Wednesday, August 17, 2011



Sir Paul Nurse, the President of the British Royal Society, has recorded a 4-part series of YouTube videos, each about 15 minutes long, called Science Under Attack. He examines the difficulty scientists have in communicating with the public on complex issues like climate change. At:

NEEP (the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships) has posted useful information on the transition to much more energy efficient lighting. At:

The Union of Concerned Scientists has posted a Climate Hot Map showing impacts of climate change around the world on people, freshwater, oceans ecosystems and temperature – lots of good information. Take a look at:

On July 14 the Associated Press published an article titled, Power company AEP puts hold on carbon capture project, cites economy, uncertain climate policy. The American Electric Power Company announced that it is putting on hold its plans to develop a commercial scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in West Virginia. The project, partially supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, was to capture and store about 1.5 million tons a year of CO2 and store it deep underground. The reasons for stopping the work were the absence of a price on carbon emissions and a low price for natural gas, making it difficult to justify the expense of removing emissions from coal. At:

On July 19 Look to the Stars announced that Al Gore has launched a new project called the Climate Reality Project. Mark your calendars now for September 14-15. He wrote:
"Using the same deceitful playbook as big tobacco used years before to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking, oil and coal companies and their allies are now deceiving the public about climate change. They have nearly unlimited resources to sow doubt, but we have one critical advantage: Reality is on our side."
“Climate Reality will start with a global event on September 14-15 called 24 Hours of Reality. Over 24 hours, in multiple languages and in 24 time zones, we will bring the world together to reveal the full truth, scope and impact of the climate crisis." See:

Michael Ruppert’s Collapse Network posted a short YouTube video, Famine Stalks Southern Somalia, about the desperate situation of starving refugees who have fled in the face of a prolonged drought and civil war. At:
Unfortunately, climate models predict increasing drought if that part of Africa and in many other failed and failing states, including Yemen and Afghanistan, where water supplies are already inadequate for expanding populations.

On July 21 Alison Fitzgerald of Bloomberg News posted an article titled, Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Law. In it she described a legislative action group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil and others, which lets them work with state legislators and provides ‘model legislation” that promotes the financial interests and ideological agenda of the supporting companies. Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause, said, “This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process.” As a tax-exempt organization, ALEC doesn’t have to disclose its corporate donors, and Tea Party legislators can come to Washington with all expenses paid by supporting companies as “scholarship funds.” “ALEC was founded by the late Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois, a Republican who served in the U.S. Congress for 22 years, and the late political activist Paul Weyrich, who co- founded the Heritage Foundation.” It has been a major supporter of the TEA Party. It is a serious threat to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to deal with climate change. At:

You can see an excellent Bloomberg video about the history and anti-environmental views and actions of the Koch brothers at:

On July 25, 2011 Daniel Weiss and Arpita Bhattacharyya of the Center for American Progress posted Slideshow: Wet, Hot, Dirty American Summer - Top 10 American Vacation Spots the House’s Environment Spending Bill Could Ruin. It shows photos of 10 great vacation spots in national parks and tells how they could be spoiled if U.S. H.R. 2584, the Interior Environment FY 2012 Appropriations bill, became law. It’s an unparalleled assault not only on public lands, but also on protection of public health and welfare. Fortunately, Pres. Obama would veto it if it got through the Senate. At:

Yahoo!News posted an article on July 25 titled, Holy Land Clerics Launch Interfaith Earth Forum. It reported that Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Holy Land are planning to launch an interfaith environmental campaign, to include an international conference of religious leaders in New York ahead of the 2010 UN General Assembly. A statement calls on “all people of faith to reduce their personal emissions of greenhouse gases and to urge their political leaders to adopt strong, binding, science-based targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases in order to avert the worst dangers of climate crisis.” At:
I recently learned about an organization based in Eugene, Oregon, called Our Children’s Trust – Protecting Earth’s Climate for Future Generations. It has a list of states showing climate impacts for each state. Legal petitions on behalf of children were filed in each state in May. Check it out at:

On July 27 there was a debate on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in Bergen New Jersey between Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club and Steve Lonegan of Americans for Prosperity, a far-right Republican organization that has opposed RGGI in favor of more fossil fuel burning. You can watch the debate at:

On July 29 the EPA posted a news release, President Obama Announces Historic 54.5 mpg Fuel Efficiency Standard/Consumers will save $1.7 trillion at the pump, $8K per vehicle by 2025. The agreement included 13 major auto manufacturers and will nearly double the fuel efficiency per vehicle by 2025. Obama called it, “the single most important step we’ve ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” At:

Jim Hansen recently posted a paper titled Baby Lauren and the Kool Aid, giving his thoughts on how to deal with the climate crisis, including the roles of nuclear power and renewable energy. It’s well worth reading. (Lauren is his new granddaughter.) At:

The July 30 NY Times had an article by Mireya Navarro titled, Coming Together to Pray, and Also to Find Reduced-Rate Energy Deals. Faith communities in the Washington, DC area are coming together to negotiate both lower electric rates and more energy from renewable energy sources. In this way they can both use money to help the poor that would have gone to utility companies, and also fulfill their desire to be better stewards of God’s creation. At:

Lisa Friedman has an article in the August 2 issue of Scientific American titled, Will Climate Change Make Life Harder for Girls? She points out that teenage girls - especially in developing countries - suffer disproportionately in droughts, floods and other natural disasters that are becoming more common as the climate changes. This is an issue of social justice that needs to be addressed. At:

NY Times blog Green has an article on Aug. 3 by John Broder titled, Climate Change an Extra Burden for Native Americans, Study Says. The report, by the National Wildlife Federation and others, says, “The high dependence of tribes upon their lands and natural resources to sustain their economic, cultural and spiritual practices, the relatively poor state of their infrastructure and the great need for financial and technical resources to recover from such events all contribute to the disproportionate impact on tribes.” This is yet another example of a lack of social justice, where those who are least responsible suffer most. At:

An article by Don Hopey in the Aug. 3 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was titled, EPA in 1987 Found fracking fouled well water in W. Va. He reported, “The EPA finding was unearthed by Environmental Working Group, which conducted a year-long investigation of the incident and released a report on the finding, "Cracks in the Facade," today.” This was a case nearly 25 years ago where the EPA established that drinking water wells were contaminated by fracking for natural gas. “In 2005 hydraulic fracturing was exempted from regulation and enforcement under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act based on a 2004 EPA study of fracked methane wells in coal beds.” At:

On August 4 the EPA issued a news release titled, Obama Administration Advances Efforts to Protect Health of U.S. Communities Overburdened by Pollution / Federal Agencies Sign Environmental Justice Memorandum of Understanding. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, "All too often, low-income, minority and Native Americans live in the shadows of our society's worst pollution, facing disproportionate health impacts and greater obstacles to economic growth in communities that can’t attract businesses and new jobs.” At:

The following items are from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Carol Werner, Executive Director. Past issues of its newsletter are posted on its website under "publications"
EESI’s newsletter is intended for all interested parties, particularly the policymaker community.

House Budget Writers Seek to Cut EPA Funding, Block CO2 Rules

The House Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill that cuts funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and halts regulation of greenhouse gases for one year. The Republican-led committee reported the appropriations bill by a vote of 28-18 on July 12. The bill also includes spending cuts for other agencies. The bill now goes to the full House. Republicans said the EPA’s regulations and activities harm the economy. The bill, as reported, cuts the Obama Administration’s funding request for the EPA by 20 percent. It would also temporarily block greenhouse gas regulations on large industrial facilities. Since Jan. 2, proposals to build those facilities or modify existing facilities must include an analysis of the “best available control technology” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA plans to issue greenhouse gas limits for new power plants and oil refineries later this year.
For additional information see: Bloomberg, Federal Times

Researchers Find Oceans Absorbing Less Carbon Dioxide

Warmer global temperatures are reducing the ability of the oceans to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, according to a new study. Because CO2 dissolves in water, the oceans act as an important sink for CO2, absorbing about one-third of all human-caused carbon emissions. But warmer water cannot hold as much CO2. Any decrease in the rate of uptake may point to the need for more urgent steps to reduce CO2 emissions. Separating the effect of the natural variability from influence of changes in temperature has been difficult for researchers, however. University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists sought to overcome that challenge by combining existing data to examine three large ocean regions over a three-decade period. "Because the ocean is so variable, we need at least 25 years' worth of data to really see the effect of carbon accumulation in the atmosphere," said researcher Galen McKinley. "This is a big issue in many branches of climate science -- what is natural variability, and what is climate change?" The study, published July 10 in Nature Geoscience, provided some of the first observational evidence of the effect of climate change’s on CO2 absorption in the oceans.
For additional information see: Science Daily, VOA News, Study Abstract

Declines of Animals and Plants Matching Scientists’ Predictions

One in 10 species could face extinction by 2100 if the current rate of climate change continues, according to a new study that provides more evidence on the threat to global biodiversity. A University of Exeter research team assessed the risk of climate change to animals and plants by examining how earlier scientific predictions match actual data being recorded today. On average, scientists’ warnings were on the mark. “Our study is a wake-up call for action,” said lead author Ilya Maclean. “The many species that are already declining could become extinct if things continue as they are. It is time to stop using the uncertainties as an excuse for not acting. Our research shows that the harmful effects of climate change are already happening and, if anything, exceed predictions.” The Exeter team reviewed 200 predictions and compared them to 130 reports of actual changes to animal and plant populations. For years, scientists have tried to predict future effects of climate change, but those warnings were received cautiously because of uncertainty in how species would actually respond. Today, however, declines are being observed. In Yellowstone National Park, for instance, the population of the blotched tiger salamander is half the population recorded two decades ago. Similarly, the park’s population of spotted frogs fell by 68 percent, and the population of chorus frogs fell by 75 percent. The study was published July 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Time, Study Abstract

Research Shows Promise in Adapting Rice to Climate Change

Scientists are making progress in adapting a key food staple to the impacts of climate change. A U.S. Geological Survey-led research project successfully colonized two commercial varieties of rice with a type of fungi. The rice showed an increased tolerance to drought, which is important because scientists expect climate change to increase the duration and severity of drought in already water-scarce areas of the globe. Rice is a key staple of diets worldwide. It provides nearly half the daily calories for the world’s population. The next step for the research team is to confer greater heat tolerance to rice. Rice production decreases by 10 percent for each degree Celsius increase in temperature.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study Abstract

Study: Rising CO2 Levels Trigger Release of Other Greenhouse Gases

Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) will cause an increased release of nitrogen oxide (NO2) and methane from wetlands, forests and farmlands according to a study in the British journal Nature. More CO2 in the atmosphere causes many plants to grow faster and use water more efficiently, leaving more moisture in the soil. That allows soil microbes to produce more NO2 and methane, according to the lead author of the study, Kees Jan van Groenigen of Northern Arizona University. NO2 is about 300 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and methane is about 21 times as powerful. The study suggested global warming could be occurring faster than previously thought and complex computer models used to project climate change may need to be adjusted.
For additional information see: Reuters

Climate Change to Increase Flood Plains

A study to be released later this summer will predict flood plains will grow 40-45 percent in the next 90 years. Stronger storms coupled with sea-level rise of 0.75 and 1.9 meters will force seawater deeper inland by 2100, according to the study, affecting millions of homes and businesses, and doubling the number of policies in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). According to geologist Mark Crowell, who is overseeing the study at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there is “a need for FEMA to incorporate the effects of climate change more directly into various aspects of the NFIP." The NFIP has not yet directly accounted for the impact of climate change on flooding. "We've got to start managing these issues now," according to David Maurstad who ran NFIP under President George W. Bush. Many in the insurance industry acknowledge increased financial losses from violent weather but blame increased population and the expansion of new construction.
For additional information see: New York Times

Climate Change to Cause More Frequent Fires in National Parks, Study Finds

According to a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, climate change will cause Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons to experience large fires more frequently. Over the past 10,000 years, fires have occurred in the area every 100 to 300 years. The study indicated that by the end of the century, large fires are likely to occur every 20 to 30 years and the average annual burn area will be almost 400 square miles. "What surprised us is how early the changes become so extreme," said lead author Anthony Westerling. "By mid-century, the climate conditions combined with fire frequency are going to be incompatible with the kinds of forests that grow there now. There is going to be a transformation of the landscape. It's going to look really different." The dominant lodgepole pines will not be able to regenerate in the short time span between fires and will give way to faster growing aspen, Douglas fir or shrubs and grasslands. Such changes will also impact the region’s wildlife, water flows and carbon storage, according to the study.
For additional information see: AFP, LA Times, Discovery, Abstract

Study: Conservative White Males More Likely to Be Climate Change Deniers

Conservative white males are more likely than other Americans to deny climate change, according to a new study in the journal Global Environmental Change. "The most prominent denialists are conservative white males," wrote co-authors Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlap. The researchers examined data gathered by the Gallup Organization during 2001 to 2010 from over 10,000 adults to determine attitudes about climate change. The analysis found 29.6 percent of conservative white males believed the effects of global warming “will never happen” and 58.5 percent do not believe global temperature increases are caused by human activity. Almost two-thirds (65.1 percent) of conservative white males said the media exaggerates climate change and 39.1 percent do not worry about global warming. The authors also found that conservative white males claimed a more thorough understanding of climate change than other adults, and those claiming the greatest understanding most likely to be the strongest deniers. "What is most sobering, especially for the scientific community and climate change communicators, is that climate change denial has actually increased in the U.S. general public between 2001 and 2010, although primarily due to a significant increase in the past two years which may prove abnormal in the long run," wrote the authors.
For additional information see: Guardian, Conservation Magazine, Abstract

Insurance Companies Probe Impact of Climate Change on Future Weather Events

Several major insurance companies are taking steps to include the future effects of climate change in their business models. Claims resulting from this year’s floods, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme weather events in the United States are expected to negate any profits for the insurance and reinsurance industry. “Last year in Texas it was all floods and this year it’s drought,” said Andrew Castaldi of Swiss Re America Corp., a reinsurance company. “Is that climate change or just natural variability? We’re investigating whether these phenomena are simply normal variability or normal variability with some climate change influence.” Insurance companies want to price the potential effects of climate change, and set aside appropriate capital reserves to handle future claims. “We don’t see it as a danger in the next 30 years, but if we don’t do something to contain greenhouse gas emissions now, this is definitely a challenge for the insurance business model in the second half of this century,” said Peter Hoppe of Munich Re, another reinsurance company.
For additional information see: CNBC, Munich Re News Release

Near-Record Melting of Ice in Arctic Ocean Opens Safe Route for Cargo

Ice cover in the Arctic melted to such an extent this summer that previously perilous waters are open to easy and safe navigation, the Russian climate monitoring agency reported. The melting is occurring at a near-record pace. “Since the beginning of August, icebreaker-free sailing is open on almost all the (northern shipping) routes,” the agency said in a statement posted Aug. 3 on its website. The Arctic Ocean could be entirely free of ice during the summer by 2050 if the current pace of melting keeps up. Russia would like the northern passage through the Arctic to rival the Suez Canal in moving cargo and become a year-round route. For cargo moving between European and Asian ports, the northern route is one-third shorter. Right now, it is used from July to November and ice-breakers ensure safe passage.
For additional information see: Reuters, Bloomberg

Small Increases in Water Temperatures Can Cause Collapse of Ice Shelves, Study Says

An analysis of prehistoric, large scale discharges of icebergs in the North Atlantic Ocean shows small temperature increases of subsurface water can cause a rapid collapse of ice shelves. The findings indicate a 3-4 degree Celsius increase in water temperatures was enough to cause breakup of the Laurentide Ice Sheet in what is now Canada. According to the researchers, present day temperature increases and potentially shifting ocean currents could greatly increase ice melt and hasten sea level rise. The study was conducted by researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Wisconsin, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology and was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study Abstract

Crops with Deeper Roots Can Lower CO2 Levels, Study Finds

Replacing today’s crops with deeper-rooted plants could dramatically lower atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, a new study found. Deeper root systems promote greater sequestration of CO2 in the soil. The University of Manchester study found that replacing today’s crops with new crops that have roots that extend one meter deeper into the soil could double the amount of CO2 sequestered in the soil from agriculture. Deeper-rooted crops also are more drought resistant. Most of today’s crops do not have root systems that extend below one meter. Many deeper-rooted plants exist, but have not been bred for agriculture. “While there is a way to go before such crops might have, for example, the grain yields of present day cereals, their breeding and deployment seems a very promising avenue for sustainable agriculture,” said study author Douglas Kell. The study was published in the Annals of Botany.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study Abstract

Warming Could Aid Fungi in Attacking Forests, Study Finds

Climate change could weaken trees and make them more susceptible to devastating diseases from fungi, say researchers who studied a mass extinction of prehistoric conifer forests. Today’s trees are facing threats from fungi-related diseases, such as Dutch elm disease and sudden oak death. Scientists are interested in any link between changes in temperature and water availability and the resiliency of trees to disease. The study found that a mass die-off of prehistoric forests was aided by a rapid change in climate that weakened trees and made them less able to fight off attacks from fungi. The study was conducted by a biologist at the University of California-Berkeley and colleagues in Britain and the Netherlands who examined fossil records from around the globe. The study was published online Aug. 5 in Geology.
For additional information see: The Bay Citizen, UC Berkeley News Release, Study Abstract

Researcher Says Arctic Ice Vanishing Faster than Predicted

The Arctic Ocean may be free of sea ice during the summer much earlier than scientists previously believed because the ice is thinning four times faster than computer models have predicted, an Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, which was issued in 2007, predicted a summer ice-free Arctic by 2100. In a new study, Pierre Rampal of MIT said summer ice will disappear much earlier, probably within a few decades. Thinner ice breaks up more readily, and can get carried on currents through the Fram Strait to warmer waters to the south, enhancing melting. The study will be published in a future edition of Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans.
For additional information see: The Vancouver Sun, MIT News Release

Scientists Find Forests Remove One Third of Fossil Fuel Emissions Each Year

The Earth’s forests absorb a staggering amount of carbon from the atmosphere each year, an amount equivalent to one-third of annual fossil fuel emissions, according to a new study. The study is the first to clearly identify volumes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) taken up by tropical, temperate and boreal forests. "What this research tells us is that forests play a much larger role as carbon sinks as a result of tree growth and forest expansion,” said study co-author Pep Canadell of CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. The study also allows scientists to quantify the impact of deforestation, and it’s much bigger than previously thought. Authors say the study shows why re-growing forests and conserving forests are necessary to mitigating GHG emissions. The study was published online in Science.
For additional information see: Science Daily, Study Abstract

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Chad A. Tolman
Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action