Conservation Science News April 3, 2015

Focus of the Week California’s Extreme Drought










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Focus of the Week– California’s Extreme Drought





Dec-Feb 2014-2015 was California’s warmest winter on record by a wide margin. (NOAA/NCDC)

Weather West blog April 1, 2015

“In the meantime, there will be an official announcement later this afternoon that Sierra Nevada snowpack this year reached astonishingly low values–blowing past previous all-time record lows by a margin of at least 200-300%. Snowmelt runoff this year is projected to be near-zero — a first in California history.


Also… California’s record-warmest winter: Yet, despite all of this wild weather, the real headline in California continues to be the exceptionally warm conditions that have persisted now for well over a year. December-February 2014-2015 was officially California’s warmest winter on record by a wide margin. February 2015 was California’s singularly warmest February on record. All of this, of course, falls on the heels of the 2014 calendar year–which was California’s warmest calendar year (and 12-month period) on record. While I realize this is all starting to sound like a broken record, that’s precisely why it bears repeating: California (and most of its geographic subregions) have been breaking high temperature records almost continuously for most of the past two years. Even in an era of long-term global (and regional) warming, recent temperature trends in California have been extraordinary. I’ll have a more detailed post in the near future on the role of these extremely warm temperatures in worsening California’s ongoing extreme drought (and an increasing the risk of future droughts), but for now I’ll leave it at this: spring has already sprung in California, and winter never really showed up in the first place.


Lastly, Record Warmth in West from today’s news:

“Last Thursday brought the year’s first triple-digit temperature reading anywhere in the country when Death Valley, California, logged an official high of 101 degrees. Death Valley topped out a degree higher at 102 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, the high was 103 degrees, which ties the all-time record high there for the month of March. Then on Tuesday, Death Valley reached 104 degrees setting a new record for all-time March high temperature.”

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California drought: Sierra Nevada snowpack hits historic low

By Peter Fimrite Updated 6:32 am, Saturday, March 28, 2015

The abominable snowpack in the Sierra Nevada reached an unprecedented low this week, dipping below the historic lows in 1977 and 2014 for the driest winter in 65 years of record-keeping.
Electronic surveys show the water content of the snow throughout the Sierra is a shocking 8 percent of the historical average for this time of year, by far the driest it has been since 1950, the year record-keeping began, because of the lack of rain and snowfall and the exceedingly high temperatures. It is a troubling milestone that water resources officials say is bound to get even lower as the skies remain stubbornly blue. “It’s certainly sobering when you consider that the snowpack in a normal year provides about 30 percent of what California needs in the summer and fall,” said Doug Carlson, the spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. “What this suggests is that we will have very little water running off. It accentuates the severity of the drought and emphasizes the importance of people cutting back on their water use.” The department is planning to conduct its monthly snow survey on April 1, the date water resources officials use as a benchmark because it is when the snowpack normally begins to melt and fill up the state’s reservoirs. Meteorologists see nothing on the horizon that could pull the state out of its increasingly frightful drought.



A boat paddle is shown on the bottom of the nearly dry Almaden Reservoir near San Jose, California January 21, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

California governor orders 25 percent reduction in water usage statewide

PHILLIPS, Calif. | By Sharon Bernstein Wed Apr 1, 2015 7:03pm EDT (Reuters) – California Governor Jerry Brown, acting in the face of a devastating multiyear drought, ordered the first statewide mandatory water restrictions on Wednesday, directing cities and communities to reduce usage by 25 percent. The cutbacks, to be implemented by state and local water agencies, will affect consumers and businesses throughout the most populous U.S. state, but farmers, who are already making do with less water for irrigation, will be exempt. “We’re standing on dry ground and we should be standing on five feet (1.5 metres) of snow,” Brown said at a state snow monitoring station in the Sierra Nevada community of Phillips near Lake Tahoe, where dry grass lay limp on the ground.   “This is rationing,” said Brown, a four-term Democrat whose two non-consecutive stints in office have coincided with two of the state’s worst droughts on record. “We’re just doing it through the different water districts.” The governor said the move, which comes as California reports its lowest snowpack levels on record, would save some 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months. Brown said he was ordering that 50 million square feet (4.6 million square metres) of lawns across the state be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping and the creation of a consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with newer, more water-efficient models. Different parts of the state will have to reduce their water use more than others, because some have already cut way back, Brown said. Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state Water Resources Control Board, said regulators would not hesitate to issue fines of up to $10,000 per day to water districts that do not succeed in implementing the cutbacks. Many of the rules are still being developed, Marcus said, but among those already contained in the governor’s order are a ban on lawns in new housing unless drip or microspray systems are in place. Commercial, industrial and institutional property owners such as businesses and golf courses will be required to cut their own use of potable water for lawns by 25 percent, according to the governor’s order. He also ordered the agencies that supply the state’s vast agricultural sector with water for irrigation to develop detailed plans for managing water during the drought. Farmers will not be held to the 25 percent reduction, officials said, citing the toll the drought has already taken on their supplies of water for irrigation. Farmers have been deeply affected by the state’s moves to release less water than usual from reservoirs during the last three years of drought, as well as on-and-off restrictions on pumping from rivers and creeks.

Farmers were forced to fallow thousands of acres of cropland last year amid high prices for water and a reduction in the amount they were allowed to buy from state and federal water projects in the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. Farmers are expected to fallow hundreds of thousands of additional acres this year, and pull out trees and vineyards that are irrigation-dependent, California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross said in a conference call. Brown signed emergency legislation last week that fast-tracks over $1 billion in funding for drought relief and water infrastructure within the parched state. The proposed legislation would appropriate voter-approved bond funds to speed up water projects and programs and provide aid to struggling California cities and communities. Earlier in March, the Water Resources Control Board imposed new drought regulations, outlawing lawn watering within 48 hours of rain and prohibiting water from being served in restaurants unless a customer requests it. In California, the drought lingers despite storms that brought some respite in December and February. The storms helped fill some of the state’s reservoirs higher than they were at this time last year, but most still have less water than historical averages show is typical.



More on CA Drought below





A longtime resident of Truckee tends a small permitted burn used for clearing dead branches, pine needles, pine cones and other debris that could cause a fire to proactively protect his land as the fire season approaches March 27, 2015 in Truckee, Calif. Homes that are located within an area that may be affected by forest fires, such as his, are required to keep their land clear of dry debris that create fire hazard situations. Because of a small snow last week, the resident said that the ground was moist enough to allow for a permitted burn. Anyone wanting to burn who has a permit must also do so on a “burn day” designated by the county to regulate air quality. Pine trees across the state have been dying off by the thousands due to pine beetles that take advantage of their drought-stressed bodies. The small groupings and vast swaths of dead trees create an especially dangerous fire hazard in already parched conditions. The worst-hit area is in Southern California but the beetles and subsequent pine tree deaths are creeping north, with experts warning that the situation is on track to worsen.

Bark beetles ravaging drought-stricken forests in California

By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle March 28, 2015 Updated: March 28, 2015 7:12pm

Armies of tiny bark beetles are ravaging drought-weakened pine trees throughout California in a fast spreading epidemic that biologists fear could soon turn catastrophic. Local, state and federal officials are virtually helpless against the pestilence, which has turned hundreds of thousands of acres of forest brown and left huge fire-prone stands of dead wood. The trees are being devoured by millions of native beetles, each about the size of a grain of rice. The insects, thriving in the warm weather and lack of freezing temperatures, are overwhelming the defenses of water-starved trees, attacking in waves and multiplying at a frenzied pace, depositing eggs under the bark that hatch into ravenous larval grubs. “Things are looking really, really bad,” said Tom Smith, a forest pest management specialist for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “Basically we’ve got native bark beetles that are attacking the pines. They are only successful in attacking the trees when the trees are stressed. Right now all the trees are stressed because of drought.” The infected trees are on private and public lands, in national parks, wilderness areas and managed forests. There seems to be no solution short of removing the dead and dying trees and hoping against hope for rain and cold. The worst of it is in the southern part of the state, but pest management experts say the plague is moving north. Mount Diablo is one of the hardest hit areas in Northern California, where a forest of Coulter pine, also known as big-cone pine, has been devastated. Bill Miller, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, said close to 50 percent of a nearly 1-square-mile stand of Coulters on the north side of the mountain is dead or infested with beetles. “It’s a combination of these trees being stressed and a little weaker from drought, and the number of beetles that are there right now,” said Miller, who first noticed a line of dead trees on Meridian Ridge last spring and has watched helplessly as the marauding beetles have spread. “Conditions right now favor the development of beetles. We have a lot more susceptible trees and the beetles are making use of an opportunity.” Large numbers of dead pines have been reported in the forested hills above Clear Lake and in some areas of the Sierra around Lake Tahoe, but it is south of the Bay Area where the trees are really going into death throes. State forestry officials estimate that from 20 to 40 percent of the trees are dead or dying between Calaveras County and the Kings County area near Fresno, with entire hillside forests completely brown….



ForWarn map shows the median greenup dates for natural vegetation to help land managers anticipate and plan for the impacts of disturbances. Credit: Image courtesy of USDA Forest Service ? Southern Research Station

Researchers map seasonal greening in US forests, fields, and urban areas

March 31, 2015 Forest Service – Southern Research Station

Using the assessment tool ForWarn, U.S. Forest Service researchers can monitor the growth and development of vegetation that signals winter’s end and the awakening of a new growing season. Now these researchers have devised a way to more precisely characterize the beginning of seasonal greening, or “greenup,” and compare its timing with that of the 14 previous years. Such information helps land managers anticipate and plan for the impacts of disturbances such as weather events and insect pests.
Three maps detailing greenup in forests and grasslands, agricultural lands, and urban areas are now available online via ForWarn, which delivers weekly Land Surface Phenology (LSP) maps of seasonal vegetation growth and development detected by satellites, as well as national maps showing vegetation disturbances. “In contrast to field observations that track leaf emergence for particular species of trees or herbaceous plants, ForWarn’s LSP maps capture the response of the mixture of vegetation that can be seen from space,” explains William Hargrove, research ecologist from the Forest Service’s Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center. The researchers used nationwide satellite imagery collected between 2000 and 2013 to quantify the seasonal progression from dormancy to peak greenness using a common scale from 0 to 100 percent. They picked the median date associated with 20 percent greenup at each location as a common reference point signaling a clear launch of the growing season. The maps’ median greenup dates are particularly useful for managers of mainly deciduous forests, grasslands, and crops



Despite deforestation, the world is getting greener: scientists

By Alisa Tang Green | Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:02am EDT

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The world’s vegetation has expanded, adding nearly 4 billion tonnes of carbon to plants above ground in the decade since 2003, thanks to tree-planting in China, forest regrowth in former Soviet states and more lush savannas due to higher rainfall. Scientists analyzed 20 years of satellite data and found the increase in carbon, despite ongoing large-scale tropical deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia, according to research published on Monday in Nature Climate Change. Carbon flows between the world’s oceans, air and land. It is present in the atmosphere primarily as carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main climate-changing gas – and stored as carbon in trees. Through photosynthesis, trees convert carbon dioxide into the food they need to grow, locking the carbon in their wood. The 4-billion-tonne increase is minuscule compared to the 60 billion tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning and cement production over the same period, said Yi Liu, the study’s lead author and a scientist at the University of New South Wales….



Modeling groundwater to help farmers at home and abroad

Posted: 30 Mar 2015 02:38 PM PDT

Argentina might seem a long way to go for an environmental engineer seeking to better understand land use in Wisconsin. But there are some surprising parallels between the two countries’ histories of land use and ecohydrology that could help farmers and officials make better groundwater decisions…


Plowing prairies for grains: Biofuel crops replace grasslands nationwide, U.S. study shows

Posted: 02 Apr 2015 05:16 AM PDT

Clearing grasslands to make way for biofuels may seem counterproductive, but researchers show that crops, including the corn and soy commonly used for biofuels, expanded onto 7 million acres of new land in the U.S. over a recent four-year period, replacing millions of acres of grasslands….


Blackpoll warbler fitted with a miniaturized light-sensing geolocator on its back that enabled researchers to track their exact migration routes from eastern Canada and New England south toward wintering grounds. Credit: Vermont Center for Ecostudies

Tiny songbird discovered to migrate non-stop, 1,500 miles over the Atlantic

Posted: 31 Mar 2015 06:58 PM PDT

For the first time biologists report ‘irrefutable evidence’ that tiny blackpoll warblers complete a nonstop flight from about 1,410 to 1,721 miles (2,270 to 2,770 km) in just two to three days. For this work the scientists fitted geolocator packs on 20 birds in Vermont and 20 more in Nova Scotia. They were able to recapture three birds from the Vermont group and two from the Nova Scotia group for analyses….




The Gouldian finch was one of 977 species examined by UWM biologist Peter Dunn and his research partners in a worldwide study of the evolution of bird colors. This photograph shows a male. Credit: Photos by Peter Dunn

Sexual selection isn’t the last word on bird plumage

Posted: 27 Mar 2015 11:30 AM PDT

Evolutionary changes have led to both sexes becoming closer together in color over time to blend into their surroundings and hide from predators, a new study has found. In the world of bird fashion, the guys seem to have all the fun: brighter feathers, sharper accessories, more pizzazz.
Researchers going back to Charles Darwin have focused on the contrast between the sexes, attributing the males’ brighter colors to their need to attract mates.
A group of researchers at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee took a different approach, testing a hypothesis that evolution has actually resulted in similarities among the sexes as much as differences.
Looking at nearly 1,000 species of birds, they found that while males often have brighter feathers than females, the two sexes have come closer together in color over time to blend into their surroundings and hide from predators. Natural selection — during migration, breeding in subtropical locales and care of young — is as powerful as sexual selection.Although most studies of bird plumage focus on dichromatism, evolutionary change has most often led to similar, rather than different, plumage in males and females,” the authors write….



Mice sing just like birds, but we can’t hear them
(click on link for video)

By Rachel Feltman April 1 2015 Washington Post

It’s true: Mice actually sing, especially when they’re looking for a mate. That’s not anything new. But unlike birdsong, mouse-song is much too high-pitched for humans to hear. So no, it’s not exactly Cinderella-esque, as you can hear for yourself in the above video. But it is shockingly intricate. In a new study published Wednesday in Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience, researchers at Duke University took a new approach to analyzing mouse songs: They analyzed them the way scientists analyze bird songs. They looked for changes in the way mice string together syllables, hoping to analyze whether they used and responded to different songs in different situations.

Sure enough, male mice on the lookout for an unseen female (an illusion the researchers created by exposing them to female urine) gave loud, complex song performances. But once they were in a female’s presence, they simmered down. Females seemed to be more receptive to those first, more complex songs….



San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science Volume 13, Issue 1 | April 2015

Forecasting the Most Likely Status of Wild Salmon in the California Central Valley in 2100
Sierra E. Franks and Robert T. Lackey doi:

Three-Dimensional Modeling of Hydrodynamics and Salinity in the San Francisco Estuary:
An Evaluation of Model Accuracy, X2, and the Low-Salinity Zone

Michael L. MacWilliams, Aaron J. Bever, Edward S. Gross, Gerard S. Ketefian, and Wim Kimmerer doi: 

Modeling Tidal Freshwater Marsh Sustainability in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta Under a Broad Suite of Potential Scenarios
Kathleen M. Swanson, Judith Z. Drexler, Christopher C. Fuller, and David H. Schoellhamer doi:




Photo: Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle Cargill posted a sign at the site forbidding trespassing.


EPA finally steps in to look at the Redwood City salt ponds

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial March 28, 2015

One of the biggest and most contentious development projects in the Bay Area — a massive housing plan in Redwood City, right on the bay — has been in limbo for years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just ensured that the limbo is going to last quite a bit longer. Cargill, a food and agricultural products company, owns the site — more than 1,400 acres that it’s been using for industrial salt production. It’s been working with DMB Associates, an Arizona-based developer, to secure development permission for more than six years. Originally their plan was to develop a community of some 12,000 homes; they’ve scaled that back in the face of serious political and environmental opposition. The new plan has fewer homes, develops less acreage, and still comes with plenty of community amenities (wetland restoration, parks, hiking trails) to make it more palatable to development-averse Bay Area residents. But the continued resistance they’re meeting from Bay Area lawmakers, environmental groups, and now, the EPA — which just announced that it’ll scrutinize the site to see if it should be afforded protection under the Clean Water Act — reflects a hard truth. This simply isn’t a good site for housing development.

The EPA was at pains to tell us that it won’t be making that determination. “Our job is not to determine land use or zoning,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the local regional administrator for the EPA. “Our job is to come up with a scientifically based determination about the proper use of these waters.” Fair enough. But if the EPA determines that any of the property on the site falls under the protection of the Clean Water Act, that means the project will likely need special permits. That’s more review, more delay, and more possibility for an ultimate denial. Nor will the EPA process itself be easy — “We really wanted to make sure that this was done right, it’s a big site,” Blumenfeld said. “We want to make sure that there’s legal and scientific evidence for the public to see. And it has to withstand legal scrutiny.” The development group is understandably frustrated. This project has been in the works for years, and the feedback they need to proceed has been slow to arrive and confusing to sort out. “We simply want an answer,” said David Smith, an Oakland attorney who represents the project. “The process is supposed to take 60 days. It’s going on three years now.” The corps and the EPA have been at odds over which agency has jurisdiction over the site. The two agencies haven’t been completely transparent with either the developers or the public about what’s been going on with their reviews. There are politics involved — Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, sent a letter (also signed by the members of the Bay Area congressional delegation) last month expressing concern over who has the final jurisdiction over the project. It’s tough to look at this mess and not see some of the same problems — agonizing delays, public resistance, endless environmental reviews — that have unnecessarily plagued Bay Area housing development for decades. But while the process should’ve been clearer and smoother, it doesn’t change the facts on the ground. The site is a tidal plain. It’s located at sea level. It would require levees during a time of climate change. Developing the site would likely require infill or dredging in a delicate ecosystem that fronts the bay. The Bay Area has overwhelmingly moved away from doing development that disturbs the bay’s ecological needs — and just in time. Some 90 percent of the Bay’s historic tidal wetlands were lost during the 20th century. Instead, local governments are trying to shift development to central cities and near transit corridors. It’s healthier for the environment and for economic growth. We could go on and on. The point is this: the site’s review process is taking an unfortunately long time, but that’s because the site isn’t right.



Mountain lions in rare numbers in East Bay hills

By Peter Fimrite SF Chronicle March 29, 2015

An unusually high number of mountain lions have been seen roaming the Sunol hills and the researcher who discovered them is trying to figure out whether the remote parkland is a one-of-a-kind cougar gathering spot or a random crossroad for peripatetic pumas. At least nine pumas have been photographed within 4 miles of one another in the Sunol and Ohlone Regional Wilderness areas, a huge stretch of rolling hills and grasslands south of Livermore. That’s nine predators crowded in an area smaller than the size of a single male [territory]…. Steven Bobzien, an ecologist and the resident mountain lion expert for the East Bay Regional Park District, said that many pumas would not normally congregate on territory 10 times that size. “The mountain lion densities are really extraordinarily high,” Bobzien said as he climbed out of his truck on a brilliant sunny day recently to check his remote cameras for signs of more cougars. “It’s pretty phenomenal.” Mountain lions are hard to spot in the flesh, so Bobzien relies on remote cameras to do the lion’s share of his work.





Polar bear laying down to dry after a swim in the Chukchi sea. Credit: Brian Battaile

Polar bears unlikely to thrive on land-based foods

Posted: 01 Apr 2015 10:30 AM PDT

Polar bears, increasingly forced on shore due to sea ice loss, may be eating terrestrial foods including berries, birds and eggs, but any nutritional gains are limited to a few individuals and likely cannot compensate for lost opportunities to consume their traditional, lipid-rich prey — ice seals. “Although some polar bears may eat terrestrial foods, there is no evidence the behavior is widespread,” said Dr. Karyn Rode, lead author of the study and scientist with the USGS. “In the regions where terrestrial feeding by polar bears has been documented, polar bear body condition and survival rates have declined.“… The study found that fewer than 30 individual polar bears have been observed consuming bird eggs from any one population, which typically range from 900 to 2000 individuals. “There has been a fair bit of publicity about polar bears consuming bird eggs. However, this behavior is not yet common, and is unlikely to have population-level impacts on trends in body condition and survival,” said Rode. Few foods are as energetically dense as marine prey. Studies suggest that polar bears consume the highest lipid diet of any species, which provides all essential nutrients and is ideal for maximizing fat deposition and minimizing energetic requirements. Potential foods found in the terrestrial environment are dominated by high-protein, low-fat animals and vegetation. Polar bears are not physiologically suited to digest plants, and it would be difficult for them to ingest the volumes that would be required to support their large body size. “The reports of terrestrial feeding by polar bears provide important insights into the ecology of bears on land,” said Rode. “In this paper, we tried to put those observations into a broader context. Focused research will help us determine whether terrestrial foods could contribute to polar bear nutrition despite the physiological and nutritional limitations and the low availability of most terrestrial food resources. However, the evidence thus far suggests that increased consumption of terrestrial foods by polar bears is unlikely to offset declines in body condition and survival resulting from sea ice loss.”



Displaced polar bears will struggle for food, scientists say

Christian Science Monitor

 – ‎April 1, 2015‎


Forced onto solid ground by melting ice, polar bears are beginning to ditch seal meat for berries and bird eggs. But researchers fear this new diet is unsustainable….


Karyn D Rode, Charles T Robbins, Lynne Nelson, Steven C Amstrup. Can polar bears use terrestrial foods to offset lost ice-based hunting opportunities?
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 2015; 13 (3): 138 DOI: 10.1890/140202


Climate-related disruptions of marine ecosystems: Decades to destroy, millennia to recover

Posted: 30 Mar 2015 01:33 PM PDT

A new study reports that marine ecosystems can take thousands, rather than hundreds, of years to recover from climate-related upheavals. The study’s authors analyzed thousands of invertebrate fossils to show that ecosystem recovery from climate change and seawater deoxygenation might take place on a millennial scale.
A 30-foot-long core sample of Pacific Ocean seafloor is changing what we know about ocean resiliency in the face of rapidly changing climate. A new study reports that marine ecosystems can take thousands, rather than hundreds, of years to recover from climate-related upheavals. The study’s authors–including Peter Roopnarine, PhD, of the California Academy of Sciences–analyzed thousands of invertebrate fossils to show that ecosystem recovery from climate change and seawater deoxygenation might take place on a millennial scale. The revolutionary study is the first of its kind, and is published today in the Early Edition of the journal PNAS. The scientific collaborative–led by Sarah Moffitt, PhD, from the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory and Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute–analyzed more than 5,400 invertebrate fossils, from sea urchins to clams, within a sediment core from offshore Santa Barbara, California. “In this study, we used the past to forecast the future,” says Roopnarine, Academy curator of invertebrate zoology and geology. “Tracing changes in marine biodiversity during historical episodes of warming and cooling tells us what might happen in years to come. We don’t want to hear that ecosystems need thousands of years to recover from disruption, but it’s critical that we understand the global need to combat modern climate impacts.”.. Previous marine sediment studies reconstructing Earth’s climatic history rely heavily upon simple, single-celled organisms called Foraminifera. This week’s study explores multicellular life–in the form of invertebrates–in pursuit of a more complete picture of ocean ecosystem resilience during past periods of climate change. “The complexity and diversity of a community depends on how much energy is available,” says Roopnarine. “To truly understand the health of an ecosystem and the food webs within, we have to look at the simple and small as well as the complex. In this case, marine invertebrates give us a better understanding of the health of ecosystems as a whole.”… The study results suggest that future periods of global climate change may result in similar ecosystem-level effects with millennial-scale recovery periods. As the planet warms, scientists expect to see much larger areas of low-oxygen “dead zones” in the world’s oceans. “Folks in Oregon and along the Gulf of Mexico are all-too-familiar with the devastating impacts of low-oxygen ocean conditions on local ecosystems and economies,” says Roopnarine. “We must explore how ocean floor communities respond to upheaval as we adapt to a ‘new normal’ of rapid climate change. We humans have to think carefully about the planet we are leaving for future generations.”

Sarah E. Moffitt, Tessa M. Hill, Peter D. Roopnarine, and James P. Kennett. Response of seafloor ecosystems to abrupt global climate change. PNAS, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1417130112


Oxygen-depleted toxic oceans had key role in mass extinction over 200 million years ago

Posted: 01 Apr 2015 05:40 AM PDT

Changes in the biochemical balance of the ocean were a crucial factor in the end-Triassic mass extinction, during which half of all plant, animal and marine life on Earth perished, according to new research.


Soil organic matter susceptible to climate change

March 31, 2015 DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Soil organic matter, long thought to be a semi-permanent storehouse for ancient carbon, may be much more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought. Plants direct between 40 percent and 60 percent of photosynthetically fixed carbon to their roots and much of this carbon is secreted and then taken up by root-associated soil microorganisms. Elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere are projected to increase the quantity and alter the composition of root secretions released into the soil.
In new research in the March 30 edition of the journal, Nature Climate Change, Lawrence Livermore scientists and collaborators found that the common root secretion, oxalic acid, can promote soil carbon loss by an unconventional mechanism — freeing organic compounds from protective associations with minerals.

Root secretion-induced soil carbon loss is commonly attributed to “priming” — a short-term increase in microbial mineralization of native soil carbon as a result of fresh carbon inputs to the soil.
Previous studies have suggested that climate change enhances root secretions of organic compounds into soils. Recent experimental studies show that increased root secretion inputs may cause a net loss of soil carbon This stimulation of microbial carbon mineralization, or “priming,” is commonly explained by the notion of ‘cometabolism’, i.e. that root secretions provide a readily bioavailable supply of energy for the decomposition of native soil carbon.

“Our Lawrence Scholar Marco Keiluweit showed that an alternate mechanism can cause carbon loss of equal or greater magnitude,” said Jennifer Pett-Ridge, an LLNL scientist and one of the co-authors on the paper. “By enhancing microbial access to previously mineral-protected compounds, some root secretions promote an indirect mechanism of accelerated carbon loss, more than simply increasing the supply of energetically more favorable substrates. “Our results provide new insights into the coupled biotic-abiotic mechanisms underlying the ‘priming’ phenomenon and challenge the assumption that mineral-associated carbon is protected from microbial cycling over millennial timescales,” she said. “Our study revealed a climate dependent `priming’ mechanism where plant secretions counteract the strong protective mineral-organic associations and facilitate the loss of carbon from the soil system,” Pett-Ridge said. “If root secretion rates respond to climate change as predicted, elevated CO2 concentrations may not only stimulate secretion, they also may alter the composition of those secreted compounds released into soil, and increase metal and organic matter mobilization in the rooting zone.”


Marco Keiluweit, Jeremy J. Bougoure, Peter S. Nico, Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Peter K. Weber, Markus Kleber. Mineral protection of soil carbon counteracted by root exudates. Nature Climate Change, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2580



Deforestation is messing with our weather, and our food

Posted: 01 Apr 2015 01:16 PM PDT

Insight into how large-scale deforestation could impact global food production by triggering changes in local climate has been gained by new research. In the study, researchers from the United States and China zero in on albedo (the amount of the sun’s radiation reflected from Earth’s surface) and evapotranspiration (the transport of water into the atmosphere from soil, vegetation, and other surfaces) as the primary drivers of changes in local temperature…Agriculture–specifically, converting forest cover to plantations for oil palm, soy, rubber, coffee, tea, rice, and many other crops–is widely believed to be one of the main causes of deforestation. Such change in land cover could drive a rise or fall in local temperature by as much as a few degrees. This kind of fluctuation could substantially impact yields of crops that are highly susceptible to specific climate conditions, resulting in harvests that are less productive and less profitable.

The authors say it underscores the need for a holistic understanding of forestry activities on local climate. They point out that while local impacts of forest cover change are some of the most relevant for management practices, they’re also the most poorly understood. The path to understanding these local impacts, the researchers say, is through albedo and evapotranspiration. Forests have a darker surface than, for example, an agricultural field–forests therefore have a lower albedo, which means less solar radiation is reflected and more is absorbed. This phenomenon causes warming. On the other hand, forests absorb more rainwater and transpire it as water vapor later. This phenomenon, called evapotranspiration, causes cooling….As rates of deforestation climb and shifts in local climate become more pronounced, the need to understand the relationship between forest cover change and temperature will become more urgent. We have already lost 130 million hectares–an area roughly equivalent to twice the size of France–of the world’s forests just in the past decade, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The more forests we clear, the more we increase risks for food production due to changes in temperature.


Yan Li, Maosheng Zhao, Safa Motesharrei, Qiaozhen Mu, Eugenia Kalnay, Shuangcheng Li. Local cooling and warming effects of forests based on satellite observations. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 6603 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7603


Study takes aim at mitigating the human impact on the Central Valley, California

Posted: 27 Mar 2015 10:22 AM PDT

Study of California’s Central Valley shows that as temperature-mitigating technologies are deployed, other environmental factors like pollution become a concern. As more people move to different regions of the country it will require planners to use as many tools as they can to develop urban areas that satisfy population demands and not over burden the environment. A new study from Arizona State University (ASU) details some of the dynamics at play as one region of the country, the Central Valley of California, braces for substantial population growth and all it entails. The study, based on computer simulations using the ASU Advanced Computing Center, of rural to urban land conversion shows that as areas of California grow and develop the resulting built environment could generate additional heat (called the urban heat island, or UHI). But UHI can be mitigated using new technologies and the latest in sustainable design techniques, said Matei Georgescu, the author of “Challenges associated with adaptation to future urban expansion,” which appears in the April 1, 2015 issue of the Journal of Climate. Finding the right combinations of technologies and techniques will be key.This research examines for the first time, climate impacts for rapidly expanding urban areas within California exclusively due to anticipated conversion of existing landforms to the built environment, such as variable density residential dwellings and commercial infrastructure,” said Georgescu, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and author of the study. “In addition, commonly proposed urban climate adaptation strategies are examined to assess their efficacy in mitigating urban induced warmth,” he explained. “Given that decisions about future land use change in this potentially heavily populated area have yet to be made, it is critical to understand environmental consequences of such development pathways prior to their taking place.” Georgescu focused his study on the Central Valley area of California, a large inland area that ranges from Redding to the north to past Bakersfield to the south. The region encompasses some 22,500 square miles and currently is the country’s richest agricultural area. It also is the fastest growing region of California and is expected to add 5 million people by the year 2060 and millions more by 2100….

The focus of the study was on those regions of California projected to undergo the greatest conversion to urban land use and covers,” said Georgescu, who also is a senior sustainability scientist at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. “Modification of large swaths of existing California landscapes to urban areas raises regional climate concerns for future residents.” What Georgescu found was that as the state deploys temperature-mitigating technologies there are secondary effects that appear to take place — less daytime air turbulence — which could lead to higher concentrations of pollutants. “This finding shows that as temperature mitigating technologies of the sort investigated in this research are deployed, they considerably reduce daytime air turbulence, and therefore identical future emissions of pollutants [e.g., particulate matter (PM)] will be confined to a smaller volume, decreasing perceivable air quality,” added Georgescu. The research shows that future environmentally sensitive development will need to rely on incorporating clean energy technologies that limit emissions, Georgescu said. For example, the impact of more efficient transit and transportation systems with decreased PM emissions are likely to play important roles in terms of actual air quality impacts. He added that a principal take home message of this work is the significance of such urban adaptation strategies extending beyond just near-surface temperature impacts, since humans must breathe this modified air. “The bulk of the UHI effect occurs due to reduced loss of energy from the urban infrastructure during nighttime hours,” Georgescu said. “The strategies explored in this work and those that are widely considered today as reasonable and practical choices illustrate much greater capability to reduce daytime temperatures, but exhibit little effects during the nighttime hours, when reduction of the UHI is required most. Consequently, common urban adaptation approaches do not directly tackle the effects of the UHI.” “So, orientation of buildings and preferred landscape configurations that permit long-wave radiation loss during nighttime hours and directly target impacts associated with urban expansion are critical to examine further,” he added.



M. Georgescu. Challenges associated with adaptation to future urban expansion. Journal of Climate, 2014; 141210105735004 DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00290.1



Climate sensitivity is unlikely to be less than 2C, say scientists

Posted on 2 April 2015 by Guest Author This is a re-post from Roz Pidcock at Carbon Brief

Does the fact that surface temperatures are rising slower than in previous decades mean scientists have overestimated how sensitive the Earth’s climate is to greenhouse gases? It’s a question that’s popped up in the media from time to time. And the short answer is probably no, according to a new paper in Nature Climate Change. Using temperature data up to 2011, the authors work out a value of climate sensitivity of 2.5C, comfortably within the range where scientists have suggested the ‘real’ value lies. Questions about climate sensitivity are complicated, and won’t be solved by any single bit of research. But the new paper seems to contribute to a growing confidence among scientists that climate sensitivity is unlikely to be less than 2C.

A lower limit

Equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) is the warming we can expect per doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide above pre-industrial levels. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated the value is likely to lie between 1.5 and 4.5C. This marked a change from previous reports, which put the lower boundary at 2C. The new paper says lowering of the limit was partly “an effect of considering observations over the warming hiatus”. This refers to the last 15 years or so in which surface temperatures have risen slower than in past decades, even though we’re emitting greenhouse gases faster….



Research links two millennia of cyclones, floods, El Niño

Posted: 30 Mar 2015 01:24 PM PDT

Scientists have created a 2,200-year-long record of extreme rainfall events that might also help predict future climate change.



Climate change does not cause extreme winters, experts say

Posted: 27 Mar 2015 10:22 AM PDT

Cold snaps like the ones that hit the eastern United States in the past winters are not a consequence of climate change. Scientists have now shown that global warming actually tends to reduce temperature variability….It has been argued that the amplified warming of the Arctic relative to lower latitudes in recent decades has weakened the polar jet stream, a strong wind current several kilometres high in the atmosphere driven by temperature differences between the warm tropics and cold polar regions. One hypothesis is that a weaker jet stream may become more wavy, leading to greater fluctuations in temperature in mid-latitudes. Through a wavier jet stream, it has been suggested, amplified Arctic warming may have contributed to the cold snaps that hit the eastern United States. Scientists at ETH Zurich and at the California Institute of Technology, led by Tapio Schneider, professor of climate dynamics at ETH Zurich, have come to a different conclusion. They used climate simulations and theoretical arguments to show that in most places, the range of temperature fluctuations will decrease as the climate warms. So not only will cold snaps become rarer simply because the climate is warming. Additionally, their frequency will be reduced because fluctuations about the warming mean temperature also become smaller, the scientists wrote in the latest issue of the Journal of Climate….


Tapio Schneider, Tobias Bischoff, Hanna Płotka. Physics of Changes in Synoptic Midlatitude Temperature Variability. Journal of Climate, 2015; 28 (6): 2312 DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00632.1



A hypothesis about the cold winter in eastern North America

stefan @ 30 March 2015 climate science from climate scientists

The past winter was globally the warmest on record. At the same time it set a new cold record in the subpolar North Atlantic – and it was very cold in the eastern parts of North America. Are these things related? Two weeks ago NOAA published the following map of temperature anomalies for the past December-January-February (i.e. the Northern Hemisphere winter). One week ago, we published a paper in Nature Climate Change (which had been in the works for a few years) arguing that the cold in the subpolar North Atlantic is indicative of an AMOC slowdown (as discussed in my last post). Immediately our readers started to ask (as we indeed had been asking ourselves): does the cold winter in eastern North America (culminating in the Inhofe snowball incident) have anything to do with what is going on in the Atlantic? Here is a hypothesis for how they may indeed be linked. This is somewhat speculative – I have not investigated this with any special data analysis, I am just connecting the dots of some articles in the published literature, hoping this post might stimulate further investigation. The proposed mechanism has three simple steps, as follows…..


Study lists Alaska climate change winners

Posted: March 30, 2015 – 12:01am THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

ANCHORAGE — Some northwest Alaska bird species could benefit from climate change but increased temperatures could harm populations of several mammals, a federal study has concluded.More shrubs and trees and less tundra could help tree-dwellers such as northern goshawks, according to the study, which predicted changes in boreal and Arctic habitats used by 162 bird species and 39 land mammals in northwest Alaska. But rising temperatures and other trends could harm species that need open space, that feed on lichens, or that use coast or river habitats, the Alaska Dispatch News reported. The study projects spruce, birch and aspen forests to move north and areas of tall willows to expand.That favors some species of raptors, woodpeckers, songbirds, porcupine, black bears,” said lead author Bruce Marcot, a research wildlife biologist at the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station. “It’ll also create habitat for some of the large ungulates, especially moose,” he said. The thaw of permafrost, lake shrinkage, coastal erosion, vegetation transformations, more wildfires and other changes will diminish habitat for migratory waterfowl such as tundra swans and greater white-fronted geese, according to the study. Caribou, which feed on lichens and moss and roam huge expanses of tundra, could be hurt, the study concluded. The study uses three scenarios to predict the bird and mammal habitat outcomes. The most conservative scenario simply projects changes already seen in the past 30 years. Under that scenario, about half the bird species will experience habitat increases and about half will experience habitat decline, while 62 percent of the mammal species will see habitat decline. Habitat changes are project to have ripple effects. Expansion of trees would draw more moose, which would attract more wolves, which could prey on Dall sheep, Marcot said. Habitat of small burrowing animals such as shrews and voles would get topped by tall shrubs, resulting in less prey for some raptors and carnivores, Marcot said. The study was published last month in the journal Climatic Change.




Temperature anomalies in Antarctica on March 24, 2015.

Antarctica may have just set its highest temperature on record

By Andrew Freeman, March 28, 2015

Antarctica, Earth’s coldest, most barren continent, may have just set a remarkably unusual weather record. An Argentinian research station on the rapidly warming Antarctic Peninsula recorded a high temperature of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit (17.5 degrees Celsius) on March 24, according to reports from Weather Underground. If this is investigated and verified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), it could become the highest temperature on record for the entire continent of Antarctica. The warmth at the Esperanza research station came one day after a nearly identical high temperature was logged at another Argentinean base, known as Base Marambio, also located along the Antarctic Peninsula. Interestingly, the mild conditions occurred during the Antarctic fall, not the height of summer. Both of these readings are the warmest temperatures on record for those locations, and as weather historian Christopher Burt writes at Weather Underground, the Esperanza high temperature exceeds any high temperature reading on either the Peninsula or the Antarctic landmass in general. Data at Esperanza extends back to 1945.




A USC team grew sea urchins in a lab, exposed them to an increasingly acidic ocean, and monitored their metabolisms. They found that urchins can work more than twice as hard to maintain basic life functions and growth in a changing environment. Mae Ryan/KPCC Audio from this story 1:05 Listen

USC study finds urchins work overtime to cope with rising ocean acidity

Molly Peterson SCPR LA March 30, 01:00 PM

Marine scientists at the University of Southern California have found sea urchins work overtime to cope with the effects of climate change. An article published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers glimpse into how living organisms can evolve to handle environmental stress, particularly from oceans made more acidic by carbon dioxide and higher temperatures. The USC team was led by Donal Manahan, a professor of biological sciences in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. As humans pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the world’s oceans are absorbing much of it, making seawater more acidic. Marine scientists study urchins to understand how life responds to the changing chemistry of the ocean. In a special lab on Catalina Island, USC researchers grew sea urchins and subjected some of them to ocean acidity levels predicted by the end of the century. A second group grew in regular seawater.  They found urchins living in acidic waters need to work harder at a basic life function – growing and rebuilding cells by processing protein. Manahan and his team found that urchins are working a little more than twice as hard – leaving less energy to fight other environmental stressors like disease and pollution.  Manahan says that the researchers learned new things about how sea urchins synthesize and process the protein ATP — adenosine triphosphate — which is a basic building block for life.
“If you have a lot of stress to deal with you do it very quickly. And if you don’t, you do it more slowly,” Manahan says.
The discovery came as Manahan and his team studied the metabolic budget for urchins raised in tanks whose chemistry mimics what the oceans could look like at the end of this century.
He says to imagine a metabolic budget like a household budget, and protein turnover, a basic expenditure of energy necessary to life, is like your rent.
Essentially, added stresses from climate change are raising the rent for sea urchins. Urchins he studied were able to keep paying the rent – that is, regulating ions in cells and synthesizing protein – even as the amount of energy it took for those processes more than doubled from 40% to 84% of the creature’s metabolic budget.
But Manahan says that leaves little energy for dealing with other potential stresses




To slow global warming, we could blight every landscape with biofuel crops and wind turbines. But what about wildlife today? Credit Illustration by Oliver Munday

Carbon Capture

Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?

By Jonathan Franzen New Yorker April 6 2015

Last September, as someone who cares more about birds than the next man, I was following the story of the new stadium that the Twin Cities are building for their football Vikings. The stadium’s glass walls were expected to kill thousands of birds every year, and local bird-lovers had asked its sponsors to use a specially patterned glass to reduce collisions; the glass would have raised the stadium’s cost by one tenth of one per cent, and the sponsors had balked. Around the same time, the National Audubon Society issued a press release declaring climate change “the greatest threat” to American birds and warning that “nearly half ” of North America’s bird species were at risk of losing their habitats by 2080. Audubon’s announcement was credulously retransmitted by national and local media, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, whose blogger on bird-related subjects, Jim Williams, drew the inevitable inference: Why argue about stadium glass when the real threat to birds was climate change? In comparison, Williams said, a few thousand bird deaths would be “nothing.”….



CREDIT: National Audubon Society

The Corrections: Jonathan Franzen’s Deeply Irresponsible Climate Change Article

by Joe Romm Posted on April 1, 2015 at 11:57 am Updated: April 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm

The New Yorker has published one of the most bird-brained and hypocritical climate articles ever, “Carbon Capture: Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?” Quick answer: No!
Awareness of and action on climate change are entirely about conservation — conserving a livable climate for humans and all other species. Aggressive climate action now would be an immediate boon to the overwhelming majority of living things, although I do think some tropical diseases, jelly fish, pests and other invasive species might lose out
. But the New Yorker and the blinkered author of this piece, one Jonathan Franzen, actually would like to “preserve nature at potential human expense.” Franzen frames our choice this way: “The Earth as we now know it resembles a patient whose terminal cancer we can choose to treat either with disfiguring aggression or with palliation and sympathy.” In the distorted “through the looking glass” view of this piece, sharply reducing most air pollution ASAP would be “disfiguring” while the most sympathetic approach is allowing us to destroy a livable climate capable of sustaining a multi-billion human population and most existing species! And yes, Franzen actually argues that destroying a livable climate irreversibly will allow us to focus on preserving nature temporarily. There is zero chance the New Yorker would publish such easily-debunked nonsense if its author were anyone other than Jonathan Franzen, a fiction writer of some acclaim, with several popular books rated 3 stars on Amazon. But as I came to learn — and as the New Yorker should have known — his entire essay is a stunning exercise in hypocrisy. Franzen is a bird lover, of sorts. A 2012 Slate headline explained, “Jonathan Franzen Is the World’s Most Annoying Bird-Watcher.” How annoying? The New Yorker piece begins with an extended attack on the Audubon Society and its recent report on Climate Change. Franzen argues that somehow this is a distraction from Audubon’s main mission of bird conservation. Yet Franzen’s palliative “give up” approach to climate change would doom a large fraction of bird species to extinction. And, as we will see, Franzen is on the board of a different bird conservation group that argues climate action is essential to bird conservation. David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, called Franzen’s entire analysis “Woody Allen-esque” and “out of touch with reality.”…. The press release did warn that nearly half of species were at risk of losing much of their habitat. As an aside, I’m reasonably confident that the impact of climate change on birds would be far worse than that over the next hundred years if we adopted Franzen’s “it’s hopeless” posture. If coastal wetlands are inundated, and much of the best land in this country turns into a near-permanent dustbowl, and forest fires increase multi-fold, and temperatures rise some 9°F, I don’t see most birds doing very well. Humans won’t do well either, but that simply isn’t Franzen’s concern. I digress. How did Audubon’s peer-reviewed report help make Franzen miserable? “What upset me was how a dire prophecy like Audubon’s could lead to indifference toward birds in the present,” he wrote. Seriously! This is NOT an April Fool’s piece. In his next piece, Franzen will argue the Surgeon General’s dire science-based prophecy that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health could lead smokers to indifference toward obeying traffic lights because, like, why bother? Yarnold explained to me that Audubon — and its 1 million members and the 4 million people it reaches through its publications — were fully capable of helping birds in the short term and long term: “Audubon’s members can chew gum and walk at the same time.” Indeed, Yarnold explains that the message of the report — and Audubon’s overall message — is “we have to protect the places birds need now and reduce the emissions causing climate change” that will destroy the places birds need in the future. Yarnold explained that “our members say this report has energized them,” to work on both bird conservation and climate change. “Members say this has localized and personalized the issue” of climate change….

Here is where things get very hypocritical — because there’s something much worse than the New Yorker not mentioning Franzen is on the board of ABC. Franzen never mentions that the conservation-focused bird group he is on the Board of … wait for it … also has a major effort to combat climate change! Indeed, ABC’s webpage devoted to “Threats to Birds – Global Warming” explains that “ABC has conducted research in conjunction with partners to ascertain what the ongoing and potential future threats are to birds from rising global temperatures, and has published reports detailing the concerns that have been revealed.”So while Franzen trashes Audubon for supposedly focusing on climate change at the expense of focusing on conservation, ABC argues on its website that the two are inextricable: “Because of the complex and global nature of this phenomenon, it falls under all three aspects of ABC’s conservation framework: Safeguarding the Rarest, Conserving Habitats, and Eliminating Threats.” Franzen attacks Audubon for offering a “Climate Action Pledge,” which he complains “was long and detailed and included things like replacing your incandescent light bulbs with lower-wattage alternatives.” That makes little sense to Franzen since according to him we’re doomed: The dangers of carbon pollution today are far greater than those of DDT, and climate change may indeed be, as the National Audubon Society says, the foremost long-term threat to birds. But I already know that we can’t prevent global warming by changing our light bulbs. I still want to do something. Let’s set aside the fact Franzen never says what he wants to do other than convince people there’s nothing anybody can do. The amazing thing is that the organization on whose board he sits, ABC, has a report on its website, “The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Global Warming,” which explains the solution to global warming is to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” It has a section explaining “10 Steps You Can Take To Combat Global Warming–Save Energy and Money While Protecting the Environment!” which helpfully points out: “When you need to replace the light bulbs in your home, buy compact fluorescent bulbs, which reduce energy use by up to 75%.” Go figure. While Franzen is a notable writer, he apparently isn’t much of a reader. As Yarnold notes, “Franzen clearly did not read our report.” I would add it’s even clearer that Franzen doesn’t read either the website or the reports of ABC, a group he in theory helps govern. Finally, it’s dismaying to see Franzen whine that climate action requires we “blight every landscape with biofuel agriculture, solar farms, and wind turbines.” It’s climate inaction that will blight every landscape. And yes, Franzen brings up the hoary complaint about wind turbines killing birds. What about the vastly larger number of birds that are killed by fossil fuels?

How many birds are killed each year by different fuel sources. CREDIT: U.S. News & World Report

In case you were wondering, Franzen does hate the greatest of all bird-killers. He has written that cats are “the sociopaths of the pet world, a species domesticated as an evil necessary for the control of rodents and subsequently fetishized the way unhappy countries fetishize their militaries.” No visits to “” for him. Franzen has birds on his brain. In the opening sentence, he describes himself as “someone who cares more about birds than the next man.” That turns out to be literally true. He apparently cares more about birds than homo sapiens….


Jonathan Franzen questions ‘overriding priority’ of climate change

The Corrections author accepts its urgency but confesses to ‘caring more about birds in the present than people in the future’

Alison Flood The Guardian.UK Wednesday 1 April 2015 08.10 EDT Last modified on Wednesday 1 April 2015 08.12 EDT

Bird-lover and novelist Jonathan Franzen, a longstanding environmentalist, has said that he is “miserably conflicted” about climate change, and that its “supremacy as the environmental issue of our time” makes him “feel selfish for caring more about birds in the present than about people in the future”. Writing in the new issue of the New Yorker, where he describes himself as “someone who cares more about birds than the next man”, the award-winning author of The Corrections and Freedom recounts how, last autumn, the glass walls of a new football stadium were expected to kill thousands of birds every year, and how “local bird-lovers had asked its sponsors to use a specially-patterned glass to reduce collisions; the glass would have raised the stadium’s cost by one tenth of one per cent, and the sponsors had balked”. But a report from the National Audubon Society, wrote Franzen, declared climate change “the greatest threat” to American birds. “And so I came to feel miserably conflicted about climate change. I accepted its supremacy as the environmental issue of our time, but I felt bullied by its dominance,” he writes. “Not only did it make every grocery-store run a guilt trip; it made me feel selfish for caring more about birds in the present than about people in the future. What were the eagles and the condors killed by wind turbines compared with the impact of rising sea levels on poor nations?”

Franzen, who is involved with American Bird Conservancy, goes on to say that it is not that we should not care about climate change, but that “the question is whether everyone who cares about the environment is obliged to make climate the overriding priority”…Detailing his visits to Peru, to see the work of the Amazon Conservation Association, and to Costa Rica, to meet the people behind the Área Conservación de Guanacaste, Franzen claimed that “as long as mitigating climate change trumps all other environmental concerns, no landscape on earth is safe. Only an appreciation of nature as a collection of specific threatened habitats, rather than as an abstract thing that is ‘dying’, can avert the complete denaturing of the world,” he writes, describing the Earth today as resembling “a patient whose terminal cancer we can choose to treat either with disfiguring aggression or with palliation and sympathy.” “We can dam every river and blight every landscape with biofuel agriculture, solar farms, and wind turbines, to buy some extra years of moderated warming. Or we can settle for a shorter life of higher quality, protecting the areas where wild animals and plants are hanging on, at the cost of slightly hastening the human catastrophe. One advantage of the latter approach is that, if a miracle cure like fusion energy should come along, there might still be some intact ecosystems for it to save,” he says.







No denial about [CA water] crisis

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial April 2, 2015

Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping executive order Wednesday requiring mandatory 25 percent cutbacks on urban and industrial water use is another welcome step toward what Californians must do — learn to live with drought. Whether drought abates this year or in the next 10 years, California must use its water more efficiently now. Drought is a recurring event in California’s climate, yet our water use policies have not truly acknowledged that reality. Thinking began to change though with the 1987-92 drought, and took a big leap forward with passage of the landmark groundwater law last year that declared that groundwater use was unsustainable and outlined steps to measure, monitor and reduce reliance on it. When the governor declared a water state of emergency last year, he laid the groundwork for this week’s unprecedented mandatory rationing. It’s time for Californians to drop the myths about water use that we tell themselves to avoid taking action — time to end the north vs. south, coast vs. valley, fish vs. farm water wars. The governor’s order is solutions-oriented, requiring more frequent and more detailed reporting from water agencies to spot water waste and illegal water diversions. It demands more detailed management plans for, and closer monitoring of, agricultural water use and offers technical assistance for smaller districts lacking the expertise or will to do so. We won’t know we’ve reduced use until we know how much we are using, and how much water we are returning to rivers as treated water and runoff. Here’s an opportunity for our vaunted innovators to join in the water-saving efforts. The order does leave local water agencies to carry the big stick in enforcing cutbacks and fining water wasters; it’s not clear whether that will result in unjust treatment in poorer communities as water rates rise. The order doesn’t clearly prioritize water for the environment, a necessary ingredient for a healthy economy. But it sets the state on a long overdue course toward more sustainable water use. Californians should embrace it.



Governor Brown Directs First Ever Statewide
Mandatory Water Reductions 
(Pdf, from governor’s office)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 Governor’s Press Office SACRAMENTO – Following the lowest snowpack ever recorded and with

For the first time in state history, the Governor has directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions in cities and towns across California to reduce water usage by 25 percent. This savings amounts to approximately 1.5 no end to the drought in sight, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced actions that will save water, increase enforcement to prevent wasteful water use, streamline the state’s drought response and invest in new technologies that will make California more drought resilient. “Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” said Governor Brown. “Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.” High resolution photos of previous snow surveys are available here. For more than two years, the state’s experts have been managing water resources to ensure that the state survives this drought and is better prepared for the next one. Last year, the Governor proclaimed a drought state of emergency. The state has taken steps to make sure that water is available for human health and safety, growing food, fighting fires and protecting fish and wildlife. Millions have been spent helping thousands of California families most impacted by the drought pay their bills, put food on their tables and have water to drink. The following is a summary of the executive order issued by the Governor today. 

Save Water

To save more water now, the order will also:

        Replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping in partnership with local governments;

        Direct the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models;

        Require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes to make significant cuts in water use; and

        Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.

Increase Enforcement

The Governor’s order calls on local water agencies to adjust their rate structures to implement conservation pricing, recognized as an effective way to realize water reductions and discourage water waste. Agricultural water users – which have borne much of the brunt of the drought to date, with hundreds of thousands of fallowed acres, significantly reduced water allocations and thousands of farmworkers laid off – will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state’s ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water under today’s order. Additionally, the Governor’s action strengthens standards for Agricultural Water Management Plans submitted by large agriculture water districts and requires small agriculture water districts to develop similar plans. These plans will help ensure that agricultural communities are prepared in case the drought extends into 2016. Additional actions required by the order include:  

        Taking action against water agencies in depleted groundwater basins that have not shared data on their groundwater supplies with the state;

        Updating standards for toilets and faucets and outdoor landscaping in residential communities and taking action against communities that ignore these standards; and

        Making permanent monthly reporting of water usage, conservation and enforcement actions by local water suppliers. 

Streamline Government Response

The order:

        Prioritizes state review and decision-making of water infrastructure projects and requires state agencies to report to the Governor’s Office on any application pending for more than 90 days.

        Streamlines permitting and review of emergency drought salinity barriers – necessary to keep freshwater supplies in upstream reservoirs for human use and habitat protection for endangered and threatened species;

        Simplifies the review and approval process for voluntary water transfers and emergency drinking water projects; and

        Directs state departments to provide temporary relocation assistance to families who need to move from homes where domestic wells have run dry to housing with running water.

Invest in New Technologies

The order helps make California more drought resilient by:

        Incentivizing promising new technology that will make California more water efficient through a new program administered by the California Energy Commission.

The full text of the executive order can be found here.

For more than two years, California has been dealing with the effects of drought. To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.Gov.



Reactions at MAVEN’s NOTEBOOK—e.g., from Lester Snow at the California Water Foundation:

The California Water Foundation issued the below statement from Executive Director Lester Snow following historically low April 1 snow survey results announced by the Department of Water Resources and the executive order issued by Gov. Brown in response.
Today’s snow survey results are alarming. With practically no runoff forecasted from the Sierra into our network of reservoirs and rivers, we are in store for what could be the most challenging summer our farms, our fish and our families have ever witnessed. Over the next several months we will see rural communities run out of clean water, crops and trees left to wither, and streams and wetlands dried up, leaving fish and water fowl with nowhere to go. The Governor’s executive order is a necessary and critical part of the state’s response. With the drought already upon us, there are only so many things the state can do, and today’s actions are among them. From requiring mandatory water reductions to increasing enforcement of water wasters to streamlining the state’s drought response, we must do all we can to conserve water. We are in this together, and everyone will have to contribute and everyone will feel the effects. So far, the impacts have been felt most acutely by farms, lower income communities, and the environment, but it is clear that this crisis will require much more aggressive conservation in our towns and cities. It is time for Californians to make the shift away from grass and embrace more native and drought tolerant landscaping. The state also needs to make it easier for someone with water to transfer it to someone who needs it more – including the environment. Our water transfer system should be made more efficient, flexible, and accessible. If we don’t use this drought as a wake-up call and make long-term investments and changes to how we manage and use water, we will have wasted a critical opportunity and run the risk of more of the same in the future. We must continue to enact bold measures to make our state more resilient, able to withstand long periods of drought and lead us on a path to sustainability. We need to proceed as if this drought could last several more years. Only by changing how we manage water do we have any hope of achieving a healthy and reliable water supply for future generations.”


By Rory Carroll    

California activists want water restrictions to include oil industry

Wed Apr 1, 2015 10:05pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California should require oil producers to cut their water usage as part of the administration’s efforts to conserve water in the drought-ravaged state, environmentalists said on Wednesday. Governor Jerry Brown ordered the first statewide mandatory water restrictions on Wednesday, directing cities and communities to cut their consumption by 25 percent. But the order does not require oil producers to cut their usage nor does it place a temporary halt on the water intensive practice of hydraulic fracturing. California’s oil and gas industry uses more than 2 million gallons of fresh water a day to produce oil through well stimulation practices including fracking, acidizing and steam injection, according to estimates by environmentalists.
The state is expected to release official numbers on the industry’s water consumption in the coming days. “Governor Brown is forcing ordinary Californians to shoulder the burden of the drought by cutting their personal water use while giving the oil industry a continuing license to break the law and poison our water,” said Zack Malitz of environmental group Credo. “Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest,” he said. The industry has received scrutiny for how it disposes of undrinkable water produced during oil drilling. Last month the state ordered the operators of 12 wells to halt injections of the water out of fear that it could contaminate fresh drinking water supplies. Oil industry officials on Wednesday said that oil drilling in the state produces more water than oil, which is frequently put to good use. “In many instances, that water is provided to agriculture to grow crops or is recycled to produce additional energy supplies,” said Tupper Hull of the Western State Petroleum Association. Two oil companies, Chevron Corp and the California Resources Corporation, provide 68 million barrels of water a year to agriculture in Kern County, Hull said. “That’s more than 8,700 acre feet of water, 30 times more than all of the water used in hydraulic fracture by all oil companies per year,” he said. In an interview with the PBS Newshour on Wednesday, Brown indicated that curbing oil industry water use would not help a state so dependent on petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel. “If we don’t take it out of our ground, we’ll take it out of someone else’s,” Brown said. (Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


DWP’s Brian Norris and Greg Reis from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together this morning. Photo by Elin Ljung.

April 1 lake level means reduced water exports to LA, more protection for Mono Lake

April 1st, 2015 by Geoff, Executive Director

This morning Mono Lake Committee staff met with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) personnel to conduct the official annual April 1 reading of the lake level together. The consensus: Mono Lake stands at 6379.01 feet above sea level.

The lake has declined to a level at which water exports to Los Angeles are, by the terms of the State Water Board’s rules, automatically reduced by 70%. DWP will be limited to 4,500 acre-feet of water export, a lake-protecting restriction that no one, until recently, thought would ever be activated again. It was a solemn, though not unexpected outcome, given that California’s drought is entering its fourth year and the Mono Lake watershed is officially classified as being under “exceptional” drought. Thankfully, aggressive water conservation in Los Angeles, including Mayor Garcetti’s 20% conservation by 2017 goal, mean that even with this cutback the city’s needs and Mono Lake’s needs can both be met. It is unavoidably disappointing to walk the shore and think of how much higher and healthier the lake was a just a few pre-drought years ago. But here’s the real shocker: how much worse it could be. If hard-won Mono Lake protection hadn’t been put into place two decades ago, the lake would be an unimaginable 29 feet lower, putting it at a salinity that would essentially end the ecosystem as we know it.


Glimpses of the future: Drought damage leads to widespread forest death

Posted: 30 Mar 2015 09:24 AM PDT

The 2000-2003 drought in the American southwest triggered a widespread die-off of forests around the region. A team of scientists developed a new modeling tool to explain how and where trembling aspen forests died as a result of this drought, based on damage to the individual trees’ ability to transport water. Their results suggest that more widespread die-offs of aspen forests triggered by climate change are likely by the 2050s.


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Caring About Delta Levees During a Drought

Jeffrey Mount March 26, 2015 CA Public Policy Institute

When the sun is shining and our rivers are low, we tend to forget about levees. However, you can’t ignore the 1,100 miles of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These levees—dikes, actually—have high water against them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They protect the islands of the Delta from flooding that would occur daily because island elevations are well below sea level—more than 25 feet below in some places. This video is a simulation of what would happen if a severe earthquake hit the western Delta, causing widespread failure of levees. The simulation is a worst-case scenario: failure occurs in the summer when freshwater inflow from rivers is low. (The most recent large flooding in the Delta took place on a clear day in June 2004.) As the water drains from the channels into the islands, it pulls saltwater into the Delta from San Francisco Bay. This renders the water too salty for use by the 25 million people more than 3 million acres of farms that rely upon it. The management of Delta levees has been a policy challenge for many decades. Most levees are managed by local reclamation districts. They are of varying quality. Yet these levees affect the reliability of water supplies from the Delta. They protect lives, property, and important infrastructure, and they control river and estuarine habitat. In the 2009 Delta Reform Act, the legislature assigned the Delta Stewardship Council the task of determining how to invest state funds in the levees. As highlighted in our recent report Paying for Water in California, the cost of improving Delta levees ranges from $1.6–$2.4 billion, while available state bond funds total less than $400 million. Recognizing that needs far outstrip available resources, the council has chosen to set policies for prioritizing investments. This is both necessary and fraught with controversy because it ultimately determines whose needs are to be met and whose will not. PPIC, with our research partners at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, have published numerous assessments of this problem. Over the next few months we plan to post summaries of this work to help inform policymaking and prioritization. Come rain or shine, flood or drought, Delta levees—and the resources they protect—need the state’s attention.




New PPIC Water Policy Center

Mark Baldassare, Ellen Hanak April 02, 2015

California is at a crossroads in managing water. The drought has sparked significant policy activity, but much work lies ahead. With changes expected in the state’s population, economy, and climate—and pressures from aging infrastructure and a deteriorating environment—California needs to develop meaningful, lasting, forward-looking water policies. Today, we are pleased to announce the establishment of the PPIC Water Policy Center to help meet the state’s urgent need for timely information and innovative water management solutions. The center builds on the successful model of independent, nonpartisan research and constructive engagement that defines all of PPIC’s work.

Over the last decade, PPIC laid the groundwork for the center with high-quality research on major water policy issues and productive conversations about solutions. The center represents a significant ramping up of investment in this critical area, and we thank the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation for the seed funding to launch this effort. The PPIC Water Policy Center will focus on three critical, interrelated water management challenges facing California in the 21st century:

  • Ensuring clean and reliable water supplies. Investigating and encouraging comprehensive, integrated approaches to water quality and quantity.
  • Building healthy and resilient ecosystems. Promoting the development of healthy and sustainable ecosystems using practical approaches to watershed management.
  • Preparing for droughts and floods. Helping California adapt to an increasingly variable climate.

The PPIC Water Policy Center staff will work closely with a broad, interdisciplinary network of top researchers from around the state—and with a wide range of policymakers and stakeholders—to strengthen the bridge between research and real-world policy debates. In conjunction with the launch of the PPIC Water Policy Center, PPIC is releasing California’s Water, a set of nine short policy briefs on the state’s most critical water management challenges and the actions needed to address them. This briefing kit is designed to inform state leaders and to raise awareness more broadly about the important water management issues facing the state.

We invite you to download California’s Water and visit our new PPIC Water Policy Center online. We also invite you to stay up to date with PPIC Water Policy Center activities:



How Much Water Californians Use






After Warmest Winter, Drought-Stricken California Limits Water But Exempts Thirstiest Big Growers


April 2, 2015 Democracy Now

As California’s record drought continues, Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered residents and non-agricultural businesses to cut water use by 25 percent in the first mandatory statewide reduction in the state’s history. One group not facing restrictions under the new rules is big agriculture, which uses about 80 percent of California’s water. The group Food & Water Watch California has criticized Brown for not capping water usage by oil extraction industries and corporate farms, which grow water-intensive crops such as almonds and pistachios, most of which are exported out of state and overseas. Studies show the current drought, which has intensified over the past four years, is the worst California has seen in at least 120 years. Some suggest it is the region’s worst drought in more than a thousand years. This comes after California witnessed the warmest winter on record. We speak with environmental reporter Mark Hertsgaard, author of the book, “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: California Governor Jerry Brown ordered residents and non-agricultural businesses to cut water use by 25 percent in the first mandatory statewide reduction in the state’s history. Ninety-eight percent of California is now suffering from drought. Governor Brown issued the executive order at the mostly snow-bare Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The nearby Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort closed for the season weeks ago due to lack of snow…..One group not facing restrictions under the new rules is big agriculture, which uses about 80 percent of California’s water. The group Food & Water Watch California criticized Brown for not capping water usage by corporate farms that grow water-intensive crops such as almonds and pistachios, most of which are exported out of state and overseas. Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch California said, “In the midst of a severe drought, the governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources.” Studies show the current drought, which has intensified over the past four years, is the worst California has seen in at least 120 years. Some studies suggest it is the worst drought in the region in more than a thousand years…..

AMY GOODMAN: While much of the eastern United States experienced record cold temperatures, California, as well as Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Washington each saw their hottest winter ever. In January and February temperatures were one degree Fahrenheit hotter in California than last year, which ended as the hottest year on record by nearly two degrees. Deke Arndt of the National Climatic Data Center said, “The 21st century for sure is being characterized by persistent, ubiquitous drought in the West. The projection is for that to continue,” he said. We go now to San Francisco where we are joined by the environmental reporter Mark Hertsgaard. His latest story is “How Growers Gamed California’s Drought.” He is also the author of the book, “Hot: Living Through the Next 50 Years on Earth. Mark Hertsgaard, welcome back to Democracy Now!. Can you talk about what the governor has mandated, who is included, and who isn’t?

MARK HERTSGAARD: Sure. It’s good to be here. The new executive order by Governor Brown issued yesterday really focused mainly on the urban sector, as he mentioned in the clip you just showed us, this is going to affect golf courses, and median strips, and a number of other uses in the urban areas where he demands a 25 percent mandatory immediate cut in consumption. That means the water agencies, the public agencies in control in those areas of water supply have to deliver 25 percent cuts. What was striking about the order is that it did not require those same kind of cuts from the agriculture sector, which, in California, is the big player in water. Agriculture uses about 80 percent of all of the developed water here in the state. I should add, Amy, that Governor Brown’s spokespersons, when I contacted them last night, said that it was true that the executive order only required “plans” from these big agricultural districts, but they pointed out that the water districts have already been cut back earlier this year — both the state supplies and the federal water supplies have already been cut back by a larger amount. Nevertheless, the new executive order does focus mainly on the cities, not the countryside.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Mark, could you explain why it is — why is agriculture exempt from the orders the governor has given?

MARK HERTSGAARD: From the new orders, it’s what the — again, what the spokespersons for the governor’s say is that, look, agriculture has already taken a hit, they say a bigger hit than we are asking from urban users, and we plan to ask for more going down the road. The plans that are required under Governor Brown’s executive order from the agricultural water districts will be used, the Governor’s aids say, they will be used to be try to diminish the amount of ground water that is being consumed in the future, and that is a key thing for people to understand, that right now, when there is no rain, and we are going in and out of the fourth year of this historic drought in California — that when there is no rain, and there is not enough supply coming from the reservoirs and so forth, what happens is that the farmers basically drill deeper down under the earth to get the groundwater, the ancient groundwater that is down there. In a normal year in California, that groundwater provides about 40 percent of our water supply, but in the dry years, it’s up to 60 percent…..

…. AMY GOODMAN: How is this enforced?

MARK HERTSGAARD: That is one of the problems. So, the San Jose Mercury News pointed out that a lot of these regulations are difficult to enforce because you have essentially got to go into people’s homes and businesses, but that’s the job of the water agency, and that is what Governor Brown was trying to do yesterday, is to call on the states to say, look, we have got to step up and do this, and everyone needs to pull together. Everyone should pull together, but they need to pull together equally.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Hertsgaard, we want to thank you for being with us, environmental reporter. His latest piece in The Daily Beast we’ll link to, “How Growers Gamed California’s Drought.” He is also the author of the book, “Hot: Living Through the Next 50 Years on Earth.” To see all of our climate change coverage, you can go to our website at When we come back, a woman whose baby died in utero, whose fetus died, is convicted of feticide. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Stay with us.

Climate change to make California drought worse, report says

By Victoria Colliver SF Chronicle Updated 6:22 pm, Thursday, April 2, 2015

Climate change will exacerbate California’s drought, threaten one of the world’s richest agricultural regions and cause widespread coastal property losses unless political and business leaders take immediate action, according to a report released Thursday. California summers will be hotter than Texas and Louisiana, up to $20 billion of the state’s properties will be underwater by 2050 and more people will die from heat-related causes, said the report by the Risky Business Project, led by a bipartisan group including investor Tom Steyer, Hank Paulson, President George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Not just the drought

In short, the state’s climate woes are far from limited to the drought. “Climate change has serious implications for water availability across our state, as well as for our coastal development, our workers, and our communities,” committee member Henry Cisneros, former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said in a statement. “California developers, builders and community leaders should take a hard look at this report and take steps now to reduce these risks.”

The report, which examines the potential impacts of climate change on California through the end of the century, is the third from the Risky Business Project, which was started in 2013 to bring attention to economic issues related to climate change. The first, a national report, was released in June, followed by one earlier this year that focused on the Midwest.

Why state’s vulnerable

“We, in California, are particularly vulnerable because we have such a big agricultural sector, such a long coastline and we rely on the snowpack for our water,” said Kate Gordon, editor of the California report and a senior adviser to the Risky Business Project. The most dramatic heat changes will occur in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California’s Inland Empire, agricultural areas that will take a hit in productivity. The report estimates losses of up to $38 million a year in cotton yield declines by the end of the century. But the Bay Area also will see changes, including sea-level rises of up to 3.3 feet, which could cover coastal and landfill areas that are home to technology companies and other businesses.

Call for action

The report doesn’t offer specific recommendations, but rather calls on state, nation and global business leaders to be more active in pushing for policy reform and to factor climate change into their businesses’ risk models.

Steyer, in a statement, called climate change an “urgent threat,” and said the report “puts the costs of inaction … in a framework that our state’s businesses can understand and can use to and utilize to mitigate risk and make good choices for California’s communities and economy.” While the report focused on the impact of climate change on businesses, serious health outcomes are also a concern. The report estimates California will see nearly 7,700 more heat-related deaths a year by the end of the century. “The entire state is going to be hotter. Even places like coastal centers, including San Francisco, are going to have three times as many days over 95 degrees,” said Dr. Alfred Sommer, professor and former dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, who served on the group’s committee as a health adviser.

More health problems

Sommer said that means more heat stroke, increased cardiac- related problems and the need to get faster care to people, particularly those in rural Central Valley and other inland areas. “A lot of thought has to be put into this if we’re going to be prepared for what we know is coming,” Sommer said.









The Galla goat is a secret weapon in efforts to cope with climate change. Courtesy V. Atakos/CCAFS

Heat Tolerant, Tough Teeth, Lots Of Milk — They’re Supergoats!

March 29, 2015 5:25 AM ET Natasha Gilbert NPR

Villagers in a rural district of Kenya are getting a helping hoof to adapt to climate change. A newly introduced breed of “supergoat” is cutting the number of months per year that villagers in the district of Nyando go hungry. Galla goats are tough, but loving. They tolerate heat and drought and have great teeth (which means they rarely need to be culled due to worn-down chompers). The goats also produce a lot of nutritious milk and mature more quickly than the old straggly looking breeds that the Nyando farmers are used to keeping. And the females are really good moms, breeding and rearing kids for up to 10 years. The goats were brought to Nyando by scientists at the CGIAR, a global agricultural research partnership to improve food security. The goats are part of the partnership’s “climate smart villages” project, which helps farmers in the developing world adapt to climate change. Agriculture needs a “radical transformation” to produce more food in increasingly difficult environmental conditions, says Dr. James Kinyangi, who leads the project in east Africa. “Farmers must become more climate smart,” he says….








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Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, before and after the addition of the Metrobus. Photograph: Government of the City of Buenos Aires Everyone praises green Copenhagen. But what if your city has 20m people?

The mayors of Latin America’s biggest cities gathered in Buenos Aires for the C40 forum last week to discuss their techniques for fighting climate change – but are buses, bicycles and recycling enough on a continent that’s 80% urbanised?

Francesca Perry Thursday 2 April 2015 13.39 EDT Last modified on Thursday 2 April 2015 13.42 EDT

“There will be roughly 1 billion more people living in cities by 2030,” said Buenos Aires
Mauricio Macri at the C40 Latin American Mayors Forum in the Argentinian capital last week. “Which is equivalent to creating a Buenos Aires-sized city every three weeks for the next 15 years.” The big question, as Macri and other mayors agreed at the forum, is: how do cities accommodate this high population expansion in a sustainable way?

We often hear the looming figure that 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050 – yet that’s a milestone Latin America has already reached. It is the most urbanised region in the world. Do its cities champion ideas that are up to the task of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing climate change resilience? Judge for yourself.

1. Climate resilience is not bad for the economy

“It’s a false dilemma,” Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico, told the gathering. While many governments shy away from cutting greenhouse gas emissions for economic reasons, Calderón argued that renewable, low-carbon options can actually generate far greater economic growth in the long run. And they’re not as costly as they once were. “The cost of solar energy has reduced by around 90% since the 1990s,” he pointed out. “Renewables are now highly competitive.”

2. Act quickly

Committing to increasing sustainability is not enough: cities need to act quickly. “We need to be faster in the implementation of climate resilience strategies,” argued the mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Mancera. His city recently kicked off a 2014-2020 climate action programme, which promises to reduce pollutant emissions in the metropolitan area by 30% over six years. Since the programme started in June 2014, he claimed CO2 has already been cut by 1m tonnes. Of course, investment is a critical part of this, and many mayors called on national governments to support them in funding renewable energies and low-carbon infrastructure. Rio de Janeiro’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, argued that incentives were needed for the private sector to invest in sustainable, climate-resilient cities.

3. We need a transport revolution

Mexico City is one of the most polluted cities in the world – and 56% of its emissions are from transport. As we look to mature beyond the dominance of the private car, rethinking our urban transport is a clear focus for climate resilience – in both Latin American cities and around the world. As Felipe Calderón outlined, the benefits of cleaner and collective transport go beyond decelerating climate change: there are huge economic and health costs of polluting traffic in cities. “It is critical to reduce car use,” he urged. “No big city in the world is complying with air pollution limits.” Efficient public transport is one part of this transport evolution; safe cycling infrastructure, pedestrianisation and electric vehicles are also critical. Latin America is well known for the widespread use of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems, which originated in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. Curitiba continues to innovate with micro electric cars, as well as electric taxis and buses – in addition to expanding their BRT and improving cycling infrastructure. Mexico City is currently expanding their Metrobus network as well as their metro system. In 2013, Buenos Aires transformed its car-dominated 20-lane wide Avenida 9 de Julio in the city centre by giving over the 4 central lanes to a Metrobus system, which – according to the city government – saves the equivalent of 5,612 tons of C02 emissions annually. The Argentinian capital’s protected bicycle lanes (“bicisendas”), introduced in 2009, now span 138km and the city’s bike-share scheme, the first in Argentina when it began in 2010, currently has over 140,000 registered users. By improving cycle provision and infrastructure, the city has seen bicycle use increase greatly. Encouraging walking is another part of curbing car use. “We need to instil a greater respect for the pedestrian,” urged the mayor of Quito, who is pedestrianising areas of the city in addition to expanding its network of bike lanes and adding electric bikes to their bike share programme.

Latin American cities including Quito, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City also joined C40 cities around the world to sign the Clean Bus Declaration of Intent, expressing a commitment to reduce emissions and improve air quality through the introduction of low- and zero-emission buses in their city fleets.

4. Get better at waste

Landfills contribute to greenhouse gas emissions – and transporting waste to these landfills contributes further to pollution. As populations and resultant consumption grows, efficient waste management was agreed to be a vital part of more sustainable cities. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) is working with cities including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo on the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) initiative which aims to reduce methane and air pollution through the dissemination and implementation of best practice waste management policies and strategies such as closing open dumps and capturing landfill gas.

Bordo Poniente, a landfill on the outskirts of Mexico City, was shut down in 2011 after more than 20 years and replaced with a biogas plant. Photograph: Stringer Mexico/Reuters

São Paulo’s creation of a solid waste management plan has been a participatory process, promoting a practice of “shared responsibility” as well as maximum recovery of waste. The city now has two recycling plants receiving 250 tonnes of waste per day; there is also a recycling fund for 1200 cooperatives and organic waste management is incentivised. Impressive stuff – though São Paulo certainly has other pressing issues that need addressing.

5. Support compact, efficient cities

“The traditional model of urban expansion is no longer sustainable,” Felipe Calderón announced. While a contentious topic in the London housing crisis debate, the UK capital’s green belt was praised by Latin American leaders as a positive strategy for curbing the risk of limitless urban expansion. Compact cities, it was argued, increase energy efficiency, maximise land use, reduce travelling distances within the city (then reducing the need for individual car use if public transport is in place) – as well as preserving nature. Of course with the anticipated rate of urbanisation and population expansion, compact cities mean much denser cities. While compact (and relatively low population) European cities like Copenhagen were praised as a positive model, it was admitted that extremely dense cities like Hong Kong were not good examples. The question remains, of course, of how you can have a metropolitan region as big as, for instance, that of Mexico’s capital – home to 21 million people – and make it feel and function like Copenhagen’s, home to 2 million. For now, in Latin America as in many other parts of the world, the jury’s out.


Mainstreaming Local Adaptation Planning

Posted: 01 Apr 2015 12:46 PM PDT

By Dr. Hannah Reid There are now a plethora of community-based adaptation (CBA) projects addressing climate change around the world. The number of publications and websites addressing CBA is increasing, and the annual international CBA conferences, which began as small biennial meetings for NGOs, now attract a growing international crowd of government, donor, academic, media..


Why car companies should make an e-bike, but won’t

By Tuan C. Nguyen April 3 at 6:30 AM Washington Post

Introduced in the 1950s, a bicycle called the Flying Pigeon would go on to become the world’s most popular vehicle. But for the hundreds of millions who made up the newly-formed People’s Republic of China, the trusty two-wheeler, which sported little more than a handlebar basket, was simply a way of life in what was once known as the “Kingdom of Bicycles.” Today, that legacy of essentialism can still be found in a slightly more advanced form: the electric bike, which requires the rider to pedal but provides an electric boost. As an increasingly popular means of getting around in overcrowded cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the number of e-bikes in China has ridden rapidly and surpassed 200 million. Contrast that with the United States, where the notion of motorized pedal assistance is, well, quite foreign.
For instance, while sales figures from 2014 showed a 30 percent bump over the previous year, the addition of 198,000 e-bikes were easily dwarfed by the 16.5 million new cars that hit the streets during that same period. In a way, it makes sense as much of our commuting habits and infrastructure have coalesced largely around automobiles. Bicycling, viewed mostly as a secondary option, is typically taken up as exercise, to go short distances or as a sport. It’s hard to see, then, how a motorized bicycle that starts at about $1,000 fits into all of this. But with more and more cities around the world pushing reforms to curtail driving as a way of reducing congestion and lessen the negative impact on the environment, perceptions are changing. And not surprisingly, automakers claim to be looking for new ways to adapt….







Obama Offers Major Blueprint on Climate Change


WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday morning unveiled President Obama’s blueprint for cutting United States greenhouse gas pollution by nearly a third over the next decade. Mr. Obama’s plan, part of a formal submission to the United Nations ahead of efforts to forge a climate change accord in Paris in December, detailed the United States side of an ambitious joint climate change pledge the president made in November in Beijing with the Chinese president Xi Jinping. In an effort to spur other countries to enact their own domestic climate change plans leading to the Paris accord, the leaders of the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters offered the outline of a set of climate actions. Mr. Obama said the United States would cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, while Mr. Xi said that China’s emissions would drop after 2030. But the plan will also intensify fierce Republican political opposition to Mr. Obama’s effort to build a climate change legacy. Mr. Obama’s blueprint, the follow-up to the Beijing announcement, set a road map for exactly how the United States will meet that pledge. Mr. Obama hopes that if the United States puts forth an ambitious domestic plan, other countries will follow, leading to a deal that would commit every country in the world to enact domestic climate change plans.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been deeply involved in negotiations toward the Paris deal, said in a speech on March 12 that the plan is “an absolutely vital first step, and it would be a breakthrough demonstration that countries across the globe now recognize the problem and the need for each and every one of us to contribute to a solution.” He added, “We have nine short months to come together around the kind of agreement that will put us on the right path.” Since any proposal to move climate change legislation will not be approved by the Republican-controlled Congress, Mr. Obama is expected to rely almost entirely on his executive authority, including proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring pollution cuts from power plants and other sectors of the economy. By midsummer, the E.P.A. expects to release the final regulation, which is chiefly aimed at reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of planet-warming carbon emissions. Republicans have called the rules a “war on coal” and an abuse of executive authority. Nearly every potential Republican presidential candidate has already criticized Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda, and the issue is expected to be important in 2016 political campaigns. Republicans also adamantly oppose Mr. Obama’s efforts to forge the U.N. accord in Paris. To bypass the Senate — which would have to ratify United States involvement in a foreign treaty — Mr. Kerry and other State Department officials are working closely with their foreign counterparts to ensure that the Paris deal does not legally qualify as a treaty.

Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, has put together legislation intended to nullify Mr. Obama’s international climate change agreements, and Republican leaders may try to add that as an amendment to must-pass legislation later this year. “The agreement that President Obama unilaterally negotiated with China is a bad deal for American workers, families, consumers and communities,” Mr. Blunt said. “American workers will pay the price for President Obama’s unilateral agreement, while China will enjoy the limitless ability to grow its economy.”…



PSEG power plant in Jersey City, N.N., on March 24, 2015.

Obama submits ‘ambitious’ global warming plan

By Andrew Freedman March 31, 2015

The U.S. formally submitted to the United Nations a commitment to reduce its climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The commitment is aimed in part at spurring other countries to announce their plans ahead of a major round of international climate negotiations in Paris in December. Commitments from the U.S., Mexico, the E.U. and others now amount to nearly 60% of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions, according to the White House announcement, which was made in blog post on Medium. Late last week, Mexico committed to peaking its greenhouse gas emissions by 2026, and reducing them thereafter.

The climate targets, which are technically known as “intended nationally determined contribution” (or INDCs, in U.N. jargon), can be achieved through existing domestic laws such as the Clean Air Act, according to Brian Deese, senior advisor to President Obama, and Todd Stern, the U.S. special envoy for climate change. During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Deese and Stern said they believe the ways that the administration is using existing statutes, which bypasses a Congress that is hostile to ambitious climate action and even basic climate science research findings, are on solid ground despite numerous legal challenges to stop them. A particular target of national and state-level lawmakers is the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to regulate emissions from coal-burning power plants.



New England takes on [ocean acidification and] pollution

By PATRICK WHITTLE, Associated Press Posted Mar. 29, 2015 at 10:12 AM Updated Mar 29, 2015 at 10:14 AM

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A group of state legislators in New England want to form a multi-state pact to counter increasing ocean acidity along the East Coast, a problem they believe will endanger multi-million dollar fishing industries if left unchecked. The legislators’ effort faces numerous hurdles: They are in the early stages of fostering cooperation between many layers of government, hope to push for potentially expensive research and mitigation projects, and want to use state laws to tackle a problem scientists say is the product of global environmental trends. But the legislators believe they can gain a bigger voice at the federal and international levels by banding together, said Mick Devin, a Maine representative who has advocated for ocean research in his home state. The states can also push for research to determine the impact that local factors such as nutrient loading and fertilizer runoff have on ocean acidification and advocate for new controls, he said. “We don’t have a magic bullet to reverse the effects of ocean acidification and stop the world from pumping out so much carbon dioxide,” Devin said. “But there are things we can do locally.” The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration says the growing acidity of worldwide oceans is tied to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, and they attribute the growth to fossil fuel burning and land use changes. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide increased from 280 parts per million to over 394 parts per million over the past 250 years, according to NOAA. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, and when it mixes with seawater it reduces the availability of carbonate ions, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution said. Those ions are critical for marine life such as shellfish, coral and plankton to grow their shells.

The changing ocean chemistry can have “potentially devastating ramifications for all ocean life,” including key commercial species, according to NOAA.
The New England states are following a model set by Maine, which commissioned a panel to spend months studying scientific research about ocean acidification and its potential impacts on coastal industries. Legislators in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are working on bills to create similar panels. A similar bill was shot down in committee in the New Hampshire legislature but will likely be back in 2016, said Rep. David Borden, who sponsored the bill. Massachusetts Rep. Tim Madden, who introduced a bill in his state in January, said one of the goals of the effort is to get policy makers talking about ocean acidification, which some call the “evil twin” of global warming. “I don’t think it has been talked about in the commonwealth until recently,” he said. Hauke Kite-Powell, a research specialist in the Marine Policy Center at Woods Hole, said there is little the state legislators can do to curb carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, which is a main driver of ocean acidification. But state officials do have the ability to regulate what kinds of nutrients flow into coastal oceans, which also affects pH levels. “The coastal oceans, where shellfish farming takes place and where there’s a lot of economically important biological life, the pH conditions are influenced strongly by the things that flow in from the land,” he said. Maine’s ocean acidification panel, which includes scientists, fishermen and legislators, issued its report in January. It produced a host of bills, including one that calls for the state to borrow $3 million so scientists can collect data about increasing ocean acidity along the Maine coast and its impact on key commercial species, such as lobster and clams. The “most alarming” finding is “how much we do not know about ocean acidification and how it will affect Maine’s commercially important species,” the report said. Devin said the legislators hope to convince other coastal states and Canadian provinces to commit to studying ocean acidification. Farther down the coast, Maryland also passed legislation last year calling for a study of the effects of ocean acidification on state waters. Washington also became the first West Coast state to take similar action last year. President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal included $30 million for NOAA to study ocean acidification, a major bump from previous years.




(ALEX WONG/Getty Images)

EPA Chief: Keystone Won’t Be A ‘Disaster for the Climate’

Gina McCarthy suggested that no single issue would wreck the climate.

By Clare Foran March 30, 2015 Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy suggested on Monday that building the Keystone XL pipeline would not spell game over for the planet. “No, I don’t think that any one issue is a disaster for the climate,” McCarthy said when asked if the controversial oil-sands pipeline would be a climate disaster at an event hosted by Politico‘s Mike Allen. McCarthy went on to say, “Nor do I think there’s any one solution to the climate-change challenge that we have. Everything has to be looked at, I think, in a way that continues to advance our interests in moving toward a … low-carbon future.” Keystone is at the center of a contentious national debate over American energy security and global warming. Environmentalists say that building the pipeline, which would haul crude from Canada’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, would worsen climate change. Republicans on Capitol Hill and the oil-and-gas industry, meanwhile, say the pipeline should be built to create jobs and spur the economy. McCarthy was quick to emphasize President Obama’s commitment to taking action to tackle climate change throughout Monday’s event. “[The president] has outlined an ambitious but compelling argument on why we need to take action now,” McCarthy said. “His leadership has been amazing.” Obama has directed EPA to craft sweeping regulations that will rein in carbon pollution from the nation’s fleet of power plants, an effort that McCarthy is charged with overseeing.



Emissions slide began to reverse after the end of the carbon price, data show

March 30, 2015 – 8:01PM Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

Australia’s greenhouse emissions from the electricity sector jumped in the September quarter, reversing the industry’s declines during the two carbon tax years preceding it, the latest government data shows. According to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, released without fanfare last week by the Abbott government, emissions from power plants in the 12 months to September totalled 181.9 million tonnes,  or about 1.5 million tonnes more than for the year to June. The impact of the carbon price fell mostly on the electricity sector, which posted a year-on-year emissions reduction of 4 per cent, or 7.5 million tonnes, in the final 12 months of the carbon price, only to have that slide reverse in the September quarter after the tax was scrapped last July. Frank Jotzo, an associate professor at the Australian National University’s Crawford School, said electricity demand was falling in the economy, so any rise in emissions from the sector showed how supply was reverting to dirtier energy sources. “You had a step down in the emission intensity in power stations from the carbon price – and now you have a step back up,” Professor Jotzo said….



A commitment by China to limit a rise to 2C would create 2m jobs, the analysis says. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

Limiting climate change could have huge economic benefits, study finds

Stopping global warming at two degrees would create nearly half a million jobs in Europe and save over a million lives in China, analysis of emissions pledges says

Arthur Neslen in Brussels Monday 30 March 2015 19.01 EDT Last modified on Tuesday 31 March 2015 07.56 EDT

Major economies would boost their prosperity, employment levels and health prospects if they took actions that limited global warming to 2c, according to the first analysis of emissions pledges made before the UN climate summit in Paris later this year. Europe has promised a 40% emissions cut by 2030, compared to 1990 levels – and the report says this will bring real benefits, including 70,000 full-time jobs, the prevention of around 6,000 pollution-related deaths, and a €33bn cut in fossil fuel imports. But if emissions were slashed by around 55% – the study’s proposed route for holding global warming to two degrees – those benefits would multiply to $173bn fuel savings, 420,000 full-time clean energy jobs and 46,000 lives saved, its authors say. 31 March is the deadline for developed countries to submit their climate pledges for the conference (so called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, INDCs), but few have yet done so and nations such as Canada and Japan are expected to miss the bell. “This report adds to the growing body of evidence that greater climate ambition means better health,” said Anne Stauffer, the deputy director of the Health and Environment Alliance….



Steyer contributed more than $57 million of his own money toward the group’s efforts to sway seven key gubernatorial and Senate races last year. | AP Photo

Tom Steyer’s group shutters climate policy arm as political efforts ramp up

The move indicates that Steyer will probably shift more resources toward his attempts to sway the 2016 elections.

By Elana Schor and Andrew Restuccia 4/1/15 5:30 PM EDT Updated 4/1/15 6:07 PM EDT

The nonprofit launched by environmentalist Tom Steyer is shutting down its climate and energy program, in a likely signal that the billionaire is shifting resources to his organization’s political arm ahead of the presidential elections. Next Generation, co-founded by Steyer in 2011, plans to end its climate policy work and continue as a “nonprofit incubator,” energy program leader Kate Gordon wrote in an email obtained by POLITICO. The move doesn’t mean Steyer is giving up on his pledges to make the environment and climate change major campaign themes in 2016. In fact, it indicates that Steyer will probably shift more resources away from his organization’s policy arm and toward its political efforts, including his super PAC NextGen Climate Action. Next Generation is a nonpartisan think tank focused on policy research on climate change, children and families, Steyer’s top priorities, and played a key role in promoting Proposition 39, a California clean energy ballot initiative that passed in 2012. But his super PAC is the part of the organization that has turned him into an increasingly prominent player in liberal Democratic politics. Steyer contributed more than $65 million of his own money toward the super PAC’s efforts to sway seven key gubernatorial and Senate races last year, though most of his favored candidates lost.
Despite that setback, top Steyer political strategist Chris Lehane boasted at the time that the group had created “one of the biggest political infrastructures in the country in the key ’16 states.”
In announcing the decision by the nonprofit’s board to dismantle its energy program, Gordon said in her email that the group’s California-based energy policy operations would shift to NextGen Climate America, a nonprofit led by Natural Resources Defense Council climate advocacy veteran Dan Lashof and “co-located with Tom Steyer’s political organization, NextGen Climate Action.”

Steyer has taken on a growing political profile in recent years, beginning with his successful eight-figure investment in electing Democratic pro-climate candidates in 2013, and he’s been rumored to be harboring dreams of a political run himself someday — though he declined in January to seek the Senate seat that California Democrat Barbara Boxer is vacating. Steyer’s prominence has, in turn, heightened the visibility of the NextGen Climate portions of his network. And a person familiar with the issue said Steyer World has been in discussions about what to do with Next Generation for about six months. “It really was an efficiency move honestly more than anything,” the person said. “It’s a mistake to keep things alive just to keep things alive. Strategically I think it’s the right thing now.” The person added that there were no “mass layoffs” and, because the move was a long time coming, many of Next Generation’s small staff has already found other jobs. It was becoming increasingly difficult to explain to prospective donors the difference between Steyer’s growing network of organizations, the person said, especially as Steyer’s political arm is ramping up fundraising ahead of 2016. In her email, which was dated Tuesday, Gordon said that “the great work our team has accomplished here at Next Generation — work focused primarily on bringing new voices and new allies into the fight against climate change and for a cleaner, more sustainable economy — will continue.” In addition to her work as a senior adviser to Steyer, Gordon served as the first executive director of the Risky Business project, an initiative focused on the economic risks of climate change that Steyer founded along with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Gordon added in her email that Risky Business would be spun off as a separate group, based in New York, for which she would serve as a consultant in its early days. Next Generation co-founder and President Matt James did not immediately return a request for comment on the closure of the group’s climate and energy program.




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Planet will only survive if we focus on sustainability, environmentalists say

Posted: 01 Apr 2015 05:44 AM PDT

Diminishing or eliminating of waste is the main advantage of implementing sustainable development in business. It enables recycling, efficient usage of natural resources, allows businesses to save funds and improve life quality. Now researchers have provided sustainable development services for more than 120 companies. Business report that by implementing innovations they not only decreased environmental pollution, but also increased their production efficiency and profited financially.



Five years after Deepwater Horizon, wildlife still struggling dolphins dying in high numbers; sea turtles failing to nest

Posted: 31 Mar 2015 05:25 AM PDT

As the five-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig approaches, a new report looks at how twenty species of wildlife are faring in the aftermath of the disaster.


Oil dispersant used in Gulf Oil Spill causes lung and gill injuries to humans and aquatic animals, also identifies protective enzyme

Posted: 02 Apr 2015 02:43 PM PDT

New research suggests that Corexit EC9500A, an oil-dispersal agentl, contributes to damage to epithelium cells within the lungs of humans and gills of marine creatures. The study also identifies an enzyme that is expressed in epithelial cells across species that has protective properties against Corexit-induced damage.



Wind turbines at dusk. They are among 80 newly built in the Dan Tysk wind farm, located 50 miles off the Danish coast. Photo courtesy of Siemens AG.

A platform in the North Sea called SylWin1. It was built to connect the electricity produced by the Dan Tysk wind turbines and two nearby wind farms to Europe’s power grid. Photo courtesy of Siemens AG.

OFFSHORE: A big, clean energy industry matures at sea

Eric Marx, E&E Europe correspondent ClimateWire: Friday, March 27, 2015 The first of a two-part series. [NOTE: nothing here about wildlife or fisheries impacts]

ESBJERG, Denmark — Flying 56 miles west from this port, you are greeted by a 10-story, yellow, boxlike platform rising out of the North Sea. It is called SylWin1, the connection to Europe’s electric grid from one of the largest power plants ever built offshore. Beyond it, arrayed over 27 acres of ocean, are the 80 Siemens 3.6-megawatt turbines of the Dan Tysk wind farm. For Europeans, and perhaps for some Americans, this may be their energy future. The unobstructed winds at sea here are capable of spinning up enough power to electrify around 1 million German households. It’s an interesting sight to behold, not least because of the technical and engineering prowess required to overcome an often hostile North Sea environment. Yet in five years’ time, Dan Tysk might be outdated — if Siemens, MRI-Vestas, Dong Energy and other big corporate players in the offshore wind power industry are to be believed. Turbines are going to grow bigger, to the 6-to-8-MW range, while the transformers that serve them will shrink, saving on production and installation costs. That’s the conclusion of a new study published by Ernst & Young, which finds the European offshore wind market nearing the ability to compete with traditional gas and coal markets if it sheds 26 percent of outlays by 2023. The report states that the industry can significantly reduce costs over the next five years through a number of key actions. These include deploying larger turbines to increase energy capture (9 percent); fostering competition between industrial players (7 percent); commissioning new projects (7 percent); and tackling challenges in the supply chain such as construction facilities and installation equipment (3 percent)…..


Public opinion on energy development: The interplay of issue framing, top-of-mind associations, and political ideology

Christopher E. Clarke et al Energy Policy
Volume 81, June 2015, Pages 131–140


• How an issue is presented (“framed”) influences how people perceive it.

• We applied this premise to oil/gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

• We examined two commonly used frames: fracking and shale oil or gas development.

• People viewed the former less favorably irrespective of political ideology.

• We discuss implications for communicating about energy development impacts.


In this article, we examine framing effects regarding unconventional oil and gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing (or fracking): an issue involving considerable controversy over potential impacts as well as terminology used to describe it. Specifically, we explore how two commonly used terms to describe this issue fracking or shale oil or gas development – serve as issue frames and influence public opinion. Extending existing research, we suggest that these frames elicit different top-of-mind associations that reflect positive or negative connotations and resonate with people’s political ideology. These associations, in turn, help explain direct and indirect framing effects on support/opposition as well as whether these effects differ by political ideology. Results of a split-ballot, national U.S. survey (n=1000) reveal that people are more supportive of the energy extraction process when it is referred to as shale oil or gas development versus fracking, and this relationship is mediated by greater perceptions of benefit versus risk. Political ideology did not moderate these effects. Further analysis suggests that these findings are partly explained by the tendency to associate fracking more with negative thoughts and impacts and shale oil or gas development more with positive thoughts and impacts.
However, these associations also did not vary by political ideology. We discuss implications for communicating risk regarding energy development.








A Change in Management Approaches to Assist Iconic Species Adaptation to Climate Change: Albatross in Southern Australia 

Thursday, April 9, 2015 10-12:30 PDT or 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. EDT
Registration Link:

Overview: Many iconic marine species, such as seabirds, marine mammals and reptiles are recovering from past harvesting activities, and, although widely protected, the recovery and continued persistence of many species and populations remains under threat from present-day anthropogenic activities. Management actions, accordingly, tend to focus on reducing existing demonstrated stressors. However, evidence is accumulating that some species will be negatively impacted in the future by climate change. Recent work shows that the endemic Tasmanian shy albatross is likely to be adversely effected by projected change in environmental conditions under climate change scenarios. Furthermore, modelling shows that the elimination of the principal threat to shy albatross populations in the present day – fisheries bycatch – would not be sufficient to reverse projected population declines. On this month’s webinar, we present a case study in which we identify, evaluate and test intervention options for disease control in preparation for future predicted climate change impacts. We describe the process of developing and implementing this approach and report results for this intervention designed to offset the projected effects of climate change on an iconic species.

About the Speaker:  Dr Alistair Hobday leads CSIRO’s (AUSTRALIA) Marine Climate Impacts and Adaptation research, is co-chair of the international CLIOTOP (Climate Impacts on Top Ocean Predators) program, and contributed to the IPCC 4th and 5th assessment Australasia chapters, covering fisheries, oceanic and coastal systems. Much of his current research focuses on investigating the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity and resources, and developing, prioritising and testing adaptation options to underpin sustainable use and conservation into the future.

About the Webinar Series: This monthly climate change webinar series is presented by the NPS Climate Change Response Program. The purpose of the series is to connect NPS employees, volunteers, and partners with scientists and experts in the field of climate change research. The webinar series is a Service-wide forum where researchers can share credible, up-to-date information and research materials about the impacts of changing climate in national parks and provide participants the opportunity to engage with them in discussion.
For more information about this webinar series contact:

Download webinar materials after the presentation by visiting the Climate Change Sharepoint Site (must be on the NPS network). Presentations, recordings and related materials will be posted to Sharepoint shortly following the webinar.






Sonoma County Adaptation Forum April 8 2015

The North Bay Climate Adaptation Initiative and many other partners invite you to come to the first-ever county-scale adaptation forum in California… the Sonoma County Adaptation Forum  on April 8, at Sonoma State University. April 8 is an all-sector public forum on climate impacts and resilience strategies. In May we’ll follow with an invitation-only workshop of decision-makers in government, civil society, and business, aimed at writing a climate resilience “roadmap” for Sonoma County. Feel free to contact me for questions or any thoughts, and thanks for all you do.



ICLEI World Congress 2015: Sustainable Solutions for an Urban Future Seoul, Korea April 8-12, 2015

The ICLEI World Congress 2015 will be the first in 20 years to take place in Asia following Saitama, Japan in 1995, which will enhance cooperation among its East Asian Members. Each edition of the ICLEI World Congress sees representatives of local governments from all over the world equip themselves firsthand with the practical know-how of their top performing counterparts, all the while profiling their cities’ achievements in the spotlight…Over 1,100 registered participants 243 local and regional governments… 151 ICLEI Members represented…



Communicating about Climate Impacts and Engaging Stakeholders in Solutions April 30 & May 1, 2015, 9:00am – 5:00pm, Romberg Tiburon Center, Tiburon, CA

With Cara Pike from Climate Access. $310 includes lunch and all materials — Limited scholarships are available

Bay Conference Center, Romberg Tiburon Center, 3152 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, CA 94920


16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium
on May 2nd, 2015 Call for Abstracts & Opening of Registration

The Berkeley Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology would like to announce the 16th Bay Area Conservation Biology Symposium on May 2nd, 2015. Since the 1990s, this one-day conference has showcased the pioneering conservation biology science by graduate students at Bay Area universities and researchers at local agencies and NGOs. Our theme for this year is “Bridging Boundaries for Effective Conservation,” which will foster discussion around connectivity across institutions, disciplines, research methods, and landscapes. We now welcome abstract submissions for oral presentations and posters. Please visit the Registration & Abstracts page to submit your abstract.

  • Abstract submission closes: March 14th
  • Decisions on submitted abstracts: March 30th
  • Early registration closes: April 18th

Please visit our website at for more information including plenary speakers, schedule, and directions. This event is sponsored by UC-Berkeley’s Dept. of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management. Questions? Email us at


2015 Bay Area Open space Conference May 14, 2015
The 2015 Open Space Conference will focus on innovation, attempts, and lessons learned across the broad field of land conservation. Join 500+ Bay Area leaders in conservation, parks and recreation, and resource management – as well as leaders in health, business, and policy – to learn how we can try, learn and repeat individually and collectively. The conference is on May 14 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, next to the Rosie the Riveter Museum, and on the Bay Trail. Registration is here.



National Adaptation Forum
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.



22nd annual conference

California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL)

“Restoration for the Next Generation” May 12-14 2015 San Diego

The annual SERCAL conference is attended by a diverse mix of researchers, students, consultants, nonprofit and agency scientists, planners, and landowners/managers, and is a great venue for professional development and for staying current with new advances in ecological restoration.  “Call for Abstracts” document ( The deadline for abstract submission is Feb. 4, 2015. Please note the five additional conference sessions (Wetlands/Water, Urban, Mitigation Banks, Special-status Plant Species, and Using Restoration to Accomplish Non-restoration Goals) – abstracts are being sought for these sessions as well. A poster session will also be held, and abstracts for this event are also welcome. The conference (May 13-14) will be proceeded by a day of field trips related to restoration in Southern California.



First San Joaquin River Restoration Program Science Symposium

June 11-12, 2015, Los Banos Community Center, Los Banos, CA.  More information will follow soon, but save the date!  


American Water Resources Association (AWRA): “Climate Change Adaptation”  June 15 – 17, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Abstracts due to AWRA website: 02/13/2015  

The focus of the conference is on ACTION – how we more effectively develop and use climate change adaptation information to respond, build resilient systems, and influence decision makers. The conference will bring water professionals from federal, state, local, and private sectors together to focus on the issues that need to be addressed to develop effective strategies for mitigating climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, changes in precipitation patterns, increased severe weather events, and worsening droughts, AND more effectively communicate such information to decision makers. Conference sessions will be devoted to addressing the following questions:


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.


Grand Challenges in Coastal & Estuarine Science: Securing Our Future 8 – 12 November, 2015 Oregon Convention Center | Portland, Oregon
Registration for the CERF 23rd Biennial Conference is now open! The CERF 2015 scientific program offers four days of timely, exciting and diverse information on a vast array of estuarine and coastal subjects. Presentations will examine new findings within CERF’s traditional scientific, education and management disciplines and encourage interaction among coastal and estuarine scientists and managers. Plus, there are plenty of workshops, field trips, and special events to get involved with that will make this conference one you won’t want to miss.


December 13-18, 2015 San Francisco

Abstract Submissions are OPEN for the 21st Biennial. We are currently accepting abstract submissions for workshops, oral, speed and poster presentations for the 21st Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference, to take place in San Francisco from December 13-18, 2015.  The submission deadline is May 15th, 2015.  Workshops will be held on December 12-13th.



The 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting will be held 21-26 February 2016 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, located at 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70130. Cosponsored by AGU, ASLO, and TOS, the Ocean Sciences Meeting will consist of a diverse program covering topics in all areas of the ocean sciences discipline. The abstract submission site will open 15 July 2015; stay tuned for more details about how to be a part of the scientific program.




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


Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist, Petaluma, CA 

For more info: Breanna Owens,, Rangeland Watershed Initiative Coordinator

The Rangeland Watershed Initiative Partner Biologist is a Point Blue Conservation Science position in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that will focus on providing value added delivery of wildlife conservation programs on working lands through Farm Bill and other federal and state funding programs.  The Partner Biologist will actively participate with NRCS Field Conservationists, working lands producers, and other resource professionals in the development of ranch and farm conservation plans, including resources assessments, conservation practice design and implementation.  In particular, they will seek to expand the adoption of prescribed rangeland and cropland management practices under NRCS Farm Bill habitat conservation programs.  The Partner Biologist will also be involved with assessment and monitoring of conservation practices that have been applied on those working lands.  This position will provide technical assistance with NRCS field conservationists to working lands producers whose primary focus is on the implementation of conservation in rangeland cropland, wetland, and riparian habitats.  This position, dependent on funding, is intended to be a full time position for a 3-year term with benefits.  The position will be located in the NRCS Petaluma Field Office, covering Sonoma and Marin Counties of California.










Point Blue Conservation Science turns 50

April 3, 2015 California Rice Commission [thanks Paul!]

By Paul Buttner Paul Buttner is Manager of Environmental Affairs for the California Rice Commission.
I was honored last month to attend an intimate celebration at the City Club in San Francisco commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Point Blue Conservation Science. It was a very classy event to celebrate a Class-A science organization with strong roots in the San Francisco region. Formerly known as PRBO Conservation Science, Point Blue is a strong science-based organization that has been at the forefront of many significant projects to inform us on the need to protect the natural world around us. The keynote speaker described Point Blue as an organization committed to advancing conservation of birds, other wildlife and ecosystems through science, partnerships, and outreach. Then he walked the audience through an all-inspiring list of accomplishments spanning 50 years. I can certainly attest to the commitment and quality of work Point Blue has offered the California rice industry during my tenure helping to enhance the waterbird habitat benefits of California ricelands. Point Blue’s scientists have been there throughout offering the gift of their time and the tremendous value of their expertise on waterbird conservation issues. Point Blue has been a key part of the successes we’ve had in expanding the footprint of wildlife-friendly rice farming in the Sacramento Valley. As I listened to Ellie Cohen, Point Blue’s President & CEO, talk about 50 years of Point Blue’s accomplishments and looking forward to the next 50 years with innovative approaches like their new Climate Smart focus, I realized how lucky rice farmers and waterbirds will be if Point Blue is still a strong partner of the California rice at that time. Thank you Point Blue for your partnership and so many successful jobs for the benefit of wildlife and people. Looking forward to seeing many more accomplishment in the years to come.



Photo: Associated Press A rockslide at Arch Rock within Point Reyes National Seashore killed one hiker and severely injured another last weekend.

Cliff collapse shows it’s best to heed nature’s warnings

By Tom Stienstra SF Chronicle OUTDOORS March 29, 2015

The odds of being born, according to one legend, are the same as if you were to throw a life ring on the open ocean, and at that exact moment, a blind sea tortoise poked its head through the ring. The odds of dying, on the other hand, are 100 percent.

Each day in between, since it’s a miracle you’re alive in the first place, should be treated as a blessing. Considering the events of last weekend — the catastrophe at Point Reyes and the arrival of spring — it might be a good idea to dump your “should list” and do what sets you free to travel, explore, hike, bike, fish, camp, boat or stalk and photograph wildlife. It’s been a week since the landslide at Point Reyes National Seashore, an event that shocked thousands who have stood at the spot where the earth gave way. It killed one hiker and injured another, and the response of many I know is, “It could have been me. It could have been you.” The location is one of the most popular bluff-top lookouts on the Pacific Coast. The trail to get there, the Bear Valley Trail to the overlook of Arch Rock, gets such heavy use that much of it resembles a small road. It’s about 4 miles one way, long enough to give you a feeling of separation from mass civilization, easy enough to complete in a few hours. The trail leads to this towering outcrop with a wide, bare top and a nearly vertical cliff that plunges about 100 feet to crashing breakers. Nearby are Arch Rock, Miller’s Point and a variety of sculptured inshore rock formations that resemble stacks, pinnacles and crags.

One spring day I, like so many others, sat on the edge of the cliff there and had a trail lunch, took in the sights. And then to our surprise, a mother gray whale with a calf emerged and cavorted in the shallows within 100 yards. The cliff could have sheared off right then and killed about 30 of us. But it didn’t. About 6 p.m. on March 21, though, it did. A fissure at the neck of the bluff, deep enough to prompt rangers to post warnings and closure signs just before the weekend, caused a section to collapse 70 feet into a pile of rubble. At parks across America, people tend to ignore warning signs, even if the danger is imminent, like at the brink of a waterfall, or illusory, like the typical half dozen warnings at trailheads at many Bay Area parks. In Yosemite National Park, I’ve seen young people wade in the pool above 317-foot Vernal Fall, not only ignoring the signs, but the fact that in the past 10 years alone, more than a dozen people have slipped and been carried with the current over the brink to their deaths. It’s like this everywhere. On the Nepali Coast of Kauai, there’s a hand-carved sign, all in capital letters, at the entrance of a Hanakapiai beach that says: “Do not go near the water. Unseen currents have killed…” and then with a line for each fatality, the deaths added up to 82 the last time I counted, in fall 2013 (another was added last fall). There are so many warning signs when there is no imminent danger that many understand why several hundred people ignored the warnings at Point Reyes and ventured out to the bluff at Arch Rock. But then, even if you do everything right, follow every rule, your number can come up. I used up my nine lives long ago; I know that. It’s a miracle I’m around. The reality is that it is a miracle, no matter what your age, that you are around, too. Just remember the story about the blind tortoise. And spend each of your days wisely — doing what you love.


Personalized melanoma vaccines marshal powerful immune response

Posted: 02 Apr 2015 01:14 PM PDT

Personalized melanoma vaccines can be used to marshal a powerful immune response against unique mutations in patients’ tumors, according to early data in a first-in-people clinical trial.


Highly Processed Foods Dominate U.S. Grocery Purchases

Posted: 29 Mar 2015 11:10 AM PDT

A nation-wide analysis of U.S. grocery purchases reveals that highly processed foods make up more than 60 percent of the calories in food we buy, and these items tend to have more fat, sugar and salt than less-processed foods.


Natural extract shows promise for preventing breast cancer, study suggests

Posted: 29 Mar 2015 11:10 AM PDT

In a new study, the extract from rosehips — the fruit of the rose plant — significantly reduced the growth and migration of cells from a type of breast cancer known as triple negative. This particularly aggressive form of cancer does not respond to most available treatments and tends to affect young women as well as those who are African-American or Hispanic.


Blueberries show promise as treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder

Posted: 30 Mar 2015 10:44 AM PDT

Roughly 8 percent of people in the US suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). SSRIs, such as Zoloft and Paxil, are the only currently-approved therapy, but their effectiveness is marginal. Researchers have found that blueberries could be an effective treatment.


Consuming eggs with raw vegetables increases nutritive value

Posted: 29 Mar 2015 11:10 AM PDT

There is burgeoning research showing that co-consuming cooked whole eggs with your veggies can increase carotenoids absorption. With the recent scientific report from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee lessening past concern over cholesterol in eggs, this is particularly good news.


New compounds could offer therapy for multitude of diseases

Posted: 29 Mar 2015 11:10 AM PDT

An international team of more than 18 research groups has demonstrated that the compounds they developed can safely prevent harmful protein aggregation in preliminary tests using animals. The findings raise hope that a new class of drugs may be on the horizon for the more than 30 diseases and conditions that involve protein aggregation, including diabetes, cancer, spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).









4 Baby Bird Cams You Should Watch This Spring

National Geographic

From sleepy bald eaglets to clamoring owlets, get a bird’s-eye view of new families in their nests.








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