Conservation Science News November 14, 2014

Focus of the Week US- CHINA Climate Agreement










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Focus of the Week– US- CHINA Climate Agreement



Why The U.S.-China CO2 Deal Is An Energy, Climate, And Political Gamechanger

by Joe Romm Posted on November 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm

CREDIT: Shutterstock

The historic new U.S.-China climate deal changes the trajectory of global carbon pollution emissions, greatly boosting the chances for a global deal in Paris in 2015. The deal would keep, cumulatively, some 640 billion tons of CO2 emissions out of the air this century, according to brand new analysis by Climate Interactive and MIT, using their C-ROADS model.

The U.S.-China deal is truly a gamechanger. In fact, you could make a strong case that prior to this deal, neither the U.S. or China were seriously in the game of trying to stave off climate catastrophe. Now both countries are.

When you add the recent European Union (EU) pledge to cut total emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, we now have countries representing more than half of all global emissions making serious commitments — and that in turn puts pressure on every other country. If the developing countries were to all follow China’s lead, and the non-EU developed countries follow ours, a 2015 global deal would slash carbon pollution this century by a whopping 2500 billion tons of CO2 (see figure below).

The Chinese commitment to more than double carbon-free electricity generation is also a gamechanger. It guarantees that the recent explosive growth — and amazing price drops — experienced by renewables like solar and wind will continue for decades to come. And that means the long-predicted ascendance of carbon-free energy has now begun in earnest.

Finally, the political implications of this deal can’t be overstated. Conservatives have been attacking EPA climate standards as government over-reach that supposedly harms the U.S. economy, while assuring us over and over and over again that the world’s biggest polluter (China) won’t act. That attack has not merely been rendered impotent. Now efforts to stop EPA can clearly be seen for what they really are — an effort to kill any deal with China and stop the nations of the world from coming together to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Thanks to this deal, any politician who says the U.S. can’t meet EPA carbon pollution standards is saying that the U.S. can’t deploy even a fraction of the carbon-free electricity the Chinese just told the entire world they are going to build in the next 15 years!

Underscoring the bilateral deal’s importance, Chinese President Xi Jinping himself joined Obama in the U.S.-China Joint Announcement that “China intends to achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030 and to make best efforts to peak early.” That by itself is a political game changer, which eviscerates the right-wing mantra of delay: “China will never act and so nothing we do matters.”

No doubt you’re shocked, shocked to learn the leader of the Senate do-nothing caucus, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has already said he is “particularly distressed” by this deal because it supposedly “requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years.” Not!

In fact, Melanie Hart, the Director for China Policy at the Center for American Progress, explains, “The pattern of major energy price reforms already underway in China demonstrates they are already doing the hard work needed to make this [peak] happen.” The Chinese have already started to work toward a CO2 peak, which is no surprise since this deal will require them to take massive action — hence, their other game-changing commitment to “increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.”

This energy pledge alone “will require China to deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar, and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030 — more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.”

This pledge is a statement to the world by China that renewables are ready to ramp up sharply! By itself, this pledge ensures that the ascendance of carbon-free energy over fossil fuels is irreversible. No wonder the pro-pollution crowd is “particularly distressed”!

Adding to their distress, Obama announced “a new target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.” That roughly doubles the rate of decline Obama has committed the country to with his previous target of a 17 percent cut by 2020.

CREDIT: White House

This is a challenging target under existing law and doubly so given the anti-science makeup of the incoming Congress. It sets up the next Congressional session and the 2016 Presidential election as an epic battle between the forces who want to avert climate catastrophe and those who want to keep the fossil fuel Ponzi scheme going an extra decade or two — even if it means ruining a livable climate for our children and grandchildren and for centuries to come!

Ironically, in post-election analysis on Fox News last week, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer said of the President:

“I think the one item he could negotiate, and I’m serious about this, climate change. That’s the one where if we and China could agree it would make a difference…. If he gets an agreement with China, which he won’t, but that’s the one area it would be historic.”

It’s worth noting that the U.S. commitment is for a cut in greenhouse gas emissions, which includes CO2 and methane. That means it is even more crucial than ever we correctly account for methane leaks, so that we are actually meeting this new target and not just replacing easy-to-measure CO2 emissions from coal with hard-to-measure methane emissions from natural gas production. Also, since Russian gas is leakier than ours, China should pledge to help Russia sharply reduce their leaks.

Bottom Line: The U.S.-China deal greatly increases the chance of a global agreement in Paris next December that shifts the world close to an emissions path that can stabilize CO2 levels and keep total warming as close to 2°C (3.6°F) as possible. It ensures that carbon-free energy will be the dominant new energy source in the coming decades. Climate activists certainly share in this achievement, but will need continued vigilance. The anti-science forces in this country have already lined up against it, and the road to actual stabilization at non-dangerous CO2 levels is a very long one.


A Major Breakthrough on Climate Change


President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China on Wednesday at a joint news conference. Credit Feng Li/Getty Images

November 12, 2014


The deal jointly announced in Beijing by President Obama and China’s president, Xi Jinping, to limit greenhouse gases well beyond their earlier pledges is both a major diplomatic breakthrough and — assuming both sides can carry out their promises — an enormously positive step in the uncertain battle against climate change. The announcement provided the high point of a surprisingly productive trip that also resulted in steps to cut tariffs on information technology products, extend visas and strengthen military contacts to build trust and avoid confrontations in the South China Sea. But the two countries have major differences, including over cybersecurity and human rights.


The climate accord represents a startling turnaround after years of futile efforts to cooperate in a meaningful way on global warming. It sends two critically important messages, one to the world and the other to the United States Congress. China and the United States together account for about 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Their new commitments are thus almost certain to energize other countries to set more ambitious targets of their own before negotiators meet to frame a new global agreement at the climate summit meeting in Paris in December 2015.


In the United States, the agreement cuts the ground from under people like Mitch McConnell, the next Senate majority leader, and others who have long argued that there is no point in taking aggressive steps against greenhouse gases as long as major developing countries refused to do likewise. This argument effectively undermined Senate support for ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The climate deniers in Congress will find other reasons to oppose a strong climate strategy, and are doing so even now. But the “China” argument has effectively disappeared.


The most striking aspect of China’s commitment is its agreement to a hard cap on emissions. It pledged for the first time to have its emissions “peak” by 2030 and sooner if possible.
Until now, China has spoken only about reducing carbon “intensity,” which really meant allowing emissions to rise but at a slower rate. In the race to head off the unacceptable consequences of climate change, the name of the game is to stop emissions from rising at some point and then bend the curve downward. China has now committed itself to that path.


China has also set itself the daunting but not unobtainable goal of increasing the share of non-fossil fuel energy to one-fifth of the country’s energy mix in the next 15 years. This, too, is no small deal. By one estimate, this would mean adding 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero-emission power generating capacity, roughly equivalent to China’s current coal-fired capacity.


The task Mr. Obama has set for the United States is also formidable, especially given the political obstacles. At the Copenhagen climate summit meeting in 2009, Mr. Obama pledged to reduce emissions in the United States by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. America is thought to be more than halfway there now, in part because of greatly increased automobile efficiency, the switch to natural gas and the closing down of some old coal-fired power plants and a prolonged recession.


He now pledges an ambitious 26 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2025. This will mean, at an absolute minimum, following through on his proposals to limits emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants — proposals that have already generated significant pushback. And it almost certainly will require cuts in emissions other than carbon dioxide, including methane leaks from the production and transmission of natural gas, as well as continued investment in alternative, non-fossil fuels. And as much of this as possible should be accomplished or set in motion before Mr. Obama leaves office.


For Mr. Obama, the meetings were a demonstration that the new Asia-focused policy he announced in three years ago can yield real substance. For Mr. Xi, they were a chance to show leadership and calm tensions with neighboring countries that have been alarmed by his aggressive, even dangerous regional policies. The United States and China remain serious competitors on many fronts, pushing rival free trade pacts and jousting for regional influence. But the leaders have shown that productive cooperation is possible; their task now is to keep it going.







Combatting illegal fishing in offshore marine reserves

Posted: 13 Nov 2014 08:03 AM PST

Conservation scientists say there needs to be a new approach to protecting offshore marine reserves. They have found a way to predict illegal fishing activities to help authorities better protect marine reserves.


A sea change for marine conservation

Posted: 10 Nov 2014 08:07 AM PST

Harnessing ‘people power’ to manage fisheries in the developing world has significantly benefited local communities and coral reefs, according to new research.


Wildfires that could impact human communities in eastern colorado rockies most likely to start on private lands, experts say

Posted: 10 Nov 2014 08:01 AM PST

Scientists find that on the front range of the Colorado Rockies the highest fire risk factors are from privately owned lands and threaten other privately held land and property.


‘Big data’ takes root in world of plant research

Posted: 10 Nov 2014 05:37 AM PST

Botanists have compiled and shared 48 years’ worth of global plant data to help answer some of the most pressing environmental and evolutionary questions facing modern society. People invested in living plant collections in botanic gardens through the centuries to bring economic, medicinal and agricultural advantages of plants to people all over the world. The botanists’ database is moving this gift into the digital age of ‘Big Data’…


A Surprising Appetite for Dead Jellyfish

NOV. 10, 2014 NY Times

In an ocean popularity contest, jellyfish would rank near the bottom. They sting. Their increasing population blooms clog power plant intakes, kill farmed salmon and frighten swimmers. Experts warn of the jellification of the oceans. True, jellyfish are biological marvels and efficient swimmers, and some achieve a kind of immortality. But they are by definition gelatinous — you might even say gooey — and scientists have spotted them blanketing the ocean floor after die-offs, suggesting that even for indiscriminating scavengers, jellies are not the carrion of choice.

However, the first experimental test involving a dead-jellyfish buffet tells a completely different story. Work done in Norway by Andrew Sweetman of the International Research Institute of Stavanger and his colleagues suggests that the impression left by previous ocean-floor observations may be the exception, not the rule.

They sank platforms loaded with jellyfish and other platforms loaded with mackerel more than 4,000 feet deep in the Sognefjord, Norway’s largest fjord. And what they found was that the seafloor cleanup crew — hagfish, crabs and other creatures — gobbled up the jellyfish just as fast as the mackerel, within a few hours.

The result was so surprising, Dr. Sweetman said, that the first time the researchers pulled up a bare platform after 18 hours at the bottom of the fjord, “we thought the jellyfish just washed off on the way down…


How Better Glass Can Save Hundreds of Millions of Birds a Year

We can prevent birds from flying into windows with current technologies—experts say we just need the will.

Jane J. Lee National Geographic Published November 13, 2014

…. In fact, as many as 600 million birds die in window collisions in the U.S. and Canada every year, scientists estimate. We may hear only the occasional thump as a sparrow or robin crashes into our home or office window, but they add up. These collisions kill more birds than oil spills or pesticides do, says Daniel Klem Jr., an ornithologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The spring and fall migration periods are particularly deadly, with large flocks of birds navigating cities and suburbs that are littered with windows…..But now solutions are starting to pop up on the market, including new kinds of glass with patterns that birds can see and avoid. (And no, those hawk decals don’t work.)….If the glass industry can come out with products that satisfy researchers as to their bird-friendliness—as well as consumers looking to preserve their views—then these fledgling efforts have a real chance of saving millions of birds a year. (See “New Report Highlights Dire Situation of Many U.S. Birds.”)

A growing awareness of the threats to bird populations has prompted new laws and voluntary guidelines in cities from Toronto to San Francisco. Along with “green” building programs, these new rules are spurring demand for bird-friendly glass among architects, glass manufacturers, and their clients. And that’s highlighting the need for more research into why birds fly into windows and how people can prevent those collisions….Sheppard hopes to alleviate the guesswork by using her tunnel to come up with a standard test that companies can use to determine a window’s bird-friendliness. Meanwhile, laws and guidelines for bird-safe features in new building construction or major renovations are popping up in cities and states across North America. Minnesota, Cook County (which includes Chicago), San Francisco and Oakland in California, and Toronto in Canada all have laws on the books, and Oregon is considering one. Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) has introduced legislation that would direct the General Services Administration to incorporate bird-friendly materials and features into federal government buildings. It hasn’t passed, but the congressman is hopeful now that the midterm elections are over. “I think we have the knowledge to produce windows that will work,” says Klem. “We just haven’t been able to commit to it.”



These stubborn birds could cost San Francisco $33M

By Claudia Cowan November 11, 2014 | 10:04am

The old span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (right), which is scheduled to be demolished, is home to double-breasted cormorants that refuse to leave their nests. Photo: UPI

Officials have tried decoys and special nests, but the double-breasted cormorants refuse to leave the old Bay Bridge.Photo: AP

Now that a crucial section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge has been replaced by a new $6.4 billion span, nobody needs it anymore — nobody except about 800 birds that call the decrepit, 78-year-old segment home. The double-crested cormorants — protected, though not endangered — have nested along the bridge for decades, and have so far shown no interest in relocating to the shiny new section that replaced the eastern section of the famed bridge. Officials have tried pricey decoys, bird recordings and even specially made nests installed underneath the new span to lure them roughly 100 feet next door. The effort to demolish the old section, damaged 25 years ago in the massive Loma Prieta earthquake, is being held up by the birds’ unwillingness to move, and critics, who say the delays could cost taxpayers $33 million, are crying fowl….





Can you guess the weight of the bullfrog?
a) 22g
b) 50g
c) 67g
d) 30g
e) 1lb

——> See answer at end.






The Planet Just Had Its Hottest October On Record

by Joe Romm Posted on November 14, 2014 at 9:22 am

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) reports that last month was the hottest October in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. This follows the hottest September, August, June, and March-May in JMA’s records! Projections by NOAA make clear 2014 is increasingly likely to be hottest year on record.

And these records occurred despite the fact we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization Regional Climate Center of excellence. NASA reported Friday very similar observations. In the NASA dataset, last month was tied for hottest October on record with 2005….


Warmest Oceans Ever Recorded

Figure 1: a) NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA’s ERSST dataset. Credit: Axel Timmermann

Nov. 14, 2014 —This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded since their systematic measuring started. Temperatures even exceed those of the record-breaking 1998 El Niño year,” says Axel Timmermann, climate scientist and professor, studying variability of the global climate system at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa. From 2000-2013 the global ocean surface temperature rise paused, in spite of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. This period, referred to as the Global Warming Hiatus, raised a lot of public and scientific interest. However, as of April 2014 ocean warming has picked up speed again, according to Timmermann’s analysis of ocean temperature datasets. “The 2014 global ocean warming is mostly due to the North Pacific, which has warmed far beyond any recorded value and has shifted hurricane tracks, weakened trade winds, and produced coral bleaching in the Hawaiian Islands,” explains Timmermann. He describes the events leading up to this upswing as follows: Sea-surface temperatures started to rise unusually quickly in the extratropical North Pacific already in January 2014. A few months later, in April and May, westerly winds pushed a huge amount of very warm water usually stored in the western Pacific along the equator to the eastern Pacific. This warm water has spread along the North American Pacific coast, releasing into the atmosphere enormous amounts of heat–heat that had been locked up in the Western tropical Pacific for nearly a decade. “Record-breaking greenhouse gas concentrations and anomalously weak North Pacific summer trade winds, which usually cool the ocean surface, have contributed further to the rise in sea surface temperatures. The warm temperatures now extend in a wide swath from just north of Papua New Guinea to the Gulf of Alaska,” says Timmermann. The current record-breaking temperatures indicate that the 14-year-long pause in ocean warming has come to an end.




Today’s climate models predict a 50 percent increase in lightning strikes across the United States during this century as a result of warming temperatures associated with climate change. Credit: © Sondem / Fotolia

Lightning expected to increase by 50 percent with global warming

November 13, 2014 University of California – Berkeley

Atmospheric scientists looked at predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models and concluded that their combined effect will generate 50 percent more electrical discharges to the ground by the end of the century because of global warming. The main cause is water vapor, which fuels explosive deep convection in the atmosphere. The more convection, the greater the charge separation and the more cloud-to-ground strikes….


D. M. Romps, J. T. Seeley, D. Vollaro, J. Molinari. Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming. Science, 2014; 346 (6211): 851 DOI: 10.1126/science.1259100



NOAA: October was fourth warmest on record for the contiguous U.S.

Western and most of Northeastern U.S. were much warmer than average; Drought persisted in the West, while parts Midwest were much wetter than normal October 13, 2014

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. last month was 57.1°F, 3.0°F above the 20th century average, making it the fourth-warmest October on record. The October precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.33 inches, or 0.17 inch above average, ranking near the middle of the 120-year period of record. This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making……For additional analysis of regional temperature and precipitation patterns, as well as extreme events, please see the full report

Alaska shows no signs of rising Arctic methane, NASA study shows

Posted: 13 Nov 2014 10:48 AM PST

Despite large temperature increases in Alaska in recent decades, a new analysis of NASA airborne data finds that methane is not being released from Alaskan soils into the atmosphere at unusually high rates, as recent modeling and experimental studies have suggested. The new result shows that the changes in this part of the Arctic have not yet had enough impact to affect the global methane budget.

New study shows warm waters are melting Antarctica from below

Posted on 13 November 2014 by John Abraham

Just this week, a new study has appeared which describes a clever method for measuring the flows of ocean currents and their impacts on ice shelves. This study has identified a major mechanism for melting ice in the Southern Hemisphere. The paper, co-authored by Andrew Thompson, Karen Heywood, and colleagues is very novel. The scientists used sea gliders to identify water flows that bring warm waters to the base of ice shelves in Antarctica. As I’ve written before, ocean currents are complex; you cannot neglect their impact on the Earth’s climate. In some parts of the ocean, dense waters near the surface fall to the ocean floor and spread across the globe. In other regions, waters from the deep rise to the surface. Similarly, waters move horizontally and carry their heat with them. In some cases the surface waters and the mid-depth waters flow in different directions. But regardless of the direction of flow, these waters carry energy with them. This process, often called “advection,” results in a major redistribution of heat across the globe. Sometimes, warm waters flow into cold regions, transferring heat, and melting ice. It is this phenomenon that was at the center of the current….


Underwater ‘storms’ may hold key to melting Antarctic ice

LA TIMES November 12, 2014

Scientists using robotic ocean gliders to wander frigid Antarctic waters say they may have discovered a mechanism behind the melting of polar ice shelves – miniature submarine “storms” that are lobbing packets of warmer water toward the continent…..




Wobbling on Climate Change


Piers J. Sellers is the acting director of earth science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

GREENBELT, Md. — I’M a climate scientist and a former astronaut. Not surprisingly, I have a deep respect for well-tested theories and facts. In the climate debate, these things have a way of getting blurred in political discussions. In September, John P. Holdren, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was testifying to a Congressional committee about climate change. Representative Steve Stockman, a Republican from Texas, recounted a visit he had made to NASA, where he asked what had ended the ice age:

“And the lead scientist at NASA said this — he said that what ended the ice age was global wobbling. That’s what I was told. This is a lead scientist down in Maryland; you’re welcome to go down there and ask him the same thing. “So, and my second question, which I thought it was an intuitive question that should be followed up — is the wobbling of the earth included in any of your modelings? And the answer was no… “How can you take an element which you give the credit for the collapse of global freezing and into global warming but leave it out of your models?”

That “lead scientist at NASA” was me. In July, Mr. Stockman spent a couple of hours at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center listening to presentations about earth science and climate change. The subject of ice ages came up. Mr. Stockman asked, “How can your models predict the climate when no one can tell me what causes the ice ages?” I responded that, actually, the science community understood very well what takes the earth into and out of ice ages. A Serbian mathematician, Milutin Milankovitch, worked out the theory during the early years of the 20th century. He calculated by hand that variations in the earth’s tilt and the shape of its orbit around the sun start and end ice ages. I said that you could think of ice ages as resulting from wobbles in the earth’s tilt and orbit. The time scales involved are on the order of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. I explained that this science has been well tested against the fossil record and is broadly accepted. I added that we don’t normally include these factors in 100-year climate projections because the effects are too tiny to be important on such a short time-scale.

And that, I thought, was that.

So I was bit surprised to read the exchange between Dr. Holdren and Representative Stockman, which suggested that at best we couldn’t explain the science and at worst we scientists are clueless about ice ages. We aren’t. Nor are we clueless about what is happening to the climate, thanks in part to a small fleet of satellites that fly above our heads, measuring the pulse of the earth. Without them we would have no useful weather forecasts beyond a couple of days.

These satellite data are fed into computer models that use the laws of motion — Sir Isaac Newton’s theories — to figure out where the world’s air currents will flow, where clouds will form and rain will fall. And — voilà — you can plan your weekend, an airline can plan a flight and a city can prepare for a hurricane. Satellites also keep track of other important variables: polar ice, sea level rise, changes in vegetation, ocean currents, sea surface temperature and ocean salinity (that’s right — you can accurately measure salinity from space), cloudiness and so on. These data are crucial for assessing and understanding changes in the earth system and determining whether they are natural or connected to human activities. They are also used to challenge and correct climate models, which are mostly based on the same theories used in weather forecast models. This whole system of observation, theory and prediction is tested daily in forecast models and almost continuously in climate models. So, if you have no faith in the predictive capability of climate models, you should also discard your faith in weather forecasts and any other predictions based on Newtonian mechanics.

The earth has warmed nearly 0.8 degrees Celsius over the last century and we are confident that the biggest factor in this increase is the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. It is almost certain that we will see a rise of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) before 2100, and a three-degree rise (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher is a possibility. The impacts over such a short period would be huge. The longer we put off corrective action, the more disruptive the outcome is likely to be. It is my pleasure and duty as a scientist and civil servant to discuss the challenge of climate change with elected officials. My colleagues and I do our best to transmit what we know and what we think is likely to happen. The facts and accepted theories are fundamental to understanding climate change, and they are too important to get wrong or trivialize. Some difficult decisions lie ahead for us humans. We should debate our options armed with the best information and ideas that science can provide.



Polar Bears Among 31 New Species Issued Protection Status By UN Conservation Body

by Joaquim Moreira Salles Posted on November 10, 2014 Updated: November 10, 2014

Over 100 countries agreed to extend protection to a record 31 species at the UN Convention on Migratory Species held in Quito, Ecuador last week….



Coastal dead zones will be exacerbated by global warming.

Larger ‘dead zones,’ oxygen-depleted water, likely because of climate change

November 10, 2014 Washington Post

Three years ago, the Chesapeake Bay was hit by an unusually large “dead zone,” a stretch of oxygen-depleted water that killed fish from the Baltimore Harbor to the mid-channel of the Potomac River and beyond, about a third of the bay. Another giant dead zone returned last summer, smaller than the first but big enough to rank as the estuary’s eighth largest since state natural resources officials in Virginia and Maryland started recording them in the 1990s. In a future of climate change, those behemoths might not seem so unusual, according to a new report by the Smithsonian. As the global temperatures warm, they will create conditions such as rain, wind and sea-level rise that will cause dead zones throughout the world to intensify and grow, the report says. Ninety-four percent of places where dead zones have been recorded are areas where average temperatures are expected to rise by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit by the turn of the century. In addition to the Chesapeake Bay region, that includes the Black and Baltic seas and the Gulf of Mexico, where a dead zone equal to the size of Connecticut took shape in August…Gedan was a co-author of the study with Andrew H. Altieri of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. They found that the number of dead zone events have doubled each decade since the 1950s and that humans have likely contributed to their growth in intensity and size. “We just don’t know how much of this doubling is due to climate change or nutrient runoff,” Gedan said. More studies with more “sophisticated modeling” are needed to determine that, she said. Dead zones are summer plagues that happen when waters warm. As the water temperatures increase, three key events pave the way for a catastrophe that kills any fish, crab, oyster and shrimp that relies on oxygen….


A common murre snacks on an anchovy on SE Farallon Island.Credit: Bryan Black / Univ. of Texas, Austin

Climate variability has an opposing impact on marine life and tree growth

Posted: 10 Nov 2014 05:34 AM PST

The same climatic drivers that enhance upwelling of nutrient-rich ocean waters and support of marine productivity can result in lower precipitation on land and slower tree-growth. Tree-ring chronologies helped to explain how upwelling was happening during the past 600 years. This was outlined in a recent study published in Science by an international team of scientists including David Frank of the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL and the University of Bern’s Oeschger Center. The new study, led by Bryan Black at The University of Texas at Austin’s Marine Science Institute which has appeared in the September 19th issue of the journal Science, links short-term reductions in growth and reproduction of marine animals off the California coast to increasing variability in the strength of coastal upwelling currents. The upwelling of cold, deep, nutrient-rich waters towards the sunlit ocean surface is a key process in the oceans that fuels phytoplankton blooms that ultimately support fish, seabirds, and marine mammals….

B. A. Black et al. Six centuries of variability and extremes in a coupled marine-terrestrial ecosystem. Science, 2014; 345 (6203): 1498 DOI: 10.1126/science.1253209



Ocean acidification affects climate-relevant functions at the sea-surface microlayer

Posted: 11 Nov 2014 07:52 AM PST    

Ocean acidification might alter climate-relevant functions of the oceans’ uppermost layer, according to a study by a group of marine scientists. Researchers observed a close coupling between biological processes in the seawater and the chemistry of the sea surface microlayer… “Experiments have shown how ocean acidification, a change in the ocean chemistry due to the uptake of man-made carbon dioxide, influences the growth and efficiency of marine bacteria as well as the sinking of carbon-rich particles,” Dr. Luisa Galgani resumes. “We know that organic material and microorganisms accumulating in the sea-surface microlayer are similar to those found in the water column below. So we expected that ocean acidification-driven changes in ocean biogeochemistry in the water column can also be reflected in the microlayer. It is important to understand changes in this microenvironment, because it might have consequences for air-sea interactions that are relevant for our climate.”


Groundwater warming up in sync

Posted: 11 Nov 2014 08:17 AM PST

Global warming stops at nothing — not even the groundwater, as a new study reveals: the groundwater’s temperature profiles echo those of the atmosphere, albeit damped and delayed…. Based on the readings, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the groundwater is not just warming up; the warming stages observed in the atmosphere are also echoed. “Global warming is reflected directly in the groundwater, albeit damped and with a certain time lag,” says Bayer, summarising the main results that the project has yielded. The researchers published their study in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. The data also reveals that the groundwater close to the surface down to a depth of around sixty metres has warmed up statistically significantly in the course of global warming over the last forty years. This water heating follows the warming pattern of the local and regional climate, which in turn mirrors that of global warming.

The groundwater reveals how the atmosphere has made several temperature leaps at irregular intervals. These “regime shifts” can also be observed in the global climate, as the researchers write in their study. Bayer was surprised at how quickly the groundwater responded to climate change….

Heat exchange with the subsoil

The earth’s atmosphere has warmed up by an average of 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade in the last fifty years. And this warming doesn’t stop at the subsoil, either, as other climate scientists have demonstrated in the last two decades with drillings all over the world. However, the researchers only tended to consider soils that did not contain any water or where there were no groundwater flows. While the fact that the groundwater has not escaped climate change was revealed by researchers from Eawag and ETH Zurich in a study published three years ago, it only concerned “artificial” groundwater. In order to enhance it, river water is trickled off in certain areas. The temperature profile of the groundwater generated as a result thus matches that of the river water.

The new study, however, examines groundwater that has barely been influenced by humans. According to Bayer, it is plausible that the natural groundwater flow is also warming up in the course of climate change. “The difference in temperature between the atmosphere and the subsoil balances out naturally.” The energy transfer takes place via thermal conduction and the groundwater flow, much like a heat exchanger, which enables the heat transported to spread in the subsoil and level out.

Consequences difficult to gauge

The consequences of these findings, however, are difficult to gauge. The warmer temperatures might influence subterranean ecosystems on the one hand and groundwater-dependent biospheres on the other, which include cold areas in flowing waters where the groundwater discharges. For cryophilic organisms such as certain fish, groundwater warming could have negative consequences. Higher groundwater temperatures also influence the water’s chemical composition, especially the chemical equilibria of nitrate or carbonate. After all, chemical reactions usually take place more quickly at higher temperatures. Bacterial activity might also increase at rising water temperatures. If the groundwater becomes warmer, undesirable bacteria such as gastro-intestinal disease pathogens might multiply more effectively. However, the scientists can also imagine positive effects. “The groundwater’s excess heat could be used geothermally for instance,” adds Kathrin Menberg, the first author of the study.







i Rancher Dan Macon says he has had little choice but to experiment and take a few chances with an “off-farm” with the local University of California, Davis extension office.

With Drought The New Normal, Calif. Farmers Find They Have To Change

by Kirk Siegler November 14, 2014 NPR

Ask Northern California sheep rancher Dan Macon what this drought is doing to his pocketbook and he’ll break it down for you real quick. “It’s like if you woke up one morning and lost 40 percent of the equity in your house,” he says. “Our primary investment in our ranch is in these sheep and we just sold 40 percent of our stock.” Macon had to sell off almost half his herd at an auction for cheap. There wasn’t enough feed to go around. This has also forced him to take an off-farm job — a first since he started ranching in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Auburn, Calif., two decades ago. “So in addition to taking care of the sheep, I [also] work 30 to 40 hours a week,” Macon says.

Three years of severe drought in California is making a lot of farmers and ranchers like Macon make some tough choices, and in some cases rethink everything about their business. If the conditions persist – and many forecasters predict they will – this could have far-reaching impacts on our food system. By some estimates, California produces more than half of all the fresh food we eat in the U.S. Yet producers in California are finding some opportunity in these tough times.

Rancher Dan Macon, for instance, says he has had little choice but to experiment and take a few chances. That “off-farm” job he took is with the local University of California, Davis extension office, where he learned about new varieties of experimental rye and wheat grasses that he’s decided to try and seed his pastures with. “This is part of our drought strategy to find some grass species that we can introduce that’ll do better in drier conditions,” Macon says.

Bleating sheep clamber around the pickup that is parked on a baked-brown pasture. The sheep don’t know it, but they’re also helping trample thousands of the experimental seeds into the soil. The hope is that if the big storms don’t hit this region for a fourth straight winter, maybe these new grasses will help this pasture hold through another hot, dry summer.

Another strategy, says Macon, is to make better use of technology from right here at his pickup.
“I’ve got things on my cellphone that allow me to monitor our forage use and to map the areas that we’re grazing that I didn’t have five years ago,” Macon says. “That all adds to our capability to manage through the dry period.”
How to manage in a future with less and less water is something you’re starting to hear a lot from ranchers and farmers across California. This is an industry that has long been criticized for being reluctant to change. Agriculture still uses 80 percent of all the water in California.

But talk to long-time farmers like Kirk Schmidt, who’s also an attorney and former Farm Bureau president in Santa Cruz County, and it’s clear there’s more to the story than that.

“Agriculture is an industry and industrial research is always led by the demand of the industry,” he says. “There was no need for research in water conservation because there was no demand by the farmers.” But with droughts becoming the new normal, Schmidt says farmers have to change. Traditionally, research focused on maximizing yields and profits regardless of water. Now it’s starting to move the other way: How do you squeeze more out of less water yet still turn a profit?….

After extensive negotiations, Kitayama and other farmers banded together with the local water agency to build a new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant. It used to be that all the wastewater from cities and towns here was treated and drained into the ocean. But at the plant it’s now intercepted, treated, but pumped back to the local farm fields. Kitayama says farmers were skeptical at first, but they came around. He says they had no other choice. “Unless we solve this together with fairly expensive projects we’re going to get left out on our own,” he says.

This fall, with California in the grips of one of its worst droughts on record, the state finally took notice. The water agency and farmers here celebrated a sizable new grant coming from a state drought relief bill that will help expand the plant and ground water monitoring. Local leaders gathered outside the plant, which sits just a couple miles from the coast, to celebrate. In a year where barely three inches of rain fell on Watsonville, they said a little creativity had brought some opportunity in these tough times.




Craft beer flows in the Lagunitas tap room. The company is at its “maximum growth threshold here in California because of water,” said Leon Sharyon, the craft brewer’s chief financial officer. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

State craft brewers fear drought could alter business, and the beer

By Brianna Sacks LA Times November 12 2014

The California drought has pushed brewers of all sizes to conserve When Lagunitas Brewing Co. fills its beer bottles, Northern California’s Russian River provides the main ingredient.

Lagunitas has become one of the fastest-growing stars of California’s booming craft beer scene. But the Russian River is shrinking after three years of punishing drought. “We are at the maximum growth threshold here in California because of water,” said Leon Sharyon, chief financial officer for Lagunitas, which uses nearly 2 million gallons of river water a year at its Petaluma brewery. Breweries run through an average of four to seven gallons of water to end up with one gallon of beer.
With California in the midst of a water crisis, breweries are scrambling
. California is home to more than 400 craft brewers — the most in the country. They sold $4.7 billion worth of beer in 2012, about 17% of the state’s total beer sales, according to the most recent statistics from the California Craft Brewers Assn.

Small brewers worry that they could have trouble meeting thriving demand with limited water. Prices could go up, they warn, if they have to spend for conservation measures or scrounge up new supplies.

“If this drought continues for two, three more years, that could greatly impact the production and growth of our breweries,” said Tom McCormick, the association’s executive director. Lagunitas, for instance, just opened a major brewhouse in Chicago, where Lake Michigan stands ready to supply its water needs. The company is shifting some production there, Sharyon said, adding: “Our next plant will probably be out of state and next to a stable water supply.”….


Lester Snow is the answer man on the water bond

@pattmlatimes LA Times November 12, 2014

Lester Snow heads the private California Water Foundation. (Ashley Jennings)

California overwhelmingly voted for a water bond. What happens now?

Californians, you just voted yourselves a $7-billion-plus water bond measure. What happens now? Lester Snow can draw you the map of water needs and detail the money being spent. He’s navigated state waters for years in a multitude of jobs, among them head of the state’s Department of Water Resources and other agencies. He’s spent more time on water than Duke Kahanamoku. Today he heads the private California Water Foundation, which supported the bond measure that California now has to spend wisely.

Is the bond measure a major step or an incremental one?

It’s funny to say it, but it’s both. Passing the bond is so significant, and for every bond dollar, you may get three or four other dollars invested. [But] I also refer to it as a down payment on what needs to be done in California. It gets us started, but it would be a mistake for anyone to think that now that we’ve passed this bond, our worries are gone. It would be a mistake for anyone to think that now that we’ve passed [the water] bond, our worries are gone. – Lester Snow

Some bond projects may not be realized for 10 or 20 years.

Sometimes for the water to manifest from investments takes a while. We have a water system that hundreds of billions have been invested in over the years, and we have been slow to reinvest in it. With the $7.5 billion, we’re jump-starting some of that. We see how shortages can affect the economy and people’s lifestyles, so we not only need this bond but to steadily reinvest in the system. [With] the drought, there’s been threatened litigation over transferring a few thousand acre-feet here or there. In the meantime, we discharge 1.5 million acre-feet of wastewater into the ocean instead of reclaiming it. There’s money in the bond to reclaim more and more of that water. As the mayor of L.A. has pointed out, there’s more room for conservation, and it takes money. By and large, water is cheaper than most people’s cable or cellphone bills. We like it when it’s not expensive, but when it’s not there, it causes many problems….

Is there a real correspondence between what the bond money will do and what California water profoundly needs? With thousands of water agencies, our problems are as much about structure as supply.

That’s fragmentation. In the L.A. basin there’s 88 cities but 400 water providers. [The] bond provides incentives for regional strategies to break down some of those barriers, but it’s not the end-all and be-all. The governor earlier this year laid out a water action plan, which pointed out that there is no silver bullet. It can be characterized as an all-of-the-above approach with more attention to diversification of our supplies and our system. With previous [water] bonds, Proposition 84 and 50, the only way you could get grant money is if you coordinated with your neighbors, instead of everybody doing their own little things with their own little jurisdictions. That started breaking down some barriers. This bond will provide additional funds for continued cooperation and collaboration.

The bond includes $2.7 billion for ground storage, but it doesn’t specify dams or underground storage, which is a ferocious source of partisan battles in Sacramento.

It’s likely it will be both. The bond lays out that the funds will go for public benefits associated with storage and assigns the California Water Commission to develop rules and guidelines for storage projects. There’s already some surface storage projects that have been under consideration for a long time: the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley; there’s been talk about raising Lake Shasta; a proposal for an expanded reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River. I think you’ll see others coming forward with smaller projects to capture floodwater and recharge it into groundwater basins. I’m confident that while there may be some conflict, this is going to provide California with additional storage throughout the state….

California was the only Western state with no plan for managing groundwater. As of September there is statewide regulation of groundwater.

It was the tragedy of the commons, a race to the bottom. You as an individual could invest in this sophisticated storage system and your neighbor could pump out all the water you stored. Now there’ll be a structure to keep track of who’s pumping, how much, who’s putting water in, and therefore [the state will] be able to better manage and incentivize groundwater recharge projects. Where there’s a groundwater basin, [the plan] requires a groundwater agency to be set up and to develop a sustainable groundwater plan. [The agency has] the authority to require data to be submitted and to charge fees and allocate pumping if that’s necessary. A failure on the part of the local entity can result in the state [water] board coming in….







Climate Tools Seek to Bend Nature’s Path


UTRECHT, the Netherlands — The solution to global warming, Olaf Schuiling says, lies beneath our feet. For Dr. Schuiling, a retired geochemist, climate salvation would come in the form of olivine, a green-tinted mineral found in abundance around the world. When exposed to the elements, it slowly takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Olivine has been doing this naturally for billions of years, but Dr. Schuiling wants to speed up the process by spreading it on fields and beaches and using it for dikes, pathways, even sandboxes. Sprinkle enough of the crushed rock around, he says, and it will eventually remove enough CO2 to slow the rise in global temperatures. “Let the earth help us to save the earth,” said Dr. Schuiling, who has been pursuing the idea single-mindedly for several decades and at 82 is still writing papers on the subject from his cluttered office at the University of Utrecht.

Once considered the stuff of wild-eyed fantasies, such ideas for countering climate change — known as geoengineering solutions, because they intentionally manipulate nature — are now being discussed seriously by scientists. The National Academy of Sciences is expected to issue a report on geoengineering later this year. That does not mean that such measures, which are considered controversial across the political spectrum, are likely to be adopted anytime soon. But the effects of climate change may become so severe that geoengineering solutions could attract even more serious consideration. Some scientists say significant research should begin now. Dr. Schuiling’s idea is one of several intended to reduce levels of CO2, the main greenhouse gas, so the atmosphere will trap less heat. Other approaches, potentially faster and more doable but riskier, would create the equivalent of a sunshade around the planet by scattering reflective droplets in the stratosphere or spraying seawater to create more clouds over the oceans. Less sunlight reaching the earth’s surface would mean less heat to be trapped, resulting in a quick lowering of temperatures. No one can say for sure whether geoengineering of any kind would work….


Chemists Develop Porous Molecules That Bind Greenhouse Gases

Nov. 13, 2014 — Chemistry researchers have developed a molecule that assembles spontaneously into a lightweight structure with microscopic pores capable of binding large quantities of several potent greenhouse … full story







U.S. President Barack Obama smiles while he speaks during a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andy Wong

‘A Glimmer Of Hope’: How Scientists Are Reacting To Obama’s Climate Deal With China

by Emily Atkin Posted on November 12, 2014 at 3:25 pm

It didn’t take long after the U.S. and China announced a historic agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions on Wednesday for the reactions to start pouring in. Democrats and climate hawks praised the deal as an important step forward in the battle against sea level rise, habitat degradation, and extreme weather. Republican leaders deemed it an economic disaster, a continuation of the so-called “war on coal.” Policymakers aside, however, it is also important to note the reactions of the people who actually measure climate change and predict how it will impact humans in the future. What do they think about the deal? Is it enough to make a real difference in the fight against catastrophic global warming? We now have a good faith effort on the part of the planet’s two leading carbon emitters to work together … For the climate scientists ThinkProgress asked on Wednesday, the answer was a resounding yes, with a side of caution. Scientists confirmed that the announcement, which has China agreeing to cap its emissions by 2030 and the U.S. committing to a 26 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025, represented a huge first step toward building the kind of political cooperation needed to effectively combat a global problem. “My take is that this is an historic agreement for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we now have a good faith effort on the part of the planet’s two leading carbon emitters to work together to lower planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University….

….Scientists widely think solving the problem means preventing global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To do that, scientists say we’ll need even more international cooperation, and a big push to deploy cleaner technologies, more energy efficiency, and a strategy to adapt to climate change that does occur.
Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, hopes people don’t lose track of that while celebrating the deal. “The agreement with China is a good first step. But we hope it is but a first step because it is not enough to prevent significant climate change,” he said. Trenberth noted that while the U.S.-China deal looks at prevention of climate change, it does not look at ways to adapt to it. That’s important, he said, because our ability to adapt to the effects of climate change — dried out crops, increased flooding, risk of disease spread, to name a few — decreases as the planet gets hotter. And the planet is still getting hotter. The agreement with China is a good first step … [but] it is not enough to prevent significant climate change. “Since the current strategy allows considerable climate change to occur, a second part needs to be how we will cope with the changes that will certainly occur,” he said. “The absence of such planning means we live with the consequences, which can be severe and uneven, and often fall on the heads of many innocent peoples such as small island states inundated with high sea levels.”

….The lack of adaptation planning is not the only hole scientists and policy experts noted in the U.S.-China deal. For example, Higgins noted that China’s part in the agreement says it will peak its emissions by 2030, but there seems to be no limit on what that peak is going to look like. Without a limit, China could emit exorbitant amount of carbon by 2030 that would be hard to reverse.”Because China has yet to hit its peak, there is a potential incentive to deliberately emit more to make the peak higher,” Higgins said. “How do both countries deal with that?”…


The U.S. and China just shook up global climate talks with major pollution pledges.

November 11, 2014 National Journal

The U.S. and China announced new carbon-emissions targets Tuesday following talks between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, steps the White House called part of an effort to “achieve the deep decarbonization of the global economy over time.” China, where emissions are surging, offered a first-time pledge to achieve a peak in its carbon emissions by 2030, although the White House expressed hope that China could reach the target more quickly. The U.S. pledged to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, building on the years-old White House commitment of a 17 percent cut by 2020.
The pledges, which follow months of talks between the two countries, come amid delicate United Nations-hosted talks aimed at finalizing a new global climate-change accord in Paris late next year.
The unveiling of the U.S. pledge while Obama is in China is something of a surprise, because nations are not formally scheduled to offer post-2020 emissions targets to the U.N. talks until the first quarter of next year….


Experts Parse U.S., China Commitments To Flight Climate Change

by Anthony Kuhn NPR November 14, 2014


Climate Pact by U.S. and China Relies on Policies Now Largely in Place

By HENRY FOUNTAIN and JOHN SCHWARTZ NY Times November 11, 2014

For all the pronouncements about the United States and China reaching a historic climate pact, the agreement they announced Wednesday does not signal a seismic shift in policies by either nation, experts said. The United States and China should both be able to meet the stated goals by aggressively pursuing policies that are largely in place, these analysts said. For the United States, those include the Obama administration’s proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants, which would go into effect in 2017. Experts said that in practice it should be possible to wring more emissions cuts from that and other climate-related measures without adding to costs. “We think that the tools are there to meet this target,” said David Doniger, director of the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Politics, of course, may get in the way — Republicans in Congress vowed to fight the power plant proposal even before it was introduced in June, and some, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is set to become the majority leader next year, have already sharply criticized the China pact. Policy analysts said a changing energy mix for China, including a buildup of renewable energy sources and nuclear power, had been in the works for some time. “What China is pledging to do here is not a lot different from what China’s policies are on a track to deliver,” said David G. Victor, who studies climate policy at the University of California at San Diego. Wang Yi, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said experts in China had reached a consensus that the 2030 date was achievable for its targets, and that 2025 would be a more ambitious goal. The agreement, announced during President Obama‘s visit with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, calls for the United States to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That represents a significant acceleration in the rate of reduction from the president’s earlier pledge to cut emissions 17 percent by 2020….


China’s Climate Change Plan Raises Questions

New York Times 

November 12, 2014 


Foreign scientists and policy makers are also trying to judge whether Mr. Xi’s 2030 pledge represents a genuine campaign by the Chinese government to fight climate change, or just a business-as-usual date when emissions would probably have leveled off …


Secret talks and a personal letter: How US-China climate deal was done

November 13, 2014 The Guardian UK

The climate deal announced on Wednesday between the world’s two biggest carbon polluters was struck after a personal letter from Barack Obama, and nine months of intensive diplomacy. But American and Chinese officials had been in search of an agreement – through official meetings and back-channel negotiations – since the days when George Bush was president. The plan unveiled in Beijing by Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, commits the two countries to ambitious cuts to greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, and could spur other big polluters to similar efforts.

After years of mistrust, the deal began to coalesce last spring after Obama sent a personal letter to Xi suggesting the two countries start to move in tandem to cut carbon pollution, the White House said. The immediate inspiration for the letter arose from a visit to Beijing by John Kerry, the US secretary of state.
Kerry, who had a strong environmental record when he was a senator, raised climate change to a top priority after taking over at State. He floated the idea of setting joint targets in his meetings with Chinese officials, a senior administration official said…..



Election’s biggest loser: Action on climate change

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial

Updated 12:27 pm, Saturday, November 8, 2014

The battle to control climate change is shifting, and definitely for the worse. A U.N. report — yes, yet another one documenting the human-caused damage to the planet — was followed by a resounding win by Republicans, who are in no mood to take action. Within days last week, the nation and the rest of the world got a harsh look at the problem in both scientific and political terms. But barring a Beltway miracle, nothing will change in this country’s fitful efforts to clean up emissions blamed for melting ice caps, rising seas and extreme weather… California, ever the exception, has a role to play. When Congress balked at a cap-and-trade system, California set one up. It calls for buying and selling pollution credits in a way that rewards industries using clean technology. Also the state is pushing toward a goal of wider use of renewable energy in power systems and vehicle sales. All of these programs must be preserved and made successful, both for this state’s sake and as a national example. But Sacramento lawmaking won’t be enough, not while other states avoid the topic and Washington backpedals. The global stakes can’t be dodged either. The U.N. report leads up to more international parleys, one in Lima, Peru, next month and a final meeting in Paris next year, designed to bring all countries into alignment. The rich-and-poor divide, trade rivalries and cost concerns have sidetracked prior efforts, making the next one just as difficult. This country is both the top emitter of greenhouse gases and the major innovator in capping such emissions. Consider a telling statistic from the World Resources Institute: The U.S. has cut emissions from 19 percent of the world’s total to 14 percent over the past 24 years. That’s a record to communicate and build on. But it won’t happen without acknowledging the problem and taking steps to solve it. Congress can’t hide from the facts.

House approves Keystone XL pipeline, Senate up next


 – ‎ November 14, 2014‎


WASHINGTON – Republicans in the U.S. House approved legislation, 252-161, for the ninth time to authorize construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline in a legislative push renewed by two lawmakers locked in a Louisiana Senate runoff next .


Republicans Vow to Fight E.P.A. and Approve Keystone Pipeline


Republicans say they will use their new powers to undermine regulations aimed at curbing carbon pollution and now have greater leverage in pushing President Obama to approve the pipeline.


Meet the Republican’s Top Guy on the Environment, James Inhofe

By JULIET LAPIDOS NY Times November 12, 2014

The Senator once called the E.P.A. a “Gestapo bureaucracy.” ….



A solar car challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Fact That Climate Change Lost Big in This Election Could Be a Huge Win

By Eric Holthaus November 7, 2014

There’s been a lot of anxiety in climate change circles after Tuesday’s election ushered in a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate. The Wednesday morning headlines were dire, including this one from Vox: “The biggest loser in this election is the climate.” On its face, I agree. The chances of bold climate action within the next two years took a big hit Tuesday. Coupled with the latest scientific consensus that we’re quickly reaching the end of our carbon budget, the world can’t afford another delay. As my colleague Phil Plait said on Election Day, Tuesday’s vote “quite literally affects the future of humanity.” But this election cycle, campaigners concerned with the future of the planet also won a subtle but extremely important victory: Climate change is something people are finally talking about.

According to exit poll data, global warming is now the most polarizing issue to Republicans—beating even Obama’s signature health care laws. But at least it’s an issue. This is in sharp contrast to 2012, when the two presidential candidates barely mentioned the issue at all. Even if the 2014 election wasn’t primarily about climate, it was one of the social issues that resonated most strongly with voters.

Besides simply talking about the issue, there were tangible victories as well. The ongoing, successful carbon-trading platform in the Northeast is set to add Pennsylvania as a member. A climate-focused super PAC survived its initial election cycle with an encouraging win-loss record. A western North Dakota tribal election winner promised to crack down on America’s biggest oil boom. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, though he didn’t strongly influence election results, now has the infrastructure in place to battle in 2016. Andrew Freedman at Mashable has a useful breakdown of a few others.

“Our issues have been an important part of this election, and while they may not have been the largest part, polling clearly shows they weren’t the liabilities our opponents hoped they’d be,” Sierra Club political director Melissa Williams told Politico. “That is momentum to build on and a clear signal to candidates in elections to come.”

If anything, 2014 was another sign of the gradual shift toward broader Republican support for action on climate change.

Yes, the new Senate majority leader will be Mitch “I’m not a scientist” McConnell. And sure, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will be led by Oklahoma’s James Inhofe, the man who called human-caused global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” cited the Bible to defend his position, and led a witch hunt designed to manufacture public distrust of leading scientists.

But in this election cycle, there are fresh signs the Republican Party is beginning to rethink its position on climate. A recent poll of self-identified Republicans found that only one-third of respondents agreed with the Republican Party position on climate change. There’s also been a noticeable backlash against politicians feigning ignorance by touting their lack of formal scientific training. In 2016, it’s now less likely that a presidential candidate can get away with flat-out denial that climate change exists and is largely caused by human activity. As the evangelical Christian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe points out, it’s not difficult to see how action on climate change could become a core conservative issue.

In the meantime, Obama’s team of climate negotiators has spent years ensuring the next international climate agreement, unlike the failed Kyoto Protocol, won’t require Senate approval.

As long as fossil fuel money influences elections, coal- and oil-state senators like McConnell and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski will vote to continue with the status quo. But that too could quickly change. The cost of solar power continues to plummet, and in just one or two election cycles, it will outcompete coal in price. We may soon see red-state senators changing their tune.



Texas Oil Regulator Says It Will Not Honor Town’s Vote To Ban Fracking

by Emily Atkin Posted on November 10, 2014 Updated: November 10, 2014

Texas Railroad Commission Chairwoman Christi Craddick said she would continue giving permits to oil and gas companies seeking to frack in Denton….


Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan has holes, groups say

File Photo — The Associated Press Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel announces the preliminary version of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) near the Palm Springs windmills Sept. 23.

By Jim Steinberg, The Sun Posted: 11/09/14, 5:47 PM PST

ONTARIO >> Environmental groups and residents are finding what they call discrepancies, omissions and reasons for concern in the 8,000-page Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. During public hearings here last week and across a seven-county area since Oct. 20, residents have been expressing concerns with what has been called a historic cooperative planning effort between state and federal agencies focused on where renewable energy plants should go and where they should not go on 22.5 million acres of federal and non-federal California desert land. The plan was unveiled Sept. 23 when Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited a wind farm near Palm Springs to celebrate this conservation milestone and to underscore the importance of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. That plan called for a doubling-down of production of clean energy on public lands while protecting their natural resources. The public comment period officially closes Jan. 9, although last week Jim Kenna, the federal Bureau of Land Management’s California director, all but confirmed in an interviewthat an extension period would be granted, likely this week, due to widespread demand.

Kenna said that the DRECP shows the boundaries for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed Mojave Trails National Monument and the Sand to Snow National Monument. Last week at the Whitewater Preserve, Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would introduce legislation to create those monuments, located primarily in the San Bernardino County section of the Mojave Desert, during the first day of the new Congress next year.

—Officials have announced an additional public meeting for the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan will be held Nov. 19 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Joshua Tree Community Center, 6171 Sunburst St., Joshua Tree.







China’s Gigantic New Commitment To Renewable Energy, Explained

by Kiley Kroh Posted on November 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Windmills operate at the Da Bancheng Wind Farm, about 40 km (25 miles) south of Urumqi city, in Xinjiang, China. CREDIT: AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel

Late Tuesday night, the U.S. and China announced an historic agreement to combat climate change, a major step forward from the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters. Not only does the agreement hold the two nations to taking additional steps to bring down the carbon emissions that drive climate change, but China just pledged to deploy a tremendous amount of clean energy.

The non-fossil target may be the most important part of the package,” said Melanie Hart, Director of China Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Renewable and nuclear energy accounted for 9.8 percent of China’s energy mix in 2013. They have just promised to double that percentage by 2030. That target will light a fire under China’s already-aggressive renewable deployments and put even stronger limits on coal and other fossil fuels.”


China’s Three Gorges to diversify as big dam projects dry up
November 14, 2014 Reuters

China Three Gorges Corp, the country’s biggest hydropower developer, plans to diversify into wind, solar and other new energy forms, with the market for giant new dams already in decline, a senior company official said. …



New ‘Solar Cloth’ Allows Solar Cells To Be Stretched Across Parking Lots, Stadiums

by Katie Valentine Posted on November 14, 2014 Updated: November 14, 2014

The cloth is flexible and weighs far less than traditional solar panels, making it ideal for roofs that can’t hold much weight….


More research confirming large methane leakage from shale boom

By gws & November 12, 2014

More research published in 2014 is consistent with the previous notion that the shale boom in the US has been, and likely still is, causing much larger fugitive methane (and higher hydrocarbon) emissions than claimed by the industry. In a recent publication in Earth’s Future, a new journal published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) dedicated to “global change and sustainability”, a German-US team of researchers showed increasing atmospheric methane abundances over two rapidly developing shale areas, the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales in North Dakota and south Texas, respectively. Their methane emissions estimate is based on the difference in atmospheric methane in these areas between the years prior said rapid development, 2006-2008, and during it, 2009-2011…..


Could recycled plastic become a new global energy source? Moinuddin Sarker has been negotiating with local sanitation companies to buy their plastic waste and plans to use it to produce 20 million to 30 million barrels of fuel a year, enough to heat all Connecticut households in the winter months. Al Jazeera America









Webinar: Avian Translocations – Impacts for Behavioral Culture and Population Genetics
November 18, 2014 11:00 – 12:00 PM PST

Speaker Mark Hauber, City University of New York will discuss translocations of small or threatened populations to larger or safer localities. 

Description: Translocations of small or threatened populations to larger or safer localities are the bread and butter of conservation efforts in many regions of the world, especially in insular nations. Translocations are often highly successful, establishing independent, distant, and protected populations to improve the prospects of species longevity. But translocations also carry potential costs, which may or may not supersede these benefits, especially when there is both connectivity and asymmetry between the source and the destination sites and populations. Here I review both the behavioral (song culture and species recognition) and the genetic (theoretical modelling based) evidence for the potential impact of translocation efforts in several contexts inspired by my own work in New Zealand.
Click here for more information.



Ecosystem Vulnerability Assessment – Patterns of Climate Change Vulnerability in the Southwest
 November 18, 2014 1:00 PM PST
Speaker Jack Triepke, US Forest Service, will discuss an ecosystem-based climate change vulnerability assessment of adequate spatial and thematic detail to support local decisions.
The assessment methods resulted in an all-lands vulnerability dataset for upland ecosystems of Arizona and New Mexico, based on the anticipated effects of climate change in the late 21st century. Individual plant communities were analyzed and scored according to the degree of departure from their present-day climate preferences.  Click here to register. 



Making Decisions in Complex Landscapes: Headwater Stream Management Across Multiple Agencies Using Structured Decision Making November 19, 3:30-4:30 PM (EST) –

There is growing evidence that headwater stream ecosystems are vulnerable to changing climate and land use, but their conservation is challenged by the need to address the threats at a landscape scale, often through coordination with multiple management agencies and landowners. Identifying obstacles to and opportunities for shared decision making among resource agencies and managers may lead to improvements in the selection of optimal management strategies for landscape-scale resources. This project provides an example of cooperative landscape decision making to address the conservation of headwater stream ecosystems in the face of climate change using case studies from two watersheds in the northeastern United States.


Correlation and Climate Sensitivity of Human Health and Environmental Indicators in the Salish Sea – Swinomish Indian Tribal Community November 20, 1:00-2:00 PM (EST) –

This webinar will discuss a project that focused on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, whose traditional territories are particularly vulnerable to threats like sea-level rise and increased storms. These sensitivities of species and habitats to climate were cross-walked with recently developed Coast Salish community health indicators (e.g., ceremonial use, knowledge exchange, and physiological well-being). The goal of this project was to demonstrate how Indigenous Knowledge can be used in conjunction with established landscape-level conservation indicators (e.g., shellfish and water- uality) and employed to identify resource management priorities. Results will show assessments of these indicators and priorities of the Swinomish Tribe and Tsleil-Waututh Nation compared to and integrated with climate forecasts. This presentation will provide a template for how other tribal communities can use these methods to assist with climate change adaptation.





Mono Lake at 20: Past, Present, and Future
Monday 17 Nov 2014 830a-530p
Byron Sher Auditorium, State Water Resources Control Board, Sacramento

On the 20th anniversary of the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) landmark Decision 1631 to protect Mono Lake and its tributary creeks, this symposium brings together panelists from multiple perspectives to distill lessons learned from twenty years of concerted effort to implement the Mono Lake decisions, similar efforts elsewhere, and the context of institutional, fiscal, and biophysical realities.  Speakers include leaders in the field of California water, including jurists and key players in the Mono Lake decision.  The symposium includes a tribute to Professor Joe Sax and his work on the public trust.


Visualizing and Analyzing Environmental Data with R
November 18-19, 2014 Sacramento, CA

This course is designed for participants who wish to gain beginning to intermediate skills in using R for manipulating, visualizing and analyzing their environmental data.
It is applicable to anyone that conducts environmental monitoring or uses environmental data for research, management, or policy-making and is recommended for anyone needing to become proficient with R basics. Read More


Measuring Up: How to Track and Evaluate Local Sustainability Projects – EPA Webinar
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
11-1:30 PST 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST

Register for this webinar

Measuring, evaluating, and reporting on progress is an important part of local sustainability projects and programs. Tracking and analyzing results can help local entities assess program performance and success, identify specific areas for improvement or expansion, and make informed decisions about future actions. Public reporting can help generate interest in a project, promote accountability, demonstrate success, and attract political and financial support. You’ll learn about two new federal resources to help you measure, track, and report progress, based directly on the experiences of local governments across the country, and hear from one case study taking place in northwest Washington working to evaluate economic impacts of the program:

  • Emma Zinsmeister, EPA Local Climate and Energy Program:  Learn about a new methodology outlining the key steps for developing, tracking, analyzing, and reporting on performance indicators for climate and clean energy programs.
  • Ted Cochin, EPA Office of Sustainable Communities:  This presentation will focus on the Sustainable Community Indicator Catalog, providing information on specific indicators that local entities can use to measure progress toward their sustainability objectives.
  • Alex Ramel, Energy and Policy Director, Sustainable Connections:  Learn about an on-the-ground effort to measure and evaluate the economic impacts of a community energy efficiency program implemented in Bellingham and other areas of northwest Washington.


The Tenth Berkeley River Restoration Symposium
Saturday 6 Dec 2014 9a-3p

Wurster Hall Auditorium (Room 112), UC Berkeley

This year’s symposium begins with a keynote talk, ‘Two decades of river restoration in the Central Valley: from the Bay-Delta Accord to the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan‘ by John Cain, American Rivers, followed by presentations of post-doctoral and graduate student research on topics including subsurface flow in gravel bars, restoration of Sierran meadows, concrete channels of the SF Bay region, post-project appraisals of restoration projects on Sausal and Peralta Creeks and the Lake Merritt channel, effects of WPA-era riprap on fish habitat in Redwood Ck in Muir Woods, and channel self-recovery in the Upper Truckee River. 

The symposium is free and open to the public, but please register online at the URL below so that there will be a program, coffee and light lunch reserved for you. 




Managing Drought Monday, January 12, 2015 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sheraton Grand Sacramento

Public Policy Institute of California

California’s historic drought is revealing strengths and weaknesses in how we manage our precious water resources. At this half-day event—coinciding with the beginning of a new legislative session—participants will examine Australia’s millennium drought, consider climate change and future droughts in California, look back at lessons from 2014, and look forward to policy priorities for 2015.  This event is made possible with funding from the California Water Foundation, an initiative of the Resources Legacy Fund.

Please register by January 6, 2015.  There is no charge to attend, but space is limited. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. This event will also be webcast live.



CA Rangeland Conservation Coalition 10th Annual Summit – Collaborative Conservation for Rangelands

February 3, 2015 Sacramento, CA         
A group of speakers will share their experiences, successes and challenges of collaborative conservation initiatives across the US. Although different in their geographic scope, goals and composition, these partnerships have been able to restore trust and work together to achieve their common goals for the land and for the ranching community. Click here for more information. 





Bringing Science and Managers Together:
California Landscape Conservation Workshop
Save the Date!: March 3-4, 2014 UC Davis Conference Center

The CA LCC is excited to announce the first annual California Landscape Conservation Workshop! This
workshop will bring scientists and managers together to share climate-smart conservation results and lessons learned across the California landscape. Activities will engage participants in building collaborative partnerships for resilient California landscapes.Stay tuned for an upcoming call for sessions and more information.




2015 California Climate & Agriculture Summit  March 24 and 25, 2015
UC Davis Conference CenterCall for Workshop and Poster Presentations   


INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE  Abstract submission deadline is 1 November 2014 


ABSTRACT SUBMISSION (through November 1, 2014) and REGISTRATION (through January 25, 2015) NOW OPEN for Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century – A 2.5-day Summit at U.C. Berkeley March 25-27, 2015 convening natural and social scientists, managers and practitioners — 100 years after historic meetings at U.C. Berkeley helped launch the National Park Service — to rededicate a second century of science and stewardship for national parks.  This summit will feature visionary plenary lectures, strategic panel discussions on current controversies, and technical sessions of contributed paper and posters.   Keynote Speaker: E. O. Wilson.  Distinguished Plenary Speakers and Panelists include David Ackerly, Jill Baron, Steven Beissinger, Joel Berger, Edward Bernbaum, Ruth DeFries, Thomas Dietz, Josh Donlan, Holly Doremus, Ernesto Enkerlin, John Francis, David Graber, Denis Galvin, Jane Lubchenco, Gary Machlis, George Miller, Hugh Possingham, Jedediah Purdy, Nina Roberts, Mark Schwartz, Daniel Simberloff, Monica Turner, & Jennifer Wolch.


National Adaptation Forum– Call for Proposals
May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO

The National Adaptation Forum is a biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support for a better tomorrow. The Forum will take place from May 12 – 14, 2015 in St. Louis, MO. 
Proposals are being accepted for Symposia, Training Sessions, Working Groups, Poster Presentations, and a Tools Cafe. 

Click here for more information.


Ninth 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)


  • The Coastal Adaptation Program Leader (CAPL) will be responsible for executing the strategy and achieving the outcomes of Point Blue’s Protecting Our Shorelines Initiative (described below). As such, the CAPL will help natural resource managers and policy makers (including local elected officials) advance their adaptation efforts in the face of accelerating climate change, ocean acidification, increased storm frequency and intensity, habitat loss, and other stressors, leveraging Point Blue’s extensive scientific resources to enhance and protect coastal wildlife, ecosystems, and human communities. The CAPL will also develop science-based policy and natural resource management recommendations.

  • RWI ACEP Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist—POINT BLUE Rangeland Watershed Initiative (RWI) Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist; McArthur, CA Local Partnership Office.  The ACEP Partner Biologist/Range Ecologist serves as a wildlife biologist/range ecologist on the Rangeland Watershed Initiative staff and provides technical assistance to NRCS Wetland Reserve Easement Implementation Team in Northern California.  The Biologist/Ecologist is responsible for planning and applying conservation measures in all types of situations with emphasis on wildlife biology, grazing management and habitat restoration, especially for wetland wildlife species.  The applicant is also responsible for carrying out NRCS environmental planning and evaluation for conservation easement programs in the area of assignment.


  • Chief Development Officer


Climate Central– Director, Software Engineer- Sea Level and Climate Impacts

  • The Director will advance the program’s strategic direction and engineer its growth while reporting to the Vice President for Sea Level and Climate Impacts. The Director will take leadership roles in managing serial communications initiatives; expansion of our government and NGO stakeholder program; development of an earned revenue stream; and taking the program onto the global stage through international work. We are looking for candidates with significant leadership, management, business/organizational development and strategic communications experience, plus some background or affinity for science.
  • We are also looking for an energetic, multi-talented Software Engineer fluent in Python and C++ who can also tackle a wide array of other technologies to provide support in back-end big data scientific computing and front-end online user interface development. The developer’s main role will be to support the sea level rise program by maintaining, improving and expanding the Surging Seas web tools and analysis system for the U.S. and then globally.




​Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program​ NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program recognizes outstanding scholarship and encourages independent graduate level research—particularly by female and minority students—in NOAA mission-related sciences of oceanography, marine biology and maritime archaeology, including all science, engineering and resource management of ocean and coastal areas.  Scholarship selections are based on academic excellence, letters of recommendations, research and career goals, as well as​
financial need. Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarships may provide (​subject to appropriations)​
yearly support of up to $42,000 per student (a 12-month stipend of $30,000 in addition to an education allowance of up to $12,000), and up to $10,000 of support for a 4-6 week program collaboration at a NOAA facility. Masters students may be supported for up to two years, and doctoral students for up to four years. Depending on funding, approximately three to four scholarships are awarded each year.​ Completed applications must be received by by December 10, 2014
at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time
For more information about the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program and to download a copy of this Federal Funding Opportunity, visit







UCSF develops site to make sense out of sugar science

SFGate‎ – November 10, 2014

UCSF on Monday unveiled a repository of sugar science, designed …



Can “Interstellar” help teach science to the public?

By Dov Greenbaum on November 7, 2014 SF Chronicle

Christopher Nolan has been somewhat secretive about his science fiction blockbuster “Interstellar,” released Friday. One detail that has managed to leak (this is not a spoiler) was the time, effort and actual scientific discovery associated with a central plot construct in the film, a giant black hole. Using calculations provided by theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, the final crunching of the data revealed a rendering that not only supposedly accurately represents how a black hole would appear in space, but also provides a scientific breakthrough regarding the characteristics of the black hole’s accretion disc.

….Some might argue that filmmakers have no moral duty to promote accurate science in film — after all, it’s just fiction, and we should expect the movie-going public to be able to discern between entertainment and education. I would tend to agree, but with studies indicating that the general public continues to receive much of their information regarding science and technology from the popular media, something needs to be done. Perhaps, in some instances where science and technology have central roles, the movie might provide a disclaimer for their audience. Just like the American Humane Association awards filmmakers with their “No animals were harmed” credit, perhaps one or more sciences societies could provide a similarly worded disclaimer: “The science presented herein does not accurately represent the views and opinions of the general scientific community.” Or, as Brett Ryan Bonowicz begins his recent film, “The Perfect 46:” “This film is scientifically authentic. It is only one step ahead of present reality.”







Right wing freaks out over China-U.S. climate change deal

By David Horsey November 13, 2014

  • Republicans’ knee-jerk reaction against carbon emissions curbs only protects oil and coal interests
  • China needs to curb emissions to avoid political unrest in smog-choked cities

About five seconds after the announcement came from Beijing that the United States and China had reached an unexpected and ambitious climate change agreement, Republicans in Washington declared it the worst deal since the Trojans accepted a big wooden horse from the Greeks.  Climate scientists had a different reaction. If China and the U.S. actually reach the goals to which they are committing, and if other nations follow their lead, climate experts are saying the world will have made a huge leap toward averting the worst effects of rising global temperatures. You would think everyone would be cheering, but the boos and catcalls from the right have just begun….














Can you guess the weight of the bullfrog?



ANSWER: (e.) The bullfrog is the largest native frog in north america
weighing up to 1 pound and measuring up to 8 inches in length.

SOURCE: American Bullfrog(National Aquarium Website)



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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