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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #41A

Posted on 8 October 2013 by John Hartz

  • Alaska is world's laboratory for climate change research
  • Breathtaking panoramas of coral reefs help scientists
  • Bubble may burst for fossil fuel giants
  • Climate change may trigger higher mercury levels in fish
  • How to slice a global carbon pie?
  • How to tell the biggest stories of our times
  • IPCC report contains ‘grave’ carbon budget message
  • Mayors leading an urban revolution
  • Planet of the vines: Climbing plants are taking over
  • Scientific research takes a quiet but devastating hit
  • UK warned against watering down carbon targets
  • U.S. justices scheduled to consider climate change cases

Alaska is world's laboratory for climate change research

When Jerry Otto started hunting for Alaska oil in 1980, his tractor-trailers barreled along ice roads that were up to 10 feet thick for 180 days every year.

Last winter, when he set out to drill for Australia's Linc Energy, regulators opened the roads for 126 days. The rest of the time, warm weather left the routes too mushy for vehicles, according to Bloomberg Markets magazine.

Alaska is world's laboratory for climate change research by John Lippert, Bloomberg News/Anchorage Daily News, Oct , 2013

Breathtaking panoramas of coral reefs help scientists

Richard Vevers relaxes on the back porch of Saturdays Surf, a hybrid surf and coffee shop in the uber-hip SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. It’s a fitting dry-land venue for meeting Vevers, the charismatic director of a groundbreaking project to extend Google Street View imagery to the climate-sensitive coral reef ecosystems of the world, with potentially huge benefits for scientists.

Surrounded by surfboards, he sips a cappuccino and describes why he traded in loafers for flippers, making an improbable career switch from advertising to photography. Over 10 years of photographing reefs, he saw signs of failing reef health due to ocean acidification and warming-related "coral bleaching" events, plus environmental stress from pollution and overfishing.

Breathtaking Panoramas of Coral Reefs Help Scientists by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, Oct 8, 2013 

Bubble may burst for fossil fuel giants

The financial and economic muscle of the global fossil fuel industry’s corporate behemoths will not protect them from the costly effects of negative stigmatisation if they ignore climate change pressures, according to a new academic study. 

Bubble May Burst for Fossil Fuel Giants by Kieran Cooke, Climate News Network/Truthdig, Oct 7, 2013

Climate change may trigger higher mercury levels in fish

Adding to the extensive list of climate change's effects, researchers from Dartmouth College have uncovered a link between rising ocean surface temperatures -- a result, they say, of a changing climate -- and the amount of mercury in fish.

High in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, fish can play an important role in promoting proper growth and development as well as heart health. However, tucked away in the fatty tissue of many kinds of fish are high levels of methylmercury, an even more toxic form of mercury that has been altered by bacteria.

Climate Change May Trigger Higher Mercury Levels in Fish, Study Suggests by Tamarra Kemsley, Natural News World, Oct 5, 2013 

How to slice a global carbon pie?

It was the middle of the night. In a matter of hours, journalists from around the world would be showing up, expecting details about the latest big United Nations climate report. But behind closed doors here, as the final wording of that document was being worked out, things were not going well. 

How to Slice a Global Carbon Pie? by Justin Gillis, New York Times, Oct 7, 2013

How to tell the biggest stories of our times

What does gorilla conservation have in common with the provision of contraceptives to women? How does rural-urban migration contribute to global warming? What does city planning in Kenya have to do with coastal erosion in the Philippines?

Such are the topics of conversation at the 23rd annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), running from Oct. 2-6 in what was, until 1960, referred to as “the dirtiest city in America”: Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Besides exploring an urban centre that has made the impressive about-turn from a highly polluted landscape into a model of sustainability, the nearly 300 journalists convened here are looking past their many differences to answer some fundamental questions about the profession.

How to Tell the Biggest Stories of Our Times by Kanya D'Almeida, Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 5, 2013

IPCC report contains ‘grave’ carbon budget message

Within the voluminous report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published on Sept. 27 is a conclusion as sobering as any climate change warning to date.

The world is currently on track to emit enough greenhouse gases by about 2040 to exceed the globally agreed upon temperature target of 3.6°F (commonly referred to in international negotiations as the 2°C target), beyond which the risks of “dangerous” consequences of global warming escalate.

In laying out a global cumulative carbon budget, the IPCC has for the first time endorsed the view of climate activists and scientists who have warned that countries cannot burn the world’s known reserves of fossil fuels without sending the climate system into a tailspin.

IPCC Report Contains ‘Grave’ Carbon Budget Message by Andrew Feedan, Climate Central, Oct 4, 2013

Mayors leading an urban revolution

With presidents and prime ministers failing to take meaningful action to avert a planetary-scale climate crisis, the mayors of cities and towns are increasingly stepping up to enact changes at the local level.

“Cities are on the front lines of climate change,” Richard Register, founder and president of Ecocity Builders, an organisation that pioneered ecological city design and planning, told IPS.

With the backing of their residents, many cities and towns around the world are becoming cleaner, greener and better places to live by banning cars, improving mass transit, reducing energy use and growing their own food while adding public and green spaces.

Mayors Leading an Urban Revolution by Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service (IPS), Oct 5, 2013

Planet of the vines: Climbing plants are taking over

GAZE out over a tropical rainforest and the scene looks idyllic – a kaleidoscope of trees festooned with colourful vines, orchids, ferns and lichens. Don't be fooled. Myriad ecological battles are being fought beneath this tranquil surface. None is more embittered than that between trees and their ancient enemies, the vines.

Biologists like myself who study these jungle ecosystems are now seeing a shift in this war. Until a decade or so ago the two adversaries were evenly matched, but vines now seem to be on the march. If that continues, the face of our forests – and of our planet – could be changed irrevocably. We are left scrabbling to unearth the root cause.

Planet of the vines: Climbing plants are taking over by William Luarance, New Scientists, Oct 7, 2013

Scientific research takes a quiet but devastating hit

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics' mission statement vows "to advance our knowledge and understanding of the universe." But when the federal government shut down last Tuesday, its scientists were forced to trim their sails.

The center sent home more than 100 of its 900 employees, affecting as many as 60 projects -- including the mapping of solar flares, a threat to satellites that feed data to American smartphones. Disrupted federal funding is "so counterproductive" at a time of global competition for technological dominance, center spokesman David Aguilar lamented in an interview.

"For people to say that this is not important, that it doesn't have an impact," Aguilar added, reflects a lack of awareness "of what technology does for our lives."

Scientific research takes a quiet but devastating hit by Elana Schor and Katherine Ling, Greenwire, Oct 7, 2013

UK warned against watering down carbon targets

An influential group of MPs has weighed into the simmering row over the UK's carbon budgets, warning that the carbon reduction targets for 2022 and beyond will be missed, because of poor government policy on energy and the environment.

Carbon budgets have become a key political battleground as George Osborne has vowed that the UK will not lead on climate action. Battlelines are being drawn ahead of the key review of the 2023 to 2027 carbon budget, which will be published next year.

UK warned against watering down carbon targets by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Oct 8, 2013

U.S. justices scheduled to consider climate change cases

The U.S. Supreme Court meets later this week to consider whether to undertake a legal review of the Obama administration's first wave of regulations tackling climate change.

For the second week running on Monday, the nine justices took no action on the cases, but the court later in the day listed them on its online docket for its next private meeting on Friday. That is when they will decide what new cases to take.

The court will likely announce what action it will take only on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

U.S. justices scheduled to consider climate change cases by Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, Oct 7, 2013

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. I came upon this comment, well written thus worth sharing, about natural gas prices in Australia:

    Industry's coal seam gas campaign is a con

    In a nutshell: gas was subsidised in Aus until now. Just like Saudis are subsidising petrol for their domestic market.

    When producers built LPG to be able to export gas, the politicians are telling us all sorts of nonsense about "looming gas crisis", etc. But they don't tell us when the export opens up without limits, the subsidies must collapse due to market mechanisms at work. Very simple and positive result from the point of view of anyone who cares about the environment - subsidies must go.

    But certainly things are not that simple for gas lobbist. Read their scare campain here if you're interested. If you know a little bit how market economy works you'd be laughing at it.

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