Smoke from wildfires descends on in Chita, capital of the the Trans-Baikal region of Siberia, 15 April 2015. Photo: The Siberian Times

[The winter of 2014-2015 was the warmest on record in Russia, may have been warmest winter ever recorded in Northern Hemisphere –Des]

16 April 2015 (The Moscow Times) – President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the federal government would send at least 5 billion rubles ($100 million) to the southern Siberian republic of Khakasia, ravaged by wildfires in recent weeks.

"I talked with the governor today. … About 2,400 homes need to be rebuilt. This will require money from the federal budget, about 5 or 6 billion rubles," Putin said during his annual call-in show, according to the Interfax news agency.

Dozens of people have died and about a thousand have sought medical attention because of the fires, linked to small agricultural brushfires that grew out of control amid abnormally dry conditions, according to local authorities.

 

On the same day, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's Cabinet allocated almost 700 million rubles ($14 million) in aid to Khakasia.

About 80 percent of that aid is for assisting individuals whose properties burned down, the government said in an online statement.

Some 20 million rubles ($400,000) will go to compensating victims' families and covering funeral costs, the statement said.

But the government may need to consider sending aid to other areas as well.

Because of the fires, emergency situations have been declared in four Russian republics and regions in addition to Khakasia: Zabaikalsky, Buryatia and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, as well as Amur in the Far East.

On Thursday morning, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said that 137 forest fires were burning across 152,000 hectares of land throughout the country, Interfax reported.

Putin Pledges $100 Million in Aid to Fire-Ravaged Southern Siberia


Family members walk away while passing the debris of destroyed buildings in the settlement of Shyra, damaged by recent wildfires, in Khakasia region, 13 April 2015. Photo: Ilya Naymushin / Reuters

15 April 2015 (The Siberian Times) – There were desperate pleas for volunteer firefighters in Chita last night as flames threatened to ravage the outskirts of the city, with one eye-witness warning of a 'wall' of fire. Deep into the night, residents came to counter the flames.

One volunteer Alexey Kuzubov pleaded dramatically on social media site Vkontakte: 'The situation is very bad on the hill now! Anyone who wants, who can help come here !!! Now the fire in the 2-3 km from the ring road ~' 'Hills are burning, all goes to the city !!!! Very little of us here!!!'

Another volunteer Nikolay Fedotov said: 'Hard to say, how far away the fire is away from the city ... Think the distance is two or three kilometers from one part of the city. Now going there again. Came to the city to refuel, take drinking water.

'Very difficult now. About 100 volunteers (maybe less) and about a dozen pieces of fire equipment went there. Fire is like a wall. Hard to stop it. Most of people are trying to fill up the fire with shovels'.

There were reports that the raging fires had spread into China - and also denials that this had happened. Reports by Chinese emergency rescue services said wildfires had hit Argun, Inner Mongolia Province, destroying at least 85 residential and farm buildings, as well as vehicles and other hardware.

The Xinxua News Agency said the economic damage was put at $3.2 million. 

In Trans-Baikal region, there were reports that at least three people perished in the fires. A three-year-old girl was among the dead as more than 1,850 people try to quell blaze that shows no signs of stopping.

A man, a woman and a three-year-old girl died in the fires, said regional Health Minister Mikhail Lazutkin. The man's death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, the woman died of a heart attack, and the girl during the evacuation from the burning village. Another 20 people were hurt, Lazutkin said.

It was the second deadly wildfire outbreak, now engulfing Trans-Baikal region after previously hitting the Khakassia republic. The area hit by flames increased 12-fold in size since Monday.

Originally the fire had been affecting 3,000 hectares but, aided by strong winds and dry conditions, it has now spread to 45,000 hectares. According to the Ministry of Health, three people have died and dozens have been injured or required treatment, but it is feared this could rise.

At least 23 people are dead in Khakassia.

Chita, the Trans-Baikal capital, was shrouded in acrid smoke for the second day with visibility in the city no more than 200 to 300 metres and a strong smell of burning in the air. [more]

Frantic battle to stop wildfires engulfing suburbs Chita city

Heat production from microbial metabolism of organic material in permafrost, during incubation at 16C. Observed heat production in 21 different organic-rich permafrost samples (in situ water content) grouped according to soil type and sample area. The n-values represent different location within a specific area, except for the Qajaa midden, where n represents the number of different archaeological layers investigated. Error bars show +1 s.d. For comparison, heat production from a mineral soil at Zackenberg is included. Graphic: Holleson, et al., 2015

[Is this what’s causing the explosive craters we’ve seen recently in Siberia? –Des]

By Emily Atkin
8 April 2015

(Climate Progress) – Scientists might have to change their projected timelines for when Greenland’s permafrost will completely melt due to man-made climate change, now that new research from Denmark has shown it could be thawing faster than expected.

Published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the research shows that tiny microbes trapped in Greenland’s permafrost are becoming active as the climate warms and the permafrost begins to thaw. As those microbes become active, they are feeding on previously-frozen organic matter, producing heat, and threatening to thaw the permafrost even further.

In other words, according to the research, permafrost thaw could be accelerating permafrost thaw to a “potentially critical” level.

“The accompanying heat production from microbial metabolism of organic material has been recognized as a potential positive-feedback mechanism that would enhance permafrost thawing and the release of carbon,” the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Permafrost, said. “This internal heat production is poorly understood, however, and the strength of this effect remains unclear.”

The big worry climate scientists have about thawing permafrost is that the frozen soil is chock-full of carbon. That carbon is supposed to be strongly trapped inside the soil, precisely because it’s supposed to be permanently frozen — hence, “permafrost.”

However, as temperatures in the Arctic have risen due to human-caused climate change, permafrost is thawing, and therefore releasing some of that trapped carbon into the atmosphere. It’s yet another feedback loop manifesting itself in Arctic permafrost regions — as climate change causes it to thaw, the thawing causes more climate change, which causes more thawing, et cetera, et cetera.

What makes this new research so important is that it adds to the urgency of stemming permafrost thaw. Because even without this new discovery of heat-producing microbes, estimates for carbon releases from thawing permafrost have been alarmingly large. According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, there are about 1,700 gigatons of carbon currently frozen in permafrost — more than the total amount in the atmosphere now (Earth’s atmosphere contains about 850 gigatons of carbon, according to the Center).

Without considering microbes, the average estimate is that 120 gigatons of carbon will be released from thawing permafrost by 2100, which would raise the average global temperature 0.29 degrees. After 2100, if climate change worsens, total permafrost emissions roughly double. That’s confirmed by National Snow and Ice Data Center research scientist Kevin Schaefer’s research, which took the average of 15 peer-reviewed estimates of future carbon releases from thawing permafrost.

Schaefer, who was also one of the reviewers of the microbe study, told ThinkProgress that this is particularly alarming because emissions from permafrost are “completely irreversible.”

“These are permanent emissions,” he said. “Once you thaw out that material, there’s no way to put that organic matter back into the permafrost … you can’t re-freeze the permafrost.” [more]

Why This New Study On Arctic Permafrost Is So Scary

The Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) for California, 195-2014. The lowest measurement ever recorded was in the 2013-2014 season. Graphic: National Weather Service Hanford

By Brad Plumer
10 April 2015

(Vox) – California saw this drought coming. Even if people in the state didn't know it would be this bad — now the worst in recorded history — they've known that dry years are inevitable and had all sorts of ideas for how to deal with them.

But for all that planning, California's current drought has been a total disaster. Reservoirs are drying up. Crops are wilting in the fields. For the first time ever, towns and cities will face a mandatory 25 percent cut in their water use.

The problem isn't that no one foresaw the drought. The problem is that no one has been able to solve an underlying issue that is simultaneously less scary and also much harder than a dry spell: California's convoluted water system and intractable water politics.

Designed piecemeal over the last century, going back to a time when Los Angeles had one-sixth its current population, California's system for managing water doesn't just make it tough to deal with shortages — in some ways, it encourages inefficiencies and waste. This is partly an engineering issue and partly a political one, but it's become a huge dilemma for a state struggling to adapt to unprecedented drought.

Much of the bickering today around California's water crisis can trace back to this underlying systemic issue. Many people accuse farmers — especially its almond growers and cattle ranchers — of using too much water. Farmers, in turn, blame environmentalists for placing undue restrictions on water use. Others fault golf courses and overwatered lawns. Economists say California could better manage its water if only it was priced properly.

There's some truth to all these points. But it's worth understanding California's incredibly complex water system in order to grasp why all these conflicts have arisen — and why fixes are so difficult.

1) California's water comes from the north and is used in the south

Perhaps the most fundamental water fact about California is that, historically, water was extremely scarce in the southern two-thirds of the state. The vast majority of precipitation occurs up north, mainly in the winter.

So, during the 20th century, both the state and the federal government built an elaborate system of canals, aqueducts, and reservoirs to bring water south: […]

3) California is now suffering the worst drought in history, and its water system is cracking under the stress

Now, however, this system has reached a breaking point. This current drought, which started in 2012, is worse than anything California has endured in its history. Virtually the entire state is facing "severe," "extreme," or "exceptional" drought: [more]

A guide to California's water crisis — and why it's so hard to fix

A school of sardines swims in one of the aquariums at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in Monterey, California. Pacific coast sardines are facing a population collapse so severe that Oregon's multimillion-dollar sardine industry was shut down in summer 2015. Photo: Kelly House / The Oregonian

By Kelly House
10 April 2015

(The Oregonian) – Updated at 6:55 p.m. on 13 April 2015: The council has canceled the upcoming season.

Pacific coast sardines are facing a population collapse so severe that Oregon's multimillion-dollar sardine industry almost certainly will be shut down this summer.

Anticipating fishermen will pursue anchovies instead, ocean conservationists are pushing for pre-emptive measures to avoid repeating the collapse with another species.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which regulates the fishing industry off the coast of Oregon, California and Washington, is expected to vote Sunday to close the West Coast sardine fishery in response to new population estimates that indicate the species' still hasn't emerged from an eight-year plummet.

The latest figures indicate there are somewhere between 97,000 and 133,000 metric tons of adult sardines in the ocean from northern Mexico to British Columbia. That's a 90 percent dip since sardines peaked in 2007, and it puts the population below a mandatory fishing cutoff of 150,000 metric tons.

Although sardine populations are known to boom and bust, the species' downward spiral in spite of favorable water conditions has ocean-watchers worried there's more to this collapse than cyclical population trends.

"There are a lot of weird things happening out there, and we're not quite sure why they aren't responding the way they should," said Kevin Hill, a NOAA Fisheries biologist who worked on the population assessment.

Fishery managers are adding it to a list of baffling circumstances off the West Coast, including a "warm blob" that's lured subtropical fish past the northernmost limits of their typical territory, a mysterious disease that's decimating starfish and acid waters that are killing shellfish larvae.

Nobody knows how long it will take the small, silver, schooling forage fish to rebound enough for commercial fishing to resume.

New data suggest fishery managers were off in their preseason projections of sardine populations for the 2014 fishing season. The commission set catch limits for the current season, which runs through June 30, based upon that preseason data. So far, West Coast fishermen have netted roughly three-quarters of the 23,293 tons allowed this season.

Why were preseason estimates incorrect? Stock assessors thought "recruitment rates," a term used to measure reproductive success in the sardine population, would be higher. Instead, NOAA surveys indicate very few juvenile fish made it through their first year.

"The population isn't replacing itself," Hill said. [more]

Pacific sardine industry shutdown looms as species collapses


13 April 2015 (Associated Press) – Fisheries managers have decided to call off the West Coast sardine fishing season that starts in July because of rapidly dwindling numbers, hoping to save an iconic industry from the kind of collapse that hit in the 1940s and lasted 50 years.

Meeting outside Santa Rosa, California, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted Sunday to close the season starting July 1.

It had little choice. Estimates of sardine abundance have fallen below the level for a mandatory fishing shutdown.

"We know boats will be tied up, but the goal here is to return this to a productive fishery," David Crabbe, a council member and commercial fishing boat owner, said in a statement.

The council next will decide whether overfishing has been a factor in the latest collapse, which could trigger an emergency shutdown of the current season, which runs through June. It votes Wednesday.

Made famous by John Steinbeck's novel "Cannery Row," the once-thriving sardine industry crashed in the 1940s.

It revived in the 1990s when fisheries developed in Oregon and Washington waters, but population estimates have been declining since 2006, and catch values since 2012. The reasons are not well-understood, though it is widely accepted that huge swings in populations are natural and generally are related to water temperatures.

Council member Frank Lockhart of NOAA Fisheries Service noted that several other fisheries -- such as salmon, lingcod and rockfish -- have recovered after going through steep declines. [more]

Upcoming sardine season canceled because of declining numbers

Major threats to bees in Europe. Graphic: IUCN

19 March 2015 (IUCN) – With the majority (56.7%) of European bee species being listed as Data Deficient, any overview of the threats to the continental apifauna will necessarily be incomplete. However, for conservation and management of bee diversity to be undertaken effectively, it is critical to have a clear understanding of taxonomy and ecology of the species present. National governments, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, recognise the existence of a taxonomic impediment and, through the Darwin Declaration, intend to address the situation (Environment Australia 1998). This shortfall in taxonomic expertise is very apparent in our understanding of bees. A major threat to effective deployment of conservation actions for the bees of Europe is an inability to understand and identify the species present and to monitor the state of populations effectively.

According to the European Red List, 212 species had no threats identified, while for 1,067 species threats remain unknown. Identified threats for the remaining species (663) are presented below, and a summary of the relative importance of the different threatening processes is shown in Figure 11.

Many of the environmental threats to bee diversity are associated with modern agriculture and, in particular, shifting agricultural practice and the increasing intensification of farming (Figure 11). These threats include those related to intensive arable farming (loss of uncultivated habitats and widespread use of insecticides and herbicides (Sydenham, et al., 2014, Gill and Raine 2014)), livestock farming (resulting in grazing and stocking regimes that are damaging to grasslands and fragile Mediterranean ecosystems) (Vulliamy, et al., 2006) and the continued presence of commercial timber plantations (Navarro-Cerrillo, et al., 2013).

According to the European Red List, 366 species are affected by changes in agricultural practice, which can lead to large scale habitat loss and habitat degradation, especially in temperate regions. Shifts from grassland hay cropping regimes to the more intensive silage production (i.e. late season to early season cropping) or increased grazing, has resulted in large scale losses of herb-rich grasslands e.g., 97% loss of enclosed semi‐natural grasslands in England and Wales (Bullock, et al., 2011) and 97-99% of the historically managed grassland in Sweden (Dahlström, et al., 2008). Loss of season-long flowering impacts particularly strongly on long-lived social insects, especially bumblebees (Bombus spp.), and in more intensively farmed regions of Europe, bumblebees are especially susceptible (Carvell, et al., 2006, Rundlöf, et al., 2008). The loss of semi-natural grasslands also negatively impacts on localised and specialised solitary species (e.g., Andrena hattorfiana and A. humilis in Sweden) (Franzén and Nilsson 2004).

In other parts of Europe, traditional land use has been abandoned, allowing for development of scrub and ultimately woodland. This is especially true in places that are generally unsuitable for more intensive farming, and in places such as the Baltic States it is abandonment, rather than habitat fragmentation, that is the key driver of species composition in semi-natural grasslands (Dauber, et al., 2006). 331 non-threatened species and 35 threatened species are regarded as under threat from agricultural expansion, intensification and shifts in agricultural practice, and 307 non-threatened species and 16 threatened species are regarded as under threat from livestock farming (often in conjunction with an increased susceptibility to fire in the Mediterranean region).

Pollution, pesticides, and herbicides Among the many threats linked to modern agriculture is the widespread use of agri-chemicals. The results of the European Red List show that 252 species of nonthreatened bees, and 7 threatened bee species are regarded as threatened by agricultural and forestry effluents; either by direct contact, or via a sub-lethal effect on the bees themselves (mainly due to insecticide application) or by damaging the floral resources (mainly due to herbicide application) on which bees depend.

The pesticide story is complex, but studies have shown that exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides can lead directly to the loss of honey bees (e.g., Tapparo, et al., 2012, Pisa, et al., 2015), and commercial Bombus in the US (e.g., Gradish, et al., 2010). Exposure to sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoids have been linked with increased levels of the gut pathogen Nosema in honey bees (Pettis, et al., 2012) and colony loss by impairing overwinter survival in honey bees (Lu, et al., 2014). Elston, et al., (2013) report that sub-lethal effects of thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid pesticide, in conjunction with propiconazole, a DMI fungicide, affect colony initiation in bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) colonies (see also Godfray, et al., 2014).

A number of laboratory studies (e.g., Goulson 2013, Sandrock, et al., 2014) describe the sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on some species of bees, and growing evidence from field studies indicates that levels of systemic pesticides (neonicotinoids and fipronil) that have been documented in the environment are sufficient to cause adverse impacts on a wide range of non-target organisms, including bees (Pisa, et al., 2015). Traits such as body size, foraging range, food storage, etc. vary highly between bee species and as a result, so does the  potential sensitivity to the direct or indirect effects of pesticides (Williams, et al., 2010). It seems clear that honey bee traits make them more robust than other wild bee species to resist the effects of pesticides (Desneux, et al., 2007). Nevertheless, our knowledge about the effects of pesticides is based primarily on honey bees. Gill and Raine (2014) have, however, shown that prolonged exposure of sub-lethal doses of Imidachloprid (a neonicotinoid) affects natural foraging behaviour of commercially reared Bombus terrestris in the field.

Herbicide application can also impact negatively on bee diversity, as it can reduce the availability of flowers on which bees depend and delay the flowering so the timing between the period when food is most needed by pollinators and food availability is disrupted (Boutin, et al., 2014). Herbicide application can have a significant local effect on bees, especially those species that are specialised pollen foragers (Nabhan and Buchmann 1995).

Increasing application of nitrogen-based fertilisers is typical of the widespread intensification of agriculture over much of the continent. Fertiliser use, in addition to encouraging the growth of the target crops, also promotes rank grassland, low in flowering plants (especially Fabaceae) (Wilson, et al., 1999) and poor for many bees, especially some Bombus species and Fabaceae specialists.

Nearly one in 10 wild bee species face extinction in Europe while the status of more than half remains unknown - IUCN report

This 3 April 2015 aerial photo shows golf course communities bordering the desert in Cathedral City, California. In an aggressive push to reduce water usage statewide, California regulators are proposing that the biggest urban water users cut consumption by as much as 35 percent during 2015. Photo: Chris Carlson / AP Photo

By Matt Stevens, Taylor Goldenstein, and Chris Megerian
8 April 2015

SACRAMENTO, California (Los Angeles Times) – In an aggressive push to reduce water usage statewide, California regulators are proposing that the biggest urban water users cut consumption by as much as 35 percent over the next year.

The State Water Resources Control Board's plan, unveiled Tuesday, would place the heaviest conservation burden on cities and towns with the highest rates of per-capita water consumption, which would include small rural communities as well as affluent enclaves like Newport Beach and Beverly Hills.

Cities that have the lowest per-capita water use — including East Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Seal Beach — would be required to cut just 10 percent.

Agencies that don't comply with the rules could face fines of up to $10,000 a day.

"The gentle nudge is no longer sufficient," said Max Gomberg, the water board's senior scientist. "We're taking the enforcement piece very seriously."

The conservation targets were part of a new framework the state board unveiled to comply with California Gov. Jerry Brown's historic order requiring a 25 percent cut in water use in cities and towns statewide. The proposal assigns targets to more than 400 local water agencies.

The five-member board, whose members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, could adopt the plan in May. The board is seeking feedback on the plan, which could change before the vote.

Most communities would be required to cut water use by 20 percent to 25 percent, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Santa Ana, San Jose and Anaheim.

Officials said they measured residential per capita water use in September 2014 to set the benchmarks. But the state will measure whether each community hits its target by comparing overall water use over the next year with 2013 levels.

The targets were released the same day that the board announced dismal water conservation numbers for February. Californians reduced water use just 2.8 percent in February compared to the same month in 2013. It was the smallest decrease since officials began releasing monthly conservation numbers last summer.

Southern Californians actually used more water in February, while most other areas cut back.

"It's a really disturbing number," said State Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus, who attributed February's results to warmer weather and the improving economy.

Still, she expressed hope that Californians understood the severity of the situation.

"They want to do the right thing," she said. "But they lead very busy lives. And it's government's job to make it easier for them to do those right things."

Brown's mandatory statewide water restrictions, the first in California's history, come as the state endures a fourth year of drought. Slashed irrigation deliveries have forced growers to idle thousands of acres of cropland. Groundwater levels in some areas have plunged, causing the ground to sink. Some small communities have run out of water. And while reservoir levels are higher than last year, the mountain snowpack, which provides about a third of the state's water supply in normal years, is at a record low. [more]

California regulators urge 35 percent reduction in water use for some areas

French officials prepare to destroy the country's 3 tonne stockpile of illegal ivory. Photo: WWF France

By Bob Smith
9 April 2015

(The Conversation) – African elephants are in serious danger. The magnificent creatures are found in 37 countries – and most of these populations are threatened by poaching. The problem is that protecting elephants isn’t cheap and conservationists struggle to fund their work.

In Africa, budgets are tight and governments have bigger priorities such as funding health and education. At an international level public sympathy for elephants rarely translates into cash, so donor funding is normally short-term and unpredictable.

This is why many African governments stockpiled ivory that was confiscated from poachers or came from elephants that died of natural causes before selling their ivory legally and using the money to pay for conservation work. This last happened in 2008 but several African countries are stockpiling more of their ivory for the future. Many countries outside Africa – prominent among them China – have markets for antique and legally stockpiled ivory.

So the sale of ivory can provide a reliable source of funding for elephant conservation. But outside Africa this trade is often passionately opposed. This partly comes from lack of awareness – many people think all ivory comes from poaching, whereas some comes from elephant deaths and herd conservation and management. Many people are also uneasy about the idea of making money from wildlife and are particularly uncomfortable when it involves animals as majestic as elephants.

This is one reason why in the last year several countries have destroyed their ivory stockpiles in the hope it will discourage trade and reduce poaching. In contrast, countries such as Botswana and South Africa, which have large and growing elephant populations, continue to store theirs.

Corruption in conservation

A more specific issue has come to light, however. We now have good evidence that the trade is being undermined by corruption. Poached ivory is being laundered as legal ivory and park staff, customs officials and politicians have been implicated. Some conservationists argue this corruption can’t be tackled and have called for a complete trade ban.

The fact that people are exposing these examples of corruption is a great step forward. This is because conservationists are generally wary of publicising the problem. However, together with colleagues, I recently argued that we should not single out the ivory trade. Corruption could be undermining every aspect of elephant conservation and we have no evidence that this trade is more affected.

Successful elephant conservation is based on funding park management, enforcing laws and sharing benefits with local people. All of these can be undermined by bribery, cronyism and embezzlement.

This is illustrated by a 2010 study that looked at how well African national parks protected their wildlife. It showed that all animals are in decline in the more corrupt countries, including lower-profile species such as antelopes and zebras. This suggests elephant numbers would be dropping anyway in these countries, independent of international wildlife trade policy.

Fortunately, evidence from business and anti-poverty projects does show that corruption can be tackled. An important first step is breaking up the problem into specific issues, such as embezzlement of national park budgets or bribery of police to turn a blind eye to poaching. This makes the task less daunting, changing the idea that corruption is a huge, unsolvable problem. Many of these problems can then be reduced by adopting good business practice. These include commonsense actions such as checking project bank accounts and sacking rule-breakers. [more]

Ivory and saving elephants: how corruption is undermining every aspect of conservation


ABSTRACT: Protected areas (PAs) are the cornerstone of global conservation efforts but their performance in maintaining populations of their key species remains poorly documented. Here, we address this gap using a new database of 583 population abundance time series for 69 species of large mammals in 78 African PAs. Population abundance time series were aggregated to form a multi-species index of overall change in population abundance. The index reveals on average a 59% decline in population abundance between 1970 and 2005. Indices for different parts of Africa demonstrate large regional differences, with southern African PAs typically maintaining their populations and western African PAs suffering the most severe declines. These results indicate that African PAs have generally failed to mitigate human-induced threats to African large mammal populations, but they also show some successes. Further development of our index could help to measure future progress towards post-2010 targets for reducing biodiversity loss.

Large mammal population declines in Africa’s protected areas

 Banner from the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands web site. Graphic: BCPL

By Eric Roston
8 April 2015

(Bloomberg) – Discussing climate change is out of bounds for workers at a state agency in Wisconsin. So is any work related to climate change—even responding to e-mails about the topic.

A vote on Tuesday by Wisconsin’s Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, a three-member panel overseeing an agency that benefits schools and communities in the state, enacted the staff ban on climate change. “It’s not a part of our sole mission, which is to make money for our beneficiaries,” said State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican who sits on the board. “That’s what I want our employees working on. That’s it. Managing our trust funds.”

Adamczyk raised his concern at a public meeting on Tuesday that the board’s executive director, Tia Nelson, had spent on-the-job time working on global warming. Nelson did indeed work on climate change a bit in 2007 and ’08—at the request of the governor. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, who stepped down in 2011, appointed Nelson as co-chair of a global warming task force (PDF). “It honestly never occurred to me that being asked by a sitting governor to serve on a citizen task force would be objectionable,” she said.

Nelson is the daughter of Gaylord Nelson, the U.S. Senator from Wisconsin who established Earth Day in 1970. For 17 years before joining the public land agency, she ran the Nature Conservancy's climate change initiative. 

The measure affecting a small number of Wisconsin state workers follows an alleged effort by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to stop employees from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official communications. […]

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting revealed last month that state officials had been ordered not to use the phrases “global warming” or “climate change.” Adamczyk was the subject of a short profile last month in the New York Times. [more]

For Some Wisconsin State Workers, ‘Climate Change’ Isn’t Something You Can Talk About

A rock is shown inside the primary containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in this image taken by a robot on 10 April 2015. How the rock got there is not yet known, but the robot lasted less than three hours in the deadly radioactive chamber. Photo: TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER CO. / KYODO

13 April 2015 (Japan Times) – Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday that radiation in the primary containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 power station gets as high as 9.7 sieverts per hour — enough to kill a human within an hour.

The radiation levels at six locations in the western section of the first floor of the PCV ranged from 7.0 to 9.7 sieverts per hour, the beleaguered utility said in disclosing data collected by a remote-controlled robot on Friday.

By contrast, the temperatures at the six locations monitored were cool, ranging from 17.8 to 20.2 degrees.

Tepco sent the robot into the primary containment vessel on Friday, expecting it to stay alive for 10 hours. But the robot failed within three hours after completing about two-thirds of its planned route. Tepco has given up on recovering the robot. [more]

Radiation measured at deadly 9.7 sieverts in Fukushima reactor

 

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