Sunday, January 4, 2009

2009 to be in top 5 of the hit parade

Planet Ark reports:

Next year is set to be one of the top-five warmest on record, British climate scientists said on Tuesday.  The average global temperature for 2009 is expected to be more than 0.4 degrees celsius above the long-term average, despite the continued cooling of huge areas of the Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon known as La Nina.  That would make it the warmest year since 2005, according to researchers at the Met Office, who say there is also a growing probability of record temperatures after next year. 

Currently the warmest year on record is 1998, which saw average temperatures of 14.52 degrees celsius - well above the 1961-1990 long-term average of 14 degrees celsius. Warm weather that year was strongly influenced by El Nino, an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific....

Professor Phil Jones, director of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia, said global warming had not gone away despite the fact that 2009, like the year just gone, would not break records. "What matters is the underlying rate of warming," he said. He noted the average temperature over 2001-2007 was 14.44 degrees celsius, 0.21 degrees celsius warmer than corresponding values for 1991-2000.

January 4, 2009 in Climate Change, Physical Science | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Biofuel Soars on Air New Zealand

Due to the poor EO/EI ratio of biofuel and its competition with food crops, most of us are skeptical about widespread use of biofuel to meet transportation needs.  However, air transportation is one of the few sectors where finding alternative energy sources is difficult.  So, the recent and forthcoming tests of various biofuels in the air transportation sector are noteworthy, especially when strict conditions are placed on biofuel production.  In one recent test, Air New Zealand set three requirements for sustainable biofuel:

(1) the fuel source must be environmentally sustainable and not compete with existing food resources;

(2) the fuel must be a drop-in replacement for traditional jet fuel and technically be at least as good as the product used today; and

(3)the fuel must be cost competitive with existing fuel supplies and be readily available.

Environmental News Service reported in more detail:

A passenger jet with one of its four engines running on a biofuel blend today completed the world's first commercial aviation test flight to test a biofuel made from jatropha.  The test flight was a joint initiative with partners Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Honeywell's UOP. The two hour Air New Zealand test flight was powered by a second-generation biofuel made from the seeds of the jatropha plant that could reduce emissions and cut costs. The flight was the first to use jatropha jatropha seed oil as part of a biofuel mix [50% jatropha, 50% jet fuel]....

   
Air New Zealand test plane (Photo courtesy Air New Zealand)
       
 
                 
Jatropha seed pods (Photo courtesy Air New Zealand)
 

Jatropha is a plant that produces seeds that contain inedible lipid oil that is used to produce the fuel. Each seed produces 30-40 percent of its mass in oil and jatropha can be grown in a range of difficult conditions, including arid and otherwise non-arable areas, leaving prime areas available for food crops....

The jatropha used on Tuesday's flight was grown in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, the airline said. The criteria for sourcing the jatropha oil required that the land was neither forest land nor virgin grassland within the previous two decades.

 

Jatropha grows on poor soil and in arid climates not suitable for most food crops. The jatropha farms that grew the seeds for this test flight are rain-fed and not mechanically irrigated.

The test flight partners engaged Terasol Energy, a leader in sustainable jatropha development projects, to independently source and certify that the jatropha-based fuel for the flight met all sustainability criteria. Once received from Terasol Energy, the jatropha oil was refined through a collaborative effort between Air New Zealand, Boeing and refining technology developer UOP. The process utilized UOP technology to produce jet fuel that can serve as a direct replacement for traditional petroleum jet fuel.

Air New Zealand aims to meet 10 percent of its fuel needs through sustainable biofuel by 2013. In February, Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to test a commercial aircraft on a biofuel blend, using a 20 percent mixture of coconut oil and babassu oils in one of its four engines. In January, two more airlines will test their biofuel blends. Continental Airlines on January 7 will conduct a test flight powered by a blend involving algae and jatropha. The flight will be the first biofuel flight by a commercial carrier using algae as a fuel source, the first using a two-engine aircraft, and the first biofuel demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner.  On January 30, Japan Airlines is planning a test flight from Tokyo using a fuel based on the camelina oilseed as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

January 4, 2009 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More on Ocean Acidification

OCEAN SCIENCE: Winter Carbonate Collapse

H. Jesse Smith

Anthropogenic fossil-fuel burning is increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which in turn is causing more CO2 to dissolve in the ocean, thereby lowering the water's pH. Such ocean acidification in turn decreases the concentration of carbonate ion (CO3)2-, which makes it more difficult for calcifying organisms such as foraminifera, pteropods, and corals to build their skeletons. So far, most of the attention paid to this process has focused on the time-averaged chemistry of the ocean, but organisms actually experience seasonal carbonate and pH variations. McNeil and Matear examine these variations and show that anthropogenic CO2 uptake is likely to induce winter aragonite undersaturation in some regions of the ocean when atmospheric CO2 levels reach 450 parts per million. These findings underscore the importance of understanding the seasonal dynamics of marine carbonate chemistry, as natural variability could hasten the deleterious impacts of future ocean acidification. -- HJS Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 18860 (2008).

January 1, 2009 in Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 22, 2008

UNGA Adopts Climate Change-Related Resolutions

UN General Assembly (UNGA)

Last week, among 34 development-related actions put forward by its Second Committee (Economic and Financial), the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a number of resolutions including consideration of the economic ramifications of climate change. 

Among the climate change-related resolutions, the UN General Assembly:

  • supported international efforts and funding to prevent and manage natural disasters, as well as extreme weather patterns;
  • stressed the need to further advance and implement the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-Building (document A/63/414/Add.7);
  • called for urgent global action to address climate change for the benefit of present and future generations, and urged parties to the UNFCCC to continue using the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their work (document A/63/414/Add.4);
  • urged all governments, relevant organizations, UN bodies and the Global Environment Facility to take timely action to effectively follow-up and implement the Strategy and the Mauritius Declaration, and called upon the international community to help Small Island Developing States adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change (document A/63/414/Add.2);
  • encouraged governments to promote sustainable urbanization to improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations, including slum-dwellers and the urban poor, and to help mitigate climate change (UN-Habitat document A/63/415); and
  • reaffirmed its partnership with the Pacific Island Forum through the lens of the serious threats posed to vulnerable island States by climate change and the global economic recession (document A/63/L.56).

[UN Press Release]

December 22, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Forecast: Cloudy and Rainy

The art and science of climate modeling has improved enormously over the years with both an increasing sophisticated understanding of climatic feedback effects and the empirical knowledge that can set the parameters or values used in the models.  A 2005 study by Wentz indicated that global rainfall is increasing about 1.5% per decade, about five times (500%) faster than the value used in the 4th IPCC Assessment Report. A new study by Aumann and his colleagues presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union found a strong correlation between the frequency of very high clouds and seasonal variations in the average sea surface temperature of the tropical oceans. For every degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in average ocean surface temperature, the team observed a 45-percent increase in the frequency of the very high clouds. At the present rate of global warming of 0.13 degrees Celsius (0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, the team inferred the frequency of these
storms can be expected to increase by six percent per decade.  These two studies will help improve climate models since clouds and rain have been "the weakest link in climate prediction," according to Aumann.

December 21, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haiti's Resurrection

Dear Readers and Friends:

It is so difficult this time of year to decide how to spend one's limited resources in a way consistent with our duty to reduce human suffering and make the world a better place.  It is especially difficult now, when all of us are a bit uncertain about our financial future and have lost a considerable amount of our paper wealth.  But, I am concentrating for now on Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere. Below I post a letter from a friend in Haiti, in the hope that some of you may help in the resurrection of Haiti after this fall's hurricane season. Obviously, my friend is a Christian (as I am), but human need knows no religion.  Be assured that any money sent him through the church will be used to meet profound human need, not the promotion of a creed.  And, if you are reluctant to send money to a faith-based organization, just let me know and I'll be happy to find a secular route for your gift.

[We] are writing you all with a great mix of emotions – sadness and frustration, great doubts, fear, but also some sense of hope. Many of you already know that in the past five weeks, Haiti was affected by four hurricanes – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, resulting in profound destruction throughout the entire country. Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay–Farmer’s Movement of Papay) noted this past Monday that the situation is without precedent.  MPP along with other national and international organizations are beginning to get a grasp of the level of havoc and devastation, but it seems impossible that anyone will ever be able to make a full accounting of the loss of life and property.


Many of the root causes of the poverty in Haiti–weak government, inadequate communication, lack of roads and other infrastructure, virtually non-existent social services–have always kept Haitind other countries with similar conditions, open to the full effects of disasters such as this. These same conditions now make it difficult and in some cases impossible for a quick response to those who need help the most. It is even nearly impossible to know who needs the help the most. In the last two days, I have received reports via e-mail of whole communities without food and water, with no help in sight. Lack of real roads have always been part of the isolation of many of these communities. Now, the serious damage to bridges and other weak points along the roads that do exist has increased the number of people who are isolated from any easy access, as well as deepening the level of isolation for those who have always lived at the limits.


Given all this, [our] sense of sadness is easy to understand. We live along side people who carry on their daily lives with grace, great generosity and wonderful senses of humor, despite the profound limitations. Now, these same people, some of whom are close personal friends, have lost homes and possessions and we know they have no real resources, or hope, for recuperating their losses. We have a great need to help, but we ourselves do not have the ability to provide any help that seems significant, even at the local level. Not even for just the families who are part of MPP – at least 52 families whose homes were flooded last week. Multiply the needs of the folks in Hinche by all of communities in nearly every part of Haiti, you can easily understand our frustration. What can we do? Within the sadness and frustration I also feel some guilt, because we ourselves are safe and suffered no damage at all to our home or even to the project where I work.


We also wonder whether the kind of help that is starting to come could possibly be adequate, given the enormous need. And will the assistance that comes be directed to address some of the root causes of poverty in  Haiti?  Will the funds help rebuild roads and bridges so that they are better than they were, or will the be used to make the highways and byways merely passable, subject as always to rapid degradation by even normal use? And will the international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, encourage the Haitian government to create “safety nets” that can help families and communities recuperate losses? Or will they follow their standard policy, insisting on budgetary stringency, regardless of the needs of the most vulnerable–the poor in general, and women, children and the aged in particular?


It is impossible to write about the current catastrophe without mentioning as well the ongoing global wide crises of food prices which are spiraling out of US control. In the project that I help coordinate – the crew prepares and shares two meals a day. We produce all of the vegetables for these meals ourselves, but for the items we can’t produce (corn, rice, coffee, oil etc), we paid a total of around  $100 in  May.  In August, we spent around $135 for the same supplies and in September we spent $175. In a country where over half the population earns less than $US 1.00 a day, the situation was devastating, before the flooding will now die from hunger, giving in at last to ongoing deprivation?


And the fear we feel, where does that come from? Haitians have a marvelous way of dealing with difficult situations that I have come to respect a great deal. They sing, they laugh, they joke and suddenly, the load lightens and the way forward opens up again. There is also a great deal of tolerance, or patience, with unjust conditions. But there are limits. The suffering from the food crisis was becoming nearly insufferable before the hurricanes. If there is not a rapid, reliable and comprehensive response to the current situation, especially by the Haitian government, there will almost surely be massive unrest, probably focused, as always, in Port au Prince, the capital of     Haiti.


At the end of such a letter, what could we say about hope that could balance the discouragement I’m sure you can sense in what I write? First and foremost is faith – [our] faith as well as the profound faith of Haitians in general. We do believe in a God who makes a way where there is no way – our God who sent our savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, not only to demonstrate God’s profound solidarity with his chosen people, but also to completely and finally put an end to despair. Because we are Christ followers, we hope, and there is nothing that can separate us from that hope, from the constant renewal of that hope. As [we] and several crew members were heading south, into Port au Prince,... we passed through an area just north of the city of    Mirebelais (Mee be lay) where the farmers have access to irrigation. In field after field as we traveled down the road, farmers were out in those fields transplanting rice, hoeing rice, irrigating rice. Just one day after Hurricane Ike had passed through, the fields were already moving from devastation into abundance, farmers moving from being victims to being the agents of their own resurrection. What a miracle. What a God.


Note:

Please be part of Haiti’s resurrection. Contributions for the crisis in Haiti may be sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Please write on the check “DR-000064 Haiti Emergency.” Mail it to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700 

 

December 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

DON’T FORGET TO MARK PIELC IN YOUR 2009 CALENDARS!

The 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Solidarity! United Action for the Greener Good

 

February 26th – March 1st

University of Oregon School of Law

Eugene, Oregon

www.pielc.org

 

Read on for planning updates and reminders . . .

 

- Last day to submit panel suggestions is January 15th, but the sooner the better, as our timeslots are already starting to fill up.  Go to http://www.pielc.org/pages/panel_suggest.html

- Submit artwork for PIELC 2009 posters and t-shirts now!  Email submissions to aengel@uoregon.edu, or mail them to 1221 University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, OR 97403, attn: LAW

- Coming in mid-January, our website will be updated with more travel, lodging, and childcare options than ever at www.pielc.org.

- Our confirmed keynote speakers are:

Katherine Redford – Co-Founder and US Office Director of Earth Rights International, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights and Public Service. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI's landmark case Doe v. Unocal. Katie received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1995 to establish ERI, and since that time has split her time between ERI's Thailand and US offices. In addition to working on ERI's litigation and teaching at the EarthRights Schools, Katie currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at both UVA and the Washington College of Law at American University. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, in addition to co-authoring ERI reports such as In Our Court, Shock and Law, and Total Denial Continues. In 2006, Katie was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.

Riki Ott – Experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill—and chose to do something about it. She retired from fishing, founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with lingering social, economic, and harm, and wrote two books about the spill. Sound Truth and Corporate Myths focuses on the hard science-ecotoxicology, and the new understanding (paradigm shift) that oil is more toxic than previously thought. Not One Drop describes the soft science--the sociology of disaster trauma, and the new understanding that our legal system does not work in cases involving wealthy corporations, complex science, and class-action. Ott draws on her academic training and experience to educate, empower, and motivate students and the general public to address the climate crisis and our energy future through local solutions. Ott lives Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community most affected by the disaster.

Stephen Stec – Adjunct Professor at Central European University (HU) and Associate Scholar at Leiden University (NL).  As well as the former head of the Environmental Law Program of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Stec is one of the authors of The Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide and main editor for the Access to Justice Handbook under the Aarhus Convention. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement; it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness.  The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.

Fernando Ochoa – Legal Advisor for Pronatura Noroeste a Mexican non-profit organization and the Waterkeeper Program for the Baja California Peninsula, and founding member and Executive Director for Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), an environmental advocacy organization. Mr. Ochoa has helped establish more than 60 conservation contracts to protect more than 150 thousand acres of land in Northwest Mexico.  As the Executive Director of DAN, Mr. Ochoa has successfully opposed several development and industrial projects that threatened ecosystems in the Sea of Cortes and the Baja California Peninsula, having saved critical habitat for Gray Whales, Whale Sharks and other endangered species.  His work has set important legal precedents on environmental law in order for local communities to gain participation in decision making processes, transparency and access to justice.

Claudia Polsky – Deputy Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology (P2 Office) in California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).  The P2 Office is central to the implementation of  new (2008) legal authority that gives California expansive ability to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products.  Instead of focusing on cleanup of past pollution -- the historic emphasis of DTSC -- the P2  Office looks to the future by preventing the use of toxic materials in consumer products and industrial operations.  Ms. Polsky's duties include implementing California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, overseeing hazardous waste source-reduction programs, and working with staff engineers to evaluate and deploy new environmental technologies that reduce the need for toxic chemicals. The Office's work involves interaction with stakeholders as diverse as electronics manufacturers, breast cancer activists, analytical chemists, and venture capitalists.  Before joining DTSC, Ms. Polsky worked for the California Department of Justice, Earthjustice, Public Citizen Litigation Group, and The Nature Conservancy. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was Editor in Chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand, receiving a Masters of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.

Gail Small – The director of Native Action, an environmental justice organization in Lame Deer, Montana. Small's political engagement in energy issues began in the early 1970s, when she and other high school students were sent by the tribal government to visit coal extraction sites on the Navajo Reservation and in Wyoming, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed leases opening the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to strip-mining. Small later served on a tribal committee that successfully fought for the cancellation of the BIA coal leases. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon and formed Native Action in 1984. Her work at Native Action includes litigation, drafting tribal statutes, and creating informational resources for tribal members.

Derrick Jenson – bio coming soon

SEE YOU THERE!

The Conference Co-Directors

Cadence Whiteley

Erin Farris

Jasmine Hites

Andy Engel

Teresa Jacobs


Questions? Suggestions? Comments?  email askpielc@uoregon.edu

December 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CGD Contribution to Development Index - Environment

 
Go check out the Center for Global Development's 2007 Commitment to Development Index page.  Its got some great graphics that you have to see to appreciate.  Unsurprisingly, EU countries lead the way on the Center for Global Development's index of commitment to environmentally sustainable development and the US trails the pack, scoring under 3 on a 10 point scale, while EU countries tend to score 6 or above with Norway near 9.  Center for Global Development Commitment to Development Index   

CGD reports:

Norway tops this year’s environment standings. Its net greenhouse gas emissions fell during 1995–2005, the last ten years for which data are available, thanks to steady expansion in its forests, which absorb carbon dioxide. Also high is Ireland, whose economy grew 6.6 percent per year faster in the same period than its greenhouse gas emissions; and the U.K., which has steadily increased gasoline taxes and supported wind and other renewable energy sources. Spain finishes low as a heavy subsidizer of its fishing industry while Japan is hurt by its high tropical timber imports. The U.S. has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the most serious international effort yet to deal with climate change. That gap, along with high greenhouse emissions and low gas taxes, puts the U.S. last. Two notches up, Australia cuts a similar profile, with the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the group.      

 

The environment component of the CDI compares rich countries on policies that affect shared global resources such as the atmosphere and oceans. Rich countries use these resources disproportionately while poor ones are less equipped to adapt to the consequences, such as global warming. Countries do well if their greenhouse gas emissions are falling, if their gas taxes are high, if they do not subsidize the fishing industry, and if they control imports of illegally cut tropical timber.

A healthy environment is sometimes dismissed as a luxury for the rich. But people cannot live without a healthy environment. And poor nations have weaker infrastructures and fewer social services than rich countries, making the results of climate change all the more damaging. A study co-authored by CGD senior fellow David Wheeler predicts that a two-meter sea level rise would flood 90 million people out of their homes, many of them in the river deltas of Bangladesh, Egypt, and Vietnam.

The environment component looks at what rich countries are doing to reduce their disproportionate exploitation of the global commons. Are they reining in greenhouse gas emissions? How complicit are they in environmental destruction in developing countries, for example by importing commodities such as tropical timber? Do they subsidize fishing fleets that deplete fisheries off the coasts of such countries as Senegal and India?

December 2, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Special Guest Contribution: Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children? -- Dr. Chris McGrath

Dr Chris McGrath is an Australian lawyer and researcher on laws protecting the GBR from climate change. This article is based on a previously published research paper, McGrath (2008).  Submitted 30 October 2008.

 

Amidst the current policy debate in Australia and internationally on climate change is a surreal argument that policies that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBR) and other coral reefs around the globe are acceptable and economically rational.

Nicolas Stern (2007: 330) concluded that “coral reef ecosystems [will be] extensively and eventually irreversibly damaged” by temperature change relative to pre-industrial levels of 0.5-2°C. He found that at 2°C warming “coral reefs are expected to bleach annually in many areas, with most never recovering, affecting tens of millions of people that rely on coral reefs for their livelihood or food supply” (Stern 2007: 94).

Yet for what were clearly reasons of pragmatism and feasibility he recommended the global stabilisation goal should lie within the range of 450-550 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalents (ppm CO2-eq), thereby implicitly accepting a likely warming of 2-3°C and loss of coral reefs, including the GBR.

Ross Garnaut, the Australian Government’s handpicked economic advisor on responding to climate change, followed Stern’s approach and was alive to the damage to the GBR. He recommended that Australia should initially aim for a global consensus next year at COP-15 in Copenhagen to stabilise greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 550 ppm CO2-eq and hope that global consensus can be reached later for lower stabilisation.

Garnaut (2008a: 38) was brutally frank in his supplementary draft report: “The 550 strategy would be expected to lead to the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs.” His final report does not shy away from this conclusion (Garnaut 2008b). 

The new Australian Government has silently avoided the issue of the expected impacts to the GBR when explaining the costs and benefits of its climate policies. It does not yet have a stabilisation target for the rise in global temperatures or greenhouse gases but recent modelling of economic impacts of mitigating climate change considered only three stabilisation targets.

The Australian Treasury (2008) considers only stabilisation at 450, 510 and 550 ppm CO2-eq, aiming to stabilise mean global temperature rises between 2-3°C. The only reference to impacts on the GBR is to a “very high risk [of] loss of complete ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef [if] the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises to over 1,500 ppm CO2-eq by 2100 [giving an] increase in global average temperature of 5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100” (Australian Treasury 2008: 35).

In fact, as Stern recognised, the current science indicates that the GBR will be devastated long before such levels are reached and within the lower stabilisation range the Australian Government appears to be aiming for.

Stern and Garnaut’s frank admissions of the expected impacts to the GBR reflect research findings since mass coral bleaching occurred globally in 1998 and 2002. Rising sea temperatures and increasing acidity of the oceans due to our use of fossil fuels are now well-recognized as major threats to coral reefs and the marine ecosystem generally in coming decades.   

In relation to coral bleaching the IPCC (2007b: 12) found that:

“Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1 to 3°C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.”

The findings of the IPCC suggest that a rise of 1°C in mean global temperatures and, correspondingly, sea surface temperatures above pre-industrial levels is the maximum that should be aimed for if the global community wishes to protect coral reefs. The range of 1-3°C is the danger zone and 2°C is not safe. Supporting this conclusion Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and his colleagues concluded in a review of the likely impacts of climate change to the GBR edited by Johnson and Marshall (2007: 295):

“Successive studies of the potential impacts of thermal stress on coral reefs have supported the notion that coral dominated reefs are likely to largely disappear with a 2°C rise in sea temperature over the next 100 years. This, coupled with the additional vulnerability of coral reefs to high levels of acidification once the atmosphere reaches 500 parts per million [CO2], suggests that coral dominated reefs will be rare or non-existent in the near future.”

The IPCC’s (2007a: 826) best estimate of climate sensitivity found that stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols at 350 ppm CO2-eq would be expected to lead to a rise in mean global temperatures of 1°C, stabilising at 450 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 2°C, and stabilising at 550 ppm CO2-eq will lead to a rise of 3°C.

Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols have already passed 350 ppm CO2-eq making stabilisation at that level extremely difficult if not impossible in practice, particularly in the context of current global growth and energy use patterns. Atmospheric CO2 reached 379 ppm in 2005 and was increasing by around 2 ppm per year (IPCC 2007c: 102). Including the effect of other greenhouse gases such as methane, the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases was around 455 ppm CO2-eq in 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102). However, the cooling effects of aerosols and landuse changes reduce radiative forcing so that the net forcing of human activities was about 375 ppm CO2‑eq for 2005 (IPCC 2007c: 102).

Global emissions of carbon dioxide, the major anthropogenic greenhouse gas, are growing at approximately 3% per annum, which exceeds even the “worst case” IPCC projections (Raupach et al 2007). This places global greenhouse gas emissions on a trajectory to rise by 150% between 2000 and 2050 on “business as usual”.

When the conclusions of the IPCC are synthesised, it is clear that reductions of greenhouse emissions of 60% by 2050, such as proposed by the Australian Government (2008), even if they can be achieved, are not likely to prevent serious damage to the GBR and other coral reefs. A 60% reduction in global emissions by 2050 is likely to lead to a mean global temperature rise around 2.4°C (IPCC 2007d: 67), which is likely to severely degrade coral reefs globally. Stabilising greenhouse gases and aerosols around 350 ppm CO2-eq and allowing a rise in mean global temperature of 1°C appear to be the highest targets that should be set if coral reefs are to be protected from serious degradation.

This brings us back to the current policy debate – Stern and Garnaut’s frankness in recognizing the likely damage to the GBR and coral reefs from the targets they recommend is welcome but their conclusions leave us to wonder: is this the best we can do? Should we be prepared to write-off the GBR and other coral reefs and their economic, social environmental values?

As a young boy growing up in Australia’s Whitsundays Islands in the 1970s I did not dream that the GBR that I swam and fished on would be severely damaged by human activity within my own lifetime. Much less would I have dreamt that we would choose to allow these impacts to occur, as we are currently doing.

Stern and Garnaut’s targets are not ambitious enough and we should not accept them.

We should judge our climate change policies by this simple test: will we leave the GBR and other coral reefs around the world for our children? At present the answer we are giving to this question is “no”. We are all responsible for changing the answer to “yes”.

We should demand targets based on what we as a society want to achieve. We should not accept targets that will produce unacceptable outcomes.

The current science indicates our aim should be stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gases at 350 ppm if we want to protect the GBR and other coral reefs, but this is rarely even mentioned as a potential target.

We do not yet know if we can stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gases as 350, 450 or 550 ppm CO2-eq but think of it this way: if we want to build a bridge across a river that is 1 kilometre wide we would not ask our engineers to build us a bridge that is 500 metres long. We should apply the same logic to climate change policy and set targets for our engineers and scientists to achieve that produce results that we want to achieve.

We need vision, ambition, and hard work to solve the climate crisis. Stern and Garnaut’s approaches lacks the vision and ambition that is needed. We need to add these ingredients to the global community’s many hard workers to solve the climate crisis.

References

Australian Government (2008), Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper (Department of Climate Change), http://www.climatechange.gov.au/greenpaper/index.html.

Australian Treasury (2008), Australia’s Low Pollution Future: The Economics of Climate Change Mitigation (Australian Government Treasury), http://www.treasury.gov.au/lowpollutionfuture/.

Garnaut R (2008a), Garnaut Review Supplementary Draft Report: Targets and trajectories (Garnaut Review, Canberra, 5 September 2008), p 38, available at http://www.garnautreport.org.au/.

Garnaut R (2008b), Garnaut Climate Change Review Final Report (Cambridge University Press), http://www.garnautreview.org.au/index.htm.

Hoegh-Guldberg et al, “Vulnerability of reef-building corals on the Great Barrier Reef to climate change”, Ch 10 in Johnson JE and Marshall PA (eds), Climate Change and the GBR: A Vulnerability Assessment (GBRMPA, 2007), p 295, http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/22598/chapter10-reef-building-corals.pdf

IPCC (2007a), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of WGI to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm.

IPCC (2007b), Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. WGII Contribution to the IPCC AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm.

IPCC (2007c), Climate change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of WGIII to the AR4 (Cambridge University Press), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg3.htm.

IPCC (2007d), Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report (IPCC), http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-syr.htm

McGrath C (2008) “Will we leave the Great Barrier Reef for our children?” (IUCN), http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/cel_op_mcgrath.pdf.

Raupach MR, Marland G, Ciais P, Le Quéré C, Canadell JG, Klepper G, and Field CB, (2007) “Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions” 104(24) PNAS 10288-10293, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/24/10288.

Stern N (2007), The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, http://www.occ.gov.uk/activities/stern.htm.

 

November 7, 2008 in Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Microcosm of Biodiversity Loss from Global Warming

Stanford's article by Dan Stober in the Stanford Report reported on a study made available on the  PNAS website this week.  The study by Stanford graduate student Sarah McMenamin and Professor Elizabeth Hadly concluded that Yellowstone National Park frogs and salamanders are being killed by global warming at a devastating rate.

Lauren Palumbi frog

A Columbia spotted frog is one of several species of amphibians found in Yellowstone National Park.

Sarah McMenamin frogs lamar

Lamar Valley, in northern Yellowstone, holds dozens of small fishless ponds where the habitat has been ideal for the breeding and larval development of blotched tiger salamanders, boreal chorus frogs and other amphibians. Researchers say the creatures' numbers are shrinking as global warming causes the ponds to dry up.

Yu-Jun Lee frogs mcmenamin

Sarah McMenamin, a graduate student in biology, has spent three summers in a remote area of Yellowstone Park searching for frogs and salamanders in ponds that were surveyed 15 years ago.

Frogs and salamanders, those amphibious bellwethers of environmental danger, are being killed in Yellowstone National Park. The predator, Stanford researchers say, is global warming.

Biology graduate student Sarah McMenamin spent three summers in a remote area of the park searching for frogs and salamanders in ponds that had been surveyed 15 years ago. Almost everywhere she looked, she found a catastrophic decrease in the population.

The amphibians need the ponds for their young to hatch, but high temperatures and drought are drying up the water. The frogs and salamanders lay eggs that have a gelatinous outer layer—basically "jelly eggs," McMenamin says—that leaves them completely unsuitable for gestation on land. If the ponds dry up, so do the eggs. "If there isn't any water, then the animals simply don't breed," she said.

Biology Associate Professor Elizabeth Hadly, McMenamin's graduate adviser and co-author of a research paper published this week on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has worked in Yellowstone since 1981 and has witnessed the ponds going dry. "They're just blinking off," she said. "It's depressing."

"Precipitous declines of purportedly unthreatened amphibians in the world's oldest nature reserve indicate that the ecological effects of global warming are even more profound and are happening more rapidly than previously anticipated," the researchers wrote.

The disappearing ponds lie in picturesque northern Yellowstone, specifically the lower Lamar Valley, which holds dozens of small fishless ponds where the habitat has been ideal for the breeding and larval development of blotched tiger salamanders, boreal chorus frogs and Colombia spotted frogs. As the world's first national park, it is one of the most environmentally protected areas in the world.

The researchers studied climate and water records going back a century, ranging from handwritten logs of water flow in the Lamar River to satellite imagery, and could find no cause for the drying ponds other than a persistent change in temperature and precipitation. "It's the cumulative effects of climate," Hadly said.

During the summers of 2006 through 2008, McMenamin, wearing hip waders and carrying a dip net, cataloged the amphibian life—or lack thereof—in and around 42 ponds that had been surveyed in 1992-1993. In that earlier survey, involving 46 ponds, 43 supported amphibian populations for at least one of the two years. But in the recent inspection, only 38 of those same ponds even contained water in summer.

In their fieldwork, the researchers were able to visit 31 of the 38 wet ponds (the remainder were off limits, to protect nesting trumpeter swans). Only 21 of them supported amphibian populations for even one of the three years they were checked, 2006-2008. In 15 years the number of ponds with frogs and salamanders had dropped drastically.

"That's when we really got alarmed, because the data just showed such a huge difference," Hadly said.

Historically, the ponds—as small as backyard fish ponds, as large as small lakes—have been recharged during the summer by the groundwater in the soil. But the water table is dropping, the researchers say, as human-induced climate change produces a deadly combination of higher temperatures and less rain and snow. Moreover, the seasonal wetlands near the ponds, usually ideal amphibian habitat, are evaporating earlier in the spring, the result of an earlier snowmelt.

During the course of their study, the researchers witnessed the loss of four amphibian communities because of pond drying. Each event left hundreds of dried tiger salamander corpses behind. The ponds had dried rapidly, over just a few days, too fast for larvae to metamorphose and adults to migrate.

"Everybody can identify with the loss of glaciers, but in Yellowstone the decrease in lakes and ponds and wetlands has been astounding," John Varley, the former chief scientist for Yellowstone, told New West. "What were considered permanent bodies of water, meaning reference was given to them in the 1850s, '60s and '70s, and bestowed with a name as a lake, are now gone. Some wetlands that were considered permanent ponds are no longer there. Some lakes have become ephemeral."

The problem is not going to go away, McMenamin said. "It's extremely depressing and there aren't any evident solutions that come to mind. It's a symptom of a much, much larger problem."

Stanford Report, October 29, 2008

November 3, 2008 in Biodiversity, Climate Change, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Community-based Water Development

I just returned from an International Water Training Conference hosted by EDGE Outreach in Indiana. 

It was a bit different from your standard conference: I actually learned to do something.  I can build and install a community water purification system.  I can build and install a community water treatment system.  I can do a community water, sanitation, and hygiene assessment.  I can lead community hygiene education.   I even learned a bit about how to do all of this in a cross-cultural situation!

The training was aimed at people who are actively doing community-based water development work.  The development community itself appears to be broken into three parts: (1) the official development organizations, funding projects through official development aid and international financing from the World Bank, IMF, regional development banks and such; (2) the non-governmental organizations run by professional water management types -- who provide water and sanitation in developed countries and who do charitable work in developing countries -- WaterAid and Water for People; and (3) the missionaries who work on lots of issues throughout the developing world.  This conference was organized and aimed at the third group.

I spent time talking to people who work in Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, Haiti, Costa Rica, and dozens of other places.  The need is immense and unrelenting.   1.5 million people are dying of preventable water borne diseases every year -- a child every 15 seconds.  You really can install a village water purification system for a bit more than $ 1000; you really can develop new water supplies for a village for $ 5000 - $15,000.  You can really make a difference.

One of the best parts of the conference was Bill Deutsch from Auburn discussing watershed management and the need to look upstream to prevent some of the water contamination problems.  The light bulbs going on in people's minds were almost visible -- there will be some sustainable water systems developed throughout the world thanks to the wisdom he shared.  The other concept he shared was that most of the work being done is first and second "generation" development work -- aimed at disasters and individual communities.  The work that isn't being done and needs to be done is third and fourth "generation" development work -- the regional, national, and international policy levels.  That's really my work in the area.  We need to secure the human right to clean drinking water.  We need to assure that the community-based water development work is sustainable in terms of being coordinated with integrated water resources development and with climate change adaptation planning.  We need to find ways to increase the funding available for community-based water development -- beyond official aid and international financial institutions.  This is the challenge.  Let me know if you want to help.


October 13, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McCain's Freeze on Discretionary Spending Includes all Energy and other R&D

Jeffrey Mervis of ScienceNOW Daily News [link] reported yesterday that next year's federal budget will not contain even one penny more for scientific research, technology development, and science education if McCain is elected, assuming Congress cannot muster enough votes to override a veto.  McCain intends to freeze all discretionary spending for a year to evaluate all programs.  Democratic Senator Barack Obama (IL), on the other hand, proposes doubling the budgets of many U.S. science agencies over the course of the next decade.

McCain had promised support for R & D in August, but his science aide Brannon said yesterday that there's been no talk within the campaign of allowing any flexibility in the proposed freeze. It would be part of McCain's 2010 budget submission next spring to Congress for the fiscal year that begins in October 2009, should he defeat Obama in November. "Senator McCain realizes that it's difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of basic research," Brannon told Science. "But the freeze applies to the entire budget, most of which doesn't relate to science."

September 20, 2008 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Legislation, Physical Science, Social Science, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricanes Reach Higher Wind Speeds Due to Ocean Warming -- Another Climate Change Effect

A June 27 letter to Nature 455, 92-95 (4 September 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07234 from James Eisner, James Kossin, and Thomas Jagger, suggests that Atlantic tropical hurricanes are getting stronger due to increased ocean temperatures.  While the same phenomenon is observed throughout the world, the effects are strongest in the tropical Atlantic.  Their study does not indicate necessarily that there are more hurricanes or stronger hurricanes in terms of average wind speed; instead, it is the maximum intensity of the hurricanes that is increasing -- in other words, their destructive potential. 

Abstract: link

Atlantic tropical cyclones are getting stronger on average, with a 30-year trend that has been related to an increase in ocean temperatures over the Atlantic Ocean and elsewhere1, 2, 3, 4. Over the rest of the tropics, however, possible trends in tropical cyclone intensity are less obvious, owing to the unreliability and incompleteness of the observational record and to a restricted focus, in previous trend analyses, on changes in average intensity. Here we overcome these two limitations by examining trends in the upper quantiles of per-cyclone maximum wind speeds (that is, the maximum intensities that cyclones achieve during their lifetimes), estimated from homogeneous data derived from an archive of satellite records. We find significant upward trends for wind speed quantiles above the 70th percentile, with trends as high as 0.3 plusminus 0.09 m s-1 yr-1 (s.e.) for the strongest cyclones. We note separate upward trends in the estimated lifetime-maximum wind speeds of the very strongest tropical cyclones (99th percentile) over each ocean basin, with the largest increase at this quantile occurring over the North Atlantic, although not all basins show statistically significant increases. Our results are qualitatively consistent with the hypothesis that as the seas warm, the ocean has more energy to convert to tropical cyclone wind.

September 15, 2008 in Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 12, 2008

OSU scientists establish the value of old growth forests as carbon sinks

Today, OSU scientists and other international researchers are publishing an analysis in Nature that runs counter to 40 years of conventional wisdom.  Their report suggests that old growth forests are usually "carbon sinks" - they continue to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate climate change for centuries.

According to the OSU press release:

these old growth forests around the world are not protected by international treaties and have been considered of no significance in the national "carbon budgets" as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. That perspective was largely based on findings of a single study from the late 1960s which had become accepted theory, and scientists now say it needs to be changed.

"Carbon accounting rules for forests should give credit for leaving old growth forest intact," researchers from Oregon State University and several other institutions concluded in their report. "Much of this carbon, even soil carbon, will move back to the atmosphere if these forests are disturbed."

The analysis of 519 different plot studies found that about 15 percent of the forest land in the Northern Hemisphere is unmanaged primary forests with large amounts of old growth, and that rather than being irrelevant to the Earth's carbon budget, they may account for as much as 10 percent of the global net uptake of carbon dioxide.

In forests anywhere between 15 and 800 years of age, the study said, the net carbon balance of the forest and soils is usually positive – meaning they absorb more carbon dioxide than they release.

"If you are concerned about offsetting greenhouse gas emissions and look at old forests from nothing more than a carbon perspective, the best thing to do is leave them alone," said Beverly Law, professor of forest science at OSU and director of the AmeriFlux network, a group of 90 research sites in North and Central America that helps to monitor the current global "budget" of carbon dioxide.

Forests use carbon dioxide as building blocks for organic molecules and store it in woody tissues, but that process is not indefinite. In the 1960s, a study using 10 years worth of data from a single plantation suggested that forests 150 or more years old give off as much carbon as they take up from the atmosphere, and are thus "carbon neutral."

"That's the story that we all learned for decades in ecology classes," Law said. "But it was just based on observations in a single study of one type of forest, and it simply doesn't apply in all cases. The current data now makes it clear that carbon accumulation can continue in forests that are centuries old."

When an old growth forest is harvested, Law said, studies show that there's a new input of carbon to the atmosphere for about 5-20 years, before the growing young trees begin to absorb and sequester more carbon than they give off. The creation of new forests, whether naturally or by humans, is often associated with disturbance to soil and the previous vegetation, resulting in decomposition that exceeds for some period the net primary productivity of re-growth.

Old growth forests, the study said, continue to sequester carbon for many centuries. And when individual trees die due to lightning, insects, fungal attack or other causes, there is generally a second canopy layer waiting in the shade to take over and maintain productivity.

One implication of the study, Law said, is that nations with significant amounts of old forests may find it somewhat easier to offset greenhouse gas emissions if those forests are left intact. It will also be necessary, she said, for land surface models that attempt to define carbon balance to better characterize function of old forests.

Many of the conclusions from the study were based on data acquired from the AmeriFlux and CarboEurope programs, researchers said. Multiple funding sources included the U.S. Department of Energy, CarboEurope, the European Union, and others. Authors were from institutions in the U.S., Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom.

September 12, 2008 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 14, 2008

1/3 of coral reef building species in danger of extinction

One-third of coral reef-building species are in danger of extinction -- according to a recent study by Kent Carpenter.  He reviewed 704 reef-building coral species and rated them according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards of extinction risk. One-third of those species fall into the threatened or near-threatened categories, which are considered at increased risk for extinction. Science.

The highest concentration of jeopardized species lives in two areas: the Caribbean Sea and the western Pacific "Coral Triangle," which spans Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and nearby areas. Using current figures and extrapolations from historical data, the researchers estimated that in the 1990s less than 5% of the 704 species would have been placed in the threatened or near-threatened IUCN categories.

July 14, 2008 in Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A fish eye view of global warming

Global warming will extinguish dozens of marine fish species that cannot migrate to colder waters, according to a study by University of British Columbia researchers Pauly and Cheung.  Science synopsis of research   Replacing the lost biodiversity with new species will take millions of years.   A change in ocean temperature of even a degree or two forces species to migrate to new ecosystems with different foods and different predators.  Indeed, already almost two-thirds of fish in the North Sea now live in different locations or depths because of rising sea temperatures (Science, 13 May 2005, p. 937).

Pauly, Cheung and their colleagues have done ocean-wide modeling of the effects of climate change on marine fishes.  They modeled a range of habitat conditions that species can tolerate such as water temperature, depth, and distance from sea ice, predicted habitat changes that will occur in response to global warming, and predicted how fish and invertebrate populations will respond to those changes.

Changes in the polar region will likely include extinction of about 50 species of commercial fishes living at or near the poles that require cold polar water, such as the Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni).  Other species, living farther from the poles, will probably migrate toward the Arctic or Southern oceans, disturbing existing ecosystems.  Yet other populations such as the giant croaker (Totoaba macdonaldi), of the Sea of Cortez  and local hake (Merluccius merluccius) from the Meditteranean  Sea will be unable to migrate to colder waters and therefore face extinction.

July 14, 2008 in Biodiversity, Climate Change, International, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Science reports on new hurricane model

ScienceDaily (July 9, 2008) — A new mathematical model indicates that dust devils, water spouts, tornadoes, hurricanes and cyclones are all born of the same mechanism and will intensify as climate change warms the Earth's surface.  HT Eric, Climate Change Group

University of Michigan professor Nilton Renno and UM research scientist Natalia Andronova have created a generalization of Bernoulli's equation to address all spiralling storms.  It more accurate calculates the maximum expected intensity of spiraling storms based on the depth of the troposphere and the temperature and humidity of the air in the storm's path. The model improves upon current thermodynamic models by using actual measurements of the energy feeding a storm system and friction slowing it down rather than make simplifying assumptions about those variables.

    "This model allows us to relate changes in storms' intensity to
    environmental conditions," Renno said. "It shows us that climate
    change could lead to increases in how efficient convective vortices
    are and how much energy they transform into wind. Fueled by warmer
    and moister air, there will be stronger and deeper storms in the
    future that reach higher into the atmosphere."

The model predicts that each increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit will increase storm intensity by at least several percent.  The destruction power of intense storms could increase by 10%.  This prediction provides theoretical support for the empirical observations of scientists who suggest that hurricance intensity has increased as sea surface temperatures have risen.

July 14, 2008 in Climate Change, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Quality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Buying silence...the Tejon Ranch habitat conservation plan

An AP report yesterday by Noaki Schwartz disclosed that a development company has bought the silence of  3 of the 6 or so condor specialists, evaluating the habitat conservation plan for a major housing development proposed in critical habitat of the endangered condor.  Apparently the Sierra Club, NRDC, Audubon California and other environmental groups helped negotiate the plan, which sets aside 375 square miles for the bird and other wildlife species.  And the developer then sought to retain virtually all of the scientists who could potentially testify about the plan's effects on the condor.  Environmental groups, the USFWS, and NOAA should implement a policy that rejects habitat conservation plans where the proponent seeks to silence potential independent evaluators with confidentiality agreements.  Any decision reached under such circumstances can hardly be based on the best scientific information available...just the best scientific information that hasn't been bought.Common Dreams

May 27, 2008 in Biodiversity, Economics, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Land Use, Law, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CO2 Inventory Data Source

Vulcan_co2_inventory_map Like local data to pique your students' interest???  Want to know the facilities that you should target to make big gains in CO2 reduction???  Project Vulcan has made its complete database available -- and it produces cool maps like the one to the left.  2002 CO2 Inventory Data
Small databases with state by state and county by county inventories for 8 sectors are also available.  Enjoy!

An example of what a student might do: I looked at the Oregon inventory regarding mobile emissions.  It turns out that 75% of Oregon's emissions come from 15 of its 35 counties. Vulcan_2002_oregon_co2_inventory.xls   Since most of those are counties where urbanites support measures to control CO2, it might be possible to design a state program to reduce vehicle miles traveled in just those 15 counties -- and garner the support of rural legislators.  The idea is obvious -- but here are the numbers to prove it.













An example of the data available on a county by county basis is this Oregon

May 20, 2008 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spotted Owl Recovery Plan Released

The Fish and Wildlife Service released the final recovery plan for the northern spotted owl today, emphasizing forest conservation and reducing the threat of rival barred owls.  The plan identifies 34 recovery actions necessary to address the risks from the barred owl, timber harvest and catastrophic wildfires.  The recovery plan estimates that it will take 30 years and nearly $ 500 million to reach the goal of delisting the spotted owl.  However, due to the continued decline in population during the Northwest Forest Plan, the recovery plan calls for immediate actions during the next 10 years.

The plan for the western Cascades is to create a network of 133 Managed Owl Conservation Areas with 6.4 million acres of federal land.   In addition, the plan suggests the Forest Service and BLM maintain older, complex forests outside the MOCAs to provide a buffer between barred owl and spotted owl populations.  In the eastern Cascades, the plan does not envision a connected network because of wildfires and insect infestation, but instead relies on protecting spotted owl habitat in patches.

As specified in the plan, its long-term objectives are:
• Spotted owl populations are sufficiently large and distributed such that the species no longer requires listing under the ESA.
• Adequate habitat is available for spotted owls and will continue to exist to allow the species to persist without the protection of the ESA.
• The effects of threats have been reduced or eliminated such that spotted owl populations are stable or increasing and spotted owls are unlikely to become threatened again in the foreseeable future.

The "interim expectations" for the next 10 years are:
• The Barred Owl Work Group has quantified the threats from the barred owl on the spotted owl, control techniques and appropriate implementation plans have been developed, and a decision on managing barred owls has been made.
• The MOCA network has been established in the western Provinces with appropriate management of habitat-capable lands inside the MOCAs to support spotted owls.
• The Dry-Forest Landscape Work Group has developed, and Federal land management agencies have initiated and are implementing, a comprehensive program to restore ecological processes and functions, thus reducing the potential for significant habitat loss by stand-replacement fires, insects, and disease.

The final plan is already under attack from both conservation and timber groups for lack of detail about the type and amount of older forests that will be preserved in buffer ranges.

May 16, 2008 in Biodiversity, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)