It was historic. The 2015 Paris climate agreement saw every member country of the UN pledge to cut its carbon emissions to zero by the second half of this century and keep global warming at well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
There’s just one problem. To reach this goal the world would need to shut down all of its coal-fired power stations by 2025 and ditch the combustion engine entirely by 2030. To reach its own targets, the UK will need to decarbonise the vast majority of its electricity supply within a mere 15 years. Eliminating fossil fuels this way is going to be extremely challenging. An extra lever is needed to reach the Paris climate targets. But from where? Continue reading
Thanks to Anthropocene:
What a decent man, we say every time we see news of Jimmy Carter. This story is no exception, and we especially appreciate the example he is setting with this action:
PLAINS, Ga. — The solar panels — 3,852 of them — shimmered above 10 acres of Jimmy Carter’s soil where peanuts and soybeans used to grow. The panels moved almost imperceptibly with the sun. And they could power more than half of this small town, from which Mr. Carter rose from obscurity to the presidency. Continue reading
Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and the folks at the salt for raising our awareness of another corn-influenced culture we knew nothing about until just now:
by Angus Chen
About a 15-minute drive east of St. Louis is a complex of earthen mounds that once supported a prehistoric city of thousands. For a couple of hundred years, the city, called Cahokia, and several smaller city-states like it flourished in the Mississippi River Valley. But by the time European colonizers set foot on American soil in the 15th century, these cities were already empty. Continue reading
Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, and specifically Lisa Feldcamp, for this note and video on adaptive coastal folks:
“It hurt my heart to see how [the beach] had been deteriorated,” says Norris Henry of St. Andrew’s Development Organization. “I know in the past there was a nice beachfront, where you can play cricket, you can play football, you can run. But it’s so sad to see it is no longer there.” Continue reading
We are grateful as always to our friends at the salt, one of National Public Radio (USA)’s great occasional series, for this story (the photo after the jump is a beauty, so read on):
by Gabriel Popkin
Dionisio Yam Moo stands about four-and-a-half-feet tall, and his skin is weathered from years in the tropical sun. A “proudly Mayan” farmer, he grows corn, beans and vegetables on a six-hectare farm in Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. The farm is surrounded by dense tropical forest, and crops grow amid fruit trees in thin soil, with the peninsula’s limestone bedrock protruding in places. Continue reading
Thanks to Anthropocene:
We have not had a shortage of model mad stories, which may be the silver lining to the cloud, so thanks to the Science section of the New York Times for this contribution:
Within a week of its creation, the March for Science campaign had attracted more than 1.3 million supporters across Facebook and Twitter, cementing itself as a voice for people who are concerned about the future of science under President Trump.
Now, hoping to transform that viral success into something approaching the significance of the women’s march last month, the campaign has scheduled its demonstration in Washington for Earth Day, April 22. Continue reading
The website itself is not exactly scintillating, but click the banner above to read the mission statement. Better yet, read Ed Yong’s scintillating explanation of how and why this organization came to be, and what it is doing:
For American science, the next four years look to be challenging. The newly inaugurated President Trump, and many of his Cabinet picks, have repeatedly cast doubt upon the reality of human-made climate change, questioned the repeatedly proven safety of vaccines. Since the inauguration, the administration has already frozen grants and contracts by the Environmental Protection Agency and gagged researchers at the US Department of Agriculture. Many scientists are asking themselves: What can I do? Continue reading
We like what we see of the madly determined folks risking their professional careers in the interest of the environment and social justice:
A day after three climate-related tweets sent out by Badlands National Park were deleted, other park accounts have sent out tweets that appear to defy Trump
The National Park Service employees’ Twitter campaign against Donald Trump spread to other parks on Wednesday, with tweets on climate change and a reminder that Japanese Americans were forcibly interned in camps and parks during the second world war.
A day after three climate-related tweets sent out by Badlands National Park were deleted, other park accounts have sent out tweets that appear to defy Trump. One, by Redwood national park in California, notes that redwood groves are nature’s number one carbon sink, which capture greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming…
…Golden Gate national park in California said in a tweet that 2016 was the hottest year on record for the third year in a row. The tweet directed readers to a report by Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also known as Noaa…
…The tweets went beyond climate change.
Death Valley national park tweeted photos of Japanese Americans interned there during the second world war, a message that some saw as objecting to Trump’s pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country and a proposal to restrict the flow of refugees to the United States…
Thanks to the Guardian for their excellent environmental coverage:
Holyrood ministers aim higher after hitting target of 42% cut by 2020 six years early, but say Brexit poses challenge Continue reading
We agree with the sentiment, never underestimate the underdog; more often than not, we root for the underdog. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science for the reminder, in an ecological context:
By Marissa Ahlering
Never underestimate the underdog — in sports or in ecosystems. My favorite baseball teams, the Royals and the Cubs, reminded us of this over the last two years, and prairies (the underdog in the world series of ecosystems) proved this again recently in an analysis demonstrating that grasslands have a role to play in our climate change solutions (Ahlering et al. 2016).
Globally, grasslands are one of the most converted and least protected ecosystems (Hoekstra et al. 2005). The rich soil of Earth’s grasslands plays an important role in feeding the world and because of this much of our grassland has been converted to row-crop agriculture. Loss of grasslands is a big problem for two reasons: Continue reading
Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of a counterintuitive finding:
West Coast crab fishermen just ended an 11-day strike over a price dispute. But a more ominous and long-term threat to their livelihood may be on the horizon. A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found a link between warming ocean conditions and a dangerous neurotoxin that builds up in sea life: domoic acid. Continue reading
Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of a scientific news item worthy of our attention:
This story was also covered in the New York Times, but the Guardian had a jump on the scoop, and included a photo (above) that more effectively helps to understand peat’s role in carbon capture; so we feature their story here:
Our lives in the New World Tropics has allowed a frequent convergence between birds and coffee, even in the most simple terms of enjoying birdsong in our garden over the first morning cup. That very garden of our home in Costa Rica sits in what was historically cafetal (a coffee finca), with large trees shading the coffee that still grows along the little stream that runs along the property line. Blue-crowned motmots (the Central American cousin to the Andean Motmot mentioned below, have been frequent residents.
The coffee plantings at our home are insignificant compared to the 100+ acres of Gallon Jug Estate shade-grown coffee at Chan Chich. Of the nearly 350 bird species recorded in the Chan Chich Reserve’s 30,000 acres, a large percentage are migratory, making their home in the coffee as well as the healthy forest habitats that make up the reserve.
Sustainable agriculture is rarely a “get rich quick scheme”, but taken within the context of the “seventh generation stewardship”, the benefits will continue to outweigh the costs.
By Gustave Axelson
Early one morning last January, I drank Colombian coffee the Colombian way—tinto, or straight dark.
I sipped my tinto while sitting on a Spanish colonial veranda at Finca Los Arrayanes, a fourth-generation coffee farm and hotel deep in northwestern Colombia’s Antioquia region. The sun had not yet risen above the high ridges of the northern Andes. In the ambient gray predawn light, the whirring nocturnal forest insects were just beginning to quiet down.
My senses of taste and smell were consumed by the coffee, which was strong and bold in a pure way, the flavor flowing directly from the beans, not a burnt layer of roast. But my eyes were trained on a small wooden platform that held a couple of banana halves. The first bird to visit was an Andean Motmot, one of Colombia’s many Alice in Wonderland–type fantastical birds. It sported a green-and-turquoise coat and black eye mask, and it was huge—longer than my forearm, with a long tail with two circles at the end that swung rhythmically from side to side like the pendulum of a clock.
The motmot flew away and I took another sip of coffee to be sure I didn’t dream it. Another bird soon landed on the platform to pick at the bananas. This one was yellow, though Colombians call it tangara roja, because males of this species are completely red. In its breeding range, birders from the Carolinas to Texas know it as the Summer Tanager.
For more than 5 million years, a rainbow of Neotropical migrant birds (tanagers, warblers, and orioles) has been embarking on epic annual migrations from breeding grounds in North America to the New World tropics. In Colombia, these wintering areas are a lot different now than they were just 50 years ago. From the 1970s to the 1990s, more than 60 percent of Colombian coffee lands were cleared of forest as new varieties of sun-grown coffee were planted. During that same period, populations for many Neotropical migrant species plummeted—a drop many scientists say is related to deforestation of the birds’ wintering areas across Central and South America.
And yet, coffee doesn’t require deforestation. Continue reading
One more gift of protection:
When a family does its homework on the property that represents its livelihood and our own appreciation for their craft, we take note just as we do when the professor teaches:
Jackson Family Wines is among California
winemakers employing both high-tech and old-school
techniques to adapt to hotter, drier conditions.
On a misty autumn morning in Sonoma County, Calif., Katie Jackson headed into the vineyards to assess the harvest. It was late in the season, and an army of field workers was rushing to pick the grapes before the first rains, however faint, began falling.
But on this day, Ms. Jackson, the vice president for sustainability and external affairs at Jackson Family Wines, was not just minding the usual haul of cabernet, chardonnay and merlot grapes. She also checked on the sophisticated network of systems she had put in place to help crops adapt to a changing climate.
When a professor does years of research and teaching on a topic related to this particular pond, and then takes the additional effort to share his observations in cogent form as an op-ed, we believe it is worth at least 5-10 minutes of reading time:
In 1845, Henry David Thoreau repaired to a cabin in the woods beside Walden Pond “to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.” During the last two years, my students and I have come to that same pond to see what we could learn from the sediments beneath it. Continue reading