By COREY WILLIAMS
21 December 2014
DETROIT (Associated Press) – Bankruptcy behind it, Detroit's atmosphere swirls with the promise of better days. Charles Floyd Jones can only hope that the city's good fortune trickles down to him and the 10 other residents of a tent city that's sprouted in the shadow of a resurgent downtown where rental occupancy is close to full and restaurants and shops are doing brisk business.
Jones and others in this makeshift community of seven tents — believed to be the only tent city in Detroit — say they have nowhere else to go.
"By us being out of bankruptcy, they can see that you got people out here that's struggling," said Jones, 51.
The city's homeless numbers swelled over the past decade as manufacturing and other jobs disappeared and homes were lost during the national foreclosure crisis. All told, about 16,200 of Detroit's 680,000 residents — almost 2.4 percent — are believed to be living on the streets or in temporary shelters — and that doesn't account for other types of homelessness, such as teens going from friend to friend and families living in motels.
By comparison, only about 1 percent of San Francisco's more than 800,000 residents are homeless. But San Francisco is on much firmer financial ground than Detroit, which shed $7 billion in debt during bankruptcy. Its restructuring plan aims to raise revenue and improve city services with $1.7 billion in funding, but it also calls for austerity in budgeting.
"I love Detroit. I'd hope things would get better," said 29-year-old Josh Reslow, who shares a tent in the encampment with girlfriend Brittney Hines, 25. "I'm a carpenter and with no work going on, I guess, that's part of the reason I'm on the street." [more]
Inside Beijing’s airpocalypse, a city made almost uninhabitable by pollution – ‘Now we have the dome, it’s perfect weather all year round’0 comments Posted by Jim at Sunday, December 21, 2014
By Oliver Wainwright
16 December 2014
BEIJING (The Guardian) – The scene could be straight from a science-fiction film: a vision of everyday life, but with one jarring difference that makes you realise you’re on another planet, or in a distant future era.
A sports class is in full swing on the outskirts of Beijing. Herds of children charge after a football on an artificial pitch, criss-crossed with colourful markings and illuminated in high definition by the glare of bright white floodlights. It all seems normal enough – except for the fact that this familiar playground scene is taking place beneath a gigantic inflatable dome.
“It’s a bit of a change having to go through an airlock on the way to class,” says Travis Washko, director of sports at the British School of Beijing. “But the kids love it, and parents can now rest assured their children are playing in a safe environment.”
The reason for the dome becomes apparent when you step outside. A grey blanket hangs in the sky, swamping the surroundings in a de-saturated haze and almost obscuring the buildings across the street. A red flag hangs above the school’s main entrance to warn it’s a no-go day: stay indoors at all costs. The airpocalypse has arrived.
Beijing’s air quality has long been a cause of concern, but the effects of its extreme levels of pollution on daily life can now be seen in physical changes to the architecture of the city. Buildings and spaces are being reconfigured and daily routines modified to allow normal life to go on beneath the toxic shroud.
Paper face masks have been common here for a long time, but now the heavy-duty kind with purifying canister filters – of the sort you might wear for a day of asbestos removal – are frequently seen on the streets. On bad days, bike lanes are completely deserted, as people stay at home or retreat to the conditioned environments of hermetically-sealed malls. It’s as if the 21-million-strong population of the Chinese capital is engaged in a mass city-wide rehearsal for life on an inhospitable planet. Only it’s not a rehearsal: the poisonous atmosphere is already here.
The British School is the latest of Beijing’s international colleges to go to the drastic lengths of building an artificial bubble in which to simulate a normal environment beneath the cloak of smog. Earlier this year, the nearby International School of Beijing lavished £3m on a pair of domes covering an area of six tennis courts, with hospital-grade air-filtration systems, following the lead of the Beijing satellite of exclusive British private school Dulwich College, which opened its own clean-air dome last year.
“Pollution is what all the parents are talking about,” says Nicole Washko, Travis’s wife, who also works at the school where their two daughters go, too. “More and more ex-pat families are leaving this country for the sake of their kids’ health. So if all the other schools have a dome, then we’ve got to have a dome.” A non-toxic learning environment is perhaps the least parents might expect, when they’re paying £20,000-a-year fees.
The British School has recently undergone a complete filtration overhaul, as if preparing for atmospheric armageddon, with new air curtains installed above the doors and almost 200 ceiling-mounted air purifiers put in to complement the floor-standing kind in each classroom. Windows must remain closed, and pupils must adhere to the strict air safety code. Reception classes stay indoors when the air quality index (AQI) hits 180 – measured on an official scale of 500 by various sensors across the city. For primary kids the limit is 200, while the eldest students are allowed to brave the elements up to 250. Anything above 300 and school trips are called off. The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, recommends a safe exposure level of 25.
“We were finding our sports fixtures were being cancelled so often, and kids were getting cabin fever from being kept in doors so much of the time,” says Travis Washko. “But now we have the dome, it’s perfect weather all year round.” [more]
By Jonathan Amos
18 December 2014
(BBC News) – NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) has returned its first global maps of the greenhouse gas CO2.
The satellite was sent up in July to help pinpoint the key locations on the Earth's surface where carbon dioxide is being emitted and absorbed.
This should help scientists better understand how human activities are influencing the climate.
The new maps contain only a few weeks of data in October and November, but demonstrate the promise of the mission.
Clearly evident within the charts is the banding effect that describes how emitted gases are mixed by winds along latitudes rather than across them.
Also apparent are the higher concentrations over South America and southern Africa. These are likely the result of biomass burning in these regions.
It is possible to see spikes, too, on the eastern seaboard of the US and over China. These probably include the additional emissions of CO2 that come from industrialisation.
"We're very early into the mission and collecting data, yet as we show, we can take five weeks of that information and give you a quick picture of global carbon dioxide," said deputy project scientist Annmarie Eldering.
"It really suggests to us that OCO-2 will be very useful for finding out about where carbon dioxide is coming from and being taken back up around the globe," she told BBC News. [...]
Humans add something like 40 billion tonnes of the gas to the atmosphere every year, principally from the burning of fossil fuels.
But the ultimate destination of this carbon dioxide is uncertain. About half is thought to be absorbed into the oceans, with the rest pulled down into land "sinks".
It is hoped OCO-2 can describe those draw-down locations in much more detail. [more]
18 December 2014 (NASA) – The first global maps of atmospheric carbon dioxide from NASA's new Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission demonstrate its performance and promise, showing elevated carbon dioxide concentrations across the Southern Hemisphere from springtime biomass burning.
At a media briefing today at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; Colorado State University (CSU), Fort Collins; and the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, presented the maps of carbon dioxide and a related phenomenon known as solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence and discussed their potential implications.
A global map covering Oct. 1 through Nov. 17 shows elevated carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere above northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil.
"Preliminary analysis shows these signals are largely driven by the seasonal burning of savannas and forests," said OCO-2 Deputy Project Scientist Annmarie Eldering, of JPL. The team is comparing these measurements with data from other satellites to clarify how much of the observed concentration is likely due to biomass burning.
The time period covered by the new maps is spring in the Southern Hemisphere, when agricultural fires and land clearing are widespread. The impact of these activities on global carbon dioxide has not been well quantified. As OCO-2 acquires more data, Eldering said, its Southern Hemisphere measurements could lead to an improved understanding of the relative importance in these regions of photosynthesis in tropical plants, which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and biomass burning, which releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
The early OCO-2 data hint at some potential surprises to come. "The agreement between OCO-2 and models based on existing carbon dioxide data is remarkably good, but there are some interesting differences," said Christopher O'Dell, an assistant professor at CSU and member of OCO-2's science team. "Some of the differences may be due to systematic errors in our measurements, and we are currently in the process of nailing these down. But some of the differences are likely due to gaps in our current knowledge of carbon sources in certain regions -- gaps that OCO-2 will help fill in."
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has no distinguishing features to show what its source was. Elevated carbon dioxide over a region could have a natural cause -- for example, a drought that reduces plant growth -- or a human cause. At today's briefing, JPL scientist Christian Frankenberg introduced a map using a new type of data analysis from OCO-2 that can help scientists distinguish the gas's natural sources.
Through photosynthesis, plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and use sunlight to synthesize the carbon into food. Plants end up re-emitting about one percent of the sunlight at longer wavelengths. Using one of OCO-2's three spectrometer instruments, scientists can measure the re-emitted light, known as solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF). This measurement complements OCO-2's carbon dioxide data with information on when and where plants are drawing carbon from the atmosphere.
"Where OCO-2 really excels is the sheer amount of data being collected within a day, about one million measurements across a narrow swath," Frankenberg said. "For fluorescence, this enables us, for the first time, to look at features on the five- to 10-kilometer scale on a daily basis." SIF can be measured even through moderately thick clouds, so it will be especially useful in understanding regions like the Amazon where cloud cover thwarts most spaceborne observations.
The changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide that OCO-2 seeks to measure are so small that the mission must take unusual precautions to ensure the instrument is free of errors. For that reason, the spacecraft was designed so that it can make an extra maneuver. In addition to gathering a straight line of data like a lawnmower swath, the instrument can point at a single target on the ground for a total of seven minutes as it passes overhead. That requires the spacecraft to turn sideways and make a half cartwheel to keep the target in its sights.
The targets OCO-2 uses are stations in the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON), a collaborative effort of multiple international institutions. TCCON has been collecting carbon dioxide data for about five years, and its measurements are fully calibrated and extremely accurate. At the same time that OCO-2 targets a TCCON site, a ground-based instrument at the site makes the same measurement. The extent to which the two measurements agree indicates how well calibrated the OCO-2 sensors are.
Additional maps released today showed the results of these targeting maneuvers over two TCCON sites in California and one in Australia. "Early results are very promising," said Paul Wennberg, a professor at Caltech and head of the TCCON network. "Over the next few months, the team will refine the OCO-2 data, and we anticipate that these comparisons will continue to improve."
To learn more about OCO-2, visit:
Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.
For more information about NASA's Earth science activities this year, see:
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team
10 December 2014 (RealClimate.org) –
- Start date: 10 December 2004
- Number of posts: 914
- Number of comments: ~172,000
- Number of comments with inline responses: 14,277
- Minimum number of total unique page visits, and unique views, respectively: 19 Million, 35 Million
- Number of guest posts: 100+
- Number of mentions in newspaper sources indexed by LexisNexis: 225
- Minimum number of contributors and guest authors: 105
- Minimum number of times RealClimate was hacked: 2
- Busiest month: December 2009
- Busiest day of the week: Monday
- Number of times the IPCC and the NIPCC are mentioned, respectively: 357, 5
- Minimum number of Science papers arising from a blog post here: 1
- Minimum number of RealClimate mentions in Web Of Science references: 14
- Minimum number of RealClimate mentions in theses indexed by ProQuest: 33
Posts highest ranked by Google by year:
- 2004 – CO2 in ice cores
- 2005 – Water vapour: feedback or forcing?
- 2006 – Al Gore’s Movie
- 2007 – Swindled!
- 2008 – FAQ on climate models
- 2009 – The CRU Hack
- 2010 – Feedback on cloud feedback
- 2011 – Misdiagnosis of surface temperature feedback
- 2012 – Extremely Hot
- 2013 – The new IPCC climate report
- 2014 – Climate response estimates from Lewis and Curry
All numbers are estimates from latest available data, but no warranty is implied or provided so all use of these numbers is at your own risk.
(UNDP) – Over the past few decades the world has suffered deeper and more frequent financial crises that have spread rapidly to other economic sectors, creating uncertainty, affecting livelihoods and threatening social stability. In the most recent crisis global unemployment increased by nearly 30 million between 2007 and 2009, while current unemployment estimates remain far above pre-crisis levels. Economic shocks can have long-term negative consequences, especially if they trigger a vicious cycle of low human development and conflict. Natural disasters and political shocks—such as droughts and coups d’état—usually have strong negative impacts on human development. But financial shocks—such as banking crises—are the most probable trigger of HDI downturns. The number of countries affected by banking crises appears to be higher in periods of high international capital mobility. Between 1950 and 1980, when capital controls were common, few countries had banking crises. But after capital flows were liberalized and financial markets further integrated, the incidence of banking crises soared (figure 2.9). The Nordic banking crisis in the early 1990s, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the recent global financial crisis exemplify this growing instability.
Although the poorest countries were more insulated from the initial financial shock—due to their limited integration in global capital markets—they were extremely vulnerable to secondary transmission channels, such as declining external demand for their exports and lower foreign investment. Developing countries traditionally are less able to cope with large economic shocks and usually take longer to recover from crises. For instance, the volatility of GDP growth is often higher in the poorest countries—except in recent years— and the proportion of years spent in deep recession is also higher for them, due partly to their undiversified economic structures and limited policy space.
Economic crises often generate unemployment and hardship, but economic booms can enhance inequality—which may contribute to the next crisis. Indeed, inequality can be both a cause and a consequence of macroeconomic instability. A more equitable distribution of income can boost economic growth and promote greater social and political stability. Low income inequality has been associated with longer growth spells and thus greater economic sustainability.
Full scale of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans revealed for first time – More than five trillion pieces weighing 269,000 tons are floating in our oceans1 comments Posted by Jim at Wednesday, December 10, 2014
By Oliver Milman
10 December 2014
(The Guardian) – More than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes, are floating in the world’s oceans, causing damage throughout the food chain, new research has found.
Data collected by scientists from the US, France, Chile, Australia and New Zealand suggests a minimum of 5.25tn plastic particles in the oceans, most of them “micro plastics” measuring less than 5mm.
The volume of plastic pieces, largely deriving from products such as food and drink packaging and clothing, was calculated from data taken from 24 expeditions over a six-year period to 2013. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, is the first study to look at plastics of all sizes in the world’s oceans.
Large pieces of plastic can strangle animals such as seals, while smaller pieces are ingested by fish and then fed up the food chain, all the way to humans.
This is problematic due to the chemicals contained within plastics, as well as the pollutants that plastic attract once they are in the marine environment.
“We saw turtles that ate plastic bags and fish that ingested fishing lines,” said Julia Reisser, a researcher based at the University of Western Australia. “But there are also chemical impacts. When plastic gets into the water it acts like a magnet for oily pollutants.
“Bigger fish eat the little fish and then they end up on our plates. It’s hard to tell how much pollution is being ingested but certainly plastics are providing some of it.”
The researchers collected small plastic fragments in nets, while larger pieces were observed from boats. The northern and southern sections of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans were surveyed, as well as the Indian ocean, the coast of Australia and the Bay of Bengal.
The vast amount of plastic, weighing 268,940 tonnes, includes everything from plastic bags to fishing gear debris.
While spread out around the globe, much of this rubbish accumulates in five large ocean gyres, which are circular currents that churn up plastics in a set area. Each of the major oceans have plastic-filled gyres, including the well-known ‘great Pacific garbage patch’ that covers an area roughly equivalent to Texas.
Reisser said traversing the large rubbish-strewn gyres in a boat was like sailing through “plastic soup.”
“You put a net through it for half an hour and there’s more plastic than marine life there,” she said. “It’s hard to visualise the sheer amount, but the weight of it is more than the entire biomass of humans. It’s quite an alarming problem that’s likely to get worse.” [more]
ABSTRACT: Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans from 24 expeditions (2007–2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N = 680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N = 891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic <4.75 mm and meso- and macroplastic >4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.
10 December 2014 (mongabay.com) – Forest-dependent peoples face grave threats from deforestation and other depredations, warns a new report that urges greater recognition of traditional land use and support of community-led initiatives to fight forest loss.
The report, published Monday during climate talks in Lima, is based on research by dozens of indigenous and forest communities from Africa, Asia and Latin America, which convened this past March in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province. It documents a litany of transgressions against forest-dependent people, ranging from land invasions by corporations to denial of basic human rights by governments.
The report includes case studies from nine tropical countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Colombia, Guyana, Paraguay, and Peru — all of which have an increasing share of deforestation and forest degradation driven by industrial actors like ranchers, loggers, miners, and plantation developers.
The report also finds fault with efforts to curb abusive practices and deforestation, arguing that zero deforestation commitments and approaches like the UN REDD+ program for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation don't do enough to address the lack of sustainability inherent in current development models based on industrial commodity production.
Accordingly, the report argues for a rights-based approach to addressing deforestation. "When our peoples' rights are secured, then deforestation can be halted and even reversed," stated the Palangka Raya Declaration, issued by participants at the close of the March workshop. "We call for a change in policy to put rights and justice at the centre of deforestation efforts." [more]
By Michael Mann
8 December 2014
(Huffington Post) – Just a couple months ago, I critiqued a pair of studies that disputed any linkage between human-caused climate change and the exceptional 2014 California drought. Now comes yet another study ("Causes and Predictability of the 2011-14 California Drought") with the imprimatur of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced with great fanfare (a NOAA press conference), drawing yet again the same conclusion. My criticisms of the latest study are yet again basically the same, but for reasons I explain below, that conclusion is even more implausible now than it was just two months ago.
Let me start by noting that this latest report (unless I've missed something?) doesn't appear to be an actual peer-reviewed scientific article, but rather, an internal NOAA report. That causes me some concern, as the claims have not yet been submitted to the independent scrutiny of the larger scientific community in the manner it would have if it were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
That having been said, my main concerns are far more fundamental. The methodology used in the current article, in my view, is deeply flawed because it doesn't properly account for a number of potentially important factors behind the record California drought. […]
Most inexplicable of all, though, is the fact that the authors pay only the slightest lip service to the role of surface temperature in drought, focusing almost entirely on precipitation alone. That neglects the fact that California experienced record heat over the past year, and this anomalous heat certainly contributed to the unprecedented nature of the current drought. Another article published just a week ago in one of the premier peer-reviewed journals in the field, Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), preemptively critiqued the present study, by stressing the importance of looking at the role of extremely high surface temperatures as well as precipitation in assessing the factors behind, e.g., the 2014 California drought:
And most ironic of all, just days ago, another article in GRL concluded that the record heat played a role in making the current California drought the worst such drought in at least 1200 years! (see also this discussion by Peter Gleick). [more]
By Rich Juzwiak and Aleksander Chan
8 December 2014
(Gawker) – On Wednesday, after the announcement that NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo would not be indicted for killing Eric Garner, the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund Twitter posted a series of tweets naming 76 men and women who were killed in police custody since the 1999 death of Amadou Diallo in New York. Starting with the most recent death, what follows are more detailed accounts of many of those included in the Legal Defense Fund's tweets.
Rumain Brisbon, 34, Phoenix, Arizona — 2 December 2014
Brisbon, an unarmed black father of four, was shot to death in when a police officer apparently mistook his bottle of pills for a gun. Aftermath: Pending. [more]