protect and defend our ecosystems

Date: 16-Feb-10
Country: US
Author: Maggie Fox

WASHINGTON – The coastal fog that gives San Francisco its romantic ambiance is thinning out, a boon to drivers but a real threat to the giant redwoods there, researchers reported on Monday.

It in unclear if natural climate variations or human activity is to blame, but the result could be the loss of trees, they reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Fog prevents water loss from redwoods in summer, and is really important for both the tree and the forest,” biologist Todd Dawson of the University of California Berkeley said in a statement.

“The coast redwood is the tallest living tree species and notably long-lived, with some individuals exceeding 2,000 years in age,” the researchers wrote in their report, available here

“If the fog is gone, we might not have the redwood forests we do now.”

Dawson and colleagues estimated the frequency of fog by looking at weather records, especially airport records dating back to 1951.

“Since 1901, the average number of hours of fog along the coast in summer has dropped from 56 percent to 42 percent, which is a loss of about three hours per day,” said Berkeley’s James Johnstone, who led the study.

The fog is caused by cool surface waters of the Pacific Ocean meeting warm air from the interior of California. It is held in place by an inversion, caused when cooler air is trapped closer to the surface.

“The data support the idea that Northern California coastal fog has decreased in connection with a decline in the coast-inland temperature gradient and weakening of the summer temperature inversion,” Johnstone said.

“As fog decreases, the mature redwoods along the coast are not likely to die outright, but there may be less recruitment of new trees,” Dawson added. “They will look elsewhere for water, high humidity and cooler temperatures.”

The coast redwood, known scientifically as Sequoia sempervirens, is naturally found in a very narrow band along the northeast Pacific coast.

The researchers found changes all the way down the coast from northernmost California to San Diego.

“Fog is clearly a dominant climatic factor on the California coast, and long-term reductions likely have and may continue to impact the water and carbon economy of redwoods and other coastal endemic species,” they concluded.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved

by John Laumer, Philadelphia on 01.21.10

big suv photo
Big ol’ Chevy Tahoe. Image credit:AutoWeek.

The Star-Telegram is reporting that “The health effects of air pollution are a major topic in Texas because the state is one of the most polluted in the country. A recent survey by Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth found that 1 in 4 children in North Texas has asthma, which can be both caused and aggravated by air pollution.” This in the context of a recent study which documented Texas kids are “more likely to miss school when certain types of air pollution increase.”

There’s no one source to point the finger of blame at. It’s about a predilection for big smoggy vehicles, refinery and petrochemical emissions, coal-burning power plants, ships and barges, and so on. The point is….

Environmental quality impacts school performance (my inference based on the correlation reported). I’m betting it’s not just in Texas that this potential correlation could be found.

Clearly, many US elected officials do not yet ‘connect the environmental dots’ linking air quality to quality of life and to learning, nor are some powerful corporate constituents wanting them to. For a clear demonstration of the latter effect, look no further than Alaskan Senator Murkowski , who is sponsoring an amendment that prevents USEPA from regulating greenhouse gases. To see who’s got the most horses in that rodeo read Senator Who Hopes to Block EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gas Pollution is Top Fundraiser from Utility Companies

Who needs that permafrost anyhow?

Failing to have much trust in the sciences and still stuck on libertarian romanticism, it takes exploding underpants to get attention to the business of ‘dot connecting.’ How long before a Texas congress-critter tacks an amendment onto a Federal budget bill, preventing EPA from regulating smog causing emissions? Not long is my guess.

Who needs that book learnin’ anyhow?

Three more dots.

  • I wonder how many corporations pay big-time health care benefits for employee family asthma treatments while giving money to lobbyists who want to slow down air quality regulation enforcement?
  • China bears some of the responsibility for Texas AQ degradation.
  • As reported in an AFP release on Yahoo News.

Pollution from Asia is boosting levels of ozone in the skies above the western United States, a trend that could hamper US efforts to meet tougher smog standards,…The findings are important, as previous research suggests pollution at the altitude monitored in the study can descend and mix with surface air.If so, a long-standing question may be answered. There has been a rise in ozone levels in parts of the rural western United States, but there is little road traffic or industry in these regions to explain the increase.

The paper says the phenomenon could have repercussions for efforts in the United States to roll back its smog problem with tougher car-exhaust measures and other initiatives.

    Are you still with me on this?

  • Taking a leadership role in climate action enables the USA to add more pressure on China to clean up the emissions of both greenhouse cases and the associated smog causing emissions that float over rural Texas.

Mike’s adjacent post on the Chinese smog effect on Western USA is worth a look:

That’s all the dots I have for now.

More posts about Texas air quality.
Texas Coal Fired Utility Building ‘Alamo of Coal’
Texas PTA Partners With Government for Cleaner School Buses
Texas Board of Ed Neuters Science Textbooks’ Global Warming

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin on 01.17.10

Wreckfish at Lost City thermal vents  photo
Image: D. Kelley of University of Washington, IFE, URI‑IAO, UW, Lost City science party, NOAA

Lost City of Atlantis
The Lost City is so named because it juts from an Atlantic undersea mountain named Atlantis and was coincidentally discovered by the scientific expedition aboard the research vessel Atlantis. Scientists who noticed the white columns growing 65 to 200 feet up from the ocean floor were soon credited with finding a completely new type of hot spring environment. Previously, the only hot springs known derived their heat from the hot magma below the earth’s crust.

But the Lost City represents a remarkable chemical process that may now be providing the best empirical evidence for the widely believed theory that when conditions change, relatively rare indigenous species may quickly take over and dominate a biosphere at the expense of previously successful species.

The Remarkable Chemistry of Life
The Lost City Hydrothermal Field benefits from a fantastic chemistry that some scientists believe may point to the origin of life on earth. The mere contact of seawater with the underlying rock suffices to drive a series of processes that provide three essential criteria for a microbial Garden of Eden:

  1. It is a unique type of rock, peridotite, which is normally found only much deeper in the earth, but which juts up to the mantel in the Atlantic massif. Peridotite reacts with seawater, generating heat: ingredient number one for the success of life. Even more important, the heat raises the surrounding waters to only moderate temperatures (around 200°F), as opposed to the scorching hot waters vented from magma-heated springs.
  2. The reaction results in a reduced form of the metal iron, which can use the power of chemical reduction to turn carbon in the nearby rock into hydrocarbons. These carbon and hydrogen chains are the raw material for cell walls and the starting material for the creation of amino acids, the alphabet of proteins.
  3. Finally, the reaction leaves behind a highly alkaline warm solution, between pH 9 and 11, which when vented precipitates carbonate from the seawater, building white carbonate limestone-like “chimneys” that can grow to great heights. The tallest chimney, named Poseidon, is 18 stories tall.

Thus, a beautiful white and cream domicile grows where, even if life did not originate from the unique chemical soup at the hydrothermal vents, microbes find themselves perfectly at home. It is this 30,000 year old home-sweet-home that has yielded the proof of the ‘rare biosphere’ hypothesis.

Winning the Genetic Race
Invasive species hint at what is possible in evolution’s race. Benefiting from a lack of competition or predation, invasive species are increasingly proliferating in environments where they are quite unwelcome. Asian carp in the Mississippi and African rock pythons eating goats in Florida come to mind.

But the ‘rare biosphere’ model being tested in the undersea Lost City has a different premise: an environment is dominated by the successful species, but important genetic material is preserved in rare members of the biosphere — genetic memory that may be exactly what is needed to win the survival race if conditions change.

Scientists initially thought that traces of odd DNA found when analyzing microbial communities were simply artifacts of the DNA sequencing process. But the evolution of DNA sequencing techniques has now made it clear that a large number of microbes exist that are represented only by rare, remaining members of their type. What are so many almost-extinct microbes doing hanging about in otherwise thriving communities?

That is the question that authors of a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences believe they have answered. Led by William Brazelton, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, the team showed that microbes that are quite rare in some vents are the dominant population in other vents. The “winning genes” depend on the temperature and other conditions that change over time as the vents age and grow. The authors conclude:

The rare biosphere of the Lost City microbial community represents a large repository of genetic memory created during a long history of past environmental changes. The rare organisms were able to rapidly exploit the new niches as they arose because they had been previously selected for the same conditions in the past.

Genetic Memories of Warmer Climes
There is a branch of denialism in the face of global warming studies that responds by pointing out that even if global warming is occurring, and even if it is anthropogenic (caused by man), it doesn’t matter. The earth will survive, life will go on; it always does. Studies like this confirm the robustness of life in the face of inevitable change. But it sure would be nice if some of the fun species could stick around: like dogs and dolphins, toads and tigers, hummingbirds and humans. How will the genetic memory locked in the cells of all species steer the future of life as conditions change? Which are the rare species among us that will dominate the world after warming?

More on Genetic Diversity:
TreeHugger Forums: “2010- International Year of Biodiversity”
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/06/usda-climate-change-super-weeds.php
What Happens to Cold Blooded Animals in a Warming World (Slideshow)
The World’s Most Lovable Invasive Species

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California http://www.treehugger.com/images_site/feed-icon-10x10.pngon 10.27.09

light-switches-on-redPhoto via Robert S Donovan

It doesn’t take inventing a whole lot of new technology to save a whole lot of GHGs. It just take a whole lot of people utilizing the simple, inexpensive technologies we already have rolling out that help cut down on energy consumption. If US consumers used existing technology to its fullest, we’d save a whole France-worth of carbon emissions, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. And to get more people to be savvy about what options are already on the table, scientists say social networking will play a role.

Ars Technica reports, “The authors make a compelling case that behavioral changes [such as getting people to use simple, inexpensive technologies and low-tech solutions to energy efficiency], which can be amplified by social networks, are probably easier to generate and produce quicker results than the actual deployment of high-tech hardware. And they cite a variety of studies to indicate that, in a lot of ways, we probably understand how to produce behavioral changes better than we know how to deploy unproven tech.”

Some of the low tech solutions with the highest adoption rates are home weatherization, with 90% adoption, more energy efficient appliances, with an 80% adoption, and fuel-efficient vehicles, with a 50% adoption. These now-tech solutions, when calculated over a 10-year adoption rate, would cut US carbon emission by about 7.4% of total national emissions – an amount just a touch higher than what France spits out. On top of that, about 60% of the total financial savings of reduced energy use would come within the first five years, making the payoff for behavioral changes readily apparent.

So what will get people to make the behavioral changes? The authors point out programs that offer money for efficiency, such as with the cash for clunkers program, or with rebates for purchasing energy efficient appliances. However, we’ve also seen that making energy usage information available to people will also help reduce energy consumption or improve driving practices. A financial incentive to save more on monthly energy and fuel bills will likely spur more consumers into improvements like weatherization, and better driving (or carpooling) practices.

The idea of social networking factoring in is interesting as well. Several energy dashboard companies mention elements to their products that allow users to compete with people in their area, using that competitive spirit to boost energy efficient behavior. We’ve also seen the idea of World of Warcraft-like games as a way of getting people to put the environment first, and of course there’s the example of Tweet-A-Watt as a way to blast your energy usage data out to followers and having to publicly walk the talk. All of these are behavioral incentives that use existing technology.

While cutting carbon emissions by 7.4% won’t get us nearly to our goal – we need to cut our emissions by 80%, like, now – it is a big chunk that helps us get to the goal, and it’s all changes based on tools we already have at our disposal.

Will we actually make the changes that would cut a whole country’s worth of GHGs from our output? Well, let’s hope so. With 350.org’s Day of Action just passed and COP15 rapidly approaching, carbon emissions are at the top of people’s minds, and ways to reduce them have never seemed so important. The fact that we don’t need to wait on futuristic technologies to make some big changes is encouraging.

More on Cutting Carbon Emissions
Contraception Five Times Less Expensive Than Low-Carbon Technology in Combating Climate Change
7 Overrated Technologies and Their Underrated Low-Tech Alternatives
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Half in Three Steps

EarthShare is an organization that keeps their thumb on the pulse of the topics directly related to actions we can all get involved with.  The reception is growing tremendously and proven to be effective.  Do your part, get involved, get your children and grandchildren involved.

Together Everyone Achieves More… CSea Perkins

Are Americans cooling on global warming? 350

What do a rural farmer in New Zealand, students in Boston, and a group of architects have in common? They’re all affected by climate change.

People from every background showed their support for global climate change action and leadership on October 24, the International Day of Climate Action. Coordinated by 350.org, the event brought participants together to raise global awareness of climate change prior to the United Nations climate change meetings in December. More than 5,000 demonstrations were held around the globe! You can check out www.350.org to see international images of people taking unique action in support of our planet’s health and future.

This effort comes on the heels of a recently published poll indicating that some Americans’ opinions on climate change may be changing in the face of the other pressing crises affecting the nation. Although more than half of the 1,500 adults surveyed still believe global warming is occurring, this represents about a 20% decrease since 2006.

What do you think? Talk to us in the comments section at the bottom of this page, or email us! You can also learn more about the pending Climate Bill and participate in the discussion with Environmental Defense Fund’s Twitter guide.
Holy cow! Meat and dairy = major greenhouse gases. Cow

You may not think the food you eat can affect the air you breathe or the water you drink, but it does. According to Worldwatch Institute, more than 50% of greenhouse gases are generated by the meat and dairy industries!

What can you do? Consider reducing the amount of meat in your diet. Meatless Monday is a growing sensation advocating skipping meat just one day a week to reduce your environmental impact.

You might also end up introducing some delicious new fruits and veggies into your diet — check out an excellent curried eggplant recipe! Worried that kids won’t go for it? More than 80,000 Baltimore students now go meatless every Monday, and Baltimore County Public Schools plan on building community gardens at each of their public schools.

If you don’t want to or can’t give up meat one day a week, you have other options. Buy meat from your local butcher or at a nearby farmer’s market. The meat goes through less processing, doesn’t require Styrofoam packaging, and barely travels to get to you.

Our friends at the Center for a New American Dream also have excellent online resources that help you “cater to the Earth” by making smart decisions when buying food. They work to help Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice. Taking care of the planet can be delicious!

Take our Green Quiz Challenge!

Baby, it’s cold outside! As your family migrates indoors for the winter, you want to keep them happy and warm. But not everyone properly prepares their home for the coldest season, often forgetting to use weather-stripping, remove air conditioning window-units, or neglect to put draft guards down.

So how much of your home’s heat can escape through gaps in windows and doors? If you know the answer, take our quiz and you could win an eco-friendly prize!

Help Me

Help Me

Seals, whales, and walruses are just a few of the arctic species depending on you today. In fact, entire ecosystems in America’s Arctic are still under threat from oil and gas development.

Your voice is needed to help reverse aggressive Bush-era plans to expand oil leases in pristine Arctic waters already under stress from climate change.

We need your help immediately. Right now, Shell is aggressively seeking to start exploratory drilling in both the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, as early as 2010. Take action now to protect our Arctic waters from drilling!

As a WildAlert subscriber, you helped defend sensitive Arctic ecosystems earlier this year. Together we sent an overwhelming 98,000 letters to the Department of the Interior, and the Obama administration has since put the most recent Bush-era plans on hold! While the hold did not apply to previous controversial leases that opened 80 million acres in the Arctic Ocean and Alaska’s Bristol Bay, federal courts have ruled that additional scientific review of those leases is needed.

Now the administration is giving the public the chance to weigh in on all of these controversial plans. Won’t you join us in voicing concern for America’s Arctic?

Please urge Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to create a new science-based plan that will ensure the health and survival of America’s Arctic. Tell Salazar that until such a plan is completed, the only solution that will truly protect arctic species is a “timeout” from all oil and gas related activities in the Arctic Ocean.

Please take action today. Once America’s Arctic is destroyed, it will be gone forever.

Sincerely,

Kathy Kilmer
The Wilderness Society

Being a member of the NRDC for years and signing the petitions I believe in and support; I’m sharing one very near and dear to my heart.  If you care about t preventing or slowing polar bears extinction, please read on.

Here is the correspondence I just received and strongly encourage you to take just a couple minutes to sign the petition.  You do not have to donate money.  Congress and especially President Obama do listen to the NRDC.

…….

After eight years of suffering under the Bush Administration’s “polluters-first” policies, the polar bear is now hurtling headlong toward extinction.

It’s up to the Obama Administration to slam on the brakes, put Bush’s dangerous policies in reverse, and give the green light to full-fledged endangered species protection for the polar bear.

But that won’t happen unless millions of Americans speak out now:

http://www.nrdconline.org/campaign/Rescue_the_Polar_Bear 

Why? Because President Obama’s Interior Department will be under tremendous pressure from the oil lobby to maintain the Bush policy that puts oil development first and polar bears dead last.
 
We must make our voices heard if we are to persuade Interior Secretary Salazar to cancel Bush’s “polar bears be damned” approach.
 
Let the new Interior Secretary know you care deeply about saving the polar bear:
 
Remind him that the American people expect our government agencies to protect our country’s wildlife — not sacrifice them for corporate profits.
Together, we can reverse eight years of relentless attacks on the polar bear — and finally give these magnificent Arctic creatures a fighting chance at survival.
Sincerely,
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Senior Attorney

Natural Resources Defense Council

We need at least one million petitions to put the polar bear on the new administration’s radar screen, so rally everyone you know to speak out and say, “I Care More about the Polar Bear than Big Oil’s Profits.”

And only two months ago, Bush officials weakened the Endangered Species Act so badly that it no longer protects polar bears against the two deadliest threats they face: oil development and global warming.

But Interior Secretary Salazar is unlikely to defy Big Oil — unless we mobilize a nationwide outcry that can’t be ignored.

That’s why it’s so important that you send your own Citizen Petition right now and help NRDC ratchet up this next critical phase of our Polar Bear S.O.S. campaign:

http://www.nrdconline.org/campaign/Rescue_the_Polar_Bear

The stakes could not be higher. In the last year alone, the Bush Administration auctioned off a vast expanse of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea to Shell and other oil giants — exposing half of America’s polar bears to potential drilling and lethal oil spills.