Conservation Science News December 24, 2015


Focus of the WeekPerspectives on Paris Agreement; Tips for Reducing Enviro. Impact during Holiday Season










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Focus of the Week– Perspectives on Paris Agreement; Tips for Reducing Enviro. Impact during Holiday Season


Credit: tcktcktck

Historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change

195 Nations Set Path to Keep Temperature Rise Well Below 2 Degrees Celsius

UNFCC Paris, 12 December 2015 – An historic agreement to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future was agreed by 195 nations in Paris today.

The Paris Agreement for the first time brings all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities. The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The 1.5 degree Celsius limit is a significantly safer defense line against the worst impacts of a changing climate. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.  

To reach these ambitious and important goals, appropriate financial flows will be put in place, thus making stronger action by developing countries and the most vulnerable possible, in line with their own national objectives.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high. Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort. Our responsibility to history is immense” said Laurent Fabius, President of the COP 21 UN Climate change conference and French Foreign Minister. The minister, his emotion showing as delegates started to rise to their feet, brought the final gavel down on the agreement to open and sustained acclamation across the plenary hall. French President Francois Hollande told the assembled delegates: “You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud to stand before your children and grandchildren.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity. For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.” Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “One planet, one chance to get it right and we did it in Paris. We have made history together. It is an agreement of conviction. It is an agreement of solidarity with the most vulnerable. It is an agreement of long-term vision, for we have to turn this agreement into an engine of safe growth.” “Successive generations will, I am sure, mark the 12 December 2015 as a date when cooperation, vision, responsibility, a shared humanity and a care for our world took centre stage,” she said….




Paris Climate Goals Mean Emissions Need to Drop Below Zero

By karl ritter, associated press STOCKHOLM — Dec 24, 2015, 12:36 PM ET

If governments are serious about the global warming targets they adopted in Paris, scientists say they have two options: eliminating fossil fuels immediately or finding ways to undo their damage to the climate system in the future. The first is politically impossible — the world is still hooked on using oil, coal and natural gas — which leaves the option of a major cleanup of the atmosphere later this century. Yet the landmark Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 countries on Dec. 12, makes no reference to that, which has left some observers wondering whether politicians understand the implications of the goals they signed up for. “I would say it’s the single biggest issue that has to be resolved,” said Glen Peters of the Cicero climate research institute in Oslo, Norway.

Scientists refer to this envisioned cleanup job as negative emissions — removing more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than humans put in it. Right now we’re putting in a lot — about 50 billion tons a year, mostly carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

There are methods to achieve negative emissions today but they would need to be scaled up to a level that experts say could put climate efforts in conflict with other priorities, such as eradicating hunger. Still, if the Paris climate goals are to be achieved, there’s no way to avoid the issue, said Jan Minx of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate change in Berlin. “My view is, let’s have this discussion,” he said. “Let’s involve ourselves in developing these technologies. We need to keep learning.”

The Paris Agreement was historic. For the first time all countries agreed to jointly fight climate change, primarily by reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Governments vowed to keep global warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial times. But even 2 degrees of warming could threaten the existence of low-lying island nations faced with rising seas. So governments agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), which is just half-a-degree above the global average temperature this year. That goal is so ambitious — some would say far-fetched — that there’s been very little research devoted to it. In Paris, politicians asked scientists to start studying how it can be done….

The task would be enormous. One recent study said hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide would have to be removed in the second half of this century. That has led some scientists to consider controversial geoengineering solutions like fertilizing the oceans with iron to make them absorb more carbon. But the more viable methods being discussed today include planting more forests, which absorb carbon dioxide naturally as they grow, and combining bioenergy with carbon capture technologies.

Bioenergy comes from burning biological sources such as trees or crops. That results in zero net emissions, if the carbon dioxide released when one tree is burned is offset by the carbon dioxide absorbed when a new tree grows up. However, if you also capture the emissions from the bioenergy plant and bury them underground, you are actually removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Although the technology exists, it has received very little attention from policy makers, advocates say. There’s only one large-scale biomass facility worldwide using the method: a bioethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois.

“It’s been treated as an esoteric, maybe unnecessary field of research,” said Henrik Karlsson, who heads Biorecro, a Swedish company that specializes in the process. The obstacles are many. Carbon capture technology is very expensive. And then there’s the issue of finding places to store the carbon dioxide once you’ve captured it. Typically it is injected into rock formations deep underground, but “people don’t like carbon stored under them,” said Peters. “It’s not just a few tons. It’s billions of tons a year.”

Another problem is that to reach a point where the method actually generates enough negative emissions to enable the 1.5-degree target, bioenergy would need to be much a bigger part of the global energy mix. It’s just 10 percent today.

Critics say that could mean converting millions of acres of farmland used for food production to grow biocrops, which could clash with Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, which says the battle against climate change must be carried out “in a manner that does not threaten food production.” Right now the idea of achieving negative emissions may seem like a pipe dream. Governments are still trying to stop record emissions from growing even higher, while allowing developing countries including India and China to expand their economies.

Oliver Geden of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs said the temperature goals governments adopted in Paris don’t match the actions nations are taking to limit emissions. “It’s so easy to have this kind of target,” he said. “I don’t understand that given the history of the (U.N. climate talks), everyone is taking this seriously.” Peters said achieving the 1.5-degree C target is “pretty unlikely” and that even the higher temperature target would be difficult and most likely require negative emissions.

“It’s really hard to see that 2 degrees will remain on the table unless you have some fundamental technological breakthrough,” he said. “There are just too many competing interests.”



Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben Knock Paris Climate Deal

Too little, too late. Redouble the fight, say two leading activists. Deal simply accelerates shift to global clean energy already happening.

By David Beers, 14 Dec 2015,

Two of the world’s foremost advocates for action against climate change have let it be known they are largely unimpressed with the COP21 agreement in Paris. Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything and Bill McKibben, founder of, characterize the deal as too little too late. Still, both famous journalist-activists mark COP21 as a potential catalyst for heightened activism to pressure the world’s governments to do more to forestall a greenhouse-gas fueled catastrophe. In an interview today with Huffington Post UK, Klein sounded out of step with the enthusiasm voiced by many other climate change fighters when the accord was hammered out. “It’s a very strange thing to cheer for setting a target that you are knowingly failing to meet,” Klein told her interviewer. “It’s like going: ‘I acknowledge that I will die of a heart attack if I don’t radically lower my blood pressure. I acknowledge that in order to do that I need to cut out alcohol, fatty foods and exercise every day. I therefore will exercise once a week, eat four hamburgers instead of five and only binge drink twice a week and you have to call me a hero because I’ve never done this before and you have no idea how lazy I used to be.'”

‘Motivate a movement’

Later in the interview Klein emphasized that climate change and economic justice must be linked in efforts for progressive social change. “If it is just about going on a march and if it just about parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere that’s not going to motivate a movement that is as motivated as Exxon and Shell to protect the status quo. “When people are fighting for a future that is better than their present, not just better than a catastrophe far off in the future, better than right now which is intolerable, better than unemployment, better than crumbling services, better than relentless austerity – that’s the movement. “That’s why I find it endlessly frustrating that Europe’s anti-austerity parties almost never talk about climate change.”

‘A floor and not a ceiling’

Writing yesterday in the op-ed pages of the New York Times under the headline “Falling Short on Climate in Paris,” McKibben assailed the fossil-fuel industry’s decades of self-serving propaganda for putting the world’s nations, likely, too far in the hole to fend off climate disaster. And he portrayed COP21 as too much a compromise. ….



Falling Short on Climate in Paris

By BILL McKIBBEN DEC. 13, 2015

Paris — THE climate news last week came out of Paris, where the world’s nations signed off on an agreement to finally begin addressing global warming. Or, alternately, the climate news came out of Chennai, India, where hundreds died as flooding turned a city of five million into an island. And out of Britain, where the heaviest rains ever measured over 24 hours in the Lake District turned picturesque villages into lakes. And out of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, where record rainfalls flooded atolls. In the hot, sodden mess that is our planet as 2015 drags to a close, the pact reached in Paris feels, in a lot of ways, like an ambitious agreement designed for about 1995, when the first conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Berlin. Under its provisions, nations have made voluntary pledges to begin reducing their carbon emissions. These are modest — the United States, for instance, plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 by 12 to 19 percent from their levels in 1990. As the scrupulous scorekeepers at Climate Action Tracker, a nongovernment organization, put it, that’s a “medium” goal “at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution.”

And that’s about par for the course here. Other countries, like gas station owners on opposite corners looking at each other’s prices, have calibrated their targets about the same: enough to keep both environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry from complaining too much. They have managed to provide enough financing to keep poor countries from walking out of the talks, but not enough to really push the renewables revolution into high gear. (Secretary of State John Kerry, in a fine speech, doubled America’s contribution — to $800 million, which is more than Congress is likely to appropriate, but risible compared to the need.) So the world emerges, finally, with something like a climate accord, albeit unenforceable. If all parties kept their promises, the planet would warm by an estimated 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.5 degrees Celsius, above preindustrial levels. And that is way, way too much. We are set to pass the 1 degree Celsius mark this year, and that’s already enough to melt ice caps and push the sea level threateningly higher. The irony is, an agreement like this adopted at the first climate conference in 1995 might have worked. Even then it wouldn’t have completely stopped global warming, but it would have given us a chance of meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius target that the world notionally agreed on. Instead, as we now know from recent revelations about Exxon Mobil, those were exactly the years the fossil fuel industry set to work to make sure doubt replaced resolve. Its delaying tactics were cruelly effective. To meet that 1.5 degree target now would require breakneck action of a kind most nations aren’t really contemplating. At this point we’d need to leave almost all remaining coal and much of the oil and gas in the ground and put the world’s industries to work on an emergency basis building solar panels and windmills. That we have any agreement at all, of course, is testament to the mighty movement that activists around the world have built over the last five years. At Copenhagen, world leaders could go home with nothing and pay no price.

That’s no longer true….



Paris Accord key ecosystem words & phrases (pdf):

The Parties to this Agreement,

  • Being Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hereinafter referred to as “the Convention”,
  • …..Noting the importance of ensuring
    the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth, and noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”, when taking action to address climate change

Have agreed as follows: …


….Article 2

1. This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:

(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. ….

…. Article 4

1. In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

2. Each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.

Each Party’s successive nationally determined contribution will represent a progression beyond the Party’s then current nationally determined contribution and reflect its highest possible ambition, reflecting its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

…Article 5

1. Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including forests.

2. Parties are encouraged to take action to implement and support, including through results-based payments, the existing framework as set out in related guidance and decisions already agreed under the Convention for: policy approaches and positive incentives for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries; and alternative policy approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests, while reaffirming the importance of incentivizing, as appropriate, non-carbon benefits associated with such approaches.


….Article 6

1. Parties recognize that some Parties choose to pursue voluntary cooperation in the implementation of their nationally determined contributions to allow for higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions and to promote sustainable development and environmental integrity.

2. Parties shall, where engaging on a voluntary basis in cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions, promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency, including in governance, and shall apply robust accounting to ensure, inter alia, the avoidance of double counting, consistent with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.

….Article 7

1. Parties hereby establish the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the temperature goal referred to in Article 2.

2. Parties recognize that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all with local, subnational, national, regional and international dimensions, and that it is a key component of and makes a contribution to the long-term global response to climate change to protect people, livelihoods and ecosystems, taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of those developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

…5. Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.

7. Parties should strengthen their cooperation on enhancing action on adaptation, taking into account the Cancun Adaptation Framework, including with regard to:

(a) Sharing information, good practices, experiences and lessons learned, including, as appropriate, as these relate to science, planning, policies and implementation in relation to adaptation actions;

…. (c) Strengthening scientific knowledge on climate, including research, systematic observation of the climate system and early warning systems, in a manner that informs climate services and supports decision-making;

(d) Assisting developing country Parties in identifying effective adaptation practices, adaptation needs, priorities, support provided and received for adaptation actions and efforts, and challenges and gaps, in a manner consistent with encouraging good practices;

(e) Improving the effectiveness and durability of adaptation actions.

9. Each Party shall, as appropriate, engage in adaptation planning processes and the implementation of actions, including the development or enhancement of relevant plans, policies and/or contributions, which may include:

(a) The implementation of adaptation actions, undertakings and/or efforts;

(b) The process to formulate and implement national adaptation plans;

(c) The assessment of climate change impacts and vulnerability, with a view to formulating nationally determined prioritized actions, taking into account vulnerable people, places and ecosystems;

(d) Monitoring and evaluating and learning from adaptation plans, policies, programmes and actions; and

(e) Building the resilience of socioeconomic and ecological systems, including through economic diversification and sustainable management of natural resources.


1. Parties share a long-term vision on the importance of fully realizing technology development and transfer in order to improve resilience to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions….


Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement…..


In order to build mutual trust and confidence and to promote effective implementation, an enhanced transparency framework for action and support, with built-in flexibility which takes into account Parties’ different capacities and builds upon collective experience is hereby established.

….7. Each Party shall regularly provide the following information:

(a) A national inventory report of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, prepared using good practice methodologies accepted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement;


1. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall periodically take stock of the implementation of this Agreement to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of this Agreement and its long-term goals (referred to as the “global stocktake”). It shall do so in a comprehensive and facilitative manner, considering mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation and support, and in the light of equity and the best available science.

2. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall undertake its first global stocktake in 2023 and every five years thereafter unless otherwise decided by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.


1. This Agreement shall be open for signature and subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by States and regional economic integration organizations that are Parties to the Convention. It shall be open for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017. Thereafter, this Agreement shall be open for accession from the day following the date on which it is closed for signature. Instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession shall be deposited with the Depositary.


1. This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.





WHAT YOU CAN DO– thanks to John Andrew of CA Dept. of Water Resources:

“It turns out that, according to the CEC, all aspects of water—water extraction, conveyance, treatment, distribution, and end-use, and collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater—use about 1/5 of the state’s electricity.  “Moving water” is a small (though not insignificant) part of that 1/5, with actually 75% of it related to the customer’s use of the water—e.g. water heating, washers, dryers, dishwashers. The overall context for water-related energy use in California is nicely summarized on page 25 of the Highlights of the California Water Plan Update 2013


10 Things You Can Do To Help Slow Climate Change  (with additions by Ellie; CORRECTED)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

With leaders and activists from all over the world in Paris this week talking big-picture solutions for climate change, we wanted to talk about the little picture. The things we, as individuals, can do to help slow climate change. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Tony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, about the choices and changes people can make in their daily lives to have an impact on climate, and how much those changes really matter.

10 Things You Can Do To Go Easier On The Earth– for a healthy future for our kids and communities:

  1. Insulate your home [and use less energy— in Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power, you can now pay a little extra for 100% renewal energy]
  2. Reuse and recycle [and you less packaging for] everything you can
  3. Turn off the lights not in use and use new technologies, like motion sensors for lights; Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs [and even better] with LEDs
  4. Take shorter/fewer showers and use less water in general [all aspects of water in CA use 1/5 of all electricity in California state-wide]
  5. Eat less meat [and the right kind of meat—locally grown, grass finished with eco-friendly ranching practices]
  6. Waste less food [and compost whenever you can to reduce emissions from landfills]
  7. Buy a more fuel-efficient car, or an electric car [and change home appliances from gas to electric—when using clean energy for electricity]
  8. Drive [and fly less] (carpool, walk, bike, use public transportation, combine trips, vacation locally) 
  9. Plant a bird-friendly and climate-friendly, drought resistant garden- with native plants and grasses.
  10. Engage in local climate-smart habitat restoration.


Tips for reducing your environmental impact during the holiday season

Vanderbilt University

Sustainability is achieved when the needs of the present population are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To achieve sustainability, we should examine the impact that our activities have on the environment and implement ways to reduce our consumption of resources and our generation of waste. In keeping with the efforts of Vanderbilt to become part of a more sustainable community, the Sustainability and Environmental Management Office has developed this Sustainable Holiday Greening Guide in order to provide the Vanderbilt community with tips to lessen their environmental impact during the holidays. The holiday season brings good cheer to many people and is a wonderful time to celebrate with colleagues, friends, and family. An unintended side effect is that the holidays are also a time of excessive generation of solid waste and consumption of natural resources. Did you know…?

  • Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
  • If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • 35% of Americans have an unused Christmas present collecting dust in their closet.

These guidelines that follow in the categorized list below were developed to help you think about the environmental impact of the holidays and provide some tips on how to minimize your impact as much as possible.





Ox team farming (stock image). When did human domination of the planet start, asks a new study that now reports a dramatic shift in one of the rules of nature about 6,000 years ago—connected to growing human populations and the rise of farming. Nick Gotelli used his expertise on ecological statistics to find the pattern. Credit: © Pworadilok / Fotolia

Scientists peg Anthropocene to first farmers

Posted: 17 Dec 2015 11:35 AM PST

A new analysis of the fossil record shows that a deep pattern in nature remained the same for 300 million years. Then, 6,000 years ago, the pattern was disrupted — at about the same time that agriculture spread across North America.

“When early humans started farming and became dominant in the terrestrial landscape, we see this dramatic restructuring of plant and animal communities,” said University of Vermont biologist Nicholas Gotelli, an expert on statistics and the senior author on the new study. In the hunt for the beginning of the much-debated “Anthropocene” — a supposed new geologic era defined by human influence of the planet — the new research suggests a need to look back farther in time than the arrival of human-caused climate change, atomic weapons, urbanization or the industrial revolution. “This tells us that humans have been having a massive effect on the environment for a very long time,” said S. Kathleen Lyons, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who led the new research. The study was published Dec. 16 in the journal Nature….


S. Kathleen Lyons, Kathryn L. Amatangelo, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Antoine Bercovici, Jessica L. Blois, Matt Davis, William A. DiMichele, Andrew Du, Jussi T. Eronen, J. Tyler Faith, Gary R. Graves, Nathan Jud, Conrad Labandeira, Cindy V. Looy, Brian McGill, Joshua H. Miller, David Patterson, Silvia Pineda-Munoz, Richard Potts, Brett Riddle, Rebecca Terry, Anikó Tóth, Werner Ulrich, Amelia Villaseñor, Scott Wing, Heidi Anderson, John Anderson, Donald Waller, Nicholas J. Gotelli. Holocene shifts in the assembly of plant and animal communities implicate human impacts. Nature, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/nature16447


Wild bee decline threatens US crop production

Posted: 21 Dec 2015 04:35 PM PST

The first national study to map US wild bees suggests they’re disappearing in many of the country’s most important farmlands. If losses of these pollinators continue, the new nationwide assessment indicates that farmers will face increasing costs — and that the problem may even destabilize the nation’s crop production….Pesticides, climate change, and diseases threaten wild bees–but the new study also shows that their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland. In eleven key states where the new study shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by two hundred percent in five years–replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations. “These results reinforce recent evidence that increased demand for corn in biofuel production has intensified threats to natural habitats in corn-growing regions,” the new study notes….


Insu Koh, Eric Lonsdorf, Neal Williams, Claire Brittain, Rufus Isaacs, Jason Gibbs and Taylor Ricketts. Modeling the Status, Trends, and Impacts of Wild Bee Abundance in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1517685113




Spatial Distribution and Temporal Patterns of Cassin’s Auklet Foraging and Their Euphausiid Prey in a Variable Ocean Environment

Suzanne Manugian, Meredith L. Elliott, Russ Bradley, Julie Howar, Nina Karnovsky, Benjamin Saenz, Anna Studwell, Pete Warzybok, Nadav Nur, Jaime Jahncke. PLOS, December 2, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144232


Krill (Euphausiids) play a vital ecosystem role in many of the world’s most productive marine regions, providing an important trophic linkage. We introduce a robust modeling approach to link Cassin’s auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) abundance and distribution to large-scale and local oceanic and atmospheric conditions and relate these patterns to similarly modeled distributions of an important prey resource, krill. We carried out at-sea strip transect bird surveys and hydroacoustic assessments of euphausiids (2004–2013). Data informed separate, spatially-explicit predictive models of Cassin’s auklet abundance (zero-inflated negative binomial regression) and krill biomass (two-part model) based on these surveys. We established the type of prey responsible for acoustic backscatter by conducting net tows of the upper 50 m during surveys. We determined the types of prey fed to Cassin’s auklet chicks by collecting diet samples from provisioning adults. Using time-depth-recorders, we found Cassin’s auklets utilized consistent areas in the upper water column, less than 30 m, where krill could be found (99.5% of dives were less than 30 m). Birds primarily preyed upon two species of euphausiids, Euphausia pacifica and Thysanoessa spinifera, which were available in the upper water column. Cassin’s auklet abundance was best predicted by both large scale and localized oceanic processes (upwelling) while krill biomass was best predicted by local factors (temperature, salinity, and fluorescence) and both large scale and localized oceanic processes (upwelling). Models predicted varying krill and bird distribution by month and year. Our work informs the use of Cassin’s auklet as a valuable indicator or krill abundance and distribution and strengthens our understanding of the link between Cassin’s auklet and its primary prey. We expect future increases in frequency and magnitude of anomalous ocean conditions will result in decreased availability of krill leading to declines in the Farallon Islands population of Cassin’s auklets.


Point Blue Conservation Science California Current Group Director Jaime Jahncke holds up a bucket full of krill. (Photo by Sophie Webb, NOAA)


Warm El Niño Water Meets a North Pacific Already Disrupted By The Blob

by Drew Baldwin and Eric Simons on December 16, 2015

Point Blue Conservation Science marine ecologist Jaime Jahncke has been surveying the California coast every year for the last 12 years with staff from Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. He has never seen anything like what he saw in 2015. In one of the strangest ocean years ever recorded, neither has anyone else. “I can’t truly give an explanation of what is going on right now,” Jahncke said. El Niño events in the past changed California’s marine ecosystem, but 2015 was different – in part because the Pacific Ocean was extraordinarily warm for months before the warm tropical water driven across the Equator and up the coast by this winter’s record-strength El Niño had even arrived.  “There are two phenomena, the warm ‘Blob’ and El Niño, which are different,” said John Largier, a coastal ecologist at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab. “They have similar symptoms, but the causes are different. How they interact we don’t know.”

Point Blue’s seabird monitoring station at the Farallon Islands recorded its warmest seasonal sea surface temperatures this nesting season since 1992, with 2015 joining 2014 as two of the four years ever recorded with a seasonal average ocean temperature above 55 degrees. The northeastern Pacific has been abnormally warm for two years – this fall was the hottest the ocean basin has ever been recorded — and because the slug of warm El Niño water will arrive soon, it’s likely to stay above average for a while.

For marine life, the changes start at the bottom of the food web. In the summer and fall, Jahncke said, scientists on the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS) cruise typically use a small 3 feet hoop net to pull copepods and plankton out of the water. This summer free-swimming gelatinous zooplankton were so thick in the water they clogged the nets, and researchers couldn’t get the nets over the side of the boat until they’d drained. Many of those plankton were doliolids, free-swimming tunicates associated with tropical waters, said Catherine Davis, a UC Davis graduate student who has spent the last four years monitoring California plankton. And just as they’d arrived, they disappeared: for a brief window in September when the cruise went out again, Jahncke said, sea surface temperatures had dropped back to normal, and the doliolids had disappeared.

Davis focuses in particular on foraminifera, sand-grain-size zooplankton that also had an unusual year. Foraminifera are well-studied around the world, so researchers have a pretty good idea of what species to expect in what places. In the last three years Davis has generally seen a range of species that seems to range southward from Oregon to California. But this year currents brought in tropical species seeking homes in the warming Northern California waters. The new plankton are as much as three times larger than the regular California residents, Davis said. “This is a disruption of what we would have expected based on findings in previous years,” Davis said in an email. “We are still trying to understand the food web implications of these changes.”….

….In September, the ACCESS cruise caught a pelagic red crab at Cordell Bank, the first they’d picked up since 1985. A month later, thousands of red crabs washed ashore in Monterey Bay, the first mass stranding there since the strong El Niño in 1983. “We have a lot of things, going forward, to piece together,” Jahncke said. Field’s NOAA survey also highlighted a changing abundance of fish species, with higher numbers of young rockfish and market squid, and lower numbers of sardines and anchovies. Those trends started in 2013, the report suggests, meaning El Niño’s not to blame. “Such shifts,” the report continues, “have important implications for higher trophic level species such as seabirds, marine mammals, salmon, and adult groundfish.”

And that’s where the changes many of us have seen come in. Starving marine mammals, poisoned crabs, dead birds washing onto central coast beaches by the thousands – it’s been a weird year at the top of the food chain, too. Jahncke says researchers on the ACCESS cruises also spotted Guadalupe fur seals and common dolphins, both more frequently seen off the coast of Baja and in tropical waters. While warm water and a changed plankton distribution typically mean a straightforward bad year for seabirds, Point Blue observations at the Farallon Islands suggest that 2015 was more complicated. Overall, 2014 and 2015 were surprisingly good years for birds on the Farallones. Perhaps, Jahncke says, that’s because of a strange dichotomy in the ocean behavior: for the first half of the bird breeding season, the upwelling was strong and the food web more normal. But by mid-summer – when the research cruises were out — it had weakened, leading to less food in the water.

Cassin’s auklets and common murres, for example, have suffered back-to-back years with unprecedented mass die-offs. Jahncke said he went camping in Santa Cruz this fall when more than 50 washed-up dead common murres covered more than a mile of beach. The auklet’s second nesting failed completely in 2014 and birds didn’t attempt a second brood in 2015, and the productivity was the lowest it had been in six years. Yet the birds had a successful nesting at the Farallones, and high success rate for those broods, resulting in an “overall productive season,” according to a seabird report prepared by Point Blue. According to the Point Blue paper, seabird reproductive success at the Farallones was “much greater” than in previous El Niño years, but the warm conditions undoubtedly had an effect on the size of the breeding populations. Point Blue reported the lowest breeding population of Western Gulls in the past 45 years of observation – but the gulls also were the only species to have higher reproductive success than in 2014….

Point Blue Conservation Science

Point Blue Celebrating 50 Years of Protecting and Studying California’s Birds

Tue, Dec 8, 2015 — 10:00 AM KQED FORUM with Michael Krasny Download audio (MP3)

Point Blue Conservation Science, originally named “Point Reyes Bird Observatory” is celebrating 50 years of its conservation efforts. 50 years ago the Point Reyes Bird Observatory was founded to study migratory birds. In the decades since, the organization, now called Point Blue Conservation Science and headquartered in Petaluma, has expanded to include wide-ranging ecosystem conservation, working to reduce the effects of habitat loss and climate change on birds and other wildlife. In its 50th anniversary year, Forum talks with Point Blue about changes in California’s bird populations, the health of bird habitats and threatened birds of the Bay Area.

Host: Michael Krasny


  • Ellie Cohen, president and CEO, Point Blue Conservation Science
  • Grant Ballard, chief science officer, Point Blue Conservation Science
  • Ryan Burnett, Sierra Nevada group director, Point Blue Conservation Science

More info:

Point Blue Conservation Science website

Pocket Guide to Birds of San Francisco Bay



A group of researchers is tracking the gradual return of northern fur seals to the Bay Area of California. The seals were once prized for their thick, warm fur, and they were hunted nearly to extinction in the 1800s. A century later, they’re slowly repopulating the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge

Recovering Fur Seal Population Threatened by El Nino

Seals were nearly hunted out of existence on California’s Farallon Islands, and now their remarkable comeback is challenged by warm waters.

By Nadia Drake , National Geographic PUBLISHED Tue Dec 22 13:44:25 EST 2015

SAN FRANCISCO—Nearly 30 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge, a growing population of feisty, fish-loving northern fur seals is waddling around the craggy Farallon Islands. After all but vanishing from these granite shores by the mid-1800s, the seals have been returning in ever-increasing numbers—just in time to take a hit from a strong, brewing El Niño. Scientists expect the challenging ocean conditions offshore will affect multiple species, and say the situation is a preview of what could come if warming trends continue.   “Northern fur seals are dramatically affected by El Niños,” says Tony Orr, a wildlife biologist with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Yet he’s optimistic that the population will rebound. “Their numbers do get smacked down, and it takes a while, but they gradually recover.”

Ups and Downs

Since 2013, the fur seal population in the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge has doubled from 666 to more than 1,200, Ryan Berger of Point Blue Conservation Science reported last Tuesday at a conference of the Society for Marine Mammalogy. “It’s a huge increase,” Berger says. Berger and his colleagues have been studying the fur seals on the chain’s West End Island since 1996, when the first pup was born there in more than a century. Biologists working on the island count the number of adults and pups annually, aided by aerial surveys conducted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In the early 1800s, the Farallons hosted more than 100,000 northern fur seals. But over a period of 40 years, hunters with their sights set on the seals’ dense, coveted coats robbed the islands of their flippered inhabitants, reducing the population to basically zero.   In recent years, the seals have started to find their way back to these wind-whipped rocks from breeding grounds in southern California and Alaska, and it looks like some will stay put. The news isn’t all good, though. Only 665 pups were born this year, just nine more than the 2014 total of 656. That’s not entirely unexpected in El Niño years, when warm ocean waters make food scarce for mothers and just-weaned pups; in fact, surveys suggest young fur seals often don’t survive at all. Orr says he and his colleagues have never spotted any tagged pups born during the last extreme El Niño winter, in 1997–1998. “None of them have ever been seen. Ever. That’s crazy,” says Orr. “Their population just crashes during El Niños.”….


Humans Have Disrupted Ecosystems for 6,000 Years, Research Shows

December 16, 2015 By Lorena Anderson, University Communications

The basic structure of Earth’s ecosystems lasted for 300 million years but changed about 6,000 years ago, and humans are the most likely reason. A team of about 25 researchers from around the globe, including UC Merced Professor Jessica Blois, outline that discovery in a paper published today in the journal Nature. “Over the past 10,000 years, we see rapid changes in natural communities,” said Blois, a professor in UC Merced’s School of Natural Sciences. “We really see the turning point happening about 6,000 years ago, and we think the changes were due to increasing human activity.” There was a lot going on at that time, she said, including an increase in human populations around the world and the beginnings of agriculture. Many assume human impacts have only taken place since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1800s. The researchers looked at how ecological communities are organized and how they change through time, which is going to be critical to predicting the effects of climate change. Specifically, they looked at 359,896 unique pairs of plants and animals at 80 sites. While most pairs are randomly associated across sites, they wanted to see if any pairs were aggregated — living together — or segregated. For the past 300 million years, most non-random species pairs were aggregated. But over the past 10,000 years — specifically about 6,000 years ago — that all changed. “Why? That’s the big question,” Blois said. “There was a pronounced shift to more segregated pairs.” Before the shift, 64 percent of the pairs were aggregated; after it, 37 percent were, the paper points out. “Our results suggest that the rules governing the assembly of communities have recently been changed by human activity,” the researchers wrote. While Blois doesn’t put a value judgment on change, she is concerned. “Life has an amazing capacity to respond to change and adapt, but it appears that in just a short amount of time, we’ve disrupted that,” she said. “If species were aggregated because of some significant interactions and we’ve changed that, it could be harder to recover from”…


A fisherman shovels grey sole, a type of flounder, out of the hold of a ship at the Portland Fish Pier in Maine, September 2015. New research finds the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves is declining across the globe. The worst news comes from the North Atlantic, where most species are declining. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Fish Stocks Are Declining Worldwide, And Climate Change Is On The Hook

Updated December 14, 20154:24 PM ET Published December 14, 20153:08 PM ET NPR Clare Leschin-Hoar

For anyone paying attention, it’s no secret there’s a lot of weird stuff going on in the oceans right now. We’ve got a monster El Nino looming in the Pacific. Ocean acidification is prompting hand wringing among oyster lovers. Migrating fish populations have caused tensions between countries over fishing rights. And fishermen say they’re seeing unusual patterns in fish stocks they haven’t seen before. Researchers now have more grim news to add to the mix. An analysis published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves is declining across the globe. “This, as far as we know, is the first global-scale study that documents the actual productivity of fish stocks is in decline,” says lead author Gregory L. Britten, a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine. ritten and some fellow researchers looked at data from a global database of 262 commercial fish stocks in dozens of large marine ecosystems across the globe. They say they’ve identified a pattern of decline in juvenile fish (young fish that have not yet reached reproductive age) that is closely tied to a decline in the amount of phytoplankton, or microalgae, in the water. “We think it is a lack of food availability for these small fish,” says Britten. “When fish are young, their primary food is phytoplankton and microscopic animals. If they don’t find food in a matter of days, they can die.”

The worst news comes from the North Atlantic, where the vast majority of species, including Atlantic cod, European and American plaice, and sole are declining. In this case, Britten says historically heavy fishing may also play a role. Large fish, able to produce the biggest, most robust eggs, are harvested from the water. At the same time, documented declines of phytoplankton made it much more difficult for those fish stocks to bounce back when they did reproduce, despite aggressive fishery management efforts, says Britten. When the researchers looked at plankton and fish reproduction declines in individual ecosystems, the results varied. In the North Pacific — for example, the Gulf of Alaska — there were no significant declines. But in other regions of the world, like Australia and South America, it was clear that the lack of phytoplankton was the strongest driver in diminishing fish populations. “When you averaged globally, there was a decline,” says Britten. “Decline in phytoplankton was a factor in all species. It was a consistent variable.” And it’s directly linked to climate change: Change in ocean temperature affects the phytoplankton population, which is impacting fish stocks, he says…. Similar assessments are underway in the California Current and the Bering Sea, and eventually in all of the nation’s large marine ecosystems. “This is where the idea of ecosystem-based management comes in. It’s not only fishing that is impacting these resources,” says Hare. “We need to take a more holistic view of these resources and include that in our management.” Britten says the fact that productivity of a fishery can change should be an eye-opener for fisheries management. “It’s no longer just pull back on fishing and watch the stock rebound. It’s also a question of monitoring and understanding the ability of stocks to rebound, and that’s what we demonstrated in this study. The rebound potential is affected as well,” says Britten.




Changing recruitment capacity in global fish stocks

Gregory L. Brittena,b,1, Michael Dowdc, and Boris Worma
PDF PNAS December 2015

Marine fish stocks play an important role in marine ecosystems and provide a source of protein for billions of people worldwide. Recent environmental changes have affected the distribution of many stocks, but it is yet unclear whether their productivity is affected as well. We show that recruitment capacity (the ability of stocks to produce surviving offspring) has been significantly altered by both environmental changes and biological changes brought about by overfishing. In total, these effects have reduced recruitment capacity by 3% of the historical maximum per decade, on average. This paper helps us to understand and track previously unrecognized changes in fish stock productivity during the early stages of their life cycle.


Marine fish and invertebrates are shifting their regional and global distributions in response to climate change, but it is unclear whether their productivity is being affected as well. Here we tested for time-varying trends in biological productivity parameters across 262 fish stocks of 127 species in 39 large marine ecosystems and high-seas areas (hereafter LMEs). This global meta-analysis revealed widespread changes in the relationship between spawning stock size and the production of juvenile offspring (recruitment), suggesting fundamental biological change in fish stock productivity at early life stages. Across regions, we estimate that average recruitment capacity has declined at a rate approximately equal to 3% of the historical maximum per decade. However, we observed large variability among stocks and regions; for example, highly negative trends in the North Atlantic contrast with more neutral patterns in the North Pacific. The extent of biological change in each LME was significantly related to observed changes in phytoplankton chlorophyll concentration and the intensity of historical overfishing in that ecosystem. We conclude that both environmental changes and chronic overfishing have already affected the productive capacity of many stocks at the recruitment stage of the life cycle. These results provide a baseline for ecosystem-based fisheries management and may help adjust expectations for future food production from the oceans.



I swam on and on. In every direction the destruction stretched for hundreds of metres, piles and piles of shattered white coral branches. It seemed so illogical. Why would fishermen, even poachers, destroy a whole coral system like this?

Why are Chinese fishermen destroying coral reefs in the South China Sea?

By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes BBC News, South China Sea BBC News December 15,2015

What I came across on a reef far out in the middle of the South China Sea has left me shocked and confused. I’d been told that Chinese fishermen were deliberately destroying reefs near a group of Philippine-controlled atolls in the Spratly Islands but I was not convinced. “It goes on day and night, month after month,” a Filipino mayor told me on the island of Palawan. “I think it is deliberate. It is like they are punishing us by destroying our reefs.” I didn’t take it seriously. I thought it might be anti-Chinese bile from a politician keen to blame everything on his disliked neighbour – a neighbour that claims most of the South China Sea as its own. But then, as our little aircraft descended towards the tiny Philippine-controlled island of Pagasa, I looked out of my window and saw it. At least a dozen boats were anchored on a nearby reef. Long plumes of sand and gravel were trailing out behind them….. Then, down below me, I spotted two of the poachers, wearing masks and trailing long breathing hoses behind them. They were manhandling something heavy. As they struggled up the sandy underwater slope, through a stream of bubbles, I caught sight of what they were carrying – a massive giant clam, at least 1m (3ft) across.

They dropped it on to a pile near their boat. Next to it lay three others they had pulled out earlier. Clams of this size are probably 100 years old, and – as I discovered later on an internet auction site – can sell for between $1,000 (£665) and $2,000 a pair….



Southern giant petrels live on Signy Island in Antarctica. Credit: Alastair Wilson

New research shows decline in population and breeding success of Antarctic seabird

Posted: 21 Dec 2015 08:12 AM PST

A fifty year study of the charismatic seabird, the southern giant petrel, on the Antarctic island of Signy shows its population has halved and its breeding success has declined in the last 10-20 years. The results by scientists at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are published this month in the journal Polar Biology online. Southern giant petrels are large, colonially-nesting seabirds with wingspans of over 2 m capable of long-distance ocean travel. They feed on prey ranging from crustaceans (including Antarctic krill), squid and fish at sea, to penguin and seal remains on land. Most birds breed for the first time only when they are between six and ten years of age, and they produce at most one chick per year…BAS seabird ecologist and co-author Dr Richard Phillips says: “The results are surprising because this species seemed to be doing well on Signy. We really don’t know what’s causing this decline. It could be a reduction in sea ice or other factors affecting food availability and we don’t know if it’s affecting the species regionally or more widely….


M. J. Dunn, J. A. Jackson, S. Adlard, R. A. Phillips. Population size and trends of southern giant petrels (Macronectes giganteus) nesting at Signy Island, South Orkney Islands. Polar Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s00300-015-1855-0


Darwin’s finches may face extinction

Posted: 18 Dec 2015 05:59 AM PST

Mathematical simulations show parasitic flies may spell extinction for Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Islands, but that pest-control efforts might save the birds that helped inspire the theory of evolution.


Jennifer A. H. Koop, Peter S. Kim, Sarah A. Knutie, Fred Adler, Dale H. Clayton. An introduced parasitic fly may lead to local extinction of Darwin’s finch populations. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12575



Carnivore hunting policy and science don’t align, researchers find

Posted: 18 Dec 2015 10:09 AM PST

An international group of biologists say that policies regulating the hunting of large carnivores do not always align with basic scientific data, which can undermine conservation efforts.


Bycatch threatens marine mammals, but new protections hold promise for Mexican vaquita

Posted: 14 Dec 2015 07:23 AM PST

Gillnetting around the world is ensnaring hundreds of thousands of small cetaceans every year, threatening several species of dolphins and porpoises with extinction, according to new research. But there is one bright spot in the Gulf of California, where Mexican authorities earlier this year instituted an emergency two-year ban on gillnetting to help save the critically endangered vaquita.


State of the Estuary Report 2015

The report was released at the 2015 State of the San Francisco Estuary Conference.  A video summary is now available on-line to complement the full report, which was released in September.


Estuary News

The December 2015 issue has been released and is available on-line.  Visit the web page to read extended articles, subscribe for free, and/or donate to Estuary News.


This is a photograph of penguins foraging as a group. Credit: John Arnould, Deakin University

Penguin cam captures hunt for prey

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 12:16 PM PST

Little penguins were more likely to work together to hunt schooling prey than solitary prey, according to observations made using animal-borne cameras. “This study showed little penguins gained no benefit in capturing prey when from hunting in groups, suggesting individuals may forage in groups to improve detection of prey or avoid predation but, once they find prey, it is every penguin for themselves.”


Grace J. Sutton, Andrew J. Hoskins, John P. Y. Arnould. Benefits of Group Foraging Depend on Prey Type in a Small Marine Predator, the Little Penguin. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (12): e0144297 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144297



Marine debris is a major threat to aquatic life. This female orca was found dead in Plettenberg Bay in South Africa with her stomach filled with trash. Photo credit: Plett Hope Spot

Yogurt Cups, Food Wrappers and a Shoe Found in Stomach of Dead Orca

Lorraine Chow | December 24, 2015 9:20 am | Comments

This. Keeps. Happening. Another whale has been found dead with plastic trash filling its stomach. This time, a 5.7-meter (about 18-foot) female orca washed up on Plettenberg Bay in South Africa, as News24 reported last week.

Sadly, it appears that the whale had been struggling for some time in the surrounding waters before it was finally found stranded.

“For almost a week, a magnificent Orca has visited our Hope Spot and stayed in the Bay,” a Dec. 14 post from the Plett Hope Spot community Facebook page states. “After one successful rescue attempt to return it to the water after beaching last Thursday, by [the National Sea Rescue Institute], today our worst fears were confirmed—this great creature was found dead washed up on Lookout Rocks.”

After a necropsy was performed on the killer whale, items such as yogurt cups, the sole of a shoe, food wrappers, seagrass and tubed organisms were found in her stomach, according to Plett Hope Spot Chair and marine mammal researcher Dr. Gwen Penry….




Yasmina Choueiri/Flickr
CC by 2.0 Fog in San Fransisco

Mercury Found In Fog Off California Coast

It’s not enough to hurt humans, but it’s not good news for the food chain

By Mary Beth Griggs Posted December 16, 2015

Fog is a hazard to ships, but it might also be a problem for the food web.

Today at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting, researchers discussed new evidence that the amount of coastal fog is not only increasing [**}, but in some areas of California at least, it contains a surprising amount of a form of mercury called monomethylmercury. Although monomethylmercury can be hazardous to human health, there’s not enough of it in the fog to be dangerous. Marine fog typically arrives in the summer months in areas where ocean surface temperatures are cold, but the air above is warmer. Clive Dorman of San Diego State University said that by analyzing the records of ships in the coastal areas in northern California and Oregon, he was able to show that between 1960 and 2007 the number of days with fog on the coast went up by 7.4 percent, a finding that mirrors other high-fog areas around the world, like the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, which also have a considerable amount of fog that has likewise been increasing.

The increase matters, not only to ships, but to ecosystems on land. Kenneth Coale of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and Peter Weiss-Penzias from UC Santa Cruz found that levels of a kind of mercury called monometylmercury were 19 times higher in fog than in rain, even in the same area. Mercury gets into the oceans from smokestack emissions and other industrial sources. It is a public health concern because it tends to build up in the food chain, as animals with low levels of mercury in their bodies are eaten by carnivores. The carnivores, which may eat many mercury-contaminated prey, end up with a lot of mercury in their bodies. The most worrying form of mercury is monomethylmercury, a kind of mercury linked to severe health effects in humans, including kidney failure, birth defects, and neurological impairment. Previous research by the team had found that the fog had just five times the levels of monomethylmercury as rain. Now, in addition to noticing even higher concentrations, they think they may have figured out where the monomethylmercury is coming from. The answer is another form of mercury–dimethylmercury, a gas that is also present in ocean water, and which comes from smokestacks and mining. It turns out that most fog is slightly acidic, and the acid is enough to convert the gaseous dimethylmercury that emerges from the oceans into the more solid monomethylmercury. The fog then carries it inland where it is deposited on various surfaces and eventually enters the food chain.


NOTE: other recent reports show fog decreasing:



Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

Sea lion survival skills impaired by California algae bloom

By Peter Fimrite and Kurtis Alexander

Updated 2:04 pm, Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The danger humans could face eating fish poisoned by the toxic algae bloom drifting off the coast of California was made frighteningly clear Monday by scientists at an international conference on marine mammals in San Francisco. The algal blooms, known as red tides, have been sickening increasing numbers of sea lions since the first one was documented on the West Coast 17 years ago, but a study released at the 21st biennial Society of Marine Mammalogy conference at the Hilton Hotel documents that brain damage in pinnipeds is more debilitating than previously known. A giant algal bloom has spread this year across California and all the way to northern Washington, releasing toxic domoic acid. The toxin, which accumulates in the bloodstreams of fish and shellfish, can cause brain damage and death in marine mammals and people who eat crabs, mussels, oysters, anchovies, sardines and herring. The health risk forced regulators to indefinitely halt the Dungeness crab season, which was supposed to begin Nov. 15. The study, to be published this week in Science, put 30 rescued sea lions through a series of tests that involved navigating a simple maze to find a food reward. Three years of testing revealed severe spacial memory loss. “It’s the first clear evidence in a wild predator (of) very severe and predictable effects,” said Peter Cook, a neuroscientist who led a research team from UC Santa Cruz. “These animals are losing most of their spacial memory, which is not a good thing for wild sea lions.” he toxins in “red tide” algae can cause sea lions to lose brain function, making tasks such as remembering where they found food difficult. Cook, a post-doctorate fellow at Emory University in Atlanta, said there was such “a gross deficit” in the poisoned animals that it would be very difficult for them to navigate, forage and survive in the wild. “When you have a dynamic ocean system, particularly with changing ocean conditions, the ability to remember where you found fish last time, and what works and what doesn’t, is important,” Cook said….


First brain scans of sea lions give clues to strandings

Posted: 14 Dec 2015 01:57 PM PST

Brain scans and behavioral tests of California sea lions that stranded on shore show how an algal toxin disrupts brain networks, leading to deficits in spatial memory.



102 new species described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2015

Posted: 17 Dec 2015 08:14 AM PST

From unknown African frogs to electric rays and animal viruses, spanning five continents and three oceans, the Academy’s 102 new species discoveries add to Earth’s tree of life.







Autumn was record warm for the contiguous US

First eleven months of 2015 were fifth warmest for the Lower 48

December 9, 2015

The September-November contiguous U.S. average temperature was 56.8°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 56.6°F set in 1963. Record and near-record warmth spanned much of the nation. The November contiguous U.S. temperature was 44.7°F, 3.0°F above the 20th century average and the 13th warmest in the 121-year period of record. The autumn precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 8.32 inches, 1.44 inches above the 20th century average. This was the 15th wettest September-November on record for the Lower 48 and the wettest since 2004. The November precipitation total was the fourth wettest on record with 3.30 inches, 1.07 inches above average. Record and near-record precipitation was observed across the Great Plains and Southeast.  This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making…


Climate outlook may be worse than feared, global study suggests

Posted: 09 Dec 2015 11:44 AM PST

The impact of climate change may be worse than previously thought, a new study suggests. As world leaders hold climate talks in Paris, research shows that land surface temperatures may rise by an average of almost 8C by 2100, if significant efforts are not made to counteract climate change. Such a rise would have a devastating impact on life on Earth. It would place billions of people at risk from extreme temperatures, flooding, regional drought, and food shortages. The study calculated the likely effect of increasing atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases above pre-industrialisation amounts. It finds that if emissions continue to grow at current rates, with no significant action taken by society, then by 2100 global land temperatures will have increased by 7.9C, compared with 1750. This finding lies at the very uppermost range of temperature rise as calculated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It also breaches the United Nations’ safe limit of 2C, beyond which the UN says dangerous climate change can be expected. Research at the University of Edinburgh first created a simple algorithm to determine the key factors shaping climate change and then estimated their likely impact on the world’s land and ocean temperatures. The method is more direct and straightforward than that used by the IPCC, which uses sophisticated, but more opaque, computer models. The study was based on historical temperatures and emissions data. It accounted for atmospheric pollution effects that have been cooling Earth by reflecting sunlight into space, and for the slow response time of the ocean.

Its findings, published in Earth and Environmental Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, may also help resolve debate over temporary slow-downs in temperature rise.

Professor Roy Thompson, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who carried out the study, said: “Estimates vary over the impacts of climate change. But what is now clear is that society needs to take firm, speedy action to minimise climate damage.”


Roy Thompson. Climate sensitivity. Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2015; DOI: 10.1017/S1755691015000213


A milestone year?
Nature Climate Change Editorial

6, 1 (2016) doi:10.1038/nclimate2911 Published online 23 December 2015

2015 began with the warmest winter on record on a global scale, and ended as the hottest year since records began, with average global temperatures reaching 1 °C above pre-industrial levels for the first time1. But these were not the only records broken this year, as a large number of extreme-intensity events unfolded. The winter snowpack in California hit a record low, prolonging one of the most severe and longest droughts in the USA2. El Niño appeared shyly in May and then went on to become a monster, heating up the equatorial Pacific ocean by more than 3 °C by November3. Tropical cyclone Patricia went off the hurricane category scale with winds of over 320 km per hour, and the Arabian peninsula was hit by two consecutive cyclones — an unprecedented occurrence in the climate record of the region1.

It is clear that many different factors have contributed to these events, and care must be taken before linking any particular event to climate change. But one thing is sure: human influence has significantly increased the likelihood of extremes4.

Extreme weather has the power to change people’s perception of climate change — as happened after extensive flooding in England over the winter of 2013/145. The unprecedented events of this past year prompted many world and religious leaders to make important public announcements to raise awareness on the seriousness of the issue. It is in this context that the international climate negotiations in Paris took place, where a global deal for the future of the planet was being discussed as these very words were being written. Such events make one thing clear: time is at a premium. Global average atmospheric CO2 concentrations have indefinitely passed the 400 ppm mark6, reflecting the relentless increase in emissions. This puts us on a fast track to 2 °C of warming, which is considered to be a dangerous climate change threshold beyond which even more extreme events can be expected. If 2015 was a year full of climate milestones, 2016 has the potential to be another: the year when global society took firm and collective action to begin changing the dangerous path that we are currently treading. It is certainly a big New Year’s resolution.



The promise of Paris—science to inform policy– Nature Climate Change Editorial

Nature Climate Change 6, 1 (2016) doi:10.1038/nclimate2898 Published online 07 December 2015

Policymakers seem ready to take new steps to tackle climate change. Research must draw on lessons from the past to find productive pathways for the future. Government representatives are meeting in Paris to negotiate a new deal to push the world onto a lower-emissions path. They must be presented with strategies that are politically feasible if they are to catalyse significant action — strategies that will constrain costs and deliver benefits to society. This puts a premium on research that translates science, from all disciplines, into actionable plans. Such research is hard to develop as it requires, among other things, a deep understanding of the policymaking process. Researchers are increasingly realizing the advantages of joining their efforts with policy experts to inform political debates. Scholars must find ways to conduct more of this research, and to develop strategies to disseminate the output to decision makers, if it is to get exposure in international negotiations.

Nature Climate Change has always committed to publishing research designed to inform the policy debate. This is continued with a new joint web focus with Nature Geoscience (, exploring how the world’s carbon budget is currently being expended, and translating findings into possible routes to transformational change. For instance, there are several ways to account emissions — this refines but also complicates debates around responsibility. Analysis by Robert Jackson and colleagues suggests that the world could soon hit peak emissions, partially due to a drop in China’s coal consumption, and below-average global demand for oil and natural gas alongside the growth of renewable energy ( Karl Steininger et al. show how measuring emissions at different points in the supply chain provides different images of countries’ contributions ( Both pieces demonstrate how debates about burden sharing are (and should be) changing, with the old ‘developed versus developing country’ dichotomy dissipating.

Despite the upwards emissions curve beginning to bend, it is likely that policymakers across the globe will have to rely on some form of negative emissions technology (NET) to make deeper cuts. In the web focus, Pete Smith and colleagues ( look at the biophysical and economic impacts of these technologies, outlining the limitations of such ‘silver bullets’. They suggest that a mass rollout of a single NET, or any combination of NETs, will probably be economically difficult to achieve, and could ultimately have a significant impact on some other part of the ecosystem. This makes relying on such technologies a high-risk strategy.

Policymakers look ready to budget for change, both to the climate and to society as it seeks to mitigate and adapt. A research agenda that delivers knowledge to enable action will help them respond.



A Fitting End for the Hottest Year on Record

By JONAH BROMWICH NY Times DEC. 23, 2015

With some help from El Niño, 2015 will almost certainly finish out its run as the hottest year on record with temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day predicted to be well above average across much of the United States.

AccuWeather is forecasting “record setting warmth up and down the entire Eastern Seaboard from Florida to Maine” on Thursday. It is not expected that New York and the rest of the East Coast will cool down before the end of the year. And the warmth and humidity are expected to cause storms, flooding and the potential for isolated tornadoes in the Midwest and South. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that last month was the warmest November on record, and the seventh month in a row to break a global temperature record. The global average temperature from January to November was the highest recorded since 1880, when the data was first tracked. That broke the record for the hottest year ever recorded, set in 2014. The temperature from January to November was 0.25 degrees warmer than the same period last year. In a response to an emailed question, the climate activist Bill McKibben compared the rising temperatures to “waking up in the first reel of a dystopian science fiction film.” “We’re living through history, and not of a good kind,” he said. “2015 didn’t just break the global temperature record — it crushed it. Think of the energy needed to raise the temperature of something as large as our planet by this much this fast.”….



An aerial image with false colors shows marsh elevations in the Venice Lagoon. Credit: Marco Marani, Duke University

Coastal marshes more resilient to sea-level rise than previously believed

Posted: 18 Dec 2015 05:43 AM PST

Rising seas threaten coastal marshes worldwide. But a new study finds marshes are more resilient than previously believed. Elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 boost plant biomass production, allowing marshes to trap more sediment and generate more organic soil. This may elevate the threshold rate of relative sea-level rise at which marsh drowning is initiated by up to 60 percent and partially offset the effects of reduced sediment delivery and accelerating sea-level rise. The research, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the significant boost in marsh plant productivity associated with elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide will allow marshes to trap more sediment and create more organic soil. This, in turn, will result in increased rates of accretion that will allow marshes to keep up with rising sea levels and may increase the thresholds for marsh drowning by up to 60 percent.

Coastal marshes absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere; they help filter out pollution in coastal waters; provide habitat for wildlife; help protect coastlines from erosion and storm surge; and can store huge amounts of floodwater, reducing the threat of flooding in low-lying coastal areas. “Essentially, we found it’s a self-rising mechanism marshes use to build themselves up,” said Marco Marani, professor of ecohydrology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Pratt School of Engineering. “As levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide increase, more CO2 gets taken in by marsh plants. This spurs higher rates of photosynthesis and biomass production, so the plants produce more sediment-trapping growth above ground and generate more organic soil below ground.”

The result is that the extent of marsh loss is significantly reduced, even under high rates of sea-level rise. The study suggests this so-called “CO2 fertilization effect” may also contribute to a stabilizing feedback in the climate system as increased biomass production and organic deposition in marshes sequester larger amounts of carbon dioxide. But there’s an important caveat. “While elevated atmospheric CO2 levels may offset some of the threats facing marshes from sea-level rise, another equally serious threat to marsh survival — sediment starvation — will remain,” said Katherine M. Ratliff, a PhD student at Duke’s Nicholas School, who was lead author of the study. “Suspended sediments play a fundamental role in marsh survival,” she said. “As more dams are built and as land use and agricultural practices in coastal regions continue to rapidly change, we’re seeing a sharp drop in inorganic sediment delivery to many coastal marshes worldwide. This decrease significantly undercuts the marshes’ ability to build themselves up and keep pace with rising seas.”…

…The new study finds that in sediment-poor marshes, the loss of area might range between 39 percent and 61 percent, even when the offsetting CO2 fertilization effect is accounted for, as the rate of relative sea-level rise increases beyond the initial threshold for marsh drowning. To conduct their study, the researchers used a spatial model of marsh morphodynamics into which they incorporated recently published observations from field experiments on marsh vegetation response to varying levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. “While the effect of direct carbon dioxide fertilization has so far been neglected in marsh modeling, our research shows it is central in determining possible marsh survival under the foreseeable range of climatic changes,” Marani said….


Katherine M. Ratliff, Anna E. Braswell, Marco Marani. Spatial response of coastal marshes to increased atmospheric CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201516286 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1516286112




Marshes to mudflats—Effects of sea-level rise on tidal marshes along a latitudinal gradient in the Pacific Northwest

Thorne, KM, BD Dugger, KJ Buffington, CM Freeman, CN Janousek, KW Powelson, GR Gutenspergen, JY Takekawa. 2015. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1204, 54 p. plus appendixes,

In the Pacific Northwest, coastal wetlands support a wealth of ecosystem services including habitat provision for wildlife and fisheries and flood protection. The tidal marshes, mudflats, and shallow bays of coastal estuaries link marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats, and provide economic and recreational benefits to local communities. Climate change effects such as sea-level rise are altering these habitats, but we know little about how these areas will change over the next 50–100 years. Our study examined the effects of sea-level rise on nine tidal marshes in Washington and Oregon between 2012 and 2015, with the goal of providing scientific data to support future coastal planning and conservation. We compiled physical and biological data, including coastal topography, tidal inundation, vegetation structure, as well as recent and historical sediment accretion rates, to assess and model how sea-level rise may alter these ecosystems in the future. Multiple factors, including initial elevation, marsh productivity, sediment availability, and rates of sea-level rise, affected marsh persistence. Under a low sea-level rise scenario, all marshes remained vegetated with little change in the present configuration of communities of marsh plants or gradually increased proportions of middle-, high-, or transition-elevation zones of marsh vegetation. However, at most sites, mid sea-level rise projections led to loss of habitat of middle and high marshes and a gain of low marshes. Under a high sea-level rise scenario, marshes at most sites eventually converted to intertidal mudflats. Two sites (Grays Harbor and Willapa) seemed to have the most resilience to a high rate of rise in sea-level, persisting as low marsh until at least 2110. Our main model finding is that most tidal marsh study sites are resilient to sea-level rise over the next 50–70 years, but that sea-level rise will eventually outpace marsh accretion and drown most habitats of high and middle marshes by 2110.



Normal weather drives salt marsh erosion

Posted: 21 Dec 2015 04:34 PM PST

Coastal wetlands are in retreat in many locations around the globe — raising deep concerns about damage to the wildlife that the marshes nourish and the loss of their ability to protect against violent storms. The biggest cause of their erosion is waves driven by moderate storms, not occasional major events such as Hurricane Sandy, researchers now have shown.




Methane emissions in Arctic cold season higher than expected

Posted: 21 Dec 2015 04:34 PM PST

The amount of methane gas escaping from the ground during the long cold period in the Arctic each year and entering Earth’s atmosphere is likely much higher than estimated by current climate change models. Far more methane is escaping from Arctic tundra during the cold months — when the soil surface is frozen — as well as from upland tundra, than prevailing assumptions and climate modelers previously believed…..





Red line: Mid-range warming response to the IPCC’s RCP3PD most aggressive mitigation scenario, which involves reducing CO2 emissions to zero and below in the second half of the 20th century. Blue line: Mid-range warming response to RCP3PD supplemented by rapid reductions in “Short-lived Climate Pollutant” (SLCP, including methane and soot) emissions over the period 2015-2035. Source: Oxford Martin School.

Can we hold global warming to 1.5°C?

15 December 2015 Carbon Brief- from
Prof Myles Allen, a professor of geosystem science at the Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment and Department of Physics, University of Oxford, and Director of the Oxford Martin Net Zero Carbon Investment Initiative.

The negotiators in Paris appear to have agreed to aim to limit warming to “well below” 2C, and even “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C”. But given the most likely value of human-induced warming is over 0.9C already and increasing at almost 0.2C per decade, is stabilising at 1.5C realistically possible? On one level, the answer is very simple: if 2C is possible, then so is 1.5C, albeit less likely, because we do not know precisely how the climate system will respond to future emissions, and still less how future emissions will respond to mitigation policies. If reducing emissions turns out to be easier than many people fear, or the response of the climate system turns out to be at the lower end of the current range of uncertainty, then the policies that would have limited warming to 2C might well buy us 1.5C instead. But what are the chances of meeting this new 1.5C goal? Some simple round numbers may help to put this question in perspective. Cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant driver of long-term temperatures. Past emissions, amounting to about 2tn tonnes of CO2, have already committed us to about 1C of warming. If we limit net future emissions to another trillion tonnes of CO2, which the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report considers to be technically feasible, that gets us close to 1.5C of warming due to CO2 alone. … Stabilising temperatures requires net zero CO2 emissions. So to stabilise at 2C, emissions need to peak now and fall, on average, by 10% of their peak value for every tenth of a degree of warming from now on. To stabilise at 1.5C, they need to fall, on average, by 20% per tenth of a degree of future warming. Right now, the world is warming by a tenth of a degree every 5-10 years, but of course that would slow as emissions fall.

And CO2 is not the only pollutant causing warming, although it is the most persistent. Almost all the IPCC’s scenarios project that other sources of pollution (methane, soot and the like) will add at least another 0.5C to this, taking the total to 2C. But we are only just beginning to work out how to reduce these other emissions, and in any case, it is the warming caused by CO2 that is particularly dangerous because it is so hard to reverse. This is illustrated by the figure [above], adapted from figure 2 of a recent Policy Brief, published by the Oxford Martin School. Drawing on the modelling tools used in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, it shows that if we follow the IPCC’s most aggressive mitigation path (“RCP3PD”) for CO2 – adjusted to begin reductions today – then on a mid-range estimate of the climate response, temperatures stabilise around 2C. If, in addition, we take immediate action to reduce methane and soot emissions, which UNEP and others have argued is not only possible but would bring significant health benefits as well, it is possible to stabilise temperatures at 1.5C.….The RCP3PD scenario involves a substantial element of industrial-scale CO2 disposal: rapid deployment of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) on fossil fuel plants, followed by large-scale deployment of Biomass Energy with CCS to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere in the second half of this century. It still has not been demonstrated that CO2 disposal on this kind of scale is even possible, and early progress in CCS deployment has been slow.
Likewise, Rogelj et al. (2015) argue that reducing non-CO2 human-induced warming below that in RCP3PD may not be possible, but options for reducing methane and soot emissions have been explored much less thoroughly than CO2. But if, once CO2 emissions are firmly on a path to net zero, we also succeed in substantially reducing methane and soot emissions, and the climate system response turns out to be in the lower half of the current range of uncertainty, then stabilising temperatures at 1.5C, while far from guaranteed, is clearly not out of the question….




Groundwater depletion adding to global sea-level rise

Ian James, The Desert Sun 9:25 p.m. PST December 19, 2015

Increasing amounts of water are being depleted from the world’s aquifers, and scientists have estimated that a large portion of the water ends up flowing into the oceans. So much groundwater is being pumped from wells that researchers say it is contributing significantly to global sea-level rise. Hydrologists Yoshihide Wada and Marc Bierkens have calculated estimates of the amounts of groundwater depleted annually since 1900, and their findings are striking. When plotted on a chart, their figures show depletion occurring at an accelerating pace – which in turn is pushing the levels of the oceans higher. The quickening rate of global depletion adds an alarming dimension to scientists’ findings, based on satellite measurements, which reveal widespread declines in aquifers around the world. And as that water flows off the continents, it is adding to the problem of rising seas as glaciers and ice sheets melt due to global warming.

“If we want to understand current sea-level rise, which we need to understand to better predict future sea-level rise, we have to take account of this groundwater contribution,” said Bierkens, a professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who is also affiliated with the institute Deltares. Wada, a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said the world’s demand for water has grown significantly in the past 15 years as the global population has swelled. More water is being used to produce food, and much of that water is being pumped from aquifers. Climate has also played a role in places like California, where drought has led farmers to pump groundwater more heavily to make up for the lack of surface water. As water is pumped from wells, some of it is taken up by crops or piped to cities. Some evaporates and ends up in the clouds. In places, some of the water soaks back into the ground and replenishes aquifers. But scientists have calculated that much of the groundwater winds up in rivers and ultimately in the oceans. Bierkens and Wada have estimated that in 1960, the amounts of groundwater depleted each year contributed between 0.09 and 0.27 millimeters to sea-level rise. By 1990, that had grown to 0.25-0.54 millimeters per year. And in 2014, they estimated groundwater depletion was causing between 0.41 millimeters and 0.89 millimeters of sea-level rise each year….



Annual average surface temperature for Arctic land stations above 60N (blue) and global (red) for the period 1900-2015, relative to the 1981-2010 average. Overland et al (2015) NOAA Arctic Report Card: Update for 2015.

AGU 2015: Scientists offer latest update on worsening state of Arctic

Scientists at this year’s American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, the largest coming together of earth and space scientists in the world, have issued their latest health-check for the Arctic. Compiled by more than 70 authors in 11 countries, the annual Arctic Report Card put together by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considered the most comprehensive overview of the state of the polar north. This year’s installment tells the familiar story of an Arctic in serious decline. Temperatures are rising and ice is retreating, with knock-on effects for Arctic ecosystems and wildlife. Dr James Overland, an Arctic oceanographer with NOAA and one of the report’s authors, told Carbon Brief: The importance of the report card is that almost every year we see new surprises in the rapidity of the types of changes that we’re seeing.

Here’s your one-stop-shop for understanding what’s been going on in the Arctic this year.

Vital signs

Arctic temperatures are rising more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, today’s report begins. For the 12-month period between October 2014 and September 2015, temperatures were 1.3C above the long-term average, the highest since 1900. In all four seasons, temperatures over large parts of the region exceeded 3C above the pre-industrial era.

These latest figures represent a warming of 2.3C since the 1970s and 2.9C since the start of the 19th century. And while the surface temperature of the globe as a whole has risen more slowly in the past decade than previous ones, there has been no such slowdown in the Arctic, the report notes. Compare the blue line in the graph below, which shows the average annual temperature since 1900, with the red line, which shows the same but for the whole globe.

While you can see ups and downs in Arctic temperature (blue line above) from one year to the next, the long term trend is one of clear warming, today’s report explains:

Although there are year-to-year and regional differences in air temperatures due to natural random variability, the magnitude and Arctic-wide character of the long-term temperature increase is a major indicator of global warming.

These natural fluctuations also mean that scientists see differences from one Arctic region to another in any given season, the report explains.




Phytoplankton, the single-celled plants that perform half of the world’s photosynthetic activity, are sensitive to climate change. New research is shedding light on how their populations will rise, fall and shift as the Earth warms. Credit: NOAA

Tiny phytoplankton have big influence on climate change

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 10:59 AM PST

Researchers have investigated what climate models have to say about how phytoplankton and ocean ecosystems will respond to the profound changes that Earth is undergoing…..What’s clear is that the effect extends beyond simple warming. Indeed, the very physics and chemistry of the oceans are also shifting, and are forecast to change even more in the coming decades. These changes have implications for, among other things, the single-celled organisms that comprise the base of the ocean’s food web and are responsible for half of the world’s photosynthetic activity: phytoplankton. Not only are phytoplankton sensitive to changes in climate, they also contribute to those changes, as they can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it deep in the ocean when they die….Their analyses reveal complex patterns of phytoplankton response. In a paper in Biogeosciences, they show that, in the Southern Ocean, future climate change will bring increases or decreases in phytoplankton abundance and production in distinct latitudinal bands — a pattern the researchers had not anticipated. “Because with climate change you have less mixing of the water column, we thought that the phytoplankton would have more access to light and they would simply expand, but instead we saw these bands of high and low abundance,” Cabré says. Phytoplankton are very sensitive to mineral availability, including nitrate and iron, and also to light. The team found that the latitudinal bands correspond to increased iron, which increased phytoplankton productivity from 40 to 50 degrees South, decreased light driven by changes in winds and clouds, which decreased productivity from 50 to 65 degrees South; and increased light due to more sea-ice melting in the summer, which increased productivity along the Antarctic shores….”Intriguingly, the trends in phytoplankton productivity predicted by the models are in line with what has already been observed over the past 20 or 30 years,” says Marinov, “suggesting that the climate change signal might have already become apparent in parts of the Southern Ocean.“….

S. Leung, A. Cabré, I. Marinov. A latitudinally banded phytoplankton response to 21st century climate change in the Southern Ocean across the CMIP5 model suite. Biogeosciences, 2015; 12 (19): 5715 DOI: 10.5194/bg-12-5715-2015


Phytoplankton like it hot: Warming boosts biodiversity and photosynthesis in phytoplankton

Posted: 17 Dec 2015 12:15 PM PST

Globally, phytoplankton — microscopic water-borne plants — absorb as much carbon dioxide as tropical rainforests, and so understanding the way they respond to a warming climate is crucial….The study found that phytoplankton communities in the warmed ponds were more species rich, had greater evenness in species abundance, greater biomass and were dominated by larger species. In contrast to previous work conducted in small scale, short-term laboratory experiments, these findings demonstrate that future global warming could actually lead to increases in biodiversity and photosynthesis in some locations. These results cannot be extrapolated to the global scale as declines might occur in other places where different ecological mechanisms prevail The authors attribute their findings to the fact that the experiments were conducted in open outdoor ecosystems where local extinctions of species can be replaced by new immigrants from surrounding locations. Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher from the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter said: “The increases we’ve seen in phytoplankton biodiversity appear be driven primarily by the effects of warming on zooplankton — the microscopic animals that eat phytoplankton.”Higher grazing rates by the zooplankton, which prefer small abundant phytoplankton species, prevent the ecosystem being dominated by just a few of these highly competitive species, allowing species which are inferior competitors for resources to coexist. “What our study clearly shows is that future global warming is likely to have a major impact on the composition, biodiversity and functioning of plankton, which play a pivotal role in aquatic ecosystems.”


Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, Andrew P. Allen, Maria Cellamare, Matteo Dossena, Kevin J. Gaston, Maria Leitao, José M. Montoya, Daniel C. Reuman, Guy Woodward, Mark Trimmer. Five Years of Experimental Warming Increases the Biodiversity and Productivity of Phytoplankton. PLOS Biology, 2015; 13 (12): e1002324 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002324




High carbon dioxide makes baby fish move slower and show more hiding behavior compared to normal fish. This could make it more difficult for them to find food or habitat and to avoid predators, researchers say. (Stock image) Credit: © Andrey Kuzmin / Fotolia

Baby fish will be lost at sea in acidified oceans

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 05:21 AM PST

The ability of baby fish to find a home, or other safe haven, to grow into adulthood will be severely impacted under predicted ocean acidification, new research has found….”But when ocean acidity increases due to increased CO2, the neurological pathways in their brain are affected and, instead of heading towards those sounds, they turn tail and swim away.” Mr Rossi conducted experiments with barramundi hatchlings, an important fisheries species. The study was in collaboration with other researchers including Professor Sean Connell (University of Adelaide), Dr Stephen Simpson (University of Exeter) and Professor Philip Munday (James Cook University). He and his collaborators also found that high CO2 makes baby fish move slower and show more hiding behaviour compared to normal fish. This could make it more difficult for them to find food or habitat and to avoid predators…..



Rapid Arctic warming drives shifts in marine mammals

Posted: 14 Dec 2015 06:27 AM PST

New hydrophone surveys of migration gateways to the Arctic show that recent extremes in sea ice loss has opened new waters to humpback and fin whales that once ranged through the far north only in summer. And as climate change drives the ice into further retreat, such ‘summer’ species may begin competing with bowhead whales that once had the habitat to themselves.



The extinction of large animals from tropical forests could make climate change worse. New research published today in Science Advances reveals that a decline in fruit-eating animals such as large primates, tapirs and toucans could have a knock-on effect for tree species. Credit: Pedro Jordan

Extinction of large animals could make climate change worse

Posted: 18 Dec 2015 01:12 PM PST

The extinction of large animals from tropical forests could make climate change worse. New research reveals that a decline in fruit-eating animals such as large primates, tapirs and toucans could have a knock-on effect for tree species and carbon capture. …This is because large animals disperse large seeded plant species often associated with large trees and high wood density — which are more effective at capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than smaller trees. Seed dispersal by large-bodied vertebrates is via the ingestion of viable seeds that pass through the digestive tract intact. Removing large animals from the ecosystem upsets the natural balance and leads to a loss of heavy-wooded large trees, which means that less CO2 can be locked away…..Prof Mauro Galetti from São Paulo State University said: “The big frugivores, such as large primates, the tapir, the toucans, among other large animals, are the only ones able to effectively disperse plants that have large seeds. Usually, the trees that have large seeds are also big trees with dense wood that store more carbon. Carolina Bello, a PhD student from the São Paulo State University, added: “When we lose large frugivores we are losing dispersal and recruitment functions of large seeded trees and therefore, the composition of tropical forests changes. The result is a forest dominated by smaller trees with milder woods which stock less carbon.”….


Bello C., Galetti M., Pizo M.A., Magnago L.F.S., Ferreira Rocha M., Lima R.A.F., Peres C.A., Ovaskainen O., and Jordano P. Defaunation affects carbon storage in tropical forests. Science Advances, 2015



Predators key to helping prey evolve with climate change

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 05:22 AM PST

The key to helping animals evolve quickly in response to climate change could actually be their predators, according to a new study. The study is one of the first to show that species interactions, meaning the way species interact with each other in an ecosystem, like in a predator-prey relationship, is important to understanding how animals will respond to climate change. The findings, published in Biology Letters, have implications for ecosystems around the world where many top predators like sharks or polar bears are disappearing because of increasing pressure from climate change and human populations. “Not only can predators keep prey populations in check but in some cases they can help speed up the evolutionary response to climate change,” said Michelle Tseng, a research associate in UBC’s Department of Zoology and lead author of the study. “We now understand that species interactions and evolution can play a significant role in preventing animals from going extinct in a rapidly changing climate.“…


M. Tseng, M. I. O’Connor. Predators modify the evolutionary response of prey to temperature change. Biology Letters, 2015; 11 (12): 20150798 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0798




Lakes are warming at a global average of 0.61 degrees F per decade (0.34 degrees C per decade). Credit: Illinois State University/USGS/California University of Pennsylvania


Climate change rapidly warming world’s lakes

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 02:45 PM PST

Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a study spanning six continents. The study is the largest of its kind and the first to use a combination of satellite temperature data and long-term ground measurements. A total of 235 lakes, representing more than half of the world’s freshwater supply, were monitored for at least 25 years….Algal blooms, which can ultimately rob water of oxygen, are projected to increase 20 percent in lakes over the next century as warming rates increase. Algal blooms that are toxic to fish and animals would increase by 5 percent. If these rates continue, emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide on 100-year time scales, will increase 4 percent over the next decade…”‘These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening,” said lead author Catherine O’Reilly, associate professor of geology at Illinois State University, Normal. Earlier research by O’Reilly has seen declining productivity in lakes with rising temperatures….


C. M. O’Reilly et al. Rapid and highly variable warming of lake surface waters around the globe. Geophysical Research Letters, 2015 DOI: 10.1002/2015GL066235


Number of severe algal blooms in Lake Erie to double, forecast says

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 12:31 PM PST

By the latter half of this century, toxic algal blooms like the one that cut off drinking water to the city of Toledo in 2014 will no longer be the exception, but the norm, a study suggests. The findings hold implications for hundreds of coastal regions around the world where nutrient runoff and climate change intersect to make toxic algae a problem.



Above: the historic and much-photographed Pooley Bridge, near Ullswater and built in 1764, twelve years before America declared independence, was severed by the December 2015 floods. Photo credit: Cumbria Crack – a local news site that has pages of detailed reports on the floods for those who want to learn more. A revealing video of the afflicted old bridge, including before and after shots, is on Youtube here.

December 2015 Floods: a floating postcard from the UK

By John Mason & Skeptical Science posts: 16 December 2015

The last few weeks of 2015 will be remembered for a long time in some parts of the United Kingdom for all the wrong reasons. Flooding, a word which for some has truly become the F-word. It has brought with it destruction and misery, accompanied by yet another round of smashed rainfall records, including national ones that have only stood since 2009, when many of the same communities in NW England suffered cruelly. Copenhagen and Cockermouth: Paris and Patterdale. The politicians thrash out their deals while on the ground the lives of ordinary folk are again put on hold.  But how, and why did it happen again so soon after the last time? Let’s try and get through the fog. There’s a lot of nonsense that gets repeated following flooding disasters in the UK. It’s a bit like the myths about climate change that this website was set up to counter: there are flooding myths too. So let’s take a primer in why floods occur, look at what happened last weekend in the north of England – it was an Atmospheric River that was responsible – then examine some of the myths…



Researchers ski past dying trees. Credit: Photo provided by Paul Brooks

When trees die, water slows

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 05:29 AM PST

Mountain pine beetle populations have exploded over the past decade, and these insects have infected and killed thousands of acres of western pine forests. Researchers predicted that as trees died, streamflow would increase, but a new study disproved this hypothesis. A recent study by University of Utah geology and geophysics professor Paul Brooks and his colleagues in Arizona, Colorado and Idaho, found that if too many trees die, compensatory processes kick in and may actually reduce water availability. When large areas of trees die, the forest floor becomes sunnier, warmer and windier, which causes winter snow and summer rain to evaporate rather than slowly recharging groundwater. The bad news is that the loss of so many trees may not help alleviate the long-term drought in the West as many have hoped. The good news is that researchers can use the new understanding of forest water cycle to manage healthier forests that are more resistant to drought but still supply water to agriculture and cities downstream. This is the first empirical evaluation of streamflow response to widespread tree mortality from mountain pine beetles in more than 30 years and is the largest study of its kind, says Brooks.

Brooks presented this research at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco. The AGU annual meeting is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world.


Joel A. Biederman, Andrew J. Somor, Adrian A. Harpold, Ethan D. Gutmann, David D. Breshears, Peter A. Troch, David J. Gochis, Russell L. Scott, Arjan J.H. Meddens, Paul D. Brooks. Recent tree die-off has little effect on streamflow in contrast to expected increases from historical studies. Water Resources Research, 2015; DOI: 10.1002/2015WR017401




Dying conifers, particularly ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana) in California’s Sequoia National Park, October 15, 2015. (Credit: Craig D. Allen, US Geological Survey)

Scientists say climate change could cause a ‘massive’ tree die-off in the U.S. Southwest

By Chris Mooney December 21 Washington Post This story has been updated.

In a troubling new study just out in Nature Climate Change, a group of researchers says that a warming climate could trigger a “massive” dieoff of coniferous trees, such as junipers and piñon pines, in the U.S. southwest sometime this century.

The study is based on both global and regional simulations — which show “consistent predictions of widespread mortality,” the paper says — and also an experiment on three large tree plots in New Mexico. The work was led by Nate McDowell of the Los Alamos National Laboratory who conducted the research along with 18 other authors from a diverse group of universities and federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey.

“We have fairly consistent predictions of widespread loss of piñon pine and juniper in the southwest, sometime around 2050,” said McDowell. The paper concludes that the consequences could be vast, citing “profound impacts on carbon storage, climate forcing, and ecosystem services.” The study examined both an extreme warming scenario — which recent climate policies suggest we may be able to avert — and also a more modest scenario that would likely bring temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, but not necessarily by that much. The more extreme scenario was certainly worse for these trees, but even under the moderate scenario, the negative results were merely “delayed by approximately one decade,” the study found. The problem is that climate change is expected to not only increase the risk of drought, but will also drive heat up in general. And this could injure trees in two ways — simply drying them out, but also leading to “carbon starvation.” This could occur if, faced with dry conditions, tree leaves or needles close their stomata to keep water in, but therefore cannot bring in more carbon dioxide and thus suffer from reduced or even fully halted photosynthesis. In the field experiment, conducted over five years, the researchers found that depriving trees of 48 percent of usual rainfall led to 80 percent mortality of piñon pines more than 100 years old – in other words, fully grown trees – and a 25 percent loss for junipers….



Rivers, lakes impact ability of forests to store carbon

Posted: 21 Dec 2015 04:35 PM PST

Forests help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by storing it in trees, but a sizeable amount of the greenhouse gas actually escapes through the soil and into rivers and streams, report scientists.



Chickadee research predicts drastic northward shift for southern species

Posted: 02 Dec 2015 10:27 AM PST

New research on northern (black-capped) and southern (Carolina) species of chickadees offers some answers. Amber Rice, assistant professor of biological science at Lehigh and her co-author Michael A. McQuillan, a graduate student studying integrative and evolutionary biology, looked at the predicted effects of climate change on both species of chickadee with an eye toward examining how rising temperatures are influencing their location.


© iStock

Birds Provide Insights Into Climate Change

Published December 10, 2015

Birds and their behavior are providing vital insights into how climate change is threatening species, habitats, and communities worldwide, according to a report by Birdlife International. Climate change is behind shifts in bird habitats and lifecycle changes that are driving population declines, the report finds. It warns that, as warming continues, the majority of species will not be able to adapt; bird communities are also at risk from human responses to climate impacts. The report recommends protecting carbon-rich ecosystems and using nature-based solutions to build resiliency to climate change and mitigate further warming…..



Researchers found that crop yield increases seem to have declined globally by 2.5 percent per decade because of climate change. Credit: ©iStock

Climate Change Brews Perfect Storm of Food Woes

Farming will be hard hit by global warming but could also help reduce greenhouse gases

By Niina Heikkinen, ClimateWire on December 7, 2015 in Scientific American

Climate change is on track to cause a lot of problems for the world’s farmers, and the worst hit will be those who are the least able to recover. Though rising global temperatures are expected to negatively affect agricultural production and food security in regions all over the world, poor farmers and those living in the tropics will be most affected. But if countries take steps to adapt to environmental changes, much of the food security risk could be offset, according to a new joint report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. “Never before has agriculture faced challenges of this magnitude. We’ve all seen the statistics: nine billion people by 2050. Feeding these new citizens will require at least a 60 percent increase in agricultural productivity. We must do all of this in the face of climate change that is threatening the productivity and profitability of our farms, ranches and forests,” wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a statement. USDA released its latest report during Vilsack’s visit to the Paris climate talks last week. He noted that the United States and the Department of Agriculture can lead by example by helping farmers and ranchers adapt to the effects of climate change. “We don’t face these challenges in a vacuum. These same conditions have dire effects across the world, especially for poor, rural smallholder farmers in developing nations. Drought in the western United States and drought in Central America threaten farmers and livelihoods, disrupt communities, and strain food systems. Increasing climate threats, whether it is drought, high temperatures, increases in pests, or wildfire, are separate symptoms of the same problem,” Vilsack wrote. The consensus-based assessment pulls together research from 19 federal, academic, nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations, but stays away from offering policy recommendations. The researchers compared what would happen in either a low-emissions scenario where atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are around 421 parts per million by 2100, or a high-emissions scenario with atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at 936 ppm by the end of the century. Under low emissions, temperatures would increase to 1 degree Celsius by 2050, then remain unchanged into the end of the century. With high emissions, temperatures would go up by 2 degrees by 2050 and 4 degrees by 2100….



Will grassland soil weather a change?

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 01:22 PM PST

There’s more to an ecosystem than the visible plants and animals. The soil underneath is alive with vital microbes. They make sure nutrients from dead plant and animal material are broken down and made useable by other plants. This completes the process of nutrient cycling and carbon storage. Scientists are learning more about how important these microbes are. But how do changes in temperature and precipitation levels affect microbes? And will that affect carbon storage? .. However, the most variation occurred because of the seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation, not the experimental changes. “It was really unexpected because we thought that the experimental conditions would lead to more changes for the soil microbes,” explains Slaughter. “We only sampled one year out of the larger five-year study. We can’t be sure if the microbes experienced changes initially and just adapted by the time we sampled them, or if their characteristics stayed the same over the whole period. It’s an issue of timing that deserves more research.”…


Lindsey C. Slaughter, Michael N. Weintraub, Rebecca L. McCulley. Seasonal Effects Stronger than Three-Year Climate Manipulation on Grassland Soil Microbial Community. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 2015; 79 (5): 1352 DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2014.10.0431


CREDIT: Shutterstock

The ‘Unfolding Global Disaster’ Happening Right Under Our Feet

by Natasha Geiling Dec 21, 2015 3:25 pm

With all that’s going on in the world — from record-breaking warm spells to rapidly melting ice sheets — it’s easy to ignore something so seemingly mundane as dirt. But scientists at the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures suggest that we ignore dirt at our own peril. Nearly a third of the world’s arable land has been lost over the past four decades, according to a new report, released to coincide with the Paris climate talks earlier this month. Experts at the the University of Sheffield called this soil loss “an unfolding global disaster” that directly threatens the agricultural productivity of the planet. But soil erosion isn’t just a problem for food security — which is expected to become even more pressing as the world’s population booms and land available for food production wanes. Soil erosion is also tied to the climate, as the world’s soils represent a massive carbon storage system, containing three times the amount of carbon that is currently in the atmosphere. Soil is lost rapidly but replaced over millennia, and this represents one of the greatest global threats to agriculture. “If the soil carbon reserve is not managed properly, it can easily overwhelm the atmosphere,” Rattan Lal, director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University, told ThinkProgress in April. The University of Sheffield report places most of the blame for soil erosion on what it calls unsustainable farming practices, which require large amounts of fertilizers and tilling to boost crop yields. Switching to a more sustainable model of intensive agriculture, the report urges, can help offset soil loss. Right now, the report found that plowed fields lose soil to erosion at a rate 10 to 100 times greater than soil formation, meaning that the Earth is currently losing valuable land faster than it can be naturally replenished. Replenishing topsoil naturally is not a quick process — it takes about 500 years to replenish just 2.5 cm of topsoil. According to the World Wildlife Fund, about half of the world’s topsoil has been lost in the last century and a half.



Vital soil saving techniques being trialed as International Year of Soils comes to an end

Posted: 03 Dec 2015 11:22 AM PST

As World Soil Day on 5th December 2015 marks the ending of the International Year of Soils, it is reassuring to know that scientists will still be working to find solutions to protect our soils…






How much does animal agriculture and eating meat contribute to global warming

? posted November 17 2015

What the science says… Animal agriculture is responsible for 1418% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally, and less in developed countries (e.g. 6% in the USA).  Fossil fuel combustion for energy and transportation is responsible for approximately 60% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally, and more in developed countries (e.g. 80% in the USA).

Climate Myth…Animal agriculture and eating meat are the biggest causes of global warming. Becoming Vegan or cutting down on your own personal meat consumption could be the single most effective action that you can do to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Planet Earth Herald

The burning of fossil fuels for energy and animal agriculture are two of the biggest contributors to global warming, along with deforestation.  Globally, fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about 60% of human greenhouse gas emissions, with deforestation at about 18%, and animal agriculture between 14% and 18% (estimates from the World Resources Institute, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and Pitesky et al. 2009). So, animal agriculture and meat consumption are significant contributors to global warming, but far less so than fossil fuel combustion.  Moreover, fossil fuels are an even bigger contributor to the problem in developed countries, which use more energy and have increased livestock production efficiency (Pitesky et al. 2009).  For example, in the United States, fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about 80% of total greenhouse gas emissions as compared to about 6% from animal agriculture (estimates from the World Resources Institute and Pitesky et al. 2009).

How does animal agriculture cause global warming?

On of the main ways in which the livestock sector contributes to global warming is through deforestation caused by expansion of pasture land and arable land used to grow feedcrops.  Overall, animal agriculture is responsible for about 9% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions globally (UN FAO). Animal agriculture is also a significant source of other greenhouse gases.  For example, ruminant animals like cattle produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  The livestock sector is responsible for about 37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions (mainly from manure), globally (UN FAO).

Beef is a bigger problem than other sources of meat

Producing beef requires significantly more resources (e.g. land, fertilizer, and water) than other sources of meat.  As ruminant animals, cattle also produce methane that other sources (e.g. pigs and chickens) don’t. Eschel et al. 2014 estimated that producing beef requires 28 times more land, 6 times more fertilizer and 11 times more water than producing pork or chicken.  As a result, the study estimated that producing beef releases 4 times more greenhouse gases than a calorie-equivalent amount of pork, and 5 times as much as an equivalent amount of poultry. Eating vegetables produces lower greenhouse gas emissions yet.  For example, potatoes, rice, and broccoli produce approximately 3–5 times lower emissions than an equivalent mass of poultry and pork (Environmental Working Group 2011).  The reason is simple – it’s more efficient to grow a crop and eat it than to grow a crop, feed it to an animal as it builds up muscle mass, then eat the animal.

How do the numbers get misrepresented?

There are often suggestions that going vegan is the most important step people can take to solve the global warming problem.  While reducing meat consumption (particularly beef and lamb) reduces greenhouse gas emissions, this claim is an exaggeration. An oft-used comparison is that globally, animal agriculture is responsible for a larger proportion of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions (14-18%) than transportation (13.5%).  While this is true, transportation is just one of the many sources of human fossil fuel combustion.  Electricity and heat generation account for about 25% of global human greenhouse gas emissions alone. Moreover, in developed countries where the ‘veganism will solve the problem’ argument is most frequently made, animal agriculture is responsible for an even smaller share of the global warming problem than fossil fuels.  For example, in the USA, fossil fuels are responsible for over 10 times more human-caused greenhouse gas emissions than animal agriculture. That’s not to minimize the significant global warming impact of animal agriculture (as well as its other adverse environmental impacts), especially from beef and lamb, but it’s also important not to exaggerate its contribution or minimize the much larger contribution of fossil fuels….



VIDEO: A weapon against climate change may be right under our feet.
Healthy soil may play a huge role in mitigating global warming and helping us adapt to it. Huffington Post.




Potential Coastal Flooding [in CA] New Resources on El Nino

Abe Doherty, Climate Change Policy Advisor, California Ocean Protection Council
[This] week will be the highest predicted tides of the season, similar to those of Thanksgiving week, which broke records for the highest sea levels recorded at three Southern California tide stations.   Due to El Nino and other regional processes, there are elevated sea levels, swells, waves and winds that will combine with the predicted high tides next week December 21-26 to potentially cause coastal flooding.  I have a few new resources -please help distribute these to support increased awareness and preparedness for coastal flooding. These and previous resources on coastal impacts from El Nino are also available on OPC’s website on El Nino:
1. NOAA has developed a website “Coastal Flooding in California” on the issue of elevated sea levels from El Nino and how King Tides, such as those that will be occurring December 21-26, may cause coastal flooding.

2. The USGS developed the attached summary “What does El Nino mean for coastal California”, which includes the summary that waves may be up to 30% larger than normal, winds will be stronger, rainfall will be greater than normal, especially in Southern California and sea level will be 8-12 inches higher than normal and even higher during storms due to winds and waves.

3. DWR is hosting a webinar next Monday, 12/21 from 1:30-2:30 “Where can local, State, federal agencies and the public get real-time information about precipitation, river and reservoir conditions?”  Liz Bryson, Chief of the State-Federal Flood Operations Center, for the California Department of Water Resources will be hosting an interactive WebEx during which she will show participants how to:

 *   Find relevant information on the California Data Exchange Center (CDEC) website, which provides real-time and historical snow, river and weather gauge information, among other data;
 *   Find relevant information on the Flood Emergency Response Information Exchange (FERIX), an inter-active GIS-based website focused on emergency flood response; and
 *   Find relevant information on the California Nevada River Forecast Center (CNRFC), a user-friendly site which was created and maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service.

 The second guest presenter will be Diane Margetts, Communications and Media Manager, for County of Sacramento who will discuss the County’s “Are You Storm Ready?” mini-brochure.
   The WebEX information is: /  Meeting Number: 888-363-4749 / (same as the phone line)  Access Code: 2278662 (same as the phone line)
   Conference phone line 1-888-363-4749 / Access Code: 2278662# / Security Code: 8662# If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail:<>

4. There are several initiatives to document and share images of the high sea levels and storm impacts.



Populations in an area outside of Manila have extended onto coastal mudflats and waterways that are susceptible to flooding and rising sea levels. Top U.S. science advisor John Holdren says this global problem has been amplified by climate change. Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic Creative

Top U.S. Scientist [Holdren]: World Must Act Now to Reverse Climate Change

“The world needs ultimately to completely decarbonize,” says John Holdren, Obama’s science advisor. Here’s what he says about why we need to do it—and whether we can.

By Craig Welch, National Geographic

PUBLISHED December 07, 2015

LE BOURGET, France—As global leaders open their final week of negotiations, the White House’s top scientist spoke with National Geographic to offer his thoughts on why it’s urgent for countries to tackle the climate crisis now—and why he’s optimistic about the future for his grandchildren. Here’s our conversation with John Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology advisor. It has been lightly edited and condensed. (Read more about climate change.)


Enhanced rock weathering could counter fossil-fuel emissions and protect our oceans

Posted: 14 Dec 2015 10:06 AM PST

Scientists have discovered enhanced weathering of rock could counter human-made fossil fuel CO2 emissions and help to protect our oceans.



Betting against global warming is a sure way to lose money

By dana1981 & Skeptical Science posts: 8 December 2015

In 2008, a paper was published in the journal Nature predicting that global surface temperatures would cool slightly in the years 2005–2015 as compared to 1994–2004. The authors of that paper thought that during that time, the cool phase of natural ocean cycles would be enough to more than offset warming from the increased greenhouse effect, before human-caused global warming caught up again thereafter. At the time, the paper and its cooling prediction received a tremendous amount of media attention. There was some truth to the prediction. From about 1999 to 2012, there weremore La Niña than El Niño events, with the former having a short-term cooling influence on global surface temperatures, and the latter having a short-term warming effect. So, it’s true that natural ocean cycles had a temporary cooling effect during that time period. But, the authors of the paper predicted that global surface temperatures would fall. The climate scientists who blog at RealClimate were so confident that temperatures would continue to rise that they offered the authors a bet.

If the average temperature 2000-2010 (their first forecast) really turns out to be lower or equal to the average temperature 1994-2004, we will pay them € 2500. If it turns out to be warmer, they pay us € 2500. This bet will be decided by the end of 2010. We offer the same for their second forecast: If 2005-2015 turns out to be colder or equal compared to 1994-2004, we will pay them € 2500 – if it turns out to be warmer, they pay us the same.

The authors of the paper declined to accept the bet, which was a good decision, because it turns out they would have lost. Despite the temporary cooling influence of natural ocean cycles and low solar activity since 1999, temperatures have continued to rise due to the strength of the increased greenhouse effect. They have risen more slowly than they would have otherwise, but temperatures have continued to rise nevertheless. As the climate scientists at RealClimatewrote,

It is clear that prediction of global cooling or even stasis was way off the mark, with global warming continuing and observations running more than 0.15ºC warmer than the Keenlyside et al forecast … Had our bet been accepted, it is clear we would have won unambiguously….


Climate change means days are getting longer, scientists find

Duration of day has lengthened by a millisecond over the past 100 years as water from shrinking glaciers slows Earth’s rotation and shifts position of poles

Friday 11 December 2015 14.00 EST Last modified on Friday 11 December 2015 14.01 EST

The impact of climate change may appear to be overwhelmingly negative but there is a bright spot for those who struggle to find enough time in the day: melting glaciers are causing the rotation of the Earth to slow thereby lengthening our days, new research has found. Harvard University researchers have provided an answer to a long-held conundrum over how shrinking glaciers are affecting the rotation and axis of the Earth, calculating that the duration of a day has lengthened by a millisecond over the past 100 years. The brakes will be more sharply applied to the Earth’s rotation as glaciers melt at an ever faster rate, meaning that at least five milliseconds will be added to each day over the course of the 21st century. The axis of the Earth will shift too, with the north pole set to move position by about 1cm (o.4in) during this century. The research, published in Science Advances, apparently solved a scientific puzzle known as “Munk’s enigma”, which came from a 2002 researcher paper by oceanographer Walter Munk, examining how the melting of glaciers had altered the Earth’s rotation and axis. As land ice from the poles melts due to rising atmospheric temperatures, the shifting weight of water across the world should cause a change to the axis upon which the Earth spins, and a slight wobble in the rotation. Also, the added weight of water towards the equator will cause the Earth to slow, much in the way a spinning figure skater would slow if he or she reached their arms out away from their body…










DROUGHT: California snowpack measures an encouraging 111% of normal

By RICHARD BROOKS / STAFF WRITER Published: Dec. 22, 2015 Updated: 10:31 p.m.

It’s far too early to declare an end to California’s historic drought, but the state’s snowpack now measures an encouraging 111 percent of normal for this time of year, state water officials say.

“California gets about half its water in December, January and February, so we’re about a third of the way into the season,” Department of Water Resources spokesman Doug Carlson said Tuesday, Dec. 22. “We’d be pleased to have this (level) in a non-drought year.” By comparison, the snowpack measured only 56 percent of normal at this time last year, department records show. In 2013, the situation was even worse: 24 percent. So Tuesday’s tally is a good start. But it’s only a start.

“Because the reservoir levels are so extraordinarily low, we’d have to have a lot more rain and snowfall to have an impact on the drought,” Carlson emphasized. “One wet winter is probably not going to do it for us. “And we can’t make good, solid predictions based on what’s fallen so far.” If the above-average snowfall continues until April 1, he said, state water experts will feel more optimistic. But there are no guarantees.

Last April 1, Gov. Jerry Brown stood on dry grass — where there should have been 5 feet of snow — and ordered the first-ever mandatory water restrictions for California. The announcement, Brown said, was prompted by the lowest snowpack ever recorded in the Sierra. Higher-than-usual temperatures last winter caused most of the precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow, said Carlson, who said minimum temperatures in the Sierra averaged 32.1 degrees — above freezing.

In California, a deep snowpack is the best way to increase reservoir levels. Even abundant rainfall, without much snow, can be a problem….



The GFS ensemble suggests a strong subtropical jet will develop over and west of California by early January. (NCEP via

Early season rains soak Northern California; statewide storms likely in January

Filed in Uncategorized by Daniel Swain on December 23, 2015 • 138 Comments

Modest drought relief in NorCal, but SoCal remains relatively dry

As highlighted in the last post, substantial and widespread precipitation has fallen in recent days across the northern half of California. Along the North Coast and in Mendocino County, this rainfall has actually set a number of daily precipitation records and caused minor flooding of some rivers and streams. The Eel River–which as readers may remember has run dry multiple times over the course of the ongoing drought–reached and exceeded bankful in a few spots earlier this week. These recent systems have been very moist but dynamically unimpressive, meaning that there has been dramatic orographic enhancement of precipitation (often at the expense of rain-shadowed valleys, where observed precipitation has been quite a bit lighter)…..Even more notable, though, is the current Sierra Nevada snowpack–which currently stands at 112% of the long-term average for this date in December. This is a remarkable milestone in a state where snow was virtually absent even at the highest elevations well into February last winter, and has been consistently far below average for 4 consecutive years. The early season storms in NorCal have been rather cold ones, which has allowed for a very healthy accumulation of snow across even the middle elevation regions (which has been very hard to find in recent years)

El Niño-enhanced storm track on horizon

The drought-weary have been keeping a close eye on the Pacific storm track for several years, having become all-too-accustomed to the tenacity of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. Well, that seemingly malevolent feature is now gone, although the pattern that has replaced it has not been quite the one we typically associate with strong El Niño winters. It is worth pointing out that astronomical winter did not officially begin about 48 hours ago, and meteorological winter tends to lag a couple of weeks beyond even that. As I’ve discussed extensively in recent posts, the typical seasonal cycle of the jet stream means that El Niño doesn’t have a huge influence upon California precipitation until later during the rainy season–especially the critically important months of January-March. So, what’s the current diagnosis?

The Pacific Northwest has been extraordinarily wet in recent weeks, drenched by numerous atmospheric rivers and suffering through widespread flooding and landslides. This very heavy precipitation has recently started to sag southward toward far Northern California as the powerful zonally-oriented Pacific jet starts its seasonal equatorward migration. This very strong Pacific jet may itself be a manifestation of El Niño, since tropical warming tends to greatly strengthen preexisting the north-south temperature differential that drives these high-velocity upper-atmospheric winds in the first place. But for the most part, this El Niño-enhanced jet stream has been too far north to bring statewide soakings to California.

Frequent readers may be familiar with the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), which is a tropical atmospheric phenomenon characterized by periodic active/suppressed periods of tropical rainfall (i.e. convection/thunderstorms). This “intraseasonal”  (30-60 day) oscillation, which propagates from west to east along the equator, can have a profound influence not only upon tropical weather but also mid-latitude conditions during winter. In California, the MJO exerts a substantial influence during ENSO neutral (and perhaps La Nina) years, but usually has less of a pronounced effect during strong El Niño years. While this may still be true, it does appear that the MJO is becoming somewhat active presently and may begin to send a coherent signal eastward across the Pacific basin in the coming days.

Since both El Niño and the MJO are tropical phenomena that affect the intensity and placement of tropical thunderstorms (which can ultimately affect California weather by injecting energy into the upper atmosphere and strengthening the jet stream), these two phenomena can either reinforce or diminish one another. Over the coming 1-2 weeks, the increasingly active MJO will probably interfere with the ongoing and powerful El Niño forcing, perhaps leading to a strong but relatively short-lived West Coast ridge. After the Christmas storm, conditions will be relatively quiescent over most of California as the jet stream surges northward all the way into British Columbia.

But during the first week in January, the overall Pacific pattern will likely change rather quickly and dramatically. There is presently very strong inter-model ensemble support suggesting that the effects of El Niño and the MJO will combine to produce an impressive extension of the East Asian jet, delivering a parade of low-latitude storms to most or all of California. This kind of storm track would actually favor central and southern California as opposed to more northern parts of the state–in other words, the classic “El Niño pattern” that is in everyone’s minds. It’s worth noting that seasonal forecasts have strongly hinted at precisely this evolution for many months now–showing a dry autumn, and equivocal December, and subsequently a very wet January-March period for all of California. Right now, model solutions for the first 2 weeks in January are converging on just such an outcome. So, for now, I’d advise everyone to enjoy the cold storm this week and keep a close eye on what appears to be very promising evidence that our long-advertised pattern shift will finally arrive in early January.




Photo: George Rose, Getty Images This is what Lake Tahoe looked like in April 2015. Nearly 6.4 billion gallons of water have poured into Lake Tahoe over the past two days, helping the lake begin to recover from four years of crushing drought.

Tahoe gets 6.4 billion gallons of water in 24 hrs.

By Evan Sernoffsky SF Chron Updated 6:41 pm, Tuesday, December 22, 2015

More than 6 billion gallons of water have poured into Lake Tahoe in less than two days, helping the lake begin to recover from four years of crushing drought. Since midnight Monday, the lake has gone up 1.92 inches, the equivalent of 6.39 billion gallons of water. The water comes as a winter storm slams the Sierra, bringing several feet of snow to higher elevations and rain at lake level, which sits at roughly 6,223 feet. The lake — the second deepest in the United States behind Oregon’s Crater Lake – was hit hard this year by the drought. Over the summer, the lake was shockingly low. Many boaters were unable to get their crafts into the lake after waters pulled back from most boat launches.


To better manage California’s water, it’s necessary to measure where it goes. Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo

UCD joins UC Water effort to improve state’s water security

By Kat Kerlin
From page A1 | December 23, 2015

It’s hard to manage what you don’t measure. UC Davis is playing a major role in solving California’s biggest water woes by joining forces across the University of California system. The UC Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative aims to account for all of California’s water, better understand how and where it flows, and help demonstrate how water can be managed differently to allow for greater water security. “Our goal is to learn more about our entire water system so we can concretely begin to restructure it, especially with regard to smarter management of groundwater and surface water,” said Graham Fogg, a UCD hydrogeology professor and co-principal investigator of UC Water for the Davis campus….


In preparation for El Niño storms, Jon Simpson installs one of five debris-flow barriers under construction on Conejo Mountain where debris threatens a Camarillo Springs development. The barriers were engineered in Switzerland.

Drought increases risk of destructive mudflows during El Niño storms

Rosanna Xia December 23, 2015 LA Times

An intense October rainstorm that pounded the Grapevine’s barren hillsides offered a sober preview of what El Niño might unleash in the rest of drought-stricken Southern California.

The rain hit the dry, hardened terrain where the drought had shriveled vegetation. The topsoil easily gave way, with mudflows cascading onto Interstate 5 and local roadways and trapping motorists, many overnight, in several feet of debris.

Heavy rains often bring mudflows. But experts warn that the deluges expected this winter with El Niño are likely to be exacerbated by the dry conditions in countless hillside and canyon communities. Even a little rain can set off a fast-moving debris flow, sweeping up anything in its way — loose boulders, tree limbs, cars, even homes.

“The drought, it’s just made this whole situation worse. … That area that slid [in October]? It’s not green. There’s not even grass on it. It’s so dead because of lack of rain,” said Deborah Wong, a deputy director for the California Department of Transportation. “If there’s no root structure to hold the mountain back, or at least the topsoil, it’s coming down.”

From Ventura County to San Diego County, officials are racing to clean out debris basins, install protective barriers and develop evacuation plans for communities most at risk from an El Niño forecast to be one of the strongest…


The Friant Dam in Friant, Calif., forms Millerton Lake. California officials are considering construction of another dam nearby. Credit Max Whittaker for The New York Times

California Wants to Store Water for Farmers, but Struggles Over How to Do It

By JUSTIN GILLIS NY Times DEC. 21, 2015

FRIANT, Calif. — Californians suffering through the fourth year of a punishing drought have a new worry. With fierce storms predicted for the winter, they are bracing for floods by stockpiling sandbags and rushing to buy insurance.

Yet those who need water the most, farmers, are in a poor position to take advantage of any deluge. If El Niño floods pour into the Central Valley, the farmers will inevitably watch millions of gallons of water flow to the sea. This state, forward-looking on other environmental issues, has been stymied for decades over how to upgrade its plumbing system, an immense but aging network of reservoirs and canals that move water from the mountainous north to the drier south. But the prolonged drought of recent years has prodded California into action, with new laws and a willingness to spend public money to better prepare for a future that is likely to be more difficult because of climate change. The state must decide how best to save the water that arrives between the drought years, weighing the value of billion-dollar construction projects against smaller and less expensive measures….Big decisions loom. What parts of California’s water system, the most elaborate in the world, need fixing the most? And how can it be done in a way that helps the state’s enormous farm economy, which uses huge amounts of water, without sacrificing the needs of its cities or the environment?

The path California chooses will affect people across the United States and even around the world.

In the 20th century, cheap and plentiful water for irrigation, coupled with rich soils and a special climate, turned the state into a cornucopia that has stocked the nation’s refrigerators and cupboards for generations. These days, farmers are also helping to supply developing countries like China with fruit and nuts. But keeping California’s agricultural land in production depends on fixing its growing water problems…..



Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue In northern India between the cities of Chandigarh and Ludiana, the waters of the Sirhind Canal are held back by a dam that manages flow and floodwaters. Click image to enlarge.

Water Storage a Critical Question for Climate Adaptation

21st century conditions require big changes in approach ensuring adequate water supplies

Sunday, 06 December 2015 20:51
By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue

Negotiators meeting at the United Nations climate summit in Paris have two main objectives. The first is to secure an agreement to limit heat-trapping carbon pollution. The other is to establish various programs to help communities prepare for a hotter planet. In diplomatic parlance these objectives are known as mitigation and adaptation. The first goal has been on the international agenda since the original UN climate treaty, in 1992. Adaptation, however, is a newer addition to the annual summit — and for good reason. It is now clear that even if carbon emissions were to cease immediately — an impossible scenario — the world must still learn to cope with changes in weather patterns and sea levels that are already underway and will continue.

It is also clear that the adaptive measures, by and large, will be in response to changes in water availability: to nastier droughts, more powerful floods, and shifts in the timing and quantity of snow, rain, and glacial melt. The deluge in Chennai is one example of the new climate math. India’s fourth largest city, home to 9.6 million people, was turned into a lake, inundated by 17 consecutive days of rain. Water advocates have repeatedly clamored for recognition that climate adaptation is about shifting hydrological cycles. In Paris, they are beginning to see results. But Paris is not where adaptation will take place. Fortifying modern society against the destructive potential of a new climate falls on the shoulders of public officials in countless cities, counties, and districts in countries rich and poor. In Denver and Dallas just as in Delhi and Dhaka…. A large body of scientific research supports the claim. Watersheds in the American West, southern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia that supply 2 billion people face declines in snow storage, according to a study published last month in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The snow season for several basins in the American West could shrink by two months by 2050, according to a 2014 University of Idaho study. No single action will replace the storage that will be lost, according to Paul Fleming, manager of the climate and sustainability group at Seattle Public Utilities. That means communities must discuss the menu of options and agree on the order that works for them. “It’s fair to say that any decision on storage needs to be rooted in the values of the location and of the people who reside there,” Fleming told Circle of Blue. Fleming was also a lead author for the adaptation chapter of the 2014 National Climate Assessment……




California Takes First Step Toward Building One of Nation’s Largest Water Recycling Programs

By Katy Galimberti, Staff Writer December 7, 2015; 2:33 PM ET

California officials are taking steps toward building one of the nation’s largest water recycling programs in Carson, just outside of Los Angeles. The program, if completed, will recycle waste water and turn it into potable water for the region as a step to adapt to severe drought conditions. Potable water is water that is safe enough to drink or use in food preparation. In mid-November, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWDSC) approved $15 million for a demonstration plant and additional studies into the program. The first wave of testing will take place in Carson. Currently, wastewater filtered into the plant is funneled back into the Pacific Ocean. With the proposed new program, water would be purified, then injected back into local groundwater basins to be used for potable purposes. This process is informally known as “toilet-to-tap,” a long-resisted solution for additional water sources….



Flooding is the future of California’s water supply.  

December 10th, 2015 by Alastair Blan

Numerous efforts are under way to restore floodplains throughout the state to capture stormwater. The projects simply aim to reconnect rivers with their historic floodplains — long isolated by levees and land development — but require a different way of thinking about farming and land management. In the arid agricultural expanse of the southern San Joaquin Valley, there was once water for miles in every direction. Tulare Lake – once the largest lake west of the Mississippi River – covered 600 square miles of land near Bakersfield and provided life for waterfowl, fish and native Californians….



Santa Monica to Build Underground Storm Water Runoff Tank

Nick Cervantes November 30, 2015 — A $5.2 million proposal to build underground tanks to capture much of the runoff that pollutes the Santa Monica Bay after big rains is getting underway early next year, officials said. As part of the “Clean Beaches Project,” the City of Santa Monica plans to construct a set of concrete subgrade storm-water runoff storage tanks north of the Santa Monica Pier beneath the Deauville Parking Lot, said Rick Valte, the project’s principal civil engineer. Once built, the project would divert an estimated 1.6 million gallons of often-polluted runoff from the Pier and Pico Kenter drainage basins away from the Santa Monica Bay, he said. In addition, a set of smaller prefabricated storm water runoff storage tanks will be placed at the Pico-Kenter Outfall pump station, which is located just south of the Pier. Those tanks will be used to “harvest” runoff from the drainage basins then diverted for treatment at the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF) and distributed for non-potable uses, according to officials from the City’s Public Works Department. The City is still working out details of a grant for the project it received last year from the state Water Resources Control Board. The project moves on to the design phase in January, Valte said. Construction is expected to start in the 2017-2018 fiscal year…









Aerial view of Pivers Island Living Shoreline, constructed from salt marsh plants and submerged oyster reef. The marsh was planted in 2000, and has successfully prevented erosion of the lawn behind the marsh. The NOAA Beaufort Lab buildings are behind the Living Shoreline. (Credit: NOAA)


Pivers Island Living Shoreline adjacent to Duke University Marine Lab. This is an example of the hybrid, or marsh-sill approach, and includes an offshore sill constructed from granite, with salt marsh plants established landward of the sill. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA study finds ‘living shorelines’ can lessen climate change’s effects

Protected and stabilized shorelines can store carbon, promote coastal resilience, improve water quality, and fish habitats
December 16, 2015

A recent NOAA study, published in the journal PLOS One, shows “living shorelines” — protected and stabilized shorelines using natural materials such as plants, sand, and rock — can help to keep carbon out of the atmosphere, helping to blunt the effects of climate change. This study, the first of its kind, measured carbon storing, or “carbon sequestration,” in the coastal wetlands and the narrow, fringing marshes of living shorelines in North Carolina. “Shoreline management techniques like this can help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while increasing coastal resilience,” said Russell Callender, Ph.D., acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “As communities around the country become more vulnerable to natural disasters and long-term adverse environmental change, scientific research such as this helps people, communities, businesses, and governments better understand risk and develop solutions to mitigate impacts.” Carbon can be stored or “sequestered” in plants when they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. The carbon sequestered and subsequently stored in coastal wetland sediments is known as “coastal blue carbon.” Acre for acre, salt marsh meadows can store two to three times as much carbon of the course of a year as mature tropical forests.

NOAA has supported blue carbon policy and science efforts for several years, with a growing interest in creating and managing coastal wetlands as carbon sinks. NOAA recently announced guidance on the use of verified carbon standards for the creation and restoration of coastal wetlands. “Research hadn’t focused on whether these narrow strips of fringing marshes could store carbon,” said Jenny Davis, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). “But now we know that the added carbon storage benefit of these marshes as part of living shorelines can improve coastal resilience.” In the study, researchers measured the amount of carbon stored in salt marsh sediments, and compared storage rates in marshes of different ages in North Carolina’s Newport River Estuary. Younger fringing marshes have higher carbon storage rates than older marshes, but the long-term potential of sandy living shorelines is is similar to natural marshes in the southeast United States — 75 grams of carbon per square meter per year. The 124 living shorelines in North Carolina store enough carbon to offset 64 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — the pollution equivalent of burning 7,500 gallons of gasoline. Conversion of even 10 percent of North Carolina’s 850 miles of shoreline to living shoreline would result in an additional annual carbon dioxide benefit of 870 metric tons — the pollution equivalent of using more than 100,000 gallons of gasoline. “This study shows that we can add carbon sequestration to the reasons to use natural, living shorelines, along with preventing shoreline erosion, the clearing of nutrient pollution and protecting the habitats of essential fish populations,” said the study’s co-author Carolyn Currin, Ph.D., a NOAA NCCOS scientist….



Living Shorelines: Coastal Resilience with a Blue Carbon Benefit

Jenny L. Davis et al PLOS1 November 16, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142595


Living shorelines are a type of estuarine shoreline erosion control that incorporates native vegetation and preserves native habitats. Because they provide the ecosystem services associated with natural coastal wetlands while also increasing shoreline resilience, living shorelines are part of the natural and hybrid infrastructure approach to coastal resiliency. Marshes created as living shorelines are typically narrow (< 30 m) fringing marshes with sandy substrates that are well flushed by tides. These characteristics distinguish living shorelines from the larger meadow marshes in which most of the current knowledge about created marshes was developed. The value of living shorelines for providing both erosion control and habitat for estuarine organisms has been documented but their capacity for carbon sequestration has not. We measured carbon sequestration rates in living shorelines and sandy transplanted Spartina alterniflora marshes in the Newport River Estuary, North Carolina. The marshes sampled here range in age from 12 to 38 years and represent a continuum of soil development. Carbon sequestration rates ranged from 58 to 283 g C m-2 yr-1 and decreased with marsh age. The pattern of lower sequestration rates in older marshes is hypothesized to be the result of a relative enrichment of labile organic matter in younger sites and illustrates the importance of choosing mature marshes for determination of long-term carbon sequestration potential. The data presented here are within the range of published carbon sequestration rates for S. alterniflora marshes and suggest that wide-scale use of the living shoreline approach to shoreline management may come with a substantial carbon benefit.



Climate-Smart Restoration: Sears Point, Sonoma County, San Pablo Bay – Sonoma Land Trust beautiful 4 minute video



Rapid growth in carbon dioxide emissions breaks in 2015

Despite global economic growth in 2015, worldwide emissions from fossil fuels are projected to decline by 0.6 per cent this year.

8 December 2015 CSIRO Australia

A report released today by the Global Carbon Project (GCP) has found that emissions of carbon dioxide in 2015 will break the rapid emissions growth of the past decade. “The major contributor to this change has been decreased coal consumption in China”, Executive-Director of the GCP and co-author of the report CSIRO’s, Dr Pep Canadell says. “After sustained emissions growth over the past decade, China’s emissions growth slowed to 1.2% in 2014 and is expected to decline by about 4% in 2015.” The report shows that Australia emitted over 1% of the world’s total carbon emissions from fossil fuels, emitting 0.38 billion tonnes, making it the 14th largest contributor globally.  Australia’s per capita emissions remain high but with a strong declining trend over the past 6 years. The largest emitter was China, with 9.7 billion tonnes, followed by USA (5.6), the European Union (3.4) and India (2.6), together accounting for almost 60% of global emissions….



Angie Vorhies charged her electric car in San Diego in 2013. The city has committed to using 100 percent renewable energy, becoming the largest American municipality to do so. Credit Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

San Diego Vows to Move Entirely to Renewable Energy in 20 Years


Last weekend, representatives of 195 countries reached a landmark accord in Paris to lower planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. On Tuesday, local leaders in San Diego committed to making a city-size dent in the problem. With a unanimous City Council vote, San Diego, the country’s eighth-largest city, became the largest American municipality to transition to using 100 percent renewable energy, including wind and solar power. In the wake of the Paris accord, environmental groups hailed the move as both substantive and symbolic. Other big cities, including New York and San Francisco, have said they intend to use more renewable energy, but San Diego is the first of them to make the pledge legally binding. Under the ordinance, it has committed to completing its transition and cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035. The steps to get there may include transferring some control of power management to the city from the local utility. Officials said they would also shift half of the city’s fleet to electric vehicles by 2020 and recycle 98 percent of the methane produced by sewage and water treatment plants. The mayor, Kevin L. Faulconer, said San Diego’s ocean, sunshine and other environmental attributes were “in our fabric, our DNA, who we are.” The City Council is controlled by Democrats, but Mr. Faulconer is a Republican. He sold the plan to a conservative business base in part by saying that transforming the electric grid would drive the economy and create jobs. “It’s not a partisan issue at all,” he said. “It’s about putting a marker down. It’s the right thing to do.”…


US Proposes Raising Spending on Climate-Change Adaptation

New York Times

 – ‎December 9, 2015‎


LE BOURGET, France – In an effort to help smooth the passage of a sweeping new climate accord here this week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Wednesday a proposal to double its grant-based public finance for climate-change adaptation by 2020 to $860 million, from $430 million….



Recycling 2.0 

Epson, known for making printers, has come up with an in-office paper recycling machine. As Ars Technica reported, its PaperLab takes pieces of waste paper and turns them into white printer paper. Because it breaks the paper down, PaperLab also is a secure paper shredder. And it can start putting out the new stuff within three minutes of you adding the waste paper.




New Solar Tech Throws Power Companies A Curveball

Last updated: December 22nd, 2015

If your zip code qualifies, the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit will pay you to go solar! Thanks to a little-known government program called Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, homeowners in specific zip codes are getting $1,000’s in tax credits and rebates to install solar panels….









Paris agreement a victory for climate science and ultimate defeat for fossil fuels

The Paris deal on climate change is a historic moment, but the real work starts now

Graham Readfearn Saturday 12 December 2015 15.12 EST Last modified on Saturday 12 December 2015 19.13 EST

Dignitaries, politicians and delegates had filed into the packed La Seine plenary room from about 5.30pm here in Paris. But there was still time for some last-minute drama. It turned out that a paragraph that contained the word “shall” should have read “should”, but the delay was enough to create tension across the venue. But this is the nature of multilateral climate talks, where politics, words and interpretation can be the difference between success and failure.

The French know as much about diplomacy as anyone, and the government masterfully steered the talks through the two weeks. Fabius had been, on occasion, up until 5am in the backroom sessions here in Le Bourget. As the foreign minister struck the gavel, down in the media room there was a collective sigh, then applause and the odd “whoop”. Within seconds, broadcast journalists from across the globe bolted from their seats to tell the planet that Fabius had finally sealed the deal.

So what’s actually in the deal and what does it mean? Clearly in the coming days, analysts will pour carefully over the details of the 31-page Paris Agreement. The guts of the agreement hang off the so-called “long-term goal” that commits almost 200 countries to hold the global average temperature to “well below 2C” above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C”. The long-term goal also states that “in accordance with best available science” that “in the second half of this century” the world should get to a point where the net emissions of greenhouse gases should be zero. The deal also puts into the agreement the 186 pledges submitted to the United Nations to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels. Those pledges on their own will miss the 1.5C target by a long way, but the agreement also includes a rule where nations must renew their pledges every five years. Each pledge “will represent a progression”. Many delegates and representatives of environment groups have said how even just weeks ago, they could never have envisaged a deal that was so ambitious – even when it was still not ambitious enough.

A few hours earlier, Fabius took to the formal plenary meeting to urge countries to take the opportunity that was now in front of them. “One of us reminded us of the Nelson Mandela sentence,” he said. “It always seems impossible until it’s done. “In this room you are going to be deciding on an historic agreement. The world is holding its breath – it counts on all of us.” In the corridors, Belgian climate scientist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a former vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was sporting a garish yellow tie covered in smiley faces. It matched his mood, he admitted. The deal, Van Ypersele said, was “a recognition that the science is solid and that everyone is aware of the urgency of tackling the issue”.

Throughout the week, campaigners have said the deal had to send a clear signal to global industry that the era of fossil fuels was ending. Scientists have seen the moment as career-defining. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said the Paris deal was “sending a critical message to the global marketplace” of where the world was heading. Fossil fuel projects on the table, such as the plans for a mega coalmine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland (my home state in Australia), now seem even more incompatible with the economic future than they already are. In the moments after the agreement, the Indian environment minister, Prakash Javadekar said: “This is a new chapter of hope for the seven billion people on the planet.”

The Paris deal shows that the world wants to close the book on fossil fuels. The question now is, can almost 200 countries deliver on their promises back home? As UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said: “The work starts now.”


Accountability after Paris agreement?

Posted: 14 Dec 2015 07:25 AM PST

Who can and should hold states to account for how they live up to their commitments last Saturday made in Paris and beyond? The provisions on the table for formal mechanisms for states to hold each other to account within the agreement are weak at best, says an expert. States’ reluctance to voluntarily subject themselves to strong compliance mechanisms under particularly international environmental law is well-known, she says. “Accountability must be seen in a much broader context.”


Paris climate deal: key points at a glance

The goal of 1.5C is a big leap below the 2C agreed six years ago in Copenhagen. Here’s what the agreement means for global emissions and the future of the planet

Adam Vaughan in Paris Saturday 12 December 2015 11.56 EST Last modified on Sunday 13 December 2015 17.28 EST

Keeping temperature rises below 1.5C

Governments have agreed to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels: something that would have seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. There is a scientific rationale for the number. John Schellnhuber, a scientist who advises Germany and the Vatican, says 1.5C marks the point where there is a real danger of serious “tipping points” in the world’s climate. The goal of 1.5C is a big leap below the 2C that nearly 200 countries agreed as a limit six years ago in Copenhagen. But bear in mind we’ve already hit 1C, and recent data shows no sign of a major fall in the global emissions driving the warming. As many of the green groups here in Paris note, the 1.5C aspiration is meaningless if there aren’t measures for hitting it.

Pledges to curb emissions

Before the conference started, more than 180 countries had submitted pledges to cut or curb their carbon emissions (intended nationally defined contributions, or INDCs, in the UN jargon). These are not sufficient to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond 2C – in fact it is thought they will lead to a 2.7C rise or higher. The INDCs are recognised under the agreement, but are not legally binding.

Long-term global goal for net zero emissions

Countries have promised to try to bring global emissions down from peak levels as soon as possible. More significantly, they pledged “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”. Experts say, in plain English, that means getting to “net zero emissions” between 2050 and 2100. The UN’s climate science panel says net zero emissions must happen by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.

Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute said the long-term goal was “transformational” and “sends signals into the heart of the markets”.

Take stock every five years

187 countries have put forward their plans for how to cut and curb their emissions beyond 2020, as far out as 2030. But those pledges are not enough to keep warming below 2C, beyond which climate change is expected to have catastrophic impacts. According to several analyses, the plans will see around 2.7-3C. That’s why the text has a review mechanism to ramp up those pledges every five years, in order to make them strong enough to keep under 2C. The first stocktake will happen in 2018, but the first one under the deal happens in 2023. The text promises that parties “shall undertake … [the] first global stocktake in 2023 and every five years”.

Loss and damage

The deal includes loss and damage, a mechanism for addressing the financial losses vulnerable countries face from climate impacts such as extreme weather. But it also includes a clause that will keep the US happy – that it won’t face financial claims from vulnerable countries hit by climate change: it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”.


Finance to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy was an important sticking point in the negotiations. This part of the deal has been moved into the non-legally binding “decision text” – a sop to the US, which knows it would not be able to get such a pledge of cash past the Republican-controlled Senate. The draft text says that the countries “intend to continue their existing collective mobilisation goal through 2025”. That means the flow of $100bn (£66bn) a year will continue beyond 2020. By 2025 the draft agreement undertakes to improve on that “from a floor of $100bn”.


Poll: Post Paris Deal, Most Republicans Back Action on Climate Change


 – ‎18 hours ago‎


1203_COP21 Climate Change Update A note to world leaders from school children is seen on a giant flag-covered message board, “My COP of Tree”, with flags from 196 countries at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Le Bourget, near Paris




Emissions rising too high despite the reduction targets set before the Paris negotiations

Posted: 03 Dec 2015 05:22 AM PST

Nearly all of the world’s countries have announced targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. However, more ambitious emission reductions are needed in order to limit global warming to two degrees. This is shown by a recent analysis of the emission targets from 159 countries. Also developing countries have recently joined in the effort to slow down climate change by setting targets for reducing their emissions. However, despite the now-stated targets, emissions will continue to increase up to 2030, and global temperature increase can be kept below the critical two degree limit only if drastic emission reductions are carried out after 2030….



United Nations area at COP 21 in Paris. (Photo Courtesy of UNFCCC via Flickr).


























Takeaways from the Paris climate talks

Submitted by Elliot Diringer | 12/12/2015 Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

The Paris climate summit is a tale of lessons learned – lessons both in how to manage an unruly negotiating process that can easily veer out of control, and in how to craft a multilateral approach that gets everyone to do more.

The tale ended thankfully tonight with an agreement that could prove the most significant turning point ever in two decades of climate diplomacy. The Paris agreement is a pragmatic deal that delivers what’s needed – tools to hold countries accountable and build ambition over time. By giving countries greater confidence that all are doing their fair share, it will make it easier for each to do more. I’ve engaged closely with the U.N. climate talks since their launch in 1992, and here are some of my takeaways on the ingredients for Paris’ success:

Expectations are a powerful force

Even before the summit started or a single word was agreed, more than 180 countries had offered concrete plans for how they intend to address climate change. This was not because they were obliged to, but simply because there was an expectation set two years ago in Warsaw that they would.

This unprecedented, and largely unanticipated, show of political will created powerful momentum heading into Paris.

The agreement that emerged sets some binding commitments (see below), but much of its force will hinge on the further expectations that it sets: that, going forward, countries will put forward their best efforts, and will strengthen them over time. It creates a succession of political moments, like the one we just experienced, when all can judge whether those expectations are met.

Be binding, but be flexible, too

The deal is a hybrid.

It includes binding “top-down” commitments: All countries must make contributions to the global effort, report on their efforts, undergo international review, and update their contributions every five years.

But it gives countries wide latitude to define their own individual contributions – they are “nationally determined.” This “bottom-up” flexibility lets countries match their efforts to their circumstances. 

That doesn’t guarantee strong ambition. But it’s essential to achieving broad participation – as demonstrated by the overwhelming number of countries already offering contributions. And without broad participation, no agreement can be effective.

This top-down/bottom-up hybrid draws on the successes and failures of the past two decades, from the Kyoto Protocol to the Cancun Agreements.  It establishes a fundamentally new paradigm – and this time I believe we’ve got it right.

A good agreement requires a good process

The French hosts proved that they’d absorbed the hard lessons of the ill-fated Copenhagen conference six years ago, where secret drafts, closed meetings, and other procedural missteps created a poisonous atmosphere of mistrust.

By contrast, the process led by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was a model of diplomacy. His watchwords were “transparency” and “inclusiveness,” and he stuck to them, earning the trust of parties, and building up precious capital that paid off in the final hours.

In exorcising the ghost of Copenhagen, the French helped score a victory for multilateralism generally, and demonstrated that the much-maligned U.N. climate process can in fact deliver.

Governments can’t do it on their own

While it’s up to national governments to deliver – and uphold – the deal, that’s only possible with the help of many, many others.

Never before have so many mayors, governors and CEOs made their presence felt at the international climate talks. They came to Paris to show how they’re stepping up, and to press national governments to do more. Their support gave governments confidence to close the deal, and will help them strengthen their efforts down the road.

But the deal was also made possible by a host of “observer” groups playing public and not-so-public roles. I count C2ES among them. Our Toward 2015 dialogue, which brought together negotiators from two dozen countries for nearly 100 hours of closed-door discussions, help identify many of the “landing zones” for the deal that came together tonight. We’re proud to have played a part.

As many here have said, Paris is not the end, but the beginning. Indeed, many of the details of the new agreement must still be fleshed out.

But the Paris summit has succeeded in capturing the unprecedented political will of the moment and converting it into a solid framework that will keep strengthening our will going forward.    



Delegates at Paris climate talks agreed on a final draft text on Saturday to present today to top government officials.Credit Earth Negotiations Bulletin /

Behind the Brackets as Paris Negotiators Shape a Climate Change Deal

By Andrew Revkin NY Times December 7, 2015 4:17 pm December 7, 2015 4:17 pm

A graph shows the number of unresolved [bracketed] sections in drafts of the proposed Paris climate change agreement. The colored bands depict issues like emissions mitigation and financial aid for vulnerable countries.Credit

Over the weekend, negotiators in Paris produced a slimmer, but still heavily-bracketed final draft of a proposed climate change [accord][protocol][agreement][anything but a treaty] aimed at doing what the first climate treaty, adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, failed to do: curb emissions of greenhouse gases and boost the capacity of poor countries to handle climatic and coastal dangers amplified by warming. There was quite a bit of celebration around this accomplishment. But when you look at text sections on the most important issues — mitigation of greenhouse-gas emissions, financial aid for vulnerable countries and any mention of aspects of the deal that might be legally binding — you encounter not only brackets but, surreally, [[brackets] within brackets].

With four days to go, the text of a proposed agreement on climate change remains riddled with disputed [bracketed] phrases.

This leaves a daunting challenge in the final push to complete an agreement, with the closing gavel scheduled for Friday, but surely more likely on Saturday, if tradition holds. Secretary of State John Kerry and top ministers from other countries arrived today to boost the pressure. A fresh analysis of the latest estimates of greenhouse gas emissions, released on Monday by the Global Carbon Project, provided two contexts for negotiators:

The first relates to what appears to be a substantial, albeit temporary, drop in Chinese emissions this year related to changing economic conditions. (This hasn’t been reflected in Beijing air quality, which hit its first red alert today.) The message: trend is not destiny. (Ken Weiss has an excellent look at this aspect of the report in Nature.) But the same analysis shows that the long-term upward trajectory of emissions, driven nearly entirely by fast growth in developing world, presents a profound challenge given the short-term nature of commitments being debated in Paris. (See my recent piece on this “reality gap.”)…



After Paris accord, most U.S. Republicans back action on climate

WASHINGTON | By Megan Cassella Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:14pm EST Reuters

A majority of U.S. Republicans who had heard of the international climate deal in Paris said they support working with other countries to curb global warming and were willing to take steps to do so, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday. The desire for action is notable for an issue that has barely made a ripple on the campaign trail among 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Few of the Republican White House contenders have said much at all about the United Nations summit in Paris this month, though Democratic candidates, such as Hillary Clinton, have welcomed it. More than half, or 58 percent, of Republicans surveyed said they approved of U.S. efforts to work with other nations to limit global warming, the poll showed. Forty percent said they would support a presidential candidate who did so….




Addressing climate change should start with policies to increase energy efficiency

Posted: 02 Dec 2015 12:57 PM PST

Making our homes and offices more energy efficient should be the first choice to mitigate climate change, says a researcher. Energy efficiency is cheap, easy and effective when compared to other options, such as renewable energy sources.



Environmentalists condemn budget deal that lifts US oil export ban by David Smith, The Guardian, Dec 16, 2015


People tour a new clean air bus in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Urban Planner’s Guide to a Post-COP21 World

Why buses, mayors, city budgets and density matter now more than ever.

Story by Feargus O’Sullivan Published on Dec 14, 2015

At the United Nations COP21 climate talks in Paris last week, Al Gore was in high rhetorical form in celebrating the talks’ apparently newfound sense of purpose. “Some people have said to me ‘There has been a series of global conferences — what’s different about this one?'” Gore said. “Well there was an American poet that came from a business community called Wallace Stevens. He once wrote that ‘after the final no comes a yes.’ When people realize that the fundamental choice is between what’s right and what’s wrong, finally there comes a yes.” The choice of venue for Gore’s speech — the launch of the UN climate action agenda for cities — was significant. Because when it comes to the role of cities in international climate change negotiations, new ground has unquestionably been broken over the last two weeks. The final agreement adopted on Saturday is the first accord committing all the world’s countries to reducing greenhouse emissions to help slow the pace of climate change. It sets a goal of limiting the planet’s temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels. Scientific research has concluded that warming beyond this point will unleash the most severe impacts of global warming, including more frequent and destructive storms, widespread water shortages, famine, extreme flooding and dramatically rising sea levels. But while the agreement commits its 196 signatories to cut emissions and report progress on a national level, at least one-third of the carbon budget remaining to stay under 2 degrees Celsius is in the control of cities and local governments, and everyone at COP21 seemed to know it. Session after session attempted to thrash out frameworks to make climate action at city and regional levels more viable. Talks ended over the weekend with more than 7,000 cities and regions committed to slashing carbon emissions through their own local actions, according to the UN. Collectively, these communities represent a fifth of the world’s population.

“Everyone knows subnationals have moved faster than governments,” the former U.S. vice president said. “Here there is a critical mass of leaders comparing notes — in some cases they’ve outdone each other to make ever more impressive commitments.” Gore is right that the cumulative power of arguments for climate action may indeed have finally proved irrefutable. But now with 196 nations committed to reducing carbon emissions, the question is how, and for the first time, there is international consensus on the need for cities and municipalities — subnational actors, in UN lingo — to play a leading role in finding the answers. “Acting on climate change is not just about a treaty, it is about all of us: cities, regions, subnationals,” said Jerry Brown, former Oakland mayor and the governor of California, one of the signatories of the action agenda. The UN roadmap for cities that Gore and Brown were celebrating in Paris, the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPPA), is essentially a playbook for cities with four primary objectives. The first goal is to increase the number of cities and regions implementing action plans. Next is building resilience, especially in areas with more vulnerable populations. Third, the action plan strives to increase the flow of financial support for urban climate action and encourage the deployment of innovative economic tools. Finally, it supports multi-party initiatives among different levels of governance, such as cooperation between national and local governments. These four points may sound like a generalized vow to just do better. They are nonetheless at the heart of what’s needed. Developing new ideas to combat climate change may be important, but currently more vital is a framework through which to promote and coordinate efforts globally. The movement toward this coordinated global network was on full display in Paris. Only a year and a half old, the Compact of Mayors, a global coalition of nearly 400 mayors launched in 2014 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his special envoy for cities and climate change, Michael Bloomberg, played a vital role in the Climate Summit for Local Leaders hosted by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Bloomberg at Paris City Hall. Leading up to COP21, the organization developed a system for mentoring and accrediting over 382 cities in their climate actions. (In August, Bloomberg recognized Rio de Janeiro as its first fully complaint city.) Meanwhile, C40 Cities, a decade-old climate leadership group representing 82 of the world’s largest cities, came to Paris with a new report establishing a systematic framework for understanding the obstacles to city-level climate action. The EU-based Covenant of Mayors, another climate action initiative for cities and regions, has extended its signatories far beyond Europe, as testified to by the geographically diverse panel of its COP21 side event. A Global Alliance for Building and Construction intended to help pilot the construction industry’s efforts to restrict warming to below 2 degrees Celsius is an initiative likely to have a major effect on cities….



4 Cities That Are Leading The World On Climate Action

by Natasha Geiling Dec 4, 2015 2:53 pm

PARIS, FRANCE — As nearly 200 nations convene in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget with the hope of creating a binding international agreement on climate change, much of the world’s focus is fixed on the national and international responses to the issue. But in Paris proper, cities are enjoying their time in the climate spotlight, with various events focusing on the progress being made at the micro level, from carbon-positive urban developments to massive deployments of electric transportation. On December 3, leaders from more than 33 cities were honored for their efforts to fight climate change at the annual C40 awards, a ceremony dedicated to recognizing innovations and leadership in climate action at the city level. “Cities are where things happen. If cities do something, heads of states will say, ‘Wait a second, we don’t want to be left out,'” Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, told reporters at the event. “As cities, corporations, and individuals, you have to really solve the problem, because you’re responsible, people can see what you’re doing, and it’s your lives on the line.” Portland mayor Charlie Hales, whose city’s 2015 Climate Action Plan was honored as a finalist at the awards, echoed Bloomberg’s confidence in cities’ abilities to push climate change on an international scale. “When you listen to the national leaders talk about this issue, you hear a language that’s really about the allocation of burden,” Hales told ThinkProgress. “Mayors and cities are not looking at it that way, because of our experience. Portland is prospering because we’re green, because we’ve reduced our carbon footprint even while our carbon footprint and economy have grown. We see climate action as an economic strategy for success, not a burden that we have to shoulder,” Hales added. “I hope that message helps in the international dialogue.”



NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan giving the Atlantic hurricane season outlook during a news conference in 2013. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

She’s braved rough seas and space walks. Can she weather climate change skeptics?

By Lisa Rein December 15 at 6:00 AM

Kathryn Sullivan has helped U.S. Navy sailors navigate —literally —through rough seas as an oceanographer in the Navy Reserves. As a NASA astronaut, she’s walked in space, the first American woman to step outside a spacecraft, 140 miles above Earth. These challenges are a world apart from what she’s now confronting in Washington as she leads an agency of federal scientists in the crosshairs of a powerful member of Congress. But allies of the embattled chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say Sullivan’s experience as a working scientist exploring the upper atmosphere and the bottom of the sea and a Navy reserve officer for 18 years has prepared her well for the contact sport of Capitol Hill politics. They imprinted a military ethic of looking out for comrades and troops and a scientific one of sticking by the results of your research and never tailoring them to others’ political whims….



Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial

DEC. 4, 2015 Paul Krugman NY Times Opinion

Future historians — if there are any future historians — will almost surely say that the most important thing happening in the world during December 2015 was the climate talks in Paris. True, nothing agreed to in Paris will be enough, by itself, to solve the problem of global warming. But the talks could mark a turning point, the beginning of the kind of international action needed to avert catastrophe. Then again, they might not; we may be doomed. And if we are, you know who will be responsible: the Republican Party.

O.K., I know the reaction of many readers: How partisan! How over the top! But what I said is, in fact, the obvious truth. And the inability of our news media, our pundits and our political establishment in general to face up to that truth is an important contributing factor to the danger we face.

Anyone who follows U.S. political debates on the environment knows that Republican politicians overwhelmingly oppose any action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, and that the great majority reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Last year PolitiFact could find only eight Republicans in Congress, out of 278 in the caucus, who had made on-the-record comments accepting the reality of man-made global warming. And most of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are solidly in the anti-science camp.

What people may not realize, however, is how extraordinary the G.O.P.’s wall of denial is, both in the U.S. context and on the global scene.

I often hear from people claiming that the American left is just as bad as the right on scientific issues, citing, say, hysteria over genetically modified food or nuclear power. But even if you think such views are really comparable to climate denial (which they aren’t), they’re views held by only some people on the left, not orthodoxies enforced on a whole party by what even my conservative colleague David Brooks calls the “thought police.”

And climate-denial orthodoxy doesn’t just say that the scientific consensus is wrong. Senior Republican members of Congress routinely indulge in wild conspiracy theories, alleging that all the evidence for climate change is the product of a giant hoax perpetrated by thousands of scientists around the world. And they do all they can to harass and intimidate individual scientists.

In a way, this is part of a long tradition: Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” was published half a century ago. But having that style completely take over one of our two major parties is something new.

It’s also something with no counterpart abroad.

It’s true that conservative parties across the West tend to be less favorable to climate action than parties to their left. But in most countries — actually, everywhere except America and Australia — these parties nonetheless support measures to limit emissions. And U.S. Republicans are unique in refusing to accept that there is even a problem. Unfortunately, given the importance of the United States, the extremism of one party in one country has enormous global implications.

By rights, then, the 2016 election should be seen as a referendum on that extremism. But it probably won’t be reported that way. Which brings me to what you might call the problem of climate denial denial.

Some of this denial comes from moderate Republicans, who do still exist — just not in elected office. These moderates may admit that their party has gone off the deep end on the climate issue, but they tend to argue that it won’t last, that the party will start talking sense any day now. (And they will, of course, find reasons to support whatever climate-denier the G.O.P. nominates for president.)

Everything we know about the process that brought Republicans to this point says that this is pure fantasy. But it’s a fantasy that will cloud public perception.

More important, probably, is the denial inherent in the conventions of political journalism, which say that you must always portray the parties as symmetric — that any report on extreme positions taken by one side must be framed in a way that makes it sound as if both sides do it. We saw this on budget issues, where some self-proclaimed centrist commentators, while criticizing Republicans for their absolute refusal to consider tax hikes, also made a point of criticizing President Obama for opposing spending cuts that he actually supported. My guess is that climate disputes will receive the same treatment.

But I hope I’m wrong, and I’d urge everyone outside the climate-denial bubble to frankly acknowledge the awesome, terrifying reality. We’re looking at a party that has turned its back on science at a time when doing so puts the very future of civilization at risk. That’s the truth, and it needs to be faced head-on.




IMF: Global energy subsidies this year are ‘shocking’

AFP May 19, 2015, 4:31 AM

Washington (AFP) – The International Monetary Fund voiced alarm Monday about energy subsidies across the world, saying they were expected to reach $5.3 trillion in 2015, more than government health spending. “These estimates are shocking,” the IMF said in a report, noting the figures were among the largest negative factors for economic growth it had ever estimated, piling up adverse effects on efficiency, growth and inequality…Long an opponent of energy subsidies, the IMF defines them as the difference between the amount of money consumers pay for energy and its “true costs”, plus a country’s normal value-added or sales tax rate. In addition to what is required to produce and distribute energy, the “true costs” include environmental effects like carbon emissions that lead to global warming and the health effects of air pollution. According to the Fund, China is by far the largest spender on energy subsidies, at $2.3 trillion a year, followed by the United States at $699 billion and Russia at $335 billion. The report said that overall energy subsidies had more than doubled since 2011, the year covered by a similar IMF report in 2013. The IMF explained that more than half of the increase was due to more precise evidence of the damaging effects of energy consumption on air quality and health, such as premature deaths….




Bottom of Form





Oil Prices Slump to 11-Year Lows in Asia and Europe


LONDON — Oil prices hit 11-year lows in Asia and Europe on Monday, as a glut of crude on world markets and the recent global climate accord continue to depress fossil-fuel prices. Brent crude oil, the international benchmark, settled at $36.51 a barrel on Monday in Europe. Analysts say there is little to restrain continued price declines in the near term. Prices are down about 15 percent so far in December, after an OPEC meeting failed to produce measures to restrain record-high production. That meeting was quickly followed by the United Nations climate accord in Paris, which aims to reduce the world’s reliance on oil and other carbon-emitting fuels. The latest factor weighing on prices has been unusually warm weather in the United States and Europe, which is reducing winter demand for heating oil and leading to rising stockpiles of oil products. The expectation that the American government may soon lift a decades-old ban on exports of crude from the United States may also be affecting prices….



CREDIT: (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Wind Energy Reaches Record Production

by Alejandro Davila Fragoso Dec 23, 2015 8:15 am

Despite a recent slowdown in wind energy production in the United States, the industry is still growing as there are enough projects to generate energy for a record 19 million homes, according to data released Monday by the American Wind Energy Association. The latest record of 70 gigawatts of wind energy generation through 50,000 turbines was achieved in November, but documented this week, according AWEA, the national trade association for the U.S. wind industry. This announcement suggests a turning point for an industry that had been struggling. While it achieved 50 and then reached 60 gigawatts energy generation in 2012, the industry stalled as uncertainty over whether tax credits would expire in 2012, as they did, dissuaded investors. In 2013, Congress gave tax credits a one year extension giving some oxygen to the industry that however suffered a 92 percent drop of installations that year. After some setbacks last year, the industry still showed signs of improvement, according to a recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as it reported in August that $8.3 billion were invested in new capacity additions.

“There’s now enough wind power installed to meet the equivalent of total electricity demand in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming,” said Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association, in a statement.

Still, wind energy currently meets less than 5 percent of the nation’s electricity demand, although wind energy prices have reached all-time lows. According to the Berkeley Lab study, wind turbine prices have fallen as much as 40 percent from their highs back in 2008. Wind turbine projects continue to be capital intensive projects however, which explains why the industry has for years pushed for tax incentives….



Cool roofs in China offer enhanced benefits during heat waves

Posted: 22 Dec 2015 01:34 PM PST

It is well established that white roofs can mitigate the urban heat island effect, reflecting the sun’s energy back into space and reducing a city’s temperature. In a new study of Guangzhou, China, researchers found that during a heat wave, the effect is significantly more pronounced. Reflective roofs, also called cool roofs, save energy by keeping buildings cooler, thus reducing the need for air conditioning….



Satellites find sustainable energy in cities

Posted: 18 Dec 2015 05:59 AM PST

Underground heat islands in cities have an enormous geothermal potential. Warm groundwater can be used to produce sustainable energy for heating and cooling. Researchers have now developed a new method to find underground heat islands: They estimate groundwater temperature from surface temperatures and building densities measured by satellites….



Norway’s EV [Electric Vehicle] purchasing spree is climate friendly, researchers say

Posted: 18 Dec 2015 05:55 AM PST

If every other passenger car in Norway is plugged into the electric network by 2020, Europe will have to produce more electricity – mainly from coal-fired power plants – to meet the demand. But it will be a plus for the climate nonetheless.


infrared filming of leak –


With less than two months of emissions under its belt, the Aliso Canyon facility has already leaked enough methane to put it in the number two spot in the West for the entirety of 2014. Graph: Jonathan Thompson. Data: California Air Resources Board, EPA, LT Environmental.

Slow-motion methane disaster

Aliso Canyon has leaked more greenhouse gases in two months than a coal mine does in a year.

Jonathan Thompson Dec. 16, 2015 Web Exclusive High Country News

In the hills above suburban Los Angeles, a man-made natural disaster of sorts has been unfolding for nearly two months. One can’t see it or hear it, and it’s not leaving a trail of dead animals and plants in its wake. It’s potentially catastrophic, nonetheless. On October 23, workers at the massive Aliso Canyon subterranean natural gas storage facility north of the L.A. suburb of Porter Ranch noticed that one of their old wells was leaking. When the usual fixes didn’t take, the workers surmised that the leak must be originating far underground, near the natural gas reservoir, itself. And fixing that would be a long, drawn out challenge. Two months has gone by, and the leak is still leaking. Big time.

Not long after the disaster began, residents of Porter Ranch were able to smell the rotten-egg odor of the mercaptons, which are added to natural gas in order to make it detectable. The additives caused some folks to suffer from burning eyes, nausea, headaches and other health issues, forcing dozens to leave their homes. The long-term impacts might be even more serious. Natural gas is mostly made up of methane, which is about 87 times more potent in terms of global warming than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. Because methane breaks down in the atmosphere over time, the potency drops to about 34 times that of carbon dioxide over a 100 year span (the EPA sticks with 25 times the warming potential over 100 years, an outdated figure). And since it began, the leak has been emitting methane at a rate ranging from 36,000 to 58,000 kilograms per hour, according to the California Air Resources Board. That adds up to a total of some 62,000 metric tons of methane emitted as of Dec. 16  about four times what had been lost nationwide in natural gas transmission pipeline “incidents” all year. And the number keeps growing. Natural gas burns far more cleanly than coal, emitting about half the carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated, making it a climate-friendly replacement for coal. Leaks like this one, however, undermine the advantages of natural gas. Various studies show that when as little as 3 to 4 percent of the total natural gas produced is lost to leakage, it becomes worse for the climate than coal. For some perspective, consider the emissions thus far from the leak:

  • 1,128: Metric tons of methane emitted from the Aliso Canyon leak per day.
  • 775: Number of households that amount of natural gas could heat for an entire year.
  • 62,000: Metric tons of methane emitted from leak as of Dec. 16, 2015.
  • 2.1 million: Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (assuming a 100-year impact) emitted from leak as of Dec. 16, 2015.
  • 2.8 million: Metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona, over the same period of time.

It could be months before a final fix is found for the Aliso Canyon leak. And as long as it keeps spewing, it will continue to raise questions as to how “clean” natural gas really is.


Experts predict renewable investment boom as Congress renews tax credits.

The U.S. solar and wind power industries will mark the holidays with heightened spirits after receiving multiyear extensions of their coveted renewable energy tax credits from a divided Congress. ClimateWire











The Reddest State Goes Green (Just Don’t Mention Climate Change)

As drought and heat waves wallop Texas, ranchers, farmers, and cities are quietly embracing renewable energy and adapting to an undeniable truth.

Nov 30, 2015 Taylor Hill HEREFORD, Texas—”See? We’ve been expecting you,” says John Josserand, pointing at an op-ed from a local newspaper left conspicuously on a table in a wood-paneled hallway of the AzTx Cattle Company’s headquarters.

Global Warming Agenda Is About Control—a catchy headline, so I read on. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary,” the article reads. “That’s the political goal of the global warmers.” The story’s placement was either a coincidence or a warning shot. I have come to Texas to talk about climate change in a state reeling from its effects—drought, soaring temperatures, torrential floods.

My article skimming has left me trailing behind Josserand, and I lose him around a corner. …..The 84-year-old’s deep, rough voice sounds like it has been worn down over years of exposure to the extremes of the Texas Panhandle, a hot, dry region—unless it’s frigidly cold—where it’s not “windy” to locals until it’s blowing at 40 miles an hour. Not that the weather has him all that concerned. “I don’t think personally all of the fuss made about global warming has much to do with the changes we see,” Bob says. “Over thousands of years we’ve seen climate changes, and we’re seeing one now, but it’s been a gradual thing for years and probably will continue on for years.”
Actions, though, do speak louder than words. AzTx Cattle and other ranching and farming operations across West Texas are changing a century-old way of life to adapt to the new reality of climate change, even if, in their unwillingness to talk about global warming, they see their actions as a pragmatic response to a new business reality. So a state that once spawned oil billionaires like T. Boone Pickens now mints wind barons like, yes, T. Boone Pickens, and rock-ribbed conservative cities are ditching dirty coal for wind and solar energy. Texas may be home to some of the nation’s most vociferous climate skeptics—hello, Ted Cruz—but Texans are already fighting climate change, even if they won’t admit it. Survival, it turns out, trumps denial.

“If people are making smart choices for different reasons, that’s OK,” says Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, and an evangelical Christian. “What matters is not why we do it; what matters is what we’re doing.”….



(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This huge deal is the latest evidence that the battery revolution has arrived

By Chris Mooney December 15 at 6:30 PM Wash Post

At the Paris climate change conference earlier this month, all eyes were on some massive announcements in the solar and wind energy space — including plans in Africa to install 300 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity across the continent by the year 2030. A gigawatt is a billion watts — and this would be nearly double the electricity capacity that the continent currently supports.
Less noticed, however, is that a key enabling technology for solar — and for the future of clean energy — is also starting to grow: Energy storage. When solar systems are connected with batteries or other forms of storage, they can cease to be dependent upon whether the sun is shining and how strong its rays are at a given moment. Rather, solar energy can be stored and used at a later time. Including at night
. And now AES, a large energy company headquartered in Arlington, Va., has announced a very large deal in the battery space. It is gaining access to 1 gigawatt-hour worth of lithium ion batteries from Seoul-based LG Chem, a chemicals giant that also has a strong business in making lithium ion batteries for electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The batteries will be deployed in AES’s Advancion platform, which provides large scale grid energy storage to utility companies.
Power – in this case, a gigawatt – refers to the amount of electricity that can be discharged instantaneously. But when it comes to batteries, what’s also important is how long the battery can operate — its energy. Thus, 1 gigawatt hour would refer to the capacity to discharge that much power for one hour — but it could also refer to the ability to discharge 250 megawatts (or million watts) for four hours.

Either way, that’s a very large amount of batteries. For comparison, GTM Research recently forecast that the U.S. will deploy a record 192 megawatts of energy storage in 2015.

The energy storage business is “definitely moving to a new level this year,” says John Zahurancik, president of AES Energy Storage.  Zahurancik says the big buy of batteries is a “vote of confidence” in this business, which drew dramatic attention earlier this year when Tesla Motors announced a home battery product dubbed the “Powerwall.”

But for now, the biggest business for batteries isn’t in the home, where they can serve a backup role in the event of an outage or pair with a rooftop solar system; it’s on the grid, where there is a constant need to be able to manage shifting electricity demand at different times of the day. Batteries that can switch on automatically at key moments can provide a major grid service, which is why they’re seeing more and more demand.

Thus, AES is in effect packaging lots of batteries, provided by LG Chem, into large systems that large power companies can purchase and then install or integrate on the grid wherever they need this new capacity. AES directly advertises its batteries as the “complete alternative” to “peaking power plants.”









Agriculture and Climate Policy Progress– CalCAN (California Climate and Agriculture Network)

  • In his 2015 inaugural address, Governor Brown included in his list of climate solutions “storing carbon on California’s farms and ranches.”
  • California launched the country’s first program to fund permanent easements on farmland as a climate strategy. Just yesterday, a budget of $40 million was approved for 2016.
  • The California Department of Food and Agriculture is making plans to launch the Healthy Soils Initiative to incentivize sustainable farming practices that draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in agricultural soils.
  • A program began in 2014 to provide grants to growers to implement water efficiency on farms as a strategy to reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. The program’s budget quadrupled to $40 million this year.
  • A CalCAN-sponsored bill, signed by the Governor, makes it easier and cheaper for farmers to aggregate their energy meters and produce renewable energy. We have also co-led a coalition of agriculture organizations defending meter aggregation at the California Public Utilities Commission.
  • CalCAN’s biennial Climate and Agriculture Summit has more than tripled in size from our first conference in 2009.
  • With the input of dozens of advisors and farmer leaders, we have a robust and growing library of policy papers, fact sheets and farmer profiles on agriculture’s climate solutions.


KING TIDES PHOTO OPPORTUNITYIES—Nov 14-26, Dec 22-24 and Jan 21-22

What will happen to our coastline with sea level rise, and how will it impact your community? You can help answer these questions through snapping photos during California’s “King Tides”–the highest tides of the year. King Tides dates this season are November 24-26, December 22-24 and January 21-22. Get out during a King Tides event and take pictures of your favorite coastal spots. Make sure to share them with the California King Tides Project! Check out events on



Soil Solutions to Climate Problems – Narrated by Michael Pollan by Center for Food Safety

Published on Nov 19, 2015 To learn more visit: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.or




North Bay Watershed Association Conference

The Future of Water is Now: Innovation, Integration, Adaptation April 22, 2016, Napa, CA

General Information:  Registration:


Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture 2016: 2nd International Conference Linking Science and Policy
June 28-30, 2016 San Francisco

Abstract Submission Deadline: January 15, 2016

….focus on the latest scientific, management, legal and policy advances for sustaining our groundwater resources in agricultural regions around the world. The conference will bring together agricultural water managers, regulatory agency personnel, policy and decision makers, scientists, NGOs, agricultural leaders, and consultants working at the nexus of groundwater and agriculture. The conference integrates across a wide range of topics specifically focused on this nexus: sustainable groundwater management, groundwater quality protection, groundwater-surface water interactions, the groundwater-energy nexus, agricultural BMPs for groundwater management and protection, monitoring, data collection/management/assessment, modeling tools, and agricultural groundwater management, regulation, and economics.

Innovations on the Land: Managing for Change

Sand County Foundation August 9-10 2016 Asilomar, CA

For generations, landowners and land managers have honed the ability to adapt to change. But the changes farmers and ranchers face today are more rapid and wide ranging than ever before. Landowners must adapt to changing regulations, climate, technology and demands of food consumers, all while managing natural resources – the land, water and wildlife in their care. Sand County Foundation is proud to present “Innovations on the Land: Managing for Change.” This national symposium, August 9 & 10, 2016, will bring together the nation’s leading private landowner conservationists and leaders from academia, government and non-government organizations to exchange ideas and learn about the most innovative approaches to responsibly managing agricultural lands in the face of sweeping change. … Topics include environmental changes related to climate, water quality and quantity and soil health; economic and policy changes related to market dynamics and the Endangered Species Act; social changes relating to changing consumer desires and land ownership patterns. Symposium participants will put their learning to workin a half-day, facilitated session to develop a set of recommendations around U.S. agricultural policy. As the nation’s very best farmer and rancher conservationists, these men and women provide an authoritative viewpoint on how America can achieve its conservation objectives in an era of flat or declining funding. Following the symposium, a select subcommittee will develop a paper based on the outcomes of the work.



2nd California Adaptation Forum  SEPTEMBER 7-8, 2016
Renaissance Long Beach Hotel and Long Beach Convention Center

The Local Government Commission and the State of California are proud to host the second California Adaptation Forum in the Fall of 2016. The two-day event will be the premiere convening for a multi-disciplinary group of 1,000+ decision-makers, leaders and advocates to discuss, debate and consider how we can most effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.

The 2016 California Adaptation Forum will feature:

  • A series of plenaries with high-level government, community and business leaders
  • A variety of breakout sessions on essential adaptation topics
  • Regional project tours highlighting adaptation efforts in Southern California
  • Pre-forum workshops on tools and strategies for implementing adaptation solutions



Bay-Delta Science Conference November 15-17, 2016, Sacramento, CA

More information will be available in 2016, but mark your calendars now.  The call for abstracts for presentations and posters will be released in Spring 2016.



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



Assistant to Associate Specialist, determined by qualifications and experience (See rank qualifications)


The Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in collaboration with Dr. Steven Bograd, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Services, seeks an Assistant or Associate Specialist to manage the production and supervision of satellite oceanographic data assembled by NOAA for use in physical, biological, and fisheries oceanography research. The position is at the NOAA/SWFSC laboratory in Santa Cruz, CA. The incumbent will help initiate projects and partnerships; analyze results, and summarize them in the form of reports, refereed journal publications and/or meeting presentations and seminars. Responsibilities include ensuring the timely reception of existing data streams and release results of research, made available to the scientific community and the public; assisting clients through open access to the suite of satellite oceanographic data.

RANK: SALARY: Minimum salary $42,780, commensurate with qualifications and experience. BASIC QUALIFICATIONS: Masters degree in Oceanography, Ecology, Biology, Earth Sciences, Environmental Studies, Statistics, or Computer Science; two years experience working with spatial and temporal oceanographic and ecological datasets.

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS: Experience developing and leading research analyses; experience with analytical tools and data management of massive data sets (“big data”) to provide higher levels of interpretive information useful for environmental analysis and oceanographic application. Knowledge of relevant HDF4, HDF5, NetCDF3 and NetCDF4 file formats; knowledge of processing Level 2 satellite data to Level 3 data and forming composite imagery; knowledge of UNIX shell scripting, Matlab, GMT, the CoastWatch tools, and NASA SeaDAS software; knowledge of R statistical software.

POSITION AVAILABLE: As soon as possible after closing date.


Applications for the 2016 L’Oréal USA For Women in (post-doc) fellowship program are now open.

The L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program recognizes and rewards the contributions women make in STEM fields and identifies exceptional women researchers committed to serving as role models for younger generations.  More than 2,250 women scientists in over 110 countries have been recognized since the program began in 1998.  In the US, the For Women In Science fellowship program awards five post‐doctoral women scientists annually with grants of $60,000 each. Applicants are selected from a variety of fields, including the life and physical/material sciences, technology (including computer science), engineering, and mathematics. I invite you to collaborate with us and spread the word to your community about this special fellowship program for exceptional female post‐doctoral researchers who are also committed to serving as role models for the next generation of girls in STEM. I have attached materials to help you share information about this prestigious fellowship program, and I hope that with your help we can encourage some of your institution’s outstanding women post‐docs to apply.

Attached, please find:

  • Application Flyer (optimized for email forwarding or printing as an 8.5″ x 11″ poster)
  • Social Media Graphics (for a Facebook or Twitter post)
  • Application FAQ
  • FWIS Program Fact Sheet

The application and more information about the L’Oréal USA For Women in Science program can be found at Applications are due on Friday, February 5, 2016.

Should you have any questions or require additional information, please e‐mail me at







Funding Available to Help California Ag Producers Restore Wildlife Habitat

DAVIS, Dec. 16, 2015 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making available about $50 million nationwide this year in financial assistance to partner with agricultural producers who want to restore and protect habitat for seven focus species, including two California species:  greater sage-grouse and the southwestern willow flycatcher. Conservation efforts for these species are part of Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW),
an innovative partnership that supports struggling landscapes and strengthens agricultural operations. This year in California, according to State Conservationist Carlos Suarez, more than $2 million is available to eligible ranchers and farmers willing to implement habitat restoration for the sage grouse, the umbrella species of the sagebrush landscape. This current funding is in addition to more than $4.5 million available to California farmers and ranchers for sage grouse habitat protection on private lands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).  With the support of conservation partners and ranchers, NRCS launched the Sage Grouse Initiative in 2010. Those efforts became the model for WLFW, which began two years later. Conservation efforts to restore and protect sagebrush habitat led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine in September that protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were not warranted. NRCS is also investing about $535,000 in California on habitat restoration for the southwestern willow flycatcher, a small Neotropical migratory bird that lives in riparian areas and wetlands in the arid Southwest. The southwestern willow flycatcher is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA)….


California Sea Grant is now accepting applications

Coastal Management Fellowship

Due: January 22, 2016

NMFS-Sea Grant Fellowship in Marine Resource Economics  Due: January 29, 2016

NMFS-Sea Grant Fellowship in Population and Ecosystem Dynamics 
Due: January 29, 2016

Knauss Fellowship
Due: February 12, 2016







The Ghosts of Climate Past, Present and Future: Part 1

By howardlee &

The Ghosts of Climate Past, Present and Future: a 3-part seasonal tale

Part 1 – The Ghost of Climate Past

This story is a departure from Skeptical Science’s usual article style, and is offered for your seasonal reading enjoyment. The tale is based loosely on Charles Dickens’ classic tale: “A Christmas Carol,” updated in the context of climate change and told over three episodes. The story and all names and characters portrayed in it are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. The climate references, however, are factual and based on current science, linked to sources for further reading. 


Composting food waste remains your best option, study finds

Posted: 16 Dec 2015 12:17 PM PST

A new study confirms that composting food scraps is better than throwing them away, and also calculates the environmental benefits associated with keeping these organic materials out of landfills….



Climate change is ‘largest science communication failure in history’

 – December 8 2015‎


He calls it “probably the largest science communication failure in history” because climate change has come up against an equally powerful force: human nature.


Photo: Santiago Mejia, Special To The Chronicle Lena Miller, head of Hunters Point Family, checks out the community garden in the Bayview’s Adam Rogers Park.

Hope for survival in Bayview-Hunters Point grows with aquaponics

By Vivian Ho

December 6, 2015 Updated: December 6, 2015 6:18pm

For more than 16 years, the first job for many of the youth living in San Francisco’s Alice Griffith housing development was in the Double Rock gardens. An entire generation of kids grew up with their hands in the soil, learning the meaning of hard work and seeing firsthand how the fruits of their labor could nourish their community. In a neighborhood too often known for its violence, these sorts of lessons went a long way, longtime residents said. So when construction crews rolled in with heavy machinery earlier this year and uprooted the majority of the garden as part of a new surge of housing construction in Bayview-Hunters Point, community advocate Lena Miller said it felt like they tore up more than just the 1½ acres of herbs, vegetables and fruit trees. With cranes and scaffolding continuing to pop up throughout the city, Miller, executive director of the neighborhood nonprofit Hunters Point Family, said she felt like she was watching the final push to clear Bayview-Hunters Point of the longtime residents who call it home. But it only strengthened Miller’s resolve, she said, to find a way for the residents of the neighborhood stretched by violence and incarceration to survive in a city they’re finding increasingly hard to afford.

The way to do it, Miller said, is to create jobs and reinvigorate the economy. Using an ancient technology called aquaponics to tap into the values grown in community gardens like the one at Double Rock years before, Miller and other neighborhood leaders are looking to make Bayview-Hunters Point an oasis in the city’s urban farming industry. “Being involved and engaged as leaders and pioneers in the development of an environmentally sustainable food system is great, not just for the community but in creating an economic infrastructure that is based in Bayview-Hunters Point and employs people of Bayview-Hunters Point,” Miller said. “Everybody wants sustainably grown, local organic produce. This allows us to take a very positive, proactive position in furthering our community while still aligning with those needs.” As the land they stand on seems to shrink around them, urban farming — a pastime that at its core would require large plots of land, an expensive commodity in San Francisco — may seem an odd choice of industry. But Miller said it was for this reason that aquaponics appealed to her when she first learned of it three years ago….


Coffee compounds that could help prevent type 2 diabetes identified

Posted: 02 Dec 2015 09:46 AM PST

Much to coffee lovers’ delight, drinking three to four cups of coffee per day has been shown to decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Now, scientists report that they have identified two compounds that contribute to this health benefit. Researchers say that this knowledge could someday help them develop new medications to better prevent and treat the disease.


Vegetarian and ‘healthy’ diets are more harmful to the environment

Posted: 14 Dec 2015 10:07 AM PST

Following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas emissions per calorie, say researchers. A new study measured the changes in energy use, blue water footprint and GHG emissions associated with US food consumption patterns.


Taking antidepressants during pregnancy increases risk of autism by 87 percent

Posted: 14 Dec 2015 10:02 AM PST

Using antidepressants during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of autism, researchers have discovered. The findings are hugely important as six to ten percent of pregnant women are currently being treated for depression with antidepressants.



Your iPhone Is Ruining Your Posture — and Your Mood …

THERE are plenty of reasons to put our cellphones down now and then, not least the fact that incessantly checking them takes us out of the present moment and disrupts family dinners around the globe. But here’s one you might not have considered: Smartphones are ruining our posture. And bad posture doesn’t just mean a stiff neck. It can hurt us in insidious psychological ways.

If you’re in a public place, look around: How many people are hunching over a phone? Technology is transforming how we hold ourselves, contorting our bodies into what the New Zealand physiotherapist Steve August calls the iHunch. I’ve also heard people call it text neck, and in my work I sometimes refer to it as iPosture.




Douglas Tompkins poses in his property in Ibera, near Carlos Pellegrini in Corrientes Province, Argentina, on November 5, 2009.

Douglas Tompkins, co-founder of North Face, dies in kayak accident

By Peter Fimrite Updated 10:01 pm, Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Douglas Tompkins, an outdoorsman, environmental activist, conservationist and entrepreneur who co-founded the North Face clothing company in San Francisco, died Tuesday in a kayaking accident in southern Chile. Mr. Tompkins, who also co-founded Esprit with his then-wife, Susie Tompkins Buell, capsized while paddling with five other people on General Carrera Lake in the Patagonia region, according to reports confirmed by North Face officials. He was eventually pulled from the water, but died of hypothermia at Coyhaique Regional Hospital. He was 72. General Carrera is a picturesque lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks in the Andes. It is known for spectacular geological formations, unpredictable weather and cold water, generally below 40 degrees Fahrenheit…. Mr. Tompkins was described as an adventurer and risk taker who employed his brilliant imagination both in business and in trying to save the Earth. He met his first wife, Tompkins Buell, while hitchhiking. The two had two daughters and co-founded the Esprit clothing company. By 1986, Esprit had grown into a global brand, hitting $800 million in sales. They divorced in 1989. “I’m incredibly saddened by this, but he lived on the edge,” said Tompkins Buell, who remained close to her ex-husband. “He used to come home from adventures and say, ‘Well, I cheated death again.’ That’s the way he lived. He was a very inspired person. There wasn’t anything he thought he wanted to do that he didn’t do.”


Paris deal boosts plan for New York climate change museum

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Wed, 16 Dec 2015 18:21 GMT Author: Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Dec 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – New York City’s museum devoted to climate change has no walls, no admission fee and no exhibits.

In fact, it doesn’t exist yet. It’s an idea that its planners, led by Miranda Massie, attorney-turned-museum director, are hoping to make a reality. They are eyeing an opening in 2020, with pop-ups and publicity between now and then to get it off the ground. Yet, despite growing pressure to cut planet-warming emissions and the new historic global accord on climate change reached in Paris last weekend, building a successful museum on the issue is no small task, experts say….

















How climate change is reshaping our planet, from a drone’s perspective

by Johnny Simon December 4,2015    

Drones are becoming an increasingly accessible way to get a new perspective on the world. But beyond beautiful sunsets and interesting architecture, drones are capable of capturing the ways the world is changing before our eyes.

The photo and video site Dronestagram enlisted its community of drone hobbyists to take beautiful shots for a contest called “Small Drones, Big Changes,” which showcases “the effects of pollution on planet Earth but also the solutions to tackle the problem.” It’s tied to the U.N. Climate Summit in Paris, also known as COP21, which is going on right now.

Check out the winners, HERE:

A high tide hitting the side of a coastal restaurant in La Jolla, Calif.















Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly PRBO)

3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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Point Blue—Conservation science for a healthy planet.


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