tagged w/ Deforestation
Following years of intense pressure from the agribusiness sector, Brazil's parliament has approved destructive reforms to the country's forest protection. President Dilma has just 9 remaining days to veto this hatchet job before it becomes law. With the world watching, which side of history will she choose to be on? Will her legacy be Amazon ruin? Or, will she demonstrate courage and act on behalf of future generations?
This article appeared in the New York Times today.
YOU can urge President Dilma to do the right thing for Brazil, the Amazon and the planet.
Take action now by signing this petition, tell her to veto the new Forest Code!
More at the linkFollowing years of intense pressure from the agribusiness sector, Brazil's... 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
Climate scientists have been saying for years that one of the many downsides of a warming planet is that both droughts and torrential rains are both likely to get worse. That’s what climate models predict, and that’s what observers have noted, most recently in the IPCC’s report on extreme weather, released last month. It makes physical sense, too. A warmer atmosphere can absorb more water vapor, and what goes up must come down — and thanks to prevailing winds, it won’t come down in the same place.
The idea of changes to the so-called hydrologic cycle, in short, hangs together pretty well. According to a new paper just published in Science, however, the picture is flawed in one important and disturbing way. Based on measurements gathered around the world from 1950-2000, a team of researchers from Australia and the U.S. has concluded that the hydrologic cycle is indeed changing. Wet areas are getting wetter and dry areas are getting drier. But it’s happening about twice as fast as anyone thought, and that could mean big trouble for places like Australia, which has already been experiencing crushing drought in recent years.
More than 3,000 robotic profiling floats provide crucial information on upper layers of the world's ocean currents. Credit: Alicia Navidad/CSIRO.
The reason for this disconnect between expectation and reality is that the easiest place to collect rainfall data is on land, where scientists and rain gauges are located. About 71 percent of the world is covered in ocean, however. “Most of the action, however, takes place over the sea,” lead author Paul Durack, a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said in a telephone interview. In order to get a more comprehensive look at how water is exchanged between the surface and the atmosphere, that’s where Durack and his colleagues went to look.
Nobody has rainfall data from the ocean, so Durack and his collaborators looked instead at salinity — that is, saltiness — in ocean waters. The reasoning is straightforward enough. When water evaporates from the surface of the ocean, it leaves the salt behind. That makes increased saltiness a good proxy for drought. When fresh water rains back down on the ocean, it dilutes the seawater, so decreased saltiness is the equivalent of a land-based flood.
Fortunately, as the scientists make clear, research ships have been taking salinity measurements for decades in most of the planet’s ocean basins, so it’s possible to see where and how fast salinity has been changing. And it turns out that the saltiness has been increasing, especially in the waters surrounding Australia, southern Africa and western South America — all places where drought has increased as well.
The climate models weren’t really wrong, Durack hastened to add. “They’re accurately capturing the spatial patterns in hydrologic changes, and they’ve got the basic physics right. They’re just providing very conservative estimates of how big the changes are, and now we’re starting to understand that.”
More at the linkClimate scientists have been saying for years that one of the many downsides of a... more
Karina Pinasco watched in dismay as flames on a hillside at the edge of town lit up the sky one night in October 2010. A farmer had intended to clear a few hectares of land to plant coffee bushes, but the fire – set during an unusually hot, dry spell – quickly got out of hand.
Propelled by winds and high temperatures, it burned for 10 days, charring more than 250 acres of land.
"We realized we weren't prepared," says Pinasco, a biologist who heads Amazónicos por la Amazonía, a local environmental organization. "The firefighters weren't trained. It was the rain that finally put it out."
Scientists used to think the rainforest, especially in the western Amazon, was too wet to burn. But major fire seasons in 2005 and 2010 made them reconsider.
Fires are a major source of carbon emissions in the Amazon, and scientists are beginning to worry that the region could become a net emitter, instead of a carbon sink. New findings link rising ocean temperatures off the northern coast of Brazil to changing weather patterns: As the Atlantic warms, it draws moisture away from the forest, priming the region for bigger fires.
"We are reaching a tipping point in terms of drought, beyond which these forests can catch fire," says Daniel Nepstad, international program director at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute in Brasília, Brazil.
Once-a-century no more
The 2005 drought – considered a once-in-a-century event – resulted in unprecedented wildfires in Acre, the western Brazilian state bordering Peru. Flames scorched the tree canopy, and at one point the front face of the fire stretched nearly seven miles. As many as 1.2 million acres of forests were affected in Acre and the neighboring regions of Pando in Bolivia and Madre de Dios in Peru. Officials estimated upwards of $100 million in economic damages.
But the forest loss wasn't the only concern for the Acre state government, said Foster Brown, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center and a professor at the Federal University of Acre in Rio Branco, the state capital. Choking smoke spiked respiratory ailments in the region and canceled flights.
Just five years later, another once-a-century drought struck, and fires spread out of control, especially in Acre, Bolivia's Pando region and Brazil's Mato Grosso state. Acre was better prepared, but in Bolivia, smoke from more than 20,000 fires reduced visibility and shut airports in several towns. The Bolivian government declared a state of emergency as more than 3.5 million acres of forest burned. In Mato Grosso, fires destroyed at least 100 homes.
Gigatons of carbon
The 2005 fires added 1.6 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere, according to a study by Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds, who put emissions from the more widespread 2010 fires at 2.2 gigatons.
In a normal year, the Amazon forests store 0.4 gigatons of carbon a year in the trees and soil, meaning that two bad seasons like 2005 and 2010 could wipe out a decade of gain, according to Lewis' calculations.
And as humans push further into an increasingly drier Amazon, the problem could worsen.
In the western Amazon, humans are the chief source of sparks. With new roads being built and paved through once-inaccessible areas, Peru's Amazonian regions now have some of the country's highest population growth rates. Many of the newcomers clear a little land to farm, and where there are farms, there is fire.
In the Amazon, where weeds and insects run rampant, burning is the most cost-effective way for small farmers to control ticks in cattle pastures and unwanted plants in cassava fields, says Miguel Pinedo-Vásquez, director of international programs for the Columbia University Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, who also works with the Center for International Forestry Research.
More at the linkKarina Pinasco watched in dismay as flames on a hillside at the edge of town lit up... more
Video Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
One of the most striking changes that has taken place in the Arctic since the start of satellite monitoring in 1979 is the rapid decline of the perennial sea ice cover. This ice is the sea ice that survives the summer melt season, and is typically the thickest part of the sea ice cover, sometimes spanning several years. Sea ice extent has declined as the globe has warmed, but the ice cover has thinned as well. Thinner sea ice melts more easily, and as multiyear sea ice is lost, Arctic sea ice has declined more rapidly.
This NASA visualization shows the perennial Arctic sea ice cover from 1980 to 2012. The grey disk at the North Pole indicates the region where no satellite data is collected. A graph overlay shows the area's size measured in million square kilometers for each year. The '1980', '2008,' and '2012' data points are highlighted on the graph.Video Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
Beautifully shot and interweaving interviews with scenes from soy fields in Paraguay, Raising Resistance explores Latin American farmers’ struggle against the expanding production of genetically modified soy in South America. Biotechnology, mechanisation, and herbicides have radically changed the lives of small farmers in Latin America. For farmers in Paraguay this means displacement from their land, loss of basic food supplies, and a veritable fight for survival. Geronimo Arevelos and a group of small farmers stand defiantly in a corporate-owned soy field adjacent to his own, blocking a tractor from spraying herbicides that will decimate his crops and expose nearby families to toxic chemicals. As corporate farms seize farmland and rapidly expand production of genetically modified soy, Geronimo and the campesinos find themselves in a life and death struggle. Raising Resistance illustrates the mechanisms of a global economy that relies on ‘monocrop’ agriculture and corporate ownership of land. In telling the story of Paraguay, Raising Resistance poses the larger question of whether the global community wants to go on living with a system that allows one crop to prosper at the expense of all others.
(Official Selection International Documentary Festival Amsterdam 2011)Beautifully shot and interweaving interviews with scenes from soy fields in Paraguay,... more
By 2030, more than 90% of coral reefs could be threatened by local activities like overfishing and global-wide events like climate change, say researchers at the World Resources Institute.
Destruction of these valuable ecosystems would be a devastating environmental and economic tragedy. While only 0.1% of total ocean area, coral reefs host around 25% of marine life. They also help drive economic activity from fishing, tourism and help protect communities from storm surges — providing a benefit that stretches far beyond the oceans.
Different reefs are at risk for different reasons. The World Resources Institute has been working on tracking damages to these ecosystems for the last three years, providing detailed maps and data on the health of reefs in different regions of the world.
Researchers at WRI just put together a fascinating video using Google Earth maps to illustrate how reefs in the Caribbean, Middle East, Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific are fairing — and what kind of impact that could have to communities in those regions.
At 14 minutes long, the video is quite long. But it’s worth a watch. If you don’t have time to see the whole thing, check out the range of maps and charts on the health of these reefs.
More at the linkBy 2030, more than 90% of coral reefs could be threatened by local activities like... more
* Fossils seen supplying 85 pct of energy demand in 2050
* Financial, human and biodiversity costs all huge
* CO2 cut, global CO2 mkt delays make 2 degree limit harder
By Nina Chestney
LONDON, March 15 (Reuters) - Global greenhouse gas emissions could rise 50 percent by 2050 without more ambitious climate policies, as fossil fuels continue to dominate the energy mix, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said on Thursday.
"Unless the global energy mix changes, fossil fuels will supply about 85 percent of energy demand in 2050, implying a 50 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and worsening urban air pollution," the OECD said in its environment outlook to 2050.
The global economy in 2050 will be four times larger than today and the world will use around 80 percent more energy.
But the global energy mix is not predicted to be very different from that of today, the report said.
Fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas will make up 85 percent of energy sources. Renewables, including biofuels, are forecast to make up 10 percent and nuclear the rest.
Due to such dependence on fossils, carbon dioxide emissions from energy use are expected to grow by 70 percent, the OECD said, which will help drive up the global average temperature by 3 to 6 degrees Celsius by 2100 - exceeding the internationally agreed warming limit of within 2 degrees.
Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy reached an all-time high of 30.6 gigatonnes in 2010, despite the economic downturn which reduced industrial production.
COST OF INACTION
The financial cost of taking no further climate action could result in up to a 14 percent loss in world per capita consumption by 2050, according to some estimates.
Human costs would also be high as premature deaths from pollution exposure could double to 3.6 million a year, the OECD said.
Demand for water could rise by 55 percent, increasing competition for supplies and resulting in 40 percent of the global population living in water-stressed areas, while plant and animal species could decline by a further 10 percent.
To prevent the worst effects of global warming, international climate action should start in 2013, a global carbon market be set up, the energy sector transformed to low carbon and all low-cost advanced technologies should be explored such as biomass energy and carbon capture.
However, a new international climate deal might not come into force until 2020 and carbon markets not linked until then, making it harder to achieve the 2 degree limit and requiring very rapid rates of emissions cuts after 2020 to catch up.
Current international emissions cut pledges fall short of what is required to limit temperature rises to safe levels so decisive action at the national level is needed, the OECD said.
More at the link* Fossils seen supplying 85 pct of energy demand in 2050
* Financial, human and... more
BY TELIS DEMOS ---------------- Long-distance rail travel is the last way to observe the landscape of the Eastern Seaboard without enduring long stretches of overcrowded four-lane highways. So I recently planned a train ride from New York to Baltimore. I expected it to be inspiring. America’s railways had once been the finest in the world, and its first taste of “world class” in the mid-nineteenth century had been along the corridor between the colonial centers of the Coast. The landscape that is quite visible along the corridor— and throughout the Northeastern United States—is dotted not by the belching smokestacks and bustling equipment that were once the great awe- and fear-inspiring image of modern capitalism, but by obsolescence. Huge factories are silent and abandoned. The expansive gravel lots are littered with empty and rusting rail cars. http://www.makeahistory.com/index.php/your-details/43070-the-hidden-side-of-capitalism-capitalism-and-the-stateBY TELIS DEMOS ---------------- Long-distance rail travel is the last way to observe... more
1 year ago
“It would be immoral to leave these young people with a climate system spiraling out of control.”
by Dan Miller
NASA climate scientist James Hansen gave a talk at the TED conference in Long Beach, CA on February 29th where he laid out the case for taking urgent action to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Dr. Hansen’s talk began by describing his personal journey, originally studying Venus under Prof. James Van Allen and then working at NASA on an instrument to study Venus’ atmosphere. But after being asked to do some calculations of Earth’s greenhouse effect, Dr. Hansen resigned from the Venus mission to work full time studying Earth’s atmosphere “because a planet changing before our eyes is more interesting and important – its changes will affect all humanity.”
Dr. Hansen and some colleagues published a 1981 paper in Science Magazine that concluded that “observed warming of 0.4C in the prior century was consistent with the greenhouse effect of increasing CO2, — that Earth would likely warm in the 1980s, — and warming would exceed the noise level of random weather by the end of the century. We also said that the 21st century would see shifting climate zones, creation of drought prone regions in North America and Asia, erosion of ice sheets, rising sea levels, and opening of the fabled Northwest passage. All of these impacts have since either happened or are now well underway.”
Dr. Hansen went on to explain that, after speaking out for the need for an energy policy that would address climate change, the White House contacted NASA and Dr. Hansen was ordered to not speak to the media without permission. After informing the New York Times about the situation, the censorship was lifted and Dr. Hansen continued to speak out, justifying his actions with the first line of NASA’s Mission Statement’: “To understand and protect the home planet”. But there were consequences… the reference to the home planet was soon struck from NASA’s Mission Statement, never to return.
Dr. Hansen then went on to describe some of the recent science, including a detailed look at the Earth’s energy imbalance that was made possible by data from 3000 “Argo” floats that measure ocean temperature at different depths. Dr. Hansen said that the current imbalance of 0.6 watts/square meter (which does not include the energy already used to cause the current warming of 0.8°C) was equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day, 365 days per year.
Favorite denier myths such as “it’s the Sun” and “CO2 lags temperature” were addressed by Dr. Hansen and shown to be wrong or irrelevant. He also discussed how amplifying feedbacks in the past took small changes in temperature due to slight changes in the Earth’s orbit and either initiated or ended ice ages. He then said these same amplifying feedbacks will occur today if we do not stop the warming. ”The physics does not change.”
Besides the impacts that are already occurring, Dr. Hansen said that if we do not stop the warming, we should expect sea levels to rise this century by 1 to 5 meters (3 to 18 feet), extinction of 20 to 50% of species, and massive droughts later this century. He said that the recent Texas heat wave, Moscow’s heat wave the year before, and the 2003 heat wave in Europe we “exceptional” events that now occur 25 to 50 times more often than just 50 years ago. Therefore, he concluded, we can say with high confidence that these heat waves were “caused” by global warming.
More at the link“It would be immoral to leave these young people with a climate system spiraling... more
I have been a member of Tree Nation for going on five years now. Tree Nation is a free Internet community/organization where you can be a part of planting thousands of trees in four separate forests globally to help counter deforestation and desertfication right from your modem. Their original forest in the heart of Niger has now planted over 52,000 trees on their way to the goal of 100,000 for 2012! All total over 397,000 trees have been planted. I have several trees planted there in my name as well. There are other forests in Columbia, Nicaragua and their newest in Madagascar. This article is about a new moringa park being introduced in Niger and also about beginning to use agroforestry in their Niger plantation.
We see so much deforestation taking place in our world and so many negative effects from our behavior. This is one bright spot proving that people globally can join together in good spirit to work to make the world a better place.I hope you check it out and maybe even become part of the solution in planting trees in places where they are most needed now.
"Alongside planting trees, we are beginning to farm fruits and vegetables as we cultivate the trees planted. Our goal is twofold: to enhance the quality of the soil and the growth of the trees through agroforestry and to take advantage by selling the products farmed in the process.
So far, we have planted tomatoes, aubergines and cucumbers. While the first two have yielded good results, many cucumbers have been lost owing to the pest of caterpillars. We are, however, going to continue farming the vegetables and we hope to make the most of distribution outlets in the capital of Niamey and in local markets to sell them alongside our production of Moringa leaves.
The Moringa plantation:
We have also decided to reorganise our site to open a new Moringa park. 15 metres wide, it runs alongside the channelling strip used for channelling the irrigation from the basin, which is a round 200 metres long. It will be ideally placed to take advantage of the water well and our soon-to-be-in-place micro irrigation system, by using the border irrigation technique, which involves irrigating a whole area of land at one time. As for our old park, until the irrigation system has been expanded it will only be being farmed on a seasonal basis.
In all, over the last few months we have harvested around 200 kg of Moringa leaves. And, while we’re on the subject, we thought you might want to know that we’ve just collected our first Baobab leaves since they were planted 4-5 years ago!"I have been a member of Tree Nation for going on five years now. Tree Nation is a free... more
Last year the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth due to global climate change, experienced its warmest twelve months yet. According to recent data by NASA, average Arctic temperatures in 2011 were 2.28 degrees Celsius (4.1 degrees Fahrenheit) above those recorded from 1951-1980. As the Arctic warms, imperiling its biodiversity and indigenous people, researchers are increasingly concerned that the region will hit climatic tipping points that could severely impact the rest of the world. A recent commentary in Nature Climate Change highlighted a number of tipping points that keep scientists awake at night.
"If set in motion, [tipping points] can generate profound climate change which places the Arctic not at the periphery but at the core of the Earth system," Professor Duarte, a climatologist with the University of Western Australia's Ocean Institute and co-author other paper, said in a press release. "There is evidence that these forces are starting to be set in motion. This has major consequences for the future of human kind as climate change progresses."
One of the tipping points is sea ice loss. The Arctic wasn't just relatively hot last year—beating the previous record set in 2010 by 0.17 degrees Celsius (0.3 degrees Fahrenheit)—it also experienced the lowest sea ice volume yet recorded, and the second-lowest extent. Sea ice is essential to many Arctic species, from polar bears to walrus, and narwhals to seals. In just over 30 years, sea ice volume has dropped precipitously, declining by 76 percent from 1979 (16,855 cubic kilometers) to 2011 (4,017 cubic kilometers). This loss of sea ice also leads to greater regional and global warming, as the Arctic's sea reflects the sun's light back into space, cooling not only the region but the world.
Sea ice loss may also be having a direct impact on weather in the mid-latitudes. In fact, recent research has suggested that, perhaps unintuitively, the extreme cold spell experienced by Europe this winter was linked to the sea ice decline in the Arctic. Researchers argue that the Arctic Oscillation, which is partially responsible for weather conditions in the Northern Hemisphere in winter, has become unhinged by the sea ice decline, causing more extreme winters, such as Europe's cold spell and the massive blizzards that hit the U.S. in 2009 and 2010.
But it's not just sea ice loss that has produced stark concerns: greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost could be just as disastrous. A study published in Nature late last year warned that greenhouse gas emissions due to permafrost thaw could equal the amount currently emitted by deforestation worldwide, a significantly larger estimate than has been put forward before. Moreover, since permafrost thaw emissions include methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon, it could have an impact 2.5 times larger than deforestation overall.
Further tipping points include an input of freshwater into the Atlantic Ocean from melting ice and glaciers, already increased by 30 percent, which Durate says "may affect the whole ocean current system and, as a result, the climate at a regional level."
Governments have responded to warming in the Arctic with a resource race. Governments with Arctic territories plan to drastically expand oil and gas exploitation, utilize new shipping routes, and increase mining. The industrialization of the Arctic, according to Duarte, may only accelerate impacts on the fragile region and push tipping points.
"[Arctic tipping points] represents a test of our capacity as scientists, and as societies to respond to abrupt climate change," Duarte said. "We need to stop debating the existence of tipping points in the Arctic and start managing the reality of dangerous climate change. We argue that tipping points do not have to be points of no return. Several tipping points, such as the loss of summer sea ice, may be reversible in principle—although hard in practice. However, should these changes involve extinction of key species—such as polar bears, walruses, ice-dependent seals and more than 1,000 species of ice algae—the changes could represent a point of no return."
The solution, Durate says, is to cut the fossil fuel emissions that are causing climate change.
CITATIONS: Carlos M. Duarte, Timothy M. Lenton, Peter Wadhams, Paul Wassmann. Abrupt climate change in the Arctic. Nature Climate Change, 2012; 2 (2): 60 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1386.
Schuur, Edward A. G.; Abbott, Benjamin. Climate change: High risk of permafrost thaw. Nature. 480, 32–33. 2011. doi:10.1038/480032a.
Polar bears approach a U.S. attack sub 280 miles from the North Pole in an encounter that would have been unimaginable a century ago. As the sea ice melts and the Arctic warms, many nations see not a climate warming, but an opportunity to exploit the region for resources. Photo by: U.S. Navy.
Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0213-hance_arctic_tippingpoints.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#ixzz1mNBb8eGOLast year the Arctic, which is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth due to... more
The biggest trees in the world, known as the true ecological kings of the jungle, are dying off rapidly as roads, farms and settlements fragment forests and they come under prolonged attack from severe droughts and new pests and diseases.
Big trees may comprise less than 2% of the trees in any forest but they can contain 25% of the total biomass and are vital for the health of the whole forest. Credit: us-parks.com
Long-term studies in Amazonia, Africa and Central America show that while these botanical behemoths may have adapted successfully to centuries of storms, pests and short-term climatic extremes, they are counter-intuitively more vulnerable than other trees to today's threats.
"Fragmentation of the forests is now disproportionately affecting the big trees," said William Laurance, a research professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. "Not only do many more trees die near forest edges, but a higher proportion of the trees dying were the big trees.
"Their tall stature and relatively thick, inflexible trunks, may make them especially prone to uprooting and breakage near forest edges where wind turbulence is increased," Laurance said in this week's New Scientist magazine.
Big trees may comprise less than 2% of the trees in any forest but they can contain 25% of the total biomass and are vital for the health of whole forests because they seed large areas. "With their tall canopies basking in the sun, big trees capture vast amounts of energy. This allows them to produce massive crops of fruits, flowers and foliage that sustain much of animal life in the forests. Their canopies help moderate the local forest environment while their understory creates a unique habitat for other plants and animals," Laurance said.
"Only a small number of tree species have the genetic capacity to grow really big. To grow into giants, trees need good growing conditions, lots of time and the right place to establish their seedlings. Disrupt any one of these and you lose them."
In some parts of the world, Laurance said, populations of big trees are dwindling because their seedlings cannot survive or grow. "In southern India an aggressive shrub is invading the understorey of many forests, preventing seedlings from dropping on the floor. With no young trees to replace them, it's only a matter of time before most of the big trees disappear."
According to Laurance, it is not just the biggest trees in the world that are suffering, but also the biggest in their communities. Dutch elm disease killed off many of the stateliest trees in Britain in the 1960s and 70s, and new exotic organisms and bacterial infections, often brought in from other continents via garden centers, are threatening oak, ash and other species.
Longer lasting and more intense droughts, which are becoming more frequent in many tropical areas with climate change, are also taking their toll. Studies in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica suggest that big trees also suffer more in droughts than most other organisms.
"In rainforests droughts promote surface fires that burn through leaf litter on the forest floor. Larger trees were initially thought to survive these fires but, in fact, many die two to three years later. In cloud forests, big trees use their branches and crowns to rake the mist and capture water droplets. Global warming could push clouds up to higher elevations depriving them of sources of moisture," Laurance said.
"The danger is that the oldest, largest trees will progressively die off and not be replaced. Alarmingly, this might trigger a 'positive feedback' that could destabilize the climate: as older trees die, forests would release their stored carbon, prompting a vicious circle of further warming and forest shrinkage."
more at the linkThe biggest trees in the world, known as the true ecological kings of the jungle, are... more
Pictures: "Extinct" Monkeys With Sideburns Found in Borneo
Miller's grizzled langur
Photograph courtesy Eric Fell
A Miller's grizzled langur pauses while drinking water from a mineral spring, or sepan, in 2011. Feared extinct, the monkey species has been "rediscovered" on the Indonesian island of Borneo, a new study says.
Scientists stumbled onto several of the primates last year during a biodiversity survey of the Wehea Forest, a 98,000-acre (40,000-hectare) habitat in Indonesia's East Kalimantan Province (map). Previously known to live only in a small area along East Kalimantan's central coast, the Wehea discovery extends the species' range.
Numbers of the 13-pound (6-kilogram) langur—known for its white, bristly beard and sideburns—had declined in the animal's coastal habitat due to deforestation, hunting, and large human-caused fires in the 1990s. Later surveys turned up no evidence of the monkey.
"I've been working [in Wehea] for four years—I study primates, and I've never seen it" until now, said study co-author Stephanie Spehar, a primatologist at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh. "The fact we found it did come as a big surprise to all of us."
Particularly exciting was that an independent survey team led by study co-author Brent Loken of Ethical Expeditions simultaneously spotted the langurs in another part of the forest. This suggests there are at least two healthy populations and not just an isolated group, said Spehar, whose study appears this month in the American Journal of Primatology.
"We were thrilled when we met up and showed each other our photos," she said.
Published January 20, 2012
Pictures: "Extinct" Monkeys With Sideburns... more
A review suggests that the Amazon rainforest may be changing, courtesy of human impacts on the region's weather
The Amazon rainforest is in flux, thanks to agricultural expansion and climate change. In other words, humans have "become important agents of disturbance in the Amazon Basin," as an international consortium of scientists wrote in a review of the state of the science on the world's largest rainforest published in Nature on January 19. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) The dry season is growing longer in areas where humans have been clearing the trees—as has water discharge from Amazon River tributaries in those regions. Multiyear and more frequent severe droughts, like those in 2005 and 2010, are killing trees that humans don't cut down as well as increasing the risks of more common fires (both man-made and otherwise).
The trees are also growing fast—faster than expected for a "mature" rainforest—according to a network of measurements.
The exact cause or causes of this accelerated growth—which means the Amazon's 5 million square kilometers of trees are now sucking in and sequestering some 400 million metric tons of carbon per year, or enough to offset the annual greenhouse gas emissions of Japan—"remains unknown," the researchers wrote in the review.
"When we measure that a particular stand of mature forest is accumulating carbon, it is difficult to say whether that might be due to recovery from some unrecognized disturbance long ago or whether it is due to more recent changes in climate and CO2," explained Woods Hole Research Center Senior Scientist and Executive Director Eric Davidson, lead author of the review, in an e-mail. Candidates include recovery from the potential wide-scale disturbance by pre-Columbian human societies now beginning to be uncovered or the increasing availability of some formerly limiting factor, such as atmospheric carbon dioxide.
In fact, increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere—now roughly 392 parts per million and rising—may be fertilizing the rainforest and preventing even greater impacts from reduced rainfall, although this question, Davidson and his colleagues wrote in the review, "may be one of the largest unknowns for the future of the Amazon forests."
What is known is that the forest clearing that has already gone on is decreasing forest rainfall. The Amazon produces roughly a third of its own precipitation—trees release moist air that then falls back as rain to nourish other trees (the rest comes from the Atlantic Ocean). But the air above cleared land warms faster and therefore rises more quickly, drawing the moist air from surrounding forested areas away. In fact, the conjunction of cleared and forested lands actually creates wind known as a vegetation breeze. But that breeze tends to blow rainfall away from the forest and over the surrounding pastures instead. It also weakens the continental-scale low-pressure system that draws rainfall over the Amazon.
The southern and eastern portions of the Amazon are the most affected, according to this review. For example, the southeastern Amazon around one of the local tributary rivers—the Tocantins—has seen pasture and cropland increase from 30 percent to 50 percent of the land between 1955 and 1995. As a result, that river now carries 25 percent more water. Another southeastern tributary, the Araguaia, now carries 28 percent more sediment—precious soil lost during downpours from surrounding, expanded agricultural fields.
Agroforestry and other techniques for better environmental management of such agriculture remain rare, despite their proven ability to help balance increased food production with ecosystem services like carbon sequestration. On the whole, cutting down trees so that the Amazon covers only roughly 80 percent of the land it once did seems to have tipped the rainforest from being a sink for global CO2 emissions to a net source, although this calculation remains highly uncertain, the scientists noted. In addition, the entire rainforest may be transitioning from a relatively undisturbed ecosystem to what scientists like to call a "disturbance-dominated regime," or a biome that has become an "anthrome"—a landscape dominated by human impact.
The good news is that Brazil has in recent years begun to restrain such deforestation: annual rates fell from 28,000 square kilometers in 2004 to less than 7,000 in 2011. "Brazil is poised to become one of the few countries to achieve the transition to major economic power without destroying most of its forests," the researchers wrote in their conclusion. New laws currently under consideration may put that potential in peril, however, by allowing a return of previously banned forest-clearing practices. "There is considerable progress toward improved management of the impacts of development in the region," Davidson noted in his e-mail, "but there is still much work to be done."A review suggests that the Amazon rainforest may be changing, courtesy of human... more
Remarkably, more than half of the country (58%) experienced either a top-ten driest or top-ten wettest year, a new record.
Percentage of the contiguous U.S. either in severe or greater drought (top 10% dryness) or extremely wet (top 10% wetness) during 2011, as computed using NOAA’s Climate Extremes Index. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.
by Jeff Masters, cross-posted from the WunderBlog.
Rains unprecedented in 117 years of record keeping set new yearly precipitation totals in seven states during 2011, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center revealed in its preliminary year-end report for 2011.
Precipitation rankings for U.S. states in 2011. Seven states had their wettest year on record, and an additional ten states had a top-ten wettest year. Texas had its driest year on record, and four other states had a top-ten driest year. Image credit: NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
An extraordinary twenty major U.S. cities had their wettest year on record during 2011. This smashes the previous record of ten cities with a wettest year, set in 1996, according to a comprehensive data base of 303 U.S. cities that have 90% of the U.S. population, maintained by Wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt. Despite the remarkable number of new wettest year records set, precipitation averaged across the contiguous U.S. during 2011 was near-average, ranking as the 45th driest year in the 117-year record. This occurred because of unprecedented dry conditions across much of the South, where Texas had its driest year on record.
Wettest, driest, and warmest year records set during 2011 for major U.S. cities. No major cities had their coldest year on record during 2011.
2011 sets a new U.S. record for combined wet and dry extremes [see top graph]
If you weren’t washing away in a flood during 2011, you were probably baking in a drought. The fraction of the contiguous U.S. covered by extremely wet conditions (top 10% historically) was 33% during 2011, ranking as the 2nd highest such coverage in the past 100 years. At the same time, extremely dry conditions (top 10% historically) covered 25% of the nation, ranking 6th highest in the past 100 years. The combined fraction of the country experiencing either severe drought or extremely wet conditions was 58%–the highest in a century of record keeping. Climate change science predicts that if the Earth continues to warm as expected, wet areas will tend to get wetter, and dry areas will tend to get drier–so 2011′s side-by-side extremes of very wet and very dry conditions should grow increasingly common in the coming decades.
23rd warmest year on record, and 2nd hottest summer for the U.S.
The year 2011 ranked as the 23rd warmest in U.S. history, with sixteen states recording a top-ten warmest year on record. Delaware had its warmest year on record, and Texas its second warmest. However, these statistics don’t convey the extremity of the summer of 2011–the hottest U.S. summer in 75 years. The only hotter summer–and by only 0.1°–was the Dust Bowl summer of 1936, when poor farming practices had turned much of the Midwest into a parking lot for generating extreme heat. The June – August 2011 average temperatures in Texas and Oklahoma were a remarkable 1.6°F and 1.3°F warmer than the previous hottest summer for a U.S. state–the summer of 1934 in Oklahoma. The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI), which is sensitive to climate extremes in temperature, rainfall, dry streaks, and drought, indicated that an area nearly four times the average value was affected by extreme climate conditions during summer 2011. This is the third largest summer value of record, and came on the heels a spring season that was the most extreme on record. When averaged over the entire year, 2011 ranked as the 8th most extreme in U.S. history, since the fall weather was near-average for extremes. The CEI goes back to 1910.
More at the linkRemarkably, more than half of the country (58%) experienced either a top-ten driest or... more
Disclaimer: The events depicted in this video and the previous two parts are of global climate extremes for 2011 that were unusual or extreme in scope and fit the trend that suggests the strongest link between anthropogenic global warming and weather events through extreme precipitation events, floods and droughts. Nothing was inferred by this video and any such inferment placed on this by the viewer is based on their own preconceptions and biases. All photos depict the events and all information was gleaned from public sources for educational purposes as noted at the conclusion of the video.
Previously I had posted two parts of this video series that I put together of climate extremes for 2011. Seeing just this one year in totality is an eye opener. With all three parts put together there is close to a half hour of information and pictures depicting the world we are making for our children and it is not a good report on the human species.
There is no mistaking anymore that we are affecting the cycles of this planet that provide the two most basic needs for our survival: food and water. The willful damage we are inflicting on our lifeline is irresponsible, arrogant and immoral regardless of what you think is the cause. This year requires REAL action. So please, pass this on and thanks for watching.
This was for me a labor of love and my heart goes out to all in this world who lost loved ones and who stilll deal with the effects of this crisis daily. May we collectively find the moral courage we need now to make this right as much as possibly can be done at this point.
CLIMATE CHANGE KILLS.
I thought this fit here based on the events covered in this recap video:
"Brenda Ekwurzel, a UCS climate scientist, emphasized the varying levels of scientific certainty when it comes to links between extreme weather and climate change. “In some cases, the links between extreme weather and climate change are crystal clear,” she said. “In other cases, the picture is murkier.”
Ekwurzel said scientists see the strongest links to extreme heat and shifts in precipitation away from lighter and toward heavier events, meaning longer periods of drought punctuated by heavy flooding. "
Link to enitre article is in the thread.Disclaimer: The events depicted in this video and the previous two parts are of global... more
In the wake of the failed climate talks in Durban, South Africa; a record-breaking 5.9% increase in greenhouse gas pollution in 2010; and recent, extremely alarming reports by scientists of plumes of methane gas gushing up from the thawing sea beds of the Siberian Arctic, we find ourselves standing at the end of the road. 1
If we allow the infamous "one percent" to continue with business as usual, we will soon be arriving at civilization's last stop, climate hell. If we allow the U.S. and global fossil fuel/military industrial/corporate agribusiness economy to keep turning up the planet's delicately balanced thermostat, raising average global temperatures by two degrees Celsius or more, we will soon pass the point of no return, detonating runaway global warming. Among the catastrophic consequences of runaway global warming will be the release of a significant portion of the 1.7 trillion tons of deadly methane now sequestered in the shallow Arctic seabeds and permafrost (equivalent to twice the amount of total greenhouse gas pollution currently in the atmosphere). As the International Energy Agency warned on November 9, the world is accelerating toward irreversible climate change. We will lose the chance to avert catastrophic warming if we don't take bold action in the next five years to sharply reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; drastically increase energy efficiency in the food, transportation, utilities, and housing sectors; and safely sequester billions of tons of greenhouse gases in our soils, plants, and forests through organic soil management and permaculture practices. In other words we have approximately 1800 days left to avert catastrophe.
One of our major tasks as farmers or food consumers is to educate the public to the heretofore-undisclosed fact that the world's energy and chemical- intensive industrial food system is the major cause of global warming. That is the central message of this rather detailed essay. We go into depth and explain the details of this deadly state of affairs, because our fate and the fate of the human species depends upon rapidly changing what we farm and what we eat. The good news is that we can stop and reverse this suicidal food and farming system by taking decisive action, not only in the political policy realm and through our growing street protests and occupations; but also by voting with our farms, gardens, and forks for an organic, sustainable, and re-localized food and farming system. This new agro-ecological system will drastically reduce GHG emissions, and at the same time naturally sequester billions of tons of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases, in our soils, plants, and trees. But the hour is late. We must jumpstart this great transition immediately.
Millions of Americans are still in denial about global warming or else waiting vainly for Washington to pass laws and regulations to alleviate the problem. Many of those aware of the crisis are calling for cap and trade, or a carbon tax, or a ban on coal and tar sands, or stronger emissions standards, and energy efficiency. A large part of the agenda for reversing global warming involves reducing fossil fuels use by 90% over the next 40 years. But with non-stop advertising from the polluters and a do-nothing, indentured congress, that gets millions from the fossil fuel industry, the likelihood of federal legislation, at least in the near future, to solve the problem appears remote. Only persistent campaigning and the encircling of the White House by 15,000 demonstrators finally got the President's attention about the dangers of the Keystone tar sands pipeline.
Of course we must stop the coal industry, natural gas fracking, the nuclear industry, and the tar sands juggernaught. We must unite a critical mass of the 99% to cut Wall Street and the corporate elite down to size and implement a 21st century New Deal that not only brings about full employment and economic justice, but also environmental and climate sustainability. But there's something else we can do, immediately, and it's as close as our back yard, our farm field, or the knife and fork in our hands.
The failed climate conferences in Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban have concentrated most of their energy and effort on fossil fuel emissions, but very little on emissions from industrial agriculture, and the demonstrated ability of organic food and farming to cool the planet and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases. Recent research and reports, however, conclude that factory farming in the U.S. is responsible for more GHG emissions than the entire transportation and industrial sector combined; including cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, trains, boats, and factories.
The main climate and health issues with the U.S. industrial farming system are:
a) Enormous quantities of greenhouse gasses emitted from fertilizers, animals, animal feed production, animal processing, and the shipping, cooling, and freezing of all food products;
b) Huge subsidies to the wealthiest, chemical and energy-intensive farmers for growing unhealthy food;
c) Too much emphasis on meat production and other harmful, fatty foods.
Despite these serious problems, the U.S. government and big agriculture aggressively promote our factory farming system to developing countries as a solution to their hunger problems.
More at the linkIn the wake of the failed climate talks in Durban, South Africa; a record-breaking... more
CO2 is termed the Earth's biggest control knob. It hadn't been until now, because a knob implies something that someone can turn to control things. In a normal, natural world and on relatively short timescales, say tens of thousands of years, carbon dioxide is interlocked with global mean temperature and other variables. Temperatures can drive carbon dioxide levels up or down, which in turn drive temperatures further up or down.
Carbon dioxide acts as a feedback that enhances temperature changes.
This is most obvious during the transitions between glacial and interglacial periods, when temperatures rise or drop and CO2 seems to follow along like a happy puppy. What is not obvious when looking at the readings is that while orbital forcings cause the initial change in temperatures, and CO2 levels rise or fall in accordance with that initial change, the subsequent temperatures themselves also rise and fall in accordance with the changing CO2 levels.
The basic formula behind a glacial termination is that something (orbital forcings) starts the increase in temperature. Actually, what really starts it is a change in the length and severity of northern hemisphere summers, without changing the overall amount of radiation reaching the planet at all. That stays fairly constant.
These seasonal changes in turn cause the ice sheets covering the northern hemisphere land masses to begin to melt. This reflects less sunlight back into space, and that really does change the amount of energy that the planet receives from the sun, which leads to warming. It also results in the release of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, which warms the planet even further.
Then CO2 kicks in. The oceans warm. Warmer water cannot hold as much dissolved carbon dioxide and so the oceans release some CO2 into the atmosphere. CO2 in the atmosphere causes warming. The increased warming causes the ice sheets to retreat further, and the oceans to warm further, and more CO2 to be released.
This continues, but with limits. There is (or had been) only so much CO2 that could make its way into the atmosphere. The system only pushes this cycle so far. The many previous glacial terminations in the past 2.5 million years (a period known as the Pleistocene Epoch) have seen lows of about 180 ppm of CO2, and highs between 250 ppm and 300 ppm.
The main point is that temperatures and CO2 are interlocked, or at least had been until now. Temperature changes had to get the ball rolling, so on a graph they will lead the way, but the two work in concert. One is not pulling a leash to drag the other along. They each push and pull the other, working their way from low to high, or high to low, as an integrated system.
CO2 does not "lag" temperature. That's a simplistic, inaccurate and indiscriminate view of a complex interaction.
Turning the Knob
Unfortunately, contrary to recent natural history, man has learned how to remove the regulator and to dial up a far higher level of CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 has become the climate's biggest control knob in the last two centuries or so, in the sense that it is in fact a control that mankind can twist, turn, tweak and, sadly, overdo.
A glacial termination happens on very, very long timescales relative to man. What we have done in the past two centuries, however, applies a change to CO2 levels — implying an equivalent change in climate — that would otherwise take nature 10 to 12 thousand years.
CO2 was once interlocked with temperature. In the past 200 years we have instead taken 337 gigatonnes of carbon out of the ground and injected it into the atmosphere and the oceans. Nature spent the better part of several hundred million years converting that carbon into new forms (coal, oil, gas) and sequestering it deep under the surface of the earth.
Man will be able to undo in 200 years what took nature hundreds of millions of years to accomplish, and in so doing, in that same time frame, we are duplicating a feat that normally takes nature 10,000 years to accomplish (i.e. increasing atmospheric CO2 levels by two thirds).
And, as an important point, we have no idea if we are capable of duplicating nature's feat of again sequestering that carbon underground. We have far too easily turned the knob in one direction, but with no capacity whatsoever to turn it in the other.
More at the linkCO2 is termed the Earth's biggest control knob. It hadn't been until now,... more