Our Common Good

Chasing Ice movie reveals largest iceberg break-up ever filmed - guardian.co.uk)

A warm November and record-breaking early December means 2012 will be the warmest year ever for the U.S. As Jeff Masters reports:

…the U.S. heated up considerably in November, notching its 20th warmest November since 1895, said NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in their latest State of the Climate report. The warm November virtually assures that 2012 will be the warmest year on record in the U.S. The year-to-date period of January – November has been by far the warmest such period on record for the contiguous U.S.–a remarkable 1.0°F above the previous record. During the 11-month period, 18 states were record warm and an additional 24 states were top ten warm. The December 2011 – November 2012 period was the warmest such 12-month period on record for the contiguous U.S., and the eight warmest 12-month periods since record keeping began in 1895 have all ended during 2012.

December 2012 would have to be 1°F colder than our coldest December on record (set in 1983) to prevent the year 2012 from being the warmest in U.S. history. This is meteorologically impossible, given the recent December heat in the U.S. As wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt reported, an early-December heat wave this week set records for warmest December temperature on record in seven states. December 2012 is on pace to be a top-20% warmest December on record in the U.S.

The NCDC’s Climate Extremes Index (CEI),which “tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought,” reports it has also been the most extreme January to November period on record. Some 46% of the continental U.S. saw top-10% extreme weather, which is more than double the average

current:

“Promised Land” is part buddy comedy. The chemistry between Damon and McDormand as gas company executives who travel to a rural Pennsylvania town in a beat-up truck to hoodwink the locals into allowing their big corporation to drill for natural gas on their properties is spot-on and filled with zingy one-liners and playful pranks.

The movie is also a well-scripted romantic comedy, with a love triangle between Krasinski’s environmental activist, Damon (the two men co-wrote the screenplay) and a local schoolteacher, played by an adorable Rosemarie Dewitt.

Although “Promised Land” attempts to do the whole Erin Brockovich–style little guy versus big corporation thing, the audience will not necessarily walk out of the theater and pick up a Frack No More placard.

But that might be OK. “Maybe expecting people to go out and protest fracking is too much,” Thompson explained to me, saying that we just shouldn’t set the bar so high. “But if it becomes a big hit and lots of people go to see it, if they walk out of that movie knowing what fracking is, that’s a pretty big step. That’s all you can really expect a fracking movie to do.”

The wolf, known as 832F to researchers, was the alpha female of the park’s highly visible Lamar Canyon pack and had become so well known that some wildlife watchers referred to her as a “rock star.” The animal had been a tourist favorite for most of the past six years.

The wolf was fitted with a $4,000 collar with GPS tracking technology, which is being returned, said Daniel Stahler, a project director for Yellowstone’s wolf program. Based on data from the wolf’s collar, researchers knew that her pack rarely ventured outside the park, and then only for brief periods, Dr. Stahler said.

This year’s hunting season in the northern Rockies has been especially controversial because of the high numbers of popular wolves and wolves fitted with research collars that have been killed just outside Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Wolf hunts, sanctioned by recent federal and state rules applying to the northern Rockies, have been fiercely debated in the region. The wolf population has rebounded since they were reintroduced in the mid-1990s to counter their extirpation a few years earlier.

Many ranchers and hunters say the wolf hunts are a reasonable way to reduce attacks on livestock and protect big game populations.

This fall, the first wolf hunts in decades were authorized in Wyoming. The wolf killed last week was the eighth collared by researchers that was shot this year after leaving the park’s boundary.

The deaths have dismayed scientists who track wolves to study their habits, population spread and threats to their survival. Still, some found 832F’s death to be particularly disheartening.

“She is the most famous wolf in the world,” said Jimmy Jones, a wildlife photographer who lives in Los Angeles and whose portrait of 832F appears in the current issue of the magazine American Scientist.

Werner’s title nodded at a question running like an anxious murmur just beneath the surface of this and other presentations at the AGU conference: What is the responsibility of scientists, many of them funded by taxpayer dollars through institutions like the National Science Foundation, to tell us just exactly how f**ked we are? Should scientists be neutral arbiters who provide information but leave the fraught decision-making and cost-benefit analysis to economists and political actors? Or should they engage directly in the political process or even become advocates for policies implied by their scientific findings?

Conservatives are less likely to accept the reality of human-caused climate science when presented with supporting scientific evidence. But tell them that 99 out of 100 climate scientists agree on the subject, and conservatives will be more likely to accept that humans are altering the climate, according to a new pilot study.

The findings, presented today (Dec. 7) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, suggest that scientists shouldn’t break out the graphs and tables when talking climate with conservatives. Instead, climate advocates should emphasize how much of the scientific community agrees on the subject.

rhamphotheca:

Forests Worldwide near Tipping Point From Drought
by Monga Bay staff
Forests worldwide are at “equally high risk” to die-off from drought conditions, warns a new study published this week in the journal Nature.  The study, conducted by an international team of scientists, assessed the specific physiological effects of drought on 226 tree species at 81 sites in different biomes around the world. It found that 70 percent of the species sampled are particularly vulnerable to reduction in water availability. With drought conditions increasing around the globe due to climate change and deforestation, the research suggests large swathes of the world’s forests — and the services they afford — may be approaching a tipping point.  Water is critical to trees, transporting nutrients, providing stabilizing, and serving as a medium for the metabolic processes that generate the energy needed for a tree to survive.
(read more: MongaBay)                       (photos: Rhett Butler)

It is finally starting to freeze at night on a regular basis - but I have been watering my yard and trees all week - because what we have not had is rain or snow.  My house is surrounded by trees and I don’t want them dying or falling on my house.  It may be winter, but our drought continues.

rhamphotheca:

Forests Worldwide near Tipping Point From Drought

by Monga Bay staff

Forests worldwide are at “equally high risk” to die-off from drought conditions, warns a new study published this week in the journal Nature.

The study, conducted by an international team of scientists, assessed the specific physiological effects of drought on 226 tree species at 81 sites in different biomes around the world. It found that 70 percent of the species sampled are particularly vulnerable to reduction in water availability. With drought conditions increasing around the globe due to climate change and deforestation, the research suggests large swathes of the world’s forests — and the services they afford — may be approaching a tipping point.

Water is critical to trees, transporting nutrients, providing stabilizing, and serving as a medium for the metabolic processes that generate the energy needed for a tree to survive.

(read more: MongaBay)                       (photos: Rhett Butler)

It is finally starting to freeze at night on a regular basis - but I have been watering my yard and trees all week - because what we have not had is rain or snow.  My house is surrounded by trees and I don’t want them dying or falling on my house.  It may be winter, but our drought continues.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Public Works, held a climate-denial press conference at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on Thursday. With Inhofe was an activist who believes the UN is starting the apocalypse and a British Lord who was banned from all UN climate conferences for impersonating the representative from Myanmar.

Senator Inhofe’s first guest was Cathie Adams, the President of the Texas Eagle Forum and former Texas GOP chair. Adams must have felt quite uncomfortable speaking at a United Nations function, as she has maintained for over a decade that the UN was the anti-Christ’s vehicle for stealthily taking over the world. From a 1999 newsletter:

The Bible tells us that in the end times there will be a world government headed by a world leader, called the anti-Christ, who will profess a world religion, but did you ever think you would live in the day when these things would come into being? That is exactly what the United Nations is doing behind the backs of most Americans.

Adams has singled out environmentalism as part of the UN’s sinister agenda, suggesting a fictional UN Pledge of Allegiance would require “worship[ping] the Earth.” She also believes, among other things, that the CO2 emissions do not cause climate change and that vaccination is a plot to steal American freedom.

Senator Inhofe’s other guest, Lord Christopher Monckton, has a storied history of making things up, especially with respect to climate science. It’s a pattern Monckton fell into at the Doha negotiations, where he took the platform reserved for the Myanmarese delegation and claimed to be speaking for “Asian coastal nations.” The double pretense got him ejected from the nation of Qatar and banned from every future UN climate summit.

One might think this clown show would embarrass the Senator, but his record suggests otherwise: Senator Inhofe has claimed that climate science is a hoax that contravenes the will of God and is currently working with the Heartland Institute — which suggests that climate change advocates are like the Unabomber — to de-fund the Environmental Protection Agency.

Climate change is an issue affecting both women and men. Despite the surface similarities shared by both genders, women experience climate change more adversely than men due to fundamental inequalities and discrimination.

Women make up a disproportionately large share of the poor worldwide.  The poor are being hit first by the impact of climate change and the results are falling hardest on poor women, especially those in the developing world.

“Women face different vulnerabilities than men to climate change due to structural inequalities and pervasive discrimination,”  Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, tells UNEARTH News.

[…]

In developing countries, women’s livelihoods often depend on local natural resources. Representing a majority of the world’s small-scale farmers, women produce much of the world’s food.  Women are usually the primary caregivers, child rearers, and food providers for their families. They are often responsible for the water and energy supplies in their homes.

[…]

“Climate change and environmental degradation therefore impact women directly, as they have to work harder, walk longer and find new ways of subsistence when they are faced with changes in the environment,” explains Puri. “All these translate to time lost for education and engaging in remunerated productive activities, among others.”

Women farmers will face more crop failures, forcing them to work more for fewer yields. Potential flooding and droughts will contribute to health crises such as outbreaks of diarrhea, cholera, malaria, and dengue fever. Unpredictable rainfall makes food, fuel, and water scarce, so women have to walk longer to collect their household needs. Not only is that wasted time better used on other tasks such as work, but longer walks increase their risk of violence on their path.

Susskind clarifies, “When climate change triggers a natural disaster, women struggle to provide for their families’ human needs: shelter, clean water, safety and food.“

Natural disasters resulting from climate change will likely cause a rise in mortality for women. Based on a study by the London School of Economics, women had a higher death rate during natural disasters.  In fact, the study found that the stronger the disaster, the larger the gender gap in life expectancy. Nearly three times as many women as men are killed in climate related disasters, such as hurricanes and floods.

Considering women’s roles in society as primary caregivers, women must be explicitly targeted for promoting strategies for conservation, adaptation, and reducing environmental degradation in order for their quality of life to be improved.

Even as battlelines are drawn between developed and the developing world for Doha climate talks, India and China —- key allies at global climate negotiations —- on Monday agreed to collaborate on clean technologies and finding solutions to their environmental problems.

“We (India and China) have similar environmental problems and can find joint solutions,” planning commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said, after signing an agreement with Zhang Ping, chairman of Chinese National Development and Reforms Commission to conduct pilot studies in joint areas of interest. 

Both India and China have adopted innovative methods to deal with rising urban municipal and water waste, and Ahluwalia said both the countries could learn from each other’s experiences.

Although high cost solutions are available with western world, its applicability in the two countries is difficult because of the scale of the waste. 

To assess the ground situation, India and China will conduct joint pilot studies, which would be scaled up, if found viable.

“We are also working on signing an agreement on collaboration in area of small hydro power projects,” Ahluwalia said.

India and China at second strategic economic dialogue also signed an agreement with the commission to enhance cooperation in the field of energy efficiency.

Endangered Coral Reefs Die as Ocean Temperatures Rise and Water Turns Acidic  (via PBS)

Philippines negotiator makes emotional plea at Doha climate talks

(via guardian.co.uk)

More: At the COP18 climate talks, the Filipino delegate broke down as he appealed to the world: ‘no more delays, no more excuses’

Saño told the plenary session:

"As we sit here in these negotiations, even as we vacillate and procrastinate here, the death toll is rising. There is massive and widespread devastation. Hundreds of thousands of people have been rendered without homes. And the ordeal is far from over, as typhoon Bopha has regained some strength as it approaches another populated area in the western part of the Philippines.
"Madam chair, we have never had a typhoon like Bopha, which has wreaked havoc in a part of the country that has never seen a storm like this in half a century. And heartbreaking tragedies like this are not unique to the Philippines, because the whole world, especially developing countries struggling to address poverty and achieve social and human development, confront these same realities.

"Madam chair, I speak on behalf of 100 million Filipinos, a quarter of a million of whom are eeking out a living working here in Qatar [as migrant labourers]. And I am making an urgent appeal, not as a negotiator, not as a leader of my delegation, but as a Filipino …”

At this point he broke down.

"I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by 7 billion people.

"I appeal to all, please, no more delays, no more excuses. Please, let Doha be remembered as the place where we found the political will to turn things around. Please, let 2012 be remembered as the year the world found the courage to find the will to take responsibility for the future we want. I ask of all of us here, if not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?"

"Thank you madam chair."

The hall rose and applauded.

Later I spoke to Saño, or “Yeb” as he is widely known. He said: “This was the 16th typhoon this year. It was particularly intense and uncharacteristic, struck the province of Davao Oriental. I know the area well. I have been there many times. Quite a few of our delegation have their families there.

"Each destructive typhoon season costs us 2% of our GDP, and the reconstruction costs a further 2%, which means we lose nearly 5% of our economy every year to storms. We have received no climate finance to adapt or to prepare ourselves for typhoons and other extreme weather we are now experiencing.

"We have not seen any money from the rich countries to help us to adapt. So more and more people die every year. I feel very frustrated. I was very emotional because it tears your heart out when you know your people are feeling the impact. We cannot go on like this. It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms.

"You feel frustrated when the UN process does not work. We always go to the brink in the negotiations. That is a bad sign. Climate change negotiations cannot be based on the way we currently measure progress. It is a clear sign of planetary and economic and environmental dysfunction."

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

“We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich.

[…]

Several organizations have been working on some version of a divestment campaign, initially focusing on coal, for more than a year. But the recent escalation has largely been the handiwork of a grass-roots organization, 350.org, that focuses on climate change, and its leader, Bill McKibben, a writer turned advocate. The group’s name is a reference to what some scientists see as a maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. The level is now about 390, an increase of 41 percent since before the Industrial Revolution.

Mr. McKibben is touring the country by bus, speaking at sold-out halls and urging students to begin local divestment initiatives focusing on 200 energy companies. Many of the students attending said they were inspired to do so by an article he wrote over the summer in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

Speaking recently to an audience at the University of Vermont, Mr. McKibben painted the fossil fuel industry as an enemy that must be defeated, arguing that it had used money and political influence to block climate action in Washington. “This is no different than the tobacco industry — for years, they lied about the dangers of their industry,” Mr. McKibben said.

[…]

In an interview, Mr. McKibben said he recognized that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be exceedingly difficult. But he said strong government policies to limit emissions were long overdue, and were being blocked in part by the political power of the incumbent industry.

Mr. McKibben’s goal is to make owning the stocks of these companies disreputable, in the way that owning tobacco stocks has become disreputable in many quarters. Many colleges will not buy them, for instance.

Mr. McKibben has laid out a series of demands that would get the fuel companies off 350.org’s blacklist. He wants them to stop exploring for new fossil fuels, given that they have already booked reserves about five times as large as scientists say society can afford to burn. He wants them to stop lobbying against emission policies in Washington. And he wants them to help devise a transition plan that will leave most of their reserves in the ground while encouraging lower-carbon energy sources.

“They need more incentive to make the transition that they must know they need to make, from fossil fuel companies to energy companies,” Mr. McKibben said.

Most college administrations, at the urging of their students, have been taking global warming seriously for years, spending money on steps like cutting energy consumption and installing solar panels.

The divestment demand is so new that most administrators are just beginning to grapple with it. Several of them, in interviews, said that even though they tended to agree with students on the seriousness of the problem, they feared divisive boardroom debates on divestment.

That was certainly the case in the 1980s, when the South African divestment campaign caused bitter arguments across the nation.

The issue then was whether divestment, potentially costly, would have much real effect on companies doing business in South Africa. Even today, historians differ on whether it did. But the campaign required prominent people to grapple with the morality of apartheid, altering the politics of the issue. Economic pressure from many countries ultimately helped to force the whites-only South African government to the bargaining table.

Mr. Lawrence, the Swarthmore senior, said that many of today’s students found that campaign inspirational because it “transformed what was seemingly an intractable problem.”

I admire these students, but with there already being so much heat on tuition costs, I doubt they will be successful in getting universities to remove petroleum companies from their portfolios.  I doubt many could really afford to do so.  That said, I am in favor of the action and hope that it takes off all over the country - because students speaking out in union has power beyond the university walls.  And apparently, our leaders need to see and hear more of that.

Just discovered this site:

UNEARTH News is a 501 (c) (3), independent news agency based in the United Nations in New York City and is a new initiative of the award-winning MediaGlobal News. Through a multi-media communications platform, UNEARTH News seeks to make visible the narratives, news and community networks around the globe that are underreported and vital for understanding the impact of climate change on developing countries.  Relying on stories from our own team as well as emerging and established journalists, other news outlets, and through strategic partners in the field, UNEARTH News provides a unique perspective on the impacts of climate change from the countries and communities that are nearly invisible to mainstream media. Featuring news stories, photo essays, documentaries, exclusive interviews, articles and resources, UNEARTH News will reveal the human dimensions of climate change to the global media, parliamentarians, environmental companies, institutions, policymakers and civil society in the United Nations member states — and to all people concerned about the state of the planet.

 Graph of the day: Americans buying more fuel- efficient cars, polluting less

New cars bought in the fall of 2012 are using about 15 percent less fuel per mile than cars purchased in 2007. But they’re also logging slightly fewer miles overall — a sign that Americans aren’t just negating the fuel savings by driving more. Add it all up, and there’s been a 20 percent drop in greenhouse-gas emissions from new vehicles in the past five years.
How much of a difference does this make in the grand scheme of things? Brand-new vehicles, after all, are only a small portion of the overall U.S. fleet. Yet in a recent paper, Sivak and Brandon Schoettle estimated that recent efficiency upgrades have already reduced carbon-dioxide emissions from all U.S. light-duty vehicles by about 2.9 percent.
Combine that with the fact that Americans have been driving fewer miles overall, and that’s a small but real improvement as far as oil use and climate change are concerned.

Graph of the day: Americans buying more fuel- efficient cars, polluting less

New cars bought in the fall of 2012 are using about 15 percent less fuel per mile than cars purchased in 2007. But they’re also logging slightly fewer miles overall — a sign that Americans aren’t just negating the fuel savings by driving more. Add it all up, and there’s been a 20 percent drop in greenhouse-gas emissions from new vehicles in the past five years.

How much of a difference does this make in the grand scheme of things? Brand-new vehicles, after all, are only a small portion of the overall U.S. fleet. Yet in a recent paper, Sivak and Brandon Schoettle estimated that recent efficiency upgrades have already reduced carbon-dioxide emissions from all U.S. light-duty vehicles by about 2.9 percent.

Combine that with the fact that Americans have been driving fewer miles overall, and that’s a small but real improvement as far as oil use and climate change are concerned.