February, 2016

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs.

2016

February, 2016

2/29/2016

  • Humans evolve to grow hideous mustaches to filter China’s air pollution: “Survivors of the pollution age,” announces the video produced by WildAid, accept the “putrid, choking fog” and adapt to live with it: by growing long nostril mustaches that filter out the dirty air particles.
  • California gas leak was the worst man-made greenhouse-gas disaster in U.S. history, study says: The massive leak that vented millions of pounds of natural gas from a Los Angeles storage facility now appears to have been the worst accidental discharge of greenhouse gases in U.S. history, scientists concluded in an analysis released Thursday.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscars speech was about climate change, which could be worse than we thought: “Climate change is real. It is happening right now,” DiCaprio continued. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”
  • Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says
    • Pollinators, including some 20,000 species of wild bees, contribute to the growth of fruit, vegetables and many nuts, as well as flowering plants. Plants that depend on pollination make up 35 percent of global crop production volume with a value of as much as $577 billion a year. The agricultural system, for which pollinators play a key role, creates millions of jobs worldwide.
    • Many pollinator species are threatened with extinction, including some 16 percent of vertebrates like birds and bats, according to the document. Hummingbirds and some 2,000 avian species that feed on nectar spread pollen as they move from flower to flower. Extinction risk for insects is not as well defined, the report notes, but it warned of “high levels of threat” for some bees and butterflies, with at least 9 percent of bee and butterfly species at risk.

2/24/2016

2/22/2016

  • Republicans' favorite climate chart has some serious problems: As usual, cherry picking and misrepresentations are used to oppose climate policies
    • As the statistician George Box said, “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” Climate models are certainly useful, and are doing a pretty darn good job predicting global warming. Their predictions have been far more accurate than those made by climate contrarians, who keep telling us that the Earth will start to cool any day now, as we keep breaking heat records.
  • Fossil fuel funded report denies the expert global warming consensus: The infamous Heartland Institute has distributed to elected officials a nonsense, non-science report full of denial
    • This is what happens when you have a fossil fuel-funded political organization parade a document as a scientific publication. You get nonsense and non-science. This is why we should be skeptical of anything published by an advocacy organization such as Heartland. Fortunately, we are used to their nonsense.
    • [ael: while we are used to their nonsense, what of others? What of the lazy politicians who simply cite this, and move along?]
  • UT Poll: Vast majority of Americans backs action against climate change:
    • Large majorities of Democrats (81 percent) and Republicans (60 percent) said they were concerned about a significant temperature increase. (The Republican response contrasts with generally dismissive statements about the seriousness of climate change by leading candidates for that party’s presidential nomination.)
    • Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said climate change is “mostly due to human actions.” Slightly more than a fourth (28 percent) said it is “equally due to humans and natural forces,” while only 5 percent said “mostly due to natural forces.” (Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that the global average temperature increase over recent decades has mainly been human-caused by heat-trapping pollution from fossil fuels.)
    • Nearly two-thirds of poll participants (64 percent) said that reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel use should be a priority issue for the U.S., compared to 15 percent who said it shouldn’t be a priority.
  • Chilean Scientists Invent Supertrees to Face Climate Change
    • A group of Chilean scientists is working on the creation of a new generation of fruit trees that would be resistant to the effects of global warming like drought, reduced rainfall, frost and storms. The project began in 2009 at the Chilean Center for Advanced Studies in Fruit Culture, CEAF, located in the region of O'Higgins, where over 25,000 hectares of apricots, nectarines and cherries are cultivated.
    • Bolivia's 2nd Largest Lake Completely Dry (Lake Poopo) — video — 84x54 km^2
  • Is your hometown a top hit for climate change?: A group of scientists used 14 years of data to map climate change hot spots around the globe. But they didn't just map extreme weather – they analyzed the response of local vegetation.
    • North American prairies, South American rainforests, and eastern Australia are all climate change hot spots, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Alistair Seddon, lead author of the study and a biologist at the University of Bergen in Norway, analyzed 14 years of NASA satellite images with four of his colleagues to identify areas around the world that are ecologically sensitive to climate change.
    • Accounting for the “three climatic variables that drive vegetation productivity,” the scientists produced the Vegetation Sensitivity Index. The VSI serves as a map of their findings, with the most vulnerable ecosystems in red and the least sensitive regions in green.
    • Ecology: Vegetation's responses to climate variability
    • Sensitivity of global terrestrial ecosystems to climate variability
    • Vegetation Index and Phenology (VIP) Lab
    • “Now we have this global picture, it can guide the next areas of research,” Seddon tells the Huffington Post. “Ecosystems are likely going to have to face multiple dimensions of climate change in the future – increases in average temperatures, no-analogue conditions – but understanding how they will respond to variability is also a key knowledge gap.” VSI analyzes relative response rate of ecosystems, explain the authors, “which is the first step towards addressing why some regions appear to be more sensitive than others, and what impact this has on the resilience of ecosystem service provision and human well-being.”
  • Those Bubbles in Your Coke May Someday Help Save the Planet: Climeworks AG is not the first company to figure out how to suck carbon dioxide out of the air. It may become the first to make money from it at an industrial scale.
  • Flint isn’t alone: America has a coast-to-coast toxic crisis:
    • The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive. In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable. As little as a few specks of lead in the water children drink or in flakes of paint that come off the walls of old houses and are ingested can change the course of a life. The amount of lead dust that covers a thumbnail is enough to send a child into a coma or into convulsions leading to death. It takes less than a tenth of that amount to cause IQ loss, hearing loss, or behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the government agency responsible for tracking and protecting the nation’s health, says simply, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”
  • Meet the scientist connecting the dots between air pollution and dementia:
    • Q. What do we know about the links between air pollution and dementia?
    • A. There are two branches of relevant science here. The first body of research studies people in older age brackets and maps their health outcomes onto possible air pollution exposures generated from regional pollution monitoring data. When you do that, you find that people who are exposed to more air pollution, particularly fine particles, show an increased risk for dementia and pre-dementia, called mild cognitive impairment. A study that came out of Taiwan, for example, drew on a cohort of nearly 100,000 people and showed that for every unit increase in exposure to particle pollution, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s went up by more than 100 percent.
  • Big Oil could be hit with a wave of oil company bankruptcies: A new report by the auditing and consulting firm Deloitte warns that a third of publicly traded oil companies could go bankrupt this year. Auditors looked at 500 natural gas and oil production companies around the globe and found that 175 are at high risk of going under. Collectively, the companies owe more than $150 billion to creditors.
  • In Zika Epidemic, a Warning on Climate Change: Over the coming decades, global warming is likely to increase the range and speed of the life cycle of the particular mosquitoes carrying these viruses, encouraging their spread deeper into temperate countries like the United States.
  • Impact of a Century of Climate Change on Small-Mammal Communities in Yosemite National Park, USA: We provide a century-scale view of small-mammal responses to global warming, without confounding effects of land-use change, by repeating Grinnell's early–20th century survey across a 3000-meter-elevation gradient that spans Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Using occupancy modeling to control for variation in detectability, we show substantial (∼500 meters on average) upward changes in elevational limits for half of 28 species monitored, consistent with the observed ∼3°C increase in minimum temperatures. Formerly low-elevation species expanded their ranges and high-elevation species contracted theirs, leading to changed community composition at mid- and high elevations. Elevational replacement among congeners changed because species' responses were idiosyncratic. Though some high-elevation species are threatened, protection of elevation gradients allows other species to respond via migration.
  • CSIRO climate cuts will breach Paris agreement and cost economy – report: Cuts to climate modelling and measuring research contradict Australia’s pledge to strengthen commitments to climate science, the Climate Council says

2/19/2016

  • Scientists are floored by what’s happening in the Arctic right now: Impacts of Arctic warming are usually considered in isolation, and that’s a mistake, he says. “It’s unraveling, every piece of it is unraveling, they’re all in lockstep together,” Pomerance says. “What tends to happen is, everybody nationally reports on the latest piece of news, which is about one system. You hear about the sea ice absent the temperature trend. So you really have to think of it as a whole.”

2/18/2016

  • Zika Outbreak Could Be an Omen of the Global Warming Threat: The global public health emergency involving deformed babies emerged in 2015, the hottest year in the historical record, with an outbreak in Brazil of a disease transmitted by heat-loving mosquitoes. Can that be a coincidence?
    • Scientists say it will take them years to figure that out, and pointed to other factors that may have played a larger role in starting the crisis. But these same experts added that the Zika epidemic, as well as the related spread of a disease called dengue that is sickening as many as 100 million people a year and killing thousands, should be interpreted as warnings.
  • Why Our Intuition About Sea-Level Rise Is Wrong: A geologist explains that climate change is not just about a global average sea rise.
    • Gravity has a very strong effect. So what happens when an ice sheet melts is sea level falls in the vicinity of the melting ice sheet. That is counterintuitive. The question is, how far from the ice sheet do you have to go before the effects of diminished gravity and uplifting crust are small enough that you start to raise sea level? That’s also counterintuitive. It’s 2,000 kilometers away from the ice sheet. So if the Greenland ice sheet were to catastrophically collapse tomorrow, the sea level in Iceland, Newfoundland, Sweden, Norway—all within this 2,000 kilometer radius of the Greenland ice sheet—would fall. It might have a 30 to 50 meter drop at the shore of Greenland. But the farther you get away from Greenland, the greater the price you pay. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, sea level in most of the Southern Hemisphere will increase about 30 percent more than the global average. So this is no small effect.
    • Why are you so confident that the world’s glaciers, including the polar ice sheets, will keep melting? "One way to understand where we’re heading in this warming world of ours is to run a climate model. The other way is to look to the past and ask what the ice sheets did the last time we were this warm or a little bit warmer. We’re currently in an interglacial—a warm period between glacial cycles. If humans weren’t warming the climate, Earth might be poised to enter into another Ice Age in the future. The last interglacial prior to the present one was about 120,000 years ago. Of course, 120,000 years ago, humans weren’t having any impact on climate. That was natural climatic variability."
    • And if you look back thousands of years, you have a wide range of tools at your disposal. One is eclipse records, and one is the Roman fish tanks. Q: What do Roman fish tanks tell us about sea levels? A: Wealthy Romans at the time of Augustus were building fish holding tanks. The fishermen would come in with the fish, they’d put them there so that the fish were fresh when they ate them—they wanted to keep them alive for a few days or weeks or whatever. The Romans were engineers, so they built these fish tanks at very precise levels relative to sea level at the time. You didn’t want the walls to be too low because at high tide the fish would swim out; you didn’t want it to be too high because you wanted tides to refresh the water within the tanks.
    • Q: So many of your results seem abstract and counterintuitive. Is that a coincidence? A: There are so many interesting problems in our science that you can see with your eyes. But your eyes can fool you. Richard Feynman, the great physicist, used to start his physics lectures by showing students their intuition could take them a long way. They could do things just through intuition that would get them roughly the right answer. Then he used to throw some counterintuitive examples at them. Then he said, “This is why you need physics. You need to understand when your intuition might go wrong.” I firmly am a Feynman acolyte. There are some things that you can explain, but as a scientist you’re always going to face things that are counterintuitive. You’re never going to understand that water is falling near an ice sheet from your everyday experiences of the bathtub. You need to bring in something more; in this case, Newton’s second law of gravitation. You have to bring in physics; otherwise, you’re never going to explain that.
  • Mountaintop removal country’s mental health crisis: Before our conversation, Selvage sends me a photograph of herself in which she’s standing in front of a No Trespassing sign. High-waisted blue jeans and an orange t-shirt, both faded; she is gripping the sign with her right hand. Behind her: stone, cinder blocks, sand, cement. There is a steely stare at the camera. When I ask her about the photo, she explains: “The homeplace where I grew up is under all that rubble.” Homeplace; one word.
  • Meet the scientist connecting the dots between air pollution and dementia
  • Climate change is awfully hard on native plants:
  • 'It’s unraveling, every piece of it is unraveling, they’re all in lockstep together':
    • Rafe Pomerance, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Development in the Clinton Administration and now sits on the Polar Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences, emphasizes that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Impacts of Arctic warming are usually considered in isolation, and that’s a mistake, he says. “It’s unraveling, every piece of it is unraveling, they’re all in lockstep together,” Pomerance says. “What tends to happen is, everybody nationally reports on the latest piece of news, which is about one system. You hear about the sea ice absent the temperature trend. So you really have to think of it as a whole.”
  • The Decline Of The Coal Industry Is 'Long-Term' And 'Irreversible':
    • But the worst news for the industry is this: While oil and natural gas could see prices rebound as demand rises, coal has very little hope of ever seeing a price rebound again. Goldman sees long-term coal prices at $42.50 per tonne. "Unlike most other commodities, thermal coal is unlikely to experience another period of tightness ever again because investment in new coal-fired generation is becoming less common and the implied decline in long-term demand appears to be irreversible," Goldman Sachs’ analysts concluded.
  • Fruits and Vegetables Are Trying to Kill You: Antioxidant vitamins don’t stress us like plants do—and don’t have their beneficial effect.
    • Eating food from plants that have struggled to survive toughens us up as well.

2/17/2016

  • Study Ties U.S. to Spike in Global Methane Emissions: There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.
    • http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016GL067987/abstract
    • The Aliso Canyon gas leak in California, which was plugged last week after a nearly four-month effort to contain it, has brought new attention to methane. The gas is roughly 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over a period of 20 years, or 35 times as potent over the span of a century. The Aliso leak spewed enough methane into the atmosphere to equal the greenhouse gases emitted by more than 440,000 cars in a year. [ael: the 86 times number is far higher than I've seen in the literature — and there's no citation. Perhaps in this article…]
  • Global warming in overdrive: We just had the hottest January ever recorded: January was the globe's most unusually warm month ever recorded, and the past three months have been the most unusually warm three-month period on record as well, according to new findings from NASA.
    • According to NASA, the global average surface temperature during January was 1.13 degrees Celsius, or 2.3 [sic: 2.03] degrees Fahrenheit above average, compared to the 1951 to 1980 average. This makes it the first month to exceed 2 degrees Fahrenheit above average. December's global average temperature came in just under this, at 1.11 degrees Celsius above average, which translates to nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
  • Unusually warm Arctic winter stuns scientists with record low ice extent for January:
    IceExtentJan.png
    [ael: I'm not sure that "stunning" is the word, but it's obviously a low, and maybe a record low….]
    • "The Arctic is behaving very oddly this winter," Serreze said.
  • This could explain all those strange happenings in Alaska’s waters: New research is shedding light on how far toxic algae blooms have spread in Alaska, and surprised scientists are saying this is just the beginning.
    • “I think that’s going to have a huge impact on the Native communities and coastal communities in Alaska,” said Bruce Wright, senior scientist for the Aleutian and Pribilof Island Association, the federally recognized tribal organization of Alaska’s indigenous Aleut citizens. “I think that we’re going to see a number of shifts in our ecosystem as a consequence of warming, and I think some species will be displaced by other species, and others will disappear. There [are] going to be consequences and people are going to have to adapt.”
    • Increasingly warm waters in the north Pacific are believed to be behind other strange disease outbreaks as well. A recent study from the University of Puget Sound found that warmer waters in 2014 contributed to an epidemic of sea star wasting disease in the North Pacific, which decimated starfish populations in the north Pacific.
  • Halifax's new Dingle seawall to adapt to rising water levels: Projections show Atlantic coast could rise by 25 cms by 2050. Work at the seawall around Halifax's Dingle Tower will allow it to be elevated as sea levels rise.
  • Watch The 1958 Frank Capra Film That Warns Of Global Warming: Dr. Research explains:
    • “Well, it’s been calculated a few degrees rise in the Earth’s temperature would melt the polar ice caps. And if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi valley. Tourists in glass bottom boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water. For in weather, we’re not only dealing with forces of a far greater variety than even the atomic physicist encounters, but with life itself.”
  • Bevin: 'I hired him because he's a coal man': Gov. Matt Bevin told an Eastern Kentucky audience slammed by a decline in the coal industry that he made former coal executive Charles Snavely his Energy and Environment Cabinet secretary because he "comes from this world (and is) not someone who is theoretical."
  • Justice Scalia’s Irreplaceable Views on CO2 and Climate: “Troposphere, whatever,” Justice Scalia replied. “I told you before I’m not a scientist.” Over a brief flutter of laughter from observers, he added, “That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.”

2/11/2016

  • Science Teachers’ Grasp of Climate Change Is Found Lacking: The survey, described in the current issue of the journal Science, found that teachers spend little time on the topic — just one to two hours on average over the course of an academic year.
    • Many teachers also provide misinformation about climate change, the survey found. The evidence that human activity is a major cause of recent climate change is overwhelming, but 30 percent of the 1,500 teachers surveyed said they emphasize that recent global warming “is likely due to natural causes,” while 12 percent said they did not emphasize human causes. Half of that 12 percent said they did not discuss any causes at all.
    • Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change

2/9/2016

  • 7 smarter ways to talk about climate change: People are not very good at talking about climate change, not even climate activists — or so says Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes. Understanding the science of climate change isn’t enough. We also need to understand the social science of how people react to certain messages.
  • Australia to be 'isolated' from global research after CSIRO climate cuts: WMO: International criticism of the CSIRO's planned deep cuts to its climate monitoring programs has intensified with the World Meteorological Organisation blasting the move as a "backward" step that would see Australia isolated.
  • Supreme Court Deals Blow to Obama’s Efforts to Regulate Coal Emissions: The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before its legal fate had been decided.
  • Why Obama wants to spend millions relocating entire U.S. communities: The Obama administration’s request for funding to potentially relocate Alaskan villages is part of a much broader climate and energy focused agenda that includes a proposed $ 10 per barrel tax on oil (to be used to fund major clean transportation projects) and a big boost in funding for “transformative” clean energy research.

2/8/2016

2/7/2016

  • Exxon's Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too: Members of an American Petroleum Institute task force on CO2 included scientists from nearly every major oil company, including Exxon, Texaco and Shell.
    • Just as Exxon began tracking climate science in the late 1970s, when only small groups of scientists in academia and the government were engaged in the research, other oil companies did the same, the documents show. Like Exxon, the companies also expressed a willingness to understand the links between their product, greater CO2 concentrations and the climate, the papers reveal. Some corporations ran their own research units as well, although they were smaller and less ambitious than Exxon's and focused on climate modeling, said James J. Nelson, the former director of the task force.
    • A background paper on CO2 informed API members in 1979 that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising steadily, and it predicted when the first clear effects of climate change might be felt, according to a memo by an Exxon task force representative. In addition, API task force members appeared open to the idea that the oil industry might have to shoulder some responsibility for reducing CO2 emissions by changing refining processes and developing fuels that emitted less carbon dioxide.
    • "They took the environmental unit and put it into the political department, which was primarily lobbyists," Nelson said of API. "They weren't focused on doing research or on improving the oil industry's impact on pollution. They were less interested in pushing the envelope of science and more interested in how to make it more advantageous politically or economically for the oil industry. That's not meant as a criticism. It's just a fact of life."
    • (Eventually published in October 1980, the AAAS report offered more sobering forecasts than Campion had expected, describing risks to nearly every facet of life on Earth and concluding catastrophes could be avoided only if timely steps were taken to address climate change.)
    • Still, Laurmann told his audience several times that the evidence showed that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is likely "caused by anthropogenic release of CO2, mainly from fossil fuel burning." In his conclusions section, Laurmann estimated that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would double in 2038, which he said would likely lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures with "major economic consequences." He then told the task force that models showed a 5 degrees Celsius rise by 2067, with "globally catastrophic effects."
    • API organized industry resistance to the possibility of the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases in 1999. When the Bush administration took office, former API lobbyist Philip A. Cooney became chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality, the White House office that drove climate policy. Government scientists accused Cooney of rewriting federal research reports to sow doubt about man-made climate change. Cooney resigned in 2005 and went to work for ExxonMobil.
    • API's current position is that "fossil fuel development and environmental progress are not mutually exclusive," according to Jack Gerard, the group's president. But API still rejects any federal mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gerard decried President Obama's Clean Power Plan to cut emissions from the country's power plants, the cornerstone of the administration's climate agenda, as destructive "government interference" in free markets.

2/4/2016

  • Outrage as Australia’s CSIRO cuts climate science jobs: Climate question ‘has been answered’ says chief executive of top science agency, expressing high hopes for coal-to-diesel technology
    • [ael: one of the tweets in response is great:] We've sequenced the human genome, we can move on from genetics now!
  • Greenland is melting and dumping phosphorous into the Arctic Ocean: “It is not clear yet how much of the phosphorus being released from the ice sheet is reaching the open ocean, but if a large amount of phosphorus coming off the glacier makes it to the sea, the nutrient could rev up biological activity of Arctic waters. It could stimulate growth of plankton at the base of the ocean food web, which could impact birds, fish and marine mammals higher up the food chain. The research also suggests ice sheet-derived phosphorus could eventually reach the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans, which are connected to the Arctic Ocean.”
  • Unusually warm Arctic winter stuns scientists with record low ice extent for January: Right about now, Arctic sea ice should be building up toward its annual maximum, making most of the region impenetrable to all but the most hardened icebreakers. Instead, January and indeed much of the winter so far has been unusually mild throughout large parts of the Arctic. A freak storm brought temperatures to near the freezing point, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, near the North Pole for a short time in late December and early January, and other storms have repeatedly acted like space heaters plopped on top of the globe, turning nascent sea ice to slush and eventually, to open water. Nothing is as it should be for this time of year across a wide swath of the Arctic. Alaska has had not yet had a winter, with record warmth enveloping much of the state along with anemic snow depth.

2/3/2016

  • Alberta failing aboriginals in the oilsands area: unreleased report : The Alberta government's attempt to balance competing interests in the oilsands region has failed to protect aboriginal rights, lands and health from industrial development, says an unreleased report.
    • Instead, the document concludes the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, which came into force in 2012, has been used by both industry and government to erode traditional land use in favour of economic interests. "What Alberta said it would do and what it actually did are very different things," says the review panel report, obtained by The Canadian Press.
    • A government-appointed panel was struck in 2014 under a provision in provincial law after six area First Nations complained that the land use plan violated their treaty rights. The inquiry report has been complete since July, but has never been released. Its findings are damning. The panel agrees with the Athabasca Chipewyan that the plan doesn't protect aboriginal culture. It concurred with the Mikisew Cree that business was given priority over their constitutional rights.
    • The panel made several recommendations.
      • It's "critical" that a health study on contaminants in the Athabasca River be conducted as soon as possible, it said. A baseline human-health study should also be conducted.
      • As well, Alberta should stop examining development on a project-by-project basis. "The regulatory regime must look at the overall proliferation of resource development projects and the impact of such major developments on the people living in that area," the panel said.
      • The report should raise questions about the oilsands projects that have been approved since the plan came into force, said Eriel Deranger, spokeswoman for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. "The government knew very well that the First Nations were in the process of challenging (the plan) and yet it was still used as a piece of policy to justify projects. It puts into question any projects now that may be given more leeway because they fall into a region designated as a resource priority zone."
  • Did the climate spin out of control on its own?: Scientists dig into the data to see if the world's climate could change dramatically without external drivers and how the system stays stable.
    • [ael: a ridiculous and dangerous title for what is an otherwise harmless but lame article.]
  • Climate change in charts: from record global temperatures to science denial: The world’s hottest year on record has prompted much media coverage. But there haven’t been enough charts and graphs
    • [ael: Interesting and worthwhile graphs]
  • Obama administration aims to reduce US water footprint: The Obama administration has begun an initiative aimed at making the United States more water-efficient, saying the country has the potential to reduce its total water use by a third.
  • Healthy Ground, Healthy Atmosphere: Recarbonizing the Earth’s Soils:
    • On a bright October morning Dave Brandt tromps through the middle of his central Ohio wheat field. The grain was harvested months ago, but there isn’t an inch of bare dirt anywhere. Instead, more than 10 varieties of plants, including crimson clover, pearl millet, and Austrian winter peas, form a “cover crop cocktail” that stretches all the way to the road bordering his property. “This will be here all winter,” Brandt says. “And in the spring, we’ll plant corn right into this.”
    • Brandt hasn’t tilled his soil since 1972, when he rented his first 600 acres of farmland to grow wheat, corn, and soybeans. And by keeping plants on his land in various stages of growth and decomposition, Brandt appears to have increased the amount of carbon in his soil over the years. One study estimated that total organic carbon in the top foot of Brandt’s soil increased by 10% after six years of no-till, 35% after 20 years, and 61% after 35 years.1 (The data on which this estimate was based were not peer reviewed.) Overall, Brandt’s soil stored, or sequestered, an estimated average 960 kg of carbon per hectare per year.
    • That’s why Rattan Lal, one of world’s preeminent soil scientists and director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center (C-MASC) at The Ohio State University, has called for recarbonizing the world’s soils.2 Doing so, Lal says, “would be a truly win–win–win situation.” In addition to carbon sequestration, increasing carbon in soil has many other co-benefits: increased water storage in soil, increased length of the growing season, cooling of the ground via evapotranspiration, recharging groundwater aquifers, keeping springs and rivers flowing in the dry season. Soil itself filters water, reduces flooding, and provides a water reserve for plants in times of drought.
    • Despite those promising statistics, it has taken decades for Brandt to convince other local farmers to follow his lead, and many still resist. Indeed, just across the road lies a vista of bare brown soil on his neighbor’s farm; it will remain like that all winter. Nationally, no-till is used on about 13% of farms and cover crops on just 6%. Most conventional agricultural practices deplete rather than build up carbon.11 When farmers leave their fields bare between crops, for instance, only a small amount of organic matter is left to decompose and replenish the carbon stocks that are removed by harvesting the crops. The situation is worse in developing countries, where farmers often remove every bit of plant material left after harvest to feed animals or to burn as cooking fuel.12 In addition, tilling the soil brings any leftover plant material into contact with soil microbes faster than if the plant were to slowly degrade on the surface of the ground, which speeds up the plant’s decomposition and the return of its carbon stores to the atmosphere.
    • Another option under exploration for increasing the carbon content of soil is biochar. This highly stable substance is produced when plant matter is heated at high temperatures in a low-oxygen environment, a process known as pyrolysis. Carbon is concentrated in the resulting biochar at levels twice that of ordinary plant materials.
    • For soil carbon sequestration advocates, this attention to soil health is long overdue. Goreau has long argued that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cannot seriously address climate change mitigation if it focuses only on reducing fossil fuels (the supply side of the equation, he says) and ignores increasing carbon sinks (the demand side).36 He calls the 4/1000 initiative a game changer. And he believes many countries will back it not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s in their own self interest. “And it is!” he says. “It’s hard to imagine that anyone’s going to lose from having their own land greener and more productive.”
  • Coal continues its deep dive in Kentucky: The coal mining industry also continued to shed jobs. The report said that as of the end of the year, there were 8,401 people employed at coal mines in the state, or 3,218 fewer than a year ago for a drop of 28 percent. That compares to 19,030 mining jobs in the final quarter of 2008.
  • Changes to Victoria's bush will have to be accepted under global warming: scientists: There will be no choice but to accept permanent changes to Victoria's beloved bushland as climate change worsens, some of the state's leading environmental scientists say. Accepting those changes could force a rethink of how some areas are protected and restored in order to give Victoria's threatened wildlife species the best chances of survival in warmer conditions. The need to accept change is one of the main findings of a landmark symposium that drew together research on the pressures global warming is placing on Victoria's unique plants and animals, and what might be done to protect them.

2/1/2016

  • 'If the world ends in 2100, we’re probably OK': Scientists who take the long view on climate change see parallels between global warming today and mass extinctions in Earth’s past: “Apart from the stupid space rock hitting the Earth, most mass extinctions were CO2-driven global warming things,” says Professor Andy Ridgwell of Bristol University in the UK. It has been a consistent pattern throughout geological time: “If you screw with the climate enough, you have huge extinctions,” says Ridgwell.
    • For Zeebe the ability not only to reduce emissions, but to reverse them, is crucial. "The timescale over which ice sheets disintegrate depends on the duration of a temperature anomaly. If you warm the planet by 3 degrees [Note: that’s effectively what the COP21 Paris Agreement adds up to] over a few decades, and then you cool it down, you can probably keep large portions of Greenland and West Antarctica. But if temperatures remain elevated, this will melt big ice sheets. And then we’re not talking just of a sea level change of 1 meter by 2100, but rises of several meters for centuries. But people tend to ignore this. The opinion seems to stop at 2100!"
    • Global warming: stoppable, if not reversible
  • Republicans reject climate change fears despite rebukes from scientists: Ted Cruz has presented ‘misleading’ information in the Senate, scientists say, while Marco Rubio rejects ‘destroying our economy’ – despite pleas for action coming from officials in his own state
    • Last week, Fox News moderators asked only one question relevant to climate change, about whether Florida senator Marco Rubio would support regulation to lower emissions. Rubio said he would not: “I do not believe that we have to destroy our economy in order to protect our environment.”
    • On the trail, former Florida governor Jeb Bush interjected to say the free market would resolve climate change before government could. “There’s someone in a garage somewhere,” he said, “parochially I hope it’s in Miami, that’s going to have a clue, to have an answer to this.” [ael: we have the answer: Jeb Bush just doesn't like it: leave it in the ground!]
    • None have agreed that climate change exacerbates threats to national security and the economy, although the point is agreed on by Pentagon officials, Nasa scientists, foreign policy experts, dozens of Republican and Democratic leaders, international researchers and the pope.
    • Rubio and Cruz have both said they would pull the US out of the historic Paris climate accords, and with Bush and New Jersey governor Chris Christie said they oppose any measures that would “destroy” the economy or stifle business. Donald Trump, Bush and John Kasich have mocked the Paris summit as an unnecessary diversion. If the US withdrew from the Paris deal, it would join North Korea, Syria, Libya and Venezuela among the handful of nations who refuse to sign.

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