Conservation Science News 2015



Focus of the Week – Is 2015 The Year Soil Becomes Climate Change’s Hottest Topic?










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Founded as Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Point Blue’s 140 scientists advance nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental threats to benefit wildlife and people, through bird and ecosystem science, partnerships and outreach.  We work collaboratively to guide and inspire positive conservation outcomes today — for a healthy, blue planet teeming with life in the future.  Read more about our 5-year strategic approach here.



Focus of the Week



Environmental groups want to make soil a red hot climate change issue.

CREDIT: Shutterstock


Is 2015 The Year Soil Becomes Climate Change’s Hottest Topic?

by Natasha Geiling Posted on April 29, 2015 at 8:00 am

Last week, 650 people from 80 countries gathered in Germany for a week-long discussion about an increasingly important topic in climate change: soil. Dubbed Global Soil Week by the Global Soil Forum — an international body dedicated to achieving responsible land use and soil management — the conference brought together scientists and environmental advocates from all over the world who hoped to translate scientific research about soil into tangible policies for its management.

2015 is shaping up to be a big year for soil — in addition to being Global Soil Week’s third year running, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has declared it the International Year of Soil. José Graziano da Silva, director of the FAO, has called soil a “nearly forgotten resource,” and has implemented more than 120 soil-related projects around the world to mark the International Year of Soil. Farming First, a global agriculture coalition with more than 150 support organizations, has also called for soil health to be a top priority in the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals.

So why is soil so important?

“If you look at the global carbon created in nature under land-based systems, soil and trees are the two dominant reservoirs where carbon is,” Rattan Lal, director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University, told ThinkProgress.

Soils — and the microbes that live within them — store three times as much carbon as is in the atmosphere, and four and a half times as much as in all plants and animals. “If the soil carbon reserve is not managed properly,” Lal said, “it can easily overwhelm the atmosphere.”

Climate change can stimulate the release of carbon from soil in a few different ways. Normally, carbon is bonded to minerals in the soil, which helps keep carbon locked in the soil and out of the atmosphere. A recent report by scientists at Oregon State University, however, found that when chemicals emitted by plant roots interact with minerals in soil, it can cause carbon to break free. This exposes the carbon to decomposition by microbes in the soil, which pass it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. As the climate warms, the scientists found, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will stimulate the growth of plants, which will in turn stimulate the production of the root compounds that breakdown carbon and soil minerals.

“We thought for many many years if you just increase plant productivity, soil carbon will just go up,” Kate Lajtha, professor of biogeochemistry at Oregon State University, told ThinkProgress. “What more and more models are seeing now is that the opposite is true.”

The microbes that break down stored carbon are also likely to become more active in a warmer world, according to a 2014 study published in Nature. The study looked at microbes in 22 different kinds of soil from along a climatic gradient, testing samples of soil from the Arctic to the Amazon. They found that as temperature increased, the respiratory activity of the microbes in the soil also increased, releasing more carbon dioxide — and that effect was most pronounced in northern soils, which tend to store more carbon than soils at other latitudes.

Soil isn’t just useful for storing carbon — it also grows 95 percent of the food we eat, according to the FAO. But even beyond climate change, agriculture is the number one cause of soil disruption.

“What we’re seeing is probably the biggest drivers aren’t going to be those direct effects of climate,” Lajtha said. “Really, the big driver of soil carbon change is what humans are doing to the soil, and a lot of that is agriculture.”

The UN estimates that nearly a third of the world’s soil is degraded — in sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is closer to two-thirds. Degraded soils are less effective for growing crops, threatening food security in places where most of the population lives off of subsistence farming. According to the Montpellier Panel — an international group working to support national and regional agricultural development and food security priorities in sub-Saharan Africa — soil degradation costs sub-Saharan Africa $68 billion per year. If soil degradation continues at its current rate, the UN estimates that all of the world’s topsoil could be gone in 60 years.

Topsoil, Lajtha says, is where most soil carbon is stored — it’s where decomposed plant matter and plant roots are deposited — so losing topsoil means losing a huge amount of carbon currently stored in the soil.

But soil degradation isn’t irreversible. “If we manage the soil properly, we can reverse the degradation and some of that carbon that we lost can be put back,” Lal said.

Conservation practices like no-till agriculture can help minimize soil degradation, according to Lal. Other practices — like planting cover crops in the winter season or continously applying compost to soil — can also help boost soil’s ability to retain carbon.

“In some ways, it’s as simple as a disrupted soil loses carbon and intact soil with vegetation retains carbon,” Lajtha said.

But conservation practices aren’t widely adopted yet — in Ohio, according to Lal, cover crop use and no-till agriculture is practiced on just one-third of the cropland. Worldwide, such conservation practices account for only 10 percent of cropland.

For some farmers, switching to no-till agriculture means replacing seed drills, which can cost upwards of $100,000.

“Even though the community as a whole benefits, there might be a reduction in yield that is prohibitive to farmers that adopt it,” Lal said, noting that the adoption rate of no-till agriculture has been almost zero in places like Africa and Southeast Asia. “We have a long way to go,” he said.

Scientists have also seen promise in the practice of agroforestry — combining trees with cropland or livestock systems. Elizabeth Teague, senior associate for environmental performance at Root Capital, an investing fund that works with small agribusinesses in Africa and Latin America, have seen a slew of benefits associated with agroforestry, mostly with coffee and cocoa crops.

“Trees can help enrich the soil, and if done properly you can help avoid erosion, which is a big problem in coffee producing environments,” Teague told ThinkProgress. “Many studies have also shown that the agroforestry system can help mitigate climate change by helping with carbon sequestration. compared to other type of cropping systems, the trees are sequestering carbon and increasing above and below ground carbon stocks.”

Like no-till and cover crops, however, certain barriers still exist between small-hold farmers in developing countries and agroforestry. Planting trees alongside crops requires a certain level of finesse — plant too many trees and the crops won’t thrive; plant too few, and the environment suffers.

“Farmers have to figure out what this sweet spot is where they are maintaining a diverse, robust agroforestry system that also allows them to have a commercially viable farm,” Teague said. “For small farmers without education, resources, and technical assistance, that can be very difficult.”

To Lal, who contributed to the Montpelier Panel’s 2014 report on soil restoration, agriculture might be the problem — but it can also be the solution.

“Most of the time the perception is that agriculture is a big time problem,” he said. “Yes, agriculture done improperly can definitely be a problem, but agriculture done in a proper way is an important solution to environmental issues including climate change, water issues, and biodiversity.


Threats to soil productivity threaten food security

Posted: 07 May 2015 01:54 PM PDT ScienceDaily

A group of leading soil scientists points out the precarious state of the world’s soil resources and the possible ramifications for human security. …In a review of recent scientific literature, the article, titled “Soil and Human Security in the 21st Century,” outlines threats to soil productivity — and, in turn, food production — due to soil erosion, nutrient exhaustion, urbanization and climate change. “Soil is our planet’s epidermis,” said Sparks, echoing the opening line of the article. “It’s only about a meter thick, on average, but it plays an absolutely crucial life-support role that we often take for granted.” Sparks, who is the S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at UD, has been chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ U.S. National Committee for Soil Sciences since 2013.
….He and his five co-authors, who are also members of the national committee or leaders of soil science societies, wrote the paper to call attention to the need to better manage Earth’s soils during 2015, the International Year of Soils as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. “Historically, humans have been disturbing the soil since the advent of agriculture approximately 10,000 years ago,” Sparks said. “We have now reached the point where about 40 percent of Earth’s terrestrial surface is used for agricultural purposes. Another large and rapidly expanding portion is urbanized. We’re already using the most productive land, and the remainder is likely to be much less useful in feeding our growing population.” As the population of the planet grows toward a projected 11 billion people by 2100, the key to producing enough food will be to find better ways to manage the agricultural lands we already have, Sparks says, rather than expanding into new areas. However, this will mean overcoming some rather daunting challenges. …”Unless we devise better ways to protect and recycle our soil nutrients and make sure that they are used by crops efficiently rather than being washed away, we are certainly headed for nutrient shortages,” Sparks said, adding that disruptions in food production could become a source of geopolitical conflict.
“Human civilizations have risen and fallen based on the state of their soils,” Sparks said. “Our future security really depends on our ability to take care of what’s beneath our feet


R. Amundson, A. A. Berhe, J. W. Hopmans, C. Olson, A. E. Sztein, D. L. Sparks. Soil and human security in the 21st century. Science, 2015; 348 (6235): 1261071 DOI: 10.1126/science.1261071






Diversity of habitat needed around spotted owl reserves, study shows

April 28, 2015 ScienceDaily

A new study shows that many bird species, including several of high conservation concern, aren’t getting the habitat they need due to a focus on promoting California Spotted Owl habitat in the northern Sierra Nevada. The study, published in the science journal, PLoS ONE, tracked different bird species’ use of areas inside and outside Spotted Owl reserves for two years in Plumas and Lassen National Forests.
The results show 17 species avoided the reserves, including species of conservation concern like Yellow Warblers and Olive-sided Flycatchers, compared with only seven species preferring the habitat inside the reserves. Federal land managers have set aside reserves, or core areas, covering 1000 acres each of relatively mature and dense forest around historical or existing Spotted Owl nest locations. Unlike their cousin, the Northern Spotted Owl, California Spotted Owls currently are not federally listed as endangered. “There is an absolutely clear need to continue to protect old growth forests,” said Ryan Burnett, Sierra Nevada Group Director for Point Blue Conservation Science and the study’s lead author. “However, we’re at a stage now where it’s time to re-evaluate our sometimes singular focus on old-growth forest management, and ensure we are balancing it with providing diverse forest habitats for the full range of species that rely on the Sierra ecosystem.”

In the northern Sierra area of the study over 50 percent of the National Forest land base is designated to promote and protect mature, closed-canopy forest that supports less undergrowth, such as shrubs and grasses. Many bird species–and other wildlife–seek out undergrowth and the habitat provided in forest openings for food, shelter and nesting. As part of the study, Burnett and colleagues monitored the bird community at 1,164 locations inside and outside Spotted Owl reserves. They found that they could conclusively determine the habitat preference for 24 bird species detected. Of those 24 species, 17 preferred habitat outside the reserves and only seven preferred habitat inside the reserves. Another 30 species were detected but it was unclear if those birds showed a preference or not.

“Our current forest management may be focusing too much on a handful of mature, dense forest-associated species at the expense of others, including several of high conservation concern,” Burnett said. “The Sierra ecosystem evolved with disturbance, such as wildfire. It’s important we manage the areas outside of the old growth reserves for the wide range of habitat types and conditions that support a substantial portion of the ecosystem’s biological diversity, including early seral forest habitat.” According to Burnett, a combination of forest management actions could promote habitat for many other species outside the reserves. An increased use of managed fire coupled with selective logging to thin overly dense forest stands can benefit many of the species that avoid mature, dense forest habitat and promote an ecosystem more aligned with current and future climate conditions.


Ryan D. Burnett, L. Jay Roberts. A Quantitative Evaluation of the Conservation Umbrella of Spotted Owl Management Areas in the Sierra Nevada. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (4): e0123778 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123778



An adult snowy plover; Jenny Erbes Point Blue

Monterey Bay a bright spot in the snowy plover recovery

By Krista Almanzan

Carleton Eyster walks up a sand dune toward the water at Moss Landing State Beach.  He has binoculars around his neck and a scope mounted on a tripod in his hand. “This is our birding scope, which a lot people mistake for a camera, so I’m often taken for a bird photographer,” says Eyster, a biologist with the non-profit Point Blue Conservation Science. Point Blue has research programs in the works from Alaska to Antarctica.  On the Monterey Bay, Point Blue has been monitoring the Western Snowy Plover for more than 30 years.  The snowy plover has been listed as threatened under the endangered species act since 1993 after its numbers dwindled because its beach nesting habitat was compromised by a number of things including development, non-native plants and predators. “This is the area that is cordoned off seasonally from March through September, and that’s exactly where the snowy plovers are breeding,” says Eyster as he walks along the cable fence the symbolically blocks off the sand dune.   It was put up by California State Parks, which manages this beach.  

Eyster is one of five Point Blue biologists on the bay whose focus is this tiny shorebird.  They monitor the birds at least five days a week during their season.  They keep track of things like nest location, number of eggs, how many make it to adulthood and figuring out why so many don’t….


Earliest Start to Plover Nesting Season in 32 Years

April 16, 2015, Monterey – Historically, March has marked the start of the Snowy Plover nesting season in Monterey Bay, but this year a pair started nesting in February.  This nest is 10 days earlier than any nest recorded in the Monterey Bay area over the last 32 years, according to biologists from Point Blue Conservation Science who have been closely monitoring these small shorebirds since the late 1970’s. Early nesting may be related to climate change, as this year’s mild winter and dry spring are allowing for plovers to get a head start on the breeding season. However, in the long term, the effects of climate change could negatively impact Snowy Plover populations, which nest on sandy, open beaches. Sea level rise, with increasing wave heights and storm surges, may narrow beaches making nests more vulnerable…..



Dam removal study reveals river resiliency

Posted: 30 Apr 2015 11:51 AM PDT

More than 1,000 dams have been removed across the United States because of safety concerns, sediment buildup, inefficiency or having otherwise outlived usefulness. A paper finds that rivers are resilient and respond relatively quickly after a dam is removed.… “The apparent success of dam removal as a means of river restoration is reflected in the increasing number of dams coming down, more than 1,000 in the last 40 years,” said lead author of the study Jim O’Connor, geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “Rivers quickly erode sediment accumulated in former reservoirs and redistribute it downstream, commonly returning the river to conditions similar to those prior to impoundment.”…


J. E. O’Connor, J. J. Duda, and G. E. Grant. 1000 dams down and counting. Science, April 2015 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa9204



Greater Prairie-Chickens are more likely to abandon mating sites near wind turbines, according to a new study in The Condor.
Credit: M. Herse

Vulnerable grassland birds abandon mating sites near wind turbines

Posted: 06 May 2015 01:42 PM PDT

Shifting to renewable energy sources has been widely touted as one of the best ways to fight climate change, but even renewable energy can have a downside, as in the case of wind turbines’ effects on bird populations. In a new paper, a group of researchers demonstrate the impact that one wind energy development in Kansas has had on Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympanuchus cupido) breeding in the area…Leks are sites at which male prairie-chickens gather each spring to perform mating displays and attract females. The researchers visited 23 leks during the five-year study to observe how many male birds were present and to record the body mass of trapped males. After wind turbine construction, they found an increased rate of lek abandonment at sites within eight kilometers of the turbines as well as a slight decrease in male body mass. Lek abandonment was also more likely at sites where there were seven or fewer males and at sites located in agricultural fields instead of natural grasslands…


Virginia L. Winder, Andrew J. Gregory, Lance B. McNew, Brett K. Sandercock. Responses of male Greater Prairie-Chickens to wind energy development. The Condor, 2015; 117 (2): 284 DOI: 10.1650/CONDOR-14-98.1



Can carbon credits fund riparian forest restoration?

Restoration Ecology
Volume 23, Issue 1, Article first published online: 8 DEC 2014

Virginia Matzek, Cedric Puleston3, John Gunn4

Ecological restoration is increasingly called on to provide ecosystem services (ES) valuable to humans, as well as to benefit biodiversity and improve wildlife habitat. Where mechanisms to pay for ES exist, they may serve as incentives to embark on habitat restoration projects. We evaluated the potential of newly established carbon markets in the United States to incentivize afforestation along riparian corridors, by comparing the income earnable by carbon offset credits with the costs of planting, maintaining, and registering such a restoration project in California. We used a 20-year chronosequence of riparian forest sites along the Sacramento River as our model project. We found that carbon credits can repay more than 100% of costs after two decades of regrowth, if sufficient effort is put into sampling intensity in the first post-restoration decade. However, carbon credits alone are unlikely to entice landowners currently engaged in agricultural activities to switch from farming crops to farming habitat.


Implications for Practice

• Practitioners performing restoration with woody species on lands in conservation ownership should consider designing projects to be compliant with protocols for learning carbon offset credits.

• If the protocol imposes a confidence deduction on earned credits, managers should expect restoration projects to earn few or no credits in the first decade, unless an intensive sampling regime is used to verify carbon stocks.

• It is unlikely that U.S. agricultural producers will shift from cultivating floodplain crops to doing riparian restoration purely in pursuit of carbon payments, but a combination of easement income with carbon credits can make afforestation more financially attractive.



Pesticides alter bees’ brains, making them unable to live and reproduce adequately

Posted: 30 Apr 2015 08:33 AM PDT

Scientists report that a particular class of commonly used pesticides called ‘neonicotinoids’ wreaks havoc on the bee populations, ultimately putting some crops that rely on pollination in jeopardy.


‘Dead zones’ found in Atlantic open waters: Moving west, could lead to mass fish kills

Posted: 30 Apr 2015 06:18 AM PDT

Researchers have discovered areas with extremely low levels of oxygen in the tropical North Atlantic, several hundred kilometers off the coast of West Africa. The levels measured in these ‘dead zones’ are the lowest ever recorded in Atlantic open waters. The dead zones are created in eddies, swirling masses of water that slowly move westward. Encountering an island, they could lead to mass fish kills.


Sustainability progress should precede seafood market access, researchers urge

Posted: 30 Apr 2015 11:49 AM PDT

Fishery improvement projects — programs designed to fast-track access to the world seafood market in exchange for promises to upgrade sustainable practices — need to first make good on those sustainability pledges before retailers and fisheries actually do business, researchers recommend. The findings are particularly important as major retailers rush to meet the growing demand for seafood by tapping fisheries of developing countries that haven’t yet achieved sustainable certification.


A female humpback whale washed up on the beach in Pacifica on May 5, 2015. Photo: Sam Wolson / Special to The Chronicle

2nd dead whale on Pacifica beach may have been hit by ship

Hamed Aleaziz | on May 6, 2015

A 42-foot female humpback whale that washed up dead on a Pacifica beach this week suffered injuries consistent with blunt force trauma and might have been hit by a ship, researchers said. The whale arrived on the south end of Sharp Park State Beach late Monday, becoming the second whale to wash up at the beach in recent weeks and draw throngs of curious spectators. Scientists from the Marine Mammal Center, the California Academy of Sciences and UC Davis performed a necropsy at the beach on Wednesday. They found four broken vertebrae, surrounding hemorrhaging and a broken rib. That may indicate a ship strike, the experts said, but added that “scientists did not find any further broken ribs, making a ship strike less definitive.” The mammal center said ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are leading human causes of whale deaths. Large whales are vulnerable to collisions with all types of vessels. “These types of examinations have enabled the scientific community to make recommendations for slower shipping speeds and route changes that ship captains are adhering to voluntarily,” said Sue Pemberton, a curatorial assistant at California Academy of Sciences. “It’s sad that this whale died, but what we learn from this animal can hopefully help future whales.” A 48-foot sperm whale washed up April 14 about a quarter-mile south of the humpback whale. Scientists could not pin down a cause of death in the earlier case, but ruled out the possibility that the sperm whale had been struck by a ship.


Point Blue’s Farallon Program Biologist, Ryan Berger, participated in a necropsy of a young female humpback whale on May 7 assisting experts from The Marine Mammal Center and California Academy of Sciences. The whale washed up on Sharp Park beach in Pacifica, CA. Localized bruising deep to the muscle tissue in the left side was noted upon initial inspection. When examining the bones beneath the damaged tissue there were 4 broken vertebrae. There is some question on whether the last rib on the left side was also broken. The damage recorded is consistent with what has been documented in previous necropsies of whales struck by ships. Losing such a valuable member of the humpback whale population is unfortunate considering these animals are slow to mature and reproduce.


Learn more about our collaborative Whale Alert – West Coast program to reduce whale strikes here!


What drives the evolution of bird nest structures?

Posted: 06 May 2015 01:42 PM PDT

How to protect your chicks from predators? Build a dome over them! There is tremendous diversity among the nests of birds, in nest location, structure, materials, and more, but we know very little about the forces that shaped the evolution of this incredible variety. A new study finds that domed-shaped nests arose as a result of species transitioning to nesting on the ground, where the risk from predators is greater.


A Michigan State University professor was part of an international team of scientists that has discovered a new bird in China — the Sichuan bush warbler.Credit: Laojun Shan

Elusive new bird discovered in China

Posted: 01 May 2015 06:59 AM PDT

An international team of scientists has discovered a new bird in China. The new bird, the Sichuan bush warbler, resides in five mountainous provinces in central China. The bird has shunned the limelight by hiding in grassy, scrubby vegetation over the years. However, its distinctive song eventually gave it away, said an integrative biologist on the team.


Global decline of large herbivores may lead to an ’empty landscape’

Posted: 01 May 2015 12:16 PM PDT

The decline of the world’s large herbivores, especially in Africa and parts of Asia, is raising the specter of an ’empty landscape’ in some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Many populations of animals such as rhinoceroses, zebras, camels, elephants and tapirs are diminishing or threatened with extinction in grasslands, savannahs, deserts and forests.


Silent Seashores

By DEBORAH CRAMER NY Times Opinion MAY 1, 2015

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — AS the spring days lengthen, shorebirds have begun their hemispheric migrations from South America to nesting grounds in Canada’s northern spruce and pine forests and the icy Arctic.

They are among Earth’s longest long-distance fliers, traveling thousands of miles back and forth every year. I have watched them at various stops along their routes: calico-patterned ruddy turnstones flipping tiny rocks and seaweed to find periwinkles or mussels; a solitary whimbrel standing in the marsh grass, its long, curved beak poised to snatch a crab; a golden plover pausing on a mud flat, its plumage glowing in the afternoon sun. I used to think that sandpipers flocking at the sea edge, scurrying before the waves, were an immutable part of the beach. No longer. This year, as the birds come north, one of them, the red knot — Calidris canutus rufa — will have acquired a new status. It is now listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. It joins four other shorebirds on the government’s list of threatened and endangered species. Sadly, it is unlikely to be the last….Already the loss of shorebirds has been staggering. In the continental United States, more than half were listed on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, compiled by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. Their inclusion means that their small or declining numbers put them in urgent need of additional protection. The number of North American long-distance migrating shorebirds that scientists have tracked has dropped by more than half since 1974, an alarming loss of 12 million birds. As these birds make their long journeys, they face a host of threats. …About 10,000 species of birds are living today. Scientists estimate that before humans accelerated the rate of extinctions, a bird extinction might happen every 1,000 years. In my own life, at least 19 bird species have become extinct. One shorebird — the Eskimo curlew — may shortly disappear, if it hasn’t already. Hundreds of thousands once flew from the South American pampas up through the Great Plains, and then back through Labrador, gorging on blueberries. The last sighting, confirmed by physical evidence, was in 1963, when I was a young girl. We have also seen aggressive, dedicated conservation return birds from the brink. The bald eagle, peregrine falcon and brown pelican were all rescued from the ravages of DDT after the pesticide was banned, though their recoveries took 30 to 40 years. Scarcely 20 California condors were alive in the wild before a captive breeding program began in the early 1980s; it now has pushed the bird’s numbers in the wild to more than 200…..


New Big Data era pushes training need for bioinformatics in life sciences

Posted: 29 Apr 2015 06:48 AM PDT

In the advent of big data, the requirement for bioinformatics training as an integral part in life science research is becoming increasingly apparent. For the first time, an international consortium of bioinformatics educators and trainers across the globe have come together to transcend institutional and international boundaries to share bioinformatics training expertise, experience, and resources.







Record global carbon dioxide concentrations surpass 400 parts per million in March 2015

Posted: 07 May 2015 05:42 AM PDT

For the first time since we began tracking carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere, the monthly global average concentration of this greenhouse gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015, according to NOAA’s latest results. …The International Energy Agency reported on March 13 that the growth of global emissions from fossil fuel burning stalled in 2014, remaining at the same levels as 2013. Stabilizing the rate of emissions is not enough to avert climate change, however. NOAA data show that the average growth rate of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere from 2012 to 2014 was 2.25 ppm per year, the highest ever recorded over three consecutive years.

NOAA works with partners around the world to make sustained measurements of atmospheric gases. These data are used in analyses that aid our understanding of climate change and provide information to help decision-makers address the challenges facing our planet. NOAA bases the global carbon dioxide concentration on air samples taken from 40 global sites. NOAA and partner scientists collect air samples in flasks while standing on cargo ship decks, on the shores of remote islands and at other locations around the world. It takes some time after each month’s end to compute this global average because samples are shipped from locations for analysis at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. “We choose to sample at these sites because the atmosphere itself serves to average out gas concentrations that are being affected by human and natural forces. At these remote sites we get a better global average,” said Ed Dlugokencky, the NOAA scientist who manages the global network….



Global carbon dioxide levels reach new monthly record

Published on May 7, 2015 3:06 AM

MIAMI (AFP) – In another ominous sign of human-caused climate change, US government scientists said Wednesday that global carbon dioxide concentrations have reached a new monthly record of 400 parts per million. Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas, and is a harmful by-product of burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal. “For the first time since we began tracking carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere, the monthly global average concentration of this greenhouse gas surpassed 400 parts per million in March 2015,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scientists announced that C02 had passed the 400 ppm level for the first time in the Arctic in 2012, and at Mauna Loa in Hawaii in 2013….


This year, full ice coverage – the point at which the ice reaches its peak an then starts melting – was reached on 25 February, more than two weeks before the expected date of mid-March. Photograph: Ralph Lee Hopkins

Rose Hackman in New York

Arctic ice melting faster and earlier as scientists demand action

Arctic returns to warm period with trend over the decades continuing to show temperatures getting hotter and ice melting faster, scientists say

Tuesday 5 May 2015 15.13 EDT Last modified on Tuesday 5 May 2015 15.32 EDT

There was less ice in the Arctic this winter than in any other winter during the satellite era, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said on Tuesday. The announcement was consistent with previous predictions that the Arctic would have entirely ice-free summers by 2040, they said in a briefing to the media on the state of climate trends in the north pole. The consequences of such a small quantity of Arctic ice are major and far-reaching. After undergoing a period of colder temperatures and slower ice retreat between 2007 and 2012, the Arctic is returning to a warm period with the overall trend over the decades continuing to show temperatures getting hotter and ice melting faster. This year, full ice coverage – the point at which the ice reaches its peak and then starts melting – was reached on 25 February, more than two weeks before the expected date of mid-March, said Jeff Key at NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service’s center for satellite applications and research. This means ice started to melt earlier and faster than in previous years. Ed Farley, a scientist with NOAA’s Alaska fisheries science center, said that studies over the last 15 years showed that ice melting faster year-on-year led to a drastic loss in the fat contained in zooplankton – a fish food crucial for the entire area’s ecosystem. “We all know that we are what we eat,” Farley said, echoing lines more commonly heard on reality television show The Biggest Loser. But his words were not aimed at educating teenagers on the virtues of broccoli and blueberries, or at educating adults in getting into shape beyond the treadmill. In the Arctic, fat content – the higher the better – contained in zooplankton has serious, knock-on effects that determine living creatures’ ability to make it through the winter.
Zooplankton feeds the area’s fish, which in turn feed the area’s seals, which in turn feed the area’s polar bears. Eating high-fat foods is crucial for those species to allow them to fatten up and survive harsh winter months.
Changing temperatures in the sea may also severely affect access to high-fat foods in the Arctic’s ecosystem, Farley said.
The Arctic cod, which outweighs its Arctic fish brother the Saffron cod in fat content by 2.7 times, thrives in a sea that is 7C, gets smaller past such a temperature, and risks not surviving at all beyond 10C.
With sea temperatures set to be between 10 and 13C by the end of this century, the Arctic cod might not make it – at all. And while the saffron cod, which likes warmer seas, would survive this temperature change, seals would have to eat saffron cod at 2.7 times the rate they eat the Arctic cod to get the same amount of fat for the winter – a tough challenge, to say the least….


Gravity data show that Antarctic ice sheet is melting increasingly faster

Posted: 30 Apr 2015 04:11 PM PDT

Researchers ‘weighed’ Antarctica’s ice sheet using gravitational satellite data and found that during the past decade, Antarctica’s massive ice sheet lost twice the amount of ice in its western portion compared with what it accumulated in the east. Their conclusion — the southern continent’s ice cap is melting ever faster.



Warm Weather, Warm Ocean Disrupt Wildlife at the Farallones

Joint Press Release – Point Blue Conservation Science; US Fish and Wildlife Service April 29, 2015


This winter’s unusually warm air and ocean temperatures are disrupting marine wildlife at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, as observed by biologists from Point Blue Conservation Science and refuge managers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Over the past four months, seals and sea lions are having difficulty reproducing, local seabirds have had low colony attendance, and two tropical species of seabird have shown up on the island, far from their normal range. The cause: warm air and ocean temperatures, from the high pressure system responsible for California’s mildest, driest, and warmest winter on record. This unusual weather has resulted in a lack of ocean upwelling, the process that brings nutrient rich waters from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. When upwelling is disrupted, the ocean food web is thrown out of balance – and the result is less food for marine wildlife, which disrupts their ability to breed as successfully. “The reasons for these rare observations have to do with the unusually warm air and ocean temperatures and how they impact the ecosystem,” says Russ Bradley, Farallon Researcher for Point Blue Conservation Science. “In February, average air temperature and average sea surface temperature were the highest recorded in 45 years.” Observations of disrupted breeding activities include:

  • California sea lions aborting pups due to poor body condition of the mothers. Since January 9th, 94 aborted sea lion fetuses have been recorded on the islands, well in advance of their June due date.  Ninety-four is almost half the total number of sea lions born on the island in 2014.   
  • High elephant seal pup mortality due to warmer air temperatures. Elephant seals just completed their winter breeding season.  Pup survival was low this year, partly because of unusually warm air temperatures.  Many pups died when overheating mothers moved towards cliff edges in attempts to get cool air and ocean spray; pups then fell to their deaths. 
  • Low attendance of breeding seabirds. Farallon nesting seabirds usually visit the islands during winter, but this year winter attendance was unusually low. In fact, the Cassin’s Auklet, a bird observed to have suffered a large die-off from California to British Columbia this past fall and winter from lack of food, has been largely absent from the islands in the last few months, suggesting auklets have to search for food far from the islands.  Since auklets feed mainly on krill, their activity and nesting success are good indicators of the availability of this food resource, which is very important for many marine predators including whales and salmon. 
  • Observations of marine animals occurring out of their range include:
    Tristram’s Storm-Petrel, 3rd observation ever for all of North America.  On March 18, a freshly killed Tristram’s Storm-Petrel was discovered on the islands, most likely the victim of a Burrowing Owl.  This tropical seabird species typically occurs in the central and western Pacific Ocean, where it breeds on the northwest Hawaiian Islands and islands off southern Japan. This was only the 3rd record of the species in North America, the first of which was captured alive (and released) on the Farallon Islands in 2006.
    Overwintering Brown Boobies. These tropical seabirds, commonly found in Mexico and Central America, are typically very rare in California, where they are mostly found in summer and fall. But unprecedented numbers have been at the islands all winter, with counts up to 12 birds. The previous record count at the Farallones was three birds in Fall 2006.


Climate change is clearly a factor in some, if not all of these unusual occurrences, but it will take ongoing monitoring and time to fully understand the connection.  The high elephant seal pup mortality, for example, can be attributed to the unusually high air temperature combined with the decline of sand at the elephant seal breeding colony, which is a result of ongoing erosion from increased storm surges.  Increased storm surges are likely an impact of climate change. Elephant seals use sand to keep themselves cool while on land; a lack of sand, combined with high air temperatures, produce conditions that make it difficult for young elephant seals to survive. “It will take several years to see if these unusual wildlife patterns hold,” says Gerry McChesney, Farallon National Wildlife Refuge Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “If they do, it can probably be said that climate change is a major driving force.” Observations such as those on the Farallon Islands help researchers understand the effects of changing weather patterns and predict their effects on other ocean resources—such as fisheries, which are critical to the survival of seabirds and marine mammals and an important food source for humans. “These unusual observations highlight the importance of monitoring our coastal wildlife,” says McChesney. “They are significant indicators of ocean health, and help us understand and protect valuable coastal resources.” The Farallon National Wildlife Refuge is located about 30 miles west of San Francisco. Since 1968 Point Blue has monitored wildlife populations and environmental change on the islands daily, working in close collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Refuge. The Farallones host the largest seabird nesting colony in the contiguous U.S., as well as rookeries of seals and sea lions.  Point Blue’s long-term research on the Farallon Islands has helped monitor the Refuge’s valuable natural resources and California’s highly productive marine ecosystem.



Sea lion pups at San Miguel Island in July, 2014. The month-old pups in this photo would endure nearly a year of hunger, and many would ultimately strand on the California coast. Credit: Paul Hillman/NOAA

Sea lion strandings: The view from the rookery

Posted: 06 May 2015 11:05 AM PDT

Wildlife biologists are describing conditions at the sea lion rookeries on the Channel Islands, where pups are going hungry because unusually warm water along the Pacific coast has made it more difficult for their mothers to find food.




Why might scientists be affected by contrarian public discourse? The study argues that three recognised psychological mechanisms are at work: ‘stereotype threat’, ‘pluralistic ignorance’ and the ‘third-person effect’.

How climate science denial affects the scientific community

Posted: 07 May 2015 05:27 AM PDT

Climate change denial in public discourse may encourage climate scientists to over-emphasize scientific uncertainty and is also affecting how they themselves speak — and perhaps even think — about their own research.



Ocean fronts improve climate and fishery production, study finds

Posted: 01 May 2015 03:21 PM PDT

Ocean fronts — separate regions of warm and cool water as well as salt and fresh water — act to increase production in the ocean, research has found. This research showed how fronts can be incorporated into current climate and fisheries models to account for small-scale interactions in fishery production and cycling of elements such as carbon and nitrogen in the ocean.


Cathal McNaughton/Reuters/Corbis

Global warming brews weird weather: Human influence on extreme heat and rain events is growing.

Quirin Schiermeier 27 April 2015

Climate change will increase the risk of extreme precipitation, such as storms that cause flooding. Global warming has profoundly changed the odds of extreme heat, rain and snowfall, researchers report on 27 April in Nature Climate Change1. Climate change caused by human activities currently drives 75% of daily heat extremes and 18% of heavy rain or snowfall events, the team found — warning that further global warming will sharply increase the risks of such weather. The researchers looked at ‘moderate’ extremes, which they defined as events expected to occur on 1 in every 1,000 days under present conditions. “Climate change doesn’t ’cause’ any single weather event in a deterministic sense,” says Erich Fischer, a climate scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), Switzerland, and the study’s lead author. “But a warmer and moister atmosphere does clearly favour more frequent hot and wet extremes.” The researchers found that local variations in weather are already large, even though the global average temperature has risen by just 0.85 °C since the start of the Industrial Revolution. This finding agrees with earlier research on climate and weather extremes. A paper published in Nature in 2011, for example, found that climate change has already doubled the risk of the atmospheric conditions that produced catastrophic floods in England and Wales in 20002; an earlier study found the same result for the conditions that triggered a massive European heat wave in 20033. And human influence on the ‘moderate’ extremes examined in Fischer’s study is set to increase with every degree that the temperature rises, finds the analysis. If the world were to warm by 2 °C above the pre-industrial level, human-caused climate change would drive 40% of rain and snow extremes and 96% of heat extremes, the researchers found….


Warming climate may release vast amounts of carbon from long-frozen Arctic soils

Posted: 23 Apr 2015 03:25 PM PDT

While climatologists are carefully watching carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, another group of scientists is exploring a massive storehouse of carbon that has the potential to significantly affect the climate change picture. Scientists have investigating how ancient carbon, locked away in Arctic permafrost for thousands of years, is now being transformed into carbon dioxide and released into the atmosphere.



A new future for corals: Persistence and change in coral reef communities

Posted: 27 Apr 2015 09:44 AM PDT

Coral reefs, true reservoirs of biodiversity, are seriously threatened by human activities and climate change. Consequently, their extinction has often been heralded. Now, researchers are painting a less gloomy picture: the planet’s reefs are not doomed to disappear. But they will be very different from the ones we presently know. A new coral fauna will emerge, coming from the species that are most resistant to temperature increases.



Trees like these planted along the edge of the Gobi Desert make up much of China’s Green Great Wall. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Who has planted the most carbon-storing trees? China’s ‘Green Great Wall’ takes the prize

Coco Liu, E&E Asia correspondent ClimateWire: Friday, April 24, 2015

HONG KONG — After improving energy efficiency, piloting emissions trading and ramping up renewable energy expansion, China has also been moving on another frontier needed to help ease global warming.

According to a study published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change, the total amount of carbon stored in all living biomass above the soil has increased globally by almost 4 billion tons since 2003, with China contributing in a notable way to the increase. “The increase in vegetation primarily came from a lucky combination of environmental and economic factors and massive tree-planting projects in China,” said Liu Yi, the study’s lead author, in a press release. Liu is a remote sensing scientist from the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Liu noted that “[v]egetation increased on the savannas in Australia, Africa and South America as a result of increasing rainfall, while in Russia and former Soviet republics we have seen the regrowth of forests on abandoned farmland. China was the only country to intentionally increase its vegetation with tree planting projects.”

In an email interview, Liu told ClimateWire that “the most apparent vegetation increase over China is observed in northern China, which is likely related to the Green Great Wall.” Besides that, there has been some increase in vegetation in southeastern China, though there is no clue as to the cause of that increase, the scientist said. China’s Green Great Wall — formally known as the “Three-North Shelter Forest Programme” — is regarded by some experts as the largest ecological engineering project on the planet. Since 1978, at least 100,000 square miles of forests have been planted by Chinese citizens across the arid north, in an effort to hold back the creeping Gobi Desert. Once the project is completed in 2050, a massive belt of trees will stretch from northwestern China’s Xinjiang through several northern regions to the country’s northeastern part, Heilongjiang province. The introduction of the Green Great Wall, however, has doubters in the scientific community. Some scientists worry that planting trees where they do not grow naturally may do more harm than good, soaking up large amounts of valuable groundwater. Others question the mortality rate of trees planted there and whether these trees would negatively affect grass and shrubs, which in general are more resistant to drought and more effective at erosion control. “The ecological issues are complex, and long-term results are not clear,” said David Shankman, a professor emeritus of geography at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as well as a prominent critic of China’s Green Great Wall project.


A warming climate means less Arctic ice and less opportunity for polar bears to hunt. A new study predicts that climate change could cause as many as one in six species to become extinct.

One in six species could be wiped out by climate change, study says

By Karen Kaplan
contact the reporter LATIMES

If present trends continue, a hotter world could spell the demise of 16% of the species alive today Even if temperatures rise only 2 degrees C above pre-industrial times, the global extinction risk will be 5.2% ‘Extinction risks from climate change are expected not only to increase but to accelerate,’ study warns About one in six species now alive on the planet could become extinct as a result of climate change, according to a study published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science. If present trends continue, the Earth’s temperature will wind up 4.3 degrees Celsius higher than it was before the onset of the industrial era. Should that scenario come to pass, as many as 16% of species around the world would be at risk of dying out, the study says. Author Mark Urban, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut, based his calculation on a meta-analysis of 131 previous studies that made predictions about how multiple species would fare in a warmer world. Although the studies focused on different species in different parts of the world and used different modeling techniques to make their forecasts, Urban’s statistical methods found that none of those variables mattered as much as “the level of future climate change.” For instance, the current risk of global extinction is 2.8%, Urban wrote. But the hotter the Earth gets, the more that risk rises….




Sea surface temperature anomalies (standard deviations from the mean) in NE Pacific Ocean for February 2014 based on the record from 1981–2010. (Graphic courtesy of American Geophysical Union)

Return of The Blob

By Matt Miller, KTOO – Juneau | May 5, 2015

Climate researchers say a giant mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean may be responsible for unusual sightings of marine life in the North Pacific while also influencing North American weather patterns. Nicholas Bond, a climatologist for Washington state and a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean, came up with the 1950s sci-fi movie inspired nickname The Blob for the huge, evolving mass of warm ocean water. “I started seeing this very unusually warm water in a semicircular patch about a year ago,” Bond says. He says down to a depth of a hundred meters temperatures have increased more than two degrees Celsius since the fall of 2013. “It was a big event,” Bond says, adding that it was the biggest anomaly seen in the last 18 years. In a paper published last month in the Geophysical Research Letters, Bond and his co-authors say it was caused by a lingering high pressure system that normally inhibits cloud formation and precipitation. The high pressure over the eastern North Pacific blocked the usual parade of winter storms, diverted surface winds and prevented the usual ocean cooling. “Also, the weird direction of the winds meant that in the region of The Blob there’s more warm water coming up from the south than usual to make it warmer there,” Bond says.The higher temperatures coincide with unusual bird sightings in the Pacific Northwest and catches of tuna, sunfish and athresher shark in Alaska. The Blob wasn’t the sole cause, but Bond says it could’ve helped divert frigid Arctic air to the Great Lakes Region last winter. It also could have contributed to a dry West Coast and mild winters along the Alaska coast, simultaneously bumming out skiers and snowboarders and pleasing municipal managers overseeing street snow removal budgets. “It makes more sense that — in the short-term development phase — the atmosphere drives the sea surface temperatures in this part of the world,” says Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. Thoman says they’re seeing those higher temperatures deeper in the ocean, not just at the surface. “That means that’s not likely to change in the short term, say a few month change,” Thoman says. “That warm water extends through a depth of the ocean and that will take a while to change.”…



Partially logged rainforests could be emitting more carbon than previously thought

Posted: 28 Apr 2015 07:58 AM PDT

Global carbon emissions from forests could have been underestimated because calculations have not fully accounted for the dead wood from logging.Global carbon emissions from forests could have been underestimated because calculations have not fully accounted for the dead wood from logging. Living trees take in carbon dioxide whereas dead and decaying ones release it. Understanding the proportion of both is important for determining whether a large area of forest is a source of carbon dioxide, or a ‘sink’ that helps to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Forestry, agriculture and land-use changes account for nearly 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the energy sector. New research led by Imperial College London on partially-logged tropical rainforests suggests that these forests are probably emitting more carbon than assumed, because they contain a high proportion of dead wood. The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, reveals that in these forests dead wood can make up to 64 per cent of the biomass, the biological material found above ground. In untouched forests, dead wood is created through natural processes and makes up less than 20 per cent of the total aboveground biomass. Previously, when estimating the carbon emissions from logged tropical rainforests, researchers have assumed that when live trees are cut down and moved out of the forest, the amount of dead wood is reduced proportionately…. “That such logged forests are not properly accounted for in carbon calculations is a significant factor. It means that a large proportion of forests worldwide are less of a sink and more of a source, especially immediately following logging, as carbon dioxide is released from the dead wood during decomposition.” Selective logging is a growing trend in global forestry. “Selectively-logged tropical forests now make up about 30 per cent of rainforests worldwide. This means such global calculations are wrong at least 30 per cent of the time,” said Dr Pfeifer…


Whitening the Arctic Ocean: May restore sea ice, but not climate

Posted: 28 Apr 2015 02:14 PM PDT

Some scientists have suggested that global warming could melt frozen ground in the Arctic, releasing vast amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, greatly amplifying global warming. It has been proposed that such disastrous climate effects could be offset by technological approaches. One such proposal is to artificially whiten the surface of the Arctic Ocean in order to increase the reflection of the Sun’s energy into space and restore sea ice.



A man walks through the dried-up bed of a reservoir in Sanyuan county, Shaanxi province July 30, 2014. …

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees ‘inadequate’, scientists say

By Laurie Goering May 1, 2015 LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Holding global warming to a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise – the cornerstone of an expected new global climate agreement in December – will fail to prevent many of climate change’s worst impacts, a group of scientists and other experts warned Friday. With a 2-degree temperature hike, small islands in the Pacific may become uninhabitable, weather-related disasters will become more frequent, workers in many parts of the world will face sweltering conditions and large numbers of people will be displaced, particularly in coastal cities, the experts warned. The 2-degree goal is “inadequate, posing serious threats for fundamental human rights, labor and migration and displacement” the experts said in a series of reports commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of 20 countries chaired by the Philippines. Some group members, particularly Pacific island states, have previously asked for a lower temperature target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“The reports underscore just how much difference even half a degree of additional heat makes for people’s lives, for working conditions and for the movement of people,” Mary Ann Lucille Sering, who heads the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said in a statement. “How can we possibly subscribe to more than double current warming given what less than 1 degree Celsius has entailed?” …


Global Warming Link to Nepal’s Earthquakes?

April 27, 2015

…Global warming has many aspects, but one aspect which requires a deep study is related to its capacity to change the pressure attribute of the earth sphere,” Srivastava says. “These pressure changes have impact on the pressure belts in the atmosphere; these have impact on the ocean water and subsequent impact on the inside area of the earth.” Interestingly enough, some scientists have tried to argue that global warming will induce more volcanic activity. Scientists studying volcanoes in Iceland say that ice melting off the island is causing it to rise and could cause more volcanic activity. “Our research makes the connection between recent accelerated uplift and the accelerated melting of the Icelandic ice caps,” Kathleen Compton, a geoscientist at the University of Arizona, told Time. “As the glaciers melt, the pressure on the underlying rocks decreases,” Compton said. “Rocks at very high temperatures may stay in their solid phase if the pressure is high enough. As you reduce the pressure, you effectively lower the melting temperature.” “High heat content at lower pressure creates an environment prone to melting these rising mantle rocks, which provides magma to the volcanic systems,” echoed fellow geoscientist Richard Bennett.


Scientists Say Global Warming Will Cause Deadly Earthquakes

Michael Bastach 4:29 PM 04/28/2015

A volcanic eruption in Chile, massive earthquakes rocking Nepal — obviously, this is what mankind can expect as the world warms and causes glaciers to melt and rainfall to get more intense. Or something like that.

It may sound ridiculous, but scientists say there may be a link between global warming, volcanoes and tectonic plates beneath the surface that cause earthquakes. Newsweek has jumped on the global warming-earthquake link, reporting that the “mechanism here is rather more mundane [than a Hollywood blockbuster], though potentially no less devastating.” “Climate change may play a critical role in triggering certain faults in certain places where they could kill a hell of a lot of people,” Professor Bill McGuire, a professor at University College London, told Newsweek. “These stress or strain variations – just the pressure of a handshake in geological terms – are perfectly capable of triggering a quake if that fault is ready to go.” Scientists say that seismic faults are “very sensitive to the small pressure changes brought by change in the climate.” Warming ice sheets and flooding are changing the weight load of the planet and putting stress on seismic faults like the one in the Himalayas, scientists say. “This effect could certainly have made the Nepal earthquake come sooner,” echoed Prof. Roland Burgmann of the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California in Berkeley.

In his new book, McGuire ponders “the effects of the 100m rise of sea-levels that’s threatened should all the remaining ice on the planet melt,” reports Newsweek. “Across the world,” McGuire writes in his book, “as sea levels climb remorselessly, the load-related bending of the crust around the margins of the ocean basins might – in time – act to sufficiently ‘unclamp’ coastal faults such as California’s San Andreas, allowing them to move more easily; at the same time acting to squeeze magma out of susceptible volcanoes that are primed and ready to blow.”

McGuire’s doomsday scenario, however, is very unlikely. Even the most pessimistic sea rise projections show sea levels rising a few feet by the end of the century. But McGuire insists that sea level rise in Alaska (where sea levels actually tend to fall) have affected some volcanic activity.

“There’s a volcano in Alaska, Pavlov, that only erupts during the autumn and winter. The 10cm or 15cm rise in sea level during the winter months, when low pressure comes over, is enough to bend the crust and squeeze magma out. That’s an example of how tiny a change you need,” McGuire  said.

Newsweek is not the first publication to tie global warming to earthquakes. On Monday, published a piece by Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava, an assistant professor at India’s Kanpur University, blaming warming on the massive quakes that rocked Nepal over the weekend.




A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737-7H4 plane takes off from Love Field Airport in Dallas, on Wednesday, April 20, 2011. (Matt Nager/ Bloomberg)

Surprising new study suggests that flying may be greener than driving

By Chris Mooney April 28 2015 Washington Post

If you want to live a green and energy conscious lifestyle, then the travel or transportation choices you make are crucial. That’s because travel uses a great deal more energy than, say, spending time at home, or cleaning, or eating.

So what should you do when Thanksgiving is coming, and you’ve got to decide whether to pack up the car or just spring for that really pricey ticket to Detroit from Washington, D.C.? new analysis, just out from Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, offers a surprising answer. Namely, Sivak finds that driving today is actually considerably more “energy intensive” than flying, where energy intensity is defined as “the amount of energy needed to transport one person a given distance.”
One principal reason? While airlines and cars have both gotten more energy efficient over time, one key factor in determining the energy intensity of a particular form of travel is how many people are being transported per trip. And on this score, jam-packed modern passenger planes have cars totally beat.

Flying domestically in the U.S. used to be much more energy intensive than driving, but that is no longer the case,” said Sivak by e-mail. “One of the main reasons is that the proportion of occupied seats on airplanes has increased substantially, while the number of occupants in cars and other light-duty vehicles has decreased.”

In his analysis — based on data from the Department of Transportation — Sivak found that in 2012, the average energy intensity of driving a light duty vehicle, such as a car or SUV, in the United States was 4,211 BTUs (British thermal units) per person mile, while the energy intensity of flying domestically was 2,033 BTUs per person mile. (BTUs are a relatively small amount of energy, defined as “the amount of heat necessary to raise one pound of water by 1 degree Farenheit.”) Thus, driving is more than twice as energy intense (on average). The analysis follows on a report of Sivak’s from last year, which had found that driving is 57 percent more energy intensive than flying. Now, Sivak has gone back to update the analysis through 2012 and add some corrections to the data on the energy intensity of flying. And it turns out that as a result, “the advantage of flying has increased even further.”

It’s important, though, to clarify what this analysis does – and does not – mean. We all drive different cars different distances, with different numbers of passengers in them; and our flying habits are also divergent. So these averages can hide quite a lot of diversity in transportation practices – and how much energy they use. For instance, when it comes to driving, having a more fuel efficient vehicle obviously means you’ll use less energy. And to reduce driving energy intensity still further, having multiple people in the same vehicle also makes a huge difference. Hence the virtue of carpooling. “As vehicle load increases, the amount of fuel consumed per person mile decreases (even after taking into account the increased weight to be carried),” the report noted. When it comes to flying, meanwhile, longer distance flights are also less energy intensive, principally because “airplanes use a disproportionate amount of fuel during takeoffs.” Thus, if you carpool with a large group of people over a moderate distance – say, driving from D.C. to Detroit for Thanksgiving — you may still beat flying on an energy intensity basis. Moreover, if you fly a lot, your total energy use from flying may still outdistance your energy use from driving. That’s because a single flight tends to be a lot longer (and thus more energy consuming) than a single drive. The average drive, noted Sivak, is 9 miles, whereas the average domestic flight is 895 miles. Sivak’s research also notes that this energy intensiveness comparison has changed over time. Back in 1970, based on these same metrics, flying was actually much more energy intensive than driving. Both forms of transportation have since improved their efficiency, but flying has improved it a lot more. So if you’re worried about the energy intensity of your transit choices, and you still want to use your car, the answer is clear: Try to carpool more. And for longer distances, remember that you have more options than just these two. According to the Department of Transportation, buses and taking Amtrak both have a lower energy intensity than either driving or flying.


CREDIT: Screenshot/YouTube

The Massive New Online Course That Every Climate Science Denier Should Be Very Afraid Of

by Ari Phillips Posted on April 30, 2015 at 8:00 am

What’s the best way to show a climate change denier the error of their ways? A new online course answers this question for the masses. Hint: it’s not lobbing an endless stream of scientific evidence that proves human-driven climate change. While this approach may be cathartic, telling those who refuse to accept climate science for political, cultural, or ideological reasons over and over that they’re wrong is ineffective at best, and oftentimes counterproductive. How to make progress in this Sisyphean pursuit then? Cue the new, first-of-its kind climate change denial massive open online course, or MOOC. So far the course, called “Making Sense of Climate Science Denial” has more than 10,000 people from 150 countries signed up to find out not only how to confront climate science deniers more effectively, but the psychological and social drivers behind this denial. The 7-week curriculum, which commenced on April 28, also includes responses to the most pervasive climate change denial myths and the insights into the underlying techniques these anti-science perpetrators most frequently employ. In the scientific community there is little controversy over the root of climate change, with 97 percent of climate scientists concluding humans are causing global warming. However in the public the issue is far more muddled with misinformation and fraught with disingenuous objectives. The course attempts to bridge that gap and in doing so, move the discussion around climate change one giant step forward. The course, also referred to as “Denial101x,” includes interviews with 75 researchers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K., including some big names such as Sir David Attenborough. It is being coordinated by John Cook, a fellow at the University of Queensland Global Change Institute Climate Communication and creator of the popular website Skeptical Science….



Marc Cornelissen. Photo courtesy of

2 veteran Arctic explorers find the region’s ‘new normal’ to be deadly

Gayathri Vaidyanathan, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 This article was updated at 2:49 p.m. EDT.


One day in 2005, Marc Cornelissen found himself face to face with a polar bear while his pants were down and he was sitting on an outdoor toilet in the Arctic. His heart pounded, and he resolved to surrender, he said in an interview with a Dutch magazine. Then he remembered his daughter back home in the Netherlands. He grabbed a shovel and shook it toward the bear’s face, as the bear was, by then, standing on its hind legs and sizing up its prey.

Cornelissen yelled, and one of his colleagues came out of the tent with a gun. Shooting the bear was out of the question, since it was so close to Cornelissen, but with a warning shot, the two men scared the bear away.

Cornelissen knew firsthand the dangers of the Arctic, but the simplicity of the explorer’s life and its constant tension with survival drew him, almost every year since 1996, back to the poles. Research into climate change gave additional purpose to his adventures. Over the years, Cornelissen became indispensable to a breed of scientists who felt the Arctic’s pull. He guided the research trips to the North Pole, and he also took measurements to help scientists understand the new Arctic: the rapid changes being triggered by global warming….


By 2001, Cornelissen had visited both the North and South poles and traversed nilas thousands of times on the Arctic Ocean. He began seeing firsthand the impacts of climate change at high latitudes where the sea ice is melting rapidly due to human-caused global warming. The average sea ice thickness in 2012 was just 1.25 meters, down from 3.59 meters in 1975, studies show. Cornelissen wanted to help solve the climate problem and realized that the best way to contribute would be to work with scientists and take measurements during his expeditions. Thus began a decadelong collaboration with the European Space Agency’s Cryosat program. Scientists have measured sea ice thickness in the Arctic for many years, but their older measurements have been haphazard in space and time. Plunging a scope into a shifting, moving mass of ice at one location does not reveal much about the Arctic as a whole. To deal with this lack of comprehensive measurements, ESA launched the Cryosat-2 satellite in 2010 to measure ice thickness at the poles. The satellite’s measurements had to be groundtruthed. Cornelissen made many trips to the Arctic and measured ice thickness and snow depth, which was used by ESA to calibrate satellite data. He also began educating people about climate change. Between 2005 and 2007, he took a group of young Europeans to the Arctic to show them the changes at the top of the world. Most of them have remained avid communicators on the environment, said Cara Augustenborg, who accompanied Cornelissen on a 2007 expedition. Augustenborg is now a spokeswoman on climate change for the Green Party in Ireland….


…On one of his trips, Cornelissen met George Divoky, an ornithologist and researcher with the science nonprofit Friends of Cooper Island, who has studied Arctic seabirds at remote Cooper Island for 37 years. The two quickly discovered they were kindred spirits in their desire to visit the Arctic year after year, leaving behind the comforts of home, a wife and children. “Even though there is a personal life and also all the comforts when you aren’t in the Arctic, there is this compulsion to go back,” Divoky said….


….By April 19, Cornelissen and de Roo had traveled 125 miles. They spoke to Haas, the scientist at York University advising their project, and “decided to make their route a bit more interesting and challenging,” Cornelissen said. They decided to go northeast rather than straight north. This would take them through more rubble and multi-year ice. Days later, the terrain got slushy; if the men were on foot, they would sink in. They measured the ice thickness beneath the slush and found “surprisingly thin ice, about 80 centimeters,” Cornelissen said on April 24. On the horizon, the men saw gray smoke, an apparition in the Arctic that indicates open water. “[Open water] is something we can encounter any moment from now, it is not sure how things progress from here,” he said. “That is OK, we’ll deal with it.” On April 26, the explorers skied over tracks of polar bears — big males and females with cubs. “Don’t be panicked, don’t be alarmed,” Cornelissen said. “We can deal with it; we have good systems, good attitude, and no one will get hurt — no polar bears, no humans involved.” April 28 was unseasonably warm. “It was a strange day,” Cornelissen recalled that night. Temperatures reached a high of about zero Celsius. It was so warm the explorers could not ski in their polar outfits. They stripped down to their underwear. “It is very good that you guys don’t have picture of this from the ice,” he laughed. “We think we see thin ice in front of us, which is quite interesting,” he continued. “We are going to research some more of that if we can.” The next day, the Resolute Bay Royal Canadian Mounted Police received a distress call from the two men. An aircraft flew over the area and saw two sleds, open water and poor ice conditions. One sled and personal items were in the water. A second sled, partially unpacked, was on the ice nearby. Kimnick was guarding the site. The explorers were nowhere to be seen. The RCMP said the men had drowned and halted the search….


Kimnick has been rescued since then, but efforts to recover the men’s bodies have been hampered by bad weather. Helicopters cannot leave Resolute Bay due to blizzard, and they cannot land because of fragile ice conditions. Friends hope that, at the very least, the tragedy might make people aware of the massive changes in the Arctic. “This is meant to be the Last Ice Area, and it is meant to be the thickest,” Divoky of the University of Alaska said. “One of the things that’ll come out of this tragedy is that people will be more aware of just how thin the ice is.”











Wild animals in drought-stricken Western states are dying for a drink

Drought’s domino effect on Western wildlife big and small

Dying of thirst and hunger, critters search for sustenance.

By Darryl Fears May 6

For the giant kangaroo rat, death by nature is normally swift and dramatic: a hopeless dash for safety followed by a blood-curdling squeak as their bellies are torn open by eagles, foxes, bobcats and owls. They’re not supposed to die the way they are today — emaciated and starved, their once abundant population dwindling to near nothing on California’s sprawling Carrizo Plain, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, where the drought is turning hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland into desert. Without grass, long-legged kangaroo rats cannot eat. And as they go, so go a variety of threatened animals that depend on the keystone species to live. “That whole ecosystem changes without the giant kangaroo rat,” said Justin Brashares, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley. Endangered kangaroo rats are just one falling tile in the drought’s domino effect on wildlife in the lower Western states. Large fish kills are happening in several states as waters heated by higher temperatures drain and lose oxygen. In Northern California, salmon eggs have virtually disappeared as water levels fall. Thousands of migrating birds are crowding into wetlands shrunk by drought, risking the spread of disease that can cause huge die-offs.

As the baking Western landscape becomes hotter and drier, land animals are being forced to seek water and food far outside their normal range. Herbivores such as deer and rabbits searching for a meal in urban gardens in Reno are sometimes pursued by hawks, bobcats and mountain lions. In Arizona, rattlesnakes have come to Flagstaff, joining bears and other animals in search of food that no longer exists in their habitat….

“You think about it. In our urban environments, we have artificial water. We’re not relying on creeks,” said David Catalano, a supervisory biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “We have sprinkling systems. We water bushes with fruit and water gardens. That’s just a magnet for everything. “We’ve seen an increase in coyote calls, bear calls, mountain lion calls — all the way to mice and deer,” Catalano said of the distress calls made to his department by residents. “At your house, everything is green and growing and flowering, and they’re being drawn to it.” The state wildlife agency said it is preparing for a deluge of calls reporting bear sightings from Lake Tahoe this summer when berries and other foods they eat disappear for lack of rain. About 4,000 mule deer have vanished from a mountain range near Reno since late last year, probably because of drought. “Our level of concern is very high,” Catalano said. Nevada has placed low fiberglass pools called guzzlers that hold up to 3,600 gallons of water at more than 1,000 wilderness areas across the state to provide water for wildlife.

For a second year, the Arizona Game and Fish Department warned people in Flagstaff, near Grand Canyon National Park: “Don’t be surprised if you see more wild animals around town in the next few months. Drought conditions may cause creatures like elk, deer, bobcats, foxes, coyotes and even bears to wander further into town than normal, as they seek sources of food and water.” Don’t feed them, the department cautioned. Remove pet food, water bowls, garbage and other items that attract wild animals. It does more harm than good. In California, where mandatory water restrictions were passed by the state water board on Tuesday, humans are already coming into contact with desperate wildlife from the 250,000-acre Carrizo Plain National Monument in the Central Valley, near Bakersfield. “Just today, 20 minutes ago, four coyote cubs arrived” from Bakersfield’s outskirts, said Don Richardson, curator of animals for the California Living Museum, which has an animal shelter in the city. “We actually get everything from reptiles to mammals,” Richardson said. “We have 13 San Joaquin kit foxes, an endangered species. They were abandoned, orphaned. The kit foxes’ health was impacted by the struggle to make it with reduced resources. Then, of course, we see a lot of birds of prey — owls and golden eagles.” The animals are already suffering from the fragmentation of their habitat because of ranching and urban development. “It’s looking to be a very, very difficult year for wildlife,” Richardson said. Endangered San Joaquin kit foxes, coyotes and birds in the wildlands outside Bakersfield all rely on the giant kangaroo rat to survive. But those rodents are struggling themselves. “We fear that a semi-arid grassland is becoming a desert,” said Brashares. “The giant kangaroo rat can’t survive in desert.”

A study by the university recorded a 95 percent population loss since 2010. Before the drought, 60 percent of their habitat was covered in grasses that they eat and seeds that they store for hard times in a network of underground burrows, Brashares said. Four years of little rain has reduced the cover to 18 percent. “They simply lack food, so they starve,” Brashares said. As the state wildfire season approaches, the remaining grasses could be wiped out.

For a study, biologists caught a few kangaroo rats this year to study their condition. “They were skinny,” Brashares said. “We looked at females to see whether they had young, whether they were lactating.” They weren’t. In this reality, where food is scarce and births are few, kangaroo rats are still a top prey, further shrinking their numbers. The demise of this species would be unthinkable, Brashares said. There’s no overstating how important the rodent is in the ecosystem. Few others are around to feed snakes, badgers, weasels and animals already mentioned. Even the soil kangaroo rats dig for burrows creates moist habitat for insects. A worse situation is hard to imagine, said Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. But there is one. Chinook salmon are in great danger, he said. For two years, only 5 percent of their eggs have survived winter and spring migrations because the cold water their eggs need to survive drains from rivers and reservoirs….



U.S. Forest Service This aerial view shows Jeffrey pine and oak mortality in the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County, April 2015.

California Drought Killed 12 Million Forest Trees Since Last Year

Monday, May 4, 2015 By Susan Murphy KPBS Radio

The extent and severity of tree mortality, which occurred after the 2014 aerial surveys in Southern California Forests. An estimated 12 million trees across California’s forestlands have died over the past year because of extreme drought conditions, according to an aerial survey conducted April 8-17 by the U.S. Forest Service. In San Diego County, 82,528 trees, mostly Jeffrey pines across Mt. Laguna, have succumbed to a lack of rainfall, with many more struggling to survive, said Jeffrey Moore, interim aerial survey program manager for the U.S. Forest Service. There is “very heavy mortality, a lot of discoloration in the pine trees that probably will expire sometime during this growing season, as well as oak trees that are suffering,” Moore said. Moore was part of a team that surveyed the trees visually, using a digital mapping system while flying in a fixed-wing aircraft 1,000 feet above ground. A tree’s survival often depends on its proximity to other trees, he said. “A lot of trees are competing for whatever available moisture there is in a drought situation,” Moore said. “When you have too many trees in an area, it makes it hard on all of the trees….


Firefighters battled a pair of brush fires in Granada Hills, Calif., on Monday. David Crane/AP

California’s Fire Season Is Shaping Up to Be a “Disaster”

It’s already looking bad, and it’s going to get worse.

—By Tim McDonnell| Thu Apr. 30, 2015 6:15 AM EDT Mother Jones

On Monday, 200 firefighters evacuated an upscale residential neighborhood in Los Angeles as they responded to a wildfire that had just broken out in the nearby hills. Ninety minutes later, the fire was out, with no damage done. But if that battle was a relatively easy win, it belied a much more difficult war ahead for a state devastated by drought. California is in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record, so bad that earlier this month Gov. Jerry Brown took the unprecedented step of ordering mandatory water restrictions. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is currently the lowest on record for this time of year. And the outlook for the rest of the year is bleak: The latest federal projections suggest the drought could get even worse this summer across the entire state (as well as many of its neighbors)… But in California, the trend looks very different. The tally of fires so far this year is 967—that’s 38 percent higher than the average for this date since 2005. The number of acres burned is up to 4,083, nearly double the count at this time last year and 81 percent above the average since 2005…This is all costing California taxpayers a lot of money. According to Climate Central, California typically spends more money fighting wildfires than the other 10 Western states combined, totaling roughly $4 billion over the last decade. That’s partly due to the state’s size and vulnerability to big wildfires, and also to the close proximity of high-value urban development to easily ignited forests and grasslands. (Wildfires in the Alaskan wilderness, by comparison, can grow much bigger but cost much less, because without homes or towns nearby, they’re often allowed to simply burn out.)… Scientists have long predicted that an increase in both the frequency and severity of wildfires is a likely outcome of global warming. The Obama administration’s National Climate Assessment last year cited wildfires as one of the key threats posed to the United States by climate change. Longer periods of drought mean wildfire “fuels” like grass and trees will be drier and easier to burn; at the same time, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means these same fuels will accumulate more quickly. And there’s a feedback loop at play: Deforestation caused by wildfires contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that the increasing threat of wildfires will make climate change worse. When it comes to wildfires, Covington said, “with increased climate change, there’s a train wreck coming our way.” For a more detailed explanation of the link between climate change and wildfires, watch the original Climate Desk video [here].


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The white band of calcium along the canyon walls of the Hoover Dam shows how far the water level has fallen. (Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)

Western drought steals clean energy along with fresh water at power plants

By Todd C. Frankel April 26 at 6:22 PM Washington Post

INSIDE HOOVER DAM — The floor rumbled under Mark Cook. His legs vibrated as he stood in a tunnel tucked into the thick base of Hoover Dam, 430 feet below the tourists looking out over Lake Mead. Beneath him, water roared through steel pipes 13 feet tall. Nearby, heavy turbines hummed with mechanical intensity. “We’re moving some good water today,” Cook, the dam manager, said proudly. Moving water means making electricity. But the drought is making that harder to do. The lack of water has put a serious crimp in the hydroelectric line at Hoover Dam and other power plants across the West, limiting an inexpensive and pollution-free energy source that once was considered endless. Some power companies in California have raised rates as they turn to pricier, often dirtier energy sources. That makes it harder to reduce the greenhouse gases some blame for worsening the drought in the first place. Meanwhile, the risk of brief summertime blackouts could rise: Hydroelectric plants often are called upon to help urban power grids deal with sudden spikes in demand. The problem can be traced to shortages of rain and snowpack, which lead to shallower rivers and reservoirs, which result in less pressure to speed the water along. Slower water simply packs less punch. So turbines spin more slowly, generating less electricity. Some small facilities, such as those along the Truckee River in northern Nevada, have shut down. Other plants are open but struggling. The 53 hydropower facilities run by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation across the West are producing 10 percent less power than a few years ago, despite rising demand. Oregon and Washington are dealing with droughts, too, but so far hydropower in the Pacific Northwest has held steady, power managers say. Water levels in that region’s vast Columbia River basin remain close to normal thanks to heavier precipitation along its headwaters in British Columbia, according to the Bonneville Power Administration, which delivers power to Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana….




NOAA, Natural Resources Conservation Service and California Snow Survey as of April 1

A crystal ball for the Pacific Northwest’s climate: This year’s drought is as bad as scientists predict for mid-century.

Kate Schimel April 27, 2015 From the print edition High Country News

If you’re looking for unexpected ways the current drought is affecting the West, you might take a look in Kathie Dello’s inbox. Until recently, Dello, the deputy director of Oregon’s climate service, had been getting the same emails from prospective residents: I’m thinking about moving to the Pacific Northwest, but I’m worried it’s too wet. How much does it rain there, really? But this winter, as declarations of water shortages swept across the state, the questions changed. “I started to get emails from people wondering whether they should still move to the Pacific Northwest, because of the drought,” Dello told me recently. They worry there won’t be enough water once they get there.

Dello doesn’t have an easy answer, but she knows this is just the beginning. In the Pacific Northwest, the water shortage isn’t due to a lack of precipitation; most of Oregon and Washington saw near-normal amounts. But that moisture arrived mostly as rain, not snow. The rain ran off without adding to the snow reserves, and unseasonably warm temperatures have burned off a good part of the rest. That means there’s little or no snowmelt to take the sting out of the region’s dry summer. And that is close to what climate change models predict for the region. “We absolutely are looking at our future, right now,” Dello said.

Climate projections suggest that the West can expect years like this one to become more frequent by the middle of the century, although changes are already in motion. In the Northwest and the Northern Rockies, that means more rain and less snow. A rainier winter means lower springtime flows for fish and farmers and a less predictable summer water supply for reservoirs. In the Southwest, climate change likely means extended periods of drought, with low precipitation and a low snowpack, much like the one in California.

One of the hardest-hit places in the Northwest has been Oregon’s Malheur County, an agricultural region of alfalfa farms and rocky rangelands tucked against the border with Idaho. Malheur received a near-normal amount of precipitation, 93 percent, but the snowpack was just 1 percent of normal on April 14. The Owyhee Reservoir, which provides much of the county’s water, is at just 28 percent of capacity, thanks to the skimpy snowpack and a series of dry years before this one. Anticipating less than half their usual water allotment from storage, farmers have fallowed fields and switched to crops such as triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, that don’t demand as much water….



California needs to turn down the tap, state OKs historic cuts

By Kurtis Alexander SFCHRONICLE Updated 9:04 pm, Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Californians have a lot of work to do when it comes to water conservation.nThat became painfully clear Tuesday when the state released new data showing that cities and towns reduced their consumption a mere 3.6 percent in March — compared with the same month in 2013 — just as officials took the unprecedented step of mandating cuts of up to 36 percent. How California can bridge that chasm is now one of the state’s most vexing questions. The cuts are set to take effect June 1. “This is a moment to rise to an occasion,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, which approved the first-ever water reductions as part of an emergency drought package Tuesday night. “We’re taking this step because of what we’re facing.” Anticipating that California water supplies will continue to dwindle amid a fourth consecutive dry year, the new regulation commits each of the state’s 400 largest water agencies to cutbacks of 4 to 36 percent compared with what they used two years ago. Agencies that have used more water in the past face steeper targets on a nine-tier scale of reductions. Each must choose how to hit its mark.

Already, many communities have begun making moves to conserve, like limiting outdoor watering and asking customers to flush less and take shorter showers. But the new mandates will force water agencies to take conservation to a whole new level, bumping up enforcement of irrigation restrictions, for example, and even setting caps on household water use, with higher rates for those who exceed their allotment….




File – In this June 1, 2006 file photo is the San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River in Carmel Valley, Calif. The largest dam removal project in California history has hit an important milestone with the diversion of a half-mile section of the Carmel River into a man-man river bed. San Clemente Dam has to come down because it was built in 1921 on an earthquake fault and because the reservoir behind it is 95 percent packed with mud. State regulators are worried that if the privately owned dam collapsed homes and businesses downstream would be flooded by muck. (AP Photo/Monterey County Herald, Vern Fisher) The Associated Press

Dams, reservoirs may not be best answer

Critics say projects are costly, offer limited supply for cities, farms

By Chris Nichols May 3, 2015Updated 9:57 a.m. May 4, 2015

… “Water generated from big new storage projects costs substantially more than water from water use efficiency, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup, and water recycling projects,” Doug Obegi, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, wrote in a blog last year. “They just don’t pencil out,” Obegi added in an interview. Citing a federal study to build a dam at Temperance Flat east of Fresno, Obegi said the $2.5 billion project would yield up to 76,000 acre feet of water but cost taxpayers more than $1,500 per acre foot. That would be about $600 more per acre foot than the water generated by an Orange County groundwater replenishment system, he said.

One acre-foot of water, or 326,000 gallons, is the approximate amount used by two typical single-family households. Building dams is not only expensive, it results in relatively low available supply for cities and farms, according to the California Public Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group. “Five proposed projects — costing roughly $9 billion — would expand statewide reservoir capacity by about four million acre-feet. However, these projects would raise annual average supplies by 410,000 acre-feet, or just one percent of annual farm and city use,” according to a recent PPIC report. The supply from new reservoirs would be limited because these storage banks aren’t dedicated solely to city and farm deliveries, explained Ellen Hanak, director of the institute’s Water Policy Center. Much of their new space would remain empty in case it’s needed to store flood water, some would be devoted to environmental water flows, and yet more would be dedicated for use only in droughts, she said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not useful,” Hanak said, describing surface storage as one piece of California’s complicated water supply puzzle….



Other popular bottled water brands like Aquafina and Dasani also source from catastrophically dry regions. 

Starbucks Wants You to Feel Good About Drinking Up California’s Precious Water

The coffee giant says it’s solving the world’s water problems—yet it’s profiting off the Golden State’s dwindling reserves.

—By Anna Lenzer| Wed Apr. 29, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

….So far, media coverage has focused on Starbucks’ goal to quench the thirst of the world’s parched masses; the story behind the bottled water it sells here in the United States has been a nonissue. But now, as California’s historic drought wears on, Starbucks is facing a water crisis of its own. Starbucks gets its spring water free of charge—in California, water companies typically don’t have to pay for the groundwater they use. The bottling plant that Starbucks uses for its Ethos customers in the western United States is located in Merced, California, which is currently ranked in the “exceptional drought” category by the US Drought Monitor. Its residents face steep water cuts in their homes, and surface water for the region’s many farms is drying up. On April 16, the Merced Sun-Star reported that residents were complaining about a private water bottler, owned and operated by the grocery chain Safeway, that ships the increasingly scarce groundwater out for profit. In addition to its own bottled water, the plant also produces Starbucks’ Ethos water. No one knows exactly how much water the plant is using—the city of Merced considers that information confidential. (Starbucks uses a water source in Pennsylvania for the Ethos bottles sold in its locations in the eastern United States.)….While bottled water accounts for just a small fraction of California’s total water use, some residents are nonetheless fed up with bottling plants that profit off their dwindling water supply. Protesters have begun staging events at Nestlé’s bottling facility in nearby Sacramento. Starbucks, with its mission to bring water to the world’s thirstiest regions, has so far escaped the kind of scrutiny that Nestlé and others have endured. But as a Merced area resident recently noted during a city council meeting about the bottling plant that Starbucks uses, “You might think that in the midst of a drought emergency, diverting public fresh water supplies to bottle and selling them would be frowned upon.”

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Lessons from Australia’s millennium drought

May 8, 2015
Friday Flashback

From the archives of Maven’s Notebook: Original publish date: January 27, 2015

In the late 1990s, Australia began experiencing severe drought conditions that stretched on for well over a decade.  Australia is no stranger to drought, being known as the ‘land of droughts and flooding rains;’ however, the Millennium Drought as it would come to be known, was by far the worst on record.  When the drought finally broke, it did so with drenching rains and flooding that claimed more than 20 lives and destroyed hundreds of homes. The impact of the long intense drought was devastating to both the nation’s agriculture and environment; urban residents felt the squeeze as well, with some cities water use falling down to a mere 39 gallons per capita per day.  As the state of California confronts potentially a drought that could last for years, what lessons can be learned from the Australian experience? At the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) event, Managing Drought, held earlier this month, Jane Doolan, a professorial fellow of natural resource governance and a member of Australia’s National Water Commission, discussed how the Australian government responded to the extreme drought conditions with policy initiatives that changed their water entitlement system, supported water markets, and provided water for the environment to head off catastrophic impacts to sensitive species and ecosystems.

Here’s what she had to say.

Australia has had a history of water reform going back twenty years, with a lot of that reform focused on establishing clear, unambiguous property rights to water held by the environment, communities, and irrigators, she began. “As a precursor to the operation of our water market, which has been the way we have transferred waters from low value use to high value use without the intervention of government, a lot of what we’ve done over 20 years is focus on water efficiency,” she said. “From our rural sectors, we want high value, high performing sustainable irrigation. From our urban sectors, we want urban authorities providing their communities with the reliability of supply, and contributing the livability of those communities.” There has been a lot of effort put into improving the environmental water that goes beyond just providing environmental water, although that’s critical, she said. “It’s setting it in the context of catchment management and improving river health, and it’s on the assumption that a healthy environment will underpin our regional economies and our regional well being,” she said. Click here to continue reading this post.

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Natural “green barriers” help protect this Florida coastline and infrastructure from severe storms and floods.Credit: NOAA

Marshes, reefs, beaches can enhance coastal resilience

Posted: 03 May 2015 06:52 AM PDT

The resilience of U.S. coastal communities to storms, flooding, erosion and other threats can be strengthened when they are protected by natural infrastructure such as marshes, reefs, and beaches, or with hybrid approaches, such as a “living shoreline” — a combination of natural habitat and built infrastructure, according to a new NOAA study. The study, published in Environmental Science and Policy, assesses reports and peer-reviewed studies on the strengths and weaknesses of using built infrastructure, such as seawalls or dikes, natural infrastructure, or approaches which combine both. The study focuses on how these approaches help coastal communities reduce their risk of flooding and erosion, as well as additional benefits, and the tradeoffs when decision makers choose one type over another. “When making coastal protection decisions, it’s important to recognize that built infrastructure only provides benefits when storms are approaching, but natural and hybrid systems provide additional benefits, including opportunities for fishing and recreation, all the time,” said Ariana Sutton-Grier, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, member of the research faculty at University of Maryland and NOAA’s National Ocean Service ecosystem science adviser. “Natural and hybrid systems can also improve water quality, provide habitat for many important species, and mitigate carbon going into our atmosphere.”

Threats like coastal erosion, storms and flooding can reshape the shoreline and threaten coastal property. With approximately 350,000 houses, business, bridges and other structures located within 500 feet of the nation’s shoreline, erosion is a problem many U.S. coastal communities are addressing. Coastal flooding caused by extreme weather events and sea level rise is of growing global concern. As noted in this study, in 2012 there were 11 weather and climate billion-dollar disaster events across the United States, including superstorm Sandy, causing 377 deaths and more than $110 billion in damages. While only two of those were coastal events, Sandy alone was responsible for nearly sixty percent of the damages, at $65 billion (the other, Hurricane Isaac, caused $3 billion in damage). Nationally, these made 2012 the second costliest year on record for weather disasters. Only 2005, which incurred $160 billion in damages due in part to four devastating coastal hurricanes, saw more.

“Coastal resiliency and disaster risk reduction have become a national priority, and healthy coastal ecosystems play an important role in building resilient communities,” said Holly Bamford, Ph.D., acting assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management at NOAA, and co-author of the study. “We know that sea levels are rising and that coastal communities are becoming more vulnerable to extreme weather- and climate-related events. Now is the time to invest in protection to secure our coasts, but we need to make those investments wisely and with a full understanding of the costs and benefits of different approaches.” The study points out that there is still a need for built approaches in some locations. However, natural or hybrid approaches can be used in many cases. Some natural ecosystems can maintain themselves, recovering after storm events and reducing the cost of upkeep. Natural habitats such as coral reefs, marshes and dunes can act as buffers for waves, storms and floods. Natural ecosystems also can, in many cases, keep pace with sea level rise, while built infrastructure does not adapt to changing conditions. “There is a lot of potential innovation with hybrid approaches,” said Katya Wowk, Ph.D., NOAA senior social scientist, and the third co-author of the study. “Hybrid approaches, using both built and natural infrastructure, often provide more cost-effective flood risk reduction options and alternatives for communities when there is not enough space to use natural coastal protection alone.” Hybrid approaches, such as combining some habitat restoration with openable flood gates or removable flood walls, provide benefits while also providing more storm and erosion protection than natural approaches alone. The study highlights hybrid approaches in the New York City metro area and in Seoul, South Korea, to deal with their monsoon flooding events. “One of the challenging aspects is that these approaches are very new, so we are still learning what works best in which situations and under what circumstances,” said Wowk. The authors suggest that every location where hybrid and natural approaches are being implemented provide opportunities for monitoring so we can learn as much as possible about each approach, including longer-term cost effectiveness. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to what is best for a community in providing coastal protection from flooding,” said Bamford. “We all have to work to innovate, test, monitor, and develop a better suite of options that includes more natural and hybrid infrastructure alternatives for providing coastal protection to communities around the world.”


Ariana E. Sutton-Grier, Kateryna Wowk, Holly Bamford. Future of our coasts: The potential for natural and hybrid infrastructure to enhance the resilience of our coastal communities, economies and ecosystems. Environmental Science & Policy, 2015; 51: 137 DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.04.006




EPA Provides Training to Help Communities Prepare for Climate Change

Release Date: 05/06/2015 Contact Information: Enesta Jones,, 202-564-7873, 202-564-4355
WASHINGTON– As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released an online training module to help local government officials take actions to increase their communities’ resiliency to a changing climate. The virtual training, which was informed by the National Climate Assessment released one year ago today, was developed with advice from EPA’s Local Government Advisory Committee and is the latest addition to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit announced in November 2014. It includes successful examples of effective resilience strategies that have been implemented in cities and towns across the country.

“Across the country, communities are being challenged by the impacts of a changing climate,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The Obama Administration is committed to helping communities make smart decisions in the face of those challenges. EPA’s new training offers tools that can help local governments improve their ability to deliver reliable, cost-effective services even as the climate changes.”

The training explains how a changing climate may affect a variety of environmental and public health services, such as providing safe drinking water and managing the effects of drought, fires and floods. It also describes how different communities are already adapting to climate-related challenges. …. Users are also directed to the wide range of data and tools available from the federal government through the U.S. Climate Data Portal and the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. Local officials can access the training online at or via the Climate Resilience Toolkit at While the initial focus of the training is at the municipal level, additional training to help neighborhoods become climate resilient is planned. More information about EPA’s climate adaptation activities: To view blogs about EPA’s efforts to get communities prepared:



Telluride’s Colorado Avenue. (Denver Post file)

Western towns hard-hit by climate change unite, target coal for funds

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post
Posted:   05/03/2015 08:30:13 PM MDT79 Comments | Updated:   45 min. ago

Ten Western mountain towns feeling the effects of climate change are launching a campaign that targets the coal industry, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars a year from companies to help communities adapt.
The “Mountain Pact” towns in Colorado and neighboring states contend that, because coal is a major source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases linked to climate change, the industry should pay more to help deal with the impact.

In a letter being sent this week to federal officials, lawmakers and the White House, the towns demand changes in the federal government’s system for collecting royalties from coal companies, half of which flow back to states for local distribution. The federal program already is under internal review. Colorado Mining Association president Stuart Sanderson bristled at the push, saying the industry pays “a very fair chunk” and also is facing increased regulatory burdens.

But the mountain town leaders are adamant. Rising temperatures, inconsistent river flows, shrinking snowpack, drought and catastrophic wildfires are among the worsening problems they must deal with at an increased expense. “….

Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser said residents and visitors increasingly feel the effects of climate change including blowing dust, which accelerates snowmelt, reduced snowfall and water supply strains. He said the town is motivated partly by politics and that any funds reaching Telluride would be used to install local solar and wind power systems. “If they’re going to continue to burn coal, it has to be cleaner. This needs to happen sooner rather than later,” Fraser said. “It’s very important that we have less pollution going into the environment.” Mountain Pact towns plan to send the letter Tuesday to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, top federal land and budget managers, 11 lawmakers and two White House officials. A growing list of signatories includes mayors or town councils of Aspen, Leadville, Telluride, Ophir, Ridgway, Buena Vista, Carbondale, Dillon, Park City, Utah, and Taos, N.M….



New California Goal Aims to Reduce Emissions 40 Percent Below 1990 Levels by 2030


SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued an executive order to establish a California greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions over the next decade and a half. “With this order, California sets a very high bar for itself and other states and nations, but it’s one that must be reached – for this generation and generations to come,” said Governor Brown. This executive action sets the stage for the important work being done on climate change by the Legislature. The Governor’s executive order aligns California’s greenhouse gas reduction targets with those of leading international governments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. The 28-nation European Union, for instance, set the same target for 2030 just last October. California is on track to meet or exceed the current target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as established in the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). California’s new emission reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 will make it possible to reach the ultimate goal of reducing emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050. This is in line with the scientifically established levels needed in the U.S. to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius – the warming threshold at which scientists say there will likely be major climate disruptions such as super droughts and rising sea levels….

From the Executive Order:

4. The California Natural Resources Agency shall update every three years the state’s climate adaptation strategy, Safeguarding California, and ensure that its provisions are fully implemented. The Safeguarding California plan will:
-Identify vulnerabilities to climate change by sector and regions, including, at a minimum, the following sectors: water, energy, transportation, public health, agriculture, emergency services, forestry, biodiversity and habitat, and ocean and coastal resources; 
-Outline primary risks to residents, property, communities and natural systems from these vulnerabilities, and identify priority actions needed to reduce these risks; and
-Identify a lead agency or group of agencies to lead adaptation efforts in each sector.

5 .Each sector lead will be responsible to:
-Prepare an implementation plan by September 2015 to outline the actions that will be taken as identified in Safeguarding California, and 
-Report back to the California Natural Resources Agency by June 2016 on actions taken.

6. State agencies shall take climate change into account in their planning and investment decisions, and employ full life-cycle cost accounting to evaluate and compare infrastructure investments and alternatives. 

7.State agencies’ planning and investment shall be guided by the following principles 
Priority should be given to actions that both build climate preparedness and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
-Where possible, flexible and adaptive approaches should be taken to prepare for uncertain climate impacts;

-Actions should protect the state’s most vulnerable populations; and
Natural infrastructure solutions should be prioritized.

8.The state’s Five-Year Infrastructure Plan will take current and future climate change impacts into account in all infrastructure projects

California’s Response to Climate Change 

In his inaugural address earlier this year, Governor Brown announced that within the next 15 years, California will increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources; reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; double the efficiency savings from existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner; reduce the release of methane, black carbon and other potent pollutants across industries; and manage farm and rangelands, forests and wetlands so they can store carbon. Since taking office, Governor Brown has signed accords to fight climate change with leaders from Mexico, China, Canada, Japan, Israel and Peru. The Governor also issued a groundbreaking call to action with hundreds of world-renowned researchers and scientists – called the consensus statement – which translates key scientific climate findings from disparate fields into one unified document. The impacts of climate change are already being felt in California and will disproportionately impact the state’s most vulnerable populations….[click here for world leaders’ reactions]



Climate change students will have zero carbon credentials

Monday 27 April 2015

A degree programme that aims to be the greenest available will seek to equip graduates from around the world with the skills to tackle climate change. Organisers of the online MSc in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh aim to provide students with world class learning through lessons that have no carbon footprint. The virtual delivery of lessons means no greenhouse gas emissions are generated by students travelling to classes. In addition, course leaders will offset the carbon footprint of computers used by staff and students on the programme, to cut its carbon impact to zero. The three-year taught programme aims to equip students with knowledge, skills and training in the business, economics and science of climate change. It will be taught by world experts in climate change and carbon management, and is aimed at graduates in business, science and the humanities who want an advanced academic qualification. Graduates of the programme are expected to work in consultancy, research and project development or as policy advisors to governments and industry.



VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam plans to develop 20 power plants that will operate on rice husks.

Vietnam plans to generate power from rice husks

April 27, 2015

Construction of the first thermal rice husk-run power plant has started on a 9-hectare land plot in Long My District of the southern province of Hau Giang. The project is estimated to cost $31 million.






Keystone on West Coast? Oil-sands crude could come to California

By David R. BakerApril 28, 2015 Updated: April 28, 2015 5:08pm

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has a new mission — keeping oil from Canada’s tar sands out of California. Steyer’s NextGen Climate organization released a report Tuesday warning that an “invasion” of tankers and railcars carrying crude from the oil sands could soon hit West Coast refineries, which currently process very little Canadian oil. Steyer, a major Democratic donor who quit his hedge fund to focus on fighting climate change, has risen to prominence as a vocal opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline extension, which would link the oil sands to American refineries on the Gulf Coast.

But Tuesday’s report, prepared with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of other environmental groups, notes that the oil industry is pursuing other pipeline routes that would carry tar-sands petroleum to Canada’s Pacific Coast. From there, it could be shipped to refineries in California and Washington. In California, companies have proposed five new terminals for receiving oil shipped by rail — another potential means of entry. California’s policies to fight climate change discourage but don’t prevent the use of oil-sands crude.
Keystone is not the only way the tar sands threaten our country,” Steyer said Tuesday at an event in Oakland, releasing the report. “The owners of the tar sands are always looking for other routes to the world’s oceans and the world’s markets.”

Steyer and other environmentalists have made blocking Keystone a rallying cry in the fight against global warming, since extracting hydrocarbons from the oil sands releases far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than other forms of oil production. And unlike common oil, the diluted bitumen (a tar-like substance extracted from the sands) sinks in water, making spills from pipelines and tankers difficult to clean.

“It is shockingly toxic, it is extremely nasty and it takes forever to clean up,” Steyer said. “To end the risk from tar-sands oil once and for all, we need to move beyond oil to a clean energy future. Luckily, this is the kind of leadership California excels at.”…. he has not yet decided whether to pay for an advertising campaign against bringing oil-sands crude to the West Coast. “I’m not 100 percent sure,” he said. “Exactly how we fight it, I don’t think we’ve determined.”

Crude from the tar sands makes up a tiny fraction of the oil processed in California refineries — less than 3 percent, according to the report. And while the amount of oil shipped into the the Golden State by rail has soared in recent years, most of that petroleum comes from North Dakota and other states where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has produced a glut of crude. But oil companies have proposed two pipeline projects that would link the oil sands to the Pacific Ocean, both of them traveling through British Columbia. If built, they could lead to an additional 2,000 oil tankers and barges moving up and down the West Coast each year, according to the report. The rail terminal projects proposed in California could raise the amount of oil-sands crude processed in the state each day from the current 50,000 barrels to 650,000 barrels by 2040.

However, that outcome is hardly certain. A California policy known as the low carbon fuel standard requires oil companies to cut by 10 percent the amount of carbon dioxide associated with each gallon of fuel they sell in the state, reaching that milestone by 2020. In addition, the state’s cap-and-trade system forces refineries to cut their overall greenhouse gas emissions. Neither policy specifically prevents refineries from using oil-sands crude, but both give oil companies a powerful incentive to use other sources of petroleum. Anthony Swift, one of the report’s authors, said California needs to adopt more stringent emissions targets to keep out crude from the oil sands.

“These policies are a very good start,” said Swift, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We need to get more robust targets — for both the low carbon fuel standard and the cap — to signal to the industry that California is not going to be an option for tar-sands refining.”



Germany, the Green Superpower

Thomas L. Friedman NY Times Opinion MAY 6, 2015

BERLIN — A week at the American Academy in Berlin leaves me with two contradictory feelings: one is that Germany today deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, and the other is that Germany tomorrow will have to overcome its deeply ingrained post-World War II pacifism and become a more serious, activist global power. And I say both as a compliment. On the first point, what the Germans have done in converting almost 30 percent of their electric grid to solar and wind energy from near zero in about 15 years has been a great contribution to the stability of our planet and its climate. The centerpiece of the German Energiewende, or energy transformation, was an extremely generous “feed-in tariff” that made it a no-brainer for Germans to install solar power (or wind) at home and receive a predictable high price for the energy generated off their own rooftops. There is no denying that the early days of the feed-in tariff were expensive. The subsidies cost billions of euros, paid for through a surcharge on everyone’s electric bill. But the goal was not simply to buy more renewable energy: It was to create demand that would drive down the cost of solar and wind to make them mainstream, affordable options. And, in that, the energiewende has been an undiluted success. With price drops of more than 80 percent for solar, and 55 percent for wind, zero-carbon energy is now competitive with fossil fuels here.

“In my view the greatest success of the German energy transition was giving a boost to the Chinese solar panel industry,” said Ralf Fücks, the president of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, the German Green Party’s political foundation. “We created the mass market, and that led to the increased productivity and dramatic decrease in cost.” And all this in a country whose northern tip is the same latitude as the southern tip of Alaska!

This is a world-saving achievement. And, happily, as the price fell, the subsidies for new installations also dropped. The Germans who installed solar ended up making money, which is why the program remains popular, except in coal-producing regions. Today, more than 1.4 million German households and cooperatives are generating their own solar/wind electricity. “There are now a thousand energy cooperatives operated by private people,” said the energy economist Claudia Kemfert. Oliver Krischer, the vice chairman of the Green Party’s parliamentary group, told me: “I have a friend who comes home, and, if the sun is shining, he doesn’t even say hello to his wife. He first goes downstairs and looks at the meter to see what [electricity] he has produced himself. … The idea now is that energy is something you can [produce] on your own. It’s a new development.” And it has created so much pushback against the country’s four major coal/nuclear utilities that one of them, E.On, just split into two companies — one focusing on squeezing the last profits from coal, oil, gas and nuclear, while the other focuses on renewables. Germans jokingly call them “E.Off” and “E.On.”

So if that’s the story on renewable power, how about national power? Two generations after World War II, Germany’s reticence to project any power outside its borders is deeply ingrained in the political psyche here. That is a good thing, given Germany’s past. But it is not sustainable. There is an impressive weight to Germany today — derived from the quality of its governing institution, its rule of law, and the sheer power of its economy built on midsize businesses — that is unique in Europe. When you talk to German officials about Greece, their main complaint is not about Greek fiscal policy, which is better lately, but about the rot and corruption in Greece’s governing institutions. The Greeks “couldn’t implement the structural reforms they needed, if they wanted to,” one German financial official said to me. Athens’ institutions are a mess. With America less interested in Europe, Britain fading away both from the European Union and the last vestiges of it being a global military power, France and Italy economically hobbled and most NATO members shrinking their defense budgets, I don’t see how Germany avoids exercising more leadership. Its economic sanctions are already the most important counter to Russian aggression in Ukraine. And in the Mediterranean Sea, where Europe now faces a rising tide of refugees (and where Russia and China just announced that their navies will hold a joint exercise in mid-May), Germany will have to catalyze some kind of E.U. naval response. The relative weight of German power vis-à-vis the rest of Europe just keeps growing, but don’t say that out loud here. A German foreign policy official put their dilemma this way: “We have to get used to assuming more leadership and be aware of how reluctant others are to have Germany lead — so we have to do it through the E.U.” Here’s my prediction: Germany will be Europe’s first green, solar-powered superpower. Can those attributes coexist in one country, you ask? They’re going to have to. 

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Groups sue to keep oil waste out of state’s aquifers

By David R. Baker May 7, 2015 Updated: May 7, 2015 5:03pm

Two environmental groups sued California regulators Thursday to stop oil companies from injecting wastewater into potentially usable aquifers beneath the state’s Central Valley. The suit, filed by the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, claims the California agency that oversees oil fields is breaking the law by letting companies pump wastewater from their drilling operations into aquifers that the regulators were supposed to protect. The injections were the subject of a Chronicle investigation in February. The state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has moved to end the practice but has given oil companies until 2017 to shut down many of the injection wells. Environmentalists want all the wells closed immediately. The groups sued Thursday to overturn newly adopted regulations from the division that allow the continued injections.

“California has a drought, and we need to protect all the potential sources of drinking water we have, and DOGGR is allowing the continued pollution of aquifers,” said Will Rostov, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, which filed the suit on behalf of the environmental groups. “We want them to comply with the law, and the law is pretty clear — no more injections.”


Australian economist: Tesla battery can solve climate change

A ‘technological fix’ is possible, he says

By Claudia Assis Published: May 4, 2015 12:56 p.m. ET

Elon Musk has given the world all it needs to solve global warming, according to one Australian economist. The Powerwall, Tesla Motors Inc.’s TSLA, +1.98%  home battery unveiled with fanfare last week, has been greeted with enthusiasm and skepticism, but the skeptics are missing the forest for the trees, John Quiggin, a professor of economics and author, wrote in his blog over the weekend.Assuming the Tesla system comes anywhere near meeting its announced specifications, and noting that electric cars are also on the market from Tesla and others, we now have just about everything we need for a technological fix for climate change, based on a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Quiggin wrote. Quiggin is the author of “Zombie Economics”, a book in which he writes about “dead” ideas—such as that deregulation has conquered the financial cycle or that markets are always the best judge of value.

The economist said he expects a “lot of resistance” to his conclusion about batteries and climate change. That’s because the opponents of the notion of man-made climate change hold such beliefs as that eschewing fossil fuels would entail “the end of industrial society/capitalism as we know it” and, if that is true, “climate change must be an enviro-socialist hoax,” he wrote. Since some of the more strongly held views on climate change are much harder to change, Quiggin wrote he was “not going to bother trying to demonstrate the assertion that a technological fix is now possible.”…








Adapting Conservation Easements to Climate Change

When: Wednesday 27 May 2015, 01:00 PM – 02:30 PM ET or 10-11:30 PT

Join us for a discussion and share how your organization may be adapting (and barriers to adapting) conservation easements to anticipated consequences of climate change on natural communities and resource productivity.

Speaker: Adena Rissman, University of Wisconsin-Madison. For more information and to register, go to:




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 (


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.



21-26 February 2016 New Orleans

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)






Point Blue is hiring a Senior Marine Spatial Ecologist to help us drive climate-smart conservation actions off the Sonoma coast and across the entire California Current ecosystem. The Marine Ecologist will play a key role in Point Blue’s strategic initiative to conserve ocean food webs by helping to: 1) identify the effects of climate change on marine wildlife distribution patterns and the location and function of food web hot spots, 2) guide ocean adaptation planning, management, and zoning to improve the conservation of threatened ocean resources within California’s National Marine Sanctuaries, 3) use monitoring and citizen science to inform public outreach and policy recommendations that will reduce human impacts on marine wildlife, and 4) coordinate and support collaborative science and resource management activities with key agencies and stakeholders. The Marine Ecologist will work collaboratively with staff across the California Current Group and Point Blue, as well as externally with public and private partners to carry out research and monitoring, perform analyses, engage in policy and resource management discussions, and disseminate results.  Supervision will be provided by Point Blue’s California Current Group Director. To Apply E-mail: (1) cover letter describing qualifications and reasons for interest in this position and Point Blue, (2) complete CV/resume, and (3) contact information (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses) for 3 references to with “Marine Ecologist” in the subject line. Applicants may be subject to background checks. Application deadline is May 31, 2015; the position will remain open until a successful candidate has been identified. For more information please follow this link:…/jobs-and-intern…/marine-ecologist.


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. 



President & CEO of NatureBridge












Is our universe a hologram? Credit: TU Wien

Is the universe a hologram?

Posted: 27 Apr 2015 07:16 AM PDT

The ‘holographic principle,’ the idea that a universe with gravity can be described by a quantum field theory in fewer dimensions, has been used for years as a mathematical tool in strange curved spaces. New results suggest that the holographic principle also holds in flat spaces. Our own universe could in fact be two dimensional and only appear three dimensional — just like a hologram….


Babies as young as six months using mobile media

Posted: 25 Apr 2015 06:56 PM PDT

More than one-third of babies are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by one year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day, according to a new study.


Substantial benefits for health, environment through realistic changes to UK diets

Posted: 30 Apr 2015 06:20 PM PDT

Making a series of relatively minor and realistic changes to UK diets would not only reduce UK diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a fifth, but could also extend average life expectancy by eight months, according to new research. The findings are outlined in two papers. The first, published in Climatic Change, estimates the greenhouse gas emissions associated with current UK diets and with diets modified to meet World Health Organization (WHO) dietary recommendations, and the second, in BMJ Open (1 May 2015) models the impact these dietary modifications would have on the health of the UK population. The researchers ensured that the proposed dietary changes were realistic and resulted in diets likely to be acceptable to the general public; an often overlooked step that is critical in producing relevant population guidance….The modified diet that could achieve these environmental and health benefits would contain fewer animal products, especially red meat, fewer savoury snacks and more fruit, vegetables and cereals. While the modified diet would require many minor adjustments, overall it would not be substantially different to the current average UK dietary pattern. Further analysis showed that greater environmental and health benefits could be achieved by making additional changes to UK diets, although as these changes become more extreme they would likely limit the public acceptability of the diets….


Antioxidant effects of coffee by-products 500 times greater than vitamin C

Posted: 07 May 2015 05:25 AM PDT

The coffee industry plays a major role in the global economy. It also has a significant impact on the environment, producing more than 2 billion tons of coffee by-products annually. Coffee silverskin (the epidermis of the coffee bean) is usually removed during processing, after the beans have been dried, while the coffee grounds are normally directly discarded.




Serving healthy foods with a smile may entice students to eat better

Posted: 26 Apr 2015 08:05 AM PDT

Labeling healthy foods with smiley faces and offering small prizes for buying nutritious items may be a low-cost way to get students to make healthy choices in the school lunch line, according to a new study.













Baltimore students get a crash course in ‘surviving’ a police stop



Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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


Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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