tagged w/ Species
As each Arctic summer brings less sea ice, two new studies warn of major changes, from devastating storm surges to huge increases in shipping.
Rising temperatures in the Arctic — a result of global climate change — are bringing bigger and stronger storms, with hurricane-equivalent winds, previous research shows. And the region's dwindling sea ice cover (Sept. 2012 saw a record summer sea ice low, NASA reported) means storms can charge across the ocean without restraint.
Thick summer sea ice once slowed down Arctic storm winds, stopping them from generating high storm surges, the bulge of water that builds up ahead of a storm that can batter and flood a coastline.
One of the new studies tracked 400 years of storm surges in Canada's Mackenzie River delta, and found the wave-borne floods are becoming stronger and more frequent.
"I think it's another piece of the puzzle that suggests the Arctic is changing very rapidly and these changes are related to what’s going on with respect to climate change," said study co-author Michael Pisaric, a biogeographer at Brock's University in Ontario, Canada.
"Storms are growing larger and stronger, and there's so much more open water for these storms to blow across. These two [factors] combined are creating new conditions for the Arctic that when you put increasing infrastructure and exploration for hydrocarbons, that's starting to create a recipe for disaster," Pisaric told OurAmazingPlanet. Hydrocarbon exploration in the Arctic includes floating and fixed oil and gas wells. [8 Ways Global Warming Is Already Changing the World]
The findings were detailed online Jan. 25 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
More at the link
http://water-is-life.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-arctic-humanitys-barometer.html?spref=fbAs each Arctic summer brings less sea ice, two new studies warn of major changes, from... more
New research from the Antarctic Peninsula shows that the summer melt season has been getting longer over the last 60 years. Increased summer melting has been linked to the rapid break-up of ice shelves in the area and rising sea level.
The Antarctic Peninsula - a mountainous region extending northwards towards South America - is warming much faster than the rest of Antarctica. Temperatures have risen by up to 3C since the 1950s - three times more than the global average.
This is a result of a strengthening of local westerly winds, causing warmer air from the sea to be pushed up and over the peninsula. In contrast to much of the rest of Antarctica, summer temperatures are high enough for snow to melt.
This summer melting may have important effects. Meltwater may enlarge cracks in floating ice shelves which can contribute to their retreat or collapse. As a result, the speed at which glaciers flow towards the sea will be increased. Also, melting and refreezing causes snow layers to become thinner and more dense, affecting the height of the snow surface above sea level. Scientists need to know this so they can interpret satellite data correctly.
Dr Nick Barrand, who carried out the research while working for the British Antarctic Survey, led an analysis of data from 30 weather stations on the peninsula. "We found a significant increase in the length of the melting season at most of the stations with the longest temperature records" he says. "At one station the average length of the melt season almost doubled between 1948 and 2011."
To build up a more complete picture across the whole peninsula, the team (funded by the European Union's ice2sea programme) also analysed satellite data collected by an instrument called a scatterometer. Using microwave reflections from the ice sheet surface, the scatterometer was able to detect the presence of meltwater.
The team were able to produce maps of how the melt season varied from 1999 to 2009, and showed that several major ice shelf breakup events coincided with longer than usual melt seasons. This supports the theory that enlargement of cracks by meltwater is the main mechanism for ice shelf weakening and collapse.
More at the linkNew research from the Antarctic Peninsula shows that the summer melt season has been... more
by Harriet Jarlett
Acidification of UK waters may make industrially-contaminated sediments more toxic over time, say scientists.
Marine animals may be harmed by several stress factors
The study looked at crustaceans that feed on the surface of sediments from dredged ports and estuaries
It found that ocean acidification, caused by climate change, causes sediments contaminated with metal to become more toxic. This can result in significant DNA damage for the animals that graze on these sediments.
'The combined effect on these animals, of coping with adapting to climate change as well as increased toxin levels, could prove to be fatal,' says Dave Sheahan, from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), senior researcher on the study.
Cefas already monitors the sediments from industrialised estuaries, such as the Tees in northeast England, for poisonous metal particles. These areas must be regularly dredged to maintain harbour entrances, and the excess material has to be tested for its toxicity.
'Some organisms, may be able to move more or less to regulate for these changes. So there will be some trade off in behaviour.'
Dr Silvana Birchenough - Cefas
The scientists placed dredged material from one of these sites into laboratory tanks, then introduced burrowing crustaceans which normally graze on the sediment surface. Next, they exposed the creatures to water with levels of acid found in seawater today, as well as acid levels predicted for the next 50 and 100 years. Animals that survived ten days in these tanks were then tested to see if they incurred DNA damage.>
The animals experienced significant DNA damage, which rose with acidification levels, suggesting that when acidification is combined with metal in sediments it can be more harmful.
But the study also showed that as toxicity of ingested metals rises, animals are sometimes able to adapt their behaviour to cope.
Dr Silvana Birchenough, senior benthic ecologist and co-author of the study, describes how 'initially you can see the distinct burrows they made, but after treatment there was less activity, some species were just sat on top without moving much. This shows us how some organisms, may be able to move more or less to regulate for these changes. So there will be some trade off in behaviour.
Sheahan explained that scientists may now find a certain species tolerance is worse, and over time that species would be outcompeted by other groups. Although they expect some species to be able to survive better, or some genotypes within species better able to tolerate changes.
At the moment dredged sediments are monitored and if toxicity falls below a predetermined threshold they are considered safe to deposit in the sea. However, rising ocean acid levels may put more stress on the animals, on top of the metal toxicity, meaning current threshold values will need to be changed to make sure all marine animals, including crustaceans, are protected.
end of excerpt
Ocean acidification is a topic so very important to the web of life and to the biodiversity of our planet. Yet, it is hardly if ever discussed nor is it readily seen as part of the climate crisis when it is a primary part of it. Even as a climate presenter I have to admit that much more time is concentrated on the affects of CO2 on our atmosphere and not nearly enough time on our oceans. Since we already know that oceans cover nearly three quarters of our planet and all life eminates from them it would seem logical that the effects of climate change and pollution would be paramount in discussions of our continued existence as a species and others. This article and study make it clear that we are not only changing the chemical makeup of our oceans but affecting the species that live there to the point of actually interfering in the evolution of them.
This is the conundrum we face with our environment as a whole. Our inability to see the rhythm of life we are changing to the detriment of outselves thinking that the "progress" we are creating will somehow work to overcome the longlasting damage we are doing to all around us. The main tenet of our existence as humans should be do no harm. For in that tenet lies the secret to our own happiness and oneness with nature that brings us knowledge of the true riches of this world.
I am heartbroken to see what we are doing to the oceans of our world. Industrial pollution, waste, toxins, poisons, oil, nitrogen fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, all working against the very rhythm of life we need to keep ourselves thriving. All life thrives because of our oceans and now the CO2 we are also saturating them with in conjuction with our waste and pollution is working to change the chemical makeup and biodiversity of them. Some species may be able to adapt, yet others that would otherwise thrive without man's harmful intervention will not. How can we in good conscience sit by and watch while a biocide occurs at our hands? Our march to progress in human terms is not what the world as a whole is measured by. Therein lies the disconnect between us and the symbiosis we need in order to finally see the light to a better future. Our oceans are our lifeline as are all the species in it that serve a distinct and beautiful purpose. The sooner we realize we are one as a species with them and work in tandem to protect our environment as a whole the sooner we may be able to heal.by Harriet Jarlett
Acidification of UK waters may make industrially-contaminated... more
“The door is closing. I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for climate safety]. The door will be closed forever.”
No, that was not President Barack Obama or his Republican Challenger Mitt Romney speaking in the presidential debate. It was Fatih Birol, the renowned chief economist of the International Energy Agency, speaking about the pressing need to transition away from fossil fuels.
You’d be hard pressed to hear either of the presidential candidates make a statement like that. Or any statement on climate at all.
Those concerned about climate change were sorely disappointed during Tuesday night’s town hall-style debate when both the candidates and the moderator — CNN’s Candy Crowley — failed to address the issue of climate change, even during a lengthy and heated exchange about energy issues.
“I had that question for all of you climate change people,” said Crowley in the post-debate coverage. “We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing so you knew you kind of wanted to go with the economy.”
Obama started off the debate with a strong nod to renewable energy, explaining that we need to invest in “solar and wind and biofuels, energy efficient cars.” But after a voter asked about gas prices, both Obama and Romney proceeded to battle over who could drill more fossil fuels. (At one point, the two men closed in on each other, pointed fingers, and raised their voices over how much oil production had increased).
Obama separated himself by focusing on the need to develop more renewables and lower consumption of petroleum through better efficiency measures. But when talking about why he believes those investments are important, he never mentioned the reasons that alternatives to fossil fuels are so important.
Perhaps Australian climate scientist Will Steffen can explain: “This is the critical decade. If we don’t get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines. We are on the cusp of some big changes. We can … cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state.”
Below is the full discussion on energy issues. Can you find the mention of climate? (Don’t strain too hard. We’ve already ruined it for you — there are none).
QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
OBAMA: The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.
Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional source of energy. We’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we doubled clean – clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.
And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas.
And we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we’ve also got to continue to figure out how we have efficiency energy, because ultimately that’s how we’re going to reduce demand and that’s what’s going to keep gas prices lower.
So what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.
And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. Oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and, most importantly, we’re also starting to build cars that are more efficient.
And that’s creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, ’cause that’s the demand around the world, and it also means that it’ll save money in your pocketbook.
OBAMA: That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.
ROMNEY: But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.
OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.
ROMNEY: So how much did you cut (inaudible)?
OBAMA: Not true.
ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by, then?
OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil –
What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong, and at the same time produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we’ve – we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once.
So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production. What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says “these are imaginary jobs.” When you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that – in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks (ph) to help this work and Governor Romney says I’m opposed. I’d get rid of it.
That’s not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future. And I intend to win it as President of the United States.
And there you have it. The deafening sound of climate silence.
Even as more voters say they understand that humans are warming the planet — and will reward candidates who say they’d do something about the problem — the policy conversation about energy goes on without any acknowledgement.
More at the link“The door is closing. I am very worried – if we don’t change... more
This is a well written account of where the Salton Sea now stands. It is a story of nitrogen overload, salinity overload, species in crisis, politics apathetic, economy in turmoil and the always relevant discussion on human waste and corporations unwilling to take responsibility for their mistakes and losses.
The Salton Sea did not ask to be born. It was spawned from greed and the diversion of the Colorado River over one hundred years ago of water it so desperately needs today as it no longer flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The Salton Sea stands as a monument to human hubris and our failed responsibility to the water and the species and ecosystems struggling to survive there.
Political solutions are as usual scant in size and slow to come as we now once again argue over the best course of action to save it or to even save it at all as we as usual take no responsibility for its current and future fate.
More at the link about the history of the Salton Sea and the story behind its current and future fate.This is a well written account of where the Salton Sea now stands. It is a story of... more
After a day of slower-than-expected preparations in the Chukchi Sea, Shell Alaska officially began drilling into the seafloor above its Burger prospect at 4:30 a.m. Sunday,
The action marks the first drilling offshore in the Alaska Arctic in two decades and is being closely watched by Alaskans and the oil industry -- and criticized by environmentalists.
A YouTube video posted by Shell shows the drill bit, labeled Shell Burger "A" and dated Sept. 8, creeping down from the ship's center into the gray sea as the operation got under way Saturday. The drilling machinery clanked and whirred.
By 6:30 a.m. Sunday, crews had drilled more than 300 feet into the ground for a narrow pilot hole that will eventually be about 1,400 feet deep, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said. It's used to check for unexpected natural gas pockets, oil or obstructions before a wider hole is drilled.
The actual drilling was supposed to begin mid-day Saturday but Shell and its contractors took time to reposition the drilling apparatus and make other adjustments, Smith said. A tool attached to the drill bit will allow Shell to collect data on the formation, density, pressures and other key attributes.
"Everything just took a little bit longer than they thought. There was certainly no rush," Smith said. "There was a collective thought that they were going to double- and triple-check everything."
Greenpeace, which earlier this summer had a research ship near the prospect site, said Shell's drilling began "after a summer of near-disasters and costly delays."
Shell began to drill almost two months later than planned because a key safety vessel, the oil spill containment barge Arctic Challenger, wasn't finished. It remains at a shipyard in Bellingham, Wash. It is scheduled to leave the dock Sunday evening for two to three days of inspections at sea by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
The Interior Department granted Shell a drilling permit that requires it to stop far short of oil-rich zones until the Challenger is in place. Shell also notified regulators it couldn't meet some limits on air pollution emissions specified in an Environmental Protection Agency permit. The EPA issued a one-year order allowing Shell to operate, and said overall emissions should fall under the already approved cap.
In July, Shell's Chukchi drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, dragged anchor while at Dutch Harbor. It wasn't damaged, and the Coast Guard cleared the ship to head to the Arctic.
Shell won't be able to complete a single well in the Chukchi Sea this year unless the Interior Department grants its request for an extended season. It still is waiting to hear back. As it stands, Shell must stop drilling into oil-rich zones by Sept. 24.
"Whatever Shell is able to do in the narrow window between now and when the sea ice returns, it won't erase the clear evidence we've seen in the past two months that there's no such thing as safe drilling in the Arctic," Dan Howells of Greenpeace said in a written statement.
Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2012/09/09/2618404/shell-begins-drilling-in-chukchi.html#storylink=cpy
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/09/10/blogs/shell/shell-blog480.jpgAfter a day of slower-than-expected preparations in the Chukchi Sea, Shell Alaska... more
Drilling Set to Begin Immediately Risks Massive Spills, Polar Bears, Walruses, Bowhead Whales
The Obama administration today gave Shell Oil the initial approval to begin controversial and dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, despite the fact that a critical oil-spill containment vessel is still awaiting certification in Bellingham, Wash. Until now, the Arctic Ocean has largely been off limits to offshore drilling. Shell Oil is expected to begin the initial phases of exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea as soon as it can get its drillship in place, in the heart of habitat critical to the survival of polar bears.
“By opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling, President Obama has made a monumental mistake that puts human life, wildlife and the environment in terrible danger. The harsh and frozen conditions of the Arctic make drilling risky, and an oil spill would be impossible to clean up,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scariest of all, the Obama administration is allowing Shell to go forward without even having the promised oil-spill containment equipment in place.”
Since 2007, the Center and its allies have successfully protected the Arctic Ocean from Shell's exploratory drilling plans. So far in 2012, a series of blunders and broken promises has prevented Shell from moving forward with its aggressive drilling plans. Last month the company announced that it could not comply with its air-pollution permits and asked the EPA to waive Clean Air Act requirements. Days later its drillship Noble Discoverer slipped its moorings in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and drifted dangerously close to shore. Right now, Shell’s oil-spill containment vessel, which was supposed to be onsite for any drilling, is still stuck in Washington state.
“While opposition to Shell’s drilling plans has resulted in significant safety improvements, Arctic drilling can never really be safe. The president is putting America’s natural heritage on the line just to add to Shell’s bottom line,” Noblin said. “Make no mistake: Once we’ve ruined the Arctic for wildlife, we’ll never get it back. The unique animals that evolved over millions of years to survive in this frozen wilderness — and nowhere else — will be condemned to extinction.”
More than 1 million people have sent President Obama messages asking him to save the Arctic from drilling. The Center for Biological Diversity, staunchly opposed to offshore drilling, will continue working to protect the Arctic Ocean’s sensitive wildlife.
“Pursuing fossil fuels in the remote Arctic will destroy the life there, even as it speeds up the climate change that’s already destroying the polar bears’ home and poses enormous risks to people, too,” Noblin said.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.Drilling Set to Begin Immediately Risks Massive Spills, Polar Bears, Walruses, Bowhead... more
In the Northwest, coastal tribes are noticing melting glaciers and rising sea levels.
Native tribes are working with climate scientists to utilize their holistic knowledge.
Some tribes have been collecting generations of information.
Native American tribes are teaming up with climate scientists to monitor environmental changes along the coast, changes that are disrupting indigenous ways of life that tribes say are key to their survival.
Tribal leaders say their understanding of natural ecosystems such as long-term weather patterns or wildlife migrations can be just as important as CO2 measurements or satellite data.
“The long term perspective of our people has scientific value,” said Micah McCarty, chairman of the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay, Washington. “We can establish a more holistic baseline of the big picture of things. Some scientists may be more narrowly focused and have an excellent perspective, but we have a broader perspective to draw from. That’s a value."
The Makah people and their descendants have been living in the area for 4,000 years, and have collected generations of information about their environment. That environment has recently been changing, McCarty noted, as droughts have destroyed freshwater streams that are important salmon spawning nurseries and shellfish that are collected for traditional clothing and crafts are facing threats from increasing ocean acidification.
“We live on one of the wettest places on earth,” McCarty said about his tribal lands on Washington’s rainy Olympic Peninsula. “The salmon could not go upstream because there wasn’t enough water. If we experience more and more of these events, what are we going to do to adapt?"
The Makah aren’t the only tribes facing changes. The Quinault people of Washington are watching the disappearance of a glacier that feeds their local salmon stream, while tribes living along the Bering Sea in Alaska are abandoning their villages because of rising sea levels. Tribal leaders from Hawaii, Samoa, the Marshall Islands and other low-lying atolls are also worried about the future and planning to relocate, according to Dan Basta, director of the office of marine sanctuaries for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“These cultures have been codifying to a fine scale so many natural factors that they are a treasure trove of knowledge if we pay attention,” Basta said.
This unique collaboration between tribal leaders and federal climate researchers will be the subject of a three-day gathering this week at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC., sponsored by NOAA, the NMAI; the Hoh, Makah, and Quileute Tribes and the Quinault Indian Nation – all of whom live on the Olympic Peninsula.
McCarty and other tribal leaders hope the meeting will form the basis of a collaboration between tribal members and scientists to act as “first responders” in the face of environmental shifts. That includes working together on monitoring sea levels, water quality, thickness of mollusk shells and fish and wildlife migration patterns, he said. Future meetings will include tribal members from other parts of North America, including those facing drought in the Southwest or rising sea level along the Gulf Coast.
“We’re hoping to build a coalition to address climate change,” McCarty said, “so we have more people doing what needs to be done to change how we live on this planet.”In the Northwest, coastal tribes are noticing melting glaciers and rising sea levels.... more
The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate – twice as fast as the rest of the planet – and according to a new report, those changes will be a key driver of geopolitics in the coming years.
As the rapidly melting ice unlocks commercial opportunities in shipping, tourism and oil and gas extraction, the world’s largest economies are jockeying for control of the region. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the melting of the Arctic is a “bellwether for how climate change may reshape geopolitics in the post-Cold War era.”
The widely held notion that climate change will occur gradually over the 21st century, allowing ample time for society to adapt, is belied by the unprecedented pace of both climate change and policy developments in the Arctic today. Such rapid changes will challenge governments’ abilities to anticipate and diplomatically resolve international disputes within the region.
Accelerating changes in the region are causing sea ice to melt at a rate exceeding scientists’ predictions. The absence of ice will open up strategic waterways, such as the Northwest Passage, for longer periods of time and allow more opportunity for activities like offshore oil exploration that require open water. Analysts believe the economic impact could be significant – new and expanded shipping routes can significantly reduce the transit time between Asia, North America and Europe, and oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell are eager to unlock the “great opportunity” for fossil fuels they believe lies beneath the pristine Arctic waters.
But increased opportunity will also lead to increased conflict. In analyzing recent policy statements and actions of the Arctic states, the report notes that while the countries seem “focused on building a cooperative security environment in the region,” there is an “apparently contradictory trend toward modernizing their military forces in the Arctic … Consequently, if political cooperation in the region should sour, most of the Arctic nations will have forces that are prepared to compete in a hostile environment.”
Further complicating Arctic claims is the absence of the U.S. in the Law of the Sea treaty, or UNCLOS, which details the rights and responsibilities of nations when it comes to use and protection of the world’s oceans. The treaty also provides an important framework for resolving territorial disputes in the Arctic. UNCLOS is ratified by every other developed country and is supported by a broad coalition that includes five former Republican secretaries of state, the Chamber of Commerce, and major environmental groups. America’s failure to ratify this key treaty puts us at an immediate disadvantage in frontier regions like the Arctic.
And what of the environmental implications? With more vessels trying to navigate the narrow straits and channels of the Northwest Passage, commercial fishing vessels, cruise ships, and drilling rigs operating in the previously inaccessible Arctic Ocean, the risk of a collision or oil spill increase exponentially.
As detailed in the Center for American Progress report, Putting a Freeze on Arctic Ocean Drilling: America’s Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Arctic, the U.S. lags far behind other Arctic nations in infrastructure and preparedness to respond to a major event. There are no U.S. Coast Guard stations north of the Arctic Circle, and we currently operate just one functional icebreaking vessel. Alaska’s tiny ports and airports are incapable of supporting an extensive and sustained airlift effort. The region even lacks such basics as paved roads and railroads.
This dearth of infrastructure would severely hamper the ability to transport the supplies and personnel required for any large-scale emergency response effort. Furthermore, the extreme and unpredictable weather conditions complicate transportation, preparedness, and cleanup of spilled oil to an even greater degree.
The co-author of the C2ES report noted that “a prevalent theme in nearly all the policy announcements was the need to protect the region’s environment in the face of rapid climate change and increased economic activity.” However, it is difficult to imagine how forces as strong as rapid climate change and increased economic activity will lead to anything other than environmental destruction.
And as NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco explained last year, the potential ramifications of this industrialization extend far beyond the region itself:
Well, what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. It has huge implications for the global system. And one of the reasons people are legitimately concerned about melting of sea ice are the uncertainties associated with the consequences of that for the rest of the planet. We’re entering a no-analogue world here. We’ve never experienced the kinds of changes that we’re seeing now in the Arctic and elsewhere. And we don’t fully understand what the consequences of that are going to be.
This is the analysis.
Based on human nature, war is not too farfetched.
More at the link
Actually, the one good thing about this is that it totally blows the denier lie that the Arctic isn't melting at a faster pace. Now you know they are all fakes and fossil fuel minions just guarding their own stashes.The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate – twice as fast as the rest of the... more
Loss of biodiversity appears to affect ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress, according to results of a new study by an international research team.
The study is the first comprehensive effort to directly compare the effects of biological diversity loss to the anticipated effects of a host of other human-caused environmental changes.
The results, published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, highlight the need for stronger local, national and international efforts to protect biodiversity and the benefits it provides, according to the researchers, who are based at nine institutions in the United States, Canada and Sweden.
"This analysis establishes that reduced biodiversity affects ecosystems at levels comparable to those of global warming and air pollution," said Henry Gholz, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research directly and through the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.
"Some people have assumed that biodiversity effects are relatively minor compared to other environmental stressors," said biologist David Hooper of Western Washington University, the lead author of the paper.
"Our results show that future loss of species has the potential to reduce plant production just as much as global warming and pollution."
Studies over the last two decades demonstrated that more biologically diverse ecosystems are more productive.
As a result, there has been growing concern that the very high rates of modern extinctions--due to habitat loss, overharvesting and other human-caused environmental changes--could reduce nature's ability to provide goods and services such as food, clean water and a stable climate.
Until now, it's been unclear how biodiversity losses stack up against other human-caused environmental changes that affect ecosystem health and productivity.
"Loss of biological diversity due to species extinctions is going to have major effects on our planet, and we need to prepare ourselves to deal with them," said ecologist Bradley Cardinale of the University of Michigan, one of the paper's co-authors. "These extinctions may well rank as one of the top five drivers of global change."
More at the linkLoss of biodiversity appears to affect ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution... more
Chut Wutty, a dedicated Cambodian activist, was shot dead at an illegal logging site by military police, on Thursday. At the time Wutty was driving with two journalists, who wrote a shocking eyewitness account of his death, revealing that he was physically and verbally abused, then shot whilst trying to drive away, and left to die. His death reveals the brutal power of logging syndicates and companies, which are looting the country’s natural wealth, and employing the military to silence their opponents.
Wutty was the director of the Natural Resources Protection Group. He was the most vociferous activist speaking out against illegal logging, particularly active in the Cardamom mountains and in Prey Lang forest. He played a major role supporting the Prey Lang Network, a grassroots forest protection movement that spans four provinces.
Local authorities and officials offer little support in the fight against illegal logging. As Wutty explained, “civil servants, in their uniform, have not performed their role according to their mandate. The only role they play is facilitating business deals to make personal profit. With this they earn from more than one source. First, they get their salary from government, second, they get direct income from selling timber, and third, they make money facilitating business deals.”
“I understand that wealth is important and I want to be wealthy as well. But I also want to see people live with freedom, to be able to maintain their culture, their traditions, to be able to pursue their own life style.”
Deforestation in Cambodia is driven by a juggernaut of powerful interests. Collusion between officials, concessionaires, logging syndicates and the military creates a powerful front. The number of land concessions in Cambodia is rapidly increasing: rubber, mining and dams are major causes of large-scale deforestation. Despite losing out on valuable timber revenue from illegal logging in concession areas, the Cambodian government aims to expand rubber plantations to 400,000 hectares by 2020. Forest dependent communities face losing their land and independence, becoming poorly paid laborers in plantations owned by the wealthy.
Few activists or NGOs have the courage to voice their concerns about this widespread dispossession. Wutty was perfectly aware of the risks he was taking but he was determined to speak out. Sitting next to him as the military approached at the Prey Lang protest in November, Wutty was composed. "They are coming to catch me; should I run away? But where to go?" He looked around for a second, then mildly commented, "Well, I'd like to see what they do."
On Thursday, Wutty’s death showed just how far those people would go in the face of his courageous and untiring dedication to stop the destruction of Cambodia's forests. It is a triumph that he kept pursuing justice in the face of threats and violence.
The question now is, who sent the soldiers to apprehend Wutty?
Human rights groups have launched inquiries pursuing precisely this question. Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president Ou Virak said yesterday that his organization had strong leads on which company asked the military police to stop Chut Wutty.
Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0502-chut-wutty-oped.html#ixzz1tkKKo753
More at the linkChut Wutty, a dedicated Cambodian activist, was shot dead at an illegal logging site... more
2012 video interview with Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig PIttman, author of The Scent of Scandal, an orchid import mystery, conducted by Mr Media, Bob Andelman. http://www.mrmedia.com/?p=45592012 video interview with Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig PIttman, author of The Scent... more
The world's ice sheets serve as cold-storage for creatures the Earth hasn't seen in eons. Scientists don't expect another Contagion or Andromeda Strain, but the release of unknown life forms does pose new concerns about effects of global warming.
By Cheryl Katz
The Daily Climate
BOZEMAN, Mont. – Locked in frozen vaults on Antarctica and Greenland, a lost world of ancient creatures awaits another chance at life. Like a time-capsule from the distant past, the polar ice sheets offer a glimpse of tiny organisms that may have been trapped there longer than modern humans have walked the planet, biding their time until conditions change and set them free again.
It's a way of recycling genomes. You put something on the surface of the ice and a million years later it comes back out.
- John Priscu, Montana State University
With that ice melting at an alarming rate, those conditions could soon be at hand. Masses of bacteria and other microbes – some of which the world hasn't seen since the Middle Pleistocene, a previous period of major climate change about 750,000 years ago – will make their way back into the environment.
Once thought to be too harsh and inhospitable to support any living thing, the ice sheets are now known to be a gigantic reservoir of microbial life. Altogether, the biomass of microbial cells in and beneath the ice sheet may amount to more than 1,000 times that of all the humans on Earth.
Internment in the ice amounts to an evolutionary strategy for microorganisms: preserving genetic blueprints by storing them in deep–freeze for a future re-entry, said John Priscu, a Montana State University professor and pioneer in the study of Antarctic microbiology.
"It's a way of recycling genomes," he said. "You put something on the surface of the ice and a million years later it comes back out."
'Storehouse for genes'
Priscu has spent the past 28 Austral summers on the southernmost continent, studying what he calls "the bugs in the ice sheet." Antarctica has the oldest ice on Earth; parts of its glacial landscape date back about a million years, and some pockets are believed to be up to 8 million years old. "There's a lot of history in that ice sheet," said Priscu.
Much of that history appears to still be alive. Priscu has found living bacteria in cores of 420,000-year-old ice and gotten them to grow in his laboratory. Other researchers report bringing far older bacteria back to life.
We don't really understand how an organism can sit around for 750,000 years in some sort of suspended animation like when Han Solo was put in carbonite.
- Brent Christner,
Louisiana State University
The ice allows microbes to enjoy a sort of immortality, preserving ancient genetic material and allowing creatures that have long disappeared from the planet to someday return. "That's what's interesting about the ice – it can serve as a storehouse for those genes," said Jonathan Klassen, an evolutionary biologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Things that went extinct have the possibility of coming back."
Could this be Jurassic Park on Ice? Not likely, scientists say. The only things able to survive in these cold, dark, crushed quarters with little to eat or drink are microscopic organisms, and most of what has been found appears related to microbes from other cold and icy environments.
Still, with heat-trapping greenhouse gases warming the polar regions much faster than the rest of the planet today, investigators have many questions about the bugs in the ice sheet.
Researchers are trying to determine how these organisms can survive such a brutal habitat, some seeming to sit in what resembles a state of suspended animation for millennia. The findings could point the way for the discovery of life in other extreme climates, such as frozen planets and moons.
The more immediate concerns sit here on Earth. Cells and carbon dumped out of melting glaciers could turn into huge piles of decomposing organic matter – compost – that generate carbon dioxide and methane as they decay, a potentially significant source of greenhouse gas emissions that climate researchers have yet to consider.
In addition to the effects on the atmosphere, masses of microorganisms flushed into the sea will certainly challenge marine systems and could upset the oceans' delicate chemistry. [See sidebar: Loss of 'world's largest wetland' could tip ocean balance]
And scientists see evidence that the microbes are evolving inside the ice sheets, exchanging DNA and gaining new traits. While these cold-loving organisms appear to pose little threat to warm-blooded creatures, they could force out existing microbial populations, with unknown consequences. [See sidebar: Warming climate sets evolution within ice to high]
The frozen "bacteriasicles," as Louisiana State University microbiologist Brent Christner describes them, can emerge from the ice after hundreds of thousands of years poised to grow and divide when favorable conditions arise. Christner, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has revived bacteria encased in 750,000-year-old ice.
More at the linkThe world's ice sheets serve as cold-storage for creatures the Earth hasn't... more
Dolphins in Barataria Bay off Louisiana, which was hit hard by the BP oil spill in 2010, are seriously ill, and their ailments are probably related to toxic substances in the petroleum, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggested on Friday.
As part of an ongoing assessment of damages caused by the three-month spill, which began with an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA scientists performed comprehensive physicals last summer on 32 dolphins from the bay. They found problems like drastically low weight, low blood sugar and, in some cases, cancer of the liver and lungs.
Yet the most common symptom among the dolphins, found in about half the group, was an abnormally low level of stress hormones like cortisol. Such hormones regulate many functions in the animal, including the immune system and responses to threats. Scientists said the dearth of hormones suggested that the animals were suffering from adrenal insufficiency.
Lori Schwacke, the lead scientist for the health assessment, said the findings were preliminary and could not be conclusively linked to the oil spill at this point. But she said the exams were also conducted on control groups of dolphins that live along the Atlantic coast and in other areas that were not affected by the 2010 spill and that those dolphins did not manifest those symptoms.
“The findings we have are also consistent with other studies that have looked at the effects of oil exposure in other mammals,” Dr. Schwacke added, citing experimental studies of mink that were dosed with oil. Some of those minks developed adrenal insufficiency.
More at the linkDolphins in Barataria Bay off Louisiana, which was hit hard by the BP oil spill in... more
NOTE: A highly informative appeal for support from the STOP GE Trees Campaign - a great organisation. For more on their work and how to get involved: http://globaljusticeecology.org/stopgetrees.php?tabs=0
Our plans for the STOP GE Trees Campaign in 2012 and our accomplishments from 2011
The years 2012 and 2013 could be the most important yet for our campaign to ban the release of genetically engineered trees (GE trees) into the environment.
* Countering Phony Sustainability Criteria: The timber industry is moving forward with plans to develop phony so-called "sustainability criteria" for GE trees. This is crucial if they want to get GE trees certified by bodies like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which would make it easier to get investors. Right now the FSC will not certify GE trees.
GE trees are not now and never will be "sustainable." They deplete soils and water, require huge inputs of toxic chemicals, replace native forests, displace biodiversity and forest dependent communities, kill beneficial insects, and worsen climate change. So in order to combat the sustainability lie, we are increasing our work to expose the social and ecological dangers of GE trees.
* GE Eucalyptus Trees in the US South: In January 2011, GE tree company ArborGen applied for permission from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell billions of their GE eucalyptus trees for commercial plantations across seven states in the US South--from Texas to South Carolina.
We are mobilizing to ensure this never happens.
* GE Poplars in the Pacific Northwest: GE poplar trees are emerging as a major threat in California and the Pacific Northwest. Scientists at the University of Oregon and the University of Washington have received large federal grants to develop genetically engineered poplar trees for bioenergy plantations.
GE poplar trees are extremely dangerous because native wild poplars grow in forests in California and the Pacific Northwest. These native poplars could easily be contaminated with pollen from the GE poplars. This irreversible contamination would be disastrous for forests, wildlife, soils, insects and songbirds. And once GE tree contamination begins, there is no way to stop it from continuing to spread.
We will be escalating our work in the Pacific Northwest in 2012 to stop GE poplars. Let us know if you can help!
The good news--we can still stop the disaster of GE trees before it is too late. Since 1999 we havesuccessfully prevented commercialization of GE trees because of the support of people like you. You enable us to stand up against the largest timber corporations on the planet. Thank you.
Because of our success, the promoters of GE trees name GJEP as the main obstacle to their forward progress.
After we filed a lawsuit against the USDA in July 2010 over their approval of a large field trial of GE eucalyptus trees, Biomass Magazine stated that our lawsuit was scaring away investors from supporting GE tree research because no one wants to invest in a technology that is going to be tied up for years in legal battles. As a result, GE tree company ArborGen decided not to go public with their stock only days before they were scheduled to do so.
The victories of the STOP GE Trees Campaign over the years show the power of grassroots organizing, alliance building, non-violent action and our refusal to compromise.
This is the documentary, A Silent Forest, narrated by Dr. David Suzuki that lays out the threat of genetically engineered trees which are still a threat to the U.S.NOTE: A highly informative appeal for support from the STOP GE Trees Campaign - a... more
A Yale-led study of the evolutionary history of Antarctic fish and their "anti-freeze" proteins illustrates how tens of millions of years ago a lineage of fish adapted to newly formed polar conditions - and how today they are endangered by a rapid rise in ocean temperatures.
"A rise of 2 degrees centigrade of water temperature will likely have a devastating impact on this Antarctic fish lineage, which is so well adapted to water at freezing temperatures," said Thomas Near, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and lead author of the study published online the week of Feb. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The successful origin and diversification into 100 species of fish, collectively called notothenioids, is a textbook case of how evolution operates. A period of rapid cooling led to mass extinction of fish acclimated to a warmer Southern Ocean.
The acquisition of so-called antifreeze glycoproteins enabled notothenioids to survive in seas with frigid temperatures. As they adapted to vacant ecological niches, new species of notothenioids arose and contributed to the rich biodiversity of marine life found today in the waters of Antarctica.
Notothenioids account for the bulk of the fish diversity and are a major food source for larger predators, including penguins, toothed whales, and seals. Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History has one of the most important collections of these specimens in the world.
However, the new study suggests the acquisition of the antifreeze glycoproteins 22 to 42 million years ago was not the only reason for the successful adaptation of the Antarctic notothenioids. The largest radiation of notothenioid fish species into new habitats occurred at least 10 million years after the first appearance of glycoproteins, the study found.
"The evolution of antifreeze was often thought of as a 'smoking gun,' triggering the diversification of these fishes, but we found evidence that this adaptive radiation is not linked to a single trait, but to a combination of factors," Near said.
This evolutionary success story is threatened by climate change that has made the Southern Ocean around Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on Earth. The same traits that enabled the fish to survive and thrive on a cooling earth make them particularly susceptible to a warming one, notes Near.
"Given their strong polar adaptations and their inability to acclimate to warmer water temperatures, climate change could devastate this most interesting lineage of fish with a unique evolutionary history," Near said.A Yale-led study of the evolutionary history of Antarctic fish and their... more
Drilling in the Arctic waters of the U.S. may become as contested an issue as the Keystone Pipeline XL in up-coming months. Scientists, congress members, and ordinary Americans have all come out in large numbers against the Obama Administration's leases for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea and the Chuckchi Sea.
Last month 573 scientists signed a letter against opening the Arctic up to drilling until more research can be done in the sensitive area. In addition, a letter signed by 60 Congress members has been sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar noting that the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred only two years ago. Finally, nearly half a million Americans (400,000) signed a petition against drilling in the Arctic. Critics of the Obama Administration's leases say there is no coherent plan to clean-up a spill in the icy, remote Arctic ecosystem, which already embattled by climate change.
"The Arctic is the last wild ocean on the planet. Its waters and the abundant life they support are simply too sensitive to be drilled—especially since neither the oil industry nor scientists have identified a proven way to contain or clean up a spill in the Arctic’s extreme conditions," Chuck Clusen, Alaska Project Director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a press release. "At the very least, there should be no plan to lease these areas until key scientific studies have been done and until the oil and gas industry can demonstrate its ability to contain and clean up a spill."
The letter from scientists asked the administration to "to follow through on its commitment to science" by following recommendations made by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and refrain from drilling until more research can be done.
Still, drilling in the Arctic could begin as early as this summer by Royal Dutch Shell. The oil company argues that it has a meticulous oil-response plan even given the intense conditions of drilling in the Arctic, including response vessels standing by. Shell Alaska Vice President Pete Slaiby told the Associated Press that the company would be ready with a capping stack, similar to what was used to stop the Gulf oil spill in 2010 after the well leaked for three months.
Critics of Arctic drilling argue that given the extreme weather conditions, icy waters, and the remoteness of any oil well, it would currently be impossible to clean-up an oil spill adequately. Furthermore, clean-up efforts would almost certainly have to stop during the long Arctic winter. Currently the federal government is asking Shell to stop operations 38 days before the seasonal sea ice would arrive to make certain an oil spill doesn't occur at the end of the season. Shell is trying to overturn this ruling.
"If the Obama administration were making its decision based on science rather than politics, drilling in the Arctic would be a nonstarter," Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska Director with Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). "The Arctic Ocean is America’s last best wilderness. Launching massive industrial drilling operations risks America’s Arctic legacy for oil company profits."
Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0209-hance_arctic_drilling_us.html#ixzz1m0w4myDx
http://photos.mongabay.com/j/oil.drilling.shell.arctic.568.jpgDrilling in the Arctic waters of the U.S. may become as contested an issue as the... more
The ocean is a delicate place, and tiny changes to its composition can cause serious devastation.
Adding carbon to the atmosphere contributes to global warming and climate change. Another less-discussed impact is ocean acidification—whereby carbon molecules diffuse into the ocean from the atmosphere, causing a steady rise in acidity—even though the impacts are already being felt by many species.
The beautiful blue sea slug, seen here, is one such creature. Blue sea slugs feed on the poisonous Portuguese man of war jellyfish, meaning that an ocean without them would be an ocean with a lot more stinging jellyfish.
This is 1: Blue Sea Slug
More at the link
The link to humans and the food chain each of these species represents should make people understand just how acidification is affecting us as well.The ocean is a delicate place, and tiny changes to its composition can cause serious... more
Bill Gates is one very confused billionaire philanthropist.
He understands global warming is a big problem — indeed, his 2012 Foundation Letter even frets about the grave threat it poses to food security. But he just doesn’t want to do very much now to stop it from happening (see Pro-geoengineering Bill Gates disses efficiency, “cute” solar, deployment — still doesn’t know how he got rich).
He love technofixes like geoengineering and, as we’ll see, genetically modified food. Rather than investing in cost-effective emissions reduction strategies today or in renewable energy technologies that are rapidly moving down the cost curve, he explains that the reason invests so much in nuclear R&D is “The good news about nuclear is that there has hardly been any innovation.” Seriously!
His Letter includes the ominous chart at the top, and he warns of the dire consequences of climate change:
Meanwhile, the threat of climate change is becoming clearer. Preliminary studies show that the rise in global temperature alone could reduce the productivity of the main crops by over 25 percent. Climate change will also increase the number of droughts and floods that can wipe out an entire season of crops. More and more people are raising familiar alarms about whether the world will be able to support itself in the future, as the population heads toward a projected 9.3 billion by 2050.
And yet, as the AP reported this week, the wealthiest of all Americans gets very prickly if you don’t wholeheartedly endorse his techno-fix adaptation-centric approach to dealing with this oncoming disaster:
Bill Gates has a terse response to criticism that the high-tech solutions he advocates for world hunger are too expensive or bad for the environment: Countries can embrace modern seed technology and genetic modification or their citizens will starve….
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent about $2 billion in the past five years to fight poverty and hunger in Africa and Asia, and much of that money has gone toward improving agricultural productivity.Gates doesn’t apologize for his endorsement of modern agriculture or sidestep criticism of genetic modification. He told The Associated Press that he finds it ironic that most people who oppose genetic engineering in plant breeding live in rich nations that he believes are responsible for global climate change that will lead to more starvation and malnutrition for the poor.
Resistance to new technology is “again hurting the people who had nothing to do with climate change happening,” Gates said.
The real irony is that most people who diss efficiency and renewables and aggressive greenhouse gas mitigation, like Gates, live in rich nations that are responsible for global climate change that will lead to more starvation and malnutrition for the poor.
Where is the story that says, “countries to embrace existing technology to reduce emissions or their citizens will starve” or resistance to aggressive low carbon technology deployment is “again hurting the people who had nothing to do with climate change happening”?
This is not a blog on genetic modification, so I’ll just quote the AP story:
Bill Freese, a science policy analyst for the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, said everyone wants to see things get better for hungry people, but genetically modified plants are more likely to make their developers rich than feed the poor. The seed is too expensive and has a high failure rate, he said. Better ways to increase yields would be increasing the fertility of soil by adding organic matter or combining plants growing in the same field to combat pests, he said.
The biggest problem with those alternatives, Freese said, is the same one that Gates cited in high-tech research: A lack of money for development.
But the fact is, as Oxfam and others have made clear, global warming is poised to make food vastly more expensive, which will be devastating to the world’s poor know matter how much money Gates dumps into GM crops — see Oxfam Predicts Climate Change will Help Double Food Prices by 2030: “We Are Turning Abundance into Scarcity”:
More at the linkBill Gates is one very confused billionaire philanthropist.
He understands global... more
By 2100, global climate change will modify plant communities covering almost half of Earth's land surface and will drive the conversion of nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type - such as forest, grassland or tundra - toward another, according to a new NASA and university computer modeling study.
Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., investigated how Earth's plant life is likely to react over the next three centuries as Earth's climate changes in response to rising levels of human-produced greenhouse gases. Study results are published in the journal Climatic Change.
The model projections paint a portrait of increasing ecological change and stress in Earth's biosphere, with many plant and animal species facing increasing competition for survival, as well as significant species turnover, as some species invade areas occupied by other species.
Most of Earth's land that is not covered by ice or desert is projected to undergo at least a 30 percent change in plant cover - changes that will require humans and animals to adapt and often relocate.
In addition to altering plant communities, the study predicts climate change will disrupt the ecological balance between interdependent and often endangered plant and animal species, reduce biodiversity and adversely affect Earth's water, energy, carbon and other element cycles.
"For more than 25 years, scientists have warned of the dangers of human-induced climate change," said Jon Bergengren, a scientist who led the study while a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech.
"Our study introduces a new view of climate change, exploring the ecological implications of a few degrees of global warming. While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it's the ecological consequences that matter most."
When faced with climate change, plant species often must "migrate" over multiple generations, as they can only survive, compete and reproduce within the range of climates to which they are evolutionarily and physiologically adapted.
While Earth's plants and animals have evolved to migrate in response to seasonal environmental changes and to even larger transitions, such as the end of the last ice age, they often are not equipped to keep up with the rapidity of modern climate changes that are currently taking place.
Human activities, such as agriculture and urbanization, are increasingly destroying Earth's natural habitats, and frequently block plants and animals from successfully migrating.
More at the linkBy 2100, global climate change will modify plant communities covering almost half of... more