Australia’s wildfires are yet more evidence that it’s time we woke up to climate change, Elizabeth Kolbert writes.
— Read on www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/13/what-will-another-decade-of-climate-crisis-bring
According to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2015’s global temperature average was 1.62ºF above the 1901-2000 average, making 2015 “by far the warmest year on record”. Ten of 2015’s monthly global temperatures tied or broke existing records.
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much.
NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2015 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data.
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and this issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement should make policy makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”
Global concentrations of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for a monthly average in spring, 2015, breaching a symbolic barrier set by climate scientists and policy makers.
Concentrations of other greenhouse gases produced from human activities, such as methane and nitrous oxide, also reached records in 2014, the World Meteorological Organization announced in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. The report is one of several measurements made by different climate agencies to address the state of greenhouse gases.
“This evidence shows us that the concentrations are increasing, and they are increasing with increasing rates,” said Oksana Tarasova, chief of the W.M.O.’s Atmospheric Environment Research Division. “This calls for urgent and very strong actions to limit the emission of those greenhouse gasses.”
Hotter air can hold more moisture, which exacerbates greenhouse warming. According to Dr. Tarasova, if carbon dioxide levels reach 560 parts per million, or double their preindustrial levels, the feedback loop would cause water vapor and clouds to increase atmospheric warming to a rate that is three times as much as what the human-caused gases can do by themselves.
“We shouldn’t blame water vapor for making this place warmer,” she said. Rather, she said, by limiting the emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, people can balance the feedback loop and mitigate future warming.
The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Last year was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.
NASA’s analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.
Coyote Carnage for “Sport” Allowed by Wisconsin Governor Walker’s Department of Natural Resources this Weekend in Forest and Bayfield Counties
A one-day coyote hunting contest near Crandon in northeastern Wisconsin starts this morning. Aside from the concerns of many animal lovers that such massive shooting sprees of wild animals “for the fun of it” are ethically and morally inhumane, environmental groups have also concerned that federally protected wolves could unknowingly be killed in the process.
The hunt will offer prize money for the largest, smallest and most coyotes killed. It’s one of a number of such competitions that hunters and the Department of Natural Resources say have been taking place for years.
Saturday’s event, run out of a tavern in Argonne on the edge of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, caught the attention of representatives of the Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf, Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups who criticized the contest element of the hunts.
“Killing for prize or trophy is not an adequate reason for hunting,” said Melissa Smith, executive director of Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf. “It’s unjustified and unsportsmanlike.”
The groups also said they were worried that gray wolves could be shot or mauled by dogs that are often used in such hunts.
“I am worried that this just increases the risk of someone violating the endangered species law,” Smith said.
Saturday’s event has categories for hunters who use hounds and those who use calls to attract coyotes.
It is illegal to kill wolves in Wisconsin, although there were wolf hunting seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that were used as a means to control the state’s growing wolf population.
A federal judge in December 2014 struck down a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan — a ruling that also ended legalized hunts.
A coyote killing contest is also being held this weekend near Washburn in Bayfield County.
The DNR says that it can be difficult at a distance to tell the difference between a wolf and a coyote. Wolves are larger and bulkier than coyotes. Wolves weigh 50 to 100 pounds. Coyotes weigh 25 to 45 pounds.
Predator killing contests have come under criticism elsewhere, including several western states. In December 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission banned killing contests for predator animals, such as coyotes, fox and bobcat.
California officials acted on a petition from Project Coyote, a Larkspur, Calif.-based organization that has worked with other groups to try to stop the practice in Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and New Mexico.
Camilla H. Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, predicted that other states will eventually follow California.
“This is very different from killing deer to put meat on the table,” Fox said. “This is gratuitous killing.”
In its petition in California, Project Coyote used written testimony by more than two dozen academics and conservationists, including Adrian Treves, an associate professor of environmental studies and founder of the carnivore coexistence lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Treves also serves on the science advisory board of Project Coyote.
In their testimony, the scientists and conservationists said that “indiscriminate killing is ineffective” in controlling livestock losses because “only some, often few, individual predators participate in depredation.” They also said such contests are not a reliable method of regulating deer populations.
“There is not a lot of scientific justification for it,” Treves said. Deer populations, for example, are much more influenced by food supply and climate conditions in the winter, he said.
David Walz, a DNR conservation warden supervisor, said wardens will be working in the Crandon area on Saturday and will keep tabs on the contest. He said hunters have killed wolves during the gun-deer season, thinking that the wolves were coyotes.
The state fine for unintentional killing of a wolf or other endangered species is up to $4,143, plus one-year revocation of all hunting licenses. If the killing is intentional, the fine is up to $5,500 and/or up to nine months jail, plus a three-year revocation of hunting licenses, according to the DNR.
Source: Lee Bergquist f the Journal Sentinel, January 21, 2016.
There is no refuting global warming when comparing lake temperature data from around the world from decades past to the same lakes’ temperature readings of today. The study, published in the Geophysical Research Letters and online in December, 2015, finds the Great Lakes are some of the world’s fastest warming lakes.
The decline of Great Lakes ice cover over the past several decades is contributing significantly to the rate of increase of summer water temperature, the study said.
Dozens of researchers pooled decades’ worth of data from hundreds of lakes and concluded that the world’s lakes are warming even more rapidly than the oceans or the atmosphere. The warmer waters threaten fish populations, ecosystems and fresh water supplies around the globe.
University of Minnesota Duluth Professor Jay Austin says the thick sheets of ice that blanketed Lake Superior for the past two winters did nothing to change the fact that Superior, like the other Great Lakes, is growing ever warmer.
“Lake Superior is one of the more rapidly warming lakes” among the 235 lakes in the study, Austin said in a 17 December 2015 Star Tribune report by Jennifer BrooksBy. A two-degree temperature shift can mean the difference between an iced-over Superior or an ice-free lake, he said. “Relatively small changes can lead to large changes in systems that define our region. Duluth would be a fundamentally different place if Lake Superior never formed ice”, Austin said.
The study, which was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, found that lakes have been warming by more than half a degree per decade. That might not sound like much, but when lakes warm up, toxic clouds of algae can bloom, fish habitats can be disrupted and invasive species currently held at bay by Superior’s inhospitable cold might be able to make themselves at home.
The lake study is the first of its kind to use both satellite temperature data and long-term ground measurements. More than 60 researchers surveyed more than 200 lakes that hold more than half the planet’s freshwater supply, using data that stretched back at least 25 years. Their findings were announced Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C.
“These results suggest that large changes in our lakes are not only unavoidable, but are probably already happening,” the study’s lead author, Catherine O’Reilly, an associate professor of geology at Illinois State University, said in a statement. O’Reilly’s research found that as lakes warm, their productivity declines.
The world’s lakes are warming faster than the oceans or the atmosphere, Austin said. Unlike air temperatures, which can fluctuate wildly from day to day or even hourly, lake temperatures are stable, making them ideal systems for measuring climate change. It takes a significant shift to change the temperature of a lake — much as it takes as much energy to heat a pot of water on the stove as it does to heat an entire room.
“Obviously, Lake Superior is going to stay cold for a very long time,” Austin said. “But these lakes provide a sort of ‘climate antenna’ that allows us to look at these global trends.”
The current rate of lake warming — an average of 0.61 degrees per decade — carries the risk of a 20 percent increase in algae blooms, which deplete oxygen in the water and can be toxic to fish.
The lakes seem to be warming faster in northern climates like Minnesota, where lakes are losing their ice cover earlier.
In 2007, Austin and his colleagues found that the average summer water temperature on Lake Superior had risen more than 4 degrees since 1979.
“We have documented, since 1970, a significant reduction in the ice on Lake Superior,” despite the past two winters, when the ice was so thick that tourists could trek across the lake to gawk at the Apostle Islands ice caves along the Wisconsin shore. “It sounds a little bit hollow, after the last two winters when we had quite a bit of ice. … I’m not suggesting that we won’t see ice on Lake Superior again, but we are going to see more years like 2012 when we had no ice.”
Meanwhile, Eli Kintisch of the journal Science reported 18 December 2015 that the global survey of hundreds of the Earth’s lakes found that climate change is causing lakes to warm faster than the oceans or the air around them. One reason is that warmer wintertime temperatures are producing less ice atop lakes that normally freeze over. Reduced lake ice coverage, in turn, increases the amount of sunlight lakes absorb. The changes could spell trouble for cold water lake species like trout. It may also have more serious global effects. Higher lake temperatures may speed the conversion of carbon-rich organic matter in lake sediments into methane and carbon dioxide, gases that once released into the atmosphere could exacerbate global warming.
At the United Nation’s Twenty-first Intergovernmental Conference of the Parties (COP21) held in Paris, France 30 November to 12 December 2015, the Conference Parties from virtually all the world’s nations agreed to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and, by 2050, to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to a level that land and ocean ecosystems can absorb and, thus, keep them out of the atmosphere.
These “Planetary Boundaries” were proposed as global guardrails within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for many more generations. Scientists have estimated planetary boundaries for climate warming, land use, freshwater use, ozone, nutrients (namely nitrogen and phosphorus), and other key characteristics of the earth that determine the quality of our lives and our survival, say Adam Hinterthuer and Steve Carpenter, ecology researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Limnology, located on the shore of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. In a 17 December 2015 Center for Limnology blog post, Hinterthuruer and Carpenter, state that “by crossing these boundaries, we may risk creating large-scale environmental changes that are difficult to reverse and could forever alter life on earth”.
Continuing, the authors state that “the warming boundary of 2 C was chosen with ecology in mind. As temperatures rise higher than 2 C, changes in the biosphere, or the living parts of the planet, can accelerate warming. In that scenario, we’ll go from worrying about how Earth’s climate impacts its ecosystems, to worrying about how these changed ecosystems drive even more warming.
“For example, the northern tundra and taiga forests of Canada and Russia contain vast amounts of organic carbon frozen in permafrost. As the planet warms, the permafrost could melt and release this carbon into the atmosphere. Such a big infusion of greenhouse gases will rapidly drive warming well above 2 C.”
“In an effort to counter this potential release, Russian scientists are conducting a large-scale experiment to convert the tundra and taiga to grassland. Ecologist Sergey Zimov and his son Nikita are re-establishing large herbivores—elk, bison, moose, horses and reindeer—in a 53-square-mile reserve in Siberia known as Pleistocene Park. The idea is that these animals’ eating habits—grazing—may turn the existing ecosystem into grassland. The hope is that the resulting grassland will insulate the permafrost, stave off melting, and thereby prevent the emission of greenhouse gases as the planet warms.
“However, it is not certain whether the big grazers will restore the grassland or if the grassland will prevent permafrost melting. Moreover, if the scheme does work, millions of square miles of taiga and tundra would have to be converted to grassland in the next few decades—a large undertaking to say the least.
“Warming could also affect the other Planetary Boundaries. For example, the phosphorus boundary depends on the amount of runoff from land to surface waters that occurs. Too much phosphorus runoff triggers toxic algal blooms, oxygen loss and fish kills in rivers, lakes and coastal ocean waters.”
In their 2009 book The Vanishing Present: Wisconsin’s Changing Lands, Waters, and Wildlife, Donald M. Waller and Thomas P. Rooney cite the work of University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Emeritus Professor John Magnuson, who documented ice cover on lakes around the globe, including Madison’s heavily researched Lake Mendota, and found markedly reduced ice cover from decade to decade during the last century.
It’s unbelievable that we have to protect one of America’s most precious national treasures – the Grand Canyon – from something as dangerous and destructive as radioactive uranium mining. But that’s exactly what we have to do right now.
Four years ago, a powerful grassroots coalition including Native American tribes, conservationists and CREDO activists came together and secured a moratorium on mining in the Grand Canyon watershed, a precious stretch of land containing ancient forests, unique wildlife, and a source of drinking water for millions.
But that moratorium is under constant threat by Republican lawmakers in Arizona, and it could easily be overturned by a Republican president with the stroke of a pen. Our best hope to make the moratorium permanent is to have President Obama declare the watershed a protected national monument. Let’s make sure 2016 is the year we permanently protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.
Tell President Obama: Protect the Grand Canyon from destructive uranium mining. Declare the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.
Uranium extraction is extremely lucrative, given its high price and the lack of stringent environmental standards that govern its mining. That’s why foreign-owned uranium mining companies from Canada and Russia won’t give up their plans to use American public lands for their own profits, while leaving a legacy of radioactive pollution for surrounding tribal communities and the Colorado River.
Numerous Native American tribes like the Navajo Nation, Havasupai, Hualapai, and Hopi consider this land to not only be their home, but also land that is sacred. It’s unconscionable that their own state leaders and elected officials would collude with foreign corporations to irreversibly pollute and destroy these lands.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening. Just this past September, Arizona’s attorney general joined surrounding states to challenge the moratorium and push to overturn it so that uranium mining could continue.
But a declaration from President Obama designating the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument could end all that, and would permanently protect this national treasure from greedy corporations and the right-wing politicians who work for them instead of the public good.
Sign the petition now and make sure President Obama makes this a priority before he leaves office.
Tell President Obama: Protect the Grand Canyon from destructive uranium mining. Declare the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.
In a matter of days, President Obama will launch his final push to pressure Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s a secretive trade deal that has been called “NAFTA on steroids” – and for good reason.
During his last State of the Union address on January 12, President Obama will make his case for a “trade” deal that would eviscerate broad swaths of regulations that protect consumers, workers, the environment and the soundness of our financial system. And, it would set up a legal regime where corporate profits trump the policy priorities of sovereign governments.
With the text of the deal now public even some key Republicans who supported Fast Track authority for approving the TPP are now saying they cannot support the trade deal as it stands.1 That means the President currently does not have the votes to pass the TPP. We need to keep it that way and thwart any momentum toward passage of the TPP in this Congress.
We can jump start our campaign to stop this corporate power grab by making our voices heard as loudly as possible in advance of the State of the Union next week.
In November we finally got to see what’s inside the TPP – and it’s even worse than we thought. If Congress ratifies this agreement more, American jobs would be offshored. Internet freedom would be a joke. Developing countries would lose access to lifesaving medicines. Unsafe foods and products could pour into our country while we’re powerless to stop them. The deal includes countries notorious for severe violations of human rights, but the term “human rights” does not appear in the 5,600 pages of the TPP. And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The administration’s spin about the TPP being the most progressive trade treaty ever is not based in reality. Don’t take our word for it. Here is what Doctors Without Borders said about the TPP:
The TPP is a bad deal for medicine: it’s bad for humanitarian medical treatment providers such as MSF [Medecins Sans Frontieres, Doctors Without Borders], and it’s bad for people who need access to affordable medicines around the world, including in the United States.
The TPP would also commit the world to burning oil in shipping, a disaster for the planet.
Tell Congress: Oppose the TPP.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also sounded the alarm about the TPP. She previously warned that trade deals like the TPP could provide an opportunity for “banks to get something done quietly out of sight that they could not accomplish in a public place with the cameras rolling and the lights on.”3
Indeed, the TPP includes provisions that would severely hamstring the ability of governments to stem the next banking crisis. Other provisions would allow multinational corporations to push back when governmental regulations cut into corporate profits by suing governments in foreign courts staffed by corporate lawyers.
While Congress cannot amend or filibuster the TPP, they do still have to vote yes or no on it. Already some Republicans have come out against this awful deal, so if we are able to confront the big money interests behind this treaty with an onslaught of grassroots opposition, we can win.