Conservation Science News Oct 24 2015


Focus of the Week – Is This the Last Year Below 400 ppm of CO2?










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Focus of the WeekIs This the Last Year Below 400 ppm of CO2?


Scientists at the Scripps Institution project that the powerful El Niño condition this year, along with rising emissions, will send concentrations of carbon dioxide, even accounting for annual ups and downs, beyond 400 parts per million shortly. Credit Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Is This the Last Year Below 400? [ppm of Co2]

Leader of Keeling Curve measurement says temporary bump from El Niño could push atmospheric CO2 levels above symbolic threshold for good

October 21, 2015 Ralph Keeling

The Mauna Loa CO2 record is a saw-tooth pattern, with CO2 concentrations typically falling from May through September, and rising over the rest of the year. This cycle is caused by the natural exchanges of CO2 with vegetation and soils. Each year, the values are higher than the year before, as CO2 continues to pile up in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning. This year, as expected, we hit the annual low point back in September and CO2 concentrations are starting up again. The lowest point this year was well below 400 parts per million (ppm). The lowest daily minimum this year was 395.83 ppm and the average for the month of September, was around 397.1 ppm. By sometime in the next month or two, CO2 will again rise above 400 ppm. Will daily values at Mauna Loa ever fall below 400 ppm again in our lifetimes?
I’m prepared to project that they won’t, making the current values the last time the Mauna Loa record will produce numbers in the 300s

The background for my forecast:

In recent years, CO2 has been increasing by around 2.2 ppm, per year. Barring anything unusual, we would therefore expect next year’s September value to be around 399.3 ppm, just barely below 400 ppm, and we’d expect the lowest daily minima to be around 398 ppm or so. But we seem now to be on the verge of the largest El Niño event since 1997. This is significant because CO2 tends to rise much faster during and just following El Niño events. From September 1997 to September 1998, for example, CO2 rose by a whopping 3.7 ppm. If this El Niño is comparable, the rise from September 2015 to September 2016 could easily be 4.4 ppm, allowing for an El Niño boost and allowing that fossil-fuel emissions rates globally are larger now than in 1998. Taking these factors into account, a reasonable forecast for next year’s September minimum is around 402 ppm, with the lowest daily minima also over 400 ppm. The El Niño growth spurt in atmospheric CO2 is mostly caused by drought in the tropics. Rainfall that normally falls over tropical landmasses shifts to the oceans during El Niño events. This slows the normal growth of tropical forests and increases forest fires. Indonesia suffered severe fires during the 1997 event and, from recent news, is already being hit hard this year. The loss of carbon from tropical forests in El Niño years is temporary as the forests tend to regrow in normal years, building back their biomass and sucking CO2 out of the air in the process. But the eventual recovery from this El Niño won’t bring us back below 400 ppm, because its impact will be dwarfed by the global consumption of fossil fuels, pushing CO2 levels ever higher.


Starting Later This Year, 400 and Up is Likely to Be the New Normal for CO2 Measurements

By ANDREW C. REVKIN NY Times Oct. 22 2015

Climate scientists predict that the combination of El Niño impacts and rising emissions will cause atmospheric levels of heat-trapping CO2 to cross a threshold that won’t be revisited for a very long time. On Tuesday, a simple but sobering note predicting an imminent end to measurements of carbon dioxide in air lower than 400 parts per million was posted by the group at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography that has been carefully measuring the rising concentration of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere since 1958.
The sawtoothed “Keeling Curve,” of these measurements, named for Charles David Keeling, the scientist who launched the project and ran it until his death in 2005, has become an icon of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch created by humanity’s “great acceleration.” There’s no surprise in the 400 p.p.m. threshold being passed soon given continuing growth in emissions of the heat-trapping gas and its long lifetime once released. This landmark has been written about extensively here and elsewhere, and the annual surge and ebb of the gas has previously crossed that 400 p.p.m line temporarily (seasonal bursts of photosynthesis account for the sawtoothed ups and downs).

This time, partially because of the impact of El Niño on precipitation and thus plant growth, the scientists foresee an accelerated rise, but an insufficient seasonal surge of photosynthesis to draw levels lower. The long lifetime of the gas, once released, and the slow response of humans in trying to constrain emissions mean it’ll almost surely take generations, at least, before numbers below 400 are revisited on the way down.

The Scripps note is worth posting simply as an artifact of our age. It is written by Ralph Keeling, who took over after death of his father, the pioneering atmospheric scientist Charles David Keeling, in leading this simple but momentous observational effort. See my 2008 “ode to the value of monitoring” for a broader look at why seemingly boring observations of important parameters, from CO2 concentrations to stream flows, get too little respect, and funding. The climate historian Spencer Weart did a fine job of tracking the budget woes of the Keelings’ work. [see Ralph Keeling’s note above]






A solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert. Credit: Worklife Siemens/flickr

Study Sees Ecological Risks as Solar Expands

October 19th, 2015 By Bobby Magill Climate Central

Solar power development is big business in sunny California, fueled by low solar panel prices and the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change. Some biologists, however, are growing concerned that the placement of new large-scale solar power plants in the Mojave Desert may harm the biological diversity found there. A study published Monday shows that solar power developers in California have been using mostly undeveloped desert lands with sensitive wildlife habitat as sites for new solar power installations rather than building on less sensitive, previously developed open lands. The study, by the Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University, shows the ecological footprint of solar power development could grow to more than 27,500 square miles — roughly the land area of South Carolina — if the U.S. were to adopt a more ambitious climate goal. When thousands of solar panels are built in undeveloped natural areas, the panels crowd out wildlife and destroy their habitat. “Solar takes out a lot of territory, right? It obliterates everything,” University of California-Santa Cruz ecologist Barry Sinervo, who is unaffiliated with the study, said. “There is as much plant biodiversity in the Mojave as there is in a redwood forest. The key part of this is, do we want to tile out the last largest wilderness area that we have, which is the Western desert?”
The Carnegie study found that of the 161 planned or operating utility-scale solar power developments in California, more than half have been or will be built on natural shrub and scrublands totaling about 145 square miles of land, roughly the land area of the city of Bakersfield, Calif. About 28 percent have been built on agricultural land and 15 percent have been built in developed areas. Areas that have already been developed and have little wildlife habitat would be better suited for solar development from an ecological standpoint, said study lead author Rebecca Hernandez, a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Berkeley, and a former ecologist at the Carnegie Institution. Hernandez said she was surprised to find that nearly a third of solar development is occurring on former cropland, perhaps because farmers are shifting from growing crops to using their land to generate electricity. California’s devastating drought may be responsible for farmers’ shift to solar, something one of the study’s co-authors is researching in more depth. “We see that ‘big solar’ is competing for space with natural areas,” she said. “We were surprised to find that solar energy development is a potential driver of the loss of California’s natural ecosystems and reductions in the integrity of our state and national park system.” Finding ways to resolve conflicts between renewable energy development and ecosystem protection may be critical if the U.S. is to rely on more solar power to displace fossil energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Assuming that 500 gigawatts of solar power may be needed to meet a future climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, Hernandez’s team found that a region of California roughly equal to the land area of South Carolina may be needed to accommodate all the new solar power plant development. … The study also does not account for increasing solar panel efficiency over time, something that is likely to reduce the amount of land needed to generate a megawatt of solar electricity….



Most Calif. [solar] projects sited near protected areas — study

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Published: Monday, October 19, 2015

Most commercial-scale solar energy projects in California are located within 6 miles of protected lands
such as inventoried roadless areas or critical habitat for federally protected species, according to a study released today by scientists at California universities.The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined 161 projects that have been planned, are under construction or are operating. Their proximity to protected areas “may exacerbate habitat fragmentation” with direct and indirect ecological consequences, it found. “A prevailing cause of degradation within protected areas is land use and land cover change in surrounding areas,” the study notes.Protected areas are effective when land use nearby does not obstruct corridor use, dispersion capabilities, nor facilitate invasions of nonnative species through habitat loss, fragmentation, and isolation — including those caused by renewable energy development.”

It recommends land-use policies that encourage solar development in “human-impacted places” that comply with environmental laws to avoid “deleterious land cover change.”… Fewer than 15 percent of projects were located in “compatible” areas — defined by the study’s lead author as places that have previously been disturbed by humans, are sufficiently sunny and are located near existing energy infrastructure. About 19 percent of installations were in “incompatible” areas, due primarily to their lengthy distances to existing transmission….Today’s study found that nearly 30 percent of solar installations in California are sited in croplands and pastures, a sign that developers are increasingly gravitating toward farmland, such as in the Central Valley. But a greater number of projects are located in shrublands and scrublands, comprising about 93,000 acres of land-cover change.
Photovoltaic projects, which use panels like the ones installed on rooftops to convert sunlight directly into electricity, were concentrated particularly in the Central Valley and the interior of Southern California, while concentrated solar power projects, which use the sun to heat a liquid and power a turbine, were sited exclusively in inland Southern California, the study found.
Future project siting will have a major impact on biodiversity considering the scarcity of land and the vast space requirements of renewable energy
, the study notes.
Opportunities to minimize land use change include co-locating renewable energy systems with food production and converting degraded and salt-contaminated lands, unsuitable for agriculture, to sites for renewable energy production,” the study says.Using unoccupied spaces such as adjacent to and on top of barns, parking lots, and distribution centers in agricultural areas is another win-win scenario.” The study found that 16 percent of photovoltaic and 44 percent of concentrated solar power installations were located in “incompatible” areas. Most of these plans were sited “far from transmission infrastructure.”



Solar energy development impacts on land cover change and protected areas

Rebecca R. Hernandez et al PDF PNAS September 2015 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1517656112


Decisions humans make about how much land to use, where, and for what end use, can inform innovation and policies directing sustainable pathways of land use for energy. Using the state of California (United States) as a model system, our study shows that the majority of utility-scale solar energy (USSE) installations are sited in natural environments, namely shrublands and scrublands, and agricultural land cover types, and near (<10 km) protected areas. “Compatible” (≤15%) USSE installations are sited in developed areas, whereas “Incompatible” installations (19%) are classified as such owing to, predominantly, lengthier distances to existing transmission. Our results suggest a dynamic landscape where land for energy, food, and conservation goals overlap and where environmental co-benefit opportunities should be explored.


Decisions determining the use of land for energy are of exigent concern as land scarcity, the need for ecosystem services, and demands for energy generation have concomitantly increased globally. Utility-scale solar energy (USSE) [i.e., ≥1 megawatt (MW)] development requires large quantities of space and land; however, studies quantifying the effect of USSE on land cover change and protected areas are limited. We assessed siting impacts of >160 USSE installations by technology type [photovoltaic (PV) vs. concentrating solar power (CSP)], area (in square kilometers), and capacity (in MW) within the global solar hot spot of the state of California (United States). Additionally, we used the Carnegie Energy and Environmental Compatibility model, a multiple criteria model, to quantify each installation according to environmental and technical compatibility. Last, we evaluated installations according to their proximity to protected areas, including inventoried roadless areas, endangered and threatened species habitat, and federally protected areas. We found the plurality of USSE (6,995 MW) in California is sited in shrublands and scrublands, comprising 375 km2 of land cover change. Twenty-eight percent of USSE installations are located in croplands and pastures, comprising 155 km2 of change. Less than 15% of USSE installations are sited in “Compatible” areas. The majority of “Incompatible” USSE power plants are sited far from existing transmission infrastructure, and all USSE installations average at most 7 and 5 km from protected areas, for PV and CSP, respectively. Where energy, food, and conservation goals intersect, environmental compatibility can be achieved when resource opportunities, constraints, and trade-offs are integrated into siting decisions.


These are women from Uaxactun village in the Peten, Guatemala preparing dinner for tourists. Credit: Lovett Williams

New studies look at impact of protected areas on poverty, human well-being

Posted: 14 Oct 2015 11:22 AM PDT

A substantial fraction of the Earth is now legally protected from damaging human activities. Does this protection matter? In other words, has it made a difference in terms of maintaining or enhancing biological diversity and ecosystem services? Has it harmed or helped the people who live in and around these areas? The answers to these important questions are surprisingly elusive, but absolutely essential for developing effective conservation strategies. Practitioners need credible, scientific evidence about the degree to which protected areas affect environmental and social outcomes, and how these effects vary with context. Such evidence has been lacking, but the situation is changing as conservation scientists adopt more sophisticated research designs for evaluating protected areas’ past impacts and for predicting their future impacts. Complementing these scientific advances, conservation funders and practitioners are paying increasing attention to evaluating their investments with more scientifically rigorous evaluation designs. This theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B highlights recent advances in the science of protected area evaluations and explores the challenges to developing a more credible evidence base on which societies can achieve their goals of protecting nature while enhancing human welfare….Nature conservation programs such as protected areas can have significant impacts — both positive and negative — on local people. These impacts can be economic, including on income, housing and livelihoods, but conservation can also affect social relations and people’s feelings about life. The authors explore the concept of wellbeing, which encompasses these different dimensions, and propose nine principles which can help conservationists better to understand their impacts on people’s lives. These include ensuring local people’s priorities are addressed and making sure that research uses appropriate methods which can capture the complexity of the impacts that people experience.

  1. Daniel Brockington, David Wilkie. Protected areas and poverty. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 370 (1681): 20140271 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0271
  2. Emily Woodhouse, Katherine M. Homewood, Emilie Beauchamp, Tom Clements, J. Terrence McCabe, David Wilkie, E. J. Milner-Gulland. Guiding principles for evaluating the impacts of conservation interventions on human well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 370 (1681): 20150103 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0103

    Summary of guiding principles for evaluating impacts of conservation interventions on well-being


    (a) Defining outcomes and indicators

    (i) Principle 1: put local people at the centre of the evaluation

    (ii) Principle 2: select multiple outcomes to measure and consider subjective components

    (b) Evaluation design: linking outcomes to the intervention

    (i) Principle 3: match evaluation design to the setting and questions asked

    (c) Understanding processes of change

    (i) Principle 4: provide evidence of causal linkages

    (ii) Principle 5: consider trajectories of change

    (iii) Principle 6: investigate institutions and governance structures

    (d) Data collection

    (i) Principle 7: select and apply methods and toolkits with sensitivity to the research context

    (ii) Principle 8: take into account heterogeneity within the target group

    (iii) Principle 9: ensure independence



Virtual Issue: Monitoring Wildlife

October 2015

To celebrate The Wildlife Society Annual Conference
Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Journal of Animal Ecology and Journal of Applied Ecology have compiled this virtual issue on Monitoring Wildlife. The papers below are drawn from the journals and provide examples of the latest research in techniques for monitoring including remote sensing, telemetry, camera traps and modelling techniques. The papers cover a broad range of animals including fish, mammals, invertebrates and birds. We hope that this selection of papers will be of interest to researchers and stakeholders in this highly topical field….




Prioritizing Wetland Restoration Sites: A Review and Application to a Large-Scale Coastal Restoration Program

Widis et al doi: 10.3368/er.33.4.358 Ecological Rest. December 1, 2015 vol. 33 no. 4 358-377

ABSTRACT: Wetland restoration has emerged as an important tool for counteracting and restoring lost ecological services resulting from urban and agricultural development. Over the last 20 years, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) modeling has also become a powerful mechanism for prioritizing potential wetland restoration sites across a variety of geographic scales. Although numerous studies have created GIS-based models for a variety of uses, no one has comprehensively analyzed and compared models to determine best practices and inform future site selection efforts. We performed a comprehensive literature review of GIS-based wetland prioritization models. We found no congruency between stated objectives, specific variables and metrics, and respective weighting and scoring systems. We then performed a case study, applying these findings to explore potential improvements to the spatial decision support system (SDSS) used by the Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program (MsCIP; USA), a large-scale coastal restoration project aimed at improving the resiliency and reducing flood risk after significant damage from Hurricane Katrina (2005). This case study draws on several state-of-the-art practices in the literature to retroactively study potential improvements in the SDSS’s flexibility and accuracy in identifying potential wetland restoration sites. Our findings suggest improvements for wetland restoration prioritization models (including consistent variable use and ground-truthing) that could better direct future federal initiatives, as well as a wide range of domestic and international wetland restoration programs.


Is Information Enough? The Effects of Watershed Approaches and Planning on Targeting Ecosystem Restoration Sites

Woodruff et al doi: 10.3368/er.33.4.378 Ecological Rest. December 1, 2015 vol. 33 no. 4 378-387

ABSTRACT: Since 1996, the watershed approach (i.e., the inclusive use of watershed information) has been a hallmark concept in ecosystem restoration site location. In 2008, federal regulators required use of the watershed approach in siting compensatory mitigation for aquatic impacts regulated under the U.S. Clean Water Act. However, regulations fell short of requiring full watershed plans, which could have required stakeholder involvement and inter-institutional coordination. Little work has evaluated how the watershed approach or planning position mitigation sites in the landscape. Has the watershed approach or watershed planning been successful in targeting restoration sites where they are needed? The North Carolina Division of Mitigation Services (DMS; formerly the NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program), a state agency, has implemented the watershed approach and extensive watershed planning to focus restoration investments. Through a multi-step planning program, the DMS employs a watershed approach to gauge the need of 12-digit watersheds for restoration. In some cases, an intensive local watershed planning process follows this targeting effort. We tested the effect of the program’s watershed targeting approach (n = 710) and local watershed planning efforts (n = 147) on increasing the frequency of wetland and stream mitigation projects (n = 480) in each of the state’s 1741 12-digit watersheds (1998–2012). We find that while the watershed approach is successful at guiding restoration to targeted watersheds over space and time, the impacts of watershed planning are more nebulous, with important but weaker panel-effects. Our findings highlight the importance of plan quality and data management in using a watershed approach to target restoration sites effectively.



Antarctic species threatened by willful misinterpretation of legal treaty

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 02:08 PM PDT

Countries are loosely interpreting the legal meaning of “rational use” of natural resources to escalate fishing efforts in Antarctic waters and hinder efforts to establish marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, scientists and legal scholars say. The findings, published online in the journal Marine Policy, come as 24 countries plus the European Union convene in Hobart, Australia, this week for the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to set fisheries management rules in the Southern Ocean. Also on the meeting agenda are plans for extensive marine protected areas (MPAs), including the Ross Sea, Antarctica, a region scientists have deemed Earth’s “Last Ocean” because it is perhaps the healthiest large intact marine ecosystem left on the planet.


Jennifer Jacquet, Eli Blood-Patterson, Cassandra Brooks, David Ainley. ‘Rational use ‘ in Antarctic waters. Marine Policy, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2015.09.031



The radio transmitter this wood thrush is wearing enables researchers to track it through the forest at night. Credit: V. Jirinec

Secret nocturnal lives of wood thrushes

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 03:50 PM PDT

We know surprisingly little about what songbirds do after the sun goes down, but past studies have provided tantalizing hints that many forest birds roost for the night in different habitat from where they spend the day. A new paper confirms that wood thrushes often move out of their daytime ranges to sleep, seeking dense areas of vegetation where they’re safe from predators….


Vitek Jirinec, Christina P. Varian, Chris J. Smith, Matthias Leu. Mismatch between diurnal home ranges and roosting areas in the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina): Possible role of habitat and breeding stage. The Auk, 2015; 133 (1): 1 DOI: 10.1642/AUK-15-76.1

Bats important to survival of rare frog, other species

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 02:08 PM PDT

Bat poop matters. So says a study examining a little-known species, the Caucasian parsley frog, and its reliance on insects that breed in bat guano. This is yet another study showing how critically important are bats for the environment. Their role is not limited to controlling agricultural pests; entire cave ecosystems with dozens of species depend on bats for survival, and many of these species are yet to be discovered….Dinets found that in the summer, most of the frogs find shelter in limestone caves, although some probably wander outside at night. The frogs showed significant preference for caves with bat colonies, most likely because insects breeding in bat waste provided a rich source of food. “This is yet another study showing how critically important are bats for the environment,” Dinets said. “Their role is not limited to controlling agricultural pests; entire cave ecosystems with dozens of species depend on bats for survival, and many of these species are yet to be discovered.” The study was recently published in the Herpetological Bulletin, a leading scientific publication devoted to herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles. Dinets noted that as bat populations in eastern North America are being devastated by human-introduced white-nose syndrome, the disaster is likely to cause a cascade of extinctions and widespread ecosystem destabilization. White-nose syndrome is of Eurasian origin, but it is a problem only in North America because bats here are not adapted to it. “The study shows the importance of protecting even small bat colonies,” Dinets said.


Northern gannet (Morus bassanus) are using old fishing nets as nesting material in their nesting colony at the island Helgoland (North Sea / Germany), Credit: Image courtesy of Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research

Plastic litter taints the sea surface, even in the Arctic

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 08:13 AM PDT

For the first time,
researchers show that marine litter can even be found at the sea surface of Arctic waters. Though it remains unclear how the litter made it so far north, it is likely to pose new problems for local marine life, the authors report
on the online portal of the scientific journal Polar Biology. Plastic has already been reported from stomachs of resident seabirds and Greenland sharks. Plastic waste finds its way into the ocean, and from there to the farthest reaches of the planet — even as far as the Arctic.…We currently know of five garbage patches worldwide; the sixth patch in the Barents Sea is most likely in the early stages of formation. Bergmann believes it may be fed by the densely populated coastal regions of Northern Europe….The litter floating in the Arctic is particularly detrimental to seabirds, which feed at the sea surface. A recent study from the nearby Isfjorden fjord on Spitsbergen showed that 88 percent of the northern fulmars examined had swallowed plastic. These birds spend their entire life at sea. Even Greenland sharks are swallowing plastic litter: researchers found plastic litter in the stomachs of up to eight percent of the sharks caught south of Greenland



Beavers take a chunk out of nitrogen in Northeast rivers

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 11:47 AM PDT

Beavers, once valued for their fur, may soon have more appreciation in the Northeastern United States. There they are helping prevent harmful levels of nitrogen from reaching the area’s vulnerable estuaries. By creating ponds that slow down the movement of water, they aid in removing nitrogen from the water…..


Growing up without parents makes endangered birds more flexible

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 03:51 PM PDT

This is it, kids: official permission to stop listening to what your parents tell you — but only if you’re a bird. Many animal parents spend time teaching their young about how to find food and avoid danger, and this usually gives a big boost to their offspring. However, a new commentary makes the case that when environmental conditions change, relying on their parents’ way of doing things can actually hinder, not help, young cranes.


Advances in genetic studies of birds are changing ornithology research

Posted: 21 Oct 2015 03:50 PM PDT

How do birds evolve over generations? How do different bird populations diverge into new species? Ornithologists have been asking these questions since the days of Darwin, but rapid advances in genetic sequencing techniques in the last few years have brought answers more in reach than ever. A Review forthcoming in The Auk: Ornithological Advances describes some of the newest and most exciting developments in the field of “high-throughput sequencing,” a collection of techniques for studying broad regions of a genome rather than individual genes.


The Facebook campus sits next to the Menlo Park Baylands amid the rich colors of the drying mud flats in Ravenswood Slough in this aerial view taken Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 2, 2015, in Menlo Park, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) ( Karl Mondon )

San Francisco Bay: Race to build wetlands is needed to stave off sea-level rise, scientists say

By Paul Rogers Posted:   10/18/2015 06:00:00 PM PDT

San Francisco Bay is in a race against time, with billions of dollars of highways, airports, homes and office buildings at risk from rising seas, surging tides and extreme storms driven by climate change. And to knock down the waves and reduce flooding, 54,000 acres of wetlands — an area twice the size of the city of San Francisco — need to be restored around the bay in the next 15 years. That’s the conclusion of a new report from more than 100 Bay Area scientists and 17 government agencies that may help fuel a regional tax measure aimed at addressing the looming crisis. The other alternative, the report found, is to ring large sections of the bay with seawalls and levees in the coming decades. But that would destroy many of the marshes and probably cost taxpayers more in the long run. “If we don’t change our approach, we’ll see the marshes and mud flats start to drown,” said Letitia Grenier, a biologist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a scientific research organization in Richmond. “They’ll start to erode,” said Grenier, one of the report’s main authors. “We’ll have bigger waves coming in on high tides and storms — and more flooding. We’ll lose our wildlife. And eventually the wetlands will be gone. You’ll see levees and concrete seawalls. The water in many places will be higher than the land, like it is in New Orleans.” San Francisco Bay already has risen 8 inches since 1900, according to the tidal gauge at Fort Point, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge….


Report: Bay Area Infrastructure, Communities at Risk Without Wetlands Restoration

Wed, Oct 21, 2015 — 9:30 AM
Download audio (MP3)

Hundreds of acres of salt evaporation ponds, in the background, are being restored to tidal wetlands, as seen in the foreground of this scene from Eden Landing in Hayward, California.

A new report reveals that 42,000 acres of wetlands in the Bay Area must be restored over the next 15 years to mitigate the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, swelling tides and strong storms threaten billions of dollars worth of businesses, homes and infrastructure. The report, from 100-plus Bay Area scientists and 17 government agencies, warns that wetlands either need to be repaired or buffered with seawalls and levees.

Host: Michael Krasny


  • Letitia Grenier, co-director & senior scientist of the Resilient Landscapes Program, San Francisco Estuary Institute
  • Sam Schuchat, executive officer, The California State Coastal Conservancy

More info:




Almost Every Chemical-Based Sunscreen In The U.S. Linked To Coral Destruction

by Jess Colarossi Oct 21, 2015

Coral reefs cannot seem to catch a break this year. Between a particularly strong El Niño, ocean acidification and increasing ocean temperatures, links between overfishing and reef collapses, and the declaration of a massive coral bleaching event expected to affect 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs by the end of the year, the current state of the global environment has been particularly detrimental to coral reefs. And now, research has shown that a chemical found in almost every chemical-based sunscreen used in the United States is linked to coral destruction. The study, published Tuesday in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, was led by Craig Downs from the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia. He told Reuters that the research was conducted in order to help explain why baby corals have not been developing in many established reefs. Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion make their way into coral reef areas each year… According to the research, concentrations of oxybenzone as low as 62 parts per trillion — equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools — are deemed harmful. Between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion make their way into coral reef areas each year, and much of that sunscreen contains oxybenzone. The Huffington Post reported that the chemical is used in more than 3,500 sunscreens worldwide. However, harmful chemicals can also find their way into oceans through sewer systems and sewer overflows. The Washington Post reported that cities including Ocean City, Maryland, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have built sewer outfalls that send waste water away from public beaches and deep into the ocean with an assortment of toxic chemicals from personal care products like sunscreen. This study is the latest to examine sunscreen’s impact on corals, but previous research has also found that sunscreen is a danger to corals. Conservation and environmental protection organizations have advised people to be mindful of the personal care products they use, especially while swimming in oceans. The National Park Service reported that 90 percent of snorkeling and diving occurs on only 10 percent of the world’s reefs, making the most “popular reefs” the most susceptible to harmful chemicals from sunscreens. Though no sunscreen has been named completely “reef friendly,” mineral and children’s sunscreens are found to be less harmful for reefs. The human health effects of oxybenzone, along with other chemicals found in the vast majority of sunscreens, have been called into question by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in previous years. The group has found that oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream, and acts as an endocrine disruptor, much like it has been found to do in coral reefs. EWG states that concentrations of oxybenzone are linked to disorders such as endometriosis in older women and lower birth weights in newborn girls — but the group notes that the studies showing this link aren’t conclusive. Some dermatologists at organizations such as the Skin Cancer Foundation have been critical of EWG’s findings…


The global demand for pine nuts, a main ingredient of pesto, means pine forests have been razed to the ground and pine cones ransacked from their floors 

Passion for pesto puts entire ecosystems in Russia in danger

October 22, 2015

  • Russia is the world’s largest producer of nuts from the Korean pine tree
  • Thousands of pickers collect them and sell them on to Chinese exporters
  • Entire forests have been razed to the ground to meet insatiable demand
  • Experts say lack of nuts will wipe out ecosystems ‘from chipmunk to tiger’ 

The global demand for pine nuts has meant that pine forests have been razed to the ground and pine cones ransacked from their floors, and in Russia, where the majority of the world’s pine nuts are imported from, entire ecosystems from birds to bears… First it was olive oil, and then Prosecco, and now the shortage of another Italian staple is threatening middle-class dining tables. Pesto could be on the wane – as ecologists are warning that its core ingredient, the pine nut, is under threat.

The global demand for pine nuts has meant that pine forests have been razed to the ground and pine cones ransacked from their floors, and in Russia, where the majority of the world’s pine nuts are imported from, entire ecosystems from birds to bears are in danger. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that pine nuts from the Korean pine tree in the south-east Russia are collected by thousands of pickers each year, who sell them on to Chinese merchants who then ship them overseas. While the pine nuts traditionally preferred for pesto were imported from Europe, harvested from the Italian stone pine, increases in global demand and skyrocketing prices have shifted the world market toward less expensive Asian varieties, of which the Korean pine is the most important. Jonathan Slaght, of the Russia program of the Wildlife Conservation Society, wrote in the New York Times: ‘The global demand is making this harvest unsustainable. The entire Korean pine ecosystem could collapse if it continues. We are already seeing the cracks appearing… ‘The Korean pine nut pesto you eat today…carries with it an unseen cost that could shatter an ecosystem bottom to top, seedling to tree, and chipmunk to tiger.’



Fish farming gobbles up phosphorus

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 06:45 AM PDT

Fish farming is the largest source of phosphorus emissions in Norway, generating about 9,000 tonnes a year. Finding ways to reuse the waste from the fish farming industry could cut consumption of this important and increasingly scarce resource…The phosphorus contained in imported raw plant materials destined for fish feed production currently accounts for almost one-third of the phosphorus imported to Norway, and is larger than domestic fertilizer consumption.

In addition, fish farming is the largest source of phosphorus emissions, generating about 9,000 tonnes a year. Whereas animal manure that is spread on fields partially reuses the phosphorus, virtually all of the fish waste and feed scraps end up in the ocean….







(Photo: NASA)

Hurricane Patricia bears down on Mexico as strongest storm ever

Thousands are fleeing Mexico as Hurricane Patricia bears down on the country. Packing sustained winds of 200 mph, wind gusts could reach up to 245 mph.

David Agren and Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 6:05 p.m. EDT October 23, 2015

MONTERREY, Mexico — Tens of thousands of people were being evacuated Friday from Mexico’s Pacific coast as the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere bore down on the popular tourist area packing sustained winds of 190 mph, down from 200 mph earlier in the day. The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted the Category 5 Hurricane Patricia would make a “potentially catastrophic landfall” in southwestern Mexico later in the day.

The center described the storm as the most powerful ever recorded in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic basins. It warned of powerful winds and torrential rain that could bring life-threatening flash flooding and dangerous, destructive storm surge.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said during a radio interview on Friday that he didn’t want to create panic in the western states of Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit that are in Patricia’s path, but that it’s important for people there to understand the magnitude of the historic storm. Nieto said Patricia has surpassed the constraints of the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, which defines a top-rated category 5 storm as having wind speeds higher than 156 mph.

“If there were a category six for hurricanes, this would be a category six,” he said. “It’s a hurricane that hasn’t been seen before, not just in Mexico, not just in the United States. It has wind speeds that are greater than the most intense, strongest hurricanes ever recorded on the planet.” Nieto said the entirety of the federal government is responding to the storm, working with state and local officials to coordinate evacuations and position emergency personnel to respond. He told Mexicans that they have some difficult days ahead, but urged them to follow the instructions of their local authorities to survive the oncoming storm.


Getty Images Hurricane Patricia heads towards Mexico

This Is How Patricia Became The Strongest Hurricane Ever Recorded

Justin Worland @justinworland October 23, 2015 4:43 PM ET

Meteorologists say heightened sea temperatures due to El Niño and global warming explain how the storm caught them by surprise Hurricane Patricia—now the strongest hurricane ever recorded—surprised meteorologists as it transformed over the course of a day from a run of the mill tropical storm to a monster with sustained winds of up to 200 miles per hour. Now, meteorologists are pointing to heightened sea temperatures due to El Niño and global warming to explain how the storm caught them by surprise. “Our models all showed it would become a fairly big hurricane but none of them got close to what was actually measured,” said Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We’re going to be scratching our heads for a long time about this storm.” Surface temperatures across the Pacific Ocean have been elevated in recent months due to El Niño—a climate phenomenon that affects weather patterns across globe— by as much as 7ºF (4ºC), according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The El Niño effect follows decades of increased water temperatures due to global warming. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that the surface levels of the world’s oceans warmed by about 4% between 1971 and 2010….





The first nine months of 2015 were the hottest since 1880. Clockwise from top left: a water spring north of Jerusalem; the boardwalk at Coney Island in New York City; a graveyard in Karachi, Pakistan; and a fountain in Madrid. Credit Clockwise from top left: Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency; Spencer Platt, via Getty Images; Akhtar Soomro, via Reuters; Emilio Naranjo, via European Pressphoto Agency

2015 Likely to Be Hottest Year Ever Recorded


Just one year after 2014 set a record as the hottest year in the historical record, 2015 is on track to beat it by a substantial margin, possibly signaling a return to a sustained period of rapid global warming. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the American agency that tracks worldwide temperatures, announced Wednesday that last month had been the hottest September on record, and that the January-to-September period had also been the hottest since 1880. Scientists say it is now all but certain that the full year will be the hottest on record, too. That means that delegates to a global climate conference scheduled for Paris in early December will almost certainly be convening at a time when climate-related disasters are unfolding around the world, putting them under greater pressure to reach an ambitious deal to limit future emissions and slow the temperature increase. The immediate cause of the record-breaking warmth is a strong El Niño weather pattern, in which the ocean releases immense amounts of heat into the atmosphere. But temperatures this year are running far ahead of those during the last strong El Niño, in 1997 and 1998, and scientists said the record heat would not have occurred without an underlying trend of warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

“We have no reason at this point to think that El Niño itself is responding to the forcing from greenhouse gases,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “You can think of them as independent and adding to each other.” The El Niño phenomenon and the accompanying heat are already roiling weather patterns worldwide, likely contributing to dry weather and forest fires in Indonesia, to an incipient drought in Australia, and to a developing food emergency across parts of Africa, including a severe drought in Ethiopia. Those effects are likely to intensify in coming months. Past patterns suggest that El Niño will send unusual amounts of rain and snow to the American Southwest and to California, offering some relief for that parched state but also precipitating floods and mudslides. The California effects are likely to be strongest in the latter part of the winter, experts said.




September 2015 Analysis NOAA

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2015 was the highest for September in the 136-year period of record, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F). This marks the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set and is the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880. The September temperature is currently increasing at an average rate of 0.06°C (0.11°F) per decade. Separately, the September average temperature across global land surfaces was 1.16°C (2.09°F) above the 20th century average, also the highest for September on record. Large regions of Earth’s land surfaces were much warmer than average, according to the Land & Ocean Temperature Percentiles map above. Record warmth was observed across northeastern Africa stretching into the Middle East, part of southeastern Asia, most of the northern half of South America, and parts of central and eastern North America. Southern South America, far western Canada, Alaska, and a swath across central Asia were cooler or much cooler than average.


Paradise Bay, Antarctica (stock image). Credit: © mrallen / Fotolia

Two degree Celsius warming locks in sea level rise for thousands of years

Posted: 18 Oct 2015 06:38 PM PDT

A jump in global average temperatures of 1.5°C-2°C will see the collapse of Antarctic ice shelves and lead to hundreds and even thousands of years of sea level rise, according to new research published in Nature. The research highlights the moral significance of decisions made now about mitigating climate change. An international team led by Dr Nicholas Golledge, a senior research fellow at New Zealand’s Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre, published the study ‘The multi-millennial Antarctic commitment to future sea-level rise’, which predicts how the Antarctic ice-sheet will respond to future atmospheric warming. Using state-of-the-art computer modelling, Dr Golledge and his colleagues including researchers from UNSW simulated the ice-sheet’s response to a warming climate under a range of greenhouse gas emission scenarios. They found in all but one scenario (that of significantly reduced emissions beyond 2020) large parts of the Antarctic ice-sheet were lost, resulting in a substantial rise in global sea-level. “The long reaction time of the Antarctic ice-sheet — which can take thousands of years to fully manifest its response to changes in environmental conditions — coupled with the fact that CO₂ lingers in the atmosphere for a very long time means that the warming we generate now will affect the ice sheet in ways that will be incredibly hard to undo,” Dr Golledge said….”It becomes an issue of whether we choose to mitigate now for the benefit of future generations or adapt to a world in which shorelines are significantly re-drawn.”In all likelihood we’re going to have to do both, because we are already committed to 25 centimetres by 2050, and at least 50 centimetres of sea-level rise by 2100.” According to Dr Golledge the last time CO concentrations in the atmosphere were similar to present levels was about three million years ago. “At that time average global temperatures were two or three degrees warmer, large parts of the Antarctic ice-sheet had melted, and sea-levels were a staggering 20 metres higher than they are now.” “We’re currently on track for a global temperature rise of a couple of degrees which will take us into that ballpark, so there may well be a few scary surprises in store for us, possibly within just a few hundred years.


  1. N. R. Golledge, D. E. Kowalewski, T. R. Naish, R. H. Levy, C. J. Fogwill, E. G. W. Gasson. The multi-millennial Antarctic commitment to future sea-level rise. Nature, 2015; 526 (7573): 421 DOI: 10.1038/nature15706
  2. Alexander Robel. Climate science: The long future of Antarctic melting. Nature, 2015; 526 (7573): 327 DOI: 10.1038/526327a




Tracking the 2C Limit- 1.062 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times now – September 2015

Posted on 23 October 2015 by Rob Honeycutt skepticalscience.come

The latest temperature anomaly coming out of GISS is, same as last month, 0.81°C. Adjusting that for our preindustrial baseline we show we’re now at 1.062°C over preindustrial times. The current El Niño continues to grow and is now predicted to have a 95% probability of continuing into the Spring of 2016.  Ironically, the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) satellite temperature data is still showing little sign of warming now 5 months into the warming you see above in the equatorial upper-ocean anomaly. I’ve asked other more knowledgeable folks about this and everyone is in agreement this is probably about right, but we should start seeing the satellite data begin spiking in the next month or so. With the Pacific “blob” off the coast of California, I would guess much more heat is entering the atmosphere than even during the 1998 el Nino, as such we would expect a similar or greater spike in the satellite data. If not, something must be amiss.




The Atlantic Conveyor – a Graph of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation by Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Red colors denote surface flows, and blue colors denote deep water flows.

Everything you need to know about the surprisingly cold ‘blob’ in the North Atlantic ocean

By Chris Mooney September 30 2015 Washington Post

Last week, I published a story drawing attention to the surprisingly cold anomaly in the North Atlantic Ocean that has emerged recently — featuring record cold temperatures from January through August for a substantial area (see in article above- NOAA). This is happening despite the fact that the globe as a whole is likely en route to its warmest year on record. I also quoted two prominent researchers who think this pattern reflects a much feared slowdown in Atlantic ocean circulation, a scenario made famous by the film The Day After Tomorrow. Granted, even if they’re right, what’s happening here will be nothing like the movie. At most, the circulation may be slowing, not stopping abruptly. And with a warming globe overall, there will definitely be no new ice age. Still, if the circulation is really slowing we need to weigh what the impacts might be. So let’s probe a little bit deeper here to figure out what’s happening, and what it means.

What explains the cold blob in the North Atlantic?

Michael Mann of Penn State and Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research say that to see a pattern like this, in an otherwise record hot year, is a sign that the Atlantic ocean’s so-called “meridional overturning circulation” or AMOC — which is driven by differences in ocean temperature and salinity in the North Atlantic — may be slowing down. Indeed, they say this fits nicely with a study they published earlier this year, which found an “exceptional” slowdown in the circulation over the course of the last century, and suggested that the dramatic melting of Greenland, by injecting large volumes of freshwater into the ocean, may be the cause.

So are they right? First, let’s consider in more depth what the circulation is and how it works. This figure, courtesy of Rahmstorf, is a big help (above)…… In the Atlantic ocean, warm surface water flows northward off the U.S.’s east coast — a current known as the Gulf Stream — and then continues into the North Atlantic. Here the current branches into different segments and eventually reaches regions where colder, salty water sinks beneath the surface, because of its greater density. It is this sinking that keeps the warmer waters flowing northward — they’re basically filling the gap that’s left behind by the sinking waters. The problem is that a freshening of the North Atlantic — due to large amounts of melting from Greenland — might reduce the density of cold surface waters and prevent sinking. And that, in turn, would slow down northward heat transport. That’s what Mann, Rahmstorf, and their colleagues think is happening — and that the “blob” is a telling sign…..



Evaporation takes place differently than previously thought: Implications for global warming

Posted: 22 Oct 2015 07:35 AM PDT

The process of evaporation, one of the most widespread on our planet, takes place differently than we once thought — this has been shown by new computer simulations. The discovery has far-reaching consequences for, among others, current global climate models, where a key role is played by evaporation of the oceans.


Is climate change responsible for more salt in the North Atlantic?

Posted: 23 Oct 2015 05:45 AM PDT

Researchers have studied the dynamics of the Mediterranean outflow through the Straits of Gibraltar, and the impact on global ocean circulation. They conclude that as a result of global warming, more extremely salty water masses from the Mediterranean will be flowing into the North Atlantic through the Straits of Gibraltar.



Photo by: Elaine Patarini Soil biologist Wendell Gilgert of Point Blue Conservation Science describes healthy soils to a group at Paicines Ranch, Feb. 6 2015; “State of the Soil”posted on Wed, 02/11/2015 – 01:55pm by Julie Morris, reporting for BenitoLink



Carbon sequestration in soil: The potential underfoot

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 08:23 AM PDT

Declining greenhouse gas emissions from European cropland could compensate for up to 7 percent of annual agricultural emissions from the region, according to a new study analyzing the carbon uptake potential of soil. However at global scale, indirect effects could offset significant parts of these emission savings….A new study published in the journal Global Environmental Change projects that carbon sequestration in European cropland could store between 9 and 38 megatons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) per year in the soil, or as much as 7% of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in the European Union, at a price of carbon of 100 $/tCO2. “However, if strict emission reduction targets are only adopted inside Europe, efforts within the EU to reduce emissions could lead to increased emissions in other parts of the world, which could significantly compromise emission reductions at global level” says IIASA researcher Stefan Frank, who led the study.

In order to reach the EU goals on climate change, mitigation measures will be needed across many sectors. This research focuses on the agriculture piece of that puzzle. The world’s soils contain the third largest stock of carbon, after oceans and the geological pool, which includes rocks and fossil fuels. Any disturbance of soils, for example through inappropriate management or land use change could therefore release significant amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. Good management practices, on the other hand, can significantly reduce emissions. The study shows that a carbon tax only within Europe could cause some part of European agricultural production to be reallocated outside Europe. Consequently, emissions outside Europe would increase, thereby partly offsetting the emission reductions inside Europe, a problem known as emissions leakage.


Stefan Frank, Erwin Schmid, Petr Havlík, Uwe A. Schneider, Hannes Böttcher, Juraj Balkovič, Michael Obersteiner. The dynamic soil organic carbon mitigation potential of European cropland. Global Environmental Change, 2015; 35: 269 DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.08.004


New methane-metabolizing organisms discovered 600 meters below sea surface

Posted: 23 Oct 2015 06:43 AM PDT

Textbooks on methane-metabolizing organisms might have to be rewritten after researchers discovered two new organisms. These new organisms played an unknown role in greenhouse gas emissions and consumption.


NASA studying 2015 El Nino event as never before

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 03:28 PM PDT

Every two to seven years, an unusually warm pool of water — known as El Nino, affects the local aquatic environment, but also spurs extreme weather patterns around the world, from flooding in California to droughts in Australia. This winter, the 2015-16 El Nino event will be better observed from space than any previous El Nino.

Carbon canopy: Study shows that tree planting alone may not significantly offset urban carbon emissions

Posted: 20 Oct 2015 09:11 AM PDT

Trees play a minor role in offsetting carbon emissions in urban areas, a new study shows. Researchers examined carbon emissions and trees’ carbon storage in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) and found hotspots where more trees could yield benefits. Around the world, from small towns to the biggest cities, civic soldiers in the battle against global warming are striving to cut carbon emissions. One oft-used strategy is to plant more trees, which suck up carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. But does adding more oaks and maples make a dent in urban carbon-reduction goals? How does a city know where trees would be most effective for carbon management? A new study tries to answer those questions by looking at the carbon balance in one major American city. Researchers at the University of Iowa examined the amount of carbon generated in two counties in the Twin Cities, Minnesota and then calculated the amount of carbon absorbed by all trees there. They found that trees offset just one percent of the area’s carbon emissions.
They also noted “hotspots” where the amount of carbon generated was high and the number of trees was low. This analysis may help city planners determine the best locations to focus tree-planting efforts, while helping them realize that the strategy of adding trees needs to be complemented by other reduction and energy-conservation efforts if their communities are to reach their carbon-reduction targets.


More rain leads to fewer trees in the African savanna

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 10:08 AM PDT

Researchers might have finally provided a solution to the ecological riddle of why tree abundance on Africa’s grassy savannas diminishes in response to heavy rainfall despite scientists’ expectations to the contrary. The researchers found that the ability of grasses to more efficiently absorb and process water gives them an advantage over trees. This raises concerns that the heavy tropical rains that could accompany climate change may lead to fewer trees on savannas.


Alaskan boreal forest fires release more carbon than the trees can absorb

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 09:24 AM PDT

A new analysis of fire activity in Alaska’s Yukon Flats finds that so many forest fires are occurring there that the area has become a net exporter of carbon to the atmosphere.
This is worrisome, the researchers say, because arctic and subarctic boreal forests like those of the Yukon Flats contain roughly one-third of the Earth’s terrestrial carbon stores….



If vast amounts of permafrost thaws, it would release trapped methane gas, estimated to be more than double the quantity of carbon currently in the atmosphere. A stock image of ‘drunken forests’ in  Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. The phenomenon is caused by the permafrost melting beneath the trees, causing them to lean

Loss of world’s permafrost is ‘unbelievable’: Melting ice could release devastating quantities of methane and accelerate global warming, warns expert

  • Leading permafrost expert Professor Vladimir Romanovsky, told BBC News that permafrost in Alaska could start to thaw by 2070 
  • It had previously been assumed permafrost would remain stable until 2100
  • Permafrost is permanently-frozen earth, which holds methane deposits
  • Fears their release into the atmosphere could exacerbate global warming

By Sarah Griffiths for MailOnline

Published: 07:13 EST, 22 October 2015 | Updated: 07:48 EST, 22 October 2015

The recent warming of permafrost is ‘unbelievable,’ according to one of the world’s leading authorities on this vital frozen layer of Earth. Professor Vladimir Romanovsky has warned that permafrost in Alaska could start to thaw by 2070, which could trigger the release of methane stored in the earth, exacerbating climate change. It has been assumed that permafrost levels would remain stable for the rest of this century, but rising temperatures in the constantly frozen soil in the past four years, suggest this theory is flawed. Permafrost is found beneath a quarter of the northern hemisphere, predominantly in Arctic region and can range in depth between three and 4,921 feet (one and 1,500 metres). If this layer thaws, it would release trapped methane gas, estimated to be more than double the quantity of carbon currently in the atmosphere. Professor Romanovsky, of the University of Alaska and the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost told BBC News that permafrost in parts of Alaska has been warming at a rate of 0.1°C since the mid-2000’s. Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, deputy director of the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences, has called for ‘urgent’ investigation of the new phenomenon amid safety fears. ‘When we started measurements it was -8°C, but now it’s coming to almost -2.5°C on the Arctic coast,‘ he said. ‘It is unbelievable – that’s the temperature we should have here in central Alaska around Fairbanks, but not there…It was assumed it [the permafrost] would be stable for this century but it seems that’s not true anymore.’ So far, signs of warming have been seen in the form of sinking or ‘drunken’ trees, the appearance of sinkholes and buckling roads. While engineers can prevent important structures being damaged by thawing permafrost – by placing thermopiles underneath – there is little that can be done to stop general melting of the layer. Scientists think the thawing will be gradual, but they cannot predict whether the impact will be the same across different Arctic regions or if undersea permafrost will be affected. Earlier this month, experts warned that rampant wildfires burning in Alaska during the summer could change the Arctic and global climate in years to come. More than five million acres of forest burned this summer and scientists at Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts warned, ‘if the trend continues, as predicted, [warming and drying] are likely to induce feedbacks that may further influence the global climate’….



In Februray, four collosal craters appeared in the Siberian permafrost in northern Russia, sparking fears that global warming may be causing gas to erupt from underground. Scientists spotted the new holes, along with dozens of other smaller ones, in the same area as three other enormous craters that were spotted on the Yamal Peninsula last year. The craters are thought to be caused by eruptions of methane gas from the permafrost as rising rising temperatures causes the frozen soil to melt. It has sparked fears that the craters could become more common as climate change continues to warm and led to warnings that the area is facing a looming natural disaster. One of new craters, surrounded by at least 20 smaller holes, is just six miles from a major gas production plant….








On the left, La Nina cools off the ocean surface (greens and blues) in the winter of 1988. On the right, El Nino warms up it up (oranges and reds) in the winter of 1997. Credit: Jin-Ho Yoon/PNNL

California 2100: More frequent and more severe droughts and floods likely

El Nino and global warming work together to bring more extreme weather

October 21, 2015 DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

In the future, the Pacific Ocean’s temperature cycles could disrupt more than just December fishing. A study published in Nature Communications suggests that the weather patterns known as El Nino and La Nina could lead to at least a doubling of extreme droughts and floods in California later this century. The study shows more frequent extreme events are likely to occur. Other research shows the Golden State’s average precipitation increasing gradually, but not enough to account for the occurrence of extreme events. A better understanding of what gives rise to El Nino and La Nina cycles — together known as El Nino-Southern Oscillation — might help California predict and prepare for more frequent droughts and floods in the coming century. “Wet and dry years in California are linked to El Nino and La Nina. That relationship is getting stronger,” said atmospheric scientist Jin-Ho Yoon of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Our study shows that ENSO will be exhibiting increasing control over California weather.”

Rain’s range

California is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in its history, but it’s not clear if a warmer world will make droughts worse, more frequent or perhaps even improve the situation. After all, warmer air can hold more water, and some research suggests global warming could increase California’s average rain and snowfall. However, research also suggests future rain will come down more as light drizzles and heavy deluges and less as moderate rainfall. Yoon and colleagues from PNNL and Utah State University in Logan, Utah, wondered if droughts might follow a similar pattern.



How Monarch Butterflies Might Actually Be Saved by California’s Drought

Published Oct 20 2015 02:11 PM EDT

The dwindling population of the monarch butterfly may get a boost from the California drought, of all places. Suburban homeowners are ripping out their lawns and replacing them with drought-resistant plants, like milkweed. These plants, which are native to California’s deserts and chaparral, could save the drought and monarchs at the same time, as the females only lay eggs on milkweed. The plant’s resurgence comes at a crucial time, since monarch butterfly populations have dropped from 1 billion to fewer than 60 million in just two decades. Milkweed was removed in many places nationwide during those two decades because of development and pesticides. Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced $1.2 million starter investment to restore habitat; other national projects aim to distribute milkweed seeds by mail and build databases of breeding habitats as alarm grows. Whether by choice or by chance, ecologists hope California gardeners looking to save water can provide a boost to the butterflies on the West Coast…..”If you plant it, they will come,” said Merriman, who has a greenhouse stuffed with 8,000 milkweed of a dozen types. “We had chrysalises on shovels, we had them on wheelbarrows. They were up in the nursery on palm trees. They were everywhere, under tables. We were releasing 500 caterpillars a week on native milkweed.”…







Getty Images

Why Restoring Nature Could Be the Key to Fighting Climate Change

‘It’s a solution that’s available now’

Justin Worland
TIME Oct. 14, 2015

For decades, scientists and policymakers have focused on changing human behavior to address climate change. Regulations have mandated reduced carbon emissions, subsidies have supported the development of renewable energy and individuals have worked to make their lifestyles more sustainable. But, while addressing global warming will inevitably require humans to change behavior, a growing body of research supports the need for solutions rooted in nature: ensuring biodiversity, revitalizing forests and supporting other natural environments. A new study in the journal Nature offers the strongest evidence yet that biodiversity strengthens ecosystems, increasing their resistance to extreme climate events and improving their capacity to stem climate change.
For years, the researchers behind the study evaluated 46 grassland ecosystems in Europe and North America, collecting data on the production of organic matter called biomass. Because species in any given ecosystem rely on biomass for energy, biomass production serves as a metric for the health of a community. In grasslands areas with only one or two species, ecosystems’ biomass production declined by approximately 50% on average during extreme climate events. In communities with between 16 and 32 species, biomass production declined by only 25%.

Study author Forest Isbell, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, explained the importance of ecosystem biodiversity using the insurance hypothesis: having more species provides insurance for carrying out key functions to the ecosystem if one disappears or can no longer serve its function. “Because different species have different responses to environmental fluctuations, the aggregate of many species is dampened,” he said. The study’s results only applied to an ecosystem’s resistance to the immediate effects of climate events and not necessarily to its ability to bounce back following an event. Determining how to ensure the health of ecosystems figures into efforts to address climate change more broadly. Ecosystems absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a key gas that contributes to global warming. Forests alone absorbed one-sixth of carbon dioxide released by fossil fuel emissions between 1900 and 2007, according to one study. Still, the capacity of forests has been reduced as deforestation continues to cause the release of carbon and the loss of future carbon-absorbing capacity. The new Nature study shows that biodiversity loss threatens the productivity of even those forests not at risk of deforestation. “It’s not always enough to have forests that are storing carbon if you have only one or two species in that forest,” said Will R. Turner, chief scientist at Conservation International. “It may be that the function of those forests is less than if the forest has more species.” While the destruction of nature threatens to exacerbate climate change, the connection between nature and climate change also presents opportunities. In addition to enacting regulations to alter human behavior, policymakers can work to restore nature as a method of addressing global warming. One study suggests that a reversal in deforestation trends would allow forests to absorb as much as 30% of global carbon emissions. Right now forests absorb 11% of greenhouse gas emissions. “Climate change is a big problem and we’re going to need a whole range of solutions to solve it,” said Turner. “One of those solutions is to get better at harnessing the role that ecosystems play. It’s a solution that’s available now.”



Over 3 out of 4 Americans Now Acknowledge Climate Change Is Occurring Including the Majority of Republicans…

Scientific American (blog)

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 20, 2015


Maybe it’s the weather. Or the Pope. Or the irrefutable scientific data. Or perhaps a combination of all three. The latest UT Energy Poll released this morning reveals that U.S. attitudes on climate change have shifted significantly – and not just in the ways you might expect. Seventy-six percent of Americans now say that climate change is occurring–an increase from 68 percent just one year ago. Further, only 14 percent say it’s not, compared with 22% when we first asked the question in the Spring of 2012….




New study suggests fossil fuel demand is beginning a nosedive

Benjamin Hulac, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Thursday, October 22, 2015

Successful companies make and sell products that consumers demand, and fossil energy companies have long said demand for their products — particularly from emerging markets — will be strong decades from now.A group of U.K. researchers trying to debunk that notion issued its latest salvo last night. In a point-by-point analysis of population, economic, labor, energy and development trends, the authors of a report from Carbon Tracker Initiative, a London think tank that studies climate change and economic impacts, outline a host of reasons why fossil fuel demand may diminish sharply in 25 years. Swift advancement in technology (such as electric vehicles and battery storage), flagging economic growth regionally and worldwide, inexpensive renewable energy options, swift renewable deployment, and a lower-than-expected rise in population could all blunt “fossil fuel demand significantly by 2040,” CTI said in a statement last night. Industry projections typically foresee coal, gas and oil demand climbing 30 to 50 percent and making up three-quarters of global energy supply in 2040.

Betting against decarbonization? “These scenarios do not reflect the huge potential for reducing fossil fuel demand in accordance with decarbonization pathways,” CTI said. The report presents a litany of counterarguments to the energy industry’s estimates of future demand for its products. Market analysts and top government forecasting groups, namely the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, have long underestimated the growth of renewable energy sources, the authors contend…



Meltwater gushes from an ice cap on the island of Nordaustlandet, in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth. Photograph by Paul Nicklen

Fresh Hope for Combating Climate Change

If a climate disaster is to be averted, we’ll have to move forward without relying as much on fossil fuels. It can be done.

By Robert Kunzig Published October 15, 2015

This year could be the turning point. Laurence Tubiana thinks so. She’s a small, elegant, white-haired woman of 63. At a press briefing in a noisy restaurant near Washington’s Capitol Hill, she apologized for being incapable of raising her voice—which in a diplomat is no doubt an excellent quality. Tubiana is no ordinary diplomat: She’s France’s “climate ambassador,” charged with the greatest cat-herding project in history. For the past year and a half she has been traveling the world, meeting with negotiators from 195 countries, trying to ensure that the global climate confab in Paris this December will be a success—a watershed in the struggle against climate change. “This notion of a turning point—that’s super important,” Tubiana says. There are at least 20 reasons to fear she will fail. Since 1992, when the world’s nations agreed at Rio de Janeiro to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” they’ve met 20 times without moving the needle on carbon emissions. In that interval we’ve added almost as much carbon to the atmosphere as we did in the previous century. Last year and the past decade were the warmest since temperature records began. Record-breaking heat waves are now five times as likely as they once were. A large part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, scientists reported last year, is doomed to collapse—meaning that in the coming centuries sea level will rise at least four feet and probably much more. We’re already redrawing the map of the planet, especially of the zones where animals, plants, and people can live. But the reasons for hope go beyond promises and declarations. In 2014 global carbon emissions from fossil-fuel burning didn’t increase, even though the global economy was growing. We won’t know for years if it’s a trend, but it was the first time that had happened.
One reason emissions were flat was that China, for the first time this century, burned less coal than the year before. And one reason for that was that the production of renewable energy—wind and solar and hydropower—is booming in China, as it is in many other countries, because the cost has plummeted. Even Saudi Arabia is bullish on solar. “The world is tipping now,” says Hans-Josef Fell, co-author of a law that ignited Germany’s renewable energy boom. It’s the kind of tipping point we want


Sure House: Hip, modern, and hurricane-proof. (DOE)

These students designed a 100% solar house that laughs at hurricanes

Updated by David Roberts on October 20, 2015, 8:30 a.m. ET @drvox

“Sustainability” and “resilience” are the two most annoyingly overused words in today’s green-o-sphere, but occasionally something comes along to remind us what the real deal looks like. In this case, it’s a new project from students at New Jersey’s Stevens Institute of Technology, known as the SURE (SUstainable REsilience) House, or Sure House. Sure House just won the 2015 Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the US Department of Energy. The decathlon has been held every few years since 2002; this was the seventh, in Irvine, California. Each time, 20 teams of students compete to design and build the most efficient, attractive solar-powered house. (The event is open to the public.)









Numerous States Prepare Lawsuits Against Obama’s Climate Policy

By CORAL DAVENPORT NY Times October 22 2015 Washington– As many as 25 states will join some of the nation’s most influential business groups in legal action to block President Obama‘s climate change regulations when they are formally published Friday, trying to stop his signature environmental policy. In August, the president announced in a White House ceremony that the Environmental Protection Agency rules had been completed, but they had not yet been published in the government’s Federal Register. Within hours of the rules’ official publication on Friday, a legal battle will begin, pitting the states against the federal government. It is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court.

“I predict there will be a very long line of people at the federal courthouse tomorrow morning, eagerly waiting to file their suits on this case,” said Jeffrey R. Holmstead, a lawyer for the firm Bracewell & Giuliani who represents several companies that are expected to file such suits. While the legal brawls could drag on for years, many states and companies, including those that are suing the administration, have also started drafting plans to comply with the rules. That strategy reflects the uncertainty of the ultimate legal outcome — and also means that many states could be well on the way to implementing Mr. Obama’s climate plan by the time the case reaches the Supreme Court. The E.P.A.’s climate change rules are at the heart of Mr. Obama’s ambitious agenda to counter global warming by cutting emissions of planet-warming carbon pollution. If they withstand the legal challenges, the rules could shutter hundreds of polluting, coal-fired power plants and freeze construction of such plants in the future, while leading to a transformation of the nation’s power sector from reliance on fossil fuels to wind, solar and nuclear power…States have to submit an initial version of their plans by 2016 and final versions by 2018. States that refuse to submit a plan will be forced to comply with one developed by the federal government. Republican governors have denounced the rule, particularly its emphasis on pushing cap-and-trade systems; in his first term, Mr. Obama tried but failed to send a cap-and-trade bill through Congress. Since then, the term has become politically toxic: Republicans have attacked the idea as “cap-and-tax.” The governors of five states — Texas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Oklahoma — have threatened to refuse to submit a plan of any kind. But economists and many industry leaders have found that in many cases, the easiest and cheapest way for states to comply would be by adopting cap-and-trade systems.

American Electric Power, an electric utility that operates in 11 states, is among the companies that intends to sue the administration over the rule. At the same time, the company’s vice president, John McManus, said: “We think it makes sense for states to at least start developing a plan. The alternative of having a federal plan has risks.” And he said that his company could support a cap-and-trade plan. “The initial read is that a market-based approach is more workable,” he said.



Natural Resources Agency Seeks Public Comment on Preparing for Extreme Effects of Climate Change

In response to a directive from California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., the Natural Resources Agency is seeking public comment on a draft plan for how California will prepare for and adapt to the catastrophic effects of climate change, including extended droughts and wildfires, rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather. “With climate change, we cannot use the past to help us predict future conditions,” said John Laird, the California Secretary for Natural Resources. “While we work to reduce the carbon emissions that worsen climate change, we must prepare for higher sea levels, flashier winter storms, warmer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and other changes with big ramifications for how we live in California. This draft report gathers in one place all of the actions unfolding across state government to help build our resiliency in the face of climate change. As a comprehensive document, it will help us track our progress and help the public hold us accountable.” The Natural Resources Agency seeks public comment on the draft plan through the end of November, and will hold two public meetings this month to gather input from interested citizens, scientists, government officials, and other stakeholders. The Safeguarding California: Implementing Actions Plan document will be revised based on public comments, with a final version scheduled for release in December. Upcoming meetings to gather input on the plan:

  • October 26: Sacramento Public Workshop on Safeguarding California Implementation Plans
    Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Location: Rosenfeld Hearing Room
    California Energy Commission 1516 9th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
  • October 27: Los Angeles Public Workshop on Safeguarding California Implementation Plans
    Time: 1:30 p.m. — 3:30 p.m. Location: Carmel Room
    Junipero Serra Building 320 W. 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

In Executive Order B-30-15, Governor Brown set aggressive targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions [including prioritizing natural infrastructure] and called for the Safeguarding California report released today. The purpose of the report is to identify the state’s vulnerabilities to climate change by sector; outline primary risks to residents, property, communities and natural systems; identify an agency or group of agencies to lead adaptation efforts in each sector; and to prepare an implementation plan of necessary state actions. The report sets forth how the state will help residents, communities, and natural systems adapt to the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. The report also analyzes what actions have already been taken to prepare for climate change and details steps that still need to be taken across ten sectors including water, transportation, agriculture, biodiversity and habitat, emergency management, and energy. It provides a blueprint for execution of the actions recommended in the Natural Resources Agency’s 2014 report Safeguarding California: Reducing Climate Risk. Since California released its first adaptation plan in 2009, a series of extreme natural events – drought, record-breaking higher average temperatures and a practically non-existent Sierra Nevada snowpack last winter – have heightened the urgency to act. The state has committed to facing the risks of climate change proactively and preparing accordingly. Just this week, the Governor signed legislation, including AB 1482, AB 1496 and SB 246 to strengthen local planning and coordination to cope with increased flooding, temperatures and other climate change effects. More information about the state’s climate change adaptation efforts is available at That draft report, Safeguarding California: Implementing Action Plans, is available here. State agencies must report back by June 2016 on actions they are taking to make the plan a reality.

Please submit your comments to, or by mail. The deadline for public comment is November 30, 2015.

California Natural Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814


Pledges by top three greenhouse gas emitters shut out other nations

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 09:34 AM PDT

Pledges by the three largest emitters — the United States, the European Union, and China — leave very little room for the rest of the world to emit, suggests a new article by subject experts.


New UN climate deal text: what’s in, what’s out

October 7 2015 CarbonBrief

The UN has released the latest draft of the text that will eventually be hammered into an international climate change agreement in Paris this December. The text, written by co-chairs Dan Reifsnyder from the US and Ahmed Djoghlaf from Algeria, bears many of the hallmarks of its two previous incarnations. There is the same flurry of square brackets (231, to be precise, indicating that there at least 231 points still up for negotiation) and deluge of acronyms — and the same core issues running throughout the document. But, in many ways, the text is a skeleton of previous versions. At 20 pages, it is about a quarter of the length of the 76-page document released in July, and the 86 pages from February.

In other words, it is the first time that the co-chairs have made substantive reductions to the Paris text. At UN sessions taking place throughout this year, countries have expressed concern at the slow pace of the negotiations. The text responds to a call for a “step change in the pace of negotiation”, say the co-chairs in a note accompanying the text. Behind the scenes, diplomats have been engaging in intense discussions to speed along the process. The hope is that countries will start to converge around what should go in — and stay out of — the final deal. Nonetheless, slimming down the contents of the document remains a politically sensitive task, with nations often reluctant to say let go of their favoured positions.

What’s in

It is not surprising that the document centres around the same pillars as before, including mitigation, adaptation and finance…

….What’s out

Previous drafts of the UN text have amounted to progressively neater summaries of party positions on the negotiations. The co-chairs’ latest effort is the first time that substantive content has been dropped from the text, in an attempt to create a slimmed down, manageable document to take into the Paris negotiations in December.

Here are five issues that did not make the final cut.

Zero-emissions goal

The text removes references to a zero-emissions goal. While option for a “zero net greenhouse gas emissions” goal remains, the differences are important. Zero-net emissions implies that emissions can continue as long as they are balanced elsewhere or in the future via negative emissions. This includes technologies such as biomass with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which would require a large amount of land, and thus has prompted concerns over biodiversity and food security. It also means emitters can initially “overshoot” the carbon budget. More simply, zero emissions does what is says: emissions should be reduced to zero. Many campaigners are in favour of this option, as it gives emitters less leeway when it comes to decarbonising their economies….


Why Justin Trudeau’s Election Is Good News for the Fight Against Climate Change


 – ‎October 20, 2015‎


For years, climate change activists have criticized the Canadian government as a global warming laggard. The Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been in power since 2006, has never taken climate change seriously. Trudeau’s predecessor Stephen Harper was a climate change skeptic. But the new prime minister brings a different attitude…But the surprise election of Justin Trudeau yesterday promises to change that perception. The Liberal Party leader emphasized the very real danger of climate change and pledged his support for what he called a “pan-Canadian” approach to the issue. “In 2015, pretending that we have to choose between the economy and the environment is as harmful as it is wrong,” he said in a speech earlier this year. Even with a resounding win, however, it may provide surprisingly difficult for new Prime Minister Trudeau to enacting strong environmental and energy policy at the federal level in Canada. Control over Canadian environmental and energy policy rests largely with the country’s powerful provincial leaders. Indeed, the country explicitly leaves authority over natural resource management to the provinces. And many Canadians still recall an ill-fated attempt in the 1980s by the federal government to grab a larger share of the profits from energy resources in individual provinces. That program was championed by none other then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father. “Provinces have enormous authority in so many areas and there are huge regional differences on this issues,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “Canadians have struggled mightily to put together a federal policy that address emissions.” For these reasons, Trudeau appears keen on implementing a carbon pricing scheme that would set targets for emissions reductions at the federal level and allow for provinces to design programs independently to meet those goals. The program, which still needs to be fleshed out, might bear some similarity to the President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, said Rabe, which sets emissions reductions standards for each state based on its current energy sources.



CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/AP

These World Leaders Agree: We Need A Price On Carbon

by Samantha Page Oct 20, 2015 3:54pm

The cost of carbon is having a moment, with economists, environmentalists, and even the pope supporting a price on carbon emissions. And on Monday, the World Bank announced a high-level group, the Carbon Pricing Panel, which brings together heads of state, local leaders, and business executives. The luminaries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, and California Gov. Jerry Brown, are calling on policymakers and negotiators to use carbon pricing mechanisms, setting the stage for strengthening emissions reduction plans expected at the United Nations conference in December. “There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement. The only approach that would work is an across-the-board rising carbon fee covering every fossil fuel at the source. Putting a price on carbon uses a standard economic tool and is broadly favored by economists as an efficient and effective way of reducing emissions. How it would be implemented worldwide, though, remains to be seen. Some climate activists worry that some programs will push emissions down far too slowly to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. “The only approach that would work is an across-the-board rising carbon fee covering every fossil fuel at the source — the first sale at the domestic mine or port of entry,” Jim Hansen, a leading climate scientist, told ThinkProgress. “If the collected funds were distributed to the public, an equal amount to each legal resident, the economy would be stimulated, most people could make money, and fossil fuel use would go down rapidly. I call this fee-and-dividend, as opposed to cap-and-trade. It is not a tax, because the government gets no money, the government does not grow bigger.” In fact, there are a number of ways carbon pricing can be leveraged to reduce carbon emissions. A carbon tax — or fee — requires emitters to pay, usually into a dedicated fund, for each ton of carbon they put out. That money can be redistributed to offset higher energy costs (revenue-neutral) or can be redirected towards efficiency and clean energy programs, further lowering emissions. Cap-and-trade schemes, another mechanism, place limits on emissions but allow entities to trade their credits, creating an emissions credit market. Cap-and-trade generally involves more government oversight….




The dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington is seen behind the emissions, and a smokestack, from the Capitol Power Plant, the only coal-burning power plant in the nation’s capitol, on March 10, 2014.  (EPA/JIM LO SCALZO)

Congressional skeptic on global warming demands records from U.S. climate scientists

By Joby Warrick October 23 at 7:37 PM Washington Post

The head of a congressional committee on science has issued subpoenas to the Obama administration over a recent scientific study refuting claims that global warming had “paused” or slowed over the last decade. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and a prominent congressional skeptic on climate change, issued the subpoenas two weeks ago demanding e-mails and records from U.S. scientists who participated in the study, which undercut a popular argument used by critics who reject the scientific consensus that man-made pollution is behind the planet’s recent warming. Smith’s document request to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ordered the agency to turn over scientific data as well as internal “communications between or among employees” involved in the study, according to a letter Friday by the House committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.).  Johnson accused Smith of “furthering a fishing expedition” by looking for ways to discredit NOAA’s study, which was published in June in the peer-reviewed journal Science. “It is a disturbing trend for the legitimacy of this committee,” Johnson said in the letter to Smith. She linked the subpoena to previous requests by the committee’s Republican staff seeking information about NOAA’s climate researchers, which Johnson called “a serious misuse of Congressional oversight powers.” Noting that NOAA routinely publishes supporting data for its studies, Johnson said Smith had “not articulated a legitimate need for anything beyond what NOAA has already provided.”



Carbon pollution: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the denial

By dana1981 & Skeptical Science posts: 21 October 2015

The anti-climate policy ‘fact blurring‘ advocacy group Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) recently published a report on ‘the good news’ about rising carbon dioxide, written by Indur Goklany. Goklany has a background in electrical engineering and has been a US delegate to the IPCC. He has also in the past received $1,000 per month from the Heartland Institute and had two books published by the Cato Institute, among other affiliations with fossil fuel-funded think tanks….




The combined emissions from these three countries compared to global emissions, with the thick solid line representing a global pathway consistent with 2 °C. (Peters et al, 201

The math on staying below 2°C of global warming looks increasingly brutal

Updated by Brad Plumer on October 19, 2015, 1:20 p.m. ET

Here’s a capsule summary of the big UN climate talks this year:

1) The good news: Every country is submitting a detailed pledge to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

2) The bad: Those pledges, added together, aren’t nearly enough to keep us below 2°C of global warming. Short of drastic changes, we’re in for some serious %#&*.

Point 2 can be tricky to conceptualize, since it involves so many moving parts. For more detail, I’d recommend this new paper in Environmental Research Letters by Glen Peters, Robbie Andrew, Susan Solomon, and Pierre Friedlingstein. It’s the clearest presentation I’ve seen of how far off course the world is from its stated 2°C climate goal. And it illustrates why the United States, Europe, China, and even India would have to drastically rethink their climate policies to stay below that target.

The US, Europe, and China will use up the world’s carbon budget by 2030

The science here is pretty straightforward: If we want decent odds of avoiding more than 2°C (or 3.6°F) of global warming — which has long been the stated goal — then there’s only so much more carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere. The world’s annual CO2 emissions will need to shrink to zero to stay within this “carbon budget.” In their paper, Peters and his co-authors sketch out a plausible carbon budget if we want a 66 percent chance of staying below 2°C. (Because there’s some uncertainty around climate sensitivity, this is couched in terms of probabilities.) Roughly speaking, the world has just 765 gigatons of CO2 left to emit. We currently emit about 35 gigatons per year and don’t (yet) have large-scale carbon removal technology. The authors then compared this carbon budget (the dark line) with what the United States, the European Union, and China* are currently promising to do on emissions between now and 2030:

There’s a big problem here: If the United States, EU, and China all followed through on their current emissions pledges, they’d consume practically the world’s entire
carbon budget by 2030 — leaving only scraps for the rest of the world (the part shaded in gray). That’s untenable. The “rest of the world” is where most of humanity lives — 5 billion people. It includes India, which is still very poor, has per capita emissions that are just one-fourth of Europe’s and China’s, and will inevitably need to burn more fossil fuels to grow. It also includes Africa, which still has 620 million people without electricity. No one thinks it’d be fair for these developing countries to cut even more deeply than the United States and Europe. So that leaves a few options. Humanity could emit more CO2 than this budget allows — though at the risk of higher levels of global warming, with all the problems, risks, and potential horrors that entails. If, say, we emitted another 1,535 gigatons of CO2, double the budget above, then our odds of staying below 2°C drop to 50-50. A much bigger gamble. Alternatively, the US, EU, and China could tighten their belts and cut their emissions even more deeply than they’re currently promising, to make space for other, poorer countries. But how would they do that? And is that even realistic?

To stay below 2°C, the US, EU, China, and India would have to cut much, much more

In their paper, Peters and his colleagues explore what a “fair” climate agreement that still keeps global warming below 2°C might look like. Because fairness is an ethical term, not a scientific one, there are all sorts of ways to define it….




On the People’s Climate Movement Day of Action, Wed., Oct. 14, two volunteers carried the giant Styrofoam puppets, with Debby Lee Cohen of Cafeteria Culture (founded as Styrofoam out of Schools).

E.V. school kids fuming over Styrofoam reversal

October 22, 2015 | Filed under: Education | Posted by: The Villager

BY YANNIC RACK  |  When a judge struck down the city’s ban on plastic foam food containers late last month, among the many environmentally conscious New Yorkers who disapproved were a group of East Village public school students who had campaigned for the ban as part of their mission to achieve zero-waste school cafeterias.The students and teachers were so disappointed and shocked, because they had worked so hard on this. I don’t think anyone expected that this was not going to go through,” said Debby Lee Cohen, the executive director of Cafeteria Culture, a grassroots organization that works in partnership with schools across the city.
Cohen said the fifth-grade students at P.S. 34 in Alphabet City, among other area schools, had played a role in helping to achieve the unanimous City Council vote that banned the use of polystyrenes, more commonly known as Styrofoam, citywide.
… In November 2013, the fifth graders stood on the steps of City Hall with councilmembers from across the city, advocating for a ban with the help of giant puppets made out of Styrofoam food trays. The “data puppets,” so called because they visually show the massive amount of polystyrene products previously used in the schools, were built by community members young and old at the Sixth Street Community Center….

The ban, which was proposed by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and implemented by Mayor Bill de Blasio this July, was overturned in State Supreme Court on Sept. 22. Justice Margaret Chan, in her ruling, called the ban “arbitrary and capricious” and denied the city’s claim that recycling used polystyrene containers was neither environmentally effective nor economically feasible.….”We disagree with the ruling,” a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office wrote in a statement. “These products cause real environmental harm, and we need to be able to prevent nearly 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from entering our landfills, streets and waterways. We are reviewing our options to keep the ban in effect.” The ban, passed in January and effective since July, includes a six-month grace period, so businesses would have until Jan. 1, 2016, to comply. After that, violations would be punishable by fines, though the city says that for the first year it would only hand out warnings. Some proponents of the ban say that the court challenge comes too late anyway because the administration’s efforts already pushed the city’s businesses over the line.
Ron Gonen, a former deputy sanitation commissioner, told Crain’s New York that the vast majority of food-serving businesses in the city had already stopped, or never started, using Styrofoam products — a list that now includes the city’s two biggest former offenders, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. The city’s school cafeterias, including those in the East Village, are already Styrofoam-free, which Cohen said won’t change, no matter what happens with the ban. In May, six of the nation’s largest school districts, including New York City, ditched polystyrene trays for eco-friendly compostable plates


How Exxon went from leader to skeptic on climate change research

Los Angeles Times | October 23, 2015 | 2:51 PM

Throughout much of the 1980s, Exxon earned a reputation as a pioneer in exploring the science behind global warming. But by 1990, the company took a different public posture. It poured millions into a campaign that questioned climate change and argued that regulations aimed at curbing global warming were ill-considered and premature. An investigation by Columbia University’s Energy & Environmental Reporting Project and The Times looks at how one of the world’s largest oil companies, which had been a leader in climate change research, become one of its biggest public skeptics….


National Park Service: SF Ocean Beach Fire Program Proposal

Your Feedback NeededThe Ocean Beach Fire Program Proposal is now available on our website.  This proposal was developed through evaluation and monitoring of the Parks’ previous fire programs and important feedback from community members like you. Beach fires have a long history at Ocean Beach and the Park is committed to continuing this tradition by creating a safe and sustainable beach fire program.  Key elements of the preferred proposal include a permit system for beach fires, seasonal restrictions to promote better air quality, and the installation of replacement fire rings.  The proposal includes options under consideration that were developed directly in response to public comments received at 2 public meetings earlier this year.
What’s Next?  We invite you to review the proposal ( and provide feedback by November 20, 2015 on our website or by mail at:

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Attn:  Ocean Beach Fire Program

Fort Mason, Building 201

San Francisco, CA  94123   

After the comment period, the park will evaluate all feedback before finalizing the Ocean Beach Fire Program. 








CREDIT: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File In this May 14, 2015, file photo, the Royal Dutch Shell oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer is towed toward a dock in Elliott Bay in Seattle. Three weeks after Royal Dutch Shell announced it was walking away from exploratory drilling in U.S. Arctic waters, the Obama administration has taken steps to keep drill rigs out of Alaska’s northern ocean for a decade or more.

Obama Administration Cancels Oil Drilling Lease Sales In Arctic Ocean [for 2016 and 2017]

by Katie Valentine Oct 18, 2015 12:05pm

The Interior Department has scrapped two lease sales for oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean, a move that comes as a win for environmentalists who have fought to prevent oil development in the remote region. The lease sales had been scheduled tentatively for 2016 and 2017 in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
The Interior Department’s Friday announcement comes a few weeks after Royal Dutch Shell announced that it would be stopping its oil exploration in the Arctic “for the foreseeable future,” due to a “challenging and unpredictable” regulatory environment and insufficient oil and gas discoveries. The Interior Department referenced Shell’s decision in its reasoning behind canceling the two lease sales. “In light of Shell’s announcement, the amount of acreage already under lease and current market conditions, it does not make sense to prepare for lease sales in the Arctic in the next year and a half,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. Also on Friday, the Interior Department rejected attempts by oil companies Shell and Statoil to get more time to explore for oil under their existing leases in the Arctic, saying that neither company properly illustrated how it would take advantage of the extra exploration time. …



Flawed Carbon Accounting Drives Boom in Burning U.S. Forests in E.U. Power Plants


Science says burning wood for power can produce more CO2 than burning coal, but the European Union shows no signs it wants to close a loophole pushing this practice








2015 Southwest Climate Summit  November 2-3, 2015 Holiday Inn Capital Plaza Sacramento, CA
Join us for the 2015 Southwest Climate Summit when we’ll promote Climate-Smart Conservation by bringing together managers and scientists from across the Southwest to:

  • Discover emerging climate science
  • Explore adaptive management application
  • Share Climate-Smart Conservation results 
  • Discuss management and policy responses

The California LCC, Southwest Climate Science Center, USDA Southwest Climate Hub, Great Basin LCC, and Desert LCC are hosting the Summit to foster sharing of lessons learned and collaboration across the Southwestern landscape. Click here for more information.


An Overview of Climate-Smart Conservation November 6, 2015 at The San Diego Foundation

This one day overview class is being hosted by the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA LCC) and is based on the guide Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice. This publication is the product of an expert workgroup on climate change adaptation convened by the National Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the FWS’s National Conservation Training Center and other partners. The course is designed to provide an introduction to climate adaptation for application to on-the-ground conservation. It will provide an overview of how to craft climate-informed conservation goals, to carry out adaptation with intentionality, and how to manage for change and not just persistence…. The San Diego Foundation, 2508 Historic Decatur Road, San Diego, CA 92106 Register Now– contact Christy Coghlan –


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.


First Western Governor’s Association Species Conservation
and ESA Initiative WorkshopNov. 12-13 in Wyoming

The first workshop of the Western Governors’ Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative will be held Nov. 12-13 at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Cody, Wyo. The Chairman’s Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead creates a mechanism for states that will: share best practices in species management; promote and elevate the role of states in species conservation efforts; and explore ways to improve the efficacy of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Gov. Mead will speak at the first workshop, which will feature a robust and bipartisan conversation regarding species conservation and the ESA. The Wyoming workshop will be the first in a series of regional workshops. Learn more


California Association of Resource Conservation Districts:

Healthy Forests, Healthy Soils, A Resilient California” 70th Annual Conference November 18—21, 2015 Tenaya Lodge, Yosemite, CA

Don’t miss out on being part of the change. California’s future is the crucial discussion at this year’s CARCD Annual Conference November 18th—21st at the Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite, CA. The Sierra National Forest, backdrop for Yosemite National Park, will provide a perfect classroom and case study of the challenges California will face if we cannot enact effective and efficient management strategies at the local, regional and statewide levels.  We will discuss how smart, integrated management projects on a seemingly small-scale are the building blocks that affect water abundance, water quality, soil health, tree/ plant health, forest health, groundwater, and climate change throughout the state.  In addition, we will examine innovative developments to solve new world challenges like the  latest developments in carbon markets, building partnerships to solve complex, multi-jurisdictional issues, state programs focused on solving California’s problems, capacity building for RCDs and much more.


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.



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


Point Blue: Coastal Adaptation Program LeaderHelp save the world!!

The Coastal Adaptation Program Leader (CAPL) will be responsible for executing the strategy and achieving the outcomes of Point Blue’s Protecting Our Shorelines Initiative. As such, the CAPL will help natural resource managers and policy makers advance their adaptation efforts in the face of accelerating climate change, ocean acidification, increased storm frequency and intensity, habitat loss, and other stressors, leveraging Point Blue and partner scientific, data, and informatics resources. The CAPL will also develop science-based policy and natural resource management recommendations. Learn more and how to apply here.

Point Blue: Institutional Philanthropy Director  The Director of Institutional Philanthropy (Director) will be responsible for securing foundation and agency funding for priority programs, and managing all aspects of Point Blue’s foundation relations to advance our innovative climate-smart conservation science strategies. Reporting to the Chief Advancement Officer, the Director will collaborate with the Chief Science Officer, Group Directors, and other organizational leaders on the development and planning of strategic initiatives, assist staff scientists in the production of technical proposals and reports, write foundation proposals and reports, and support the advancement staff in written communications to major donors…


For other jobs at Point Blue, see here.


PISCES FOUNDATION: Enviro Education Officer

The Pisces Foundation is excited to announce it is seeking a Program Officer to lead its Environmental Education program.  Based in our main office in San Francisco, this position will play an important role in a dynamic, growing environmental philanthropy. For more details on the position, please refer to the posting on our website. This fall, the Foundation will also launch a search for a dynamic professional to lead Foundation operations. To receive information about this position when it becomes available, or if you have any questions, please contact us at We welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds and with a variety of skills, experiences, and ideas. We are an equal opportunity employer. Employment selection and related decisions are made without regard to gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, religion, national origin, color, veteran status, or any other protected class.         


Director of Science, Monterey Bay Aquarium

We are looking for someone with strong experience linking science and conservation, and in communicating science.  We are hoping to recruit someone with skills to assess the state of science to inform conservation priorities, provide science services across the aquarium, and create solid collaborations with experts. Applications should be made through our website:






CDFW Now Accepting Proposals for Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for restoration projects that further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan (CWAP). For Fiscal Year (FY) 2015-2016, a total of $31.4 million in Proposition 1 funds will be made available through CDFW’s two Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs. The Watershed Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $24 million in projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, while the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program will fund up to $7 million in projects that specifically benefit the Delta….


Breakdown and Tips on Prop 1 Funding and Permits 

Sustainable Conservation September 4, 2015

Many of you are busy with project implementation right now and may not have had the time to evaluate Prop 1 funding sources. Sustainable Conservation has put together a breakdown of top funding sources, application tips, and which simplified permits for restoration you can use to increase your “project readiness” scoring and save time/resources on permitting. Simplified permits will be essential to getting projects implemented quickly and spending more money for on-the-ground work. Note that we are continually working on new permits where coverage doesn’t already exist, so be sure to check our website for updates. The following tables have summary information to guide you:

1.            Summary of 2015-16 Prop 1 Funding Sources and Application Tips

2.            Coastal Areas and Anadromous Fisheries Simplified Permits

3.            Inland Simplified Permits








Orange lichens are potential source for anticancer drugs

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 09:29 AM PDT

An orange pigment found in lichens and rhubarb called parietin may have potential as an anti-cancer drug because it interferes with the metabolic enzyme 6PGD, scientists have discovered.


(Copyright DPC)

Is Grass-Fed Beef Better for You?

Saturday, 24 Oct 2015 12:11 AM

Is eating grass-fed beef really better for you than conventional beef? In fact, studies show grass-fed beef tends to be higher in some nutrients, and may contain fewer bacteria that can cause food poisoning, The New York Times reports. According to the American Grassfed Association, which has a certification program, grass-fed animals are “those that have eaten nothing but grass and forage from weaning to harvest, have not been raised in confinement, and have never been fed antibiotics or growth hormones.” Conventionally raised livestock are typically fed primarily corn and soy, which causes them to fatten more quickly, said Glenn A. Nader, a natural resources farm adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension. In 2010, Nader and his colleagues published a review in Nutrition Journal that found that grass-fed beef contained higher levels of beneficial fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. It also contained more antioxidants and higher levels of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that can give grass-fed beef a yellowish appearance. This month, Consumer Reports tested 300 samples of beef purchased at stores across the United States and determined that beef from conventionally raised cows was three times as likely as grass-fed beef to contain bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. The report recommended that consumers choose grass-fed organic beef “whenever possible.” Consumers who wish to buy grass-fed beef can find that information on package labels, as required by the United States Department of Agriculture.



Individual actions, from cycling to work to planting a roof garden, like this one on an organic food store in Chicago, are having a huge effect, says author. Photograph by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, National Geographic 

And Now for Some Good News About Climate Change

Small things like energy efficient lightbulbs and big ones—like solar panels and light rail transportation—are making a difference.

By Simon Worrall, National Geographic PUBLISHED October 21, 2015

There are now only 39 days to go until the world’s nations convene in Paris for the United Nations
Climate Summit. Six years ago, talks in Copenhagen ended in chaos. Is there any reason to suppose Paris will deliver anything more than well-padded expense accounts for delegates and hot air on the issues? In his new book,
Atmosphere of Hope: Searching For Solutions To The Climate Change Crisis,

best-selling Australian author Tim Flannery counsels cautious optimism by showing how the millions of small actions taken by individuals are driving down oil consumption and points out how new “Third Way” carbon-capture technologies promise to reduce emissions and create massive economic opportunities
. Speaking from a café in Melbourne, he explains how the plastic housing on his cell phone is reducing climate change; why geo-engineering is a disastrous idea; and how he is inspired by the desire to leave a better world for his three children…..


Flights Of Fancy: Exploring The Songs And Pathways Of ‘The Living Bird’

October 20, 2015 2:53 PM ET Listen to the Story
Fresh Air

100 Years of Listening to Nature by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Gerrit Vyn, Barbara Kingsolver, Scott Weidensaul and Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Hardcover, 201 pages purchase

Wildlife photographer Gerrit Vyn and essayist Scott Weidensaul share bird calls and discuss some of the remarkable abilities of birds. Both men contributed to a new book about North American birds.


Jimmy Kimmel Live — Marty McFly and Doc Brown drop by “Jimmy Kimmel Live” for “Back to the Future Day” and take a selfie

Marty McFly, Doc Brown go ‘Back to the Future’ on ‘Kimmel’

Kirthana Ramisetti NEW YORK DAILY NEWS 10/22/2015 8:26 AM ET

Marty McFly and Doc Brown were introduced to the year 2015 by Jimmy Kimmel — and they were not impressed. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd made a surprise appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday to commemorate “Back to the Future Day,” the date when Marty traveled to the future in the film’s sequel. The duo received a standing ovation when they materialized on stage in their DeLorean. “All of these people must have gotten here in flying cars,” Marty marveled about the studio audience. Kimmel had the task of informing Marty and Doc that many of the achievements predicted in “Back to the Future 2” — including flying cars, hovercrafts and peace in the Middle East — had not come to pass….







National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / AP This satellite image taken at 11 a.m.. EDT on Friday Oct 23 2015 shows Hurricane Patricia moving over Mexico’s Pacific Coast.


dana summers








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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