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Key Terms You Need to Know to Understand Climate Change

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 11:15
With the UN climate talks coming up quickly, it’s important to understand climate science basics. Learn our top climate terms below.

Republished with permission from The Climate Reality Project

We’re at a historic moment with the UNFCCC COP 21, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 21st Conference of the Parties, in Paris set to begin next month. With world leaders from 195 countries negotiating to reach a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions, expansive news and media coverage is guaranteed. What’s also guaranteed in this coverage is a host of scientific jargon and acronyms that can be overwhelming to follow, let alone understand.

So this week we’re breaking down climate science to its most basic key terms and phrases to help you better grasp what’s going on in the world with climate change, both at the UN climate talks and beyond.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s jump right in. Below is our list of the top terms you need to know to understand the basic science and political sphere of climate change.

1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

The chemical compound carbon dioxide (also known by its shorthand CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas and driver of climate change. It’s an integral part of life cycles on earth, produced through animal respiration (including human respiration) and absorbed by plants to fuel their growth, to name just two ways. Human activities are drastically altering the carbon cycle in many ways. Two of the most impactful are: one, by burning fossil fuels and adding more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; and two, by affecting the ability of natural sinks (like forests) to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

2. Greenhouse Gas

A greenhouse gas is a chemical compound found in the Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and other human-made gases. These gases allow much of the solar radiation to enter the atmosphere, where the energy strikes the Earth and warms the surface. Some of this energy is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation. A portion of this outgoing radiation bounces off the greenhouse gases, trapping the radiation in the atmosphere in the form of heat. The more greenhouse gas molecules there are in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped, and the warmer it will become.

3. Emissions

In the climate change space, emissions refer to greenhouse gases released into the air that are produced by numerous activities, including burning fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, and melting permafrost, to name a few. These gases cause heat to be trapped in the atmosphere, slowly increasing the Earth’s temperature over time.

4. Weather vs Climate

It’s all about timing when it comes to differentiating weather and climate. Weather refers to atmospheric conditions in the short term, including changes in temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, brightness, wind, and visibility.

While the weather is always changing, especially over the short term, climate is the average of weather patterns over a longer period of time (usually 30 or more years). So the next time you hear someone question climate change by saying, “You know it’s freezing outside, right?”, you can gladly explain the difference between weather and climate.

5. Global Warming vs Climate Change

Many people use these two terms interchangeably, but we think it’s important to acknowledge their differences. Global warming is an increase in the Earth’s average surface temperature from human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

On the other hand, climate change refers to the long-term changes in the Earth’s climate, or a region on Earth, and includes more than just the average surface temperature. For example, variations in the amount of snow,  sea levels, and sea ice can all be consequences of climate change.

6. Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels are sources of non-renewable energy, formed from the remains of living organisms that were buried millions of years ago. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil to produce energy is where the majority of greenhouse gases originate. As the world has developed and demand for energy has grown, we’ve burned more fossil fuels, causing more greenhouse gases to be trapped in the atmosphere and air temperatures to rise.

7. Sea-Level Rise

Sea-level rise as it relates to climate change is caused by two major factors. First, more water is released into the ocean as glaciers and land ice melts. Second, the ocean expands as ocean temperatures increase. Both of these consequences of climate change are accelerating sea-level rise around the world, putting millions of people who live in coastal communities at risk.

8. Global Average Temperature

Global average temperature is a long-term look at the Earth’s temperature, usually over the course of 30 years, on land and sea. Because weather patterns vary, causing temperatures to be higher or lower than average from time to time due to factors like ocean processes, cloud variability, volcanic activity, and other natural cycles, scientists take a longer-term view in order to consider all of the year-to-year changes.

Related: Ten Clear Indicators Our Climate Is Changing

9. Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is energy that comes from naturally replenished resources, such as sunlight, wind, waves, and geothermal heat. By the end of 2014, renewables were estimated to make up almost 28% of the world’s power generating capacity, enough to supply almost 23% of global electricity. Because renewables don’t produce the greenhouse gases driving climate change, shifting away from fossil fuels to renewables to power our lives will put us on the path to a safe, sustainable planet for future generations.

10. COP and UNFCCC

These two abbreviations are best described together as they work hand-in-hand. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an environmental treaty that nations joined in 1992, with the goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

Meanwhile, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC is a yearly international climate conference where nations assess progress and determine next steps for action through the UNFCCC treaty. This year marks the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21), which will be held in Paris beginning November 30. Here, a historic global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is on the table and, if passed, will mark a landmark achievement in the fight against climate change.

11. INDC

INDC stands for “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution.” In preparation for the UN climate talks later this year, countries have outlined what actions they intend to take beginning in 2020 under a proposed global climate agreement. These plans are known as INDCs, which will play a big part in moving us forward on the path toward a low-carbon, clean energy future.

12. IPCC

IPCC is the acronym for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. First set up in 1988 under two UN organizations, the IPCC surveys the research on climate change happening all around the world and reports to the public about the current state of our scientific knowledge.

13. PPM

PPM stands for “parts per million,” which is a way of expressing the concentration of one component in the larger sample. Climate scientists and activists use the term to describe the concentration of pollutants, like carbon dioxide or methane, in the atmosphere. Many scientists agree that carbon dioxide levels should be at 350 PPM to be considered safe; we’re at about 400 PPM right now and this number is growing by approximately 2 PPM each year.

14. Pre-Industrial Levels of Carbon Dioxide

Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide refers to carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Scientists estimate these pre-industrial levels were about 280 PPM, well below where we are today.

15. Methane

Methane is a chemical compound that’s the main component of natural gas, a common fossil fuel source. Just like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Methane accounts for about 10 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions (using 2013 figures), second only to carbon dioxide.

Many people don’t understand the negative effects of methane as an alternative to other fossil fuels. While methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, it absorbs 84 times more heat, making it very harmful to the climate.


Mitigation refers to an action that will reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions, such as planting trees in order to absorb more CO2. It can also include developing and deploying new technologies, using renewable energies like wind and solar, or making older equipment more energy efficient.

Stay tuned for more climate science coming up in future blog posts. In the meantime, get active by telling world leaders to create a strong climate agreement in Paris

Photo: © 2012 martinak15/Flickr cc by 2.0

Categories: Ecological News

Rich Praise for Poor Nation’s Emissions Targets

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 10:36
Analysts say the DRC, one of the world’s poorest countries, has more credible plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions from forestry than several more developed states.

By Alex Kirby

A Congolese woman collecting firewood from the forest. Image: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR via Flickr

An African country whose people are among the poorest on Earth has won plaudits from US scientists for its clear and detailed plans to reduce climate-warming emissions from its forests and farms.

The strategy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – rated next to bottom of the 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index in 2013 – is described as “robust” by the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

They also rate it as better than those produced by three other more prosperous countries struggling to combat deforestation − Brazil, India and Indonesia.

The UCS analysed the intentions of several countries for limiting global warming emissions in the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sectors as outlined in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – action plans submitted to the UN climate change convention (UNFCCC) explaining how they will reduce their emissions in the 2020s.

Deforestation hotspots

In a report called “INDCs, Take 3” − the final section of a three-part series UCS has released − the scientists say the INDCs from Brazil, India and Indonesia are disappointing, despite their status as deforestation hotspots.

In contrast, they say, the DRC’s plan is robust and in line with a trend that sees smaller countries doing more to reduce their land use emissions than more populated countries.

Doug Boucher, the report’s author and director of the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative at UCS, says: “The land use sector, which accounts for about one-fourth of total global warming emissions, can’t be ignored if we want to solve the problem of climate change.

“The climate mitigation potential of agriculture and forests is great, and needs to be fully realised to prevent the worst consequences of climate change that will occur if global temperatures rise by more than 2°C.”

In its INDC, Brazil says it will reduce its overall carbon emissions by 37 percent by 2025, with or without international financing.

But, the UCS says, this does not include the country’s AFOLU emissions. It says its greatest concern is the “inadequate” Brazilian pledge to eliminate only illegal deforestation in the Amazon, rather than limiting all forms of deforestation across the entire country.

Haze from the forest fires in Riau, Sumatra blanket most parts of the landscape.
Photo by Aulia Erlangga for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) via Flickr

Indonesia’s INDC is also problematic, the UCS says. About 63 percent of Indonesia’s global warming emissions come from the AFOLU sectors, mostly because of deforestation for large-scale agriculture.

The report says it is therefore worrying that Indonesia’s INDC – which proposes a 29 percent emissions reduction by 2030 compared with business-as-usual, or 41 percent if it receives international financing – fails to suggest a goal for ending deforestation or peatland clearing.

“I’m hopeful that the developed world will respond to the DRC’s plans
by providing them with the resources necessary to fulfil them”

“Indonesia currently has a moratorium on clearing primary forests and also banned peatland clearing in 2010,” Boucher says. “But the plan doesn’t say whether these commitments will continue, let alone what sort of new initiatives will be implemented to achieve their overall emissions reduction goal.”

Unlike the other countries examined, India is already planting more trees than it is felling. Its INDC lists an overall goal of reducing global warming emissions by 33 percent-35 percent by 2030. But the analysis says it “lacks the clarity necessary to effectively gauge India’s ambition, especially with regard to the AFOLU sectors”.

Of the four countries examined, the UCS says, the proposals by the DRC − home to the largest area of the Congo Basin rainforest − were the most clearly defined.

The country offers a 17 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 compared with business-as-usual, and gives a breakdown of how much of this will come from each sector and to what extent each goal depends on international help.

Clearer detail

“The DRC’s plan is clearer and includes more quantitative detail than plans submitted by far richer nations,” Boucher says. “And their proposed reductions are in line with the amount of emissions they can and should cut, based on the extent to which their emissions have contributed to climate change.”

He told Climate News Network: “The governance challenges that the DRC faces in implementing the plans it has presented are enormous. But recent years have actually seen some steps forward among the Congo Basin countries, including reducing an already low rate of deforestation and improving forest monitoring and management.

“So I’m hopeful that the developed world will respond to the DRC’s plans by providing them with the resources necessary to fulfil them.”

The four countries examined in the analysis, together with China, the European Union, Mexico and the US, make up 57 percent of all land use sector emissions.

“We analysed climate pledges from countries that could make or break climate progress worldwide,” Boucher says. “It’s clear that to be climate leaders, these countries will need to make significant revisions on land use in their INDCs if we hope to effectively tackle emissions from this sector.” Climate News Network

Categories: Ecological News

24 Hours of Reality

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 00:20
Streaming Live – The World is Watching

24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth: The World Is Watching (live stream) will include dynamic appearances and performances from world-renowned musicians and entertainers and will be available to a global audience through mobile, web, and television broadcast as it seeks to engage with people worldwide to build momentum for strong action at the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris. The broadcast is produced by The Climate Reality Project and Live Earth. The Climate Reality Project’s partnership with Live Earth for this fifth-annual broadcast means it will include an unprecedented artistic lineup and distribution platform to maximize its global reach.

Former US Vice President and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project Al Gore will lead the global broadcast of The World Is Watching, airing from 6pm CET, Friday, November 13 to 6pm CET, Saturday, November 14.The round-the-clock event will also include presentations from government leaders and climate experts and activists broadcasting from Paris and eight other countries around the world (United States, Australia, Brazil, India, Canada, China, the Philippines, and South Africa) to provide viewers with compelling, entertaining and informative content on the local and global impacts of climate change, as well as promising solutions that can be found around the world today.
In addition to French President François Hollande and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, experts like glaciologist Claude Lorius, elected leaders like California Governor Jerry Brown and other special guests will appear throughout the 24-hour broadcast.

24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth: The World Is Watching will have a truly global broadcast footprint. Visit to find out how to watch the livestream where you live or on your mobile device.

For viewers in the United States, a 24-hour live stream will be available exclusively on mobile via go90—a free mobile-first, social-entertainment platform that can be downloaded via the App Store or Google Play. Verizon FiOS customers can watch “24 Hours of Reality” on FiOS1 (Channel 1 and 501 HD). The broadcast will also be available worldwide through, The Huffington Post, and Additional global broadcast partners will be announced later this week.

Each hour, the broadcast will be punctuated by thought-provoking, knockout appearances from an all-star lineup. The broadcast is aimed at urging world leaders to push for the strongest possible climate agreement at the upcoming UN conference in Paris, and at urging people to take action in their own communities and homes.

“24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth: The World Is Watching is about making sure the people of the world are informed and engaged so that they can make their voices heard in their capitals and at the negotiating table in Paris,” said Vice President Al Gore. “The UN climate talks can be a breakthrough moment to change the dangerous course we’ve set for our planet. We want the world’s leaders to know the world is watching, and its time for them to act.”

“The media landscape is cluttered, people’s lives are busy and the way people access information and connect with each other varies from person to person. To cut through, you have to provide truly compelling content and match it with multiple distribution streams that reach people in their homes and on the go,” said Live Earth founder Kevin Wall. “The climate crisis is grave, so we are harnessing the best content and the latest in mobile, social media and online distribution to make sure we can connect with people everywhere.”

“We have to get every major country to make a strong commitment at COP 21,” said Climate Reality President and CEO Ken Berlin. “The time is now for world leaders to sign an emissions reduction agreement that includes five-year reviews of their commitments, a long-term goal, and the global prioritization of renewable energy. It is time for global action—the world is watching.”

About “24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth: The World Is Watching”

With the UN talks in Paris (COP 21) approaching, a breakthrough in addressing climate change is finally at hand. Airing two weeks prior to when the monumental negotiations begin, the broadcast will serve to remind global leaders that the world is watching and demanding action to solve the climate crisis. The time has come for countries to take significant action and make strong commitments to reduce emissions, combat climate change and set us on a path towards a better future. For more information, visit

About The Climate Reality Project

The Climate Reality Project is one of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to mobilizing action around climate change. With a global movement more than 5 million strong and a grassroots network of trained Climate Reality Leader activists, we are spreading the truth about climate change and building widespread popular support for solutions. Former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore is the Founder and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @ClimateReality.

About Live Earth

Eight years after the inaugural Live Earth concert spread environmental awareness and spoke up for action on climate change around the globe, Climate Reality Founder and Chairman Al Gore, Emmy Award-winning producer Kevin Wall, and multi-Grammy award-winning mega-star Pharrell Williams revived the Live Earth legacy to once again make music a powerful force for climate action in the lead-up to this year’s UN talks in Paris.

The Line-Up Musical Artists Announced Today

• Elton John
• Fall Out Boy
• Hozier
• Jon Bon Jovi
• Vance Joy

Media Personalities

• Jared Leto, actor and activist
• Patrick J. Adams, actor and activist
• Atom Araullo, news reporter, ABS-CBN News
• Sarah Backhouse, founder & CEO of
• Ed Begley Jr., actor and activist
• Sam Champion, weather anchor, The Weather Channel
• Barkha Dutt, television journalist, NDTV
• Maria Paula Fidalgo, actor and activist
• Porter Fox, author and editor at Powder Magazine
• Vanessa Hauc, journalist, Telemundo
• Nicolas Ibarguen, environmental correspondent for Fusion and Univision
• Africa Melane, presenter, CapeTalk and 702
• Pierre Rabhi, writer, farmer and environmentalist
• Ryan Reynolds, actor and activist
• Calum Worthy, actor and activist

Government Officials

• President François Hollande, France
• President Felipe Calderon, Mexico
• Brian Deese, Senior Advisor to United States President Barack Obama
• Governor Jerry Brown, California, United States
• Premier Philippe Couillard, Québec, Canada
• Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary, United States Department of Energy
• Dr. Steven Miles, Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Australia
• Izabella Teixeira, Brazil, Minister of the Environment
• Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Paris, France
• Mayor Philip Levine, Miami Beach, United States
• Commissioner Greg Mullins, Fire and Rescue New South Wales, Australia

NGO and business leaders

• Dr. Anish Andheria, President of the Wildlife Conservation Trust
• Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary-General
• Chinmaya Acharya, Chief of Programs, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation
• Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Director and Founder, No Planeta B
• Ken Berlin, President and CEO, The Climate Reality Project
• Wang Binbin, Climate change communications expert
• Keith Brooks, Clean Economy Program Director, Environmental Defence Canada
• Ian Bruce, Science and Policy Manager, David Suzuki Foundation
• Dr. Fuqiang Yang, Senior Advisor, Climate and Energy, NRDC China
• Nicolas Hulot, Chairman of Fondation Nicolas Hulot and Special Envoy of the President of France to Protect the Planet.
• Daniela Ibarra-Howell, CEO, Savory Institute
• Natalie Isaacs, Co-founder and CEO at 1 Million Women
• Renee Karunungan, Advocacy Director, Dakila
• Aditi Kapoor, Director of Policy and Partnerships, Alternative Futures
• Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Lubicon Cree Leader, Canada
• Claude Lorius, Glaciologist, Director Emeritus of Research at CNRS
• Alix Mazounie, Climate Action Network – France
• Mithika Mwenda, Head of Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance
• Evan Rice, CEO, GreenCape
• Juliette Rousseau, Coalition Climat 21
• Mauricio Ruiz, Executive Secretary of Terra Institute of Environmental Preservation
• Yeb Sano, Leader, The People’s Pilgrimage
• Wang Shi, Chairman, China Vanke Co. Ltd.
• Alison Thompson, Chair and Managing Director, Canadian Geothermal Energy Association
• Gawher Nayeem Wahra, Director of Disaster Management and Climate Change, BRAC
• Zhang Xiangdong, Co-founder and CEO of 700Bike
• Adrian Yeo, CAN’s Leadership Development Program Fellow

Source: Climate Reality Project

Categories: Ecological News

Statement by the President on the Keystone XL Pipeline

Sat, 11/07/2015 - 00:28

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

11:58 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Several years ago, the State Department began a review process for the proposed construction of a pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil through our heartland to ports in the Gulf of Mexico and out into the world market.

This morning, Secretary Kerry informed me that, after extensive public outreach and consultation with other Cabinet agencies, the State Department has decided that the Keystone XL Pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States.  I agree with that decision.

This morning, I also had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada.  And while he expressed his disappointment, given Canada’s position on this issue, we both agreed that our close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward.  And in the coming weeks, senior members of my team will be engaging with theirs in order to help deepen that cooperation.

Now, for years, the Keystone Pipeline has occupied what I, frankly, consider an overinflated role in our political discourse.  It became a symbol too often used as a campaign cudgel by both parties rather than a serious policy matter.  And all of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be a silver bullet for the economy, as was promised by some, nor the express lane to climate disaster proclaimed by others.

To illustrate this, let me briefly comment on some of the reasons why the State Department rejected this pipeline.

First:  The pipeline would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.  So if Congress is serious about wanting to create jobs, this was not the way to do it.  If they want to do it, what we should be doing is passing a bipartisan infrastructure plan that, in the short term, could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year as the pipeline would, and in the long run would benefit our economy and our workers for decades to come.

Our businesses created 268,000 new jobs last month.  They’ve created 13.5 million new jobs over the past 68 straight months — the longest streak on record.  The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent.  This Congress should pass a serious infrastructure plan, and keep those jobs coming.  That would make a difference. The pipeline would not have made a serious impact on those numbers and on the American people’s prospects for the future.

Second:  The pipeline would not lower gas prices for American consumers.  In fact, gas prices have already been falling — steadily.  The national average gas price is down about 77 cents over a year ago.  It’s down a dollar over two years ago.  It’s down $1.27 over three years ago.  Today, in 41 states, drivers can find at least one gas station selling gas for less than two bucks a gallon.  So while our politics have been consumed by a debate over whether or not this pipeline would create jobs and lower gas prices, we’ve gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.

Third:  Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security.  What has increased America’s energy security is our strategy over the past several years to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels from unstable parts of the world.  Three years ago, I set a goal to cut our oil imports in half by 2020.  Between producing more oil here at home, and using less oil throughout our economy, we met that goal last year — five years early.  In fact, for the first time in two decades, the United States of America now produces more oil than we buy from other countries.

Now, the truth is, the United States will continue to rely on oil and gas as we transition — as we must transition — to a clean energy economy.  That transition will take some time.  But it’s also going more quickly than many anticipated.  Think about it.  Since I took office, we’ve doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas by 2025; tripled the power we generate from the wind; multiplied the power we generate from the sun 20 times over.  Our biggest and most successful businesses are going all-in on clean energy.  And thanks in part to the investments we’ve made, there are already parts of America where clean power from the wind or the sun is finally cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.

The point is the old rules said we couldn’t promote economic growth and protect our environment at the same time.  The old rules said we couldn’t transition to clean energy without squeezing businesses and consumers.  But this is America, and we have come up with new ways and new technologies to break down the old rules, so that today, homegrown American energy is booming, energy prices are falling, and over the past decade, even as our economy has continued to grow, America has cut our total carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Today, the United States of America is leading on climate change with our investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.  America is leading on climate change with new rules on power plants that will protect our air so that our kids can breathe.  America is leading on climate change by working with other big emitters like China to encourage and announce new commitments to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.  In part because of that American leadership, more than 150 nations representing nearly 90 percent of global emissions have put forward plans to cut pollution.

America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change.  And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership.  And that’s the biggest risk we face — not acting.

Today, we’re continuing to lead by example.  Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.

As long as I’m President of the United States, America is going to hold ourselves to the same high standards to which we hold the rest of the world.  And three weeks from now, I look forward to joining my fellow world leaders in Paris, where we’ve got to come together around an ambitious framework to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it’s too late, the time to act is now.  Not later.  Not someday.  Right here, right now.  And I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together.  I’m optimistic because our own country proves, every day — one step at a time — that not only do we have the power to combat this threat, we can do it while creating new jobs, while growing our economy, while saving money, while helping consumers, and most of all, leaving our kids a cleaner, safer planet at the same time.

That’s what our own ingenuity and action can do.  That’s what we can accomplish.  And America is prepared to show the rest of the world the way forward.

Thank you very much.

12:08 P.M. EST

Categories: Ecological News

Divestment Movement Wins – California Bill Forces Public Pensions to Drop Coal

Tue, 10/13/2015 - 16:09

By Jon Queally
Common Dreams

New law affecting nation’s two largest publicly-held funds championed as demonstration of strength of global efforts to defund dirty fuels

Governor Brown gives remarks on the landmark legislation from Griffith Observatory overlooking the smoggy City of Los Angeles – Photo: California State Assembly Democratic Caucus

As Governor of California Jerry Brown signed a much-applauded bill into law on Thursday, October 8th, fossil fuel divestment activists celebrated as the two largest public pension funds in the United States will now be forced to divest from any company whose primary profits are related to the mining or use of thermal coal.

The new law, introduced by Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) as S.B. 185, requires that both the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) sell such holdings by July of 2017. Any future investments in coal mining or highly-related businesses are also prohibited by the law.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The new law will affect $58 million held by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and $6.7 million in the California State Teachers Retirement System, a tiny fraction of their overall investments. The funds are responsible for providing benefits to more than 2.5 million current and retired employees.

De León pitched the measure as a way to emphasize more secure, environmentally friendly investments. 

“Coal is a losing bet for California retirees and it’s also incredibly harmful to our health and the health of our environment,” he said in a statement.

In response to the news, executive director of  May Boeve, whose group has led the charge for institutional divestment, championed the effort in California.

“This is a big win for our movement, and demonstrates the growing strength of divestment campaigners around the world,” said Boeve.

“California’s step today gives us major momentum, and ramps up pressure on state and local leaders in New York, Massachusetts, and across the U.S. to follow suit—and begin pulling their money out of climate destruction too.”

Though the development was welcome, Boeve said there was still plenty more that Gov. Brown and lawmakers across the country must do in order to be considered “part of the solution” when it comes to the climate crisis.  For Brown, she said, it’s time “to keep building on today’s news, and take every possible step to prevent climate catastrophe—including divesting California from oil and gas, and banning extreme energy extraction techniques like fracking.”

Categories: Ecological News

Ed Begley Jr. and Dr. Jack Hall Premier Ecology Webinar Series

Wed, 10/07/2015 - 15:32

Ed Begley Jr.,’s ambassador, with Dr. Jack Hall,’s Science Adviser and Department Chair of the Environmental Studies Department at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, presented the first Ecology Global Network webinar on  September 30th.

Streaming live from the UNCW campus, the one-hour webinar was designed specifically for students in classroom settings, eco-clubs, eco-related business and organization.

Titled “Environmental Unity: All Is Connected”, it served as an introduction to ecology, emphasizing how we – people, places, things – are all connected and how one environmental event can affect the rest of the world. “Ecology,” Dr. Hall said, “is the relationship between organisms and their environment. When we study the environment, it has two parts; the non-living portion and a living portion and each has an influence on the other.” He emphasized that we cannot simply look at the living part of the environment but must look at the non-living as well. “When we study organisms on earth, there are the animals but there is also the soil, the air, the water.” And he reminded his viewers that we, humans, are part of that environment.

Dr. Hall explained how, when studying the environment, it is broken down into parts: the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and includes what he terms “the galactic neighborhood.” Within these parts lies environmental unity. “When we see a change in one system, we are going to see corresponding change in others.”

Education is the key, Dr. Hall claims, “Before you can do anything, you have to understand the systems.”

Dr. Jack Hall and Ed Begley Jr. host “Environmental Unity” webinar streamed live from UNCW.

Questions came in during the webinar from the audience of students and viewers from around the world and Begley discussed some of the ways he has developed a sustainable life for himself, from using solar power, driving an electric car, growing his own garden and composting.

“We’re not going to stop climate change by changing light bulbs,” said Begley, “but we can mitigate it.”

Future webinars will be announced on the website.  Topics will include Life Expectancy, Global Ecology, Eco-Psychology, Losing Biodiversity, Ecology Careers of the Future, among others.

The event was sponsored by CompuZone and the World Ecology Foundation.

Contact us at for sponsorship information.

Categories: Ecological News

El Niño and La Niña will Exacerbate Coastal Hazards Across Entire Pacific

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 05:01

U.S. Geological Survey Newsroom

The projected upsurge of severe El Niño and La Niña events will cause an increase in storm events leading to extreme coastal flooding and erosion in populated regions across the Pacific Ocean, according to a multi-agency study published in Nature Geoscience.

The projected upsurge of severe El Niño and La Niña events will cause an increase in storm events leading to extreme coastal flooding and erosion in populated regions across the Pacific Ocean, according to a multi-agency study published today in Nature Geoscience.

“This study significantly advances the scientific knowledge of the impacts of El Niño and La Niña,” said Patrick Barnard, USGS coastal geologist and the lead author of the study. “Understanding the effects of severe storms fueled by El Niño or La Niña helps coastal managers prepare communities for the expected erosion and flooding associated with this climate cycle.”

The impact of these storms is not presently included in most studies on future coastal vulnerability, which look primarily at sea level rise. New research data, from 48 beaches across three continents and five countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, suggest the predicted increase will exacerbate coastal erosion irrespective of sea level rise affecting the region.

Researchers from 13 different institutions, including the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and the University of Waikato (New Zealand) analyzed coastal data from across the Pacific Ocean basin from 1979 to 2012. The scientists sought to determine if patterns in coastal change could be connected to major climate cycles. Data came from beaches in the mainland United States and Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.

Although previous studies have analyzed coastal impacts at local and regional levels, this is the first to pull together data from across the Pacific to determine basin-wide patterns. The research group determined all Pacific Ocean regions investigated were affected during either an El Niño or La Niña year. When the west coast of the U.S. mainland and Canada, Hawaii, and northern Japan felt the coastal impacts of El Niño, characterized by bigger waves, different wave direction, higher water levels and/or erosion, the opposite region in the Southern Hemisphere of New Zealand and Australia experienced “suppression,” such as smaller waves and less erosion. The pattern then generally flips: during La Niña, the Southern Hemisphere experienced more severe conditions.

The study also investigated the coastal response of other climate cycles, such as the Southern Annular Mode, which has impacts at the same time in both hemispheres of the Pacific. The data revealed that when the Southern Annular Mode trended towards Antarctica, culminating in more powerful storms in the Southern Ocean, wave energy and coastal erosion in New Zealand and Australia increased, as did the wave energy along the west coast of North America. Other modes of climate variability, such as the Pacific North American pattern, which relates to atmospheric circulation in the North Pacific, are linked to coastal impacts that are more tightly restricted to the northern hemisphere.

Linking coastal erosion to natural climate patterns, such as El Niño/Southern Oscillation and the Southern Annular Mode, can be challenging.

“Shoreline behavior can be controlled by so many different factors, both locally and regionally, that it’s been difficult to isolate the signal until now. However, utilizing the many years of data we were able pull together in this study enabled us to definitively identify how the major climate drivers affect coastal hazards across the Pacific,” said Patrick Barnard. “This will greatly enhance our ability to predict the broader impacts of climate change at the coast.”

A co-author of the paper, Professor Andrew Short from the University of Sydney, says forecast increases in the strength of El Niño and La Niña weather events driven by global climate change means coastal erosion on many Australian beaches could be worse than currently predicted based on sea level rise alone.

“Coastlines of the Pacific are particularly dynamic as they are exposed to storm waves generated often thousands of miles away. This research is of particular importance as it can help Pacific coastal communities prepare for the effects of changing storm regimes driven by climate oscillations like El Niño and La Niña. To help us complete the puzzle, for the next step we would like to look at regions of the Pacific like South America and the Pacific Islands where very limited shoreline data currently exists,” said Mitchell Harley of UNSW Australia, and a coauthor of the paper.

“It’s not just El Niño we should be concerned about,” said Ian Walker, professor of Geography at the University of Victoria and coauthor of the study. “Our research shows that severe coastal erosion and flooding can occur along the British Columbia coast during both El Niño and La Niña storm seasons unlike further south in California. We need to prepare not only for this winter, but also what could follow when La Niña comes.”

The published paper, “Coastal vulnerability across the Pacific dominated by El Niño/Southern Oscillation” is available online.

Categories: Ecological News

World Rhino Day 2015

Tue, 09/22/2015 - 23:44

Around the world, individuals and groups are celebrating the mighty rhino. From South Africa, which is suffering extraordinary pressures from rhino poachers, to London and across Europe to Asia and New Zealand, events are scheduled to focus on the plight of all five species of rhino: Black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

The tales of poaching and heroic endeavors by veterinarians who rescue and care for rhinos that have had their horns hacked off and are left to die, fill social media space, drawing attention to the plight of these magnificent animals.

But much more needs to be done to stem the tide of illicit rhino horn trafficking. Money is needed to recruit and train anti-poaching teams and supply the equipment, which ranges from guns to vehicles and drones. More funding is needed for medical care for the injured animals. Most of all, education and the myth of rhino horn as an aphrodisiac and cure for cancer must be demolished.

Steps are being taken. For instance, South African Youth Rhino Ambassadors are heading to Vietnam, hub for the sale of rhino horn into the lucrative Asian market, where they will  appeal to Vietnamese citizens and Asian government leaders to urgently bring an end to the rhino poaching crisis.

Across the world and out in cyberspace, rhinos are being celebrated, with lots of opportunities to join in and support literally hundred of causes, all with the same intent: protect the rhinos and stop illegal poaching.

You can help. World Rhino Day’s web site has links to numerous opportunities for involvement in this very important cause. Please visit them and help the rhinos prosper.

Categories: Ecological News

Arctic Sea Ice Summertime Minimum Is Fourth Lowest on Record

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 01:13


According to a NASA analysis of satellite data, the 2015 Arctic sea ice minimum extent is the fourth lowest on record since observations from space began.

This animation shows the evolution of the Arctic sea ice cover from its wintertime maximum extent, which was reached on Feb. 25, 2015, and was the lowest on record, to its apparent yearly minimum, which occurred on Sept. 11, 2015, and is the fourth lowest in the satellite era. Credits: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

The analysis by NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder showed the annual minimum extent was 1.70 million square miles (4.41 million square kilometers) on Sept. 11. This year’s minimum is 699,000 square miles (1.81 million square kilometers) lower than the 1981-2010 average.

Arctic sea ice cover, made of frozen seawater that floats on top of the ocean, helps regulate the planet’s temperature by reflecting solar energy back to space. The sea ice cap grows and shrinks cyclically with the seasons. Its minimum summertime extent, which occurs at the end of the melt season, has been decreasing since the late 1970s in response to warming temperatures.

In some recent years, low sea-ice minimum extent has been at least in part exacerbated by meteorological factors, but that was not the case this year.

“This year is the fourth lowest, and yet we haven’t seen any major weather event or persistent weather pattern in the Arctic this summer that helped push the extent lower as often happens,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It was a bit warmer in some areas than last year, but it was cooler in other places, too.”

The 2015 Arctic sea ice summertime minimum is 699,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, shown here as a gold line.
Credits: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

In contrast, the lowest year on record, 2012, saw a powerful August cyclone that fractured the ice cover, accelerating its decline.

The sea ice decline has accelerated since 1996. The 10 lowest minimum extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 11 years. The 2014 minimum was 1.94 million square miles (5.03 million square kilometers), the seventh lowest on record. Although the 2015 minimum appears to have been reached, there is a chance that changing winds or late-season melt could reduce the Arctic extent even further in the next few days.

“The ice cover becomes less and less resilient, and it doesn’t take as much to melt it as it used to,” Meier said. “The sea ice cap, which used to be a solid sheet of ice, now is fragmented into smaller floes that are more exposed to warm ocean waters. In the past, Arctic sea ice was like a fortress. The ocean could only attack it from the sides. Now it’s like the invaders have tunneled in from underneath and the ice pack melts from within.”

Some analyses have hinted the Arctic’s multiyear sea ice, the oldest and thickest ice that survives the summer melt season, appeared to have recuperated partially after the 2012 record low. But according to Joey Comiso, a sea ice scientist at Goddard, the recovery flattened last winter and will likely reverse after this melt season.

“The thicker ice will likely continue to decline,” Comiso said. “There might be some recoveries during some years, especially when the winter is unusually cold, but it is expected to go down again because the surface temperature in the region continues to increase.”

This year, the Arctic sea ice cover experienced relatively slow rates of melt in June, which is the month the Arctic receives the most solar energy. However, the rate of ice loss picked up during July, when the sun is still strong. Faster than normal ice loss rates continued through August, a transition month when ice loss typically begins to slow. A big “hole” appeared in August in the ice pack in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, north of Alaska, when thinner seasonal ice surrounded by thicker, older ice melted. The huge opening allowed for the ocean to absorb more solar energy, accelerating the melt.

It’s unclear whether this year’s strong El Niño event, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon that typically occurs every two to seven years where the surface water of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean warms, has had any impact on the Arctic sea ice minimum extent.

“Historically, the Arctic had a thicker, more rigid sea ice that covered more of the Arctic basin, so it was difficult to tell whether El Niño had any effect on it,” said Richard Cullather, a climate modeler at Goddard. “Although we haven’t been able to detect a strong El Niño impact on Arctic sea ice yet, now that the ice is thinner and more mobile, we should begin to see a larger response to atmospheric events from lower latitudes.”

In comparison, research has found a strong link between El Niño and the behavior of the sea ice cover around Antarctica. El Niño causes higher sea level pressure, warmer air temperature and warmer sea surface temperature in west Antarctica that affect sea ice distribution. This could explain why this year the growth of the Antarctic sea ice cover, which currently is headed toward its yearly maximum extent and was at much higher than normal levels throughout much of the first half of 2015, dipped below normal levels in mid-August.

Starting next week, NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, will be carrying science flights over sea ice in the Arctic, to help validate satellite readings and provide insight into the impact of the summer melt season on land and sea ice.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:

Categories: Ecological News

Climate Leaders to Obama: Champion Zero Emissions Goal at Paris Talks

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 02:32’s long-time Ambassador and spokesperson, Ed Begley, Jr., is a signatory on the open-letter to President Obama.

By World Wire

As President Obama witnessed the dramatic effects of climate chaos in Alaska today, a distinguished group of scientists and environmental, faith, civic and cultural leaders challenged him to champion a courageous U.S. goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 at the upcoming climate talks in Paris.

The challenge, issued in the form of an open letter, describes the current U.S. target of 26-28% emissions reductions by 2025 as a “weak ” goal “that cannot be described as honest, courageous, or responsible in the face of a crisis that threatens the continued existence of humanity.” The letter also calls on the Obama administration to abandon its “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

Notable signers include authors Lester Brown and Terry Tempest Williams; actors Mark Ruffalo and Ed Begley, Jr.; environmentalists David Suzuki, Winona LaDuke, Tim DeChristopher and Yeb Saño; filmmaker Josh Fox; musician Moby; and scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coordinating lead author for the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report.

The open letter references a 2011 letter sent to President Obama and signed by some of the same leaders – that called for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2020: “Because that urgent call was not heeded, we have lost precious time in the race to save civilization and must now set our sights even higher.”

Urging an “all-hands-on-deck societal mobilization at wartime speed ,” the letter states, “It is with a deepening sense of dread over the fate of humanity that we call on you today to use the powers of your presidency to champion a U.S. goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.”

The letter reflects the views of growing numbers of scientists and climate leaders who are advocating dramatic, near-term carbon cuts over the carbon gradualism that has dominated the policy discourse to date. They say the world community has squandered the time available for a leisurely transition, and that an emergency mobilization is now needed to stave off climate catastrophe.

In his groundbreaking 2015 report, Recount, signer David Spratt stated policymakers must recognize that “climate change is already dangerous, and we have no carbon budget left to divide up. Big tipping-point events irreversible on human time scales and large-scale positive feedbacks are already occurring at less than 1°C of warming.”

Signer Yeb Saño, former climate change commissioner of the Philippines , said, “Climate change presents a clear and present danger for us and is already profoundly affecting many vulnerable communities around the world. The only path to climate justice is for the US to embrace the zero emissions paradigm.”

“The Obama administration calls climate change a global threat on t he scale of World War II, so why are they not responding with a World War II-scale emergency mobilization?” asked signer Margaret Klein Salamon, founder of The Climate Mobilization. “It is time to treat climate change like the existential threat it is and mobilize off of fossil fuels.”

“Seventy years later, it is hard to comprehend the astonishing achi evement of America’s World War II mobilization, the sheer level of commitment, innovation and productivity that transformed society and led to the longest period of sustained economic growth in world history,” said signer Marshall Herskovitz, former president of the Producers Guild of America. “In the face of a crisis that now threatens our very existence, we can and must do it again.”

“If we don’t get to zero emissions within 10 years, we are looking at massive destruction and millions of lives lost,” said signer Laura Dawn, former creative & cultural director. “Finally leaders are telling the truth about the severity of this crisis and the need for a heroic response.”

“After seven years of half-measures and half-truths, the Paris clim ate talks will finally determine whether Obama’s legacy will be that of a climate champion who rose to the challenge of the climate crisis or a failure who was too scared to offer more than rhetoric and insufficient reforms,” said fossil fuel abolition activist Tim DeChristopher with the Climate Disobedience Center.

The initiator of the letter, Tom Weis, president of Climate Crisis Solutions, concluded, “Photo ops in Alaska will not salvage President Obama ’s climate legacy. Climate leaders fight for all that we love, not for all-of-the-above.”

For more information, visit

Categories: Ecological News

Reducing Tropical Deforestation is Key to Curbing Climate Change

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 15:30

By Nadia Prupis
Common Dreams

New studies show how easy it could be to curb one driving force of climate change, and the devastating consequences if we don’t

Tropical deforestation is a driving force behind rising greenhouse gases and must be curbed in order to prevent irreversible global temperature rise, new research finds. Photo: Shankar S. /flickr/cc)

Without drastic efforts to reduce deforestation, rising greenhouse gases, and unsustainable global agriculture, the planet is on track to lose a massive quantity of its tropical forests—a crucial element in the fight against irreversible climate change—in just 35 years.

Absent aggressive conservation policies, the world will lose 2.9 million square kilometers of its tropical forests by 2050, according to a new working paper published Monday by Center for Global Development (CGD) environmental expert Jonah Busch and research assistant Jens Engelmann. That’s a chunk the size of India, or one-third of U.S. land mass.

And if no changes are made to the world’s “business-as-usual” approach to agriculture, logging, and other such forces, tropical deforestation will account for more than one-sixth of the remaining carbon that can be emitted if the world is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

The carbon emissions that would occur during that process would add up to 169 billion tons—the equivalent of running 44,000 typical coal plants per year, Busch explained in a blog post accompanying the report, entitled The Future of Forests: Emissions from Tropical Deforestation with and without a Carbon Price, 2016–2050 (pdf).

According to a separate study published earlier this year by NASA, tropical forests are absorbing carbon dioxide at a far higher rate than previously thought, making them an invaluable resource in curbing global warming.

That’s the bad news. The good news, Busch writes, is that there are many solutions available.

“Avoiding dangerous climate change while expanding economic prosperity is perhaps the defining challenge of the 21st century,” Busch writes. “Achieving both goals requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions where doing so has the lowest unit cost.”

Carbon pricing is one example. Applying a global fee of $20 per ton of carbon dioxide between 2016 and 2050 would keep 41 gigatons of emissions from being discharged, the researchers found.

Another option is to follow Brazil’s model of targeting greenhouse gases, which involves “satellite monitoring, law enforcement, new protected areas and indigenous territories, restrictions on rural credit, and moratoriums on unsustainable soy and cattle production,” Busch writes. “As a result of these restrictive measures, Amazon deforestation fell by nearly 80 percent since 2004 even while Brazil’s soy and cattle production increased.”

CGD’s study comes as another report from the University of Leeds, published Friday in Science, warns of a devastating future for forests, which will exist only in a “simplified” state by 2100 if climate change is not aggressively addressed.

“Earth has lost 100 million hectares of tropical forest over the last 30 years, mostly to agricultural developments,” lead researcher Dr. Simon Lewis said last week. “Few people think about how intertwined with tropical forests we all are.”

Lewis, a forest expert and professor at the University of Leeds and University College London, found that a new and more dangerous phase of human environmental impact threatens to deteriorate much of the world’s remaining tropical forests until they exist in a fragmented, “living dead” state. That’s a fate that can only be avoided through a shift to low-carbon energy or embracing policies that promote “development without destruction.”

“Unfortunately, most of the benefits from logging, mining and intensive agriculture flow away from local people,” Lewis wrote in an article accompanying the report. “Giving forest-dwellers long-term collective legal rights over their land would mean benefits flow to them.”

As world leaders prepare for the upcoming climate conference in Paris and the growing call to prevent full-scale destruction of natural resources continues to build, 2015 is becoming “a big year for climate,” Busch writes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Categories: Ecological News

July 2015 Was the Warmest Month Ever Recorded on Earth

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 23:40


Global oceans record warm for July; January-July 2015 also record warm Global highlights: July 2015
  • The July average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.46°F (0.81°C) above the 20th century average. As July is climatologically the warmest month for the year, this was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880–2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.14°F (0.08°C).
  • Separately, the July globally-averaged land surface temperature was 1.73°F (0.96°C) above the 20th century average. This was the sixth highest for July in the 1880–2015 record.
  • The July globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.35°F (0.75°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest temperature for any month in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in July 2014 by 0.13°F (0.07°C). The global value was driven by record warmth across large expanses of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for July was 350,000 square miles (9.5 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the eighth smallest July extent since records began in 1979 and largest since 2009, according to analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA.
  • Antarctic sea ice during July was 240,000 square miles (3.8 percent) above the 1981–2010 average. This was the fourth largest July Antarctic sea ice extent on record and 140,000 square miles smaller than the record-large July extent of 2014.
Global highlights: Year-to-date (January–July 2015)
  • The year-to-date temperature combined across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.53°F (0.85°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–July in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.16°F (0.09°C).
  • The year-to-date globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.41°F (1.34°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for January–July in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2007 by 0.27°F (0.15°C).
  • The year-to-date globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.21°F (0.67°C) above the 20th century average. This was also the highest for January–July in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by 0.11°F (0.06°C). Every major ocean basin observed record warmth in some areas.

July 2015 Blended Land & Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies in °C – Image: NOAA


See Full Report

Note: With this report and data release, the National Centers for Environmental Information is transitioning to improved versions of its global land (GHCN-M version 3.3.0) and ocean (ERSST version 4.0.0) datasets. Please note that anomalies and ranks reflect the historical record according to these updated versions. Historical months and years may differ from what was reported in previous reports. For more, please visit the associated FAQ and supplemental information.

Categories: Ecological News

Senators Look to Tighten the Endangered Species Act to Stop Exploitation of African Lions

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 15:33

By Ashley Curtin
Nation of Change

With the intent to protect countless imperiled animals from further exploitation, senators have responded to the tragic killing of Cecil the Lion last month by extending protection to such species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

African Lion – Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Known as the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act (S. 1918), the goal of the bill is to “extend the current import and export protections of the ESA to animals that are proposed for listing as threatened or endangered, but don’t yet have those protections under the law,” according to Animal Welfare Institute’s press release.

Introduced by Bob Menendez, D-NJ; Cory Booker, D-NJ; Richard Blumenthal, D-CT; Ben Cardin, D-MD; Barbara Mikulski, D-MD; and Edward Markey, D-MA, CECIL Act would “create a disincentive for trophy hunters to kill animals such as Cecil while their species’ ESA status is under review.”

“Cecil’s death was a preventable tragedy that highlights the need to extend the protections of the Endangered Species Act,” Sen. Menendez said. “When we have enough concern about the future of a species to propose it for listing, we should not be killing it for sport. I’m proud to be joined by my colleagues in introducing this commonsense legislation to take a necessary and prudent step that creates a disincentive for these senseless trophy killings and advances our commitment in leading the fight to combat global wildlife trafficking.”

The U.S Tis the largest importer of African lion parts in all the world with imports of over 5,750 wild lion trophies since 2000, according to Animal Welfare Institute.

CECIL Act is the direct response to such imports in an effort to “curtail the importation of animal parts for hunting trophies and commercial purposes.”

“Passing the CECIL Animal Trophies Act will allow the United States to prevent further exploitation of species like the African lion that are in urgent need of safeguarding,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “We applaud Sen. Menendez for his leadership in introducing this critically needed legislation that would protect countless imperiled animals from meeting a similarly gruesome end.”

Find out more about CECIL Act here.

Republished by permission from Nation of Change

Categories: Ecological News

New Ethics and Values Required

Tue, 08/18/2015 - 23:25
The Pope, Climate Change and the Cultural Dimensions of the Anthropocene

Andrew J Hoffman, University of Michigan

Image via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

The ink is still drying on the Pope’s Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si’” or “On Care for Our Common Home,” and scholars, critics and pundits will analyze and assess it for years to come.

But one aspect of the letter becomes clear to anyone who reads it: it is impressively expansive, covering environmental science, economics, international politics, carbon credits, social equity, technology, consumerism, social media, theology, and much more. Getting to the root of our “ecological crisis,” Pope Francis calls for us to “promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature.” It’s a bold appeal to reevaluate our worldviews, values and spiritual beliefs.

But why now? The modern environmental movement has been with us for more than 50 years, leading to social movements, myriad legislation and lifestyle changes that reflect environmentalists’ modern focus on sustainability. Why does the pope’s encyclical on ecology resonate so much today?

I’d like to offer one thought on why this message is important at this point in human history. We are at a unique moment in our time on Earth as a species, one never faced before and one requiring a new system of ethics, values, beliefs, worldviews and above all, spirituality.

Geophysicists have given this moment a name; it is called the Anthropocene. The pope’s landmark encyclical provides a moral compass to help navigate this emerging era.

Changing View of Humanity

The Anthropocene is a proposed new geologic epoch, one which leaves the Holocene behind and acknowledges that humans are now a primary operating element in the Earth’s ecosystems.

Though the concept has not yet received full, formal recognition by geophysical societies, it points out that we can no longer describe the environment without including the role that humans play in how it operates. This era is argued to have started around the industrial revolution of the early 1800s, and has become more acute since “the Great Acceleration” around 1950 onwards. It is marked by the reality that, according to Nobel-prize winning, atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen who first proposed the term:

Human activity has transformed between a third and a half of the land surface of the planet; Many of the world’s major rivers have been dammed or diverted; Fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all terrestrial ecosystems; Humans use more than half of the world’s readily accessible freshwater runoff.

Though the pope singles out climate change in his encyclical letter, this is just one of a number of “planetary boundaries” that scientists say represent “thresholds below which humanity can safely operate and beyond which the stability of planetary-scale systems cannot be relied upon.”

Climate change is one of nine planetary boundaries.
Felix Mueller, CC BY SA 4.0

In terms of science, acknowledging an unprecedented shift in our geophysical reality would be a significant and unprecedented moment in history. But, the social and cultural shift is even more profound.

Consider the central cultural question of climate change: Do you believe that we, as a species, have grown to such numbers and our technology to such power that we can alter the global climate?

If you answer this question in the affirmative, then a series of related cultural challenges emerge. Climate change represents a deep shift in the way we view ourselves, each other, the environment and our place within it. Addressing this problem will require the most complicated and intrusive global agreement ever negotiated. It will also require a shift in our sense of global ethics around collective responsibility and social equity.

The fossil fuels burned in Ann Arbor, Shanghai, or Moscow have an equal impact on the global environment we all share. The kind of cooperation necessary to solve this problem is far beyond anything that we, as a species, have ever accomplished before. International treaties to ban land mines or eliminate ozone-depleting substances pale in comparison.

Climate as Proxy for Anthropocene

Recognition of the Anthropocene signals an urgency and complexity that the general idea of sustainable development lacks, compelling change deep within the structures of our collective understanding of the world around us.

According to geographer and political philosopher Rory Rowan,

The Anthropocene is not a problem for which there can be a solution. Rather, it names an emergent set of geo-social conditions that already fundamentally structure the horizon of human existence. It is thus not a new factor that can be accommodated within existing conceptual frameworks, including those within which policy is developed, but signals a profound shift in the human relation to the planet that questions the very foundations of these frameworks themselves.

Droughts, wildfires, food insecurity, water scarcity, and the social unrest that results are all emergent markers of the Anthropocene Era that point to a fundamental system failure created by our social structures. We now have control over the biosphere and therefore, the human systems which depend on it, in ways that are monumental.

A response to the Anthropocene Era calls for a new set of values and beliefs about our relationship with the environment, with each other and for many, with God. And this is what the pope’s encyclical letter is trying to articulate.

This will not go down easily. The accompanying tensions that such a shift will create can be vividly observed in the currently polarized debate over climate change. The cultural and ideological elements of religion, government, ideology and worldviews that animate the climate change debate offer a glimpse into the cultural dimensions of recognition of the Anthropocene.

New Ethics and Values Required

In the end, the Anthropocene challenges our ways of understanding the environment and how they change on both regional and global scales. It leads to a transformative cultural shift that is akin to the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Enlightenment was built on a cultural shift from perceiving nature as subsuming the human endeavor, to one in which humankind embarked on the “conquest of nature” and a metaphor of the planet as an enemy to be subdued.

In similar ways, the Anthropocene is an acknowledgment that the scientific method essential to the Enlightenment is no longer fully adequate to understand the natural world and our impact upon it. As the pope points out:

“Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality…If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it.

In responding to the “urgent challenge to protect our common home,” he asks us “to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development.”

Indeed, this kind of global common cause is a challenge we have not yet faced as a species. It will require a level of cooperation that we are not prepared for, and that requires a global set of ethics and values we do not yet know.

Many have compared Pope Francis’ letter to the 1891 Encyclical Letter “Rerum Novarum” or “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor,” in which Pope Leo XIII addressed the condition of the working classes. In offering a way to understand the unprecedented confusion of clashing capitalist and communist notions of labor in the midst of the industrial revolution, Rerum Novarum has become a foundational document for Catholic social teaching.

Will Laudito Si’ offer a similarly transformative way to understand the unprecedented confusion over global scale environmental and social changes that we are creating?

The answer to that question is not solely a testament to the Encyclical Letter’s importance; it will be a testament to our ability to hear a message that is hard to hear, and harder still to act upon. As paleontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould wrote in 1985:

We have become, by the power of a glorious evolutionary accident called intelligence, the stewards of life’s continuity on earth. We did not ask for this role, but we cannot abjure it. We may not be suited to it, but here we are.

Pope Francis is asking us to face this new reality with respect for the natural world around us and a humility to recognize our limitations in understanding how it works and what we are doing to it. He is asking it at a key moment in time when we are taking a new place in the natural world; what he is careful to call “creation” a term that connotes far more spiritual importance.

To read more on the papal encyclical, see:

Pope encyclical on ‘ecological crisis’ asks us to examine our deepest values and beliefs

The pope as messenger: making climate change a moral issue

Andrew J Hoffman is Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at University of Michigan

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Categories: Ecological News

Renewables Send EU Emissions Tumbling

Wed, 08/12/2015 - 19:56
Many countries that promised to cut GHG emissions under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol are now exceeding their targets, bringing new hope for success at the Paris climate talks.

By Paul Brown
Climate News Network

“Robin Rigg Wind Farm” by John. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

LONDON, 12 August, 2015 – Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions are falling fast, mainly because of the rapid spread of the wind turbines and solar panels that are replacing fossil fuels for electricity generation.

European Union data shows that once countries adopt measures to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs), they often exceed their targets − and this finding is backed up by figures released this week in a statement by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Convention’s statistics show that the 37 industrialised countries (plus the EU) that signed up in 1997 to the Kyoto Protocol − the original international treaty on combating global warming – have frequently exceeded their promised GHG cuts by a large margin.

Beacon for Governments

The UNFCCC statement says: “This is a powerful demonstration that climate change agreements not only work, but can drive even higher ambition over time.

“The successful completion of the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period can serve as a beacon for governments as they work towards a new, universal climate change agreement in Paris, in December this year.”

In the EU, the leading countries for making savings are Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain, which account for two-thirds of the total savings on the continent. But most of the 28 countries in the bloc are also making progress towards the EU’s own target of producing 20 percent of all its energy needs from renewables by 2020. It has already reached 15 percent.

“This is a powerful demonstration that climate change agreements not only work, but can drive even higher ambition over time”

Part of the EU plan to prevent any of the 28 member states backsliding on agreed targets to reduce GHGs is to measure every two years the effect of various policies to achieve the reductions.

All states have to submit details of savings achieved through the introduction of renewables in electricity production, heating and cooling systems, and transport.

Because of the time taken to compile the figures, the latest report from the EC Joint Research Centre goes up only to 2012. However, it shows that each year in the three years up to the end of 2012 GHGs emitted by the EU fell by 8.8% as a result of replacing fossil fuels with renewables.

Two-thirds of the savings came from the widespread introduction of wind and solar power. Renewables used for heating and cooling achieved 31 percent of the savings, and transport 5 percent. Most transport renewables came from the use of bio-fuels instead of petrol and diesel.

Measuring the progress towards targets is vital for mutual trust between nations in the run-up to the Paris climate talks. It also gives politicians confidence that they can make pledges they can keep.

Ambitious Goal

The knowledge that the EU is likely to exceed its target of a 20 percent reduction of all emissions on 1990 levels by 2020 has led ministers to a more ambitious goal – total reductions of 40 percent by 2030. A large part of this will come from the installation of more renewables and energy-efficiency measures.

Across Europe, emissions vary widely from country to country, with Germany having the highest and Malta the lowest. Germany also had the greatest absolute reduction of emissions – a total drop of 23 percent on 1990 levels by 2012.

The highest emissions per capita were in Luxembourg (20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person), followed by Estonia (12.7), the Czech Republic (10.2), Germany (9.8), and the Netherlands (9.7).

Just five member states – Germany, Poland, the UK, Italy and Romania − together produced two-thirds of the EU’s emissions in 1990. The only change by 2012 was that Romania had been overtaken by Spain. – Climate News Network

Categories: Ecological News

Scotland Pushes GMO Ban

Tue, 08/11/2015 - 05:33

By Sarah Lazare
Common Dreams

But government will permit genetic modification for scientific research

“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment—and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” said rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead. Photo: Moyan Brenn/flickr/cc

Scottish government officials announced Sunday they will impose a ban on the domestic cultivation of genetically modified (GM or GMO) crops, attracting praise from environmental and food safety campaigners.

“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment—and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” declared rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead in a statement.

“The Scottish Government has long-standing concerns about GM crops—concerns that are shared by other European countries and consumers, and which should not be dismissed lightly,” Lochhead continued.

The government invoked recently-passed European Union powers that permits individual governments, like Scotland, to prohibit GM crop cultivation within their territory. Critics have expressed concern that the EU legislation won’t go far enough, because it does not ensure protection from legal challenges to bans.

“The Scottish government will shortly submit a request that Scotland is excluded from any European consents for the cultivation of GM crops, including the variety of genetically modified maize already approved and six other GM crops that are awaiting authorization,” the rural affairs office said.

While the statement did not indicate whether the ban extends to scientific research, the Guardian reported Sunday that “a spokeswoman confirmed that laboratory research on GMOs would continue.”

The ban signals a growing divide between the Scottish National Party and the United Kingdom’s conservative Tory government housed in London, with the latter announcing earlier this summer it will allow cultivation of GM crops.

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth-Scotland, told Scottish newspaper The National: “The Scottish government has been making anti-GM noises for some time, but the new Tory government has been trying to take us in the direction of GM being used in the UK, so it is very good news that Scottish ministers are taking that stance.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Categories: Ecological News

70 Years Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Thu, 08/06/2015 - 23:04

Courtesy of The University of British Columbia

The Week The Bombs Fell

Seventy years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated by atomic bombs, the nightmarish scale of destruction and radiation left behind continue to haunt us.

August 6 marks seven decades since Hiroshima was bombed, followed by Nagasaki just three days later, both cities razed by the only atomic weapons ever used in warfare. Up to 80,000 people in Hiroshima were killed instantly, with conservative estimates of more than160,000 deaths in the four months after the bombing. In Nagasaki, an estimated 40,000 were killed instantly, and up to 80,000 in the proceeding four months.

VIDEO: UBC Associate Professor and Keidanren Chair in Japanese Research Julian Dierkes discusses the bombings, and how they resonate with us today

What was the context of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

War, initiated in 1931 by Japan, had been going on in the Asia Pacific region for nearly 15 years at that point—an undeclared war initially by Japan. American bombing raids targeting Japanese cities had been going on for months.

Japan, to some extent, had been working on a nuclear program, as was everyone else at the time. The technology was known, but its use against Japan was unexpected.

What was the immediate reaction to the bombs?

The most significant reaction, in historical terms, came a week later, with Japan’s surrender. There are remaining historical debates about what would have happened had there not been a nuclear bomb, but it’s fair to say that the use of the weapon certainly hastened the end of the Pacific War.

What were the immediate and long-term effects of the bombing?

The immediate effects were massive death and destruction. And because they were nuclear bombs, there were the long-term effects. People alive at the time, as well as next generations, continue to suffer from radiation poisoning and associated higher cancer rates.

Today, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are very involved in commemorating the events and are also taking a lead in the movement against nuclear arms. That’s quite interesting because they’re cities, and cities are not involved in weaponry in principle. But they have embraced the status of being the first and only victims of atomic bombs, and have used that status to speak out against nuclear weapons.

What was the U.S.-Japan relationship after the end of the war?

Japan’s post-war history is intimately tied up with the U.S. The way the treaty between the U.S. and Japan was framed, coupled with the new Japanese constitution, meant that Japanese military expenses were low. That freed up resources for investments and economic growth and it turned the U.S. into a major economic partner.

It’s one of the big twists of the 20th century that the U.S. unleashed this technology on an aggressor nation who then went on to become one of America’s closest partners.

What happened in the post-war era is structured around the Cold War, then the Korean War and subsequently the Vietnam War, when Japan became a staging ground for U.S. military forces. Japan was firmly in the American camp and so very quickly its future became intrinsically bound to the U.S. trajectory. That remains the case today.

What sorts of commemorations are planned in Japan?

What typically happens is a gathering on the date and time of the bombings. In Hiroshima it will be centered at what is now called the Peace Dome. It’s an iconic structure, because the building survived the bomb blast and has been preserved ever since. The Peace Museum and Peace Memorial Park were built around it and are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most likely there’ll be a large gathering involving victims, although they’re aging. What will be a little bit difficult is that Japan suffered the Fukushima nuclear disaster four years ago. Some of the residents of the Fukushima prefecture surrounding the nuclear power plant damaged by the tsunami have begun referring to themselves as “Hibakusha”, the same term applied to radiation victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It’s a controversial adoption of that term. The perception among Fukushima residents is that they were victimized by the Japanese state, because it’s involved in nuclear industry. They have taken on the mantle of adding a Japanese voice to international discussions about the risks of nuclear power. I would be very surprised if some of those voices were not be represented in the 70th anniversary commemorations. They, like those bombed and later generations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see themselves as victimized by nuclear technology.

Categories: Ecological News

President Obama on America’s Clean Power Plan and Climate Change

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 03:04

Unedited Video of Today’s Speech:
Gina McCarthy @ 3:55 / President Obama @ 7:52

For More Information:

Climate Change and President Obama’s Plan
The White House Blog: The Clean Power Plan: Myths and Facts

Categories: Ecological News