequential climate impact, confusionists try to blow smoke on it.

The first study is “Atmosphere and Ocean Origins of North American Droughts,” by Columbia’s Richard Seager and NOAA’s Martin Hoerling, in the Journal of Climate (subs. required, full text here). It concludes:

Long-term changes caused by increasing trace gas concentrations are now contributing to a modest signal of soil moisture depletion, mainly over the American Southwest, thereby prolonging the duration and severity of naturally occurring droughts.

…. rising greenhouse gases will lead to a steady drying of southwest.”

So, yes, climate change is already worsening the length and strength of droughts in this country.

Of course, the more important question is: What’s going to happen in the future if we don’t slash CO2 emissions fast? It’s clear the U.S. Southwest will keep trying out. But the problem will be vastly more widespread according to the second study, “Global warming and 21st century drying” in Climate Dynamics by Cook et al.

The Columbia University news release explains the bleak conclusions:

Published this month in the journal Climate Dynamics, the study estimates that 12 percent of land will be subject to drought by 2100 through rainfall changes alone; but the drying will spread to 30 percent of land if higher evaporation rates from the added energy and humidity in the atmosphere are considered. An increase in evaporative drying means that even regions expected to get more rain, including important wheat, corn and rice belts in the western United States and southeastern China, will be at risk of drought.

Interestingly, this study has a similar finding to a study by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research that was the subject of one of the earliest posts on Climate Progress, in October 2006: “One third of the planet will be desert by the year 2100, say climate experts in the most dire warning yet of the effects of global warming.”

This new study is “one of the first to use the latest climate simulations to model the effects of both changing rainfall and evaporation rates on future drought.” It finds “increased evaporative drying will probably tip marginally wet regions at mid-latitudes like the U.S. Great Plains and a swath of southeastern China into aridity.”

This study vindicates leading climatologist James Hansen when he warned in 2012 that the Great Plains — one of America’s breadbaskets — was at risk of semipermanent drought. It’s not a big surprise he was correct given that Hansen himself co-authored one of the first journal articles ever written on the impact of global warming on increased evaporation. His 1990 Journal of Geophysical Research study, “Potential evapotranspiration and the likelihood of future drought,” projected that severe to extreme drought in the United States, then occurring every 20 years or so, could become an every-other-year phenomenon by mid-century.

The news release for the new study explains:

Much of the concern about future drought under global warming has focused on rainfall projections, but higher evaporation rates may also play an important role as warmer temperatures wring more moisture from the soil, even in some places where rainfall is forecasted to to increase, say the researchers.

This is a central point missed by many drought discussions that focus only on rainfall amounts. In February, the journal Science had an excellent article on this point, “Climate Change: A Drier Future?” with this useful figure:

Aridity increases in warmer climates, leading to expansion of dry climate zones. Evaporation and precipitation increase modestly, but on land, evaporative demand (broken wavy arrows) increases faster than precipitation, because the strong increases in air temperature and consequently saturated water vapor concentration over land (red bars at lower right) exceed growth in actual water vapor concentration (blue bars). Increases in sensible and latent heat (associated, respectively, with temperature and water vapor, and represented by the area of each bar) have the same sum over land and ocean, with sensible heat increasing more over land than oceans and latent heat increasing more over oceans. Relative humidity (ratio of blue to red bar length) decreases over land. (PET is “potential evapotranspiration.”)

The bottom line of the Science article is one that everyone in policymaking, agriculture, climate science, and the media who is concerned with the future of drought and food production should set to memory: As the above considerations show, focusing on changes in precipitation, as typical in high-profile climate reports, does not tell the whole story — or perhaps even the main story — of hydrological change. In particular, it obscures the fact that in a warmer climate, more rain is needed. Many regions will get more rain, but it appears that few will get enough to keep pace with the growing evaporative demand.

We have been warned about this by leading climatologists for nearly a quarter of a century, now. The time to act was a long time ago, but now is infinitely better than later if you are at all concerned about how we are going to feed 9 billion people post-2050.



Study shows lasting effects of drought in rainy Eastern U.S.
(April 17, 2014) — This spring, more than 40 percent of the western U.S. is in a drought that the USDA deems “severe” or “exceptional.” The
same was true in 2013. In 2012, drought even spread to the humid east. But new research shows how short-lived but severe climatic events can trigger cascades of ecosystem change that last for centuries. …
The tree records in this study show that just before the American Revolution, across the broadleaf forests of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas, the simultaneous death of many trees opened huge gaps in the forest — prompting a new generation of saplings to surge skyward. There’s no historical evidence that the dead trees succumbed to logging, ice storms, or hurricanes. Instead, they were likely weakened by repeated drought leading up to the 1770s, followed by an intense drought from 1772 to 1775. The final straw was an unseasonable and devastating frost in 1774 that, until this study, was only known to historical diaries like Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, where he recounts “a frost which destroyed almost every thing” at Monticello that was “equally destructive thro the whole country and the neighboring colonies.” The oversized generation of new trees that followed-something like a baby boom — shaped the old-growth forests that still stand in the Southeast today. “Many of us think these grand old trees in our old-growth forests have always been there and stood the test of time,” says Neil Pederson of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, lead author of the new study. “What we now see is that big events, including climatic extremes, created large portions of these forests in short order through the weakening and killing of existing trees.“…> full story


Neil Pederson, James M. Dyer, Ryan W. McEwan, Amy E. Hessl, Cary J. Mock, David A. Orwig, Harald E. Rieder, Benjamin I. Cook. The legacy of episodic climatic events in shaping temperate, broadleaf forests. Ecological Monographs, 2014; 140414095101002 DOI: 10.1890/13-1025.1






What role for transformation in climate adaptation?

Source: World Resources Institute – Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:22 PM Author: Ayesha Dinshaw, WRI

A farmer harvests rice next to the artist Suharyanto Tri’s statue entitled “Planting Brain” at Nitiprayan village in Bantul, near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 27, 2012. Tri’s work is a part of an outdoor sculpture exhibition called “Last Harvest”, which included works from 30 artists voicing their concerns over diminishing agricultural land. REUTERS/Dwi Oblo

Transformation is a word we use so often in our daily lives that it seems strange to stop and think about what it really means. But in adaptation circles, the definition and role of transformation has recently become a hot topic of conversation, in part because transformational change was an important theme of the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. ….and while adaptation efforts have increased over the past decade, there is the danger of too few small-scale adaptation interventions failing to protect the most vulnerable people. Despite increased funding for adaptation, the total amount is still limited, and tends to be focused on short time horizons. A growing number of funders, experts, and adaptation practitioners question whether addressing climate change requires fundamental changes in how our society functions, including “paradigm shifts” in our values and decision-making. Lisa Schipper, an expert at the Stockholm Environment Institute, notes that “Adaptation was always meant to be transformational, but it somehow lost its edge; it lost its spunk and it became just another term for development. Now “transformation” has made its mark in the latest IPCC report. But many questions remain about what transformation really means—and these unanswered questions make it more difficult to fund, operationalize, and measure effective adaptation.


The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report defines transformation as “adaptation that changes the fundamental attributes of a system in response to climate and its effects.” The authors propose that transformational adaptation could include adaptation at greater scale or magnitude, the introduction of new technologies or practices, the formation of new structures or systems of governance, or shifts in the location of activities.
Meanwhile, incremental adaptation accounts for actions where the central aim is to maintain the essence and integrity of a system or process at a given scale. Although this gives us a common starting place, adaptation practitioners and funders have not yet clarified what counts as transformative—and that poses a major challenge to facilitating transformational adaptation. For instance, it seems like transformation requires change at a large scale, but what scale does an intervention need to reach in order to qualify as transformational? And, should scale focus on geographic scale or the number of people impacted? If we include the number of people impacted by the change as a criterion, should their vulnerability to climate change impacts also be taken into account? Similarly, for a change to fundamentally alter a system, it seems like it needs to be long-term, if not irreversible. But how long is long enough for an intervention to qualify as transformational?


All of this might seem like academic quibbling in the face of an urgent problem, but the way a term like “transformation” is used actually has major influence on adaptation projects going forward. First, funders, such as those involved in the UNFCCC Green Climate Fund, understandably want their grants to fund truly game-changing adaptation interventions. But without concrete criteria for what that means, funding “transformational adaptation” becomes subjective. Second, it follows that in order to operationalize a transformative policy or program, we need to understand the capacity and conditions needed. Third, to measure its success, we need establish indicators and benchmarks that move us beyond business-as-usual adaptation. Therefore, without criteria, we cannot fund or operationalize transformation. We also need to remember that fundamental, systemic shifts have the potential to be positive, but they can also be highly disruptive, or even devastating.
For instance, forced migration away from eroding coastlines would certainly transform both the lives of those who have to migrate and the communities to which migrants flow. Policymakers have a responsibility to prepare for such unplanned transformations that may occur due to climate change. Funders and other advocates of transformation need to help policymakers and planners recognize when transformational shifts may occur, and can help them plan to mitigate the potential negative consequences.


Without clear criteria, finding concrete examples of transformation remains a challenge. Some examples of potentially transformational adaptation appear in the literature (such as the ongoing re-greening of the Sahel and the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan), but debates rage as to which ones “count”—and which ones should serve as models for adaptation planning and investment….




US greenhouse gas emissions at lowest level in 20 years. Climate Central

Most of the GHG decline came from reductions in energy consumption, increased fuel efficiency of cars and other types of transportation, and a shift to natural gas from coal in fueling power plants, the EPA said in a statement



Salvation Gets Cheap

By PAUL KRUGMAN NY Times April 17, 2014

The incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular, have improved the economics of climate change.



Global Warming: Backpack Captures Cow Farts

Beth Balen on April 16, 2014.

A bovine backpack has been created at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (NIAT) that can trap the methane gas, a gas reported to contribute to global warming, in cow farts and belches so that it can be converted to energy. The experiment, which is only in the proof-of-concept stage, captures and stores flatulence from the cows’ digestive systems. Argentina is a good place to pilot this backpack experiment, since the country has over 50 million cows. Pablo Sorondo, press officer for NIAT, says the goal of the project is to show that it is possible to collect methane from cows and use it for energy….

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and cows produce up to 25 percent of it. A more real issue with controlling cow methane emissions is the reduction of a major cause of climate change. One cow can produce up to 300 liters of methane every day. If converted to energy this is enough to run a refrigerator or a car for 24 hours. ….Cows’ methane emissions are thought to be a significant cause of climate change. The methane gas is produced mostly from belches, although farting contributes its fair share. The gas is a byproduct of the fibrous food the cows eat that gets digested through their multiple stomachs and extensive guts. …

It is already known that some diets cause cows to produce more methane. Just switching to a more natural diet can help reduce flatulence. One company in France is experimenting with feeding an alfalfa, linseed and grass mixture to their cows instead of the typical corn and soy-based mix in an attempt to reduce methane emissions. Their cows are producing 20 percent less gas.

In the U.S. many farmers are using the antibiotic Monensin to reduce methane by about 15 percent (Monensin is banned in Europe). John Wallace, professor at Scotland University of Aberdeen, is leading a project called Ruminomics to look at new breeding methods that might cut down on methane output. Some animals consistently produce less methane than others, no matter the breed or the food. Some cows just have the genetic basis for having less of a problem with gas. Wallace’s project looks at the genetics of cows. He hopes that by the end of 2015 they will have developed milk and saliva tests that will let farmers pick cows that produce less methane and the resulting ruminant pollution. Dairy production is infamous for allegedly contributing to global warming because of cow gas, and the meat industry has its issues too. The carbon footprint of one single hamburger is about the equivalent of a 10-mile drive in the car. As more people globally buy meat, consumption has tripled over the last 40 years, and with it cow methane production. As the cow population increases, along with their flatulence, the environmental effects of our carnivorous habits become more visible. Cutting down on cow farts may interfere with the idea of using the backpack to capture methane gas for energy. However, maybe the backpack study can make some progress toward both energy generation and global warming. The world is going to need a lot of backpacks.


Lima summit can deliver on adaptation and forests, says Peru climate chief

Manuel Pulgar Vidal targets small successes at COP20 in December, citing consensus-building as key goal

Protecting the Amazon is central to addressing climate change – around 15% of emissions come from deforestation (Pic: Global Water Forum)

By Ed King
17 April 2014, 11:27 am

The Peruvian President of the UN’s main climate change summit in Lima later this year hopes progress will be made on smaller ‘cross cutting issues’ during the two week gathering.

Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Peru’s Environment Minister, says he wants to focus on topics that countries are keen to work on together, like adaptating to climate impacts and reducing deforestation.

“We need innovative ways to unblock discussion and get the process to move,” he told a meeting of climate experts at Brown University, Rhode Island….



Involve the youth in climate change adaptation

Posted by: admin Posted date: April 15, 2014

Nadave, Fiji Disaster preparedness and a well assessed risk reduction plan will save lives-These were the words of Taina Naivalu from the St. John organization as she addressed participants at a Training of the Trainers workshop organized by the Partners in Community Development Fiji’s Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation (4CA) project…..The NDMO officers also informed those in attendance that everyone from the elderly to the young, from the Turaga-ni-koro (village headman) to the schoolchildren needed to be involved in reducing the risks of disasters and in their evacuation plans.

This is in-line with the work of the 4CA project as well as its outcomes which are to increase the capacity of children, youth and communities to facilitate the process of climate change adaptation, use locally designed climate smart solutions to address climate change and ensure that good practices and learning from the 4CA model is incorporated into local, district and national Government process.

4CA Project officer, Peni Seru in opening the workshop yesterday stressed to participants the importance of 303 which stands for 30 minutes every 3 months when villages and communities should carry out a mock up of their evacuation plan…..


Save the world, work less

With climate change threatening life as we know it, perhaps it’s time to revive the forgotten goal of spending less time on our jobs

04.15.14 – 4:19 pm | Steven T. Jones |

Save the world, work less. That dual proposition should have universal appeal in any sane society. And those two ideas are inextricably linked by the realities of global climate change because there is a direct connection between economic activity and greenhouse gas emissions. Simply put, every hour of work we do cooks the planet and its sensitive ecosystems a little bit more, and going home to relax and enjoy some leisure time is like taking this boiling pot of water off the burner. Most of us burn energy getting to and from work, stocking and powering our offices, and performing the myriad tasks that translate into digits on our paychecks. The challenge of working less is a societal one, not an individual mandate: How can we allow people to work less and still meet their basic needs?….Last year, there was a brief burst of national media coverage around this “save the world, work less” idea, triggered by a report by the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, entitled “Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change.”….He notes that per capita work hours were reduced by 50 percent in recent decades in Europe compared to US workers who spend as much time as ever on the job, despite being a world leader in developing technologies that make us more productive. Working more means consuming more, on and off the job. “This choice between fewer work hours versus increased consumption has significant implications for the rate of climate change,” the report said before going on to study various climate change and economic growth models.

It isn’t just global warming that working less will help address, but a whole range of related environmental problems: loss of biodiversity and natural habitat; rapid depletion of important natural resources, from fossil fuel to fresh water; and the pollution of our environment with harmful chemicals and obsolete gadgets……”The paper estimates the impact on climate change of reducing work hours over the rest of the century by an annual average of 0.5 percent. It finds that such a change in work hours would eliminate about one-quarter to one-half of the global warming that is not already locked in (i.e. warming that would be caused by 1990 levels of greenhouse gas concentrations already in the atmosphere),” the report concludes….


Climate Change, the Musical


Actors in the Civilians’ “The Great Immensity” at the Public Theater. Credit Brian Harkin for The New York Times

Steve Cosson and Michael Friedman had a highbrow hit in the fall collaborating on Anne Washburn’s “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play.” They are reunited for the latest production from the inventive, inquisitive theater troupe the Civilians, in residence at the Public Theater as part of the low-price, low-frills Public Lab series. “The Great Immensity,” written and directed by Mr. Cosson with songs by Mr. Friedman, asks the big-time question of whether man can change his destructive ways before the planet goes kablooey.
Although past Civilians shows have tackled socially significant themes, this sounds like a departure, at least in form. The company doesn’t usually favor linear narrative, but “The Great Immensity” is intriguingly described as “a continent-hopping thriller” about a woman trying to find out what happened to a friend who disappeared from a tropical island while on assignment for a television show. She uncovers a plot related to an international climate conference….





Michael Mann, U. of Virginia win FOIA case. Unpublished research by university scientists is exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday, rejecting an attempt by skeptics of global warming to view the work of a prominent climate researcher. Washington Post


EPA scores big win to limit mercury in power plants.

April 16, 2014 the Daily Climate

The Environmental Protection Agency took home a victory Tuesday when an appeals court upheld the agency’s pollution limits for mercury and air toxics from oil- and coal-fired power plants. Many of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest plants will be forced into retirement. Politico



Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain, success of US Clean Air Act
(April 11, 2014) — Detailed ice core measurements show smog-related ratios leveling off in 1970, and suggest these deposits are sensitive to the same chemicals that cause acid rain. By analyzing samples from the Greenland ice sheet, atmospheric scientists found clear evidence of the U.S. Clean Air Act. They also discovered a link between air acidity and how nitrogen is preserved in layers of snow. … > full story


Is This The End Of China’s Coal Boom?

By Joe Romm on April 16, 2014

A new report documents China’s response to the almost unimaginable life-shortening air pollution caused by its rapid growth in coal use…..


Carter urges Obama, Kerry to reject Keystone XL

Jennifer A. Dlouhy SF Chronicle April 16, 2014

WASHINGTON — April 17, 2014

Former President Jimmy Carter joined fellow Nobel laureates Wednesday in opposing Keystone XL, insisting that approving the pipeline would trigger “more climate upheaval” around the globe.

In an open letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Carter and the nine other Nobel Peace Prize winners bluntly warned the leaders: “Your decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will define your climate legacy.” The missive, published as an advertisement in Politico, represents the first time Carter has taken a position on the $5.4 billion project and makes him the first former president to come out against the pipeline. Former President George W. Bush described TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline as a “no-brainer” for the U.S. economy two years ago.

While Bush and former president Bill Clinton both are featured in an American Petroleum Institute advertisement as having endorsed the pipeline, Clinton’s sole public remarks on the project were far more qualified. Clinton’s relative silence on the issue may be in part attributed to the possible presidential aspirations of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, and her own role overseeing some of the Keystone XL reviews as the previous secretary of state. Other prominent political leaders, including previous members of the Obama administration, have been divided over the issue.

Most of the Nobel laureates urging Keystone XL’s rejection Wednesday have made similar entreaties twice before. The group also includes American political activist Jody Williams, Iranian human rights leader Shirin Ebadi and Leymah Gbowee, a women’s peace movement leader from Liberia….






Ohio links fracking to earthquakes, announces tougher rules. Reuters April 12, 2014

Recent small earthquakes in Ohio were likely triggered by fracking, state regulators said on Friday, a new link that could have implications for oil and gas drilling in the Buckeye State and beyond…


House windows that double as solar panels? Shiny quantum dots brighten future of solar cells
(April 14, 2014) — A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work. Scientists have demonstrated that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight. … > full story


Scientists might have figured out how to make solar power work at night. By attaching photoswitching molecules called azobenzene to a template of carbon nanotubes, scientists have designed a ‘solar thermal fuel’ that can release heat on demand. Christian Science Monitor


Scientists find an ‘ugly duckling’ to convert waste heat to electricity. Researchers looking for better ways to convert waste heat into electricity have stumbled across a simple material that is smashing records for making that conversion efficiently. Christian Science Monitor



Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries
(April 16, 2014)
— A new nanomaterial called a metal organic framework could extend the lifespan of lithium-sulfur batteries, which could be used to increase the driving range of electric vehicles.
Researchers added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery’s cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges. During lab tests, a lithium-sulfur battery with the new MOF cathode maintained 89 percent of its initial power capacity after 100 charge-and discharge cycles. …
Most batteries have two electrodes: one is positively charged and called a cathode, while the second is negative and called an anode. Electricity is generated when electrons flow through a wire that connects the two. To control the electrons, positively charged atoms shuffle from one electrode to the other through another path: the electrolyte solution in which the electrodes sit. The lithium-sulfur battery’s main obstacles are unwanted side reactions that cut the battery’s life short. The undesirable action starts on the battery’s sulfur-containing cathode, which slowly disintegrates and forms molecules called polysulfides that dissolve into the liquid electrolyte. Some of the sulfur — an essential part of the battery’s chemical reactions — never returns to the cathode. As a result, the cathode has less material to keep the reactions going and the battery quickly dies. Researchers worldwide are trying to improve materials for each battery component to increase the lifespan and mainstream use of lithium-sulfur batteries. For this research, Xiao and her colleagues honed in on the cathode to stop polysulfides from moving through the electrolyte….full story


Environmentally compatible organic solar cells in the future
(April 16, 2014) — Environmentally compatible production methods for organic solar cells from novel materials are in the focus of “MatHero”. The new project aims at making organic photovoltaics competitive to their inorganic counterparts by enhancing the efficiency of organic solar cells, reducing their production costs and increasing their life-time. … > full story



Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis: New design for enhanced safety, easier siting and centralized construction

(April 16, 2014) — When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects — specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station — that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms, modeled after those used for offshore oil drilling, could help avoid such consequences in the future. … > full story









Southern Sierra Fire and Hydroclimate Workshop

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.


Sanctuary Currents Symposium; Marine Debris: How do you pitch in?
Saturday April 26, 2014, University Center, California State University Monterey Bay

Research Posters: Call for abstracts will occur in January.  Visit the Sanctuary Currents Symposium website for updates and information: Sanctuary Currents Symposium



US EPA Climate Showcase Communities Replication Workshop
April 30, 2014—Hotel Monaco, Baltimore, MD

US EPA’s Climate Showcase Communities program is hosting a free, 1-day workshop highlighting successful local and tribal government climate and energy strategies that can be replicated in communities across the US. Panel themes will include:

 Please register for the workshop by April 15, 2014 at the conference registration website. For more information about the Climate Showcase Communities program, including a list of grantees and project descriptions, visit the Climate Showcase Communities website. To view a short video overview of past CSC Workshops, please visit our YouTube channel.  Please contact Andrea Denny with any questions.

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.


Climate Change: Challenges to California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources
May 19, 2014; Sacramento, CA    The California Museum, 1020 “O” Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
The conference will bring together leading economists, analysts, scientists and policy makers from University of California, the state government, non-profits, and the private sector to discuss the potential impacts of climate change and the associated challenges to California agriculture and natural resources. Click here for more information.


Headwaters to Ocean “H20” Conference  May 27-29, 2014 San Diego, CA


Ecosystems, Economy and Society: How large-scale restoration can stimulate sustainable development (in DC)

29 – 30 MAY 2014 U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USA



North America Congress for Conservation Biology Meeting. July 13-16, Missoula, MT. The biennial NACCB provides a forum for presenting and discussing new research and developments in conservation science and practice for addressing today’s conservation challenges.

First Stewards
July 21-23, Washington, DC.

First Stewards will hold their 2nd annual symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian. This year’s theme is
United Indigenous Voices Address Sustainability: Climate Change and Traditional Places

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


California Adaptation Forum 
August 19-20, 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:

International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE) World Congress meeting, July 9th 2015

Coming to Portland, Oregon July 5-10, 2015! The symposium, which is held every four years, brings scientists and practitioners from around the globe together to discuss and share landscape ecology work and information. The theme of the 2015 meeting is Crossing Scales, Crossing Borders: Global Approaches to Complex Challenges.




JOBS  (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)



Point Blue Conservation Science, founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory and based in Petaluma, California, is a growing and internationally renowned nonprofit with over 140 staff and seasonal scientists. Our highest priority is to reduce the impacts of accelerating changes in climate, land-use and the ocean on wildlife and people while promoting climate-smart conservation for a healthy, blue planet.  Point Blue advances conservation of nature for wildlife and people through science, partnerships and outreach. Our scientists work hand-in-hand with wildlife managers, private land owners, ranchers, farmers, other scientists, major conservation groups, and federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.  Point Blue has tripled in size over the past 12 years in response to the ever–increasing demand for sound science to assess and guide conservation investments in our rapidly changing world.  At the core of our work is innovative, collaborative science.


Studying birds and other environmental indicators, we evaluate natural and human-driven change over time and guide our partners in adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes. We publish in peer-reviewed journals and contribute to the “conservation commons” of open access scientific knowledge. We also store, manage and interpret over 800 million bird and ecosystem observations from across North America and create sophisticated, yet accessible, decision support tools to improve conservation today and for an uncertain future. 


This is a pivotal moment in the history of life on our planet requiring unprecedented actions to ensure that wildlife and people continue to thrive in the decades to come.  Working from the Sierra to the sea and as far away as the Ross Sea (Antarctica), Point Blue is collaboratively implementing climate-smart conservation.   Read more at









Meet Kepler-186f, the most ‘Earth-like’ planet ever found

Los Angeles Times

April 17, 2014


Written by

Amina Khan


Sifting through observations from tens of thousands of distant stars, astronomers say they have discovered the first definitive Earth-sized planet that orbits in a habitable zone where water could exist in liquid form – a necessary condition for life as we know it…


Ikea plans ‘green’ meatballs to help tackle climate change

‘Veg balls’ to be launched as eco-friendly alternative to famous Swedish meatballs, which Ikea admits are damaging the planet

“We have been looking at how we can tweak our recipes to give great taste but also perhaps less of an environmental impact,” Joanna Yarrow said. 

By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor 17 Apr 2014

Ikea is developing a new ‘green’ version of its famous Swedish meatballs in order to cut carbon emissions and help tackle climate change, the retailer has revealed. The flat-pack furniture giant sells an estimated 150 million meatballs, made from beef and pork, in its cafes each year. But the popular snack is also the least environmentally-friendly item on the Ikea menu, because of high carbon dioxide emissions involved in the farming process and high methane gas emissions from cattle. Ikea is so concerned about the contribution to global warming from the meatballs that it is now developing “vegetarian meatballs” as an eco-friendly alternative. “We are aware of the meat issue with greenhouse gases,” Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainability for Ikea in the UK, said. “We are looking at all our food products from a sustainability perspective but specifically meatballs. They are very popular and they are also our most carbon-intensive food item on our menu.”


Fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers fail to cover all types of contaminants
(April 17, 2014) — Fish consumption advisories for expecting mothers are ineffective in reducing infant exposure to contaminants like persistent organic pollutants. The researchers’ model estimates that women who stop eating fish shortly before or during their pregnancy may only lower their child’s exposure to POPs by 10 to 15 per cent. … > full story







The rich diversity of birds in rice field ecosystems

Rice fields cover 160 million hectares around the world — an area more than six times the size of the United Kingdom. They are an important ecosystem for various animals, including a number of birds that can be seen at the experimental paddies run by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The IRRI fields in the Philippines cover just 250 hectares, but can be considered a microcosm of millions of rice fields globally in which sustainable agricultural practices, such as non-lethal methods of controlling rice-eating birds, are used. These images were part of photography exhibition, Feathers in the Fields: The Birds of IRRI…..

Whiskered terns catch fish or insects
Prof Tirso Paris


The blue-tailed bee-eater nests in holes burrowed into tall sandbanks
Prof Tirso Paris

















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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