Conservation Science News January 10, 2015


Focus of the Week – Scientists Playing Dumb on Climate Change- Oreskes










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



Playing Dumb on Climate Change


CreditOliver Munday

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — SCIENTISTS have often been accused of exaggerating the threat of climate change, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they ought to be more emphatic about the risk. The year just concluded is about to be declared the hottest one on record, and across the globe climate change is happening faster than scientists predicted.

Science is conservative, and new claims of knowledge are greeted with high degrees of skepticism. When Copernicus said the Earth orbited the sun, when Wegener said the continents drifted, and when Darwin said species evolved by natural selection, the burden of proof was on them to show that it was so. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this conservatism generally took the form of a demand for a large amount of evidence; in the 20th century, it took on the form of a demand for statistical significance.

We’ve all heard the slogan “correlation is not causation,” but that’s a misleading way to think about the issue. It would be better to say that correlation is not necessarily causation, because we need to rule out the possibility that we are just observing a coincidence. Typically, scientists apply a 95 percent confidence limit, meaning that they will accept a causal claim only if they can show that the odds of the relationship’s occurring by chance are no more than one in 20. But it also means that if there’s more than even a scant 5 percent possibility that an event occurred by chance, scientists will reject the causal claim. It’s like not gambling in Las Vegas even though you had a nearly 95 percent chance of winning.

Where does this severe standard come from? The 95 percent confidence level is generally credited to the British statistician R. A. Fisher, who was interested in the problem of how to be sure an observed effect of an experiment was not just the result of chance. While there have been enormous arguments among statisticians about what a 95 percent confidence level really means, working scientists routinely use it.

But the 95 percent level has no actual basis in nature. It is a convention, a value judgment. The value it reflects is one that says that the worst mistake a scientist can make is to think an effect is real when it is not. This is the familiar “Type 1 error.” You can think of it as being gullible, fooling yourself, or having undue faith in your own ideas. To avoid it, scientists place the burden of proof on the person making an affirmative claim. But this means that science is prone to “Type 2 errors”: being too conservative and missing causes and effects that are really there.

Is a Type 1 error worse than a Type 2? It depends on your point of view, and on the risks inherent in getting the answer wrong. The fear of the Type 1 error asks us to play dumb; in effect, to start from scratch and act as if we know nothing. That makes sense when we really don’t know what’s going on, as in the early stages of a scientific investigation. It also makes sense in a court of law, where we presume innocence to protect ourselves from government tyranny and overzealous prosecutors — but there are no doubt prosecutors who would argue for a lower standard to protect society from crime.

When applied to evaluating environmental hazards, the fear of gullibility can lead us to understate threats. It places the burden of proof on the victim
rather than, for example, on the manufacturer of a harmful product. The consequence is that we may fail to protect people who are really getting hurt.

And what if we aren’t dumb? What if we have evidence to support a cause-and-effect relationship? Let’s say you know how a particular chemical is harmful; for example, that it has been shown to interfere with cell function in laboratory mice. Then it might be reasonable to accept a lower statistical threshold when examining effects in people, because you already have reason to believe that the observed effect is not just chance.

This is what the United States government argued in the case of secondhand smoke. Since bystanders inhaled the same chemicals as smokers, and those chemicals were known to be carcinogenic, it stood to reason that secondhand smoke would be carcinogenic, too. That is why the Environmental Protection Agency accepted a (slightly) lower burden of proof: 90 percent instead of 95 percent.

In the case of climate change, we are not dumb at all. We know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, we know that its concentration in the atmosphere has increased by about 40 percent since the industrial revolution, and we know the mechanism by which it warms the planet.

WHY don’t scientists pick the standard that is appropriate to the case at hand, instead of adhering to an absolutist one? The answer can be found in a surprising place: the history of science in relation to religion. The 95 percent confidence limit reflects a long tradition in the history of science that valorizes skepticism as an antidote to religious faith.

Even as scientists consciously rejected religion as a basis of natural knowledge, they held on to certain cultural presumptions about what kind of person had access to reliable knowledge. One of these presumptions involved the value of ascetic practices. Nowadays scientists do not live monastic lives, but they do practice a form of self-denial, denying themselves the right to believe anything that has not passed very high intellectual hurdles.

Moreover, while vigorously denying its relation to religion, modern science retains symbolic vestiges of prophetic tradition, so many scientists bend over backward to avoid these associations. A vast majority of scientists do not speak in public at all, and those who do typically speak in highly guarded, qualified terms. They often refuse to use the language of danger even when danger is precisely what they are talking about.

Years ago, climate scientists offered an increase of 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) as the “safe” limit or ceiling for the long-term warming of the planet. We are now seeing dangerous effects worldwide, even as we approach a rise of only 1 degree Celsius. The evidence is mounting that scientists have underpredicted the threat. Perhaps this is another reason — along with our polarized politics and the effect of fossil-fuel lobbying — we have underreacted to the reality, now unfolding before our eyes, of dangerous climate change.

Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard and the author, with Erik M. Conway, of “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future.”


Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  She recently arrived at Harvard after spending 15 years as Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Geosciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Professor Oreskes’s research focuses on the earth and environmental sciences, with a particular interest in understanding scientific consensus and dissent.

Her 2004 essay “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” (Science 306: 1686) has been widely cited, both in the United States and abroad, including in the Royal Society’s publication, “A Guide to Facts and Fictions about Climate Change,” in the Academy-award winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, and in Ian McEwan’s novel, Solar.  Her opinion pieces have appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times,
The Times (London), Nature, Science, The New Statesman,
Frankfurter Allgemeine and elsewhere. Her 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt, How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global warming**, co-authored with Erik M. Conway, was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Time Book Prize, and received the 2011 Watson-David Prize from the History of Science Society.


**one of my favorite all time books—worth reading if you haven’t yet!





The biology of fun and playfulness

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 11:16 AM PST

Several new articles explore the biology of fun (and the fun of biology). Scientists present what we know about playfulness in dogs, dolphins, frogs, and octopuses. They also provide insights on whether birds can have fun and how experiences in infancy affect a person’s unique sense of humor.
Current Biology celebrates its 25th birthday with a special issue on January 5, 2015 on the biology of fun (and the fun of biology). In a collection of essays and review articles, the journal presents what we know about playfulness in dogs, dolphins, frogs, and octopuses. It provides insights on whether birds can have fun and how experiences in infancy affect a person’s unique sense of humor. “Fun is obviously–almost by definition–pleasurable, rewarding, but in a way that is distinct from the pleasures of satisfying basic needs, such as the drives to reduce thirst or hunger or to reproduce,” says Current Biology Editor Geoffrey North. “The articles in this special issue consider examples of what appear to be fun and play in a broad range of animal species and the insights that can be gained into how the behaviors might contribute to evolutionary fitness.”

How do we get our sense of humor?

Psychologists Vasu Reddy and Gina Mireault, of the University of Portsmouth and Johnson State College respectively, offer a comprehensive overview of how, in infancy, reactions to absurd behavior like pulling hair or blowing raspberries, as well as teasing others, offer a window into how aware young children are of others’ intentions. “As [infants] discover others’ reactions and, indeed, others’ minds, they also discover the meaning of ‘funny’, a construct that varies across and within cultures, regions, families, and even dyads,” write the authors. “Infants become attuned to the nuances in humour through their social relationships, which create the practice of contexts of humorous exchange.” The scientists note that children with atypical patterns of development may exhibit different senses of humor compared to their peers.

Why do adult apes play?

Based on her observations of a wild bonobo community, primatologist Isabel Behncke of the University of Oxford makes the case that play in bonobo adults could be a key adaptation that underlies social bonding and intelligence. She describes how bonobos in the Wamba community of Central Africa naturally engage in chasing, hanging, and water games despite differences in age and sex. “Play makes individuals more adaptable because it makes them more social; and more successful in their sociality as a result of being more adaptable,” Dr. Behncke writes. “Life-long play is a bridge between sociality and adaptability.”

Does playfulness spur creativity?

Ethologist Sir Patrick Bateson of the University of Cambridge wants to know why playfulness is so connected to creativity in the realms of science, music, and business. Working with behavioral biologist Daniel Nettle, he asked over 1,500 people to rank their creativity and then provide up to ten potential uses for a jam jar or paperclip. Those who considered themselves the most playful were most likely to provide many uses for the items. “Play is an effective mechanism for encouraging creativity since creativity also involves breaking away from established patterns of thought and behavior,” Dr. Bateson writes.



Global bird conservation could be four times more cost-effective

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 05:18 AM PST

Targeting conservation efforts to safeguard biodiversity, rather than focusing on charismatic species, could make current spending on threatened birds four times more effective, a new study has shown…The research, by Imperial College London and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), is the first to link the costs of protecting threatened species with their genetic distinctiveness, measured in millions of years of evolution. It identifies the top 20 birds for safeguarding maximum biodiversity with minimum spend, of which number one on the list — Botha’s Lark — currently receives no conservation spending at all. The researchers focused on some 200 birds categorised in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered, in a study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. They found that if conservation spending on these birds continues along current lines, only 85.9 million years of evolutionary history will be safeguarded, compared to a potential impact of 340 million years. Dr James Rosindell, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, explains: “We found that, spent wisely, £1 can preserve 26 years of bird evolution whilst in the worst-case scenario, it costs £2485 to save just a single year. So for the cost of a cup of coffee you could probably save a branch of evolution as long as your entire life. However, if you choose to spend your money poorly, you might only save a few hours’ worth, not much longer than the time it took you to drink the coffee.” By adapting an approach already in use by ZSL, the researchers categorised the birds in terms of their risk of extinction and their evolutionary distinctiveness, looking not only at how far they had diverged from other species, but also the relative extinction risk of their relatives. For each species they then calculated the number of years of evolutionary history that could be safeguarded for 50 years by conservation action on that species. Finally, they combined these results with the estimated cost of reducing each species’ extinction risk by at least one Red List category within ten years. The results gave the team a list of the top 20 birds on which conservation efforts should be targeted to maximise the impact of the spend in safeguarding evolutionary biodiversity….Dr Rosindell adds: “We have to acknowledge that we will never have enough resources to protect all species under threat, so tough choices will have to be made: the ‘Noah’s Ark’ dilemma. However, an encouraging message from our research is that, correctly targeted, we can still do a lot with a relatively small amount of money.”


L. Nunes, S.T. Turvey and J. Rosindell. The Price of Conserving Avian Phylogenetic Diversity: A Global Prioritisation Approach. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, January 2015


Are human behaviors affecting bird communities in residential areas?

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 11:07 AM PST

A new study shows that habitat alteration may be less important than other factors– such as human behavior– in driving the effects of “exurban” development on bird communities. These unexpected results are fueling more questions that may ultimately lead to informed landowners lessening their impacts on local wildlife.
Exurban development is generally rural residential development in attractive natural areas characterized by low density and large lot sizes. Through myriad impacts including the fragmentation of habitat, disruption of animal movement patterns, and predation or disturbance from domestic pets, this type of development can result in altered wildlife abundance, species composition and behavior in a surrounding ecosystem….In order to determine whether some ecosystem types are more sensitive than others to the effects of exurban development, the authors looked at development impacts on bird communities in Essex County, New York and Madison County, Montana. The former is marked by relatively continuous, closed canopy Adirondack forest, and the latter by heterogenous grasslands interspersed with forest and shrub communities of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“We hypothesized that due to its greater structural diversity, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem would be less sensitive to exurban development and would therefore show fewer impacts to bird communities than in the Adirondacks,” said WCS Adirondack Program Science Director Michale Glennon. “Surprisingly, that was not the case.”

….Collecting data from three subdivisions and three control sites in each county, the scientists divided 94 species of observed songbirds into five functional groups and then compared the differences in relative abundance between subdivisions and control sites in both regions.

The groups consisted of:

• “edge specialists” — birds that favor forest/field ecotones and often thrive in residential areas;

• “low-nesters” — those nesting at or near ground level;

• “area sensitive species” — species that respond negatively to decreasing habitat patch size;

• “Neotropical migrants” — birds that breed in North America but migrate to Central or South America during the non-breeding season and,

• “microhabitat specialists” — species dependent on resources likely to be variable or patchily distributed such as nesting cavities.

With the exception of microhabitat specialists, exurban development appeared to have very similar effects on birds in these two regions despite the strongly contrasting geographies.

…The study found the response to the subdivisions was similar in the two ecologically distinct ecosystems, with Neotropical migrants, low-nesters, and area sensitive species being negatively impacted and edge specialists benefitting. The impacts were greatest on the low-nesting species such as ovenbird, hermit thrush, and winter wren in the Adirondacks and Brewer’s, savannah and white-crowned sparrows in the west with 70-100 percent change in abundance between subdivisions and control sites. While the authors could not conclude from the work that one system may be more or less vulnerable than the other, the similar response among groups in both regions suggest that factors other than habitat structural change may be at work. Among the possibilities of primary influence on bird communities in exurban areas? Human disturbance.

The findings have prompted a follow-up study now underway in the same locations. The ongoing study is investigating how habitat structural change as well as human disturbance factors such as noise and nighttime lighting impact bird and mammal communities. The results of the study, say the authors, “indicated a need for further research into mechanisms other than habitat structural change as drivers for bird community responses to exurban development.” Discovering those patterns may help inform and lead to better land and residential management and planning decisions. WCS Livelihoods Coordinator Heidi Kretser said, “These findings underscore the importance of understanding the role humans play within an ecosystem and could potentially lead to specific recommendations for landowners to minimize their impacts on local biota.”


Michale J. Glennon, Heidi E. Kretser, Jodi A. Hilty. Identifying Common Patterns in Diverse Systems: Effects of Exurban Development on Birds of the Adirondack Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, USA. Environmental Management, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s00267-014-0405-9



Humans, sparrows make sense of sounds in similar ways: Complex set of cognitive skills

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 02:00 PM PST

The song of the swamp sparrow — a grey-breasted bird found in wetlands throughout much of North America — is a simple melodious trill. But according to a new study swamp sparrows are capable of processing the notes that make up their simple songs in more sophisticated ways than previously realized — an ability that may help researchers better understand the perceptual building blocks that enable language in humans.


Bird carcasses along Pacific shore baffle biologists

Biologist Russ Bradley (Point Blue Conservation Science) holds a Cassin’s auklet chick in 2006. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

By Javier Panzar LA Times Jan 3 2015

  • Thousands of small birds called Cassin’s auklets are found dead along Pacific Coast
  • Pacific bird die-off may be linked to successful breeding season, biologists say

The carcasses of thousands of small birds called Cassin’s auklets have been washing ashore over the last few months from Northern California up to the north coast of Washington. Scientists along the Pacific Coast have been trying to determine what is causing the large die-off of the birds this winter. The University of Washington’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team has seen more than 1,200 bodies wash ashore since fall began. If the bottom had fallen out of the ecosystem, you would be seeing everybody dying, but we are not. There is a little bit of a mystery to it. – Julia Parrish, executive director of the University of Washington’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team

Executive Director Julia Parrish thinks that is only a small fraction of the total number of dead birds. It is probably in the tens of thousands, she said…..

Recreational fishing in the Mediterranean is more harmful than previously thought

Posted: 09 Jan 2015 07:10 AM PST

A total of 10 percent of adults living in developed countries practice recreational fishing, which in the Mediterranean Sea represents around 10 percent of the total production of fisheries. Despite its importance, this fishing is not as controlled or studied as professional fishing. For the first time, a study examines this activity, whose effects are increasingly more similar to traditional fishing. For this reason, scientists demand greater control.


Ice cores reveal that ice algae are also found in the sea ice. Diatoms grow in small channels full of very salty sea water and form the basis for small ecosystems with bacteria and small fauna in the ice.

Credit: Lars Chresten Lund Hansen

Underwater drones map ice algae in Antarctica

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 07:14 AM PST

New robot technology leads Antarctic exploration into a new epoch. It is now possible to study the underside of sea ice across large distances and explore a world previously restricted to specially trained divers only.


How plankton survives typhoons

Posted: 08 Jan 2015 05:44 AM PST

It is no secret that typhoons are capable of churning the seas and wreaking destruction. But it is tough to examine what exactly happens during a typhoon, particularly in the ocean. An underwater observatory has now been created to monitor what happens in the ocean over long periods of time, specifically observing what happens to plankton during a typhoon.


The bowhead whale lives over 200 years. Can its genes tell us why?

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 07:14 AM PST

A whale that can live over 200 years with little evidence of age-related disease may provide untapped insights into how to live a long and healthy life. Researchers present in a new report the complete bowhead whale genome and identify key differences compared to other mammals. Alterations in bowhead genes related to cell division, DNA repair, cancer, and aging may have helped increase its longevity and cancer resistance.


A baby mountain gorilla is pictured in the Sabyinyo Mountains of Rwanda on Dec. 27, 2014.(Photo: Ivan Leiman, AFP/Getty Images)

13 species we might have to say goodbye to in 2015. January 6, 2015 USA Today

The world is losing dozens of species every day in what experts are calling the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. As many as 30% to 50% of all species are moving toward extinction by mid-century — and the blame sits squarely on our shoulders…



Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

California condor

Range: Los Angeles, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties, among others

Status: Endangered

Fun fact: The California condor’s wingspan can be up to nine and a half feet.

Surprise! Two California condors secretly mate, produce offspring

By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle Updated 3:50 pm, Saturday, January 10, 2015

A secret romance in the woods has produced an ugly, yet wondrous, holiday surprise for wildlife biologists in Big Sur — a young, spry, carcass-loving buzzard. The fleshy vulture is the product of two California condors that sneaked off together, unbeknownst to perpetually hovering scientists, and then, ahem, communed with nature. It was only the third unobserved pairing of condors in the wild since 1997, when biologists began releasing the endangered birds in Big Sur, but the condor monitors couldn’t have been more thrilled if they’d had intimate photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie…..”As biologists, we strive to know everything about the flock, but when we get a curve ball like this it’s a real pleasant surprise,” said Joe Burnett, the senior wildlife biologist and Big Sur condor project coordinator for the Ventana Wildlife Society. “It’s just a sign of how well the flock is doing — that they are flying out on their own, making nests and breeding on their own.”

The 9-month-old bird, which does not yet have a name, is already full grown, which means the love birds rolled in the hay, made a nest, produced an egg, incubated it for 60 days and then raised the hatchling for 6 months without being detected by prying biologists. The love birds, known by the decidedly unpoetic names of 209 and 231,will now spend a year showing the apple of their beady-eyes how to survive in the wild.

The breeding pair, also known as “Shadow” and “Wild 1,” apparently produced their mystery nipper in a remote portion of the Ventana Wilderness in the Arroyo Seco drainage. Burnett said the area is very remote and virtually inaccessible on foot, which is why the tryst was never detected. It turns out Shadow is a bit of a condor Casanova. Burnett said it is the third time he has produced an undocumented tot over the years. Condors generally mate once every other year….








2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record Globally By Far

by Joe Romm Posted on January 5, 2015 at 9:09 am Updated: January 5, 2015 at 11:55 am

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has announced that 2014 was the hottest year in more than 120 years of record-keeping — by far. NOAA is expected to make a similar call in a couple of weeks and so is NASA. As the JMA graph shows, there has been no “hiatus” or “pause” in warming. In fact, there has not even been a slowdown. Yes, in JMA’s ranking of hottest years, 1998 is in (a distant) second place — but 1998 was an outlier as the graph shows. In fact, 1998 was boosted above the trendline by an unusual super-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. What makes setting the record for hottest year in 2014 doubly impressive is that it occurred despite the fact we’re still waiting for the start of El Niño. But this is what happens when a species keeps spewing record amounts of heat-trapping carbon pollution into the air, driving CO2 to levels in the air not seen for millions of years, when the planet was far hotter and sea levels tens of feet higher. The JMA is a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Climate Center of excellence. The WMO had announced a month ago that 2014 was on track to be hottest year on record. Different climate-tracking groups around the world use different data sets, so they can show different results for 2014 depending on how warm December turns out to be….Some of the hottest places in the world in 2014 included:

  • Europe was the hottest it’s been in 500 years. One new analysis concluded “global warming has made a temperature anomaly like the one observed in 2014 in Europe at least 80 times more likely.”
  • California had record-smashing heat, which helped create its “most severe drought in the last 1200 years.”
  • Australia broke heat records across the continent (for the second year running). Back in January, “temperatures soared higher than 120°F (49°C).”
  • Much of Siberia “defrosted in spring and early summer under temperatures more than 9°F (5°C) above its 1981 to 2010 average,” as Live Science noted. This is the second exceptionally hot summer in a row for the region, and scientists now think the huge crater discovered this year in the area “was probably caused by thawing permafrost.”

The permafrost (soon to be renamed the permamelt) contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. If we don’t reverse emissions trends sharply and soon, then the carbon released from it this century alone could boost global warming as much as 1.5°F.



2014: The year climate change undeniably arrived

Hottest year on record provided setting for conclusive scientific findings as mushrooming climate movement pressed world leaders to act.

By John H. Cushman Jr., InsideClimate News Dec 29, 2014

It was January, and tennis players at the Australian Open were suffering through the scorcher that would be the year 2014….They put on ice vests. The soles of their sneakers and the bottoms of their water bottles softened as the mercury marked 109 degrees Fahrenheit. They were knocked flat by the longest Melbourne heat wave in a century.The new year seemed to be welcoming the world to the new normal. All year long, from the Antipodes to the Aleutians, the changing global climate plagued the planet. If 2014 does not, in the final reckoning, prove to be the hottest year ever recorded, it will come very close. As a landmark scientific review published by several U.S. government agencies declared in May: “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.” Of course, it did not happen all at once. The Australian heat wave had lingered over from 2013. Every decade is now warmer than the one before. Each new year is one of the warmest on record. Young adults have never lived through a month when global temperatures were cooler than the old normal. “There is no standstill in global warming,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, which as the year drew to a close estimated that 2014 would turn out to be the warmest year scientists have ever recorded.

It is fair to say that 2014 was the year that climate change undeniably arrived. That means much more than to say the world’s temperature continued to rise. So did the emissions of greenhouse gases and the buildup of those gases in the atmosphere. And so did the gathering sense of crisis, the understanding that the time left for effective action was running out.  On the scientific front, above all, 2014 was a landmark year. The science became more unequivocal than ever: climate change has arrived, and we are its cause. And as vexatious as it remains to convey that understanding to citizens and their leaders, the science pushed policy and the public along more forcefully than before. The world’s governments—not in every capital, but from towns and cities to the United Nations itself—ended the year seemingly determined to find a new course away from fossil fuels and toward a safer future. Meanwhile, on the streets, a popular movement to address the crisis found its voice in 2014 as never before…


Due to the ongoing drought, receding waters at the Almaden Reservoir have revealed a car that was illegally dumped years ago and is now stuck in the lake bed, in San Jose, CA, Thursday, January 16, 2014.

2014 was California’s hottest year, and it wasn’t even close

By Kurtis Alexander SF Chron Updated 8:07 pm, Thursday, January 8, 2015

California not only sweated through its hottest year on record in 2014 but obliterated the previous mark by nearly 2 degrees, federal scientists said Thursday, while experiencing firsthand some of the worst fears of a warming planet — from intensified drought to melting snowpack. The state’s average temperature last year was 61.5 degrees, more than 4 degrees above the 20th century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. The previous hottest year was 1934, at 59.7 degrees, though many of the balmiest periods have come more recently, with seven of the 10 hottest years within the past two decades.

“There’s a very clear warming trend in California,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, an associate professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford University who studies climate change. “And not only are we seeing clear evidence of global warming and its impacts, but we’re now seeing the impacts of global warming right here in western North America.”
Scientists say rising temperatures have sometimes contributed to smoggier air, stunted growth of plants, extreme weather events and other abnormalities in the Golden State, but the biggest impacts recently have come with the crippling drought. Though many are hesitant to blame the state’s three-year dry spell on global warming, consensus is that hot weather has exacerbated the situation — for example, by increasing evaporation



Scientists track natural responses to climate change

Researchers in the US have identified a wide range of impacts – human and natural – that global warming has on fish, forests, birds and wildflowers.

By Tim Radford Climate News Network Jan 2, 2015

LONDON − Lumberjacks are selecting different trees, U.S. fishermen are sailing farther north to catch black sea bass, desert birds are nesting later in California and Arizona, and one kind of wildflower is changing shape in the Rocky Mountains − all in response to climate change, according to new research. None of these responses is simple, or necessarily ominous. And global warming is not the only factor at work. But all are nevertheless examples of adaptation. None of these responses is simple, or necessarily ominous, and global warming is not the only factor at work. But all are nevertheless examples of adaptation to − so far – very modest changes in temperature. Adena Rissman and Chad Rittenhouse, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, report in the Journal of Environmental Management that they looked at weather records and logging data and found that, since 1948, the winter interval during which ground is firmly frozen has declined by an average of two to three weeks. Hard winters are the logger’s friend as the ground can support heavy machinery, whereas muddy soils can make tracks impassable. So, over the decades, foresters have harvested more and more red pine and jack pine − species that flourish in sandy, well-drained soil more accessible to trucks, tractors and chainsaws.

Significant decline “We wanted to know how weather affects our ability to support sustainable working forests,” says Dr Rissman, assistant professor of human dimensions of ecosystem management. “We found a significant decline in the duration of frozen ground over the past 65 years and, at the same time, a significant shift in the species being harvested.” Such changes in selection tend to affect ecosystems – on land or at sea.

Scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in the United States report in the ICES Journal of Marine Science that they looked at trawl survey data collected between 1972 and 2008 to analyze variations in abundance of black sea bass, scup, and summer and winter flounder. All had shown “significant poleward shifts” in at least one season. The bass and scup were responding to changes in temperature. The summer flounder were more likely to be responding to a decrease in fishing pressure − that is, the species could recolonize former habitat. There was no change in the distribution in the southern New England/Mid Atlantic Bight stock of winter flounder. “Using these data, we demonstrated how a combination of fishing and climate can influence the distribution of marine fish,” said lead author Richard Bell, research associate at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries service laboratory at Narrangansett. “It is not one or the other.”

Meanwhile, in the arid Sonora Desert, all 13 desert bird species have tended to delay nesting by two weeks or more, as a response to severe drought.

Delays in nesting

This makes survival a problem for the birds as their young are more vulnerable to nest predators and parasites. Some species forego breeding entirely during an extreme drought. Even without global warming, droughts are an enduring fact of life in the region. But ecologists point out that climate models predict a greater frequency of droughts, which could lead to even more delays in nesting.

“These responses are predicted to become more frequent and extreme, due to climate change, causing us to question how desert birds will persist in the long term,” Chris McCreedy, a desert ecologist at Point Blue Conservation Science, reports in The Auk, the American Ornithologists’ Union journal. At least one species has responded to climate change by altering not just its life cycle but its shape.Students at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and the University of South Carolina report in Global Change Biology that the Rocky Mountain mustard plant (Boechera stricta) offers an example of what biologists call “phenotypic plasticity.”

This means that it doesn’t evolve to meet climate change − it just looks different under different conditions. It changes according to whether the conditions are hot and dry, or cold and wet. In experiments that simulated future climate change, it also flowered seven days earlier. This little ready-for-anything brassica plant seemed able to respond differently according to whether or not there was snow around it. Or, as the researchers put it: “Extensive plasticity could buffer against immediate fitness declines due to changing climates.”



New York, Hurricane Sandy

US coastal cities face daily flooding by mid-century. January 6, 2015 Responding to Climate Change, United Nations

Boston, New York and Baltimore are among the cities threatened by rising sea levels, warn scientists

Oceanographers have just identified the US coastal regions likely to experience 30 days or more of “nuisance” flooding every year. And the answer is that most of the American coast will experience high waters that are 30-60 cms above local high tides, at least 30 times a year. Nuisance flooding means just that − somewhere between an inconvenience and modest damage.
But climate change, and its attendant sea-level rise, will make them much more frequent, and possibly more damaging.

William Sweet and Joseph Park, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), report in the journal Earth’s Future that sea level rise has accelerated from 1.7mm a year in the last century to 3.2mm a year in the last two decades, and flooding events that were once extreme could become the mean. The oceanographers wanted to establish what they call “regional tipping points” – places where extra high waters would wash across streets and promenades normally above water and start to do so frequently…..



Coral reefs threatened by a deadly combination of changing ocean conditions

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:31 AM PST

The lowering of the ocean’s pH is making it harder for corals to grow their skeletons and easier for bioeroding organisms to tear them down. Erosion rates increase tenfold in areas where corals are also exposed to high levels of nutrients, according to a new study. As sea level rises, these reefs may have a harder time growing toward the ocean surface, where they get sunlight they need to survive.… The study, led by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), highlights the multiple threats to coral reef ecosystems, which provide critical buffers to shoreline erosion, sustain fisheries that feed hundreds of millions of people, and harbor 25 percent of all marine species. And it points to a key management strategy that could slow reef decline: reducing the input of nutrient pollution to the coastal ocean from human activity such as runoff from sewers, septic tanks, roads, and fertilizers.

Corals make their skeletons out of calcium and carbonate ions from seawater, constructing massive colonies as large as cars and small houses. As the ocean absorbs excess carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning, it spurs chemical reactions that lower the pH of seawater, a process known as ocean acidification. The process removes carbonate ions, making them less available for corals to build skeletons.

“A healthy coral reef ecosystem exists in a constant and often overlooked tug-of-war. As corals build their skeletons up toward the sea surface, other organisms–mollusks, worms, and sponges–bore into and erode the skeletons to create shelters,” said lead author Thomas DeCarlo, a graduate student in the WHOI-MIT Joint Program in Oceanography, working in Anne Cohen’s lab at WHOI.

The new study shows that additional nutrients provide a dramatic boost for bioeroders that, combined with lower pH conditions, will tip this balance in favor of erosion. The bioeroders are filter feeders, sifting particles of food out of seawater. Nutrients spur the growth of plankton, supplying food for large populations of bioeroders that burrow into coral skeletons. When corals and bioeroders are in balance, the former grow just fast enough to stay near the sea surface, while the latter are busily sculpting the coral skeletons into an intricate, three-dimensional habitat full of nooks and hiding places for fish, urchins, and other marine life. In waters with fewer carbonate ions and more nutrients, corals may not be able to build new skeleton fast enough to keep pace with bioeroders cutting down the reef. The result would be “flatter” coral reefs with less of the three-dimensional structure responsible for the rich biodiversity found on coral reefs.

The researchers found that relatively acidic (lower-pH) reefs were more heavily bio-eroded than their higher-pH counterparts. But their most striking finding was that in waters with a combination of high nutrient levels and lower-pH, bio-erosion is ten times higher than in lower-pH waters without high nutrient levels. “The ocean will certainly absorb more CO2 over the next century, and ocean acidification is a global phenomenon that reefs cannot escape,” DeCarlo said. “But the encouraging news in our findings is that people can take action to protect their local reefs. If people can limit runoff from septic tanks, sewers, roads, farm fertilizers, and others sources of nutrient pollution to the coastal ocean, the bioeroders will not have such an upper hand, and the balance will tip much more slowly toward erosion and dissolution of coral reefs.”


T. M. DeCarlo, A. L. Cohen, H. C. Barkley, Q. Cobban, C. Young, K. E. Shamberger, R. E. Brainard, Y. Golbuu. Coral macrobioerosion is accelerated by ocean acidification and nutrients. Geology, 2014; 43 (1): 7 DOI: 10.1130/G36147.1




Brocken Inaglory, via Wikimedia Commons

7 Trends That Will Affect the Planet in 2015

Jan 5, 2015 07:00 AM ET // by Patrick J. Kiger

Here are some trends and expected events in 2015 and beyond that may have a significant impact upon the planet and life on Earth.

1-The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there’s a 65 percent chance that
El Niño, a warm band of water in the Pacific, could appear in 2015. That, in turn, could help move the global thermometer upward even more. But the effects could also bring drought to some parts of Asia and more intense rainfall in South America.

2-NOAA reports that temperatures in the far north are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, and that could lead to an even bigger decrease in sea ice, which would not only cause sea levels to rise but threaten Arctic animals. A recent coastal survey found 35,000 walruses jammed onto an Alaskan beach because the ice that they like to feed upon has shrunk.

3- Workers are busy planting the Great Green Wall, a massive belt of man-made forest that eventually will stretch nearly 2,800 miles across China, in an effort to block the growth of the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts and stem the massive dust storms that they create. If the trees survive and do the job as envisioned, a similar green belt might be planted in Africa, according to New Scientist.

4- The oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide, and it’s causing the pH levels to change and become more acidic, with negative consequences for the world’s seafood supply. Seafood News recently reported that mussel shells are becoming more brittle, and a just-published study by British, Canadian and Swedish researchers concludes that shrimp aren’t going to taste so good to humans in the near future.

5- Tsunamis and other natural disasters won’t cause as much damage or loss of life, due to the development of detection systems and resiliency features being built into coastal cities, and more attention to preparedness. In California, officials are going to roll out a major expansion of the state’s earthquake warning system, so that schools, fire stations and even some private companies will receive alerts and have at least a few precious seconds to prepare.

6-According to a report by the National Intelligence Council, expected water scarcity and problems with allocation will pose significant challenges to governments in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and northern China, and tensions may erupt between different regions as a result.

7- It could be that 2015 is the year in which resistance against curbing greenhouse emissions finally starts to give way, as more governments and businesses begin to accept the necessity of taking action. One of the world’s most influential figures may help to tip the scale. Pope Francis reportedly plans to issue a message on climate change in 2015 to the world’s 1.5 billion Roman Catholics, and call for a summit of major religious leaders on the issue, the Guardian newspaper reports. Francis reportedly wants to influence governments to agree to more aggressive measures at the 2015 climate summit in Paris.



Which fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change?

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 10:14 AM PST

A third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves globally should remain in the ground and not be used before 2050 if global warming is to stay below the 2°C target agreed by policy makers, according to new research by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. The study funded by the UK Energy Research Centre and published in Nature today, also identifies the geographic location of existing reserves that should remain unused and so sets out the regions that stand to lose most from achieving the 2°C goal. The authors show that the overwhelming majority of the huge coal reserves in China, Russia and the United States should remain unused along with over 260 thousand million barrels oil reserves in the Middle East, equivalent to all of the oil reserves held by Saudi Arabia. The Middle East should also leave over 60% of its gas reserves in the ground. The development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil — oil of a poor quality which is hard to extract — are also found to be inconsistent with efforts to limit climate change….“Policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2°C goal. If they go ahead with developing their own resources, they must be asked which reserves elsewhere should remain unburnt in order for the carbon budget not to be exceeded.” Co-author Professor Paul Ekins, Professor of Resources and Environmental Policy at and Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, who received an OBE for services to environmental policy in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list, said: “Companies spent over $670 billion (£430 billion) last year searching for and developing new fossil fuel resources. They will need to rethink such substantial budgets if policies are implemented to support the 2oC limit, especially as new discoveries cannot lead to increased aggregate production….


Christophe McGlade, Paul Ekins. The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C. Nature, 2015; 517 (7533): 187 DOI: 10.1038/nature14016



Climate change study says most of Canada’s oil reserves should be left …

 – ‎January 9, 2015‎


A worldwide goal of a maximum two-degree rise over pre-industrial temperatures has been set by the International Panel on Climate Change, and 195 of the world’s countries (including Canada) have signed on to that goal. This report shows countries need …




NASA finds good news on forests and carbon dioxide

Posted: 02 Jan 2015 05:47 AM PST

A new NASA-led study shows that tropical forests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide than many scientists thought, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas. The study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion — more than is absorbed by forests in Canada, Siberia and other northern regions, called boreal forests…..


The remains of a house and car can be seen after a bushfire destroyed them at Cudlee Creek in South Australia in this picture taken on January 3, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Tom Fedorowytsch-ABC NEWS

Australia battles to contain worst wildfires in 30 years.

January 6, 2015 Reuters

Hundreds of firefighters were battling on Tuesday to contain Australia’s worst wildfires in 30 years which have already swept across more than 12,000 hectares outside of Adelaide. Wildfires are a natural annual event in Australia, but some scientists say climate change is increasing both the fire season and intensity…The fires, which are burning across a 240-km (150-mile) perimeter in the state of South Australia, come as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology announced on Tuesday that 2014 had been the country’s third warmest year on record. That has raised questions about whether the blaze is the result of climate change and a possible sign of worse to come. “Unless there are rapid, substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and globally, Australia will experience more heat waves and bush fires as in 2014,” David Karoly, a professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne, said in a statement. At least 29 people have been injured or taken to hospital but no deaths have been reported….


Focusing on lasting legacy prompts environmental action

Posted: 08 Jan 2015 08:37 AM PST

Prompting people to think about the legacy they want to leave for future generations can boost their desire and intention to take action on climate change, according to new research.





This is what California looks like after an extremely wet December. The dark red is “exceptional drought,” the bright red is “extreme drought,” and the orange is only “severe drought.” CREDIT: U.S. Drought Monitor






Drought causes birds to nest later, reducing nesting success

Posted: 22 Dec 2014 01:55 PM PST

Drought conditions are delaying nesting by two weeks or more for some Sonoran Desert bird species, such as Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and Verdins, new research has found. Despite recent rainfall, drought conditions persist in much of the Southwestern US drought negatively impacts, many wildlife species, making it harder to maintain their numbers, even when adapted to a dry environment. A recent study suggests drought conditions are delaying nesting by two weeks or more for some Sonoran Desert bird species, such as Black-tailed Gnatcatchers and Verdins.

Despite recent rainfall, drought conditions persist in much of the southwestern U.S. Drought negatively impacts, many wildlife species, making it harder to maintain their numbers, even when adapted to a dry environment. Newly published research from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finds that increased drought frequency in southwestern North America results in increased instances of delayed nesting. This delay can push the start of nesting back by several weeks in severe drought. This, in turn, makes it harder for many Sonoran Desert bird species to successfully produce young that year, as they are more vulnerable to nest predators and parasites. “To understand how late the delay is, it would be like if the robins nesting in your yard, who typically begin nesting in late April, did not begin to nest until nearly Memorial Day,” says Chris McCreedy, Point Blue ecologist and the study’s lead author. The study’s authors found that after winters of low rainfall, all 13 Sonoran Desert bird species that were monitored experienced delayed nesting. As climate models are nearly unanimous in their predictions for increased drought frequency in southwestern North America, this finding raises concern for the long term health of desert bird populations. The findings also show that some Sonoran Desert species sometimes forego breeding entirely during extreme drought.

“Other studies correlate with our findings, perhaps indicating a more widespread delayed nesting of birds in arid ecosystems,” says McCreedy. “These responses are predicted to become more frequent and extreme, due to climate change, causing us to question how desert birds will persist in the long-term.” This study highlights drought as a key threat to bird in arid landscapes. In the recent 2014 National State of the Birds Report, birds in arid landscapes were found to show the steepest declines, nationwide.

Chris McCreedy, Charles van Riper. Drought-caused delay in nesting of Sonoran Desert birds and its facilitation of parasite- and predator-mediated variation in reproductive success. The Auk, 2014; 132 (1): 235 DOI: 10.1642/AUK-13-253.1



El Nino Turns into El Limbo

By Tom Yulsman | January 8, 2015 11:38 am

Last month, conditions in the tropical Pacific were looking increasingly El Niñoish. But right now, a better term for what’s happening might be “El Limbo.” The odds of a full-blown El Niño occurring are now just 50 to 60 percent, down from 65 percent last month, according to the monthly report from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, released this morning.  What’s more, if El Niño does finally emerge in the next few weeks, in all likelihood it won’t last long. Neutral conditions are most likely by March,
according to the CPC. The map shows what kind of weather impacts El Niño typically brings to North America. And did you see it — that streak of green indicating wet conditions across the southern tier of the United States?

The bottom line: If you eat fruits and vegetables you should care about what’s happening in the tropical Pacific because a full-blown El Niño would raise the odds of relief from the brutal drought that has gripped California — the nation’s fruit and vegetable basket. Should California’s drought continue, crop failures could lead to tightening supplies and rising prices. So, what happened in the tropical Pacific that led the Climate Prediction Center to let Californians down (and all of us, really) with its lowering of the El Niño odds? Bob Henson offers an excellent explanation in a blog post at Weather Underground. Here’s the gist of it, from his post: Although the tropical Pacific waters behaved as if a major El Niño was on tap, it seems the atmosphere didn’t get the message. Throughout 2014, the atmospheric component of El Niño failed to emerge consistently even as oceanic conditions appeared favorable….


Why should we care? Click on the thumbnail at right for a visual answer to that question.




California Still Needs 11 Trillion Gallons Of Water To End Its Drought

by Ryan Koronowski Posted on December 21, 2014

That’s 16 million olympic swimming pools, still needed even after a month of tropical jet stream moisture extreme enough to be dubbed an atmospheric river, #hellastorm, and the Pineapple Express…. December has been a wet month for California, as the “Pineapple Express,” a tropical atmospheric river of moisture barreling off the Pacific Ocean, brought inches of rain and punishing winds to West Coast residents. Downpours caused flash flood warnings, freeway closures, mudslides, and record monthly precipitation totals — achieved in one day. Even after such spectacular rain and snowfall — rare for drought-stricken California — it is going to take a lot more than that to get the state anywhere close to normal water levels. On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said that “two consecutive weeks of widespread heavy (7-day totals of 4 to 12 inches) precipitation, augmented by above-normal autumn precipitation,” not only flooded parts of California, but also provided it with “a foothold for drought recovery.”

However, “3 straight winters of subnormal precipitation will take time (possibly several consecutive wet winters) to fully recharge the reservoir levels and subsoil moisture back to normal.” The latest drought map shows how much progress California still needs to make to get out of its deep, three-year-long drought. One-hundred percent of the state is categorized as “abnormally dry,” with 98.4 percent in moderate drought or worse. Even with two weeks that saw inches of rain break local and daily records, more than 77 percent of the state is in “extreme drought.” “With several more months still left in the wet season, it is possible that additional storms similar to the ones that just occurred will continue to chip away at the long-term hydrological drought, and the addition of lower temperatures would help build the snow pack,” the drought summary concluded. “‘Cautious optimism, but still a long way to go’ would be the very short summary for this week’s California drought picture.”

….So how many gallons is that “long way to go” as the state hopes to fight back from the most severe drought of the last 1200 years? Last week, a team of scientists led by Jay Famiglietti of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory used satellite data to calculate for the first time ever that California would need 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from the punishing three-year drought. “Spaceborne and airborne measurements of Earth’s changing shape, surface height and gravity field now allow us to measure and analyze key features of droughts better than ever before, including determining precisely when they begin and end and what their magnitude is at any moment in time,” Famiglietti said. “That’s an incredible advance and something that would be impossible using only ground-based observations.” Every year since the start of the drought in 2011, four trillion gallons have disappeared from the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins, mostly due to agricultural tapping of groundwater supplies as reservoirs ran low. This is more than California’s residents consume annually for domestic and municipal purposes. Filling that 11 trillion gallon hole would take another three years.

The airborne data also revealed that previous estimates of Sierra Nevada snowpack were twice as high as they actually were. The recent Pineapple Express storms have pushed Sierra precipitation levels to 142 percent above normal. Yet the extended heat and drought, as well as the fact that too much of the recent precipitation has been rain rather than snow, has kept snowpack levels at 48 percent of what they should be….







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Western Drought Tops the List of 2014 Billion-Dollar Disasters in US

January 10, 2015 Accuweather

Of the eight different billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that occurred across the United States in 2014, the Western drought has been the most economically damaging, despite the silent nature of its stranglehold on one of the country’s most productive agricultural hubs.  “Even though California has been somewhat resilient [by utilizing groundwater for agriculture], the western drought will be the most expensive,” NOAA National Climatic Data Center Applied Climatologist Adam Smith said, adding that final assessments on the data are currently being conducted. ...







Adaptation, not mitigation, the realistic climate change debate

Peter Lee
The Australian
December 27, 2014 12:00AM

Lee is a lecturer in ethics and political theory at the University of Portsmouth in Britain and author of Truth Wars: The Politics of Climate Change, Military Intervention and Financial Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), out this month

Climate science Source: Supplied

CLIMATE scientists face an ethical choice: do they conform to established ethical standards of scientific practice or do they sacrifice those standards in favour of actions and statements that will be likelier to shape public opinion and climate policy in their preferred direction? For scientists there is no such thing as a balance between “being effective and being honest”; once scientific honesty is violated it damages trust to the extent that it can undermine any good intentions and negate anticipated effectiveness in the long run. Two philosophers of science, Silvio Funtowicz and Jerry Ravetz, challenged the rigid methodology and codes of science in framing what Ravetz calls ”the scheme of post-normal science”. The purpose of post-normal science, especially in environmental or climate studies, was to broaden the range of inputs into the policymaking process, so as to include not only accredited scientists and the rigid rules of science but also ”all the stakeholders in an issue” who, in turn, could ”deploy ‘extended facts’, including local and personal experience” and unconventional sources of information….

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the earlier Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summaries for policymakers present an apparently ethical ideal to the world that somehow enables the mitigation (reduction) of greenhouse gases, facilitates sustainable economic growth and eradicates poverty at the same time. The UNFCCC and IPCC approach appears to have been that if the ethical ideal of simultaneous sustainable growth and climate change mitigation and alleviating poverty is written and spoken of frequently enough it will somehow become real without ever having to identify or make the tough policy choices it demands. For when real-world political positioning is examined it becomes clear that an ethical illusion has being constructed and sustained through a lack of complete scientific honesty.

Political practicalities quickly emerge when the hard policy discussions begin and leaders conduct a cost–benefit analysis of climate change threat, mitigation and/or adaptation against every other economic, social, security, medical and educational concern they face — in both the short and long terms. …


This is an edited extract from Peter Lee’s Ethics and Climate Change Policy paper published this month by the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The full paper is at

2015: the year of climate adaptation

Eutsuk Lake wildfire burns through live and grey beetle-killed pine in Tweedsmuir North Provincial Park in the B.C. Cariboo, September 2013.

— image credit: B.C. Wildfire Management Branch

by  Tom Fletcher – BC Local News posted Dec 30, 2014 at 2:00 PM— updated Dec 30, 2014 at 3:05 PM

VICTORIA – It’s time to look beyond the protests and political battles around climate change that dominated 2014, and look at the year and the decade ahead.

From the California drought to shifting forest patterns across B.C., there is evidence that our climate is changing more rapidly. Public debate consists mainly of squabbling about the significance of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, rather than what can be done to prepare.A draft discussion paper from the B.C. forests ministry on wildfire control was released in December after an access to information request. “Climate Change Adaptation and Action Plan For Wildfire Management, 2014-2024” describes the progress made in the province’s community forest fire prevention plan, and its goal to create “wildfire resilient ecosystems and wildfire adapted communities” over the next 10 years.

The final discussion paper is to be released early in 2015, but the key research is in. It estimates that by 2017 there will be 788 million cubic metres of dead pine in B.C. forests. Fires in these areas spread 2.6 times faster than in healthy green stands, up to 66 metres per minute. The report calls for fuel management beyond community boundaries to stop “mega-fires” by creating landscape-level fuel breaks, with targeted harvesting, prescribed burning and new silviculture practices.

It notes that bark beetle infestations and bigger, hotter fires are being seen across North America, with costs rising along with urban development. For example, the 2011 Slave Lake fire in northern Alberta generated the second largest insurance charge in Canadian history. The costs of preparing are huge. The costs of not preparing could be catastrophic…..



Technology to recycle all type of plastics without using water

Posted: 04 Jan 2015 12:23 PM PST

Traditionally, plastic recycling processes involve using a lot of water. In order to avoid this waste, researchers have developed a new green technology that doesn’t require liquids, and has the capacity to process materials such as styrofoam, polystyrene and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) using the same type of customizable machinery.








President Barack Obama arriving at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla. TransCanada is the company vying for approval of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez

House Votes To Approve Keystone XL Pipeline — For The 10th Time

by Emily Atkin Posted on January 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm

The House of Representatives has voted 266-153 to pass legislation approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, marking the 10th time the lower house has OK’d construction of the controversial project. Friday’s vote precedes an upcoming Senate vote which will also likely approve the controversial pipeline, eventually sending the bill to President Obama’s desk.
The White House has already stated that Obama would veto the legislation. …With both chambers of the new Congress now controlled by Republicans, passing Keystone XL has become a priority. Indeed, Republican leaders have confirmed that it will be the first legislation sent to President Obama’s desk in 2015. The Center for Biological Diversity, a group opposed to pipeline construction, called the House’s latest approval vote “meaningless.”….


Gov. Jerry Brown seeks new green regulations in historic fourth term.

January 6, 2015 LA Times

In an inaugural address drawing on his family’s deep roots in California, Gov. Jerry Brown called for expansive new environmental regulations that would protect the state for future generations….By 2030, Brown wants California to derive 50% of its electricity from renewable sources, up from the goal of 33% by 2020. He also wants to double the energy efficiency of existing buildings and reduce by half the use of petroleum by cars and trucks.
Going on a wonky tangent in a speech otherwise characterized by generalities, Brown detailed possible innovations like “expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage” and others. The goals, which would help solidify Brown’s legacy as a green-minded politician, will likely be the target of heavy lobbying in the Capitol over the next few years. Oil companies have already been bitterly fighting regulations currently on the books. Environmental activists, however, have powerful allies of their own, including Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who was in the Capitol for Brown’s speech….

State Budget Proposal Outlines Aggressive Action on Climate Change and Sustainable Water Management

January 9, 2015 The Nature Conservancy, California

Governor Jerry Brown’s $113.2 billion general fund 2015‐16 state budget proposal continues California’s commitment to aggressive action on climate change and a more sustainable water management system. The budget proposal includes a $1 billion Cap and Trade Expenditure
Plan (using revenue generated by auctions) to reduce carbon pollution and help address the
escalating impacts of a changing climate around us. In addition, the budget proposal outlines
$533 million investments authorized by Proposition 1, the recently approved water bond, that
prioritize environmental restoration, resilience to our changing climate, and increasing the
reliability of our state’s water infrastructure system. “We are very pleased to see the Governor’s continued prioritization of natural resource programs that will reduce carbon pollution and help California address the impacts of climate change, ” said Louis Blumberg, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s California Climate Change Program. “The budget acknowledges that we cannot achieve the needed, ambitious emission reduction goals and prepare for climate change without conserving and restoring our forests and other landscapes.” “In his proposed budget, Governor Brown has signaled a continuing commitment to sustainable water management through the Administration’s Water Action Plan and early implementation of Proposition 1, the statewide water bond,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of Policy and External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy. “It is particularly important to see the Administration’s continued efforts to address widespread impacts of the on‐going drought in a comprehensive approach that recognizes the significant toll that the drought is causing to California wildlife, fisheries, and natural habitat.”


Sen. Barbara Boxer, state’s fearless fighter, won’t run again

By Carolyn Lochhead SF Chronicle Updated 8:13 pm, Thursday, January 8, 2015

WASHINGTON — From leading the famous charge of female House members up the Senate steps during the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to banging a frozen chicken on her Senate desk to denounce labeling frozen fowl as fresh, Barbara Boxer has been, in her words, a fighter. To her critics, “fighter” was a nice way of saying the California Democrat was a partisan prone to grandstanding. Over more than two decades, her aggressive tactics led to a Senate record of achievement few thought possible when the former Marin County supervisor and congresswoman won a surprise victory to what many predicted would be her only term….Speculation about Boxer’s future had been building since fall, first when it became apparent she wasn’t raising money for a 2016 campaign and then when Republicans won control of the Senate, costing Boxer her chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Boxer had used the job to push for climate-change legislation and other environmental causes. “Barbara Boxer has always been the senator who was almost so fearless in her determination she was almost reckless,” said longtime Democratic operator Hilary Rosen. “She would do anything to make her point, and I think her willingness to take those risks gave a lot of other people backbone.”



Climatologists Balk as Brazil Picks Skeptic for Key Post

By SIMON ROMERO NY Times January 6, 2015

The appointment comes as Brazil is seeking to assert leadership in global talks and as scientists are questioning the nation’s commitment to reducing deforestation.





Chitosan: Sustainable alternative for food packaging

Posted: 09 Jan 2015 05:46 AM PST

A material known as chitosan, made from crustacean shells, has been used to substitute petroleum by-products in food packaging. The environment is seriously affected by the use of food packaing: plastic bottles and films are present everywhere in our civilization and take between 100 and 400 years to degrade. So the quest for alternative materials to plastics produced from petroleum is an environmental priority.


Fracking in Ohio confirmed as cause of rare earthquake strong enough to be felt

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 03:24 PM PST

A new study links the March 2014 earthquakes in Poland Township, Ohio, to hydraulic fracturing that activated a previously unknown fault. The induced seismic sequence included a rare felt earthquake of magnitude 3.0, according to new research.


Wave energy integration costs should compare favorably to other energy sources

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 11:08 AM PST

A new analysis suggests that large-scale wave energy systems developed in the Pacific Northwest should be comparatively steady, dependable and able to be integrated into the overall energy grid at lower costs than some other forms of alternative energy, including wind power


The Eight Best Things To Happen To Renewable Energy In 2014

by Katie Valentine Posted on December 23, 2014

2014 brought us plenty of news to be unhappy about. Here are eight news stories to remind you that, at least for the renewable energy sector, this past year wasn’t so bad….


Cheap asphalt provides ‘green’ carbon capture

Posted: 07 Jan 2015 09:31 AM PST

Scientists have turned asphalt into an effective, environmentally friendly carbon-capture material for use at natural gas wellheads….





The King Tides are Here
San Francisco Bay NERR is once again working with the California King Tides Project to encourage people to photograph extreme high tides flooding landscapes they love. The dramatic and often beautiful images start conversations about how our coast will be affected by sea level rise and what we can do now to prepare. Upcoming dates for predicted king tides are December 21-23, January 19-21, and February 17-19. 


Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Resources and Workshop Presentations

CA Climate Commons, CA Landscape Conservation Cooperative

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (or TEK) refers to the evolving knowledge acquired by indigenous and local peoples over hundreds or thousands of years through direct contact with the environment. This knowledge is specific to a location and includes the relationships between plants, animals, natural phenomena, and the landscape that are used for lifeways, such as hunting, fishing, trapping, agriculture, and forestry. TEK is an accumulating body of knowledge, practice, and belief, that encompasses the world view of indigenous people which includes ecology, spirituality, human and animal relationships, and more. TEK has become increasingly recognized as being valuable for natural resource management, including adaptation to climate change. Below is a set of resources that were compiled for an LCC training workshop on traditional ecological knowledge held in Sacramento, CA in September 2014. You may also learn more about the workshop in this article.

Available Presentations:





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.



The Future of Wildlife in the San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Jan 14 2015   7:00 PM

David Brower Center  2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA  map

The San Francisco Bay Area is a dynamic and constantly changing environment. When the first humans settled here some 14,000 years ago, Columbia mammoths, camels, llamas, bison, dire wolves, and other animals of the late Pleistocene inhabited the plain that stretched westward from what is now San Francisco past the Farallon Islands. The creation of San Francisco Bay only 8,000 years ago brought with it the great flocks of geese and ducks and the run of Chinook salmon to the rivers and streams of the central valley. With Europeans came an era of extinctions, diminishment, and environmental degradation. At the same time hundreds of thousands of acres of land have been set aside as parks, preserves, and wildlife refuges; laws have been passed to protect species and whole environments; and animals once extinct in this area—tule elk, elephant seal, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, porpoises, and most recently a condor—have returned. To make things even more complicated people’s attitudes toward wildlife have been changing and wildlife habits have likewise been evolving. Malcolm Margolin worked with the artist Maya Lin on her exhibition documenting the history of environmental change, What Is Missing, now at the David Brower Center. Join Malcolm Margolin, Beth Pratt-Bergstrom, and Kirk Lombard in a discussion of how the Bay Area is changing, how peoples’ attitudes are shifting, and how wildlife is adapting. The hourlong program will be followed by a wine reception in the Hazel Wolf Gallery.

Free and open to the public, RSVP suggested; for more information and to RSVP visit David Brower Center:

CA Native Plant Society January 15-17, 2015 San Jose, CA

January 13-14 – Workshops and Field Trips; January 15-17 – General Sessions

Celebrate the progress made in conservation throughout the past 50 years, and contribute to goals and research for the future of California native plants! Registration is now open



Environmental Communication:  More Than a Message  January 28, 2015
Moss Landing Marine Laboratory
Even the strongest message won’t deliver itself! Learn how the pros plan their campaigns, measure their accomplishments, and do it even better next time. The More Than a Message training provides big concepts and practical tips you need to plan and carry out your effort.  Click here for more information.



The Western Section of The Wildlife Society 2015 Annual Meeting

January 26-30, 2015 — Vineyard Creek Hyatt, Santa Rosa, CA

Conservation through Collaboration

Click here for the 2015 Annual Meeting website.


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

APRIL 21-22, 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)


Climate Adaptation and Resilience Specialist

National Wildlife Federation Washington, DC

Online Application Available at:

The National Wildlife Federation is looking for a Climate Adaption and Resilience Specialist to work to achieve NWF’s conservation goals through promoting the incorporation of climate considerations into conservation and natural resource management, and in community resilience efforts. This position will be involved in developing and applying new and emerging approaches to climate change adaptation for ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, and in promoting the use of natural infrastructure approaches to reduce community risks from climate-related hazards. The Climate Adaptation and Resilience Specialist will provide organizational leadership and serve as manager on selected projects and programs, including a post-Hurricane Sandy coastal resilience project being carried out in collaboration with the State of New Jersey. The position will be responsible for providing needed technical, scientific, and policy analysis and advice through written products as well as oral presentations. The position will also be responsible for identifying and pursuing foundation and government funding opportunities.









Significant link between daily physical activity, vascular health

Posted: 31 Dec 2014 06:56 AM PST

As millions of Americans resolve to live healthier lives in 2015, research shows just how important diligent daily physical activity is. The researchers found that reducing daily physical activity for even a few days leads to decreases in the function of the inner lining of blood vessels in the legs of young, healthy subjects causing vascular dysfunction that can have prolonged effects.


Blueberries may help reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness

Posted: 08 Jan 2015 08:35 AM PST

Just one cup of blueberries per day could be the key to reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease.


More whole grains associated with lower early mortality, especially cardiovascular

Posted: 05 Jan 2015 09:58 AM PST

Eating more whole grains appears to be associated with reduced early mortality, especially deaths due to cardiovascular disease, but not cancer deaths, according to a new report.


Irreversible But Not Unstoppable: The Ghost Of Climate Change Yet To Come

by Joe Romm Posted on December 24, 2014 Updated: December 24, 2014

Unlike Scrooge, we don’t get a spirit to show us what the future holds if we don’t change our ways. That’s what we have science for….


New class of antibiotic found in dirt could prove resistant to resistance

By Rachel Feltman January 7 2015 Washington Post

With bacteria evolving to resist antibiotics faster than scientists can concoct new drugs, the fight against resistant infections in hospitals and food supplies is a tough battle to win. But a newly discovered antibiotic may prove irresistible to bacteria.

Every time an antibiotic is used, bacteria are getting to know it a little better. And eventually, they develop methods to fight it. But because of its unique method of action, this new antibiotic could keep working for longer than any other before bacteria even started to get wise — maybe even longer than 30 years. That’s the promise of a study published Wednesday in Nature. But the antibiotic, called Teixobactin, is still a couple years away from human trials, and at least four years away from your medicine cabinet. And unfortunately, it doesn’t treat some of the world’s nastiest bugs. But it could still make a huge impact on health. Along with his colleagues and the help of a biotech start-up called NovaBiotic Pharmaceuticals, Northeastern University professor Kim Lewis tapped into a largely unexplored treasure trove of new antimicrobials: The dirt. Dirt from a grassy field in Maine, to be specific.

Most microbiologists only ever work with around 1 percent of microbes — the ones that will grow politely in the lab. But the rest refuse to grow on traditional growth media, like petri dishes. But there are potential antibiotics all over the world being created by plants, fungi, and microorganisms. Lewis and his colleagues sandwiched soil between two semi-permeable membranes, effectively tricking soil microbes into growing in a “natural” environment that was actually a lab culture. Among the 10,000 organisms and 25 antibiotics they grew in this new type of culturing method  is Teixobactin. It successfully obliterated MRSA and drug-resistant TB in cell cultures and in mice, and did so without any signs that the bacteria might become resistant to it. And, importantly, it did so without killing the mice. ….


Report Shows That Headsets Reduce Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation

by Charlie Schick

A recent study by a UK consumers’ association reported that headsets tripled the amount of specifically absorbed radiation (SAR) to the head during cell phone use. The conclusion was that the wire of the headset acted as an antenna and channeled unshielded radiation to the head….Here are some sound solutions that can help minimize the EMR your phone emits:

  • Use your cell phone on speakerphone. While this is a great solution and I strongly recommend it, it’s simply not practical much of the time. Especially if you are in a public place where rules of discretion and proper etiquette prevail. Another problem is that not all cell phones have speakerphones — and even those that do may have poor sound quality. I do recommend that if you are choosing a new cell phone, make sure it comes with a speakerphone option.
  • Always keep your phone as far away from your body as possibleThere’s a dramatic drop-off in radiation exposure for every inch you keep your phone away from your body.  
  • Get yourself a Blue Tube Headset with an airtube. In my opinion, this new RF3 design with Aircom 2 technology is the best headset on the market. Others may actually increase the amount of radiation emitted.
  • Limit your cell phone use to the bare minimumYour cell phone is constantly searching for signals and emitting EMR while you’re using it.
  • Turn off your cell phone when not needed OR keep it a few feet away from your body.  Even when not in use, as long as your phone is turned on, it continually emits EMR as it connects to its base station.

More online resoucres:






















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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