Lake Mead and Lake Powell, Upper Basin natural flows, Upper Basin precipitation, and Upper Basin temperatures, 1900-2014. High temperatures mean less water on the Colorado River. Graphic: Udall and Overpeck, 2017 / Water Resources Research

By John Fleck
19 February 2017

(inkstain) –  A warming climate is already reducing the flow in the Colorado River, and the future risk is large, with a worst case of the river’s flow being cut in half by the end of the century, according to a new study from a pair of the region’s leading researchers. While precipitation declines since the turn of the century have been modest, Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck found, a little less rain and snow have translated to a lot less water in the river […]

While we have seen projections of the future impact of climate change on the Colorado for more than two decades, this study is important because it is one of the first to argue empirically that the change is already underway. (See also Woodhouse and colleagues last year, which I wrote about here.) [more]

Climate change is already sapping the Colorado River


ABSTRACT: Between 2000 and 2014, annual Colorado River flows averaged 19% below the 1906-1999 average, the worst 15-year drought on record. At least one-sixth to one-half (average at one-third) of this loss is due to unprecedented temperatures (0.9°C above the 1906-99 average), confirming model-based analysis that continued warming will likely further reduce flows. Whereas it is virtually certain that warming will continue with additional emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, there has been no observed trend towards greater precipitation in the Colorado Basin, nor are climate models in agreement that there should be a trend. Moreover, there is a significant risk of decadal and multidecadal drought in the coming century, indicating that any increase in mean precipitation will likely be offset during periods of prolonged drought. Recently published estimates of Colorado River flow sensitivity to temperature combined with a large number of recent climate model-based temperature projections indicate that continued business-as-usual warming will drive temperature-induced declines in river flow, conservatively -20% by mid-century and -35% by end–century, with support for losses exceeding -30% at mid-century and -55% at end-century. Precipitation increases may moderate these declines somewhat, but to date no such increases are evident and there is no model agreement on future precipitation changes. These results, combined with the increasing likelihood of prolonged drought in the river basin, suggest that future climate change impacts on the Colorado River flows will be much more serious than currently assumed, especially if substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions do not occur.

The 21st century Colorado River hot drought and implications for the future

The rate of change of atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O, the primary greenhouse gases, increased by over 700, 1000, and 300 times (respectively) in the period after the Green Revolution when compared to pre-industrial rates. Graphic: University of Maryland

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland, 9 February 2017 (University of Maryland) – A new scientific paper by a University of Maryland-led international team of distinguished scientists, including five members of the National Academies, argues that there are critical two-way feedbacks missing from current climate models that are used to inform environmental, climate, and economic policies. The most important inadequately-modeled variables are inequality, consumption, and population.

In this research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth System has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policymaking and sustainable development.

Twelve of the interdisciplinary team of 20 coauthors are from the University of Maryland, with multiple other universities (Northeastern University, Columbia University, George Mason University, Johns Hopkins University, and Brown University) and other institutions (Joint Global Change Research Institute, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Institute for Global Environment and Society, Japan’s RIKEN research institute, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) also represented.

The study explains that the Earth System (e.g., atmosphere, ocean, land, and biosphere) provides the Human System (e.g., humans and their production, distribution, and consumption) not only the sources of its inputs (e.g., water, energy, biomass, and materials) but also the sinks (e.g., atmosphere, oceans, rivers, lakes, and lands) that absorb and process its outputs (e.g., emissions, pollution, and other wastes).

Titled "Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems", the paper describes how the rapid growth in resource use, land-use change, emissions, and pollution has made humanity the dominant driver of change in most of the Earth’s natural systems, and how these changes, in turn, have critical feedback effects on humans with costly and serious consequences, including on human health and well-being, economic growth and development, and even human migration and societal conflict. However, the paper argues that these two-way interactions ("bidirectional coupling") are not included in the current models.

The Oxford University Press's multidisciplinary journal National Science Review, which published the paper, has highlighted the work in its current issue, pointing out that "the rate of change of atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O [the primary greenhouse gases] increased by over 700, 1000, and 300 times (respectively) in the period after the Green Revolution when compared to pre-industrial rates." See Figure 1 from the Highlights article, reproduced below.

"Many datasets, for example, the data for the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, show that human population has been a strong driver of the total impact of humans on our planet Earth. This is seen particularly after the two major accelerating regime shifts: Industrial Revolution (~1750) and Green Revolution (~1950)" said Safa Motesharrei, UMD systems scientist and lead author of the paper. "For the most recent time, we show that the total impact has grown on average ~4 percent between 1950 and 2010, with almost equal contributions from population growth (~1.7 percent) and GDP per capita growth (~2.2 percent). This corresponds to a doubling of the total impact every ~17 years. This doubling of the impact is shockingly rapid."

"However, these human impacts can only truly be understood within the context of economic inequality,” pointed out political scientist and co-author Jorge Rivas of the Institute for Global Environment and Society. "The average per capita resource use in wealthy countries is 5 to 10 times higher than in developing countries, and the developed countries are responsible for over three quarters of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1850 to 2000."

University of Maryland geographer and co-author Klaus Hubacek added: "The disparity is even greater when inequality within countries is included. For example, about 50 percent of the world’s people live on less than $3 per day, 75 percent on less than $8.50, and 90 percent on less than $23. One effect of this inequality is that the top 10 percent produce almost as much total carbon emissions as the bottom 90 percent combined."

The study explains that increases in economic inequality, consumption per capita, and total population are all driving this rapid growth in human impact, but that the major scientific models of Earth-Human System interaction do not bidirectionally (interactively) couple Earth System Models with the primary Human System drivers of change such as demographics, inequality, economic growth, and migration.

The researchers argue that current models instead generally use independent, external projections of those drivers. "This lack of two-way coupling makes current models likely to miss critical feedbacks in the combined Earth-Human system," said National Academy of Engineering member and co-author Eugenia Kalnay, a Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland.

"It would be like trying to predict El Niño with a sophisticated atmospheric model, but with the Sea Surface Temperatures taken from external, independent projections by, for example, the United Nations," said Kalnay. "Without including the real feedbacks, predictions for coupled systems cannot work; the model will get away from reality very quickly."

"Ignoring this bidirectional coupling of the Earth and Human Systems can lead to missing something important, even decisive, for the fate of our planet and our species," said co-author Mark Cane, G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who recently won the Vetlesen Prize for creating the first coupled ocean–atmosphere model with feedbacks that successfully predicted El Niño.

"The result of not dynamically modeling these critical Human-Earth System feedbacks would be that the environmental challenges humanity faces may be significantly underestimated. Moreover, there’s no explicit role given to policies and investments to actively shape the course in which the dynamics unfold. Rather, as the models are designed now, any intervention — almost by definition — comes from the outside and is perceived as a cost," said co-author Matthias Ruth, Director and Professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University. "Such modeling, and the mindset that goes with it, leaves no room for creativity in solving some of the most pressing challenges."

"The paper correctly highlights that other human stressors, not only the climate ones, are very important for long-term sustainability, including the need to reduce inequality'', said Carlos Nobre (not a co-author), one of the world’s leading Earth System scientists, who recently won the prestigious Volvo Environment Prize in Sustainability for his role in understanding and protecting the Amazon. "Social and economic equality empowers societies to engage in sustainable pathways, which includes, by the way, not only the sustainable use of natural resources but also slowing down population growth, to actively diminish the human footprint on the environment."

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, who was not a co-author of the paper, commented: "We cannot separate the issues of population growth, resource consumption, the burning of fossil fuels, and climate risk. They are part of a coupled dynamical system, and, as the authors show, this has dire potential consequences for societal collapse. The implications couldn’t be more profound."

"Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems" is available at: https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article/doi/10.1093/nsr/nww081/2669331/Modeling-Sustainability-Population-Inequality and https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nww081.

Contact

Lee Tune, 301-405-4679

It's More than Just Climate Change


World population and GDP per capita from year 1 to 2010 AD. The total human impact is their product. The inset shows the relative annual change of each between 1950 and 2010. Their averages were 1.69 percent and 2.21 percent, respectively, out of a total of ∼4% (average annual change in GDP). Therefore, growth in population and consumption per capita have both played comparably important roles in the remarkable increase of human impact on planet Earth. This ∼4 percent total growth corresponds to doubling the total impact every ∼17 years. Note that the contribution from population growth has been relatively steady, while the contribution from the relative change in GDP per capita has been much more variable from year to year (even negative for some years). Graphic: Motesharrei, et al., 2017 / National Science Review

ABSTRACT: Over the last two centuries, the impact of the Human System has grown dramatically, becoming strongly dominant within the Earth System in many different ways. Consumption, inequality, and population have increased extremely fast, especially since about 1950, threatening to overwhelm the many critical functions and ecosystems of the Earth System. Changes in the Earth System, in turn, have important feedback effects on the Human System, with costly and potentially serious consequences. However, current models do not incorporate these critical feedbacks. We argue that in order to understand the dynamics of either system, Earth System Models must be coupled with Human System Models through bidirectional couplings representing the positive, negative, and delayed feedbacks that exist in the real systems. In particular, key Human System variables, such as demographics, inequality, economic growth, and migration, are not coupled with the Earth System but are instead driven by exogenous estimates, such as United Nations population projections. This makes current models likely to miss important feedbacks in the real Earth–Human system, especially those that may result in unexpected or counterintuitive outcomes, and thus requiring different policy interventions from current models. The importance and imminence of sustainability challenges, the dominant role of the Human System in the Earth System, and the essential roles the Earth System plays for the Human System, all call for collaboration of natural scientists, social scientists, and engineers in multidisciplinary research and modeling to develop coupled Earth–Human system models for devising effective science-based policies and measures to benefit current and future generations.

Modeling sustainability: population, inequality, consumption, and bidirectional coupling of the Earth and Human Systems

Canada's Arctic glacier loss has increased by 900 percent over pre-2005 rate, due to warmer temperatures. Graphic: Jennie Brewton / UCI

Irvine, California, 14 February 2017 (University of California, Irvine) – Ice loss from Canada’s Arctic glaciers has transformed them into a major contributor to sea level change, new research by University of California, Irvine glaciologists has found.

From 2005 to 2015, surface melt off ice caps and glaciers of the Queen Elizabeth Islands grew by an astonishing 900 percent, from an average of three gigatons to 30 gigatons per year, according to results published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

“In the past decade, as air temperatures have warmed, surface melt has increased dramatically,” said lead author Romain Millan, an Earth system science doctoral student.

The team found that in the past decade, overall ice mass declined markedly, turning the region into a major contributor to sea level change. Canada holds 25 percent of all Arctic ice, second only to Greenland.

The study provides the first long-term analysis of ice flow to the ocean, from 1991 to 2015.

The Canadian ice cap has glaciers on the move into the Arctic Ocean, Baffin Bay and Nares Strait. The researchers used satellite data and a regional climate model to tally the “balance” of total gain and loss each year, and the reasons why. Because of the huge number of glaciers terminating in area marine basins, they expected that discharge into the sea caused by tide water hitting approaching glacier fronts would be the primary cause.

Mass budget of the Queen Elizabeth Islands (QEI), Canada from 1991 to 2015: (a) ice discharge for several icefields and for the entire survey domain. 'Others' includes Sydkap, Mittie and Axel Heiberg icecaps. Error bars are only shown for years with measurements. (b) total surface mass balance (SMB), runoff (R), precipitation (P), and reference SMB for the years 1960–1990 for the entire survey domain, (c) total mass balance (MB=SMB-D); (d) cumulative surface mass balance, ice discharge, and total mass balance for the entire survey domain. Mass balance trends for 1991–2005, 2005–2014 (yellow dashed line) and quadratic fit for 1991–2014 (black dashed line) are shown in (d). Graphic: Millan, et al., 2017 / Environmental Research Letters

In fact, they determined that until 2005, the ice loss was caused about equally by two factors: calving icebergs from glacier fronts into the ocean accounted for 52 percent, and melting on glacier surfaces exposed to air contributed 48 percent. But since then, as atmospheric temperatures have steadily climbed, surface melt now accounts for 90 percent.

Millan said that in recent years ice discharge was only a major component in a few basins, and that even rapid, short term increases from these ice fields only had a minor impact on the long-term trend.

Millan added, “We identified meltwater runoff as the major contributor to these ice fields’ mass loss in recent years. With the ongoing, sustained and rapid warming of the high Arctic, the mass loss of the Queen Elizabeth Islands area is likely to continue to increase significantly in coming decades.”

Fellow authors are UCI professor of Earth system science Eric Rignot and UCI assistant research scientist Jeremie Mouginot. NASA provided funding.

Canadian glaciers now major contributor to sea level change, UCI study shows

Changes of dissolved oxygen in the global ocean, in percent. Graphic: GEOMAR

KIEL, 15 February 2017 (Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel) – The ongoing global change causes rising ocean temperatures and changes the ocean circulation. Therefore less oxygen is dissolved in surface waters and less oxygen is transported into the deep sea. This reduction of oceanic oxygen supply has major consequences for the organisms in the ocean. In the international journal Nature, oceanographers of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel have now published the most comprehensive analysis on oxygen loss in the world's oceans and their cause so far.

Oxygen is an essential necessity of life on land. The same applies for almost all organisms in the ocean. However, the oxygen supply in the oceans is threatened by global warming in two ways: Warmer surface waters take up less oxygen than colder waters. In addition, warmer water stabilizes the stratification of the ocean. This weakens the circulation connecting the surface with the deep ocean and less oxygen is transported into the deep sea.

Therefore, many models predict a decrease in global oceanic oxygen inventory of the oceans due to global warming. The first global evaluation of millions of oxygen measurements seems to confirm this trend and points to first impacts of global change.

In the renowned scientific journal Nature the oceanographers Dr. Sunke Schmidtko, Dr. Lothar Stramma and Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel just published the most comprehensive study on global oxygen content in the world's oceans so far. It demonstrates that the ocean’s oxygen content has decreased by more than two percent over the last 50 years. “Since large fishes in particular avoid or do not survive in areas with low oxygen content, these changes can have far-reaching biological consequences,” says Dr. Schmidtko, the lead-author of the study.

The researchers used all historic oxygen data available around the world for their work, supplemented it with current measurements and refined the interpolation procedures to more accurately reconstruct the development of the oxygen budget over the past 50 years. In some areas previous research had already shown a decrease in oxygen. “To quantify trends for the entire ocean, however, was more difficult since oxygen data from remote regions and the deep ocean is sparse,” explains Dr. Schmidtko, “we were able to document the oxygen distribution and its changes for the entire ocean for the first time. These numbers are an essential prerequisite for improving forecasts for the ocean of the future.”

The study also shows that, with the exception of a few regions, the oxygen content decreased throughout the entire ocean during the period investigated. The greatest loss was found in the North Pacific. “While the slight decrease of oxygen in the atmosphere is currently considered non-critical, the oxygen losses in the ocean can have far-reaching consequences because of the uneven distribution. For fisheries and coastal economies this process may have detrimental consequences,” emphasizes the co-author Dr. Lothar Stramma.

“However, with measurements alone, we cannot explain all the causes,” adds Professor Martin Visbeck, “natural processes occurring on time scales of a few decades may also have contributed to the observed decrease.” However, the results of the research are consistent with most model calculations that predict a further decrease in oxygen in the oceans due to higher atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and consequently higher global temperatures.

The new study is an important result for the ongoing work in the Collaborative Research Center (SFB) 754 funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) at the Kiel University and GEOMAR. The SFB 754’s aim is to better understand the interaction between climate and biogeochemistry of the tropical ocean. “From the beginning of March onwards, four expeditions aboard the German research vessel METEOR will investigate the tropical oxygen minimum zone in the eastern Pacific off Peru. We hope to obtain further data on regional development which will also help us to better understand the global trends,” emphasizes Dr. Stramma, the expedition coordinator for the SFB.

Contact

Jan Steffen (GEOMAR, Communication & Media), Tel.: (+49) 0431 600-2811, presse(at)geomar.de

Global ocean de-oxygenation quantified


ABSTRACT: Ocean models predict a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of one to seven per cent by the year 2100, caused by a combination of a warming-induced decline in oxygen solubility and reduced ventilation of the deep ocean1, 2. It is thought that such a decline in the oceanic oxygen content could affect ocean nutrient cycles and the marine habitat, with potentially detrimental consequences for fisheries and coastal economies3, 4, 5, 6. Regional observational data indicate a continuous decrease in oceanic dissolved oxygen concentrations in most regions of the global ocean1, 7, 8, 9, 10, with an increase reported in a few limited areas, varying by study1, 10. Prior work attempting to resolve variations in dissolved oxygen concentrations at the global scale reported a global oxygen loss of 550 ± 130 teramoles (1012 mol) per decade between 100 and 1,000 metres depth based on a comparison of data from the 1970s and 1990s10. Here we provide a quantitative assessment of the entire ocean oxygen inventory by analysing dissolved oxygen and supporting data for the complete oceanic water column over the past 50 years. We find that the global oceanic oxygen content of 227.4 ± 1.1 petamoles (1015 mol) has decreased by more than two per cent (4.8 ± 2.1 petamoles) since 1960, with large variations in oxygen loss in different ocean basins and at different depths. We suggest that changes in the upper water column are mostly due to a warming-induced decrease in solubility and biological consumption. Changes in the deeper ocean may have their origin in basin-scale multi-decadal variability, oceanic overturning slow-down and a potential increase in biological consumption11, 12.

Decline in global oceanic oxygen content during the past five decades

Trump lashes out over Australia refugee deal. Trump abruptly ended a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after blasting him for an agreement the U.S. made to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Photo: Los Angeles Times

By Evan Halper
15 February 2017

(Los Angeles Times) – Trashing the Paris Agreement made for a great campaign prop at Donald Trump’s rallies, where the climate change accord was portrayed as a product of the out-of-touch, insufferable elites that Trump pledged to sweep from power.

Now the landmark agreement, signed under President Obama, is fast becoming a nuisance for President Trump’s White House.

It is putting the president under increasing pressure from places he may not have expected. His own secretary of State appears to see little upside in the president following through on the signature campaign vow to scrap it. His ambassador to the United Nations is hedging. And titans of industries that Trump promised would be unleashed to create new jobs once freed from the agreement’s constraints are openly hostile to Trump’s plan to put it through the shredder.

Even the American Coal Council has yet to muster a tepid cheer for Trump’s denunciations of the United Nations-sponsored climate plan. As for the power companies Trump warned would be forced by Paris to raise their rates trillions of dollars? Their trade group, the Edison Electric Institute, doesn’t even have a position on the agreement.  

The reticence toward Trump’s tough talk about the nearly 200-nation accord reflects how much has changed in perceptions of the global warming threat since the White House was last occupied by a president disdainful of international efforts to contain it.

CEOs have grown more panicked about the impact global warming will have on business stability than the cost of confronting it. And it is not just Ben and Jerry’s types that have already invested a tremendous amount in redirecting their entire business model to account for climate.

Outside the confines of Trump campaign rallies, the offices of a few free market think tanks and the tea party stalwarts in Congress, the broader consensus is that abandoning Paris won’t save trillions of dollars, as Trump promised, but hurt the economy.  […]

“This is directly related to our business,” said Gabriela Burian, director of global sustainable agriculture at Monsanto. “We need to provide solutions while farmers are facing climate change.” [more]

Trump's vow to scrap the Paris climate change accord faces skepticism from corporations and GOP moderates

Map of flooding risk in California for 17 February 2017. Graphic: AccuWeather

By Alex Sosnowski
17 February 2017

(AccuWeather) – A new train of storms has arrived along the Pacific coast, and a potent one has begun to hit California hard with heavy rain, mountain snow, and strong winds to end this week.

The first storm focused on areas from Northern California to Washington during Wednesday and Thursday.

The second storm in the series will focus most of its moisture on Central and Southern California into Saturday.

"The late-week storm has the potential to be the biggest of the winter in terms of rainfall and impact to much of Southern California," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

The storm will bring enough rain and excess runoff to cause flash flooding, which can cause major delays for motorists. Along with the heavy rain will be the potential for mudslides in some neighborhoods, especially in recent burn scar locations.

The storm will raise the risk of oceanfront and hillside erosion. [more]

'Biggest storm of winter' to unleash flooding rain in California into Friday night

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) speaks with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). On 15 February 2017, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to gut the Endangered Species Act. Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images

16 February 2017 (The Week) – On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to "modernize" the Endangered Species Act, part of a push by Republicans to roll back environmental regulations and protections. The Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and three of the five witnesses at the hearing argued that the 1973 law to keep animal species from extinction impedes oil drilling, mining, and farming, and infringes on the rights of states and private landowners. The proposed legislation would make it harder to list animals on the endangered species list and limit legal action under the 1973 law, among other changes.

Barrassso painted the bill as a way to cut "red tape," while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the Endangered Species Act makes it too hard to take animals off the list, arguing that only 50 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened have been removed. Jamie Rappaport Clark, head of the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, testified that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the endangered list in eight years, in a sign that the law is working. "For more than 40 years, the ESA has been successful, bringing the bald eagle, the American alligator, the Stellar sea lion, the peregrine falcon, and numerous other species back from the brink of extinction," she said. "Based on data from the (Fish and Wildlife Service), the ESA has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction."

There's a parallel push to scale back the Endangered Species Act in the House — House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wants to repeal it entirely, arguing that "it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species" but instead has "been used to control the land." On Wednesday night's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee was puzzled at the constituency for killing the Endangered Species Act. "The vast majority of Americans support wildlife protection," she said, citing a Defenders of Wildlife poll showing 84 percent support for the law (an American Farm Bureau Federation poll was more nuanced.) "'Animals are awesome' is the only safe topic of conversation most American families have left. Left-right, old-young, black-white, Americans agree: Four legs, good." [more]

Republicans begin effort to gut the Endangered Species Act


By Darryl Fears
15 February 2017

(The Washington Post) – A  Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs.

The two-hour meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee was led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who said last month that his focus in a bid to change the act would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and the bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs,” according to a report in Energy and Environment News.

In his opening remarks, Barrasso declared that the act “is not working today,” adding that “states, counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders” have made that clear in complaints about how it impedes land management plans, housing development and cattle grazing, particularly in western states, such as Wyoming.

The Endangered Species Act is a 43-year-old law enacted under the Nixon administration at a time when people were beginning to understand how dramatically chemical use and human development were devastating species. It has since saved the bald eagle, California condor, gray wolves, black-footed ferret, American alligator and Florida manatee from likely extinction.

[more]

The Endangered Species Act may be heading for the threatened list. This hearing confirmed it.

Screenshot of the EPA mirror site, archived on 15 February 2017 in the event that Trump guts the EPA. Graphic: EPA

By River Donaghey
16 February 2017

(Vice) – On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency posted a mirror of its website capturing the way it looked on January 19, 2017—the day before Trump took office.

Trump has proved himself to be delete-happy when it comes to the web presence of federal agencies. He's already axed big chunks of the Department of Education and the USDA sites, and his White House website is significantly more stripped down than Obama's. The EPA's move will allow for an archive of its site to exist long after Trump eventually guts the main one.

Gizmodo points out that the mirror site follows in the wake of FOIA requests filed by people worried that Trump may cripple or try to completely do away with the governmental agency. 

That's not completely far-fetched—he's already nominated a climate-change denier whose heart pumps crude oil to lead the EPA, and staff members are bracing themselves for a string of executive orders that may massively reshape the agency. Trump has also, of course, said that climate change is a Chinese hoax and expressed a desire to reverse Obama's emissions restrictions, so he probably won't have much of a problem deleting the federal data the Environmental Protection Agency currently has collected on its site. [more]

The EPA Posted a Mirror of Its Website Before Trump Can Gut the Real One

Aerial view of a bushfire in New South Wales, Australia, 12 February 2017. While bushfires ravage the Australian landscape every year, in 2017, land and sea temperatures were pushed up due to climate change, increasing the severity of fire seasons. Photo: AFP Photo

SYDNEY, 12 February 2017 (AFP) – Australia was counting the cost to property and livestock Monday after firefighters battled weekend blazes in some of the hottest conditions on record.

At least 19 homes were destroyed in eastern Australia as emergency teams were sent out to assess the damage after a "catastrophic" weekend saw over 100 fire outbreaks, with 2,500 firefighters deployed and thousands more on standby.

About 80 fires continued to burn Monday, with around a quarter still uncontained, said New South Wales (NSW) state Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, as conditions began to cool.

"We know that there are going to be homes lost. We know that there are going to be plenty of other buildings that have been destroyed.

"There is machinery that has been destroyed and … we are talking about livestock that has been destroyed as well," he told reporters Monday, without giving numbers.

While bushfires ravage the Australian landscape every year, land and sea temperatures have been pushed up due to climate change, increasing the severity of fire seasons.

A statewide NSW average temperature of 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday set a new February record, while temperatures above 47 were recorded across some parts of the state on Sunday. [more]

Australia fires ease as damage mounts after record heat


Record temperatures in Australia on 9 February 2017. Scale at right is shown in Celsius. The darkest red ranges from 38 to 46 degrees C, or 100 to 116 degrees F. Graphic: Australia Bureau of Meteorology

By Chloe Farand
11 February 2017

(The Independent) – Authorities in Australia are facing the “worst possible fire conditions” and have declared a “catastrophic” fire danger over the weekend with the country engulfed in a series record-breaking heat wave.

The states of New South Wales and Queensland have felt sweltering temperatures, exceeding 40C, in recent days. 

Up to 66 temperature records were broken in the New South Wales with the hottest temperature recorded in Ivanhoe at 47.6C.

At one point 49 fires were burning across the state of New South Wales,17 of which were not under control.  

In a press conference, New South Wales rural fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said  “This is not a usual fire day, this is as bad as it gets.

"To put it simply [the conditions] are off the old scale. It is without precedent in NSW,” he said. […]

The fire and rescue authorities in New South Wales are anticipating a “catastrophic danger” of fires throughout the weekend with areas of “severe and extreme fire danger”. [more]

Australia faces 'catastrophic' fire danger as temperatures reach reach record levels in heatwave

 

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