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Sunday, October 5, 2014

rjs continues to do my work for me

from rjs, October 5, 2014

Mosquito Virus That Walloped Caribbean Spreads in U.S.  - A mosquito-borne virus that can cause debilitating joint pain lasting for years has spread to the continental U.S. after infecting hundreds of thousands of people in the Caribbean and Central America. The virus is called Chikungunya, an African name meaning “to become contorted.” While the illness, first identified in Tanzania in 1952, has long bedeviled Africa and Asia, the only recorded cases in the U.S. before July involved patients who contracted the virus abroad. Now, 11 cases have been confirmed as originating in Florida, spurring concern this may be the beginning of the type of explosive growth seen elsewhere from a disease that has no vaccine or cure. Medical and environmental experts are debating how best to quell the outbreak before it takes off. Now that Chikungunya is in Florida, it could infect 10,000 people in that state alone, according to Walter Tabachnick, the director of the Florida Medical Entymology Laboratory, who said his estimate is based on the exponential growth of other outbreaks. More than 700,000 people, for instance, are suspected of being infected with the virus in South America, Central America and the Caribbean since it appeared there, according to the Pan American Health Organization.  An outbreak of several thousand people in Florida could swamp existing medical facilities, putting at risk the state’s large elderly population, according to Tabachnick.

Lyme Disease Surges North - Scientific American: Vett Lloyd saved the tick that latched onto her while she was gardening outside her home in New Brunswick, Canada in 2011.. But officials told her not to worry, Lloyd said. Lyme disease was exceedingly rare in the forested maritime province northeast of Maine. The tick was tossed untested. The next year brought agony: Fatigue, fevers that would come and go, aching joints, and finally, trouble lifting her arms or walking. Lloyd indeed had Lyme disease, but as with many Canadians felled by the tick-borne illness, her diagnosis and treatment were delayed because of a system slow to acknowledge that public health risks were changing as the climate warmed. In a concession that many patients say is overdue, Canadian authorities now admit that the most common vector-borne disease in the United States is an "emerging" threat north of the border. "It's living hell," Lloyd said of her experience with Lyme. "Every day you wake up with less of your body working.... You are desperately sick, and then you have to fight for care."

Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF -- The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found. “If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing. “We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably. The steep decline of animal, fish and bird numbers was calculated by analysing 10,000 different populations, covering 3,000 species in total. This data was then, for the first time, used to create a representative “Living Planet Index” (LPI), reflecting the state of all 45,000 known vertebrates. “We have all heard of the FTSE 100 index, but we have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world,”

Half the World’s Animal Population Vanished Since 1970 - The just-released tenth biennial edition of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet report found that between hunting, habitat destruction, environmental degradation and the effects of climate change, the world’s animal populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish has dropped 52 percent since 1970. The study, produced in partnership with the Zoological Society of London, Global Footprint Network and Water Footprint Network, measured 10,000 species. Freshwater species are particularly endangered, losing 72 percent of their numbers in that time. Tropic marine populations, including species of sharks and turtles, as well as seabirds such as petrels and albatross, are also in danger, primarily due to the impacts of overfishing. It found that animals like the African rhino were declining due to poaching for their valuable horn. “We are using nature’s gifts as if we had more than just one Earth at our disposal,” said WWF International general director Marco Lambertini in the report’s introduction. “By taking more from our ecosystems and natural processes than can be replenished, we are jeopardizing our very future. Nature conservation and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. They are not only about preserving biodiversity and wild places, but just as much about safeguarding the future of humanity—our well-being, economy, food security and social stability—indeed, our very survival.

Human Activities Have Cut Animal Populations In Half Since 1970 -- According to a new report, the Earth has lost half its vertebrate species — mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians — since 1970. The latest Living Planet Report, put out by a joint research effort between the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, found a stunning drop of 52 percent in the population of wild animals on the planet over the last 40 years. The most catastrophic drop was among the inhabitants of freshwater ecosystems — the last stop for much of the world’s pollution from road run-off, farming, and emissions — whose numbers declined 75 percent. Oceanic and land species both dropped roughly 40 percent. The researchers analyzed 10,000 different animal populations encompassing 3,000 different species. The data was then used to create the Living Planet Index (LPI) to represent the situation of the globe’s 45,000 known species of vertebrates. The LPI has also been adopted by the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity as an effective metric of biodiversity.

60 Members Of Congress Urge EPA To Protect Pollinators - Sixty members of the House of Representatives want the Environmental Protection Agency to get serious about protecting pollinators.On Tuesday, the lawmakers sent a letter to EPA Head Gina McCarthy urging her agency to consider banning or restricting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on crops, due to scientific evidence that these pesticides have adverse effects on bees, butterflies and birds. The letter notes that the Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it planned to phase out neonic use in National Wildlife Refuges by 2016, due to to the pesticides’ ability to potentially affect “a broad spectrum” of species in the refuges.“We encourage you to follow the lead of FWS and respond to this troubling situation swiftly and effectively,” the lawmakers write in their letter. Besides a call to restrict use of neonics on crops, the letter contains multiple policy recommendations for the EPA, including a request that the agency consider impacts on the more than 40 pollinator species listed as threatened or endangered by the federal government before registering new neonic pesticides. The lawmakers also say the EPA should restrict use of neonics in commercial pesticides, which can be applied by anyone, regardless of whether they have a pesticide licence or not. “Protecting our pollinators is essential to the health and future of our environment and our species,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who was a signatory on the letter, said in a statement. “I’m going to keep hammering away on this issue until we can ensure that the products we are using in our backyards and on our farms are not killing pollinators.”

Monsanto Announces ‘Global Center’ for Developing GMO Corn  -- Monsanto announced this week that it is opening a new facility in Mexico to research and develop new genetically modified versions of corn. On the other side of the globe, the Chinese government has launched a media campaign on TV, in newspapers and on the Internet to convince a skeptical population that GMOs are beneficial. While the Chinese government has long been pro-GMO and sees these crops as the key to feeding its large population, the public has been less than receptive. China imports millions of tons of GMO soybeans each year to feed pigs and make vegetable oil but has yet to cultivate its own GMOs. Scientific American reports that while the country has poured money into developing GMO varieties of corn and rice, they never went into production due in part to opposition and their safety certificates, issued in 2009, expired last month. The Chinese military banned GMOs from its food supply chain last spring.

GMO Crops Accelerate Herbicide and Insecticide Use While Mainstream Media Gets It Wrong -- Dr. Ramon J. Seidler, Ph.D., former Senior Scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently published a well-researched article documenting the devastating facts, Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops, in Environmental Working Group’s online AgMag. Dr. Seidler’s article cites and links recent scientific literature and media reports, and should be required reading for all journalists covering GMOs, as well as for citizens generally to understand why their right to know if food is genetically engineered is so important. The short discussion below summarizes the major points of his five-page article. More than 99 percent of GMO acreage is engineered by chemical companies to tolerate heavy herbicide (glyphosate) use and/or produce insecticide (Bt) in every cell of every plant over the entire growing season. The result is massive selection pressure that has rapidly created pest resistance—the opposite of integrated pest management where judicious use of chemical controls is applied only as necessary. Predictably, just like overuse of antibiotics in confined factory farms has created resistant “supergerms” leading to animals being overdosed with ever more powerful antibiotics, we now have huge swaths of the country infested with “superweeds” and “superbugs” resistant to glyphosate and Bt, meaning more volume of more toxic pesticides are being applied.

U.S. river freight system near breaking point as huge harvest looms (Reuters) - With a record U.S. harvest just coming in, the river transportation system that is at the heart of the nation's farm economy is overstrained by rising demand for shipping capacity, a low barge inventory, and a dilapidated lock system. The pressure is building on an inland waterways network that is just one flood, drought or mechanical breakdown from calamity after decades of neglect, industry sources say. Looming bumper corn and soybean crops are bringing to light issues that have built for years and which have been exacerbated by new entrants to the marketplace for river logistics, such as producers of crude oil from the nation's shale boom. true Rail congestion and truck shortages are shifting more cargo to the creaking infrastructure for floating heartland goods to market. As a result, the U.S. Agriculture Department expects the cost to move grains from the Midwestern crop belt to export facilities along the Gulf Coast to reach a six-year high during October, the busiest harvest month of the year. Concerns about transportation bottlenecks have eroded prices that farmers receive for their grain, reduced the competitiveness of U.S. supplies in the global marketplace and elevated expenses for food and energy producers who could ultimately pass the higher prices on to consumers.

California harvest much smaller than normal across crops: It’s harvest time in much of California, and the signs of drought are almost as abundant as the fruits and nuts and vegetables. One commodity after another is feeling the impact of the state’s epic water shortage. The great Sacramento Valley rice crop, served in sushi restaurants nationwide and exported to Asia, will be smaller than usual. Fewer grapes will be available to produce California’s world-class wines, and the citrus groves of the San Joaquin Valley are producing fewer oranges. There is less hay and corn for the state’s dairy cows, and the pistachio harvest is expected to shrink. Even the state’s mighty almond business, which has become a powerhouse in recent years, is coming in smaller than expected. That’s particularly troubling to the thousands of farmers who sacrificed other crops in order to keep their almond orchards watered. While many crops have yet to be harvested, it’s clear that the drought has carved a significant hole in the economy of rural California. Farm income is down, so is employment, and Thursday’s rain showers did little to change the equation. An estimated 420,000 acres of farmland went unplanted this year, or about 5 percent of the total. Economists at UC Davis say agriculture, which has been a $44 billion-a-year business in California, will suffer revenue losses and higher water costs – a financial hit totaling $2.2 billion this year.

California Faces A Record-Breaking October Heat Wave --California finds itself in yet another heat wave, with record-breaking temperatures reported in several cities and hotter-than-usual temperatures across the state. The National Weather Service has put the San Francisco Bay area and San Diego under a heat advisory and has issued a hazardous weather outlook for the Los Angeles areaOn Thursday, the Los Angeles Unified School District cancelled outside activities and sports for the rest of the week due to the heat. This is the second time this school year that LAUSD has had to cancel activities because of high temperatures. All schools in the Long Beach School District had shortened days on Thursday and today because of the hot weather; about 70 percent of schools in the district do not have air conditioning. On Thursday, downtown Los Angeles reached 92 degrees by noon. The average October temperature for Los Angeles is 79 degrees. Several cities in Southern California broke record temperatures. Oxnard reached 98 degrees on Thursday, breaking an almost 70 year old record, while Santa Barbara saw a new high of 94 degrees. Inland temperatures are expected to be as high as 106 over the weekend. The record high temperature for the Los Angeles area is 108 degrees, which occurred in 1987.

With Dry Taps and Toilets, California Drought Turns Desperate - — After a nine-hour day working at a citrus packing plant, her body covered in a sheen of fruit wax and dust, there is nothing Angelica Gallegos wants more than a hot shower, with steam to help clear her throat and lungs. But she has not had running water for more than five months — nor is there any tap water in her near future — because of a punishing and relentless drought in California. In the Gallegos household and more than 500 others in Tulare County, residents cannot flush a toilet, fill a drinking glass, wash dishes or clothes, or even rinse their hands without reaching for a bottle or bucket. Unlike the Okies who came here fleeing the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the people now living on this parched land are stuck. “We don’t have the money to move, and who would buy this house without water?” said “When you wake up in the middle of the night sick to your stomach, you have to think about where the water bottle is before you can use the toilet.”Now in its third year, the state’s record-breaking drought is being felt in many ways: vanishing lakes and rivers, lost agricultural jobs, fallowed farmland, rising water bills, suburban yards gone brown. But nowhere is the situation as dire as in East Porterville, a small rural community in Tulare County where life’s daily routines have been completely upended by the drying of wells and, in turn, the disappearance of tap water.

California Drying: Satellite images reveal how record-breaking drought has browned the Golden State - Satellite images released by NASA show the shocking extent of water shortage in California as it's revealed that some communities have been left without water for five months during the record-breaking drought.The colors in the 'California Drying' images, released by the GRACE program, progress from green to orange then red, showing how much the water storage has dried up in the region since 2002.According to the space agency, California's Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins, including the Central Valley, have suffered the greatest losses. Part of this is due to increased groundwater from reservoirs and rivers being pumped to support agricultural production. Between 2011 and 2014, the combined river basins have lost four trillion gallons (15 cubic kilometers, or 12 million acre-feet) of water each year. The amount far exceeds the amount California's 38 million residents use in cities and homes annually. Across the whole of the state, 63 trillion gallons have been lost since 2013 - the equivalent of having the US west of the Rocky Mountains flooded in four inches of water.

El Niño Could Put an End to California's Drought Late This Year -- As California announces plans to address the drought through $200 million of relief aid— with more to come — far-sighted thinkers are left asking themselves … will the drought continue through next year? Fact of the matter is, California’s economy may not survive another year of drought. It’s projected that the state will suffer a $2.2 billion hit as crops die off and thousands lose their jobs. Water is a necessary resource to keep livestock hydrated — not to mention people — as well as to cool power plants, grow fields and enable everyday life in general. There are some ugly rumors floating around that California’s drought will continue next year. If the rumors are indeed true, it will decimate agriculture and a variety of other industries and continue to eat away at the water supplies of local towns. When I wrote about California’s third-worst drought since 1890 earlier this year, I expected this past summer to be dry as El Niño deprived it of necessary water. Indeed, this year has been one of the driest on record. Farmers have responded to the drought by making their operations smaller to manage water supplies, and early in the summer municipalities went so far as to mandate water restrictions within their districts.  But the question remains — can farmers keep this up for another year?  Based on my predictions, I don’t think they’ll have to.  El Niño may have ravaged their crops and their economy with drought, but it may also bring the saving grace California needs to get the state back on track.

El Nino and warm water 'blob' affecting Northwest weather: - The National Climate Prediction Center says a weak El Nino should be with us through December at least. El Nino has the effect of keeping the fall and winter climate in the Pacific Northwest warmer and drier than normal. El Nino forms when a warm pool of water at the surface of the Pacific Ocean along the equator builds up along the west coast of South and Central America. This El Nino is expected to be weak. The bigger effect is coming from something like El Nino and much closer to the Pacific Northwest. It's called "the blob," another big pool of warmer than normal water. The blob is off the Washington coast and goes north, pretty much filling the Gulf of Alaska. At its warmest point, it's five degrees warmer than normal, and as the air blows across it, that air also becomes warmer as it heads over land. El Nino's effects are largely confined to the fall and winter months, but "the blob" helped create a warmer summer than normal. In May, Washington state climatologist Nick Bond with the University of Washington had forecast a warmer and more humid summer for 2014 because of the blob. And now looking back? "Clearly, it's a warmer than normal summer." he said.  He said summer temperatures were four degrees higher than average. Bond also had fears about what the blob would do, and in that same May interview remarked that the summer could bring an active fire season. As it turned out, the fire season set a new record for the largest fire in state history.

Unchecked Warming To Dust-Bowlify Southwest, Central Plains, Amazon, Europe For Centuries -- The unprecedented drought in California will become commonplace for the Southwest, Central Plains, and much of the currently inhabited and arable land around the world in the second half of the century — if humanity stays anywhere near our current path of carbon pollution emissions. Several recent studies spell this out in great detail. These latest studies confirm a large and growing body of scientific literature that dates back to a 1990 (!) NASA analysis, “Potential evapotranspiration and the likelihood of future drought.” I spoke to Dr. Benjamin Cohen of Columbia, a top drought expert and the lead author of the recent study, “Global warming and 21st century drying.” I first wrote about his work in my post “Climate Change Drying Out Southwest Now, With Worse To Come For A Third Of The Planet.”  Cohen warns we are headed into a “fundamental shift in Western hydro-climate.” This drying includes the Central Plains, one of the breadbaskets of the world. Given how rapidly growing the population of the West is, I asked him if there would be enough water for everyone there. He said “we can do it,” but only “if you take agriculture out of the equation.”

Shocking NASA pics show Aral Sea basin now completely dry — RT News: Once the fourth-biggest lake in the world, the eastern basin of the Aral Sea in central Asia is now completely dry. It is the result of a Soviet-era project to divert rivers for agriculture and a lack of rainfall at its source. “This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times,” Philip Micklin, an Aral Sea expert from Western Michigan University told NASA’s Earth Observatory, which captured fresh satellite images of the lake. “And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation [drying out] associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea.”  In a bid to drive up production of cotton in nearby steppes, Soviet engineers diverted the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, the two rivers flowing into the lake, as part of massive irrigation projects for water-hungry crops in the 1950s and ’60s.  As a result, the bed of the lake – polluted by the chemicals used in crop-growing – has become exposed, while the water has turned increasingly salty, killing off the majority of wildlife, and decimating the fishing industry in the region.

Greenhouse Emissions from Agriculture | Big Picture Agriculture: The recent United Nations Climate Summit put agriculture’s greenhouse emissions estimate at around 50 percent of global emissions when land use changes, deforestation, and food processing, packaging, and distribution are taken into account. Without those things, emissions from the agricultural production fields alone is estimated to be about 14 percent. This above graphic breaks down the emissions which stem from the different categories involved in the global food production system.  A United Nations Council on Trade and Development paper helps sort out the emissions numbers (below): There are an enormous number of complexities involved in understanding agriculture’s role in greenhouse emissions. Each region and each farmer’s method varies widely, so we must attempt to make generalizations. Agriculture is the number one global land use-changer, water user, and destroyer of biodiversity.

Drowning Farms - Submerged in the water, which is essentially the flooded Krishna river, are mango, guava and pomegranate orchards. Entire towns are underwater. It is August, the tail-end of monsoon, and the river is at its fullest. In just a few short months, the water will recede, exposing waterlogged farmland where maize, millets, cotton, oilseeds, and sugarcane were once cultivated.The flood is the backwater of the one of the biggest dams in Indian history – the Upper Krishna Project in Karnataka State. Although its foundation was laid in 1964, the dam wasn’t actually built until 2002. The reason for the construction delay was a water dispute among three states – Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh – through which the 900-mile-long Krishna flows.Close to half a million people are being forced to leave their homes and settle elsewhere. It is a complicated and emotional time, exacerbated by a poorly-organized rehabilitation program.As a child, I remember my grandfather discussing the dam – how we should be prepared for the day our house and land would be submerged. Yet, nothing happened for almost 40 years while an entire generation spent its time wondering when the dam would be built, if at all.

Testing Future Conditions for the Food Chain - The injured leaves signaled trouble down the road, and not just for a single plot of corn a few miles from the main campus of the University of Illinois. By design, the scientists were studying the type of damage that could put a serious dent in the food supply on a warming planet.The fields here are among a handful of places in the world where researchers are trying to mimic the growing conditions expected to arise decades in the future as the air fills with heat-trapping gases and other pollutants from human activity. A network of pipes sprays extra carbon dioxide and a corrosive pollutant, ozone, into the air. Lamps and other equipment mimic future droughts and heat waves. The work has been going on in some form for nearly a decade, and the answers so far have been worrisome. Earlier this year, for instance, researchers at Harvard and elsewhere pooled data from the Illinois project with findings from scientists in three other countries. In a high-profile paper, the experts reported that crops grown in environments designed to mimic future conditions have serious deficiencies of certain nutrients, compared with crops of today.

Floods, forest fires, expanding deserts: the future has arrived - Climate change is no longer viewed by mainstream scientists as a future threat to our planet and our species. It is a palpable phenomenon that already affects the world, they insist. And a brief look round the globe certainly provides no lack of evidence to support this gloomy assertion. In Bangladesh, increasingly severe floods – triggered, in part, by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels – are wiping out crops and destroying homes on a regular basis. In Sudan, the heat is causing the Sahara to expand and to eat into farmland, while in Siberia, the planet's warming is causing the permafrost to melt and houses to subside. Or consider the Marshall Islands, the Pacific archipelago that is now struggling to cope with rising seas that are lapping over its streets and gardens. Even the home of the country's president Christopher Loeak is feeling the effects. "He has had to build a wall around his house to prevent the salt water from inundating," Tony de Brum, the islands' foreign minister, revealed recently. "Our airport retaining wall that keeps the saltwater out of the landing strip has also been breached. Even our graveyards are also being undermined – coffins and bodies are being dug out from the seashore." Across the planet, it is getting harder and harder to find shelter from the storm. And things are only likely to get worse, say researchers.

Crazy weather traced to Arctic's impact on jet stream --The rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice caused by climate change may be to blame for more frequent prolonged spells of extreme weather in Europe, Asia and North America, such as heat wavesfreezing temperatures or storms. These are relatively short-term periods of bizarre weather, like the cold snap that paralysed North America earlier this year, rather than longer-term rises in temperature. They are related to "stuck" weather patterns, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University told a conference on Arctic sea ice reduction in London on 23 September. "Is it global warming? I think it's safe to answer yes," she told the meeting.  Francis said a growing number of studies, including her own, suggest that the melting Arctic is having knock-on effects on the jet stream, the river of air that snakes around the northern hemisphere at an altitude of around 5 to 6 kilometres, and which has a profound impact on the world's weather. The jet stream is driven by the flow of air between the cold Arctic pole and warmer air that moves upwards from nearer the equator. As the warmer air advances polewards, it is swung eastwards by the Coriolis force which comes from Earth's spin, creating a snake-like stream. "It's a fast-moving river of air, a very messy creature," says Francis. The strength of the jet stream depends on the temperature gradient between the regions of cold and warm air – the wider the difference, the faster and stronger the jet stream.  Francis thinks that, as the cool air of the Arctic becomes warmer, the jet stream is slowing down, almost to the point of stopping trapping weather systems in one place for prolonged periods. Instead of swirling round the world, winds reverberate back and forth in the same place, creating what she calls "extreme waves."

Jason Box: Greenland is the new black - Jason Box returned to Greenland for a few days late in August, and was able to shoot the video above. Newest observations show the lowest reflectivity on record for Greenland’s Upper elevations. And there’s this. 

NBC News: Spongy sediments under Greenland’s ice sheet may accelerate its flow into the sea — an effect that previous estimates of ice loss failed to account for, according to University of Cambridge researchers. They said that means the ice sheet may be more sensitive than previously thought to overall climate change, along with short-term events like heavy rain and heat waves.  The researchers said it was thought that Greenland’s extensive ice fields rested on hard bedrock, but new evidence shows that soft sediments also are present. Those sediments weaken as they soak up water from seasonal melt, allowing the sheet to move faster to the sea, the researchers said. Greenland’s ice sheet covers 660,000 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers) to a depth of nearly 2 miles (3 kilometers) at its thickest. A 2012 study found that the sheet’s melting was accelerating, and a 2013 study estimated that because of melting in Greenland and Antarctica, sea levels could be 2 feet higher when today’s preschoolers are grandparents. The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and published Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

VIDEO! Sea floor methane hydrate climate hazard - World methane hydrate expert explains the dangers from methane hydrate under global (ocean) warming.

On a Warmer Planet, Which Cities Will Be Safest? - Alaskans, stay in Alaska. People in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, sit tight.Scientists trying to predict the consequences of climate change say that they see few havens from the storms, floods and droughts that are sure to intensify over the coming decades. But some regions, they add, will fare much better than others.Forget most of California and the Southwest (drought, wildfires). Ditto for much of the East Coast and Southeast (heat waves, hurricanes, rising sea levels). Washington, D.C., for example, may well be a flood zone by 2100, estimate released last week. Instead, consider Anchorage. Or even, perhaps, Detroit.“If you do not like it hot and do not want to be hit by a hurricane, the options of where to go are very limited,” said Camilo Mora, a geography professor at the University of Hawaii and lead author of a paper published in Nature last year predicting that unprecedented high temperatures will become the norm worldwide by 2047. “The best place really is Alaska,” he added. “Alaska is going to be the next Florida by the end of the century.”

Norfolk sea level rise takes shine off waterfront homes -- Soon after Mary-Carson and Josh Stiff got married last year, they began talking about buying a house. Josh, 30, wanted to live in Norfolk to be near his law office. Mary-Carson, 28, wasn't so sure. Sea level rise and the chronic flooding that plagues the city worried her. "My concern was, it might not be a wise place to invest in general," she said. Her worry was grounded in her work. A consultant at the College of William & Mary Law School's Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic who now works part time as policy director for the local environmental group Wetlands Watch, Mary-Carson has been immersed in sea level rise policy work for months. She's well-acquainted with the piles of studies, reports and charts that show Norfolk is one of the country's most vulnerable cities.Committed to living in Norfolk, the Stiffs set out on a mission to find a home they loved away from the threat of water, a surprisingly challenging quest. Real estate agent Kathy Heaton found herself on the flip side of the growing concern, and perhaps at the forefront of a new trend. For months, the Nancy Chandler and Associates agent had been trying to sell a home in the desirable Norfolk neighborhood of Larchmont. The problem: Like many homes in that area, it's in a high-risk flood plain. Flood insurance could run up to $3,500 based on estimates she's seen. That would add almost $300 to a monthly mortgage, an amount many buyers Heaton has encountered would rather put into the cost of a home.

Venice on the Charles? Boston’s solution to rising seas includes novel canal system in Back Bay Canals - By the end of this century, the romance of Venice might be a lot closer to Boston than you’d expect — like just off Storrow Drive. A report scheduled to be released Tuesday about preparing Boston for climate change suggests that building canals through the Back Bay neighborhood would help it withstand water levels that could rise as much as 7 feet by 2100. Some roads and public alleys, such as Clarendon Street, could be turned into narrow waterways, the report suggests, allowing the neighborhood to absorb the rising sea with clever engineering projects that double as public amenities.  The canal system was among the more imaginative solutions offered by some of the city’s leading planning, architecture, and engineering firms in a report compiled by the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute. Other suggestions include raising the Harborwalk, which rings the waterfront, to act as a stronger barrier for nearby buildings, adding breakwaters in the harbor, and creating wetlands that would act as sponges during periods of high water.

The Wall Street Journal downplays global warming risks once again -  As has become the norm for media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, just before a half million people participated in the People’s Climate March around the world, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece downplaying the risks and threats posed by human-caused global warming. The editorial was written by Steven Koonin, a respected computational physicist who claims to have engaged in “Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists,” but who is himself not a climate scientist. Koonin did admit that the climate is changing and humans are largely responsible, and noted, There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.. Unfortunately, Koonin’s editorial focused almost exclusively on the remaining uncertainties in climate science. Ironically, he stated, Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future.  But Koonin himself got the certainties wrong. For example, Koonin’s editorial claimed, The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.  This is simply incorrect. As climate scientist Michael Mann told Climate Science Watch in their thorough response to Koonin’s pieceThe fact is that the actual peer-reviewed scientific research shows that (a) the rate of warming over the past century is unprecedented as far back as the 20,000 years paleoclimate scientists are able to extend the record and (b) that warming can ONLY be explained by human influences.

People's Climate March NYC photos - There's no way around it. The People's Climate March in NYC on 9/21/2014 was massive! It was the largest climate march in history.  Drone footage of the NYC march staging area (Youtube) The river of humanity that flooded through the streets of Manhattan on Sunday sounded the alarm on climate change for politicians in the US and across the world to heed. Organizers estimate that more than 400,000 people marched in New York, well over triple estimates made just a couple of days before. The NYC march was just one of many climate change protests across 166 countries as a coordinated message to world leaders ahead of the UN summit on climate change.  The event was covered by mainstream media, so what follows are a few anecdotes and photos from my personal experience on the march.

Can Money Save The Climate? - Ilargi: -- If you would want to prevent a war, or you want to stop the destruction of rivers and seas through pollution, or for the earth’s climate from entering a cycle that neither we nor the climate itself can control, would you think first of people like Bill Gross when you’re looking for support? If you do, that would not be wise. Nevertheless, at every single climate conference it’s people just like him, such as Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, who made sure they’re in the spotlight.  People who’ve never done anything in their lives that was not directed at self-gratification. People who cause, not prevent, the mayhem. Even the big demonstrations last week were shrouded in a veil of corporatism, not unlike the one Greenpeace has been enveloped in for many years.  But still, if millions of dollars have to be spent to make a few hundred thousand people in New York leave their homes, what exactly are we doing? Where does that money come from? Does anyone want to deny that in general the richer people in the world are the ones responsible for the destruction? That we ourselves cause more damage than the average Bangla Deshi or Senegalese, and that the richest and most powerful people in our own societies do more harm than the poorset?  If you don’t want to deny that, why do you walk in a heavily sponsored protest march? Or does anyone think those marches are spontaneous eruptions of people’s true feelings anymore? Why then do they feel scripted, in a way the anti-globalization ones (Seattle) absolutely did not?There is no doubt that there are well-meaning people involved, and a lot of grass-roots identity, but isn’t there something wrong the very moment money becomes a factor, if and when we can agree that the pursuit of money is the 8 million ton culprit in the room in the first place? Do we really feel like we can’t achieve anything without money anymore? And moreover, shouldn’t we, as soon as we feel that way, start doing something about it? There’s a nice interview in Slate with Naomi Klein, who says capitalism is the bogey man. I find that a little easy; in the end man him/herself is the bogey man. Klein sits on the board of Bill McKibben’s, which I have no doubt is full of people full of best intentions, but which also sees money as way to achieve things:

The UN Climate Summit and a Key Issue for the 2015 Paris Agreement -  Stavins - World leaders converged at the United Nations in New York City this past week for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s much anticipated Climate Summit, a lead-up to global negotiations that will take place in Lima, Peru, in December of this year, and culminate a year later in Paris.  The challenge before negotiators is great, because there are significant obstacles to reaching a meaningful agreement, as I describe in an Op-Ed that appeared in The New York Times on Sunday, September 21st, “Climate Realities.” However, partly because of the new path that is being taken under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, in which all countries will be included under a common legal framework in a politically realistic hybrid policy architecture, the prognosis for a meaningful international agreement is better now than it has been in decades.  I discuss this briefly at the end of the Times article, and emphasize it in a follow-up Op-Ed that appeared in The Boston Globe on September 23rd, “UN summit can accelerate momentum to a new approach to climate change.”  (Also, for my overall assessment of the UN Climate Summit, see this interview carried out by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Doug Gavel.)

Climate Summit: Much Talk, A Bit of Walk - Speaking to more than 120 heads of state at the U.N. Climate Summit, actor and newly appointed U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio made clear the long-ranging impact of the attendees’ decisions.“You will make history,” he said, “or you will be vilified by it.”In three simultaneous sessions, world leaders announced national action and ambition plans to combat climate change. These announcements included pledges to cut emissions, donate money to the Green Climate Fund, halt deforestation and undertake efforts to put a price on carbon. Representatives from small island states lamented that their countries would be underwater in only a few decades, while African leaders pointed out the growing number of climate refugees. All eyes were on China and the United States, respectively the number one and number two carbon emitting countries in the world. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that all future U.S. investments in international development would consider climate resiliency as an important factor. He also said that the U.S. would meet its target of reducing carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. “We recognise our role in creating this problem. We embrace our responsibility to combat it,” Obama said. “We will do our part and we will help developing nations to do theirs.” “But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.” Chinese President Xi Jinping did not attend the climate summit, but instead sent Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

UN Climate Summit achieves successes, but does it really matter? -- At the end of his summit meeting on the climate crisis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put out a list of accomplishments festooned with 46 bullet points, some of them marking concrete new pledges, others diaphanous phrases. Among the most notable were two separate pledges on forests, which if followed through could eliminate deforestation by 2030, and end deforestation at the hands of the palm oil industry even sooner. Other announcements, such as promises by France and Germany that each would commit $1 billion to a fledgling fund to assist poorer nations, lent support to existing UN arrangements that have been slow to mature. And there were also agreements that could help hold down emissions with or without a new treaty. These included pledges by dozens of big corporations to price the cost of carbon into their business decisions and force governments to follow suit; the formation of a compact among cities to track and reduce their own emissions; and new steps to make it easier for municipalities to borrow for projects like energy efficiency, a key to reducing their carbon footprints. But would all of this really enhance the likelihood of a successful treaty negotiation?

President’s Drive for Carbon Pricing Fails to Win at Home - President Obama stood in the chamber of the United Nations General Assembly last week and urged the world to follow his example and fight global warming. But a major new declaration calling for a global price on carbon — signed by 74 countries and more than 1,000 businesses and investors — is missing a key signatory: the United States.The declaration, released by the World Bank the day before Mr. Obama’s speech at the United Nations Climate Summit, has been signed by China, Shell, Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola. It calls on all nations to enact laws forcing industries to pay for the carbon emissions that scientists say are the leading cause of global warming.The United States, which is under growing international pressure to price carbon, is missing from the declaration for a key reason: conservative opposition to Mr. Obama’s climate change proposals, specifically a carbon tax. The opposition will only intensify if Republicans win control of the Senate in November and the new majority leader is Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, where coal — the world’s largest source of carbon pollution — is the lifeblood of the state’s economy.“It’s time for the global elites to face facts,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “President Obama’s war on coal won’t have any meaningful impact on global carbon emissions. What it will do is ship American jobs overseas, raise the cost of living substantially for middle and working-class families and throw thousands more Kentuckians out of work.”Although the nonbinding World Bank declaration is meant largely as a show of resolve ahead of a 2015 climate summit in Paris, it signals the broadest, most explicit effort to date of world leaders and financial institutions to push all nations to enact new taxes on old forms of energy. The declaration notes that governments can either directly tax carbon pollution or create market-based cap-and-trade systems, which force companies to buy government-issued pollution permits.

In Historic Visit To D.C., Obama Offers Indian Prime Minister $1 Billion In Financing For Clean Energy - On Tuesday, President Obama and newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met for over an hour in the Oval Office. While they announced agreements on a number of issues, climate change and clean energy were two of the foremost.  The two leaders released a detailed statement committing to future cooperation on energy and climate issues. This comes during a key turning point in global climate change discussions, and gives a boost of momentum for the two countries after India displayed wavering commitment during September’s United Nations Climate Summit. Modi didn’t attend the summit and his environment minister said India would not offer a plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a climate summit next year in Paris.  The minister, Prakash Javadekar, placed the responsibility for mitigating emissions on developed countries, saying that India’s main priorities were alleviating poverty and growing the economy.  The tone at this week’s meeting was quite different as the leaders toured the MLK monument and shared a White House dinner at which Modi, observing a religious holiday, fasted. While the new partnerships are not game-changing they offer the promise of cooperating between the world’s second and third largest GHG emitters.  Termed a “New Era of Cooperation” the joint statement pledges to expand the U.S.-India Partnership to advance clean energy, work together toward a successful outcome of U.N. climate negotiations in Paris in December 2015, and to expand bilateral cooperation on climate change. This includes the Obama administration allowing $1 billion in financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to help India purchase American technology for clean energy projects.

Proposed Trade Agreements Would Make Policy Implications of Environmental Research Entirely Irrelevant - Environmental Science & Technology (ACS Publications)  We feel that the prospect of environmental research becoming entirely irrelevant in the political arena should mobilize every environmental scientist. That threat, unfortunately, appears very real at the moment, because of several trade partnership agreements that are being negotiated secretly.(1, 2) Inspired by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994, negotiations started in 2010 on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement among a number of countries around the Pacific Ocean, and in July 2013, similar discussions were initiated about a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the U.S. and EU. In spite of several studies(2, 3) demonstrating that neither of these agreements would lead to significant economic benefit for the overwhelming majority of people, except the wealthiest of investors, the agenda is being pushed forward. To avoid public opposition from the onset, little detail about the negotiations has been made public, until leaks from different sources revealed the issues being considered, as well as the heavy presence of major corporations at the negotiation table.

Solar could beat coal as world's top power source by 2050, says IEA - Telegraph: Solar power will reach commercial “take-off” within a decade and could displace fossil fuels to become the world’s biggest source of electricity by 2050, according to a stunning report from the International Energy Agency. The IEA said the cost of photovoltaic panels would continue to plummet, falling by a further 60pc for household rooftops and 70pc for power companies even after the dramatic gains of the recent years. Solar has already achieved “socket parity” for consumers in a string of countries, including Australia, Germany, Italy, and Holland, chiefly due to a fall in the price of solar cells to $0.80 a watt from $4 in 2008. The agency expects prices to reach $0.30 by 2050 with enough investment, though what increasingly matters is the rapid fall in “soft costs” for installation as solar goes mainstream. The gains will happen just as carbon pricing pushes up costs for fossil fuels, creating a scissor action in the global energy market. “The take-off is around 2025 to 2030. By then the cost of solar will be $100 per megawatt/hour and will compete with fuels facing carbon prices of $50 a tonne,” said the agency.

Fossil Fuels Get Huge Master Limited Partnership Tax Breaks - “Green” Energy Shut Out - Since 2008, investors have poured several hundred billion dollars into fossil fuel-related master limited partnerships that shield income from virtually all corporate taxation. The MLP tax loophole — a sort of reverse carbon tax — has heavily subsidized the nation’s ongoing oil and natural gas fracking boom. Solar, wind and other renewable energy companies are not eligible for the MLP tax dodge. Although bipartisan support is building in Congress to extend the tax deductions to them, insiders say legislation to do so will most likely have to wait for and be a part of a comprehensive tax reform package, which has proven elusive. Until then, existing incentives will serve as a drag on the U.S. economy’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. As long as Congress fails to act, fossil fuels will continue to exploit their government-approved competitive advantage even as mounting evidence shows their use accelerates global warming and prompts calls to tax carbon.  Even from a strictly financial perspective, tilting future U.S. taxpayer-funded energy subsidies toward fossil fuels might be a poor bet. Several major investment banks, including Morgan Stanley and Barclays, have warned that rapidly falling prices for renewable energy pose an existential threat to traditional electric utilities powered by coal, oil and natural gas.

Federal Court Backs EPA’s Veto Of One Of The Largest Surface Mines Ever Proposed In Appalachia -- At 2,278 acres acres, down from an original 3,100 acres, the Spruce No. 1 Mine was one of the largest surface mining operations ever authorized in Appalachia. That was, until the EPA vetoed it. On Tuesday, a federal District Court judge upheld the EPA’s revocation of the West Virginia surface mine’s Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, calling it “reasonable, supported by the record, and based on considerations within EPA’s purview.”At issue was the agency’s veto of a permit that had previously been issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The drawn-out case — the mine was first proposed in 1997 — received national attention for its potential implications. With this latest development, the Corps may be more hesitant to grant mountaintop removal permits in the future. The EPA vetoed portions of the Corps’ dredge-and-fill permit issued in January 2007. The permit would have allowed Mingo Logan Coal Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Arch Coal Inc., to bury 6.6 miles of natural headwater streams with mining waste. “To its credit, the EPA finally recognized that this harm would really be unacceptable.”

EPA says greenhouse gas releases from wells, pipelines decline -- The U.S. oil and gas sector reduced greenhouse gas emissions from well sites, pipelines and processing facilities last year despite the industry's continued growth, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday. Use of technology and improvements in hydraulic fracturing techniques in natural gas production led the way, accounting for a 73 percent decrease in methane released by that process since 2011, the EPA said. The industry as a whole reduced methane emissions by 12 percent in two years, even as the number of sources reported to the government grew by 13 percent. Carbon dioxide emissions from the industry increased by 2.5 percent last year, but the methane reduction brought the overall number down by 1 percent. The methane numbers continue a five-year trend in reductions that the EPA expects to continue with implementation of a 2012 rule requiring “green completions” of wells. Drillers must capture gas stored in flowback — the liquids that return to the surface during drilling and fracking — which prevents its release into the air.

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