Archive for February, 2011

Poll: Westerners Weary Of Climate Change, AP By CATHERINE TSAI

February 28, 2011

Keep not believing this and follow the Coburn’s of the world over a cliff…I only hope someone in power believes that global warming is true…
Matt
Updated Feb 23, 2011 02:35PM
A survey of voters in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and New Mexico shows that a substantial portion aren’t convinced that action needs to be taken on global warming.

But the survey shows they nevertheless tend to support federal regulations requiring reductions in carbon emissions from such sources as power plants, cars and factories to reduce climate change.

The results were released Wednesday by Colorado College’s State of the Rockies project, which offers research on issues facing the Rocky Mountain West. Survey funding was from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which says its programs include ones that aim to limit the risk of climate change and reduce poverty.

The survey said 61 percent of voters in Wyoming and Utah agreed either that concerns about global warming have been greatly exaggerated or that more research is needed on global warming before action is taken. Close to half of voters felt that way in Colorado, Montana and New Mexico.

However, about 70 percent of Colorado voters supported the EPA requiring reductions in carbon emissions from power plants, cars and factories, as did roughly two-thirds of Montana, New Mexico and Utah voters. About 56 percent in Wyoming said they supported it.

At least half of voters polled in each state said increasing the use of renewable energy sources would create new jobs in the state, rather than have no effect or cost jobs.

State of the Rockies project director Walt Hecox said he was “amazed” at the strong support for the idea that the economy and environment do not have to be in conflict.

“What I see is a fairly significant endorsement that we can build a clean energy economy, even when extractive industries have a significant presence in a state,” said former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, now director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

Still, there have been conflicts with environmental initiatives. In Colorado, the coal industry and coal miners strongly opposed a 2010 law that required two utilities to look at shutting down or replacing some coal-fired power plants. Supporters said the law would help Colorado meet federal clean air standards.

Lori Weigel of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies and David Metz of the Democratic polling firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates conducted the telephone survey of 600 registered voters in Colorado and 400 each in Wyoming, Montana, Utah and New Mexico Jan. 23-27.

The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points in Colorado and plus or minus 4.9 percentage points for the other states.

Advertisements

Loss Of Focus

February 26, 2011

Today is my younger daughters birthday and tommorow we have a party planned for her. I will be back blogging on Monday…as of now I have lost focus.
Matt

Arctic Fever By Bruce Barcott in onearth magazine, NRDC

February 25, 2011

What is happening in the arctic. Lets look at Kotzebu, Alaska.
Matt
In the far north of Alaska, the fragile food web that supports polar bears and humans alike may be starting to unravel.
On a Saturday morning in late November in Kotzebue, Alaska, a village 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle, two Inupiat men nursed cups of coffee at the Bayside Inn. They stared out a window at Kotzebue Sound, an arm of the Chukchi Sea at the southern edge of the Arctic Ocean. Outside it was 35 degrees and raining. “Too warm,” said one of the men.

His companion let a long silence pass. Then he nodded. “Too much rain,” he said. Indeed. In Kotzebue, November temperatures normally hover in the single digits. But these aren’t normal times. This is the time of “the changes” — a term used by Caleb Pungowiyi, former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and one of Kotzebue’s most respected elders, when talking about the effects of climate change in the Alaskan Arctic. “Some events like this happen occasionally,” Pungowiyi told me as we sat looking out at the rain. “But for something to happen that’s this warm, in November, for a number of days — these kinds of temperatures are not normal. We should be down in the teens and minus temperatures this time of year.”

A few days of rainy weather isn’t climate, but it is a powerful data point. You get enough warm, rainy days like this, and pretty soon they add up. This is how climate change happens in the far northhe thawing of the far north is one of the signal ecological events of our time. Global temperatures rose an average of 1.18 degrees Fahrenheit from 1905 to 2005, but that increase wasn’t evenly distributed. The Arctic took the brunt of it, warming nearly twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Since 1980, winter sea ice in the Arctic has lost almost half its thickness. In Kotzebue, the mean winter temperature has climbed more than 6 degrees in the past 50 years. Permafrost is thawing in patches all over the Arctic. “What we’re doing with climate change,” says Brendan Kelly, a former University of Alaska biologist who is now deputy director of the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Sciences Division, “is carrying out a long-term scientific experiment at continental scale.”

To get a sense of how that experiment is unfolding, it’s helpful to take a look at one of the most fundamental acts of life: eating, the passage of energy from one living organism to another. Predators and prey form a food chain, plant to insect to rodent to carnivore to apex predator. Those chains interlock to form webs. “To protect Nature,” the conservation biologist Stuart Pimm wrote in his seminal book Food Webs, “we must have some understanding of her complexities, for which the food web is the basic description.”

Basic is an apt word. Many Arctic organisms are extremophiles — specialists adapted to thrive at temperatures so low they would kill most other species. It’s a club with few members. Species diversity is low, so Arctic food webs are simple. And in the age of climate change, simple is not a good thing to be.

Interactive: The Fraying Arctic Food Web
“The more complicated and interconnected the food web, the less damage you can expect if one or two species are lost,” explains Deborah Bronk, a biological oceanographer and specialist in nutrient cycling at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary. “In these very simple food chains, if you lose one species you can really mess up the whole thing.” Complexity yields resilience.

Without resilience, there’s risk of a crash. Scientists who study trophic cascades, in which the loss of a single species sets off a reaction throughout the food web, report that this sort of crash generally happens in low-diversity ecosystems, where one or a few species exert great influence.

That describes the Arctic marine and coastal food web.

During the past few years a number of disturbing reports from the Arctic have appeared in scientific journals. Increasingly acidic seawater may be affecting the ability of crustaceans to form their shells. Warmer-water fish are invading waters traditionally inhabited by cold-water fish. More seal pupping dens are collapsing because of earlier springs and diminished snow cover. Starving polar bears have been seen scavenging berries, grass, moss, and goose eggs. As ice disappears, walrus colonies are increasingly hauling out on land, where polar bears — also on land because of the lack of ice — have been observed attacking them. Humans, a big part of the Arctic food web, are experiencing impacts as well. Their hunting seasons are changing, their travel routes becoming more dangerous and unpredictable. The resilience of the Arctic food web is now being tested. To paraphrase Brendan Kelly: In an ecosystem perfectly adapted to sea ice, snowfall, and permafrost, what happens when those elements begin to disappear?

Kotzebue seemed like a good place to find out. Its 3,200 residents — almost three-quarters of them Inupiat — aren’t mere observers. As Caleb Pungowiyi told me, people in Kotzebue are acutely aware that ice and snow are to the Arctic what soil and rain are to the temperate latitudes.

“We depend on ice freezing up in the fall and the snow accumulating on top of it in fall and early winter” for everything to work, he said. “But now we’re seeing a lot less of both.”

It all depends on ice
Standing in the rain on Kotzebue’s Front Street, a gravel boulevard that curves along the shore, Pungowiyi surveyed Kotzebue Sound. The frozen expanse usually buzzed with snowmobiles. On that day it was silent. “Ice should be a lot thicker,” he said. “Most folks would be out ice fishing for cod and smelt here on the bay.”

What worried Pungowiyi, though, was the action within the ice itself.

NRDC: Managing the Arctic
Lisa Speer

Q&A with Lisa Speer, Director of NRDC’s international oceans program and an expert on the conservation and management of marine biodiversity.

Bruce Barcott talks about the impact of melting sea ice on the Arctic food web. (See “Arctic Fever.”) But there are also major implications for human activity in the Arctic.

The disappearance of the ice is opening up the Arctic to expanded fishing, offshore oil and gas development, and shipping, which bring with them the risk of accidents, spills, invasive species, pollution, underwater noise, and impacts related to the construction and operation of pipelines, tanker terminals, and processing facilities. The problem is that the existing fabric of international governance of the Arctic was developed at a time when the cold and ice severely limited human activity. The surge of new activity has exposed the weakness of the current regime and the need for much more robust international arrangements.

Read the rest here.

Arctic sea ice is a living platform. “When the ice forms, it sustains many things in its own food web,” he explained. “It harbors nutrients and microscopic things. There’s food in there for tiny organisms and little animals. Krill graze on the ice. The ice becomes a critical part of the productivity of the Arctic Ocean.”

What makes that possible are brine channels, networks of needle-thin cracks and tubes that allow hundreds of species of bacteria, fungi, and other single- and multicelled organisms to thrive within the ice. Even during the full darkness of the Arctic winter, bacteria survive by feeding on specks of waste from algae and other organic material trapped in the ice. Sea ice nurtures such a varied menagerie that astrobiologists study it to see how extraterrestrial life might survive in extreme environments.

The real action happens in spring, when the reemergence of daylight triggers a bloom of ice algae, which begins as a thin web and can grow into 10-foot-long strands that sway like curtains from the underside of the ice. If ice is the soil of the polar sea, ice algae are its most important plant — the organic machine that converts the sun’s energy into food.

The ice algae fuel explosive growth among tiny zooplankton, which feed on them. Larger zooplankton like amphipods, pteropods, copepods, and krill all feed on the algae and the smaller zooplankton. At this lower level of the food web, the shrinking summer ice pack is beginning to change things, but not in the way you might expect. Winter sea ice still forms, but ever later in the season, and come spring the algae strands still grow. What’s changing is the chemistry of the sea itself. In particular, ocean acidification is making it more difficult for shelled plankton to form their shells.

Scientists have long believed that sea ice acts like a giant pool cover, limiting the Arctic Ocean’s uptake of atmospheric CO2. Although some researchers question that assumption, it’s true that as summer ice cover has retreated, Arctic waters have become more acidic. And the process is going to accelerate, because cold water takes up CO2 more readily than warmer water. That’s bad news for creatures like shelled pteropods, an abundant and critical food source in the Arctic, because as the ocean acidifies, it becomes more difficult for them to grow their shells.

On the pH scale of 0 to 14, neutral is 7 — pure freshwater. Zero is like battery acid. Most seawater is somewhere around 8, slightly alkaline. Pteropods, pea-size mollusks known as “sea butterflies,” grow their shells by absorbing aragonite. But as seawater acidifies, it becomes undersaturated in calcite and aragonite, forms of calcium carbonate vital to shell formation.

Several years ago, Victoria Fabry, an oceanographer at California State University at San Marcos, noticed that if you drop pteropods in extremely acidified seawater, their shells would begin to dissolve. In 2008, Steeve Comeau, a researcher with France’s Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, scooped up some Arctic Ocean pteropods off the coast of Svalbard, Norway. He maintained a control group at the natural water pH of 8.09 and kept a second group in seawater lowered to 7.78, a level of acidity that climate models predict will occur in parts of the Arctic Ocean by 2029. Over six hours, both groups continued to grow their shells — but the pteropods in the more acidic water grew 28 percent more slowly.

Worlds Coral Reefs Could Be Gone By 2050: Study, In AFP

February 25, 2011

Wow!!!!Talk about sad possibilities.
Matt
“If left unchecked, more than 90 percent of reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050,” says the “Reefs at Risk Revisited” report, which was compiled by dozens of research, conservation and educational groups led by the World Resources Institute think-tank.

“Local pressures” on reefs, including overfishing, coastal development and pollution, pose the most immediate and direct threats to the world’s reefs, threatening more than 60 percent of the colorful sea “forests” in the short term, the report says.

The impacts of climate change — a “global threat” to reefs — is compounding the local pressures.

“Warming seas have already caused widespread damage to reefs, with high temperatures driving a stress response called coral bleaching, where corals lose their colorful symbiotic algae, exposing their white skeletons,” the report says.

“In addition, increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are slowly causing the world’s oceans to become more acidic. Ocean acidification reduces coral growth rates and, if unchecked, could reduce their ability to maintain their physical structure.”

Losing the coral reefs would deprive millions of coastal dwellers of a key source of food and income, and would deprive shorelines of protection from storms, the report says.

There would be fewer nurseries for commercial fish species, and less sand on tourist beaches if coral reefs are destroyed.

“We need to improve, quickly and comprehensively, on existing efforts to protect reefs,” says the report, which is aimed at galvanizing the world into action “to save these critical ecosystems.”

Break and Back

February 23, 2011

I am on my way to South Carolina where it is warm compared to my home in Bozeman, Montana…back at this blog the day after tommorow.
Matt

Shell Retreats On Arctic Drilling

February 22, 2011

Some good news.
Matt

Dear Matthew,

VICTORY OVER SHELL!

Great news: Royal Dutch Shell has announced it is postponing its plan to drill off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this summer.

This is a huge victory for Alaska’s embattled polar bears and other Arctic wildlife that are vulnerable to devastating losses if a blowout were to occur in the frigid Beaufort Sea.

It is a victory that you made possible through your donations, your online activism and your absolute commitment to stopping Shell in its tracks.

As you know, NRDC has waged a long, hard-fought legal battle to slow or stop Shell’s race to drill — especially in the wake of last summer’s oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

On one legal front, we joined with Earthjustice in challenging clean air permits that the Obama Administration issued to Shell last year. Those permits would have allowed Shell’s fleet of ships to emit tons of pollutants into the Arctic environment, harming both Native communities and wildlife.

Last month, a federal appeals board ordered the Administration to withdraw the clean air permits and start the process all over again.

Now, just weeks later, Shell has thrown in the towel on drilling this summer!

You and I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the oil giant will not be launching its drill ship and icebreakers come June … that there will be no oil spill in the sensitive, wildlife-filled waters of the Beaufort … and that mother polar bears will come ashore in the Arctic Refuge this fall to give birth just as they’ve done for thousands of years — undisturbed by drilling rigs, toxic pollution and a flood of deadly oil.

We would hope that the Obama Administration will take this opportunity to rethink its rush to allow drilling in fragile Arctic environments.

But if it does not, you can be sure that Shell will be back next year, leveraging its vast resources in yet another attempt to drill off the coast of the Arctic Refuge.

And NRDC will be ready. Unlike Shell, we can’t afford to lose even once. That’s what makes your long-term support so absolutely critical — and so decisive.

Thanks to your support, we have helped derail Shell’s plans three different times since 2008. I expect no less next year.

On behalf of everyone here at NRDC, I want to thank you again for helping to make this great victory possible.

Sincerely,

Peter Lehner
Executive Director
NRDC

Sometimes You Gotta Vent…You Might Vent Then Stick Around…I Did

February 21, 2011

Please take rallies like the one below this post seriously and use the rally as an opportunity to vent to your politicals…I did not waste the opportunity to tell my politicals why I moved to Montana in 1972 to have a clean and healthy environment…and I stayed and basically had one…and I got scars along the way.
Matt

Important Rally…Be There!!!!!!!!!!

February 20, 2011

We love Montana –our home! Our Constitution guarantees all Montanans the right to a healthy and clean environment in which to raise our families–clean air, clean water, land — This cherished, priceless right is under attack in legislature today. Lets dress warm and send a message that we love and will defend our rights to a healthy clean state ; our home-the last best place. Dont miss it!
For the Love of Montana Rally
Location: North lawn of the Capitol in Helena
Time: 11:00AM Monday, February 21st..

The Montana Governor and Wolves

February 19, 2011

I feel myself heating up as I think…so count this as another bone to pick post and I actually like the Montana Governor on most things, but not on the topic of wolves.

I see the Governor of this state taking the law into his hands and wanting to use the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as his toy.

You know over the years, and they now seem to pile up, I have seen enough in politics to frusterate me to know end and even though I am not a Governor of a state I stay within the law and I especially want my states politicians to stay within the law and it pisses me off to know end that our Govenor is playing fast and loose with the law and is trying to use this states lead wildlife agency, like a political chess piece on a board, and kill wolves until enough ranchers are happy and enough hunters are happy also…Now I am degreed in wildlife from Montana institutions so I know wolves look cool but they are efficient elk killers…well I have sat back and watched wolves kill elk.

Bucking the Endangered Species Act and taking the law into your hands, the way our governor wants to, is no way to solve what is a very real conumdrum…just shooting wolves wil not make the wolf topic go away in Montana. So lets sit down with the Feds and see if this can be resolved as a problem. I will bet the Feds and this state come up with a plan and the plan is apolitical and the Montana Gov and Secretary of Interior Salazar are relegated by lead wildlife agencies to sit on the sidelines. Thats probably good!!!!!
Matt

February 18, 2011

My computeris temporarily down. Back on line tommorow I hope.
Matt