Archive for February, 2009

Climate Change Measures Will Not Help Polar Bears By Larissa Liepans Canwest News Service

February 27, 2009

This article is from the country in NA with the most polar bears. I read this kind of article, on Canada, all the time.
Matt

WINNIPEG — There’s nothing Canada can do on its own to fight climate change that will improve the plight of the polar bear, Environment Minister Jim Prentice told reporters Friday.

“Climate change is important, but climate change is a planetary issue, and there are no single measures that Canada acting alone can undertake, relative to climate change, that are going to change the circumstances on the ice for polar bears in the immediate future,” Prentice said at a gathering in Winnipeg of scientists and Inuit groups looking for ways to protect the dwindling population of Canadian polar bears.

Instead, Canadian measures to improve the animal’s status will focus on conservation, Prentice said.

“Climate change at this point, to a certain extent, is irreversible, he said. “That means that, on the ground today, there are conservation decisions that need to be made relative to the polar bear, and we focused on those matters today.”

However, Prentice said there is “every opportunity to work together” with the new U.S. administration to fight global warming.

“I think if you examine the principles upon which president-elect (Barack) Obama bases United States climate-change policy, they are virtually identical to the Canadian policies,” Prentice said.

Referring to “a failure on the part of science” to recognize traditional Inuit knowledge of polar bears, Prentice said both scientists and First Nations representatives speaking on Friday expressed a commitment to work closer together to come up with ways to save the iconic species.

To that end, Prentice raised the possibility of “convening a group of Inuits and scientists to examine ways we must specifically co-operate, and ways we must work together across jurisdictional boundaries to co-ordinate conservation measures.”

Because certain polar bear populations also cross into Greenland’s territory, Prentice said Canada would be speaking with that country to co-ordinate conservation efforts.

Researchers and northern residents have often been at odds over the polar bear, a species scientists say is threatened by past over-hunting, industrial activity and sea ice loss prompted by climate change.

Inuit groups maintain bear populations are healthy, and say science has long overlooked their traditional knowledge of the animals.

“The current population is stable,” said Gabriel Nirlungayuk, wildlife director at the Inuit land-claims agency Nunavut Tunngavik. “It is not constructive to exaggerate the situation.”

Canada’s estimated 15,500 polar bears are divided into 13 sub-populations, five of them believed to be in decline.

A series of U.S. government studies found the world’s polar bear population could drop by two thirds by 2050, with more modest declines predicted by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Three panel presentations took place Friday morning, but media were ushered out of the conference room before the start of a round-table discussion on the status of the polar bear.

Earlier on Friday, Jeff Hutchings, chairman of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, spoke on the role of the advisory body in deciding the status of the polar bear.

Gabriel Nirlungayuk of the Inuit land claims group Nunavut Tunngavik pleaded for a greater respect for traditional knowledge.

“We have a personal relationship with the polar bears, and we want to continue to manage these bears for our future generations,” he said.

World Wildlife Fund-Canada director of species conservation Peter Ewins said he hoped a comprehensive polar bear protection plan would come out of the meeting.

He also called for immediate attention to threats like climate change, full protection of polar bear habitat and a boost in resources for polar bear research.

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Chu on Department of Energy Plan, “Hoorah”

February 26, 2009

I say Chu is coming from the right place. It beats the hell out of another Inhoffe diatribe from the Bush years. I can only be optomistic and see a positive change even in the face of global warming. The polar bear’s plight and other losses of forms of the earth’s biodiversity will put a very sad exclamation point on this possible chapter in life also!!!!!!
Matt

SAN FRANCISCO — When it comes to climate change, apparently Al Gore isn’t the only Nobel laureate intent on shaking up the American public.

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A blog about energy, the environment and the bottom line.

Go to Blog » Enter Steven Chu, the new Energy secretary, who won the Nobel Prize as a physicist before getting into national politics. In his first interview as a Cabinet secretary earlier this month, Chu warned of a pending climate catastrophe that could see California’s farm industry vanish and its snowpack nearly eliminated.

Chu was in office for less than two weeks when he sat down with the Los Angeles Times to convey an aggressive, home-grown view of global warming (Greenwire, Feb. 4). A Californian, Chu said his home state is in serious trouble over the next century unless action is taken to halt greenhouse gas emissions.

In jeopardy, he seemed to say, is not only a massive economic engine but a way of life. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California,” Chu told the L.A. Times, adding that up to 90 percent of the vital snowpack in the Sierra Nevada could disappear by the end of the century.

His intent in making the dire projections was clear: “I’m hoping that the American people will wake up,” Chu said in the interview.

But how true are these predictions? As with most things related to climate science, that depends on whom you ask.

An uncertain model?

Chu’s assertion that 90 percent of the snowpack in the Sierra, which acts as a natural water storage system for California, could disappear is at the upper end of such estimates. By all accounts, it is a worst-case scenario that would play out only under the most extreme models.

A report by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of California, Berkeley, bears this out. The study found that a 90 percent snowpack loss is likely in a world with “high fossil fuel-intensive economic growth” through 2100. That means CO2 concentrations would have to triple relative to pre-industrial levels and increase throughout the 21st century.

In contrast, the same study said the Sierra snowpack would lose 30 to 60 percent of its historic capacity under a “lower emissions scenario” in which heat-trapping emissions peak by midcentury and then decline. This point was not lost on John Andrew, a spokesman at California’s Department of Water Resources who questioned the use of century-long models.

“That 90 percent number gets people’s attention,” he said. “But we specifically did not go out to the end of the century, because we thought things were just a little too uncertain.”

The department, which oversees much of California’s water infrastructure, has instead projected a lower 25 to 40 percent depletion by midcentury — which itself is a dire problem, Andrew said. State officials sampled dozens of studies completed over the last decade and settled on the 25 to 40 percent range.

“He’s obviously a Nobel laureate and knows a lot about energy, but I don’t know how much he’s up to date on water management,” Andrew said. “People that know water in California know that even a 25 percent reduction by midcentury would be a really big deal.”

‘Shock and awe’

Matthew Kahn, an environmental economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, admitted that Chu’s decision to cite the 90 percent projection may have been more of an attention-grabber than a precise estimate. But he doesn’t fault the Energy secretary for doing so, given his new role as chief educator on warming.

“There might be an element of shock and awe here,” he said. “But I don’t think he’s engaging in science fiction. It’s his job to give everyone a heads-up.”

In agreement with this point was Peter Gleick, a leading water resources expert and president of the Pacific Institute. Gleick said climate models have to take into account hundreds, if not thousands, of factors, and the 90 percent loss is “at the high end of those scenarios.”

“He wasn’t necessarily inaccurate,” Gleick said. “It’s a warning. What he’s really saying is, if we don’t do anything, this is the future we could face.”

But given the vagaries of such estimates, some have questioned whether Chu’s comments were responsible. More than a few skeptics, led by Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe (R), have been critical of Chu for citing the kinds of computer models that attempt to anticipate weather patterns 90 years removed.

Drought Can Be a Nightmare for Nature

February 24, 2009

This could be our future on the west coast.

Matt

By Michael Gardner

SACRAMENTO — The punishing drought that threatens to disrupt California ‘s economy could also exact a heavy toll on the environment, from the Anza-Borrego Desert to the mountains casting shadows on Lake Tahoe .

Water managers are bracing to get by with just a trickle of the normal deliveries from state and federal agencies. But while drastic cuts to farms and cities have attracted national attention, the combination of drought and delivery shortfalls may be just as painful for fish and wildlife.

Despite the recent stormy interruption in the Sierra Nevada, forage may be scarce when bears wake up from their winter slumber, salmon could literally cook in too-warm waters and waterfowl might have to crowd into shrinking wetlands. More rain is urgently needed to dampen fire-prone forests and chaparral – home to common deer and rare butterflies.

“The picture has definitely improved, but we are so far behind throughout the state that we need to have another month just like the one we’ve had in February to recover,” said Greg Mensik, deputy manager of the nearly 100,000 acres that make up the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Continued drought could also limit how, where and when Californians enjoy the environment.

Parks officials were forced to close the summer boating season early at reservoirs, such as Oroville, Folsom and Millerton, costing state coffers $1.6 million. Federal wildlife refuges are considering limits on use, from hunting to bird-watching. There may be little water for white-water rafting. And sport salmon fishing could be off-limits.

At Anza-Borrego Desert State Park , spokeswoman Gail Sevrens reported that a lack of water is suspected of killing off some cholla cacti and decimating juniper trees above Box Canyon . Over at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park , rangers closed the 81-site Green Valley campground until hazardous, drought-weakened oaks can be removed, she added.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Friday reduced allocations to its web of refuges – important migratory waterfowl stops on the Pacific Flyway – by 25 percent. As thousands of acres of wetland habitats dry up, birds must compete for space in even smaller parcels, risking an outbreak of deadly diseases.

“Now we have to make some hard decisions,” Mensik said. “How are we going to continue to maintain habitat? We simply cannot do everything we normally do and would like to do.”

Compounding the problem, Mensik said, is the possibility that rice farmers may forgo some planting, which would shrink other feeding grounds for white pelicans, egrets, heron, ducks and songbirds.

Not far away, a symbol of what ails California rises out of the Sacramento River . Shasta, the largest of the state’s reservoirs, is approaching its lowest level ever.

Federal water managers have had to limit cold water releases for salmon returning upstream – a move that makes 20 miles of the Sacramento River too warm for the fish and their eggs to survive.

Illustrating the desperation, federal and state officials are pleading with regulators to ease water quality standards in the Sacramento delta. If granted, the emergency application would save some cold water for salmon, but potentially sacrifice flows that help a rare fish, the delta smelt.

“Salmon is going to just be a nightmare,” said Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council involved in litigation to protect the state’s fisheries. “There’s just not enough water to go around.”

And if the drought persists? “If it’s dry again, we’ll be in unprecedented territory,” said Paul Fujitani, chief of water operations for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Environmental groups blame the bureau for creating a crisis by stalling tough decisions to cut allocations to farms. The bureau “delivered large amounts of water and drained the reservoirs,” said Tina Swanson, executive director of the Novato-based Bay Institute. “The severe water problems are a combined result of dry conditions and mismanagement.”

Fujitani said the bureau has contractual obligations to deliver water and cannot withhold deliveries based on speculation that it might not snow the next year. Days ago, the bureau announced it will turn off all supplies to some farms unless even more snow falls.

Perhaps ground zero of the drought is the Sacramento delta, the hub of California ‘s water supply and home to fish, wildlife and plants.

Federal officials, following up on a 2007 court order to protect the delta smelt, have imposed restrictions on how much water is pumped out of the maze of waterways, sharply limiting deliveries to many San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities for more than a year.

The pumping restrictions did not come into play earlier this year because there was very little water to move through the delta. Now that the waterways are improving, pumping limits will be triggered to protect fish.

During past droughts, the state has been able to buy extra supplies to help fish and wildlife. But little water is for sale and the state’s bank account is empty, said Jerry Johns, deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources.

Another persistent problem is invasive species, which take advantage of changes in water temperatures and flows to muscle out others. For example, the Asian clam feasts on plankton, a food source for other fish. A Brazilian water weed is creating dense underwater forests – perfect hiding places for non-native striped bass that feed on smelt.

Not all of the problems are in the waterways. Recent warm weather at Lake Tahoe interrupted hibernation, bringing hungry bears out in search of food. Officials worry that food, from skunk cabbage to manzanita berries, will be in short supply for the bears this spring. If so, there could be a spike in human-bear encounters.

“It’s going to be hard on them. There won’t be anything growing,” said Cheryl Millham, executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a local volunteer group.

There is also potential for longer-term harm. Some experts are concerned that shortages of water – and by extension, food – could overly stress female bears to a point where the numbers of offspring drop.

Fire could also be more easily touched off, claiming animals and their habitat.

Andy Yuen, project leader of the San Diego National Refuge Complex, said drought could spark another Harris fire, which burned through half of its 8,400 acres in 2007. The region attracts the California gnatcatcher, least Bell ‘s Vireo and arroyo toad, among dozens of important species.

Several blazes have broken out unusually early along the state’s north coast, according to Del Walters , Cal Fire director. In addition to tinder-dry trees, prolonged drought conditions will cause fires to burn longer and hotter, he said.

Global Warming Danger is Ingreasing by Randolph Schind

February 24, 2009

The Scientific consensus is that we will have global warming sooner than later. As bloviator and chief Gore asks “How hard do we want to fall”? I can only hope Gore is asking the right question..”How hard?”

Matt

WASHINGTON – The Earth won’t have to warm up as much as had been thought to cause serious consequences of global warming, including more extreme weather and increasing threats to plants and animals, says an international team of climate experts.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that the risk of increased severe weather would rise with a global average temperature increase of between 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit and 3.6 degrees above 1990 levels. The National Climatic Data Center currently reports that global temperatures have risen 0.22 degree since 1990.

Now, researchers report that “increases in drought, heat waves and floods are projected in many regions and would have adverse impacts, including increased water stress, wildfire frequency and flood risks starting at less than (1.8 degrees) of additional warming above 1990 levels.”

Indeed, “it is now more likely than not that human activity has contributed to observed increases in heat waves, intense precipitation events, and the intensity of tropical cyclones,” concluded the researchers led by Joel B. Smith of Stratus Consulting Inc., in Boulder, Colo.

Other researchers, they noted, have suggested that “the likelihood of the 2003 heat wave in Europe, which led to the death of tens of thousands of people, was substantially increased by increased greenhouse gas concentrations.”

The new report, in this week’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, comes just a week after Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that humans are now adding carbon to the atmosphere even faster than in the 1990s.

Carbon dioxide and other gases added to the air by industrial and other activities have been blamed for rising temperatures, increasing worries about possible major changes in weather and climate. Carbon emissions have been growing at 3.5 percent per year since 2000, up sharply from the 0.9 percent per year in the 1990s, Field said.

The new study found evidence of greater vulnerability to climate change for specific populations, such as the poor and elderly, in not only developing but also developed countries.

“For example, events such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2003 European heat wave have shown that the capacity to adapt to climate-related extreme events is lower than expected and, as a result, their consequences and associated vulnerabilities are higher than previously thought,” the scientists report.

Co-authors of the report include Stephen H. Schnieder of Stanford University, Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University and researchers in India, Germany, Canada, Zimbabwe, Australia, Bangladesh, Cuba and Belgium.

NASA Will Launch A Carbon Dioxide Satellite

February 24, 2009

This is what I was initially looked for when I did run across two articles that I see as important.

NASA will launch a carbon dioxide monitoring satellite Tuesday morning in the hopes of better understanding the key greenhouse gas that is fueling global warming, reports the New York Times. The satellite, called the “Orbiting Carbon Observatory,” will monitor the comings and goings of carbon dioxide, allowing scientists to better understand “carbon sinks,” regions such as oceans or forests which store carbon-containing chemical compounds for indefinite periods of time (Wikipedia).

It is estimated that 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels enter the air each year. Scientists say that roughly half of this quantity remains in the air, while the other half disappears. This also varies from year to year. In some years, all of the excess amounts of carbon dioxide disappear, while in other years, it stays in the air. With the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, scientists hope to better understand where the roughly 15 billion tons disappear to.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory will measure carbon dioxide levels by using an instrument with three spectrometers to analyze light reflected off of Earth, reports the New York Times. Carbon dioxide levels will be measured by analyzing the light spectrum. Carbon dioxide absorbs wavelengths close to infrared, therefore, by measuring how dim these parts of the spectrum are, scientists can determine how many molecules of carbon dioxide the light has passed through. Instruments will simultaneously measure for oxygen, and by combining these measurements, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air will be determined.

“It’s a brand new kind of science measurement,” explained David Crisp, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Crisp is the principal investigator of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory mission (MSNBC).

Science operations will begin in October or November, after scientists spend months evaluating the initial data from the satellite, making sure it is all properly calibrated. Data from the satellite will be compared with measurements taken from ground stations, tall towers, and airborne instruments to verify its accuracy (MSNBC). Shifting winds, and the quick speed which carbon dioxide molecules mix with other gases will present challenges.

“Something out there is changing dramatically,” states David Crisp. Through the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, Crisp and his team hope to get the world on track with climate control.

Clinton and Gore on the Much Needed Smart Energy Grid by Eric Lovely

February 24, 2009

What a day for Global Warming News.

Matt

Bill Clinton and Al Gore told a roomful of climate change heavyweights Monday that the nation must push on with a national clean energy Smart Grid — or risk losing the battle on climate change.

Attending an energy summit at Washington’s Newseum, the former president and vice president praised the new Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders for their work on the economic recovery package, saying it would allow the nation to move forward on dealing with climate change by utilizing more renewable energy.

But the two leaders of the last Democratic administration also noted a growing urgency to build the infrastructure that will transport the renewable energy. If construction of more electric transmission lines isn’t jump-started soon, Clinton warned that economic stimulus money for solar, wind and other renewable energy sources would not be fully maximized and the nation’s efforts on global warming would stall.

“We have to maximize the impact of this economic recovery plan,” Clinton said. “I hate to like be a Johnny one note, but the sexiest things to talk about are what we’re going to do with clean energy.”

Gore, now a Nobel Prize-winning climate change advocate, also warned the United States must come to the international climate talks in Copenhagen in December with solid evidence that the nation is moving forward on climate issues. China and other developing countries have indicated that they won’t move forward on climate change unless the United States takes the lead.

“It is an objective fact that the United States is the only nation that can lead the world when a crisis like this looms,” Gore said. “We’ve got to reduce global warming pollution, and we’ve got to wean ourselves from our dangerous overdependence on foreign oil.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged maximum use of the stimulus package’s $11 billion for national electrical grid advancement, which will set the stage for comprehensive climate legislation later this year .

“This gird issue is central to all that we do, and we are very eager to hear the outcome,” Pelosi said. “The world is crying out for America to take the lead. People are doing their part, but we must lead the way.”

President Barack Obama has said he aims to eliminate the nation’s need for oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within the next 10 years. The United States currently imports 70 percent of its oil, spending $475 billion in 2008 alone, according to the Center for American Progress.

While the business community, lawmakers and environmentalists have reached consensus that renewable energy development must be a large part of the solution, there’s still much debate over how to resolve cost and jurisdiction issues.

Participants urged lawmakers to examine training a reliable green work force, transporting renewable power from remote locations and allocating costs broadly to consumers. These will all help move the nation to quickly reduce greenhouse gas levels and speed the construction of projects.

The National Clean Energy Project meeting, organized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the Center for American Progress, was a follow-up to a similar meeting that Reid held in Las Vegas last summer.

Congress is expected to tackle the nation’s looming energy crisis on two fronts.

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is expected to address the electric grid and energy funding issues in an upcoming energy bill, set for release as early as this week. The legislation will most likely require utilities to generate electricity using a steadily increasing amount of renewable sources.

“We have to be sure we do it in a way that helps us use the grid in the smartest possible way,” Bingaman said. “There is strong concession to move ahead aggressively, and I hope we’re able to do that.”

Reid said he expects the energy legislation to move forward quickly, with the Senate tackling comprehensive climate change in separate legislation later this summer.

“We do not want global warming legislation to be a Democratic bill. We want it to be a bipartisan bill,” Reid. Still, he would not say which Republicans might support the bill.

In the House, Pelosi has challenged the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) to move a measure out of his committee by Memorial Day.

And the Obama administration has already begun making headway.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to help lead the development of new transmission corridors out West, where his department oversees much federal land.

“It doesn’t do much good to create a bunch of energy in the deserts of New Mexico if we can’t figure out a way to get that energy transmitted,” he said. “We can do a lot more than what we’ve been doing.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he’s investigating ways to streamline the funding process through his department, which was heavily criticized during the Bush administration for not getting research money moving to new energy sources.

“We need to move with a sense of urgency.” Chu said. “All the news on climate change for the last half-dozen years has been essentially bad news.”

The Moral Case Against Tar Sands by Ben Jervey of NRDC

February 24, 2009

Jervey is so right here!

Everyone (well everyone who cares about climate change) wanted to hear what President Obama would say about Alberta’s tar sands when he hopped border to Canada. Everyone was disappointed. In his meeting with Prime Minister Harper they glossed over the issue, offering only the promise of a “clean energy dialogue.”

There’s no question that tar sands extraction is a climate catastrophe. The tars sands mining procedure releases at least three times as many greenhouse gas emissions as oil production, and the industry will be emitting 100 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2012. Some would say it’s “the biggest global warming crime ever seen.”

Lost in all the climate talk, though, is the fact that on the local level, tar sands extraction and processing is one of the greatest social and ecological injustices of our time. Few realize how ugly things have gotten in northen Alberta. Andrew Nikiforuk, writing for OnEarth last year, explained tar sands development like this:

Described by the United Nations Environment Program as one of the world’s top “environmental hot spots,” the project will eventually transform a boreal forest the size of Florida into an industrial sacrifice zone complete with lakes full of toxic waste and man-made volcanoes spewing out clouds of greenhouse gases.
The impact on local communities, mostly First Nation tribes like the Cree, is nothing short of appalling. Visiting a Cree village and speaking to one of its Elders, Nikiforuk writes, “MacDonald doesn’t have much faith that industry or government will reclaim the toxic ponds that surround his home. About 90 percent of the water withdrawn from the Athabasca River for mining ends up behind massive tailings dams or dikes…All these ponds contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), naphthenic acids, heavy metals, salts, and bitumen.” The tailings are leaking into the Athabasca too, poisoning the indigenous fish that locals have long relied on for food.

In some heartbreaking interviews with tar sands activist MacDonald Stainsby, local residents reveal that cancer rates in their communities are up, wildlife is disappearing, and river levels are dropping constantly.

So disturbed by ruin of the region, Alberta’s Catholic bishop has written a lengthy letter arguing that the tar sands development “cannot be morally justified.”

The local impact is under-covered, and more people should be able see for themselves how grave this social and ecological injust is. Read Nikiforuk’s piece, or check out the absolutely astonishing 15-part VBS series “Toxic Alberta,” which covers the tar sands from every angle. (Somehow, in this wild media world, Vice is producing better in-depth — and engaging — environmental journalism than nearly anyone else.)

The climate argument against tar sands development should be enough. But if more people understood the conditions on the ground — and in the towns — in Northern Alberta, the outcry against this dirtiest of fossil fuels would be a lot harder to ignore.

Poachers Put Balkan Linx on the Edge of Extinction

February 22, 2009

This is about the essence of this blog and the dying out of this lynx shows that human’s might kill off all of its “competition”  before global warming does.
Matt

Jasmina Mironski – Sun Feb 22, 1:17 am ET AFP/File – A Balkan lynx. Poaching is one of the biggest threats to the survival of this Balkan subspecies of the …
Slideshow:Balkan Lynx GALICICA MOUNTAIN, Macedonia (AFP) – The camera sits hidden in a field ready to track every move of the Balkan lynx, a wild cat both revered as an icon and reviled as a pest that has teetered on extinction for nearly a century.

“The lynx has no natural enemy except man,” said Georgi Ivanov, an ecologist working on a project to monitor lynx numbers in western Macedonia’s Galicica National Park, where 30 such cameras have been set up.

Poaching is one of the biggest threats to the survival of this Balkan subspecies of the European lynx, the largest wild cat found on the continent.

Though its overall numbers are uncertain, they seem to hover dangerously around the 100 scientists say are needed for their population to remain stable.

In Albania and Macedonia, foreign experts put their number at less than 80 though local counterparts say there are fewer than 40. The estimates in neighbouring Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia are even worse.

Lynx are killed by villagers in the impoverished region mainly for their prized fur, a spotted golden-brown. But dwindling forests and a lack of prey are also factors in their decline, experts say.

“The main cause of the extinction threat is illegal hunting, as well as environmental destruction and, above all, uncontrolled forest cutting,” said biologist Dime Melovski of the Macedonian Ecological Society.

The monitoring scheme is also underway in Mavrovo National Park, also in western Macedonia, and in Albania in cooperation with the Swiss-based research group KORA, Germany’s Euronatur and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA).

Adeptly maneuvering his jeep along Mount Galicica’s winding roads, Zoran Celakovski said members of the Ohrid Hunting Society, which he heads, are also doing their part to protect the Balkan lynx.

“We have information that there are some lynx here so we help the ecologists in their work, patrols and file-keeping,” he said.

In addition to determining the cats’ status, via camera date, research and interviews, the project aims to establish protected areas for the animal and help local authorities develop a conservation strategy. It is due to wind up at the end of 2009, Melovski said.

Long seen as an unofficial national symbol in Macedonia, the Balkan lynx — whose scientific denomination is “lynx lynx martinoi” — features on both a postal stamp and a coin. With a short tail, long legs, and thick neck, its defining characteristic may be the striking tufts of hair on both ears. They grow to an average one metre (three feet) in length and 65 centimetres (two feet) in height and can weigh up to 25 kilograms (55 pounds).

The wild cat prey mainly on roe deer, the mountain goat-like chamois and hares, but never attack its greatest threat — human beings.

Although hunting lynx is punishable by prison terms of up to eight years, poachers continue to pursue the animal with impunity, knowing that no one has ever been prosecuted for doing so.

Lynx-advocates like Macedonian ecologist Aleksandar Stojanov have been pushing to have areas where the cat roams proclaimed as national parks, to “reduce threats and increase the number of protected mountainous areas”.

Raising awareness among villagers is also needed, he said. Local lore holds that lynx are “pests that kill livestock and that is why they do not like it.”

“But our data has shown that in only four cases has the animal actually caused any damage, and it was minimal,” said Stojanov.

Experiments in other parts of Europe have been encouraging. Conservationists reintroduced wild lynx to Switzerland after its eradication there at the end of the 19th century, raising the population to 140 in the last two decades.

Similar action has seen the lynx population recover in the Baltics, in the Carpathian mountains that run from Slovakia to Romania, and in Scandinavia.

Some experts involved in the Balkans project, like John Linnell of NINA, warn this success might be difficult to repeat here because “poaching is obviously a factor that is limiting their ability to recover.”

Another, Manuela von Arx of KORA, stressed that improving law enforcement and stepping up efforts to educate locals about the animal was the key to the Balkan lynx’ survival.

“Legal protection is meaningless if violations are not persecuted,” she said in a statement.

“In the long run co-existence between large carnivores and people can only be achieved and secured if the local people and land users are willing to tolerate animals such as the Balkan lynx in their vicinity.”

Methane Gas, Eghads

February 22, 2009

Matthew McDermott of Science and Technology magazine reports on a disturbing trend that all global warming bloviators, like me, should be aware of…which is that more permafrost is melting as a result of global warming in the arctic and this is releasing methane gas into the air at alarming rates. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

This melting permafrost creates “drunken spruce forests” so the denning grounds for female polar bears in southern polar bear populations like those in Churchill, Manitoba or James Bay, Manitoba will be unstable and unusable to female polar bears…further problems for the already beleaguered polar bear.

This may be caused by human energy policies, or as skeptics like to think, it is not a result of our inefficiencies (human), but it is happening and McDermott did not write about polar bears I did because this element of global warming is easier for me to wrap my bloviating brain around then the release of methane gas, which McDermott did write about.

Mc Dermott shows this methane thaw to be further inland and happening quicker than we thought before.

Mc Dermott showed how the “drunken forests,” melting permafrost and melting of the arctic ice are “interwoven.”

McDermott wrote that as many of his readers were already aware arctic ice melted melted at a rate that left it at 30% below the average in 2007.

No matter if we are to blame this is definitely happening at a quicker pace than before and he potential is there for much more to happen if the perma-frost melts soon after the arctic does.

Another nail for polar bears, another thing for us as a species to be aware of. Is there an overwhelm index?
Matt

More On Climate Change

February 21, 2009

I am not as good of a “bloviator” as Gore because I was never the VP of the US nor was I an actor for that matter (the Baldwins of the world). It is hard to make this stuff up(see article about the thinking of an esteemed British Economic bloviator.) 

I will take “bloviator” Gore over “snake in the grass,” shotgun shooting in the face of best friend Cheney the arch neo-conservative, any day.

I cannot remember when I thought a word was as good as bloviator. I think I overused Gravitas, also for the same reasons, when I heard it about three years ago. Please read the below fellow bloviators.
Matt

PE TOWN, South Africa – If we don’t deal with climate change decisively, “what we’re talking about then is extended world war,” the eminent economist said.

His audience Saturday, small and elite, had been stranded here by bad weather and were talking climate. They couldn’t do much about the one, but the other was squarely in their hands. And so, Lord Nicholas Stern was telling them, was the potential for mass migrations setting off mass conflict.

“Somehow we have to explain to people just how worrying that is,” the British economic thinker said.

Stern, author of a major British government report detailing the cost of climate change, was one of a select group of two dozen — environment ministers, climate negotiators and experts from 16 nations — scheduled to fly to Antarctica to learn firsthand how global warming might melt its ice into the sea, raising ocean levels worldwide.

Their midnight flight was scrubbed on Friday and Saturday because of high winds on the southernmost continent, 3,000 miles from here. While waiting at their Cape Town hotel for the gusts to ease down south, chief sponsor Erik Solheim, Norway’s environment minister, improvised with group exchanges over coffee and wine about the future of the planet.

“International diplomacy is all about personal relations,” Solheim said. “The more people know each other, the less likely there will be misunderstandings.”

Understandings will be vital in this “year of climate,” as the world’s nations and their negotiators count down toward a U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen in December, target date for concluding a grand new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol — the 1997 agreement, expiring in 2012, to reduce carbon dioxide and other global-warming emissions by industrial nations.

Solheim drew together key players for the planned brief visit to Norway’s Troll Research Station in East Antarctica.

Trying on polar outfits for size on Friday were China’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua, veteran U.S. climate envoy Dan Reifsnyder, and environment ministers Hilary Benn of Britain and Carlos Minc Baumfeld of Brazil.

Later, at dinner, the heavyweights heard from smaller or poorer nations about the trials they face as warming disrupts climate, turns some regions drier, threatens food production in poor African nations.

Jose Endundo, environment minister of Congo, said he recently visited huge Lake Victoria in nearby Uganda, at 80,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles) a vital source for the Nile River, and learned the lake level had dropped 3 meters (10 feet) in the past six years — a loss blamed in part on warmer temperatures and diminishing rains.

In the face of such threats, “the rich countries have to give us a helping hand,” the African minister said.

But it was Stern, former chief World Bank economist, who on Saturday laid out a case to his stranded companions in sobering PowerPoint detail.

If the world’s nations act responsibly, Stern said, they will achieve “zero-carbon” electricity production and zero-carbon road transport by 2050 — by replacing coal power plants with wind, solar or other energy sources that emit no carbon dioxide, and fossil fuel-burning vehicles with cars running on electric or other “clean” energy.

Then warming could be contained to a 2-degree-Celsius (3.4-degree-Fahrenheit) rise this century, he said.

But if negotiators falter, if emissions reductions are not made soon and deep, the severe climate shifts and sea-level rises projected by scientists would be “disastrous.”

It would “transform where people can live,” Stern said. “People would move on a massive scale. Hundreds of millions, probably billions of people would have to move if you talk about 4-, 5-, 6-degree increases” — 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. And that would mean extended global conflict, “because there’s no way the world can handle that kind of population move in the time period in which it would take place.”

Melting ice, rising seas, dwindling lakes and war — the stranded ministers had a lot to consider. But many worried, too, that the current global economic crisis will keep governments from transforming carbon-dependent economies just now. For them, Stern offered a vision of working today on energy-efficient economies that would be more “sustainable” in the future.

“The unemployed builders of Europe should be insulating all the houses of Europe,” he said.

After he spoke, Norwegian organizers announced that the forecast looked good for Stern and the rest to fly south on Sunday to further ponder the future while meeting with scientists in the forbidding vastness of Antarctica.