Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ancient global warming  harmed nothing

The impact of global warming on shallow marine life approximately 56 million years ago is the subject of a significant, new paper by researchers at Syracuse University.

Linda Ivany, professor of Earth sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), is the lead author of an article in Science Advances (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2018). Her team's research is the first to address the effects of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM)--a relatively brief period of global climate change, spanning 200,000 years--on marine invertebrates, including snails, clams and other mollusks.

Marine invertebrates are animals without a backbone or an internal skeleton, occupying shallow seas and reefs. Invertebrates presently account for more than 98 percent of all animal life.

"The response of ecosystems [to the PETM] has been well documented for marine plankton, terrestrial plants and land vertebrates, but, until now, almost nothing has been published on marine shelf faunas," Ivany says. "This is because the stratigraphic record, showing where marine invertebrates are preserved on the continental margins, is full of gaps because of erosion. The chances of preserving a short-duration event, such as the PETM, are small.

Ivany figured that if her team could not "see" the effects of climate change in the geologic record, they could do the next best thing--look for them in sediment straddling the PETM. Turning their attention to the rich, well-preserved shell beds of the U.S. Gulf Coastal Plain, the team sought out evidence of ancient bivalves, gastropods and scaphopods.

What they found was surprising. "The long-term effects of the PETM on these shallow-water communities actually was unremarkable," says Ivany, taking into account biodiversity loss, taxonomic turnover and ecological restructuring. "Any potential selection pressure imparted by global warming must have been weak, taxon-specific, short-lived and ultimately inconsequential to overall molluscan evolutionary history."

Co-author Warren Allmon says scientists have long presumed the PETM on the Coastal Plain to be a tome of major biological change. "Our study shows the importance of testing ideas we think we're sure of. Some organisms changed a lot across the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary, but most did not," explains Allmon, who doubles as the director of the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, New York, and the Hunter R. Rawlings III Professor of Paleontology at Cornell University.


Paris Climate Agreement ‘On The Brink’ As Western Governments Refuse To Transfer $100 Billion P.A.

UN climate talks in Bangkok have foundered over the key issue of how efforts to limit climate change are funded and how contributions are reported. Activists called out the European Union, Britain and Australia for falling into line with Washington’s position.

Developing countries rounded on the United States and its allies at emergency climate talks Sunday, accusing the world’s richest nations of stalling a deal aimed at preventing runaway global warming.

Experts from around the world have been locked in discussions this week in Bangkok, aiming to reach a comprehensive rulebook for countries to implement the landmark Paris Accord on climate change.

But talks have foundered over the key issue of how efforts to limit climate change are funded and how contributions are reported.

Delegates representing some of Earth’s poorest and smallest nations said on the final day of the summit that the US and other Western economies were failing to live up to their green spending commitments.

“Developed countries are responsible for the vast majority of historic emissions, and many became remarkably wealthy burning fossil fuels,” said Amjad Abdulla, the head of a negotiating bloc of small island states.

“Yet, we face devastating climate impacts and some of us could be lost forever to rising seas” without progress on the Paris deal by the end of the year, he added.

The Paris deal, struck in 2015, aims to limit global temperature rises to less than two degrees Celsius and to below 1.5C if possible by the end of the century.

To do this, countries agreed to a set of promises, including to establish an annual $100-billion fund to help developing nations react to our heating planet.

The US and other developed economies want less oversight on how their funding is gathered and more flexibility over how future funding is structured.

But developing nations insist they need predictable and open funding in order to effectively plan their fight against the fallout from climate change.

A senior source within the African nations’ negotiating bloc told AFP the US and others were reneging on pledges made in Paris by refusing to discuss future climate funding.

“It’s as if we started from scratch” in Bangkok, the source said.

Paris deal ‘on brink’
The Bangkok talks were organised as an emergency negotiating session after little progress was made at previous rounds towards a final rulebook.

Under the timeframe set in Paris, the guidelines for nations must be finalised by the COP 24 climate summit in Poland in December.

While delegates have made some progress on areas such as new technology and carbon markets, activists said the US — with Western acquiesence — had stonewalled any momentum on the key funding issue.

Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for NGO ActionAid, said Sunday the Paris deal was “on the brink”.

“Developed countries are going back on their word and refusing to agree clear rules governing climate finance,” he told reporters.

“If they remain stuck in their positions and fail to loosen their purses, this treaty may collapse.”

The US under President Donald Trump will leave the Paris process in 2020, but multiple delegates in Bangkok told AFP that it was still actively hindering progress in talks.

One senior negotiator said the US was “poisoning” the atmosphere of trust that led to the Paris accord.

Activists also called out the European Union, Britain and Australia for falling into line with Washington’s position.


Well done! EPA lost more than 1,500 workers in first 18 months of Trump administration

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reportedly lost 8 percent of its staff in the first 18 months of President Trump's administration due to high numbers of departing staffers and a low number of new hires.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that nearly 1,600 workers left the EPA during that time, while fewer than 400 were hired. The agency's employment has shrunk to its lowest levels since the Reagan administration, the Post noted.

According to data retrieved by the Post under a Freedom of Information Act request, the EPA has lost as many as 260 scientists, 106 engineers and 185 “environmental protection specialists," numbers which include both longtime veterans of the department and less experienced employees.

The departures have raised fears of a loss of experience at the agency, the Post reported. According to the paper, a number of employees left their posts citing discontent with new policy directions under the Trump administration.

“I felt it was time to leave given the irresponsible, ongoing diminishment of agency resources, which has recklessly endangered our ability to execute our responsibilities as public servants,” one former EPA scientist, Ann Williamson, told the Post.

“I did not want to any longer be any part of this administration’s nonsense,” she added.

EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the Post in a statement that his focus is on recruitment and finding quality staffers for the department — not total staffing levels — noting that many other employees have contracts expiring within the next five years.

“With nearly half of our employees eligible to retire in the next five years, my priority is recruiting and maintaining the right staff, the right people for our mission, rather than total full-time employees,” he said.

Trump's former EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who departed the agency amid scandal earlier this year, told The Hill in January that he was proud of staff reductions at the agency, which he called part of the president's plan to shrink government.

“We’re proud to report that we’re reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment,” Pruitt said at the time.


Human factors made the Kerala floods so deadly

Most of the press chant reflexively; "Global warming".  But, like the 2011 Brisbane flood, inert dam management was a big factor

Floods in the southern Indian state of Kerala have killed more than 350 people since June. The BBC's Navin Singh Khadka explains why they were so deadly this time.

The devastating floods in Kerala peaked last week. The monsoon rains have since begun to ease and rescue teams have been deployed, but thousands of people remain marooned.

The state should have been prepared for this - just a month earlier, a government report had warned that Kerala was the worst performer among southern Indian states in the effective management of water resources.

With 42 points, it was ranked number 12. The top three states were Gujarat in the west, Madhya Pradesh in the centre and Andhra Pradesh in the south, with scores of 79, 69 and 68 respectively.

A month down the line, Kerala seems to have confirmed the report's finding.

Officials and experts have said the floods in Kerala - which has 44 rivers flowing through it - would not have been so severe if authorities had gradually released water from at least 30 dams.

"This could have been avoided if the dam operators had started releasing water in advance rather than waiting for dams to be filled up, when they have no alternative but to release water," said Himanshu Thakkar, a water expert at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

It was only when the floods peaked last week that water from more than 80 dams was released.

"It is clear that major dams in the state - like Idukki and Idamalayar - only released water when Kerala was in the throes of heavy flooding, which actually proved to add further misery to the situation," Mr Thakkar said,

He added that dam operators had had sufficient time to release water when it was relatively dry, which could have helped prevent some of the damage.

An assessment by the federal government earlier this year found that Kerala was among the 10 states most vulnerable to flooding.

The state's administration is accused of not having taken the necessary steps to lower the flooding risk.

The flooding is the worst the state has seen in 100 years
Experts say the federal government is also to blame because Kerala gets no early flood warning from the Central Water Commission (CWC), the only government agency authorised to do so.

"The unprecedented floods and dam water releases also raise the questions about flood forecasting and advance action by the CWC," Mr Thakkar said.

"We are shocked to find that the agency has absolutely no flood forecasting sites. It has only flood monitoring sites in Kerala," he added. "It's high time that the CWC includes some key dams like Idukki and Idamalayar and some key locations in its flood forecasting."


California Gas-Tax Repeal Stalls Democratic Drive To Flip House Seats

California’s Proposition 6, the popular gas-tax repeal, is fueling the GOP’s fight to wipe out the “blue wave” threatening to engulf swing-district House Republicans in the Golden State.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a House Republican super PAC, released an ad Friday linking Democrat Katie Hill, who’s running against GOP Rep. Steve Knight in the Los Angeles County district, to the state’s 2017 tax increase on gasoline.

“When you fill up, you’re paying 12 cents more a gallon because of Sacramento’s gas tax hike,” says the ad slated to run in the Los Angeles media market. “How out of touch is Katie Hill? Hill supports radical regulations that would increase gas prices by another 60 cents.”

Those regulations refer to her support for cap-and-trade. Ms. Hill has yet to take a public position on the gas-tax repeal, although she opposes fracking and off-shore drilling, and has refused to accept “oil money.”

When Democrats made plans to flip GOP-held districts in California that went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, they didn’t count on Proposition 6, which has placed a risky speed bump in the Democratic road to regain control of the House.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to spend at least $25 million to defeat Proposition 6, enlisting the help of the state’s powerful labor unions and municipal groups, but so far the repeal is ahead in the polls.

How potent is the gas-tax issue? After the CLF ran a gas-tax ad last month against progressive Democrat Katie Porter, a protégé of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, she stunned the left by coming out against fuel taxes.

A University of California Irvine law professor, Ms. Porter is challenging Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, a strong supporter of the repeal, for the Orange County seat.

“I oppose higher gas taxes, and I won’t be afraid to take on leaders of both political parties and do what’s right for Orange County taxpayers,” said Ms. Porter in an Aug. 21 ad.

Her decision to leave the gas tax in the dust “marks the most prominent defection from the Democratic ranks yet,” according to CalMatters, but not the only one.

Democrat Josh Harder, who’s challenging Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the Central Valley, has also come out in favor of Proposition 6, arguing that a federal infrastructure solution is needed.

After the first ad linking her to the gas tax aired last month, Ms. Hill accused Republicans of running a “false attack ad,” tweeting that, “Instead of focusing on making our lives better, the GOP is focusing on slander and it’s not going to work.”

The $52 billion transportation package was aimed at paying for road improvements and transit projects by raising the state excise tax on gasoline by 12 cents in the first year and the diesel tax by 20 cents, as well as vehicle registration fees.

Democrats argued that the 10-year plan is needed to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, but the backlash was swift from California drivers confronted with some of the highest gas prices in the nation.

Foes of the measure, led by former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, responded to the bill’s passage last year by organizing a recall election against Democratic state Sen. Josh Norman of Orange County, who cast what was described as the deciding vote.

Mr. Norman was recalled in June by a wide margin and replaced with Republican Ling-Ling Chang, ending the Democratic supermajority in the state Senate.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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