Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wetlands likely to blame for atmospheric methane increases: Study

Wetlands likely to blame for atmospheric methane increases: Study
April 28, 2014

A surprising recent rise in atmospheric methane likely stems from wetland emissions, suggesting that much more of the potent greenhouse gas will be pumped into the atmosphere as northern wetlands continue to thaw and tropical ones to warm, according to a new international study led by a University of Guelph researcher.

The study supports calls for improved monitoring of wetlands and human changes to those ecosystems -- a timely topic as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to examine land use impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, says Prof. Merritt Turetsky, Department of Integrative Biology.

Turetsky is the lead author of a paper published today in Global Change Biology based on one of the largest-ever analyses of global methane emissions. The team looked at almost 20,000 field data measurements collected from 70 sites across arctic, temperate and tropical regions.

Agnieszka Kotowska, a former master's student, and David Olefeldt, a post-doc at Guelph, also were among 19 study co-authors from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, Germany and Sweden.

One of the strongest greenhouse gases, methane comes from agriculture and fossil fuel use, as well as natural sources such as microbes in saturated wetland soils.

The amount of atmospheric methane has remained relatively stable for about a decade, but concentrations began to rise again in 2007. Scientists believe this increase stems partly from more methane being released from thawing northern wetlands.

Scientists have assumed that wetland methane release is largest in the tropics, said Turetsky.

"But our analyses show that northern fens, such as those created when permafrost thaws, can have emissions comparable to warm sites in the tropics, despite their cold temperatures. That's very important when it comes to scaling methane release at a global scale."

The study calls for better methods of detecting different types of wetlands and methane release rates between flooded and drained areas.

Fens are the most common type of wetland in Canada, but we lack basic scientific approaches for mapping fens using remote sensing products, she said.

"Not only are fens one of the strongest sources of wetland greenhouse gases, but we also know that Canadian forests and tundra underlain by permafrost are thawing and creating these kinds of high methane-producing ecosystems."

Most methane studies focus on measurements at a single site, said co-author Narasinha Shurpali, University of Eastern Finland. "Our synthesis of data from a large number of observation points across the globe is unique and serves an important need."

The team showed that small temperature changes can release much more methane from wetland soils to the atmosphere. But whether climate change will ramp up methane emissions will depend on soil moisture, said Turetsky.

Under warmer and wetter conditions, much more of the gas will be emitted. If wetland soils dry out from evaporation or human drainage, emissions will fall -- but not without other problems.

In earlier studies, Turetsky found drying peatlands can spark more wildfires.

Another study co-author, Kim Wickland, United States Geological Survey, said, "This study provides important data for better accounting of how methane emissions change after wetland drainage and flooding."

Methane emissions vary between natural and disturbed or managed wetlands, says Wickland, who has helped the IPCC improve methods for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from managed wetlands.

Turetsky holds a Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology. She and her students examine how ecosystems regulate climate in field sites in Canada and Alaska.

Journal Reference:
Merritt R. Turetsky, Agnieszka Kotowska, Jill Bubier, Nancy B. Dise, Patrick Crill, Ed R. C. Hornibrook, Kari Minkkinen, Tim R. Moore, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Hannu Nykänen, David Olefeldt, Janne Rinne, Sanna Saarnio, Narasinha Shurpali, Eeva-Stiina Tuittila, J. Michael Waddington, Jeffrey R. White, Kimberly P. Wickland, Martin Wilmking. A synthesis of methane emissions from 71 northern, temperate, and subtropical wetlands. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12580

Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change

Research published in Science found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.

Carbon loss from soil accelerating climate change
April 24, 2014

Research published in Science today found that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cause soil microbes to produce more carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.

Two Northern Arizona University researchers led the study, which challenges previous understanding about how carbon accumulates in soil. Increased levels of CO2 accelerate plant growth, which causes more absorption of CO2through photosynthesis.

Until now, the accepted belief was that carbon is then stored in wood and soil for a long time, slowing climate change. Yet this new research suggests that the extra carbon provides fuel to microorganisms in the soil whose byproducts (such as CO2) are released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

"Our findings mean that nature is not as efficient in slowing global warming as we previously thought," said Kees Jan van Groenigen, research fellow at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and lead author of the study. "By overlooking this effect of increased CO2 on soil microbes, models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have overestimated the potential of soil to store carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect."

In order to better understand how soil microbes respond to the changing atmosphere, the study's authors utilized statistical techniques that compare data to models and test for general patterns across studies. They analyzed published results from 53 different experiments in forests, grasslands and agricultural fields around the world. These experiments all measured how extra CO2 in the atmosphere affects plant growth, microbial production of carbon dioxide, and the total amount of soil carbon at the end of the experiment.

"We've long thought soils to be a stable, safe place to store carbon, but our results show soil carbon is not as stable as we previously thought," said Bruce Hungate, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and study author. "We should not be complacent about continued subsidies from nature in slowing climate change."

Journal Reference:
Kees Jan van Groenigen, Xuan Qi, Craig W. Osenberg, Yiqi Luo, and Bruce A. Hungate. Faster Decomposition Under Increased Atmospheric CO2 Limits Soil Carbon Storage. Science, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1249534

April 2014 - First Month Above 400 CO2

The melting polar icecap is creating waves the size of houses

The melting polar icecap is creating waves the size of houses
By Gwynn Guilford, April 29, 2014

Compared with the monster seas of the Pacific, Arctic waters are a picture of calm—whipping up, at their most violent, into lake-like chop. Or, at least, they were. New research shows that something is whipping up waves that reach five meters (16.4 feet).

“That’s a big wave—that’s a house-sized wave. And that has never been observed before in the Arctic,” says Jim Thomson, a physicist at the University of Washington who led the study (paywall).

So why is it happening now? “As the ice retreats in the Arctic, which it is doing in a very remarkable way, we’re finding more and more waves,” says Thomson. “And we’re finding a very direct relationship between the height of the waves and the retreat of the ice.”

He’s talking about the sheet of ice that blankets the Arctic, which melts a bit in the summer and re-freezes throughout winter. Toward the end of the last century, the summer sun typically peeled it back at most 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the coast. Now the edge of the Arctic ice cover recedes thousands of kilometers.

Every summer, in other words, the planet gets a whole new ocean. And with a new ocean comes new waves, it turns out.

Wind is the major force creating waves. While it makes smaller waves locally, swells—those big, rolling waves that can rear up out of the sea in storms—come from much further away. That explains why, until recently, the Arctic had whitecaps, but no swells. But the polar icecap’s recent peel-back is opening up the huge spans of water needed to make waves big.

Take, for instance, the Beaufort Sea that skirts northern Alaska, which Thomson and his colleague Erick Rogers were researching. As late as April, that gap between the north pole and Alaska is completely blanketed in ice, and whereas it once retreated hundreds of kilometers each summer, now the ice disappears almost entirely. That’s why heavy winds in September 2012 kicked up these waves:

This is worrisome for a couple of reasons. First, there’s simply safety. The new Arctic waterway is exciting to commercial shipping companies, which see it offering a shorter trade route. China, for example, estimates that by 2020, up to $500 billion worth of its trade could transit through the new waterway.

New transit routes opening up for two major vessel types: current routes (left) vs. those possible in 2050 (right). Smith and Stephenson, PNAS, Early Edition

The tradeoff, as Thomson and Rogers’ research suggests, is that more open sea means bigger waves—and more risk of danger. Between 2009 and 2013, the annual average of ships lost or severely damaged (pdf, p.3) in Arctic waters rose to 45, up from the 2002-7 average of seven ships, according to Allianz. And if the Arctic starts looking more like the rest of the ocean, that could get worse; storms caused three-quarters of all shipping losses last year, reports Allianz.

More ominous still is that the emergence of big swells is very likely accelerating the disappearance of Arctic ice. Swells carry much more energy. The force they deliver when they slam into the icecap breaks off floes, hastening the retreat—and creating ever-bigger swells.

On top of that, the huge amounts of foam created by big waves flushes more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the ocean, says Thomson. Though scientists aren’t clear how those gases get dissolved, that’s going to shake up Arctic chemistry in a way that is hard to anticipate.

Climate change: Pacific Ocean acidity dissolving shells of key species

Climate change: Pacific Ocean acidity dissolving shells of key species

Paul Rogers. 04/30/2014

In a troubling new discovery, scientists studying ocean waters off California, Oregon and Washington have found the first evidence that increasing acidity in the ocean is dissolving the shells of a key species of tiny sea creature at the base of the food chain.

The animals, a type of free-floating marine snail known as pteropods, are an important food source for salmon, herring, mackerel and other fish in the Pacific Ocean. Those fish are eaten not only by millions of people every year, but also by a wide variety of other sea creatures, from whales to dolphins to sea lions.

If the trend continues, climate change scientists say, it will imperil the ocean environment.

An unhealthy pterapod whose shell is dissolving due to rising levels of oceanic acidity. (NOAA/Steve Ringman)

"These are alarm bells," said Nina Bednarsek, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle who helped lead the research. "This study makes us understand that we have made an impact on the ocean environment to the extent where we can actually see the shells dissolving right now."

Scientists from NOAA and Oregon State University found that in waters near the West Coast shoreline, 53 percent of the tiny floating snails had shells that were severely dissolving -- double the estimate from 200 years ago.

Until now, the impact on marine species from increasing ocean acidity because of climate change has been something that was tested in tanks in labs, but which was not considered an immediate concern such as forest fires and droughts.

The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a scientific journal based in England, changes that.

"The pteropods are like the canary in the coal mine. If this is affecting them, it is affecting everything in the ocean at some level," said one of the nation's top marine biologists, Steve Palumbi, director of Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove.

The vast majority of the world's scientists -- including those at NOAA, NASA, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Meteorological Organization -- say the Earth's temperature is rising because of humans burning fossil fuels like oil and coal. That burning pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and traps heat, similar to a greenhouse. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere have increased 25 percent since 1960 and are now at the highest levels in at least 800,000 years, according to measurements of air bubbles taken in ancient ice and other methods.

Many of the impacts are already being felt. Since the 1880s, when modern temperature records were first taken, the 10 hottest years have all occurred since 1998. Polar ice has melted, forest fires are burning in the West with increasing frequency, and the ocean has risen 8 inches since 1900 at the Golden Gate Bridge.

But what many people do not realize is that nearly a third of carbon dioxide emitted by humans is dissolved in the oceans. Some of that forms carbonic acid, which makes the ocean more corrosive.

Over the past 200 years, the ocean's acidity has risen by roughly 30 percent. At the present rate, it is on track to rise by 70 percent by 2050 from preindustrial levels.

More acidic water can harm oysters, clams, corals and other species that have calcium carbonate shells. Generally speaking, increasing the acidity by 50 percent from current levels is enough to kill some marine species, tests in labs have shown.

The new research on the marine snails does not show that increasingly acidic water is killing all of them, particularly older snails. But it is causing their shells to dissolve, which can make them more vulnerable to disease, slow their ability to evade predators and reduce their reproductive rates, the researchers said.

Some of the corrosive water near the shore could be a result of other types of pollution, such as runoff from fertilizer and sewage, said Stanford's Palumbi, who was not involved in the NOAA research. But because the study found rates of the snails' shells dissolving in deep water, far from the shore, human-caused carbon dioxide is the prime suspect, he added.

If people reduce emissions of fossil fuels, cutting carbon dioxide levels in the decades ahead, the damage to the oceans can still be limited, he said.

"But if we keep on the emissions profile we have now, by 2100 the oceans will be so harmed it's hard to imagine them coming back from that in anything less than thousands of years," Palumbi said.

"We are in a century of choice," he said. "We can choose the way we want it to go."

As U.S. warms, dangerous mosquito thrives

The Asian Tiger mosquito carries chikungunya, a disease that originated in Africa and causes high fever and intense pain.

As U.S. warms, dangerous mosquito thrives
Durland Fish, Mark Pagani and Anthony Leiserowitz, April 30, 2014

(CNN) -- Many Americans think global warming is a distant risk that threatens faraway places with ice caps and polar bears. Very few Americans link global warming to infectious disease, but that could change.

As the climate of the northern United States warms, the Asian tiger mosquito, one of the world's most invasive pests, continues spreading northward from Texas to New York, while extending its breeding season. These changes are happening just when chikungunya, an infectious disease carried by this and other mosquitoes, is rapidly spreading throughout the Caribbean. Pieces are falling into place for a historic epidemic on U.S. shores.

If that happens, then mosquitoes might just shift the debate from whether climate change is happening to a more serious discussion on how to respond to the consequences of a warmer world.

Studies by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication have found that when Americans are informed about the broad health consequences of climate change, they are more likely to engage with the issue. When what's threatened are our neighbors, rather than far away polar bears, the perception of climate change is likely to shift.

When informed about the broad health consequences of climate change, participants surveyed by the Yale Project for Climate Change Communication are more likely to engage with climate issues. In the end, disease-carrying mosquitoes don't care if you are a Democrat or a Republican.

Asian tiger mosquitoes are opportunistic; they breed nearly anywhere. Unlike most other mosquitoes, they bite all day long. Nor do they mind having their blood meal interrupted by an attempted swatting. They just fly off to other victims and increase the odds of spreading disease.
"In the end, disease-carrying mosquitos don't care if you are Democrat or Republican."
Durland Fish

Arriving in Texas in the mid-1980s, Asian tiger mosquitoes spread northward to their ecological limit where annual average temperatures are 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer — a boundary that runs more or less through New York City. Indeed, New York health officials are monitoring Asian tiger mosquitoes in 61 locations across the city's five boroughs. The mosquito is abundant in the Washington, D.C., area.

The Asian tiger mosquito is also adapting its behavior and is able to ignore the onset of autumn, postpone hibernation, and extend its egg-laying season. More time to breed allows more Asian tiger mosquitoes in northern latitudes, just as one of the worst diseases they can carry arrived near U.S. shores.

News reports on chikungunya picked up their pace last December when the disease first appeared on the Caribbean island of St. Martin. We know it originated in East Africa, how the Makonde people in Africa named it for the contorted posture related to its painful arthritis-like symptoms, that the number of confirmed or suspected cases in the Caribbean has passed 25,000, and that it is highly likely to spread to the U.S. mainland. There is little or no discussion of the virus' propensity to mutate.

Although the outbreak is driven by the yellow fever mosquito, which thrives only in the tropics, recent mutations allow the chikungunya virus to be carried 100 times more efficiently by the Asian tiger mosquito.

This new virus strain infected hundreds of thousands of people on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean in 2005; about 255,000 cases were reported. Many died and thousands experienced high fever and intense physical pain. The same strain has caused at least five outbreaks in Asia affecting millions, with smaller outbreaks in France and Italy.

Unfortunately, just when public health officials should be preparing for a chikungunya outbreak in the United States, the federal budget sequestration reduced funding for research on all infectious diseases. Global warming is enabling the Asian tiger mosquito to spread northward, yet climate policy remains stalled in Congress, where some elected officials still dismiss even the reality of the measurable rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution.

The relationship between climate change and infectious disease needs to be a focus of the nation's strategy for outbreak prevention, preparedness, detection and response. Public understanding of chikungunya and the broader links between rising temperatures and human health could help change public discourse.

Since the first outbreak of Lyme in Connecticut, the disease has already spread into Canada. cryptococcosis, a frequently lethal fungal disease formerly restricted to the tropics, was identified in the Pacific Northwest in 2007. Valley fever and hantavirus are also spreading. All have been associated with changing environmental conditions as temperatures increase. Do we really need to wait until chikungunya arrives in the United States before we initiate responsible climate and human health policies?

Extreme Rainfall Events Like Pensacola’s On the Rise

Extreme Rainfall Events Like Pensacola’s On the Rise (via Climate Central)
By Andrea Thompson Follow @AndreaTWeather Tornadoes have a tendency to grab the headlines, but the torrential rains that can accompany severe storms can do just as much damage or worse, as photos of washed out roadways and homes from Pensacola, Fla.,…

World's coastal megacities sinking 10 times faster than rising water levels

Rapid urbanisation and associated impacts are leading to increased vulnerability to floods. (Getty Images photo)

World's coastal megacities sinking 10 times faster than rising water levels
James Vincent, The Independent Apr 29, 2014

LONDON: Scientists have issued a new warning to the world's coastal megacities that the threat from subsiding land is a more immediate problem than rising sea levels caused by global warming.

A new paper from the Deltares Research Institute in the Netherlands published earlier this month identified regions of the globe where the ground level is falling 10 times faster than water levels are rising — with human activity often to blame.

In Jakarta, Indonesia's largest city, the population has grown from around half a million in the 1930s to just under 10 million today, with heavily populated areas dropping by as much as six and a half feet as groundwater is pumped up from the Earth to drink.

The same practice led to Tokyo's ground level falling by two metres before new restrictions were introduced, and in Venice, this sort of extraction has only compounded the effects of natural subsidence caused by long-term geological processes.

"Land subsidence and sea level rise are both happening, and they are both contributing to the same problem — larger and longer floods, and bigger inundation depth of floods," Dr Gilles Erkens, who led the research from Deltares, told the BBC.

"The most rigorous solution and the best one is to stop pumping groundwater for drinking water, but then of course you need a new source of drinking water for these cities. But Tokyo did that and subsidence more or less stopped, and in Venice, too, they have done that."

Unfortunately, human-driven subsidence is having a great affect than natural processes, with rapid urbanization and its associated impacts leading to increased vulnerability to floods.

Dr Erkens and his team estimate that the financial cost of structural damage and maintenance amounts to around a billion dollars annually and that parts of many megacities - including Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Dhaka - will sink below sea level unless action is taken.

In the case of Jakarta defences such as a 30-kilometre seawall have been erected to protect the city form flooding, but if this were to break, Deltares have predicted that within 48 hours the homes of nearly one million people would be flooded.

For other cities though, even this sort of defence is futile, as rising water levels will overrun them first instead.

The tiny island nation of Maldives (formed from a double chain of 26 atolls) sits just five feet above sea level. Worst-case projections of rising water levels suggest that some 350,000 islanders will have to completely abandon their home before the end of the century, leaving behind a 2,000 year old culture for good.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

75 million Americans under threat of severe weather

75 million Americans under threat of severe weather
Ed Payne and Martin Savidge, April 29, 2014 CNN

Tupelo, Mississippi (CNN) -- The scope is staggering. Some 75 million Americans are under threat of severe weather on Tuesday.

People from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, and from the Midwest to the East Coast, are advised to keep their eyes to the sky and their ears to the radio. That's a third of the country.

The greatest risk will again be in the Deep South, with Mississippi and Alabama in the bull's eye for the worst of the storms.

The first two days of this powerful spring storm system, which is expected to rage into Wednesday, claimed 29 lives in six states.

Residents across the region huddled in hallways and basements on Monday as a string of tornadoes ripped through their states.

Eight people died in Mississippi on Monday, the state emergency management office said. Few additional details were immediately available.

It was a close call for Anthony Bishop and his co-workers as the storm hit the lube shop where they work in Tupelo.

"Right as it ripped the roof off the building ... we all jumped in the pit," Bishop told CNN affiliate WMC-TV. "Heard blocks hitting cars above me, glass flying all around the pit where we were."

States of emergency

Two people died in Lincoln County, Tennessee, near the border with Alabama.

And two more were killed at a trailer park west of Athens, Alabama. A third person died in Tuscaloosa after a retaining wall collapsed on him.

Severe weather also rumbled through the Birmingham area late Monday.

"We got report of damages in Kimberly, Morris (and) Bessemer," said Horace Walker a spokesman for Jefferson County Emergency Management. "No reports of injuries, but I expect for that to change because we do have entrapments."

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency for all counties.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal did the same as the severe weather advanced.

"At this juncture, we've declared the emergency for the entire state because it's impossible to pinpoint where the weather will hit," Deal said. "Georgia is threatened at least through (Tuesday) and perhaps into Wednesday. We're prepared now and we'll be ready for recovery should we, God forbid, experience tornado damage or flooding."

Mississippi hit hard

Of the eight fatalities in Mississippi, one of them occurred in Richland, said Rankin County Emergency Management Director Bob Wedgeworth.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the twisters inflicted "severe damage" around the town of Louisville, about 90 miles northeast of Jackson.

Winston Medical Center, Louisville's major hospital, was among the buildings hit.

"The Winston Medical Center has received damage from a tornado. Walls are down. Some gas leak is occurring," Bryant said.

The storm destroyed Britney Butler's home in Tupelo, WMC-TVreported.

"It hurts to look, because I won't come home tonight," said Butler, who still managed to put on a smile after discovering her dog had come out unscathed. "Oreo means the most to me."

Elsewhere in Tupelo, buildings near a major commercial district on the city's north side were "wiped away," Scott Morris, a reporter for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, told CNN's "The Lead."

Numerous trees and power lines were down, and "quite a few buildings are destroyed up there," Morris said.

As things got ugly, Matt Laubhan, the chief meteorologist at Tupelo television station WTVA, took charge. He ordered station staff to take cover before walking off the set himself.

"Basement. Now ... let's go," Laubhan said.

Act II

Monday's storms were Act II of a powerful weather system that brought punishing thunderstorms to the central United States. Tornadoes spawned by those storms on Sunday killed 14 people in Arkansas and one each in Oklahoma and Iowa, authorities in those states reported.

The hardest-hit area was Faulkner County, Arkansas, where a suspected tornado shattered homes, tossed tractor-trailers and killed 10 people in the towns of Vilonia and Mayflower. Two children were among the dead.

Before the bad weather slammed into Arkansas, witnesses spotted a twister in the northeast Oklahoma town of Quapaw, where one person died, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office said.

The same line of storms also hit Baxter Springs just a few miles to the north. Sixty to 70 homes and at least 20 businesses were reported destroyed, said Cherokee County emergency manager Jason Allison. A tornado estimated to be three blocks wide rumbled through the town of 4,200, he said.

A sprawling storm front also hit eastern Iowa, killing a woman in the tiny community of Kinross in Keokuk County, the sheriff's department said.

The one bright spot amid Sunday's devastation were the forecasts that predicted the severe weather days ago, storm chaser Brett Adair said.

The advance notice helped save lives, said Adair, whose team witnessed the Faulkner County, Arkansas, storm, then helped victims.

"This definitely was not something to take lightly," he said.

Lingering threat

The deadly weather pattern won't begin to subside until late this week.

On Wednesday, nearly 37 million will still be under threat of severe weather as the front eases to the east. The number drops to about 30 million on Thursday.

Indigenous Peoples & Climate Change Perspective

Indigenous Peoples & Climate Change Perspective
Published on Feb 25, 2014
The University of Missouri School of Law presents the 2014 Journal of Environmental & Sustainability Law Symposium - Environmental Law 4.0: Adaptive and Resilient.

Indigenous Peoples & Climate Change Perspective Presented by:
Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Associate Professor of Law;
Director, Tribal Law & Government Center; Affiliated
Professor, Indigenous Studies, University of Kansas School of Law

11:20 am, February 14, 2014, John K. Hulston Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri.

"Food and Climate" by Dr. Michael Fratantuono

"Food and Climate" by Dr. Michael Fratantuono
 Published on Feb 11, 2014
Dr. Michael Fratantuono is a professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. He discussed how a changing climate threatens havoc on already insecure and vulnerable populations. Can the U.S. lead the way to climate reform.

Climate Change 2014: Science, Risks and Responses

Climate Change 2014: Science, Risks and Responses
Published on Apr 7, 2014
"Climate Change 2014: Science, Risks and Responses," took place on the UWS Campbelltown campus on Friday 7th Moarch as part of our 25th Anniversary Celebrations. Prof Will Steffen from the Climate Council was the speaker.


Published on Mar 11, 2014
There's no doubt that the Pacific is facing the worst of changing climatic conditions.

From rising sea levels, salt water intrusions to coastal erosion- all these are clear indications that climate change is real as it gets.

Close Up profiles some communities and get up close with the relevant authorities to investigate just what climate change has done to our vulnerable communities.

Prof Camille Parmesan - Biodiversity and Climate Change

Prof Camille Parmesan - Biodiversity and Climate Change
Published on Apr 17, 2014
The first Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture was held on Wednesday 19th March 2014 at Plymouth University by Professor Camille Parmesan and was entitled "Biodiversity and Climate Change - Connecting the Past to the Future". This video acts as a permanent record of the Linnean Lecture Series and we welcome your comments and feedback. The lecture was presented jointly by Plymouth University and the Linnean Society of London. It was hosted by Dr Malcolm Scoble (Scientific Secretary to the Linnean Society of London) and this video includes his introduction and a Q&A with the audience.

With greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise, Earth is rapidly approaching a climate regime not experienced for millennia; however, previous scientific studies can provide vital clues as to the potential impact this current episode could have on wildlife, with records showing many species shifted where they live, sometimes by more than 1000km, as glaciers moved in and out during the Pleistocene. To determine if modern species are also now moving in response to the warming of their environments due to climate change, we access recordings from amateur naturalists that detail the locations of species over time, building on Linné's simple system of classification, which recorded birds, butterflies and flowering plants from the 1760s and can be directly compared to current distributions. Using this method, we can show that some 40-50% of plants and animals have shifted their ranges towards the poles and up mountains, attempting to track the shifting climate.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Denialism of Climate Change and Evolution

Denialism of Climate Change and Evolution
Published on May 7, 2013
Far more people are climate change deniers than evolution deniers, but both camps use similar strategies to promote their views. Genie Scott explores the connections, the similarities, and the divergent ideologies. Where: New York. When: 10/23/2011. Hosted by the New York City Skeptics.

The Ice and the Sea: Abrupt Climate Change Happening Now

The Ice and the Sea: Abrupt Climate Change Happening Now
Published on Jul 2, 2013
Over 100 feet of vertical melt at Point 660 near Kangerlussuaq in the last three years tells the story. Climate scientists in Greenland call it the "Big Melt." This film tells the story of Bruce Melton, a lone adventurer/engineer/researcher whose first book on climate change was published by Al Gore, or at least, Gore published one so much like Melton's that it killed his project. So he picked up his cameras and went to Greenland. What he saw in the rapidly melting ice sheet was reflected in the great concern of the scientists there and the confusion and disbelief in the eyes of the locals. Melton's path led him back to his home waters to document sea level rise on the middle Texas Coast, from a homemade wooden boat, and 50 miles down a deserted four-wheel drive only beach. The film is scored by original tunes from a band called Climate Change in Austin, Texas.

The Scientific Case for Urgent Action to Limit Climate Change

The Scientific Case for Urgent Action to Limit Climate Change
Published on May 2, 2013
Distinguished Professor Emeritus Richard Somerville, a world-renowned climate scientist and author of "The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change," discusses the scientific case for urgent action to limit climate change. Series: "Perspectives on Ocean Science"

David Attenborough: 'Climate Change - Britain Under Threat'

David Attenborough: 'Climate Change - Britain Under Threat'
Published on Dec 7, 2013
Documentary by Sir David Attenborough - Exploring impacts of Climate Change on UK.

Climate change and paleoclimatology

Climate change and paleoclimatology: 2013/2014 in perspective
Published on Mar 24, 2014
Lynn Ingram, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley

World On Pace to Hit 4.8°C by End of Century, Says UN Scientific Panel

World On Pace to Hit 4.8°C by End of Century, Says UN Scientific Panel
Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, April 15, 2014 ENN

Fast actions to cut short-lived climate pollutants can help, along with expanding renewable energy, other measures

Washington, DC, 14 April 2014 – Global greenhouse gas emissions increased by the equivalent of ten billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) between 2000 and 2010, according to a new report released this week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and half of all human CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2010 have occurred in the last forty years. Without additional efforts to significantly cut emissions, global temperatures could hit a staggering 4.8C above preindustrial temperatures by the end of the century, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity, ecosystems, and sustainable development.

The report entitled Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, is the third of three Working Group Reports, which make up the IPCC’s fifth Assessment Report on climate change. The report, produced by 235 authors from 58 countries, analyzed approximately 1200 climate scenarios investigating the economic, technological and institutional requirements for meeting global climate goals. Based on this analysis, the report found that stabilizing global temperature rise at 2ºC over pre-industrial temperatures—the limit considered by many scientists to be safe— will require lowering greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70% compared to 2010 numbers by mid-century and reaching near-zero emissions by 2100.

The IPCC also noted that many fast actions for addressing climate change are proving to be more affordable than previously imagined. According to the authors, actions to improve energy efficiency through new building codes and vehicle efficiency standards can significantly reduce emissions without harming people’s quality of life. Renewable energy, such as wind and solar, are also becoming cheaper to produce and deploy.

The report also highlighted the importance of quickly addressing emissions sources, which can reduce warming while producing co-benefits for human health and ecosystem impacts. Numerous recent studies have shown that addressing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including black carbon soot, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons can produce significant near-term climate benefits while also improving human health, food security and energy security.

“Cutting short-lived climate pollutants could cut the current rate of climate change in half by 2050, while preventing more than 2.4 million air-pollution related deaths a year, and avoiding around 35 million tonnes of crop losses annually.” stated Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Cutting SLCPs is one of the best ways to reduce impacts over the next 50 years and beyond.”

The report noted that fast mitigation and co-benefits ‘are particularly high where currently legislated and planned air pollution controls are weak.’

“We have the technologies to cut the short-lived pollutants today,” Zaelke added. “This includes phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol and using other complementary initiatives such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, the only global effort focusing on these pollutants.”

NRC: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change (2013)

NRC: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change (2013)
Published on Jan 2, 2014
National Research Council: Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises

Both abrupt changes in the physical climate system and steady changes in climate that can trigger abrupt changes in other physical, biological, and human systems present possible threats to nature and society. Abrupt change is already underway in some systems, and large scientific uncertainties about the likelihood of other abrupt changes highlight the need for further research. However, with recent advances in understanding of the climate system, some potential abrupt changes once thought to be imminent threats are now considered unlikely to occur this century. This report summarizes the current state of knowledge on potential abrupt changes to the ocean, atmosphere, ecosystems, and high latitude areas, and identifies key research and monitoring needs. The report calls for action to develop an abrupt change early warning system to help anticipate future abrupt changes and reduce their impacts.

Key Messages
There is a new recognition that, in addition to abrupt changes in the climate system itself, steady climate change can cross thresholds that trigger abrupt changes in other physical, natural, and human systems.

The report highlights two abrupt changes that are already underway, making these changes a primary concern for near-term societal decision making and a priority for research. First, warmer Arctic temperatures have caused a rapid decline in sea ice over the past decade, with potential impacts on the Arctic ecosystem and on Arctic shipping and resource extraction. Another abrupt change already underway is increased extinction pressure on plant and animal species; this gradual climate pressure, in combination with other sources of habitat loss, degradation, and over-exploitation, is already putting some species at greater risk of extinction.

Large uncertainties about the likelihood of some potential abrupt changes highlight the need for expanded research and monitoring. For example, as climate warms, the destabilization of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could raise sea level rapidly, with serious consequences for coastal communities.
Two decades of focused research has helped scientists determine that some abrupt changes, widely discussed in the scientific literature because they were once identified as potential threats, are unlikely to take place over the near term. In particular, the probability of a rapid shutdown within this century of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation is now understood to the low. In addition, a rapid release of methane from either thawing permafrost or methane hydrates is now considered unlikely to occur this century.

With improved scientific monitoring and a better understanding of the climate system it could be possible to anticipate abrupt change before it occurs, and reduce the potential consequences. Building this ability will require careful monitoring of climate conditions, improved models for projecting changes, and the interpretation and synthesis of scientific data using novel analysis techniques.
The committee believes that action is needed to develop an abrupt change early warning system. Such a system would be part of an overall risk management strategy, providing information for hazard identification and risk assessment. These data would help identify vulnerabilities to assist in tailoring risk mitigation and preparedness efforts and to ensure warnings result in appropriate protective actions, with the ultimate goal of preempting catastrophes.

Much is already known about the design, implementation, and sustainability of early warning systems. Planning for an abrupt change early warning system would benefit from leveraging the experience and knowledge gained as part of existing early warning programs, such as the National Integrated Drought Information System or the Famine Early Warning System Network.

Abrupt climate changes and impacts present substantial risks to society and nature. Although there is still much to learn, to ignore the threat of abrupt change would lead to more costs, loss of life, suffering, and environmental degradation. The time is here to be serious about the threat of tipping points, so as to better anticipate and prepare ourselves for the inevitable surprises.

Read the report online or download a free pdf

Axis Of Awesome: Make the change (not climate change)

Axis Of Awesome: Make the change (not climate change)
Published on Mar 25, 2014
Two of Australia's most famous YouTube sensations, Natalie Tran (community channel) and The Axis of Awesome, are sent on a mission by Dr Karl to travel to the Great Barrier Reef to find out how it can be saved from climate change, and how we can all help. Axis write a rock song about coral, while Nat falls in love with a baby turtle.

Above the Earth, documentary on climate change

Above the Earth, documentary on climate change
Published on Jul 24, 2013
Climate Change

Glacier lakes: Growing danger zones in the Himalayas

Glacier lakes: Growing danger zones in the Himalayas
Ken Macfarlane and Suzanne Goldenberg
11 October 2011 Length: 4min 03sec
Source: Guardian/Dan Byers and Mountain Institute

Fears rise of huge outburst flooding in the Himalayas as glaciers melt due to climate change
Suzanne Goldenberg talks to local people and scientists about the threat posed by Lake Imja, a vast lake 5,100m high in the Himalayas that is being formed as glaciers melt

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Climate Change, Mass Extinction and Cognitive Dissonance

Climate Change, Mass Extinction and Cognitive Dissonance
Stephanie Thomas, Houston Oasis Gathering, Jan 19, 2014
Published on Jan 19, 2014
Paleo-climatologist and activist Stephanie Thomas, Ph.D. presents "Climate Change, Mass Extinction, and Cognitive Dissonance: Moving From Reaction to Action" at the Houston Oasis Gathering on January 19, 2014.

The melting Arctic, and revolutions to come

The melting Arctic, and revolutions to come
Robert & Jack Hunziker, 26th April 2014

The world is facing the imminent threat of severe climate disruption from the warming Arctic, write Robert & Jack Hunziker, leading to a global crisis. But the response of the powerful is only to increase fossil fuel exploitation - and damn the consequences.

Imagine the backlash in the country if food shortages hit America because of the failure of the government to set policies to convert fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

The 'warming of the Arctic' could become one of the greatest catastrophes in human history, even exceeding the notoriety of Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan.

Likely, it will impact more people than the combined effect of those brutal leaders. In fact, global warming may eventually be categorized as the greatest threat of all time, even greater than the Black Death's 75-to-200 million dead, circa 1350.

The integrity of Arctic sea ice is essential to prevent the risks of (1) methane outbreak and / or (2) fierce, damaging weather throughout the Northern Hemisphere.

Arctic sea ice continues its decline

According to the NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, CO), "Average ice extent for March 2014 was the fifth lowest for the month in the satellite record. Through 2014, the linear rate of decline for March ice extent is 2.6% per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average."

Extreme weather events, as a consequence of the warming Arctic, will likely wreak havoc over the entire Northern Hemisphere, causing severe droughts, freezing cold spells, and widespread flooding. Some early evidence of this is already at hand.

These combinations of extreme weather events have the potential to rival the damage of the great mythical floods. Already, Eastern Europe had a taste of extreme climate change in 2013 when a once-in-500-year flood hit hard, wiping out vast swathes of cropland.

In the future, when shortages of food and water become more commonplace because of extreme climactic change, it is probable that desperate groups of roughnecks will battle for food and water, similar to the dystopia depicted in Mad Max (Warner Bros. 1979) the story of a breakdown of society where bandit tribes battle over the last remaining droplets of petroleum.

Over time, climate change is setting the stage for worldwide wars over food and water.

Origin of food & water wars

Research conducted by Jennifer Francis, PhD, Rutgers University - Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, shows that Arctic sea ice loss, with its consequent warming, impacts upper-level atmospheric circulation, radically distorting jet streams above 30,000 feet, which adversely affects weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere

(Source: Jennifer A. Francis and Stephen J. Vavrus, Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification to Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 39, L06801, 17 March 2012.)

"Gradual warming of the globe may not be noticed by most, but everyone - either directly or indirectly - will be affected to some degree by changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events as green-house gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere." (Ibid.)

Scientists are already cognizant of how badly a warming Arctic impacts subsistence, for example, according to the Arctic Methane Emergency Group:

"The weather extremes ... are causing real problems for farmers ... World food production can be expected to decline, with mass starvation inevitable. The price of food will rise inexorably, producing global unrest and making food security even more of an issue." (Source: Arctic Methane Emergency Group).

The Syrian connection

"The nexus between climate change, human migration, and instability constitutes ... a transcendent challenge", wrote Michael Werz and Max Hofman in 'Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict, The Arab Spring and Climate Change' (Climate and Security Correlations Series, Feb. 2013).

"The conjunction of these undercurrents was most recently visible during the Arab Spring, where food availability, increasing food prices, drought, and poor access to water, as well as urbanization and international migration contributed to the pressures that underpinned the political upheaval."

As for example, Syria suffered from devastating droughts in the decade leading up to its rebellion as the country's total water resources cut in half between 2002 and 2008. As a result, the drier winters hit Syria, which, at the time, was the top wheat-growing region of the eastern Mediterranean, thereby exacerbating its crisis.

In 2009 the UN and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported that more than 800,000 Syrians lost their entire means of livelihood because of drought. (Robert F. Worth, Earth is Parched Where Syrian Farms Thrived, New York Times, Oct. 13, 2010.)

The phenomenon is global

In the recent past, ferocious weather conditions have struck all across the planet, for example:
  • a once every 500-year flood in Eastern Europe,
  • a once in 50-year drought in the US Midwest,
  • the worst drought in 200 years in China, affecting more people than the entire population of North America;
  • the worst flooding in Pakistan in 100 years (a continuous deluge lasting for over a month);
  • the most costly flash flood damage in Canada's modern history;
  • Syria's drought has been classified as the worst in the history of the Fertile Crescent;
  • Brazil is experiencing it's worst drought in decades.
The list goes on, and on, and on. Merciless weather is lashing out with torrential storms and embedded droughts like never before. No other period of time in modern history comes close.

The reason behind the weather dilemma has everything to do with global warming in the Arctic, which is warming 2-3 times faster than elsewhere on the planet.

In turn, the Arctic, which serves as the thermostat for the entire Northern Hemisphere, is disrupting the jet streams, which, as a result, influences weather patterns throughout the hemisphere.

This is causing droughts and torrential storms to become "embedded or stalled" for long duration, e.g., Colorado's torrential downpour and massive flooding in 2013, which was as fierce as superabundant coastal tropical storms but not at all like mid-latitude, middle America storms.

History repeats

Once food and water shortages become widespread as a result of a more extreme and unpredictable climate behavior, it is highly probable that people all across the planet will become so disgusted and distraught that they'll be looking for blood.

In that regard, history shows that, during such times, desperation overrides prudence. Therefore, hiding behind security gates and armed troops won't make a difference, similar to the late 18th century French Revolution when masses of citizens used pitchforks, stones, and sticks to overwhelm the king's formidable armed forces.

At the time, France was one of the mightiest forces in the world, but like toy soldiers, its army fell at the hands of its own citizens. In the end, civilizations cannot, and have not, survived the forces of desperation born of starvation.

In the case of Paris, two years of poor grain harvests because of bad weather conditions set the stage for revolution. On June 21, 1791 the king, queen, and their attendants fled their Paris residences, whisked away in carriages, as masses of enraged, starving protestors swarmed the city streets.

The forewarnings had been there years beforehand. On August 20, 1986 Finance Minister Calonne informed King Louis XVI that the royal finances were insolvent (because of costly foreign wars - like the US today).

Hard times hit - also similar to US today. Six months later the First Assembly of Notables met, resisting imposition of taxes and fiscal reforms - similar to the US right wing today.

It was nearly three years later April 27th, 1789 when the Reveillon Riot in Paris, caused by low wages (like US wages today, Wal-Mart, McDonalds) and food shortages (not in US yet), led to 25 deaths by troops.

A week without food, and civilization is over

Thereafter, the public's anger grew to a fever pitch. On July the 14th rioters stormed the most notorious jail for political prisoners in all of France, the Bastille. By July 17th the 'Great Fear' had begun to taken command of the streets as the peasantry revolted against their socio-economic system.

One of their prime targets was Queen Marie Antoinette, the Dauphin of the world's most powerful monarchy, whose last spoken words were delivered to Henri Sanson, her executioner, as she accidentally stepped on his foot upon climbing the steps of the scaffold: "Monsieur, I ask your pardon. I did not do it on purpose", before losing her head in front of tens of thousands of cheering Parisians, screaming "Vive la Nation!"

Flash forward in time into the future, and imagine the backlash in the country if food shortages hit America because of the failure of the government to set policies to convert fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

As such, the US could have led the entire world to conversion to renewable sources of energy. As things stand, it is a 'missed opportunity'.

In stark contrast to America's reluctance, Scotland's energy sources are already 40% renewables and will be 100% by 2020.

Food prices and revolution

According to a landmark study, "Food insecurity is both cause and a consequence of political violence." (Henk-Jan Brinkman and Cullen S. Hendrix, Food Insecurity and Conflict, The World Development Report 2011.)

The link between high grain prices and riots is well established. For example, according toThe Economist magazine (December 2007), when high grain prices sparked riots in 48 countries, the magazine's food-price index was at its highest point since originating in 1845.

As for a more current situation, the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 brought political and economic issues to the forefront, but behind the scenes, climate stress played a big role.

According to Marco Lagif of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) in Technology Review, MIT, August 2011, the single factor that triggers riots around the world is the price of food.

The evidence comes from data gathered by the United Nations that plots the price of food against time, the so-called Food Price Index of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

On December 13, 2011, four days before Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia, sparking the Arab Spring riots, NECSI contacted the US government, warning that global food prices were about to cross the tipping point when almost anything can trigger riots.

Accordingly, the NECSI study was presented, by invitation, at the World Economic Forum in Davos and was featured as one of the top ten discoveries in science in 2011 by Wired magazine.

The Arab Spring - an artefact of hunger

"Definitely, it is one of the causes of the Arab Spring", says Shenggen Fan, director-general of the International Food Policy Research Institute. As well, it is increasingly clear that the climate models that predicted the countries surrounding the Mediterranean would start to dry out are correct.

(Source: "Human-Caused Climate Change Already a Major Factor in more Frequent Mediterranean Droughts," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, October 27, 2011.)

As for Syria, it is a prime example of the drama of changing climatic conditions and the consequences. The country's farmlands north and east of the Euphrates River constitute the breadbasket of the Middle East. Unfortunately, up to 60% of Syria's land experienced one of the worst droughts on record from 2006-11.

In Syria's northeast and the south, nearly 75% suffered total crop failure. Herders in the northeast lost 85% of their livestock. According to the UN, 800,000 Syrians had their livelihoods totally wiped out, moving to the cities to find work or to refugee camps, similar to what happened in Paris in the late 18th century.

Furthermore, the drought pushed three million Syrians into extreme poverty. According to Abeer Etefa of the World Food Program, "Food inflation in Syria remains the main issue for citizens" - eerily similar to what occurred in France in the late 18th century just prior to it's revolution.

The French Revolution redux, in America?

As countries like the United States hastily continue their pursuit of policies dedicated to 'energy independence' by fracking, using extreme pressure to force toxic chemicals underground to suck up every last remnant of oil and gas, the warming of the Arctic is elevated, and the jet streams become more distorted, resulting in extremely harsh, deadly and unpredictable weather systems, pummeling the entire Northern Hemisphere.

Eventually, the outcome leads to shortages of food, and like a flashback of 18th century France, people starve or fight.

Post Script: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana (1863-1952), Spanish / American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist.

UN: Accelerating Biodiversity Loss a 'Fundamental Threat' to the 'Survival of Humankind'

UN: Accelerating Biodiversity Loss a 'Fundamental Threat' to the 'Survival of Humankind'
'We must combat agri-food corporations' phenomenal economic and political power,' says author

Andrea Germanos, May 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

The accelerating loss of biodiversity poses a "fundamental threat" to the "survival of humankind," warned the head of the United Nations new biodiversity body, as he also sounded the alarm on the declining biodiversity on farms.

"We are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind,” Zakri Abdul Hamid of IPBES warned on Monday. (Photo: Peter Blanchard/cc/flickr)

Zakri Abdul Hamid, founding chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), made the comments at the 7th Trondheim Conference in Norway on Monday.

On the widely noted declining plant and animal biodiversity in the wild, Zakri said “we are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind.”

But biodiversity loss is hitting farms also, said Zakri, threatening the world's food supplies, both in terms of livestock as well as crops.

“The good news is the rate of decline is dropping but the latest data classify 22% of domesticated breeds at risk of extinction.”

Zakri cites incentives for more uniform breeds from industrialized countries as a contributing factor in the decline of livestock diversity.

“Those genetics are irreplaceable. Once they’re gone they’re gone,” Jeannette Beranger, research and technical programs manager at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy,said.

Crops have suffered a loss of 75 percent of genetic diversity in the last century as locally-adapted varieties were abandoned in favor of genetically uniform varieties.

In the heirloom orchard at Seed Savers Exchange, where they have 550 varieties of pre-1900 apples. (Photo: Chiot's Run/cc/flickr)

Take apples, says John Torgrimson, executive director of Seed Savers Exchange, an organization that saves and shares heirloom seeds.

Nowadays, you'll generally find only about 10 varieties of apples in markets, he says, and some of those are related to each other.

And the ubiquitous red delicious of today looks "tremendously different" from the red delicious of 100 years ago, Torgrimson says.

Yet "at one time, we had 20,000 varieties of apples in the U.S." In 2000, we had about 4,000 varieties, but most of those were held in private orchards across the country; market forces are bringing only a handful of varieties to consumers, says Torgrimson.

Further, noted Zakri, out of the 30,000 edible plant species only 30 crops account for 95% of human food energy, with the bulk coming from rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.

We need genetic diversity, Zakri said, because it is key to providing "a large genetic pool that enables organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions.”

Not to be overlooked in this declining farm biodiversity is the role of agribusiness, says Christopher Cook, journalist and author of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis.

This "high-profile focus on recapturing biodiversity and repairing ecosystems" from the UN body is good, he says, but moving forward, "it's critical that they examine the central role that large-scale industrial agriculture and agri-food corporations have played in eroding our biodiversity and undermining ecosystems."

"In their relentless push for market control these corporations, Monsanto, Syngenta and others, often with help from governments, have monopolized and privatized our seed supply—and promoted monoculture farming that has destroyed soils and fed climate change and drought," says Cook. "Biodiversity and economic diversity are linked—to restore both, we must combat agri-food corporations' phenomenal economic and political power."

The work of bringing various stakeholders together to address the issue of biodiversity loss and genetic erosion is vital," adds Tanya Kerssen, research coordinator with Food First, an organization that works to eliminate the injustices that cause hunger.

And, echoing Cook, she says that "hopefully, the new platform will take seriously the role that industrial 'green revolution' agriculture has played in generating this crisis, which is being perpetuated at a breakneck pace through the corporate rush on land, water and other resources around the world.

If you want to see biodiversity loss in motion, just look at where a land grab has taken place.

"These 'land grabs' are transforming diverse, community-based food systems—which also rely on the diversity of nature, including wild plants, forests, pollinators, etc.—into monocultures dependent on corporate inputs. Conserving biodiversity requires empowering farmers, peasants and indigenous peoples to manage diversity in sustainable ways," says Kerssen.

The answer to this declining biodiversity will not be found in corporate agriculture, which started the problem, she emphasizes.

"The danger is that agribusiness will influence the process, or coopt the results, to assert itself as the solution to the problem it created—for instance, by making Monsanto’s claim that it can 'produce more, conserve more,'" cautions Kerssen.

"Another danger is that this process leads to the privatization of biodiversity—another market-based pseudo-solution—that will only increase speculative pressure by investors on the world’s most precious resources."

"Either way," says Kerssen, "it will be incumbent on social movements around the world to make sure IPBES recommendations are implemented with an eye towards justice and sustainability, not corporate profit."

Only with political will can we avoid the worst of climate change

Considering the costs and losses climate change and extreme weather impose on our cities, communities and food systems, we can't afford not to act. (Credit: Wayne Stadler)

Only with political will can we avoid the worst of climate change
April 24, 2014, David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington

It's fitting that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released during Earth Month. After all, the third chapter of its Fifth Assessment focuses on ways to keep our planet healthy and livable by warding off extreme climatic shifts and weather events caused by escalating atmospheric carbon.

Doing so will require substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions — 40 to 70 per cent by 2050 and to near-zero by the end of the century. We must also protect carbon 'sinks' such as forests and wetlands and find ways to store or bury carbon. The good news is that weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, conserving energy and shifting to cleaner sources comes with economic and quality-of-life benefits.

"There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual," said economist Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of Working Group III, which produced the chapter.

Doing nothing isn't an option. That would lead to a significant increase in global average temperatures and extreme weather-related events such as storms, droughts and floods, wreaking havoc on our food systems, communities and the natural environment we depend on for our health and survival. Technological measures and behavioural change could limit global mean temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels, but only with "major institutional and technological change."

Because we've stalled so long, thanks largely to deceptive campaigns run by a small but powerful group of entrenched fossil fuel industry interests and the intransigence of some short-sighted governments, we must also consider ways to adapt to climate change that's already occurring and that we can't stop.

Although carbon emissions are rising faster than efforts to curtail them, there are glimmers of hope. A growing number of networks — including cities, states, regions and even markets — are working together to implement climate plans. And costs of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, are falling so quickly that large-scale deployment is practical. Putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions through carbon taxes or other methods is one critical way to shift investment from fossil fuels to renewables.

Carbon-intensive fossil fuel economies will suffer as renewable energy technologies mature — especially those relying heavily on coal and unconventional oil such as bitumen from tar sands. Canada's choice: take advantage of the growing worldwide demand for clean energy technology, transit infrastructure and sustainable building techniques or continue to focus on selling our non-renewable resources at bargain-basement prices until climate and food-system destabilization swamps global markets and the world rejects Canada's high-carbon fuels.

The IPCC found responsibly addressing climate change by pricing carbon and making needed investments is affordable: ambitious mitigation would reduce economic growth by just .06 per cent a year. That's not taking into account the many economic benefits of reducing climate change — from less spending on health and disease to reduced traffic congestion and increased activity in the clean-energy sector. Considering the costs and losses climate change and extreme weather impose on our cities, communities and food systems, we can't afford not to act.

A clean energy revolution is already underway and, as the world comes to grips with the need to change, it will inevitably spread. As Canadians, we can choose to join or remain stuck in the past. Tackling global warming will require all nations to get on board. That's because greenhouse gases accumulate and spill over national boundaries. And, according to the IPCC, "International cooperation can play a constructive role in the development, diffusion and transfer of knowledge and environmentally sound technologies."

As a policy-neutral scientific and socioeconomic organization, the IPCC doesn't make specific recommendations, but it reviews the available science and spells out in clear, albeit technical, terms that if we fail to act, the costs and losses to our homes, food systems and human security will only get worse.

It's been seven years since the fourth assessment report in 2007. We can't wait another seven to resolve this crisis. As nations gear up to for the 21st climate summit in Paris in late 2015, where the world's governments have pledged to reach a universal legal climate agreement, international co-operation is needed more than ever. Let's urge our government to play a constructive role in this critical process.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

BBC Earth The Power Of The Planet - Ice

BBC Earth The Power Of The Planet - Ice
Uploaded on Sep 18, 2011

BBC Earth Power of the Planet 2 - Atmosphere

BBC Earth Power of the Planet 2 - Atmosphere
Published on Apr 21, 2013
Earth: The Power of the Planet is a British documentary television series that premiered on BBC Two on 20 November 2007. The five-part series is presented by geologist Iain Stewart. In the United States, the series was broadcast on the National Geographic Channel as Earth: The Biography.


Join geologist Richard Alley as he travels the world and across the USA, sharing an accurate, understandable and upbeat report on the interlinked stories of humans and fossil fuels, Earth's climate history and our future energy options.

Drown the Alarm

Drown the Alarm
Published on Apr 22, 2014
A comedic look at climate change deniers through a music video parody of Nicki Minaj's "Pound the Alarm." "Drown the Alarm" stars Lucas Grabeel of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and SWITCHED AT BIRTH.

Saving Planet Earth & Stop Climate Change

Saving Planet Earth & Stop Climate Change - Full Documentary
Published on Apr 20, 2014

A History of Earth's Climate

A History of Earth's Climate
Published on May 27, 2013
Earth had a climate long before we showed up and started noticing it and it's influenced by a whole series of cycles that have been churning along for hundreds of millions of years. In most cases those cycles will continue long after we're gone. A look at the history of climate change on Earth can give us some much needed perspective on our current climate dilemma because the surprising truth is, what we're experiencing now is different than anything this planet has encountered before. So, let's take a stroll down Climate History Lane and see if we can find some answers to a question that's been bugging Hank a lot lately - just how much hot water are we in?

Uploaded on Feb 5, 2012
In which Hank details the five scariest things that will likely happen because of climate change.

150 Years in 30 Seconds: Sea Level Debt Sinking U.S. Cities

150 Years in 30 Seconds: Sea Level Debt Sinking U.S. Cities (via Climate Central)
Measurements tell us that global average sea level is currently rising by about 1 inch per decade. But in an invisible shadow process, our long-term sea level rise commitment or "lock-in" — the sea level rise we don’t see now, but which carbon emissions…

10 of 11 Warmest Years

Quote: Weather Records

During the last seven years we've broken pretty much every kind of weather record there is, from heat to tornados to floods. - Jeff Masters

Friday, April 25, 2014

Aftermath: Population Zero

Aftermath: Population Zero (also titled Aftermath: The World After Humans) is a two-hour Canadian special documentary film that premiered on Sunday, March 9, 2008, on the National Geographic Channel. The program was produced by Cream Productions.

Similar to the History Channel's special Life After People, Aftermath features what scientists and others speculate the earth, animal life, and plant life might be like if humanity no longer existed, as well as the effect that humanity's disappearance would have on the artifacts of civilization. Both documentaries are inspired by Alan Weisman's The World Without Us.

A follow-up 4-part TV series was created, Aftermath, following different scenarios and what happens.