Focus of the Week Geoengineering 101










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Focus of the Week– Geoengineering 101

Geoengineering 101: Your Geoengineering Cheat Sheet

Who’s who in climate engineering? What are the big ethical debates? And what the heck is the albedo?

By Jacob Brogan Jan 6 2016

Geoengineering describes the active transformation of our planet’s climate through human intervention. Here are some of the key players, major debates, and pop cultural landmarks shaping the ways that we understand this emerging field.


Paul Crutzen: Crutzen, a Nobel Prize–winning atmospheric chemist, helped legitimize scientific conversations about geoengineering with his 2006 paper about seeding the atmosphere with sulfur to reflect sunlight back into space.

Peter Eisenberger: Working to extract carbon dioxide from the air through his company Global Thermostat, Eisenberger is at the forefront of the still-developing business side of geoengineering.

Russ George: In 2012, the climate entrepreneur George attempted an unauthorized experiment in iron fertilization, dumping large quantities of metal into the ocean to stimulate the growth of carbon-consuming phytoplankton.

Newt Gingrich: The former speaker of the House, Gingrich is one of geoengineering’s most politically connected advocates, insisting that it’s an important weapon in the fight against climate change.

David Keith: Having literally written the book on solar radiation management, Harvard Kennedy School professor Keith also works to advance the science of CO2 reduction with his company Carbon Engineering.

Marcia McNutt: An oceanographer and editor-in-chief of Science, McNutt chaired the National Academy of Sciences’ comprehensive inquiry into geoengineering, which published its findings in February 2015.

Nathan Myhrvold: The former chief technology officer of Microsoft, Myhrvold has proposed a project he calls the Stratoshield, in which giant hoses would be lifted into the sky by balloons to spray aerosols into the upper atmosphere.

Raymond Pierrehumbert: A University of Oxford–based climatologist, Pierrehumbert has vocally argued against geoengineering by solar radiation management, famously calling such efforts “barking mad.”

Alan Robock: Rutgers University professor Robock’s widely discussed “Twenty Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea” provided a sweeping response to the proposals of Crutzen and other geoengineering advocates.

Lynn Russell: An atmospheric scientist based at Scripps, Russell has led research into the potential impacts of geoengineering on ecosystems.


Further environmental degradation: Though some geoengineering technologies may help cool the planet, it’s possible that they may release additional greenhouse gasses, harm the ozone layer, or otherwise advance the damage they aim to prevent. Is geoengineering an environmental dead end?

Induced complacency: Even geoengineering’s advocates acknowledge that it’s not a true solution to climate change. But if it’s successfully implemented, will it prevent us from doing more to save the planet? Will it simply give us permission to keep burning fossil fuels?

International cooperation: In the absence of treaties regulating geoengineering, there’s a risk that companies or countries will pursue projects without taking proper precautions—and the climate doesn’t respect national borders. Some commentators even worry that “rogue billionaires” might take matters into their own hands. Can we regulate geoengineering without restricting innovation?

Long-term commitment: Scientists such as Pierrehumbert argue that we’ll have to stick with geoengineering some technologies for thousands of years once we embrace them, lest we cause even worse catastrophes. Will civilization stay stable for long enough to make a difference?

Price tag: At present, the most effective geoengineering technologies are prohibitively expensive, often less cost-effective than converting to environmentally safe energies. Can scientists bring down the expense? Or should we pursue these avenues regardless?

Unequal effects: Most geoengineering proposals would have different (and often unpredictable) effects on different regions of the planet. Even as some benefit, others would potentially suffer colder winters, decreased rainfall, or other problems. How can we assure that it helps all?

Unintended consequences: We lack the technological sophistication to accurately model most geoengineering proposals on a global scale, making it difficult to anticipate their effects. Should we continue researching these consequences or try to aggressively push the technology ahead?

Weaponization: Many geoengineering proposals originate in Cold War technologies. As the science advances, will we be able to prevent their renewed use as weapons? How can we prevent climatological conflicts?

POP CULTURE: see here


20 Reasons Why Geoengineering May Be a Bad Idea,” by Alan Robock: Despite its listicle format, this thoroughly annotated article offers one of the most comprehensive, rigorous challenges to geoengineering advocates.

Albedo Enhancement by Stratospheric Sulfur Injections,” by Paul Crutzen: With this seminal paper, Crutzen helped to legitimize scientific conversations about geoengineering.

A Case for Climate Engineering, by David Keith: In this readable volume, climate scientist Keith makes a passionate case for albedo modification technologies, exploring their promise and the effort required to put them into practice.

Climate Intervention Reports, by the National Academy of Sciences: The product of years of research, this report comes close to offering the scientific consensus on both carbon dioxide removal and albedo modification.

The Ethics of Geoengineering,” by David Appell: The first of a two-part series, this essay offers a thorough, balanced examination of geoengineering’s risks, as well as its possible rewards.

The Planet Remade, by Oliver Morton: Even as he discusses the science behind geoengineering technologies, Morton goes deep into the social and political anxieties that hover around them.


Albedo: The portion of sunlight that the Earth reflects back into space. The albedo is shaped by factors like cloud cover and snowfall.

Biological pump: Under ordinary circumstances, oceanic plankton naturally pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. By increasing plankton quantities, some geoengineers hope to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.

Carbon dioxide reduction: A key geoengineering strategy, carbon dioxide reduction would involve removing pollutants directly from the air.

Ocean fertilization: The artificial stimulation of the ocean’s biological pump. Ocean fertilization might help pull CO2 out of the atmosphere, but it could also damage fisheries.

Solar radiation management: The second major geoengineering strategy, solar radiation management aims to cool the Earth by increasing its reflective properties (see albedo).








    Private lands habitat programs benefit California’s native birds

    BY Ryan T. DiGaudio*, Kimberly E. Kreitinger**, Catherine M. Hickey*, Nathaniel E. Seavy*, Thomas Gardali* California Agriculture, October-December 2015
    Volume 69, Number 4.

    *Point Blue Conservation Science

    **Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Madison, WI

    To address the loss of wetlands and riparian forests in California, private lands habitat programs are available through U.S. federal and state government agencies to help growers, ranchers and other private landowners create and enhance wildlife habitat. The programs provide financial and technical assistance for implementing conservation practices. To evaluate the benefits of these programs for wildlife, we examined bird use of private wetlands, postharvest flooded croplands and riparian forests enrolled in habitat programs in the Central Valley and North Coast regions of California. We found that private Central Valley wetlands supported 181 bird species during the breeding season. During fall migration, postharvest flooded croplands supported wetland-dependent species and a higher density of shorebirds than did semipermanent wetlands. At the riparian sites, bird species richness increased after restoration. These results demonstrated that the programs provided habitat for the species they were designed to protect; a variety of resident and migratory bird species used the habitats, and many special status species were recorded at the sites.


    Current pace of environmental change is unprecedented in Earth’s history

    4 January 2016

    University of Bristol Cabot Institute researchers and their colleagues today published research that further documents the unprecedented rate of environmental change occurring today, compared to that which occurred during natural events in Earth’s history. The research, published online on 4 January in Nature Geoscience reconstructs the changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (pCO2) during a global environmental change event that occurred about 120 Million years ago. New geochemical data provide evidence that pCO2 increased in response to volcanic outgassing and remained high for around 1.5-2 million years, until enhanced organic matter burial in an oxygen-poor ocean caused a return to original levels.  Lead author Dr David Naafs explained: ‘Past records of climate change must be well characterised if we want to understand how it affected or will affect ecosystems. It has been suggested that the event we studied is a suitable analogue to what is happening today due to human activity and that a rapid increase in pCO2 caused ocean acidification and a biological crisis amongst a group of calcifying marine algae. Our work confirms that there was a large increase in pCO2. The change, however, appears to have been far slower than that of today, taking place over hundreds of thousands of years, rather than the centuries over which human activity is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. So despite earlier claims, our research indicates that it is extremely unlikely that widespread surface ocean acidification occurred during this event.’ The observation that yet another putative ‘rapid’ geological event is occurring perhaps a thousand times slower than today and not associated with widespread surface ocean acidification has been the focus of much recent research at the University of Bristol. Co-author Professor Daniela Schmidt, who was also a Lead Author on the IPCC WGII report on Ocean systems, emphasised that today’s finding builds on one of the IPCC’s key conclusions: that the rate of environmental change occurring today is largely unprecedented in Earth history.  She said, ‘This is another example that the current rate of environmental change has few if any precedents in Earth history, and this has big implications for thinking about both past and future change.‘…




    Credit: US Forest Service

    California’s state fish can benefit from restoring and protecting streamside vegetation in high elevation meadows Phys. Org. January 14, 2016

    Rising temperatures can create stressful and possibly lethal stream habitat for native trout. To help understand the interactive effects of climate warming and livestock grazing on water temperature, researchers from the Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) and University of California, Berkeley, conducted a six-year study documenting high elevation water temperatures in areas of the Golden Trout Wilderness. The wilderness area is located within the Sequoia and Inyo national forests in California and was designated Wilderness primarily to protect the native California golden trout, the state’s official fish.

    To understand the impact of land use on water temperature, researchers measured streamside vegetation and monitored water temperature in three meadow streams where livestock had three different types of stream access between 2008 and 2013. Key findings include: Water temperatures approached the upper limit of tolerance for the golden trout in some areas of suitable habitat. Water temperatures were cooler in ungrazed meadow areas with willows. Riverbank vegetation was both larger and denser where livestock were not present.

    In the study, researchers found that land use can interact with climate change to intensify warming in high elevation meadow streams, and protecting and restoring streamside vegetation can help keep streams cool for the California golden trout. “Our study clearly shows the role of streamside vegetation in maintaining low stream temperatures,” said Kathleen Matthews, a PSW research scientist and co-author of the study. “Enhancing and protecting streamside vegetation may ensure that streams have the resiliency to withstand future climate warming that can lead to stressful and possibly lethal stream temperatures for golden trout.”
    The paper, “Mediating Water Temperature Increases Due to Livestock and Global Change in High Elevation Meadow Streams of the Golden Trout Wilderness,” was released in the journal PLOS One.


    Mothers’ appetites can keep size of wild animal groups in check

    Posted: 11 Jan 2016 09:10 AM PST

    The eating habits of mothers may be key to keeping wild animal populations steady, a study suggests. The discovery shows that the food intake of mothers — which impacts on the appetite of their offspring — protects animals from periods of population boom and bust...



    Photo: Dept. Of Fish And Wildlife This collared wolf from Oregon, known as OR-25, is believed to have entered California in December.

    Another wolf enters California amid tension over comeback

    By Michael Cabanatuan Updated 5:12 pm, Friday, January 8, 2016

    A reading from the collar on Thursday showed OR-25 in Modoc County, in the far northeast of the state. The county — which carries the slogan “Where the West still lives” — is one of the state’s most sparsely populated with about 10,000 people.  In August, remote cameras captured photographic evidence that a separate family of gray wolves, five pups and two adults, had entered California, becoming the first known pack in the state since 1924. And in November, a calf was apparently killed and eaten by the “Shasta Pack” in Siskiyou County. With wolves apparently ready to recolonize the state, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has prepared a comprehensive draft plan for how it might manage the return of the animals, which were classified as endangered in California in 2014. Public comments are due Feb. 15.

    While wildlife advocates welcome the return of the species, farmers and ranchers fear the animals will feast on their sheep and cattle. Lethal means of control are not an option in California, but the state’s draft plan suggests wolves could be taken off the endangered species list, or be downgraded, if they become abundant. As many as 2 million gray wolves once lived in North America, including a healthy population in California, but they were gradually killed off by European settlers who feared them. 

    By 1900, they had been driven to near-extinction in the lower 48 states. The last known native California wolf was trapped and killed in Lassen County in 1924….


    Anglers’ gear, cooperation affect coral reef fisheries

    Posted: 08 Jan 2016 05:09 PM PST

    Scientists studying a Caribbean fishing village are shedding new light on the social and ecological factors pressuring coral reef fisheries around the world.



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

    First-of-its-kind $12 parcel tax proposed for all nine Bay Area counties

    By Paul Rogers San Jose Mercury News Posted:   01/13/2016 06:09:53 AM PST

    In a milestone for San Francisco Bay restoration that also raises questions about who should pay to protect property from rising seas caused by climate change, a low-profile government agency is expected to place a $12 annual parcel tax on the June ballot in all nine Bay Area counties.

    The measure, whose campaign is being bankrolled by Silicon Valley business leaders and Bay Area environmental groups, is believed to be the first local tax ever placed before voters in all nine Bay Area counties. If approved by two-thirds of voters, the tax would raise $500 million over the next 20 years to build levees and restore thousands of acres of wetlands and tidal marshes as a buffer to storm surges and floods in every Bay Area county. “The bay is a beautiful asset we all want to protect and restore,” said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents 390 large technology companies and other employers. “… The leadership group, along with Save the Bay and the Bay Area Council, a business group, already has raised $700,000 toward a campaign and plans to raise up to $5 million. Influential leaders such as Robert Fisher of the Gap and John Doerr, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, already have donated to the campaign….Environmentalists say the measure is critical in helping fulfill long-term restoration plans around the bay. A study in October by more than 100 scientists, coordinated by the Coastal Conservancy and other organizations, found that 54,000 acres of wetlands — an area twice the size of the city of San Francisco — need to be restored around the bay in the next 15 years to provide protection from surging storms. The alternative is concrete sea walls, which can cost more and would turn the bay into a giant bathtub over time, with far fewer birds, fish and other wildlife, the report concluded. Driven by melting ice and expanding warming water, the bay and the Pacific Ocean off California will rise up to 1 foot in the next 20 years, 2 feet by 2050 and up to 5 feet by 2100, according to a 2012 study by the National Academy of Sciences.

    This is the most important thing we can do for the bay,” said David Lewis, executive director of Oakland-based Save the Bay. “There’s an urgency to restore tidal marshes, for ecological benefits and flood control benefits. The sooner we start the sooner they can provide benefits. But money has been the missing ingredient for a long time.”



    Singing in the brain: Songbirds sing like humans

    Posted: 12 Jan 2016 09:54 AM PST

    Research on Bengalese finches showed that each of their vocal muscles can change its function to help produce different parameters of sounds, in a manner similar to that of a trained opera singer.

    Coast live oaks killed by the sudden oak death pathogen (Phytophthora ramorum).

    Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death pathogen) can survive introduction into finished compost

    By Steven Swain, UCCE and Matteo M. Garbelotto, UCCE and UC Berkeley

    California Agriculture, October-December 2015
    Volume 69, Number 4.

    Composted municipal green waste is a potential vehicle for the transmission of Phytophtora ramorum, the pathogen responsible for the disease known as sudden oak death. To assess the survival rate of the pathogen in compost, we introduced zoospores — a type of infectious propagule — into six composts of varying provenance and maturity. The compost samples represented three production facilities, two production techniques (turned windrow and forced air static pile) and two levels of maturity (fresh, defined as aged for less than 1 week; and mature, aged for more than 4 weeks). Positive re-isolations — indicating survival of the pathogen — were obtained from all composts. ….The results show that P. ramorum may be present and infectious if introduced into finished compost, and that variations in compost characteristics appear to influence survival rates.


    Introducing cattle grazing to a noxious weed-dominated rangeland shifts plant communities
    by Josh S. Davy, Leslie M. Roche, Alexis V. Robertson, Dennis E. Nay, Kenneth W. Tate
    pp230-236 , California Agriculture, October-December 2015
    Volume 69, Number 4.

    Invasive weed species in California’s rangelands can reduce herbaceous diversity, forage quality and wildlife habitat. Small-scale studies (5 acres or fewer) have shown reductions of medusahead and yellow starthistle using prescribed grazing on rangelands, but little is published on the effects of pasture-scale (greater than 80 acres) prescribed grazing on weed control and plant community responses. We report the results of a 6-year collaborative study of manager-applied prescribed grazing implemented on rangeland that had not been grazed for 4 years. Grazing reduced medusahead but did not alter yellow starthistle cover. Medusahead reductions were only seen in years that did not have significant late spring rainfall, suggesting that it is able to recover from heavy grazing if soil moisture is present. Later season grazing appears to have the potential to suppress medusahead in all years. In practice, however, such grazing is constrained by livestock drinking water availability and forage quality, which were limited even in years with late spring rainfall. Thus, we expect that grazing treatments under real-world constraints would reduce medusahead only in years with little late spring rainfall. After 10 years of grazing exclusion, the ungrazed plant communities began to shift, replacing medusahead with species that have little value, such as ripgut and red brome.



    Humans adding less nitrogen to oceans than models predict

    Posted: 06 Jan 2016 06:58 PM PST

    Atmospheric models have suggested that a vast majority of nitrogen deposited in the open ocean is derived from human activities, but a new study suggests that’s not so…


    Within sight of downtown Seoul, capital of South Korea and a hub of stressful modern life, salesman Sungvin Hong rests after a hike in Bukhansan National Park. The park attracts some five million visitors a year.

    This Is Your Brain on Nature

    When we get closer to nature—be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree—we do our overstressed brains a favor.

    Story by Florence Williams Photographs by Lucas Foglia Published December 8, 2015 National Geographic Magazine  |  January 2016

    When you head out to the desert, David Strayer is the kind of man you want behind the wheel. He never texts or talks on the phone while driving. He doesn’t even approve of eating in the car. A cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah who specializes in attention, Strayer knows our brains are prone to mistakes, especially when we’re multitasking and dodging distractions. Among other things, his research has shown that using a cell phone impairs most drivers as much as drinking alcohol does. Strayer is in a unique position to understand what modern life does to us. An avid backpacker, he thinks he knows the antidote: Nature.…. In England researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School recently analyzed mental health data from 10,000 city dwellers and used high-resolution mapping to track where the subjects had lived over 18 years. They found that people living near more green space reported less mental distress, even after adjusting for income, education, and employment (all of which are also correlated with health). In 2009 a team of Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases—including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines—in people who lived within about a half mile of green space. And in 2015 an international team overlaid health questionnaire responses from more than 31,000 Toronto residents onto a map of the city, block by block. Those living on blocks with more trees showed a boost in heart and metabolic health equivalent to what one would experience from a $20,000 gain in income. Lower mortality and fewer stress hormones circulating in the blood have also been connected to living close to green space.

    It’s difficult to tell from these kinds of studies why people feel better. Is it the fresh air? Do certain colors or fractal shapes trigger neurochemicals in our visual cortex? Or is it just that people in greener neighborhoods use the parks to exercise more? … What he and other researchers suspect is that nature works primarily by lowering stress. Compared with people who have lousy window views, those who can see trees and grass have been shown to recover faster in hospitals, perform better in school, and even display less violent behavior in neighborhoods where it’s common. Such results jibe with experimental studies of the central nervous system. Measurements of stress hormones, respiration, heart rate, and sweating suggest that short doses of nature—or even pictures of the natural world—can calm people down and sharpen their performance… All this evidence for the benefits of nature is pouring in at a time when disconnection from it is pervasive, says Lisa Nisbet, a psychology professor at Canada’s Trent University. We love our state and national parks, but per capita visits have been declining since the dawn of email. So have visits to the backyard. One recent Nature Conservancy poll found that only about 10 percent of American teens spend time outside every day. According to research by the Harvard School of Public Health, American adults spend less time outdoors than they do inside vehicles—less than 5 percent of their day…. Nooshin Razani at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, is one of several doctors who have noticed the emerging data on nature and health. As part of a pilot project, she’s training pediatricians in the outpatient clinic to write prescriptions for young patients and their families to visit nearby parks. It’s not as simple as taking a pill. To guide the physicians and patients into a new mind-set, she says, “we have transformed the clinical space so nature is everywhere. There are maps on the wall, so it’s easy to talk about where to go, and pictures of local wilderness, which are healing to look at for both the doctor and patient.” The hospital is partnering with the East Bay Regional Parks District to provide transportation to parks and programs there for entire families…. Strayer is most interested in how nature affects higher order problem solving. His research builds on the attention restoration theory proposed by environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan at the University of Michigan. They argue that it’s the visual elements in natural environments—sunsets, streams, butterflies—that reduce stress and mental fatigue. Fascinating but not too demanding, such stimuli promote a gentle, soft focus that allows our brains to wander, rest, and recover from what Olmsted called the “nervous irritation” of city life. “Soft fascination … permits a more reflective mode,” wrote the Kaplans—and the benefit seems to carry over when we head back indoors. A few years ago, for example, in an experiment similar to Bratman’s, Stephen Kaplan and his colleagues found that a 50-minute walk in an arboretum improved executive attention skills, such as short-term memory, while walking along a city street did not. “Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost,” the researchers wrote in their paper. It exists, they continued, and it’s called “interacting with nature.“…



    Street Artists and Muralists to Paint All 314 Threatened North American Bird Species (see more pictures in Images of the Week below)

    by DJ Pangburn January 8, 2016

    The National Audubon Society estimates that there are more than 800 bird species in North America, though it has only collected and analyzed data on just over 590 of these. Of the catalogued avian species, 314 are classified as threatened, and many of the threats they face are attributable to human-caused climate change. These are the facts behind the National Audubon Society’s collaboration with gallerist Avi Gitler for the Audubon Mural Project, which encourages street artists and muralists to create works that feature the climate-threatened birds. …. Sanford also suggested that Gitler ask street artists and muralists to paint only climate-threatened birds. But it was Jannot who upped the ante by hitting on the idea of painting all 314 threatened species. Jannot admits that the monumental task was undertaken with “gleeful abandon,” but says they were determined to find a way to run it as a cost-neutral enterprise. Ultimately, there won’t be 314 murals, Jannot explains. Instead, the team is committed to 254 murals that will include all 314 species of threatened birds. So far, there are approximately 24 murals representing about 36 birds. As for the variety of street artists and muralists, Jannot said they range among various locales and styles.

    “Because we’ve been able to find recesses in sides of buildings where we can mount paintings that have been painted in studios, we’ve been able to work with studio artists who aren’t as comfortable painting in real time on the street, as well as street artists and major wall-mural painters,” Jannot explains. “It’s a pretty big range. We’ve had a lot of interest from artists all over the country when they heard about it. We tell them we can’t fly them in but to let us know when they’re coming through town.”….







    14 January 2016 NOAA

    A strong El Niño is expected to gradually weaken through spring 2016, and to transition to ENSO-neutral during late spring or early summer.

    A strong El Niño continued during December, with well above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1). All weekly Niño indices decreased slightly from the previous month (Fig. 2). The subsurface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific, while still well above average, weakened (Fig. 3) due to an upwelling equatorial oceanic Kelvin wave (Fig. 4). Significant low-level westerly wind anomalies and upper-level easterly wind anomalies continued over much of the tropical Pacific. …. Most models indicate that a strong El Niño will weaken with a transition to ENSO-neutral during the late spring or early summer (Fig. 6). The forecasters are in agreement with the model consensus, though the exact timing of the transition is difficult to predict. A strong El Niño is expected to gradually weaken through spring 2016, and to transition to ENSO-neutral during late spring or early summer (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period). El Niño has already produced significant global impacts and is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States during the upcoming months (the 3-month seasonal outlook will be updated on Thursday January 21st). The seasonal outlooks for January – March indicate an increased likelihood of above-median precipitation across the southern tier of the United States, and below-median precipitation over the northern tier of the United States. Above-average temperatures are favored in the West and northern half of the country with below-average temperatures favored in the southern Plains and along the Gulf Coast.



    El Nino conditions already weakening

    While robust storms keep passing over California, sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are already starting to cool, signaling an eventual end to El Nino.

    Tim Hearden Capital Press Published: January 12, 2016 12:43PM

    SACRAMENTO — As robust storms continue to move through California, El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean are already starting to weaken, a National Weather Service expert says.

    Sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that serve as a key fuel for the weather phenomenon are starting to cool, although a strong El Nino is expected to persist in the Northern Hemisphere through the winter, said Michelle Mead, a National Weather Service warning coordinator.

    The current weather pattern, fed by a dominant subtropical southern jet stream, is typical for a strong El Nino winter, Mead said in an email. But uncertainty is emerging as to whether the pattern will remain for the entire winter, particularly for Northern California, she said.

    “The precipitation and snowpack for this winter are still going to be storm-by-storm dependent,” Mead said. “As we’ve stated before, even an average winter will not save us from a four-year deficit.”
    Sea-surface and atmospheric conditions are expected to return to neutral by late spring or early summer, marking an end to the current El Nino.

    The update comes as a steady stream of storms have been pelting California since late fall, giving the Sierra Nevada 103 percent of its normal snowpack as of Jan. 11. However, the mountains have still only accumulated 45 percent of their average snowpack for April 1, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
    In addition, many areas are struggling to maintain average seasonal precipitation. For instance, Redding has sopped up 4.7 inches of rain for the month as of Jan. 12, well above its normal 2.2 inches for the period, but its 14.57 inches since Oct. 1 is slightly behind its average of 15.05 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
    Sacramento’s 5.71 inches of rain since Oct. 1 is well behind its normal 7.56 inches for the period, the weather service reports
    Reservoirs, too, have a ways to go. Shasta Lake, the federal Central Valley Project’s biggest reservoir, was holding only 33 percent of its capacity and 52 percent of its historical average on Jan. 11, while the State Water Project’s Lake Oroville was at 30 percent of capacity and 48 percent of normal for the date, the DWR’s California Data Exchange Center reported.



    Fragments of B-15, one of the largest icebergs ever calved from the Ross ice shelf. Melting icebergs leave plumes of nutrient-rich waters in their wake that may be trapping millions of tonnes of carbon each year. Photograph: MODIS/Terra/NASA

    Giant icebergs are slowing climate change, research reveals

    Known more as a symbol of global warming, the nutrient-rich plumes that trail melting giant icebergs are in fact sinking carbon deep into the ocean

    Damian Carrington Monday 11 January 2016 11.00 EST Last modified on Monday 11 January 2016 11.34 EST

    Giant melting icebergs may be a symbol of climate change but new research has revealed that the plumes of nutrient-rich waters they leave in their wake lead to millions of tonnes of carbon being trapped each year. Researchers examined 175 satellite photos of giant icebergs in the Southern Ocean which surrounds Antarctica and discovered green plumes stretching up to 1,000km behind them. The greener colour of the plumes is due to blooms of phytoplankton, which thrive on the iron and other nutrients shed by the icebergs. When these tiny algae – or the many creatures that eat them – die, they fall to the bottom of the ocean. This takes the carbon dioxide they have absorbed from the ocean surface and buries it deep below, thereby curbing the CO2 in the atmosphere and the global warming it causes.
    “If giant iceberg calving increases this century as expected, this negative feedback on the carbon cycle may become more important than we previously thought,” said Professor Grant Bigg at the University of Sheffield, who led the study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

    Giant icebergs, defined as greater than 18km in length, make up half the ice floating in the Southern Ocean, with dozens present at any one time. The researchers calculated that the fertilisation effect of the icebergs in the normally iron-poor waters contributes up to 20% of all the carbon buried in the Southern Ocean, which itself contributes about 10% of the global total. “We detected substantially enhanced chlorophyll levels, typically over a radius of at least four to 10 times the iceberg’s length,” said Bigg. The chlorophyll levels remained 10 times higher than in the surrounding ocean for at least a month and up to 200km behind the iceberg. Some increase in phytoplankton was seen as much as 1,000km behind the iceberg in a few cases….


    Luis P. A. M. Duprat, Grant R. Bigg, David J. Wilton. Enhanced Southern Ocean marine productivity due to fertilization by giant icebergs. Nature Geoscience, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/NGEO2633



    Greenland ice sheet melts more when it’s cloudy

    Posted: 12 Jan 2016 09:48 AM PST

    Clouds play a bigger role in the melting of the Greenland ice sheet than was previously assumed. Compared to clear skies, clouds enhance the meltwater runoff by a third, an international team of researchers has discovered.


    Global temperature anomaly for 2015 compared to the 1951-1980 average. Image: Berkeley Earth

    Early data shows 2015 blew away previous records to become Earth’s hottest year

    By Andrew Freedman January 13 2016 Mashable

    During the next week, the official climate agencies around the world that are responsible for tracking the planet’s average temperatures will almost certainly come to the same conclusion: 2015 was the warmest year on record. This would mean that 2015 would beat the previous warmest year, which occurred in 2014 — remember that? The combination of a record strong El Niño event plus the highest amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at any time in human history have given the climate system the equivalent of a Power Bar plus a shot of espresso. On Wednesday, one unofficial temperature tracking group, known as Berkeley Earth, revealed its determination that 2015 was by far the planet’s warmest year, both on land and sea.
    There’s one especially important about fact about this group’s determination: It was set up in early 2010 as an independent fact check of other surface temperature data sets, and led by a physicist — Richard Muller — who had previously been quite skeptical of mainstream climate science findings. Instead of proving surface data from government agencies like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrong, the Berkeley group has consistently reaffirmed their dataThe Berkeley Earth group said in a release on Wednesday that “2015 was unambiguously the hottest year on record.”
    More importantly, the group found that for the first time in recorded history, the Earth’s temperature is clearly more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1850-1900 average, and halfway to world leaders’ climate target of limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average.

    “At the recent rate of warming may begin to cross that threshold in about 50 years,” The Berkeley Earth group said in a release on Wednesday that “2015 was unambiguously the hottest year on record.” More importantly, the group found that for the first time in recorded history, the Earth’s temperature is clearly more than 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1850-1900 average, and halfway to world leaders’ climate target of limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. “At the recent rate of warming may begin to cross that threshold in about 50 years,” Robert Rohde, a scientist with the Berkeley Earth team, said in the release. …The team found that both land and ocean temperatures separately set record highs. Berkeley Earth’s analysis over land is based on temperature observations from more than 40,000 weather stations, including 20,755 stations reporting in 2015. This is combined with ocean surface temperature data from the Hadley Center in the UK


    Washington’s northwest coast is pictured. Credit: University of Washington

    Study emphasizes challenges faced by marine organisms exposed to global change

    Posted: 11 Jan 2016 10:56 AM PST

    Along the West Coast, ocean acidification and hypoxia combine with other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, to create serious challenges for marine life, a new study finds….The Pacific Ocean along the West Coast serves as a model for how other areas of the ocean could respond in coming decades as the climate warms and emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide increases. This region — the coastal ocean stretching from British Columbia to Mexico — provides an early warning signal of what to expect as ocean acidification continues and as low-oxygen zones expand. Now, a panel of scientists from California, Oregon and Washington has examined the dual impacts of ocean acidification and low-oxygen conditions, or hypoxia, on the physiology of fish and invertebrates. The study, published in the January edition of the journal BioScience, takes an in-depth look at how the effects of these stressors can impact organisms such as shellfish and their larvae, as well as organisms that have received less attention so far, including commercially valuable fish and squid.

    The results show that ocean acidification and hypoxia combine with other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, to create serious challenges for marine life. These multiple-stressor effects will likely only increase as ocean conditions worldwide begin resembling those off the West Coast, which naturally expose marine life to stronger low-oxygen and acidification stressors than most other regions of the seas.

    “Our research recognizes that these climate change stressors will co-occur, essentially piling on top of one another,” said co-author Terrie Klinger, professor and director of the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. “We know that along the West Coast temperature and acidity are increasing, and at the same time, hypoxia is spreading. Many organisms will be challenged to tolerate these simultaneous stressors, even though they might be able to tolerate individual stressors when they occur on their own.”…


    George N. Somero, Jody M. Beers, Francis Chan, Tessa M. Hill, Terrie Klinger, Steven Y. Litvin. What Changes in the Carbonate System, Oxygen, and Temperature Portend for the Northeastern Pacific Ocean: A Physiological Perspective. BioScience, 2016; 66 (1): 14 DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biv162



    What is acidification?



    Acidification affects the ability of bacteria to clean our oceans

    Posted: 12 Jan 2016 06:18 AM PST

    Marine bacteria are heavily influenced by the ongoing ocean acidification caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide.
    … The results are presented in an article in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. “It is well known that the acidification of our oceans causes the degradation of coral reefs and disturbs the production of the calcareous shells of important phytoplankton,” says Jarone Pinhassi, professor in marine microbiology at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, Sweden. “However, it is new that also bacteria are affected negatively by ocean acidification.” Researchers at Linnaeus University can now show that bacteria in the ocean that are exposed to acidification are forced to significantly alter their metabolism; from focusing on degradation to investing energy on dealing with the acid in the water. Bacteria in our oceans play a crucial role in the global cycle of elements necessary to life.

    They act primarily as degraders of organic material produced by microscopic algae in the ocean, or material released through wastewater.
    When algae or other organisms die and are degraded by bacteria, these miniscule organisms function as the wastewater treatment plants of the ocean.
    At the same time, bacteria help release nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, which are essential to the food chain. It is estimated that the world’s oceans will become three times more acid towards the end of this century if human emissions of carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels continue at current rates……says Jarone Pinhassi. “Now our genetic analyses show that ocean acidification directly affect how bacteria regulate their metabolism.“… In every litre of seawater there are around 1 billion bacterial cells. In a manner similar to how gut microbiota is important to the well-being of humans, bacteria in our oceans play a critical role in determining the health of marine ecosystems. For example, bacteria synthesise vitamins on which algae and other organisms in the oceans depend. “In order to understand the consequences of future climate change on the productivity of the ocean, it is essential to carry out research on how bacteria respond to human emissions of carbon dioxide,” says Jarone Pinhassi. “Perhaps we can even learn how to take advantage of the genetic adaptations of marine bacteria, in order to make better use of the resources of our planet.”


    Carina Bunse, Daniel Lundin, Christofer M. G. Karlsson, Maria Vila-Costa, Joakim Palovaara, Neelam Akram, Lovisa Svensson, Karin Holmfeldt, José M. González, Eva Calvo, Carles Pelejero, Cèlia Marrasé, Mark Dopson, Josep M. Gasol, Jarone Pinhassi. Response of marine bacterioplankton pH homeostasis gene expression to elevated CO2. Nature Climate Change, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2914


    Reforestation policies need to consider climate change, study finds

    Posted: 08 Jan 2016 05:44 AM PST

    Local pine species are not necessarily the best option for repopulating burn sites, suggests a new Spanish report. Broadly speaking, varieties from central Spain work well in Valencia, on the east coast, while those from Valencia perform well up in Lleida, say the authors….In a context of climate change, it is perhaps not surprising that ‘outsider’ varieties perform better in a given region than local varieties, but this idea needs to be incorporated into national reforestation policy in order for efforts to be successful on the long-term….


    Khaled Taïbi, Antonio D. del Campo, Ana Aguado, José Miguel Mulet. The effect of genotype by environment interaction, phenotypic plasticity and adaptation on Pinus halepensis reforestation establishment under expected climate drifts. Ecological Engineering, 2015; 84: 218 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2015.09.005



    Wildfire season set a record last year with more than 10 million acres burned. But determining what role global warming played, scientists said, is a tricky business. Photo by Jeff Head, courtesy of Flickr.

    WILDFIRE: Climate change ‘a part of’ costliest U.S. fire season

    Brittany Patterson, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Friday, January 8, 2016

    Scientists and forest agency officials yesterday said they see a link between climate change and the record-breaking 2015 wildfire season. Parsing the exact role a changing climate played in the historic burns can be challenging, especially in Western forests overstocked with woody kindling due to decades of fire suppression and a relatively hands-off forest management policy. But, experts agreed, there is clear evidence that a warmer, drier climate played a central role. “We do see a climate change signal in the fire seasons we’re having,” said Jennifer Jones, a public affairs specialist with the Forest Service’s office of fire and aviation management. “It’s climate change, it’s hazardous fuel buildup, it’s nonnative species invasions, it’s insect infestations. Climate change is part of that, but in any given season, it’s impossible to know how much.” More than 10.1 million acres of U.S. forests — private, state and federal — were scorched last year, marking 2015 as the most extensive and expensive fire season on record, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Forest Service. The agency was forced to “borrow” three times from non-firefighting funds to pay for fire suppression. The agency reported spending more than $2.6 billion, or 52 percent of its budget, on firefighting efforts in 2015 (Greenwire, Jan. 7). A little more than half of those acres, 5.1 million, burned in Alaska. As it has for the past few years, fire season came early to the Last Frontier….Penelope Morgan, a professor and fire ecologist at the University of Idaho, said there “is no doubt” changes in climate are contributing to an uptick in fires, especially across the West. In Idaho, where Morgan’s work is focused, the fire season has grown 32 days since 1984. High fire years, she said, almost exclusively are marked by warmer-than-average spring seasons followed by warm, dry summers….



    The Aggie Creek Fire burns 30 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. USFS

    2015 wildfires burned a record-breaking 10.1 million acres

    Fires in Alaska help to smash 2006 record.

    Gloria Dickie Jan. 11, 2016 Web Exclusive High Country News

    The summer of 2015 was unlike anything most career firefighters had ever seen. Across the United States, fires erupted not only in dry woodlands, but also in grasslands, rainforests, and tundra, ignited by lightning strikes and careless campers. Flames dripped from lichen-covered trees in the Pacific Northwest, and in Alaska, ate into permafrost. Two hundred. U.S. military personnel were called in to battle the ferocious blazes across the West — as were Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders.

    By year’s end, wildfires would consume more than 10.1 million acres of land in the U.S., destroying 4,500 homes and taking the lives of 13 wildland firefighters. Fighting the blazes cost an unprecedented $2.6 billion, the majority spent in the West.


    Two research planes on complementary missions flew over Guam measuring the levels of dozens of chemicals in the atmosphere in January and February 2014….Taken together, the data collected by the two aircraft gave research collaborators a detailed view of air masses spanning tens of thousands of feet from the ocean surface to the stratosphere. Credit: Loretta Kuo/Shawn Honomichl

    Fires burning in Africa, Asia cause high ozone in tropical Pacific

    Posted: 13 Jan 2016 07:05 AM PST

    The burning of forests and vegetation may play a larger role in climate change than previously realized, new research suggests. Based on aircraft observations, satellite data and models, the findings indicate ‘biomass burning’ may need to be addressed with future regulations. Following closely after COP21, the results could suggest a need to look at other sources of greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to industrial activities and fossil fuel combustion in industrialized nations.


    Mountains west of Boulder continue to lose ice as climate warms

    Posted: 12 Jan 2016 09:55 AM PST

    New research indicates an ongoing loss of ice on Niwot Ridge and the adjacent Green Lakes Valley in the high mountains west of Boulder is likely to progress as the climate continues to warm


    The Associated Press

    In this Jan. 5, 2016 photo, Guy Runco, director of the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, releases a common murre near the Anchorage small boat harbor in Anchorage, Alaska. The center has treated hundreds of common murres found emaciated along beaches or in inland communities far from the ocean. Thousands of other murres have died of starvation and federal scientists are trying to determine why. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)

    Starvation Suspected in Massive Die-off of Alaska Seabirds

    By dan joling, associated press

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Jan 12, 2016, 3:02 AM ET

    …A closer look revealed that the white patches were emaciated common murres, one of North America’s most abundant seabirds, washed ashore after apparently starving to death. “It was pretty horrifying,” Irons said. “The live ones standing along the dead ones were even worse.” Murre die-offs have occurred in previous winters but not in the numbers Alaska is seeing. Federal researchers won’t estimate the number, and are trying to gauge the scope and cause of the die-off while acknowledging there’s little they can do.

    Scientists say the die-offs could be a sign of ecosystem changes that have reduced the numbers of the forage fish that murres depend upon. Warmer water surface temperatures, possibly due to global warming or the El Nino weather pattern, may have affected murre prey, including herring, capelin and juvenile pollock.

    ….The USGS National Wildlife Health Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, has examined about 100 carcasses and detected no parasites or disease that may have contributed to murres not eating, said wildlife disease specialist Barbara Bodenstein. If the die-off is tied to low numbers of forage fish brought on by a warming ocean, the rest of 2016 does not bode well for murres, Piatt said.

    The phenomenon known as the Pacific Blob, a mass of warm water in the North Pacific, has cooled but is still around. Oceanographers predict for 2016 an extreme El Nino, the natural warming of the central Pacific that changes weather worldwide. “What’s that going to do on top of the warming effect we’ve had in the last six months to a year?” Piatt said. “I’m asking because I don’t know.”








    ‘Exceptional’ Drought Improves Only 2 Percent After California Storms

    More than 42 percent of California remains under exceptional drought after last week’s El Niño-influenced storms

    By Jonathan Lloyd NBC Los Angeles January 14 2016

    Parts of drought-stricken California saw only minor improvement this week after a series of storms marched through the region. This week’s California Drought Monitor shows only a 2 percent improvement to the exceptional drought category — the most severe — in Northern California following storms that brought rain and snow to the state. Water reservoirs remain below normal as the state’s hopes for a degree of drought recovery hinge on the effects of a strong El Niño.

    The warming of Pacific waters influences weather conditions around the globe and could mean a wetter-than-normal winter for California. “Even with the rain and snow received over the last several weeks, many areas are still running below normal for precipitation and snow for the current water year,” according to the weekly report. “Wells, reservoirs, ground water, and soil moisture are all recovering slowly, which is to be expected after three-plus years of drought.” More than 42 percent of California remains under exceptional drought. That figure is down by about 4 percentage points since the start of the water year at the end of September. More than 87 percent of California remains under severe drought….


    Storms lined up—Wed. Jan 13 2016 Intellicast




    McCreedy, C., van Riper, C., III, Esque, T.C., and Darrah, A.J., 2015, Effects of drought and fire on bird communities of the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015–1240, 34 p. This publication is available at After the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and product metadata have been registered by CrossRef, the official URL will be


    Traffic plows through flood waters in San Francisco during early January rains. (Olivia Allen-Price)

    When Will California’s Drought End?

    By Lindsey Hoshaw and Paul Rogers KQED SF January 11, 2016

    This winter’s first big storms, fueled by El Niño, soaked much of the [San Francisco] Bay Area in recent weeks. And there’s been a flurry of attention to the gradually rebuilding Sierra snowpack, the “frozen reservoir” that meets about a third of the state’s water needs. But depleted reservoirs are still catching up. December rains added 293 billion gallons to the 154 major state and federal reservoirs in California, which sounds substantial. But by December’s end, that was still only 31 percent of capacity. And rain totals have been both literally and figuratively all over the map. Many parts of Northwestern California have been soaked—Eureka is at 128 percent of normal precipitation for this time of year. While sections of the Bay Area, like Oakland airport, are at 74 percent of normal. With more rain expected this week, one question looms: when will California be out of a drought?

    Three Things That Would End the Drought

    Legally, it’s when Governor Jerry Brown declares it over.  However, scientific experts say three things would signify the drought’s end.

    • A replenished groundwater supply (but that could take 50 years)
    • Making up for our rainfall deficit (that’d likely take over a year)
    • Full reservoirs

    The last scenario would really indicate the end of a drought, according to many experts. Based on past drought-busting years, the state Department of Water Resources estimates that precipitation would need to reach about 150 percent of average — about 75 inches — in key Northern California watersheds. California’s largest reservoir, Lake Shasta, is currently only 33 percent full



    How much El Niño rain needed to end drought? More than 1 answer

    By Kurtis Alexander SF Chronicle January 13, 2016

    Recent rains have put so much water in Humboldt County’s Mad River that the reservoir serving Eureka and Arcata is overflowing — just as it did four times this past year. Three hundred miles to the south in the Santa Cruz Mountains, tiny Lompico Creek is hardly a trickle. The stream is too low to meet local water demands, and the area’s supplier, whose two wells are also underperforming, had to build an emergency pipeline to ship reserves from a neighboring community. Ask water managers in different parts of California when they expect they might shake free of the worst drought in a generation — and whether a wet El Niño winter could be their savior — and you’re likely to get a lot of answers.

    Those answers depend on where people live and what source of precious water they’re tapping….California’s diverse water supplies, varying weather and fluctuating demand mean there won’t be a single point when the state’s water problems come to an end. And there’s no uniform definition of what constitutes a drought.

    Storms inspire hope

    But while most communities remain a long way from recovery, recent storms and the prospect of wet weeks thanks to El Niño have inspired hope. In general, water experts say many parts of the state will see drought relief this winter if precipitation and snowpack can run 50 percent above average.

    Much of California currently stands around normal for both metrics. San Francisco, for example, is at 90 percent of average rainfall since July 1, while Los Angeles is at about 120 percent, according to the National Weather Service.
    Meanwhile, snowpack in the Sierra is at 103 percent of normal, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

    Months of rain to come

    The wild card is that two or three months remain in the potentially promising wet season.

    “We have to wait and see what the full winter and spring provides,” said California’s climatologist, Mike Anderson….Anderson said the state’s last two major droughts, in the late 1970s and early 1990s, came to an end when annual precipitation in the northern Sierra swelled to 143 percent of average and 131 percent, respectively. Snowpack in the Sierra during both of those drought-busting winters — 1977-78 and 1992-93 — surpassed 150 percent of average at peak.
    Even with the recent storms and more in the forecast, Fuchs said recovery after four dry years will take time — reservoirs are low, soils are dry, and groundwater reserves are widely depleted. His organization looks at nearly 50 factors to gauge the state of the drought
    “The impacts associated with the drought that have accumulated are not going to go away that quickly,” he said. “If we continue on this (wet) path, by springtime I can see much of the drought intensity easing up, and we may even see more areas become drought-free. But it would really take a lot to see it erase all the impacts.”
    According to Golden Gate Weather Services, California has lost the equivalent of a full year of rain during the past four
    . ….







    Propellers on the LEAPTech project’s wing, which is testing distributed propulsion to see if it could lead to aircraft designs that create less pollution. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

    Rethinking the Airplane, for Climate’s Sake

    By HENRY FOUNTAIN January 12, 2016 NYTimes

    EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Although aviation was left out of the climate treaty adopted in December, reducing emissions remains a priority at the core of several research efforts… It will never soar into the wild blue yonder, but the dusty Peterbilt truck parked outside a hangar at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center here may represent the future of low-carbon aviation. Perched on steel supports behind the truck’s cab is a 30-foot airplane wing, the kind found on a small plane. Instead of a fossil-fuel-burning engine or two, however, the wing is outfitted with 18 electric motors along its leading edge, each with a small red propeller. The truck-plane mash-up, a NASA project called LeapTech, is meant to test a new approach to powering flight. Technicians and engineers have been driving the truck down a dry lake-bed runway at this desert base at more than 70 miles per hour, the battery-powered propellers spinning as if a takeoff were imminent.

    “We’re able to simulate full takeoff and landing configurations and measure lift, drag, motor efficiency and aerodynamic performance,” said Sean Clarke, an engineer and a principal investigator on the project….









    ‘The hollow cheering of success at the end of the Paris Agreement proved yet again that people will hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest’ Getty

    COP21: Paris deal far too weak to prevent devastating climate change, academics warn

    Exclusive: Some of the world’s top climate scientists have launched a blistering attack on the deal

    Tom Bawden Environment Editor Friday 8 January 2016 Independent UK

    The Paris Agreement to tackle global warming has actually dealt a major setback to the fight against climate change, leading academics will warn. The deal may have been trumpeted by world leaders but is far too weak to do help prevent devastating harm to the Earth, it is claimed. In a joint letter to The Independent, some of the world’s top climate scientists launch a blistering attack on the deal, warning that it offers “false hope” that could ultimately prove to be counterproductive in the battle to curb global warming. The letter, which carries eleven signatures including professors Peter Wadhams and Stephen Salter, of the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh, warns that the Paris Agreement is dangerously inadequate. Because of the Paris failure, the academics say the world’s only chance of saving itself from rampant global warming is a giant push into controversial and largely untested geo-engineering technologies that seek to cool the planet by manipulating the Earth’s climate system.

    The scientists, who also include University of California professor James Kennett, argues that “deadly flaws” in the deal struck in the French capital last month mean it gives the impression that global warming is now being properly addressed when in fact the measures fall woefully short of what is needed to avoid runaway climate change. This means that the kind of extreme action that needs to be taken immediately to have any chance of avoiding devastating global warming, such as massive and swift cuts to worldwide carbon emissions – which only fell by about 1 per cent last year – will not now be taken, they say.
    ….”What people wanted to hear was that an agreement had been reached on climate change that would save the world while leaving lifestyles and aspirations unchanged. The solution it proposes is not to agree on an urgent mechanism to ensure immediate cuts in emissions, but to kick the can down the road.” The authors don’t dispute the huge diplomatic achievement of the Paris Agreement – getting 195 world leaders to sign up to a global warming target of between 1.5C to 2C and pledging action to cut carbon emissions. But they say the actions agreed are far too weak to get anywhere close to that target. Furthermore, the pledges countries have made to cut their carbon emissions are not sufficiently binding to ensure they are met, while the Paris Agreement will not force them to “rachet” them up as often as they need to. Of even greater concern, they say, is the lack of dramatic immediate action that was agreed to tackle global warming. The Paris Agreement only comes into force in 2020 – by which point huge amounts of additional CO2 will have been pumped into the atmosphere. The signatories claim this makes it all but impossible to limit global warming to 2C, let alone 1.5C… [See their letter at the bottom of this page.]


    Chinstrap penguins in Half Moon Bay in the South Shetlands, Antarctica. Chinstrap penguin populations have plummeted in recent years with research pointing to climate change as a likely cause. Chinstrap penguins depend on krill populations, but these may be in decline due to less sea ice. Photograph: Paul Goldstein/Exodus/REX/Shutterstock

    What does the Paris agreement mean for the world’s other 8 million species?

    Jeremy Hance Wednesday 6 January 2016 03.54 EST Guardian UK

    In December, the world’s nations agreed on an aggressive plan to combat climate change. But what, if anything, will the landmark Paris agreement do for thousands of species already under threat from global warming?
    The word “biodiversity” is employed once in the Paris agreement’s 32 pages. “Forests” appears a few times, but “oceans”, like biodiversity, scores just a single appearance. There is no mention of extinction. Wildlife, coral reefs, birds, frogs, orchids, polar bears and pikas never show up anywhere in the document.
    This is hardly surprising: the landmark agreement in Paris – the boldest yet to tackle climate change (which is saying something, but not nearly enough) – was contrived by one species for the benefit of one species. It was never meant to directly address the undeniable impacts of global warming on the world’s eight million or so other species – most of them still unnamed. But many experts say this doesn’t mean biodiversity won’t benefit from the agreement – especially if the 196 participants actually follow through on their pledges and up their ambition quickly. “[The agreement] is critical for people and it is critical for biodiversity,” said Edward Perry, Birdlife’s climate change policy coordinator, who dubbed the passage of the Paris agreement in December “monumental.” Most biodiversity experts concurred that the Paris agreement was an important step forward, but none thought it would be enough to counter the vast risks posed to biodiversity by global warming. Indeed a recent study in Science found that more than 5% of the world’s species will likely go extinct even if we manage to keep temperatures from rising more than 2C, the uppermost target outlined in Paris.
    “[The Paris agreement] doesn’t go far enough, but that really misses the point,” said Nancy Knowlton, a coral reef expert with the Smithsonian Institution. “It moves us in the right direction, finally, and future efforts can be even more ambitious. To paraphrase Voltaire, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.“…



    Water trickles over a dam on the Klamath River outside Hornbrook, Calif. The demise of a deal to end decades of feuding on the river could rekindle old battles over water use and dams in this remote corner of the state. (Jeff Barnard / Associated Press)

    Demise of Klamath River deal could rekindle old water-use battles

    Bettina Boxall LA Times January 11, 2016

    The demise of a deal to end decades of feuding on the Klamath River could rekindle old battles over water use and dams in a remote corner of California. A key piece of a three-part agreement expired when Congress failed to approve it by Dec. 31. The complicated pact, backed by the states of California and Oregon, called for the removal of four hydroelectric dams, settled water rights disputes and spelled out water allocations for irrigators and wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin.But the deal never got traction in the GOP-dominated Congress. And though some backers are holding out hope that it can be resurrected, others are doubtful. “It would be very difficult if not impossible to pull the same parties to the table and reach a similar agreement,” said Don Gentry, chairman of Oregon’s Klamath Tribes. Tribes, farmers, hydropower interests and commercial fishermen all have fought over the 255-mile river, which winds from southern Oregon through Northern California to the Pacific Ocean. Dams, farm and ranch diversions and agricultural runoff have exacted a heavy toll on a waterway that once supported Chinook salmon runs half a million strong….





    State Representative Ken Ivory, right, Republican of Utah, with Gov. Gary R. Herbert in Salt Lake City in 2012 after Mr. Herbert signed a bill asking the federal government to extinguish its title to public lands and return them to the state. CreditErin Hooley for The New York Times 

    The Larger, but Quieter Than Bundy, Push to Take Over Federal Land

    By JACK HEALY and KIRK JOHNSON NY Times JAN. 10, 2016

    DENVER — Ken Ivory, a Republican state representative from Utah, has been roaming the West with an alluring pitch to cattle ranchers, farmers and conservatives upset with how Washington controls the wide-open public spaces out here: This land is your land, he says, and not the federal government’s.

    Mr. Ivory, a business lawyer from suburban Salt Lake City, does not fit the profile of a sun-scoured sagebrush rebel. But he is part of a growing … movement pushing the federal government to hand over to the states millions of acres of Western public lands — as well as their rich stores of coal, timber and grazing grass. “It’s like having your hands on the lever of a modern-day Louisiana Purchase,” said Mr. Ivory, who founded the American Lands Council and until recently was its president. The Utah-based group is funded mostly by donations from county governments, but has received support from Americans for Prosperity, the group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. The idea, which would radically reshape the West, is one that resonates with the armed group of ranchers and antigovernment activists who seized control of a wildlife refuge in Oregon more than a week ago. Ammon Bundy, the crew’s leader and the scion of a Nevada ranching family steeped in disputes with the federal government, said he and his sympathizers had gone to Oregon to give the refuge back to local ranchers.

    Many conservatives — Mr. Ivory among them — criticized Mr. Bundy’s gun-toting tactics, but their grievances and goals are nearly identical. And the outcry has grown amid a dust storm of rural anger at President Obama’s efforts to tighten regulations on fracking, air quality, small streams and other environmental issues that put struggling Western counties at odds with conservation advocates.

    In the past few years, lawmakers across the West have offered up dozens of bills and resolutions seeking to take over the federal lands inside their borders or to study how to do so. Some of the legislation has been aimed at Congress, to urge it to radically revise the laws that have shaped 550,000 square miles of national forests and terrain run by the federal Bureau of Land Management, stretching from the Great Plains to the Pacific. The effort — derided by critics as a pipe dream that would put priceless landscapes on the auction block — has achieved little so far…


    Billionaire activist urges Obama to focus State of the Union on climate change

    Tom Steyer calls on president to seize opportunity to explain his actions on the environment and convince Americans that they must be irrevocable

    Suzanne Goldenberg onday 11 January 2016 16.18 EST Last modified on Monday 11 January 2016 18.32 EST Guardian UK

    Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer pressed Barack Obama on Monday to go out with a bang and make global warming central to the message of his last State of the Union address.

    In a conference call with reporters, Steyer said the speech on Tuesday offered one of the last high-visibility moments for Obama to make his case to the American public for a transformation of the US energy and climate system. he last year was a banner year for climate change – with the Paris climate agreement, the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, an effective ban on Arctic drilling, and the finalisation of rules cutting carbon pollution from power plants, Steyer told the call….Monday, Steyer’s NextGen Climate teamed up with fellow activists Van Jones, founder of Green for All and briefly green jobs adviser for Obama; Mona Mangat, board chair of Doctors for America; and Michael Breen, chief executive of the Truman national security project, for the release of a new report casting climate change as a threat to national security and public welfare. “To truly address poverty, we must address climate change once and for all. The economic burden of climate change will not be shouldered by all families equally,” the report Threat Multiplier: Climate Change and the State of Our Union, said.
    The report extends the idea first embraced by the Pentagon nearly a decade ago that global warming deepened existing risks to the international order. (By 2014, the Pentagon had elevated climate change as an “immediate risk” to national security and its infrastructure).
    It points out the public health risks posed by air pollution, water shortages and drought – all of which will be exacerbated by climate change, and notes the Pentagon’s concerns about national security.
    “It is in America’s best national security interest to take action on climate change,” the report said, noting that the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis were fueled in part by drought and climate change….The billionaire’s NextGen Climate group is pressing candidates to back his call for powering the country with more than 50% clean energy by 2030 – a far more ambitious target than Obama’s – and 100% clean energy by 2050.
    Among potential presidential candidates in 2016, only the struggling Democratic contender, Martin O’Malley, matches Steyer’s level of ambition.


    Fossil fuel leases should charge for climate change, says president

    By Timothy Cama – 01/12/16 09:41 PM EST

    President Obama wants companies leasing oil and coal rights on federal land to pay more for the effects those fuels have on climate change.

    In his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama said the prices charged for oil and coal ought to reflect the cost of the greenhouse gases from burning them.

    It answers a top request from Democrats and environmentalists who say that federal resources account for about a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, with coal as the top culprit.

    “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels,” Obama told Congress. “That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”

    “And that way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.”

    Obama presented the proposal as a way to accelerate the ongoing transition toward clean energy sources like wind and solar and “away from old, dirtier energy sources.”

    He warned that the move to charge for climate impacts would not be easy. “But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve — that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.”

    The Interior Department, which manages energy resources on the federal government’s massive land holdings, last year launched a comprehensive effort to reevaluate how it values fossil fuels and charges fees and royalties to the companies that extract them….









    Preventing food waste better strategy than turning it into biogas

    Posted: 12 Jan 2016 06:14 AM PST

    Efforts to find alternative sources of energy has more and more municipalities looking at biogas facilities designed to recycle food waste. But encouraging people to work harder to cut food waste instead of collecting food waste and turning it into biogas cuts energy impacts more than biogas production and use, researchers have found….


    Fracking shakes the American west: ‘a millennium’s worth of earthquakes’

    Seismologists’ warnings about hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal divide residents, politicians and companies in Colorado and Oklahoma, while temblors increase around the region

    Joanna Walters in New York Sunday 10 January 2016 08.00 EST Last modified on Sunday 10 January 2016 08.50 EST Guardian UK

    Oklahomans don’t blink when they hear warnings about tornadoes, drought or ice-storms. Earthquakes, however, catch their attention. Increasingly tied to tremors shaking the west, fracking for natural gas is creating alarm and division around western states that until recently enjoyed a boom in jobs and revenue. In Oklahoma, seismologists have warned that significant temblors last week could signal a larger, more dangerous earthquake to come in a state where drilling is destabilizing the bedrock.

    Last Wednesday night two earthquakes, measuring 4.7 and 4.8 on the Richter scale, struck rural northern Oklahoma, beneath a major oil and gas producing area. The state historically experiences two shakes a year registering above level three. According to the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), which is based in Colorado, in 2014 Oklahoma experienced 585 such quakes. In 2015 there were 842. “That’s almost a millennium’s worth of earthquakes in two years,” George Choy, a seismologist at the center, told the Guardian on Friday. “When you see that you suspect something is going on.”…


    Black Thunder Mine, in Wyoming, is owned by Arch Coal Co. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File

    One Of The Largest Coal Companies In The United States Just Filed For Bankruptcy

    by Natasha Geiling Jan 11, 2016 1:53 pm

    Arch Coal, one of the United States’ largest coal companies, filed for bankruptcy on Monday in the hopes of eliminating more than $4.5 billion in long-term debt, according to a press release issued by the company. The news comes as several of Arch’s competitors — Patriot Coal, Walter Energy, and Alpha Natural Resources — have also filed for bankruptcy. Arch Coal is the second largest supplier of coal in the United States behind Peabody Energy, and its mines represent 13 percent of America’s coal supply. …Low natural gas prices and environmental regulations made 2015 a tough year for the U.S. coal industry, with domestic production levels slumping to a 30-year low. Coal production has been on the decline for years, since peaking in 2008, and 2015’s production numbers represent a 10 percent decline from 2014. Recent climate policies have also hampered coal use, which is more expensive and polluting for utilities than natural gas. In April, natural gas surpassed coal, for the first time ever, as the primary source of electricity generation in the country (though it remained in the top spot for only a month before being overtaken by coal)….



    The SoCal Gas storage facility above Porter Ranch where a natural gas leak has been ongoing. Pictured Thursday evening and night January 7th, 2015 in Porter Ranch, California. Image: Stuart Palley

    VIDEO: California gas leak is emitting 4.5 million cars’ worth of pollution every day.
    Andrew Freeman
    Mashable January 14, 2016

    An ongoing natural gas leak at a storage facility in Aliso Canyon, California, has poured so much methane gas into the atmosphere that it now comprises 2 percent of the entire country’s annual methane emissions….







    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







    Communicating adaptation – Engaging communities
    Wednesday 20 January 2016, 01:00 PM – 02:30 PM ET, 10-11 PT

    This webinar will offer insights into effective communication of climate change adaptation, with particular emphasis on the psychological dimensions that underlie people’s responses and that can help or hinder their constructive and sustained engagement.

    Speaker: Susanne C. Moser, Ph.D.– Research Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University



    Impacts of Future Climates and Fire on Hydrologic Regimes in the Ecosystems of Southern California
    January 26, 2016

    1:00 – 2:00 PM Pacific

    • Lorrie Flint, Research Hydrologist, USGS Water Science Center,
    • Alan Flint, Research Hydrologist, USGS Water Science Center,
    • Hugh Safford, Regional Ecologist, US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, and
    • Emma Underwood, Research Scientist, UC Davis Information Center for the Environment.

    In Southern California ecosystems, understanding changes in hydrologic regimes under future climate scenarios and the impact of fire is key to developing effective management strategies. This project, supported by the CA LCC, is developing data, projections, and visualization tools to assist in the climate-smart management of water in chaparral dominated ecosystems of Southern California.  Click here for more information.


    Carbon Farming Workshop
    November 18, 2015

    Training for RCD and NRCS staff
    Moderated by Pelayo Alvarez,
    Carbon Cycle Institute

    Download a workshop manual: CFP-training

    Download a carbon farming brochure: carbon-farming-brochure-CCI

    Presentations available on line:

    • Introduction – Why Carbon Farming and How Marin RCD Got Started – Nancy Scolari, Marin RCD
    • Carbon Farm Planning – How conservation approaches sequester carbon and improve climate change resiliency – Jeff Creque, Carbon Cycle Institute
    • How to include Carbon Beneficial Practices into conservation plans – Nancy Scolari & Lynette Niebrugge, Marin RCD
    • The COMET-Farm™ tool enables farmers and ranchers to estimate carbon sequestration and GHG emission reductions – Mark Easter, Colorado State University Natural Resource Ecology Lab
    • GHG Reduction and Carbon Sequestration Accounting Tools for Forest Practices – Tom Schott, Mendocino County RCD and John Nickerson, Climate Action Reserve
    • Local and State Policies and Programs for Carbon Farming and An Outlook on Climate Funding – Torri Estrada, Carbon Cycle Institute
    • Next Steps and RCD Carbon Farm Program Development Needs Inventory – Pelayo Alvarez, Carbon Cycle Institute





    Rangeland Workshops and Conferences  Jan 28 2016

    The Open Space Council, in partnership with UC Cooperative Extension, Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program, California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, Central Coast Rangeland Coalition, and California Rangeland Trust presents Grazing and Conservation Part II: Cooperating with Ranchers
    on January 28 in Berkeley. Hear perspectives on the benefits and challenges of working with ranchers for grazing to benefit conservation on public and/or private conservation lands in the SF Bay Area.


    North Bay Watershed Association Conference

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

    General Information:  Registration:


    Society for Conservation Biology Bay Area Symposium
    Saturday May 7th, Stanford University, Palo Alto

    As a new [Stanford] chapter, we are thrilled to bring together world-class scientists, professionals, and students to discuss today’s newest work in conservation biology.  For over 15 years, the Conservation Biology Symposium has rotated among different Bay Area universities. This event creates a forum in which researchers from all backgrounds can share recent scientific findings and policy issues in conservation biology. While the event focuses on graduate and postdoctoral research, we welcome participants from all backgrounds. This an excellent opportunity for Bay Area students and faculty, as well as those working for government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private consulting firms to meet and exchange ideas.  This year, we are delighted to have Dr. Peter Kareiva, Dr. Michelle Marvier, and Dr. John Terborgh as keynote speakers. For more information, please visit the Speakers page tab. 

    There are two important deadlines coming up: 

    Abstract Submission: March 25. Want to present your research? Apply here

        Posters and oral presentations welcome.

    Event Registration: April 18.   Register to attend this year’s symposium. 



    SAVE THE DATE: 4th Ocean Climate Summit: Resilience through Climate-Smart Conservation May 17, 2016
    Fort Mason, San Francisco

    Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Greater Farallones Association

    Expert panels for the 2016 summit will address the common theme of Climate-Smart Conservation, and will specifically include:

    • State of the Science;
    • Implementing Climate-Smart Conservation;
    • Local Government Sea Level Rise Planning; and
    • Connecting San Francisco Bay and Outer Coast.

    Afternoon focus groups will convene to share lessons learned, encourage collaboration, and advise the sanctuary on climate-smart conservation. A networking poster reception highlighting Bay Area projects and programs focused on coastal climate change and ocean acidification will immediately follow. This year we are also pleased to partner with the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative on a Climate-Smart Conservation training to be held at Fort Mason the following day.


    Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture 2016: 2nd International Conference Linking Science and Policy
    June 28-30, 2016 Hyatt Regency by SFO Burlingame, CA

    Abstract Submission Deadline: January 15, 2016 UC Davis

    ….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



    Save the Date! 

    2016 National Natural Areas Conference | October 18 – 20 |

    U.C. Davis (CA)



    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/FELLOWSHIPS (apologies for any duplication; thanks for passing along)



    The California Ocean Resources Management Program, led by the Deputy Secretary for Ocean and Coastal Policy/Executive Director for the Ocean Protection Council (Executive Director), provides policy and technical assistance to the Secretary for Natural Resources in his dual responsibilities as chair of the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and administration of all non-statutory marine and coastal resource programs, and coordinates the State’s participation in state and federal marine affairs.

    Under the direction of the Deputy Director for OPC (Deputy), the AGPA is responsible for assisting the California Ocean Resources Management Program/OPC to support implementation of the OPC’s mission and the Governor’s policy positions on ocean and coastal matters, primarily through grants/contract administration, support of and reporting from interagency workgroups, and other administration of the OPC. Duties include, but are not limited, to the following…


    UC Santa Cruz Conservation Scholars Program

    The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at UCSC exposes early-career college students to the field of environmental conservation through field research, leadership and professional training.
    Each year, we select 20 students from around the U.S. and its territories to participate in our two-year conservation leadership program. Our students represent a diverse spectrum of cultures and backgrounds, which helps to cultivate a unique and rewarding experience.


    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


    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….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











    Fueling up should be healthy for you—and the planet. But how do you figure out the most sustainable diet?    Photo: Hannah McCaughey (2), Sang An, Hannah McCaughey

    Eating Right Can Save the World

    The endless cascade of nutritional information—about localism, vegetarianism, veganism, organic food, the environmental impact of eating meat, poultry, or fish, and more—makes the simple goal of a healthy, sustainable diet seem hopelessly complex. We talked to scientists, chefs, and farmers to get the ultimate rundown on how you should fuel up.

    Tim Zimmermann Jan 7, 2016 Outside Magazine

    …. Tell me what you eat and I will tell you how you impact the planet. Most of us are aware that our food choices have environmental consequences. …. Are organic fruits and vegetables really worth the higher prices, and are they better for the environment? If I’m a meat eater, should I opt for free-range, grass-fed beef? Is it OK to buy a pineapple flown in from Costa Rica, or should I eat only locally grown apples? 

    The science of food’s ecological footprint can be overwhelming, yet it’s important to understand it. For starters, in wealthy societies food consumption is estimated to account for 20 to 30 percent of the total footprint of a household. Feeding ourselves dominates our landscapes, using about half the ice-free land on earth. It sends us into the oceans, where we have fished nearly 90 percent of species to the brink or beyond. It affects all the planet’s natural systems, producing more than 30 percent of global greenhouse gases. Farming uses about 70 percent of our water and pollutes rivers with fertilizer and waste that in turn create vast coastal dead zones. The food on your plate touches everything.
    “If you look at the heavy-hitter list of global-scale changes that are human induced, how we feed ourselves is invariably near the top,” says Peter Tyedmers, a professor at Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who has been studying the world’s food systems for 15 years. “But the great thing about food is that we have choices, and we have the opportunity to effect change three times a day.” ….….Here’s a sense of what the planet might reap in return. A 2015 study conducted by the journal Frontiers in Nutrition concluded that a diet that is vegetarian five days a week and includes meat just two days a week would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and water and land use by about 45 percent…. Does eating grass-fed, free-range meat let you off the hook? Not really, because meat takes a toll no matter how it’s raised. Studies actually show that a factory-farm animal emits fewer greenhouse gases than a free-range one, because it lives a shorter life. But Greg Fogel, a senior policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, points out that factory farms in the U.S. produce 13 times as much sewage as the entire human population and that environmental impact is about more than greenhouse gases. “The meat you do eat should be grass-fed meat from managed grazing operations,” he says. “Rotational grazing systems recycle manure as fertilizer, improve wildlife habitat, and enhance plant root systems, increasing soil quality, water infiltration and flood control, and carbon sequestration.”… As it happens, the seafood with the smallest carbon footprint is frequently the seafood that’s best to eat if you’re looking to reduce pressure on wild fisheries…. Clearly, eating less meat has big environmental payoffs. But what about not eating it at all? I’d never crunched the numbers to find out how much more climate-friendly a plant-based diet really is. The results are telling. For example, in the Frontiers in Nutrition study, researchers compared the greenhouse-gas, water, and land footprints of a balanced 2,000-calorie vegetarian diet, including eggs and dairy, with those of a balanced 2,000-calorie omnivore diet that included one serving of meat per day: a 5.3-ounce steak. The vegetarian diet reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by 63 percent and required 61 percent less land and 67 percent less water.
    Another study, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also compared an omnivorous diet to a vegetarian one. It considered a broad array of environmental impacts beyond climate change and land use—including cancer rates, effect on the ozone layer, and waterway pollution—to produce a more complete model. It concluded that the vegetarian diet had just 64 percent of the environmental impact of the omnivore diet

    ….Plant-based protein choices also carry different environmental costs. Wheat accounts for one-fifth the greenhouse-gas emissions of water-thirsty rice per gram of protein. Legumes are even better, at one-quarter the emissions of wheat. Being thoughtful about protein alternatives yields even more environmental payoff. Lentils and chickpeas, for example, are better than soybeans at fixing nitrogen in the soil and help you avoid soy’s GMO issues. And quinoa is packed with protein and grows well in a variety of soils…..

    Organic farming, Nichols tells me, is really about the health of the soil and the ecosystems producing our food.
    Nichols wants to show me the difference between soil from conventional agriculture, which uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and soil from what Rodale calls regenerative organic agriculture, which uses natural pest management, extensive cover crops, and natural fertilizer like manure. …

    according to one analysis I found, buying local can reduce the impact of vegetable production by 10 to 30 percent. Other researchers have calculated that produce moving through the national transportation network that supplies large grocery stores travels an average of about 1,518 miles and emits five to seventeen times the greenhouse gases of regional and local food distribution. In contrast, locally sourced foods travel an average of just 45 miles. 

    So it makes sense to buy local whenever possible, another reason to spend time at the nearest farmers’ market. If you’re really dedicated to sustainable eating, that means eating seasonally as well. No more grapes and strawberries from Chile in February….

    You’re Throwing Away Too Much Food

    No matter where you come down on meat, organic, and shopping locally, there are two powerful sustainability strategies you can put to work right now. The first is to eat less. If the average omnivore, who eats around 3,500 calories a day, instead ate a diet closer to his basic nutritional requirement of 2,500 calories, he would likely reduce his environmental footprint by about 30 percent. An active person who works out daily needs closer to 2,800 calories, yielding a roughly 20 percent cut.

    The second strategy: waste less. In the U.S., 40 percent of food—worth an estimated $165 billion—is thrown out every year. It’s an environmental and social-policy tragedy.
    According to the USDA, which in September
    announced an initiative to try and cut American food waste in half, the average family of four trashes two million calories a year, worth nearly $1,500. As a result, 25 percent of America’s water is used to produce food that is never eaten, and an estimated 28 percent of the planet’s agricultural land is used to grow food that ends up in the garbage. Food is the single largest solid-waste component of America’s landfills—an estimated 80 billion pounds—and emissions from it are equivalent to the greenhouse-gas output of 33 million cars. ..

    Stop worrying so much about not getting enough protein…Buy organic food whenever you can. Source your food as locally as possible, and eat seasonally to avoid racking up major food miles. Eat less and waste less. Be open-minded and creative about new cuisines. Relax. Have fun. Sustainable eating isn’t synonymous with masochism. ..



    Consumer perception of organic foods affected by food type and where they’re sold

    Posted: 11 Jan 2016 10:54 AM PST

    The organic food industry has grown from fresh produce and grains to snack foods and condiments — from farmers markets to supercenters. Has this new variety in organic products, and the availability of them, affected consumers’ perceptions? A research team designed an experiment to provide insight on some of the variables that may influence opinions about organic foods.


    Gravitation under human control?

    Posted: 08 Jan 2016 05:39 AM PST

    Produce and detect gravitational fields at will using magnetic fields, control them for studying them, work with them to produce new technologies — it sounds daring, but one physicist has proposed just that in a new article. If followed, this proposal could transform physics and shake up Einstein’s theory of general relativity.


    Insects are a sustainable source of omega-3

    Posted: 11 Jan 2016 09:25 AM PST

    Insect oil is a possible new source of the healthy omega-3 fatty acid. Insects make fatty acids by nature and can live on organic waste. A team of researchers examines which insects can best be used for oil and what their optimal diet should be.


    Cancer screening has never been shown to ‘save lives,’ argue experts

    Posted: 06 Jan 2016 06:37 PM PST

    Cancer screening has never been shown to ‘save lives’ as advocates claim, argue experts, adding that the harms of screening are certain.


    Life-extending hormone bolsters the body’s immune function

    Posted: 12 Jan 2016 06:35 AM PST

    A hormone that extends lifespan in mice by 40% is produced by specialized cells in the thymus gland, according to a new study. The team also found that increasing the levels of this hormone, called FGF21, protects against the loss of immune function that comes with age.



    Rieder: The Sean Penn/Rolling Stone/El Chapo debacle

    Rem Rieder, USA TODAY 3:51 p.m. EST January 11, 2016

    We’ve gotten used to the Chinese media picking up satirical articles as real news, as when the People’s Daily ran with The Onion‘s story about North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un being the “sexiest man alive.” But the phenomenon hit closer to home over the weekend when entertainment site fell for the latest bit of inspired nonsense from New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz. Riffing off actor Sean Penn’s controversial interview in Rolling Stone with notorious drug lord El Chapo, Borowitz wrote, “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the terror group known as ISIS, has cancelled a long awaited meeting with the actor Sean Penn, a spokesman for the group announced on Sunday.” Without skipping a beat, Deadline posted an item headlined, “ISIS Leader Cancels Meeting With Sean Penn: Report”.

    It’s kind of amazing that Deadline didn’t know what Borowitz does, or didn’t have the slightest bit of skepticism about the “story,” which included such clues as Penn having “gotten himself outfitted in brand new desert-camo attire in preparation for the meeting,” and a spokesman for al-Baghdadi saying the terrorist chief “loves all of Sean’s films, even that one he did with Madonna.”

    The episode is yet another cautionary tale about the dangers in today’s overheated digital journalism climate, in which virtually everyone quickly picks up each other’s stories. But it also reflects a world in which the line between reality on the one hand and the Onions and Andy Borowitzes of the world on the other often seems to blur. After all, who could have envisioned a presidential campaign in which a major candidate asks fifth graders to point out the worst student in their class, totally humiliating one Iowa lad, and another appears to blame a debate moderator’s tough questions on her menstrual cycle.

    Or a Hollywood actor scoring an exclusive interview with a fugitive world-class (and very dangerous) drug dealer? Penn’s tale of derring-do as he made contact with the since-captured El Chapo was a true blockbuster. And an ethical nightmare for journalism. That’s because Penn and Rolling Stone effectively gave editorial control over the piece to one of the world’s most notorious criminals. In a disclosure at the top of the 10,000-word-plus article, Rolling Stone revealed that “an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject’s approval before publication.”









    Street Artists and Muralists to Paint All 314 Threatened North American Bird Species
    by DJ Pangburn January 8, 2016
















    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO

    Point Blue Conservation Science

    3820 Cypress Drive, Suite 11, Petaluma, CA 94954

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

    Point BlueConservation science for a healthy planet.



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