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May 26, 2017, 10:31 PM
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 on: May 24, 2017, 05:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
How did whales become so large? Scientists dive into marine mystery

Changes in food distribution and not falling ocean temperatures could hold key to shift towards giant lengths

Nicola Davis
Wednesday 24 May 2017 06.30 BST

The blue whale has a body the length of a jet airliner, a heart the size of a car, and a tongue the same weight as an elephant.

Now researchers say they might have solved the mystery of why baleen whales – a group that includes these blue beasts, the largest animals on the planet – became so large.

Scientists say the shift towards sizes of more than 10 metres in length probably cropped up in baleen whales just 2m-3m years ago, and was driven by changes in the distribution of their food in the ocean.

“We think of [baleen whales] as being giants but if you consider this in the context of their 36m-year evolutionary history, they have only been giants for a 10th [of it],” said Graham Slater, an evolutionary biologist and co-author of the research from the University of Chicago.

Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, Slater and colleagues reveal how they unpicked the driver behind the boom in size by exploring the lengths of 63 extinct baleen whales, as estimated from measurements of fossilised skulls, as well as the lengths of 13 living species.

The lengths, as well as the position of each species on the baleen whale family tree, were then fed into a series of computer models to examine how and when gigantism cropped up.

The results reveal gigantism emerged independently in several branches of the family tree, including the bowhead and the right whales. The team also found that it was not just that the largest whales became bigger over time – the smallest found today are also much larger than the smallest extinct species.

Further analysis revealed that although baleen whales had been gradually diversifying in size for 30m years, a step change began to take place between 4.5m and a few hundred thousand years ago.

The recent timing , the authors say, rules out the possibility that the emergence of gigantism was caused by the evolution of bulk filter feeding or large predators, such as giant sharks. They also rule out that the gigantism was a response to falling global ocean temperatures.

Instead, they say, it is probably down to systems driving cold, nutrient-rich water upwards in regions around the continental shelf, caused at least in part by the onset of glaciation in the northern hemisphere.

These systems emerged about 3m years ago and resulted in dense pockets of prey rather than an even spread. That, says Slater, drove the evolution of gigantism in baleen whales.

“The bigger your mouth, the more you can take in and the less energy it costs you to do it,” he said. Being large also helps when it comes to moving to the next pocket of prey.

“If you are big you can just store more energy – you have got a bigger fuel tank to get you where you want to go,” said Slater. “If you are big your cost of transport is also lower so you get more miles to the gallon.”

Olivier Lambert, a palaeontologist from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, who was not involved in the study, said the research provided a convincing scenario for one of the last stages in the evolution of size among baleen whales.

However, he said it was likely that other factors, such as the evolution of large predators and other climatic events, could also have played a role in the development of the animals’ size, particularly earlier in their evolution.

But Lambert believes the latest research has implications for modern ecosystems. “Such a work further emphasises the precarious situation of today’s baleen whale populations, currently facing major threats considering the short-term effects of climate change on oceanic circulation and nutrient transport,” he said.

Slater agrees. “If we do shut down that cold water supply, if climate change does go the route we think it is going, it is going to spell real bad news for these big baleen whales,” he said.

 on: May 24, 2017, 05:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Meet 'Big Don', the 90kg rescue turtle released on World Turtle Day – video


Crowds cheer as ‘Big Don’, a massive sea turtle, is released off the Florida Keys on World Turtle Day after being rehabilitated from injuries from an encounter with a fishing line. The 200-pound (91 kilogram) loggerhead turtle was nursed back to health with antibiotics, vitamins and a healthy diet of squid and fish

Click to watch; <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/environment/video/2017/may/24/meet-big-don-the-90kg-rescue-turtle-released-on-world-turtle-day-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 on: May 24, 2017, 05:03 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Scientists Closer to Solving Mystery Behind Major Shark Die-Off in San Francisco Bay

By Mia Nakaji Monnier

Hundreds of sharks have died in the waters off Northern California over the past few months, and scientists still have more questions than answers. In an article for National Geographic, Eric Simons told the story of these mysterious shark strandings through the eyes of Mark Okihiro, a senior fish pathologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When Okihiro and one of his graduate students found a bacteria by the name of Carnobacterium maltaromaticum in the brains of stranded thresher sharks, their discovery turned out to be one missing piece in a larger puzzle.

The same pathogen—which is found more often in the bellies of healthy salmon and trout—had recently been found in washed-up mako and salmon sharks.

Then, earlier this year, Okihiro received a leopard shark corpse in the mail.

This shark's brain showed that it had also died of an infection—and since leopard sharks are closely related to thresher, mako and salmon sharks, Okihiro expected carnobacterium to be the culprit. But instead, the killer turned out to be a fungus.

Now, his working hypothesis is that all those sharks who appeared to have died of Carnobacterium (which is, after all, harmless to other fish) actually died of a fungal infection, possibly picked up in the stagnant waters of marshes and lagoons.

But Okihiro and his colleagues agree that more research needs to be done before they can reach this conclusion for sure. They hope to learn more about sharks' microbiomes (the mix of microorganisms, like bacteria, that live in their bodies) so they can say with more certainty which microbes are healthy and typical for sharks, and which cause them harm.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Azula.

 on: May 24, 2017, 05:01 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
World's Largest Travel Website Stops Selling Tickets to Cayman Turtle Centre


On the eve of World Turtle Day, the world's largest travel website—TripAdvisor—removed the sale of tickets to the Cayman Turtle Centre, where more than 5,000 endangered sea turtles live in horrific conditions.

The TripAdvisor decision puts even more pressure on one of the world's largest cruise line companies—Carnival Cruises Lines—to protect endangered sea turtles from shocking conditions at the center where sea turtles are crammed in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, fed on an unnatural diet, resulting in abnormal behaviors such as aggression and even cannibalism.

In just under a month, more than 90,000 people across the world have now signed World Animal Protection's petition for Carnival Cruise Lines to stop sending tourists to the the venue.

"The public outcry about the ongoing animal cruelty at the Cayman Turtle Centre is growing every day," Neil D'Cruze, senior wildlife advisor at World Animal Protection, said.

"TripAdvisor has moved away from selling tickets to the centre; it's time for Carnival to stop ignoring public opinion and turning a blind eye. TripAdvisor's decision sends a clear message—animal suffering is not something tourists want on their holiday checklist. Momentum is growing and it is time for this farcical facility to transform into a true sea turtle rehabilitation centre."

Tourists visiting the center via Carnival Cruise Lines are usually unaware of the abuse and suffering the turtles experience when they are being handled.

According to a Cayman Islands Government commissioned report—229,393 people visited Cayman Turtle Centre in 2012, and 71 percent of them were cruise passengers. Carnival Cruise Lines is owned by the world's largest cruise company and operates many of its ships in the Caribbean.

The financial costs of the facility are extremely high and the center is already reliant on Caymanian Government subsidies of around $12 million (USD) per year, which could be better used to help protect and conserve endangered green sea turtles.

World Animal Protection is also concerned about possible health risks to turtles and people. In 2014 local media reports revealed that 1,268 turtles died due to Clostridium, the bacteria that can cause botulism, tetanus and other potentially serious health problems for people.

Last year, TripAdvisor announced they will stop selling tickets to some of the world cruelest wildlife activities, after a World Animal Protection petition collected more than 558,000 signatures from around the world.

The turtle center features in World Animal Protection's top 10 cruelest wildlife attractions.

 on: May 24, 2017, 04:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Half the Global Population Could Face 'Unknown' Climates by Mid-Century

By Robert McSweeney

Billions of people across the world could see climates they've never experienced before by the middle of the century, a new study said.

Using a measure of climate "familiarity," the researchers showed that the tropics in particular are likely to experience conditions that are virtually unheard of for the region in the present climate.

But keeping global temperatures rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels could help keep the climate "familiar" within this century, the researchers said. That means people alive today could see the benefits of mitigation within their lifetimes.


While climate change research often focuses on how many degrees temperatures have warmed or the projected change in annual rainfall, a relatively recent approach is to consider the "time of emergence."

The weather we experience every day is a combination of the long-term trend of climate change—the "signal"—and the short-term fluctuations of natural variability—the "noise." The time of emergence is the point when the signal becomes clear above the noise.

Taking this idea in a slightly different direction, the new Nature Climate Change study focuses on the magnitude of emergence, rather than the time. In other words, showing how much future climates are going to differ from the highs and lows that people currently experience.

This approach can help pinpoint where climates are likely to change beyond what people have to cope with at the moment, said lead author Dr. Dave Frame, director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. He told Carbon Brief:

"A couple of degrees of warming in a place which is used to lots of climate variability is likely to be easier to cope with than the same level of warming in a place which is used to a really regular climate."

Carbon Brief spoke to another of the study's authors, Dr. Manoj Joshi from the University of East Anglia, about the study at the recent European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna. You can see him explaining the findings in the clip below.

Unfamiliar, unusual and unknown

Using climate models, the researchers calculated signal-to-noise ratios—i.e. the change in average temperature divided by the year-to-year variability—for future temperatures across the world. The higher the resulting score, the more unfamiliar future climates are likely to feel for the people in that region.

The researchers then classified projections of temperature change in terms of how unfamiliar the climate is expected to become.

They came up with three categories, for when the signal-to-noise ratio hits one, two or three, respectively: An "unusual" temperature is one that people would experience once every six years or so under the baseline climate of 1986-2005. An "unfamiliar" temperature would be one that would only occur once every 44 years. Finally, an "unknown" temperature would be virtually unheard of in the present climate, occurring once every 740 years.

The upper map shows the signal-to-noise ratios for temperature by the end of the century. The darker the shading, the more unfamiliar the climates are expected to become.

The results suggest that by the 2030s, around half of the global population can expect to experience "unfamiliar" climates (compared to 1986-2005) and "unknown" climates by mid-century. By 2100, only 20 percent of the world's population would avoid living in "unknown" climates, the paper said.

The results also show that tropical regions are likely to experience the most dramatic changes to the familiarity of the climate. These areas, which include Malaysia, Indonesia, western India, West Africa and Central America, are home to almost half of the world's population.

You can see this in the lower map (above), which shows the same signal-to-noise values, but where the size of the land areas is distorted to represent the size of the population affected.

While other places might experience higher absolute temperature change, the impacts will be felt more keenly in the tropics, Joshi explained:

"Even though the temperature change they experience is less than than might be experienced in the Arctic, compared to the variability that people have seen in the past, this change is actually a very big deal."

"Powerful message"

Using signal-to-noise rather than simple temperature change also provides another way to consider mitigating climate change, the paper said:

"We suggest that a key measure of successful mitigation should involve keeping climate as 'familiar' as possible."

Their results suggest that under the lowest emissions scenario—broadly equivalent to a world no more than 2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels—unknown climates are avoided for much of the world.

This shows that cutting emissions now can prevent some large changes in the signal-to-noise ratio of future temperature, said Frame. These benefits could be felt within the lifetimes of people alive today.

"For a young adult in Indonesia, Colombia or Nigeria today," he added, "the results show that mitigating from a high carbon path to a low carbon path can keep the climate they experience in late life at least a bit similar to those they enjoyed in their young days."

This is a compelling way to incentivize people to cut emissions.

"It's quite a powerful message to say 'your actions will affect your world that you will see in the future," said Joshi. "You will be alive to see the benefits of mitigating—of lowering—carbon emissions.'"

In fact, this is the most important finding from their study.

"Too much of the climate conversation implies that mitigation is something that has benefits for people in the distant future," Frame said. "We're showing that many of the beneficiaries are alive today, working and paying taxes."

 on: May 24, 2017, 04:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Shitstain Trump's 'Environmentally Disastrous' Budget Would Cripple EPA


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget will still be slashed by nearly a third, from $8.2 billion to $5.65 billion, under President Trump's fiscal 2018 budget proposal released Tuesday.

The EPA, which has long been targeted by the Trump administration, is the hardest hit federal agency under the new plan. Opponents say it "endangers Americans" and cripples an institution charged with protecting their health and safety.

As detailed by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, notable components of the anticipated budget include a 30 percent cut in federal grants to state and local air pollution control agencies; a 39 percent cut in EPA's Science and Technology budget; a 35 percent cut in EPA's Environmental Program and Management budget (the agency's overall operating budget); and the elimination of funding several regional programs, including restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Puget Sound.

The Washington Post noted that "dozens of other programs also would be zeroed out entirely, including funding for radon detection, lead risk reduction, projects along the U.S.-Mexico border and environmental justice initiatives." Additionally, less money will be allocated to enforcement of environmental crimes and climate change research.

Significantly, the budget proposes deep cuts to the EPA's Superfund program despite EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt previously saying he does not support cutting the program and listing it as one of his priorities.

The proposed budget was widely criticized by environmental groups.

"President Trump's proposed budget is economically irresponsible and environmentally disastrous," Ken Berlin, president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, said. "The budget claims to consider 'America First,' but in fact does the opposite. It endangers Americans by eviscerating the Environmental Protection Agency, crippling the institution charged with protecting their health and safety."

Compared to the EPA, the Interior Department budget faces a smaller shave with a 11 percent cut. However, the proposal also includes measures to boost federal revenue from the oil and gas industry, most notably the sale of federal drilling leases in the 19-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

350.org policy director Jason Kowalski rebuked the White House's budget plan for prioritizing the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

"This latest budget starves the Environmental Protection Agency while stuffing the faces of fossil fuel billionaires," he said. "The American people overwhelmingly support government investments in renewable energy and environmental protections, while opposing the new coal, oil and gas extraction this budget aims to open up.

Trump's overall budget plan is seemingly hobbling federal agencies focusing on science, conservation and innovation. For instance, the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy seeing a potential 70 percent drop.

"We were disappointed to see the administration's proposal to slash programs that promote American-made clean energy." Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said.

"Clean energy research programs have been priorities of both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses and the investments have paid off many times over," Hopper added. "We look forward to working with Congress as it drafts a budget that supports important clean energy programs that create American jobs, advance innovation and stimulate billions of dollars in private investment."

Furthermore, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Trump budget cuts the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund by $34 million, a 64 percent reduction. The fund allows state and federal partners to recover species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The budget also reduces funding for foreign endangered species like elephants, rhinoceros and tigers by 19 percent, and reduces the funding for the listing program by 17 percent, even though 500 plants and animals are still waiting for consideration for protection.

"The Endangered Species Act is the world's foremost law for saving species, but Trump wants to gut funding to recover imperiled wildlife from the brink of extinction," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump squanders tens of millions in taxpayer dollars flying down to Mar-a-Lago to play golf every weekend, yet spending a similar amount to protect and recover our most endangered species is simply too much."

Meanwhile, the budget proposes an additional $1.6 billion to build 80 new miles of a wall along the southern border. According to a Center for Biological Diversity study, Trump's wall would threaten at least 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots and Mexican gray wolves.


Two More Spills for Dakota Access Pipeline


The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) system leaked more than 100 gallons of oil in two separate incidents in North Dakota in March.

This is the $3.8 billion project's third known leak. The controversial pipeline, which is not yet finished and not yet operational, also spilled 84 gallons of oil in South Dakota on April 4.

The state's Health Department database shows that two barrels, or 84 gallons, spilled on March 3 in Watford City due to a leaky flange (the section connecting two sections of pipeline) at a pipeline terminal.

Vicki Granado, spokeswoman for pipeline backer Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), told the Associated Press that the discharge came from a line operated by a connecting shipper on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

"They are responsible for the operations, maintenance, etc.," she said.

Then on March 5, a half a barrel, or 20 gallons, spilled in Mercer County due to a manufacturing defect of an above-ground valve, according to data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Both leaks were contained and cleaned up. No people, wildlife or waterways were affected.

The DAPL is a 1,172-mile-long, North Dakota-to-Illinois oil pipeline that is expected to start flowing on June 1. The project was at the center of a high-profile battle last year involving thousands of Native American protesters and their supporters.

ETP maintains the safety of the DAPL and its other operations such as the highly contested Rover Pipeline, a 713-mile pipeline that will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada.

Similar to DAPL, the Rover Pipeline is also under construction and has been condemned by opponents for its multiple spills and accidents, including a notorious discharge of 2 million gallons of drilling fluids into wetlands in Ohio last month.

This week, organizers from multiple groups launched a long-term resistance encampment to defend Ohio's Wayne National Forest from fracking as well as fracked gas pipelines.

"Energy Transfer Partners has demonstrated their complete incompetence time and time again based on the sheer volume of violations within the short time they've been constructing the Rover," Michael Rinaldi, 34, a member of Appalachia Resist!, said in a statement.

"Wherever these pipelines are planned, people are carrying the lessons of Standing Rock to show this predatory industry that we will resist them every step of the way. The health of our communities is not for sale. Water is Life."

In November, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided to offer tens of thousands of acres of Wayne National Forest up for fracking. The BLM has leased nearly 2,000 acres to Pennsylvania oil and gas company, Eclipse Resources.

"We are here to tell the Bureau of Land Management that our public lands are not for sale and also to remind them that public lands are stolen lands," Jolana Watson, 25, another member of Appalachia Resist!, said.

"The same companies that want to frack the Wayne and build pipelines through it are running roughshod over treaty rights and ignoring native sovereignty around the continent."

Additionally, it emerged this week that ETP is in the midst of another battle over the preservation of historic sites in Ohio. DeSmogBlog reported that documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission show that ETP and the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office are disputing over a $1.5 million annual payment owed to the state agency as part of a five-year agreement signed in February.


What’s next for the Keystone XL pipeline?

TransCanada Corp. has the approval of the Trump administration to build and operate this oil pipeline across the US-Canadian border. But opposition on multiple fronts could still derail the project.

CS Monitor

May 24, 2017 —The Keystone XL pipleine project has been in the works since 2008, but it looked as if the last leg of it would never get built, after then-President Barack Obama rejected the permit application in 2015. However, the Trump administration reversed that decision in March, setting in motion again the process of local reviews.
What’s left to build?

The “XL” would form the hypotenuse of a “Keystone” triangle (see map), running 1,179 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb. There, it would connect with two existing Keystone lines that are already funneling crude to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas.

But the international leg is facing formal challenges in two main places: in Nebraska, where the state’s Public Service Commission has to approve TransCanada’s controversial plans for the pipeline’s route through the state; and in Montana, where three separate lawsuits have been filed in federal courts by environmental and indigenous groups that are seeking to halt construction.

Could opponents kill the project by delaying it in court?

That depends. Dragging out approval from the Public Service Commission is part of the opposition’s strategy in Nebraska, a state that since 2011 has seen pitched battles over the pipeline. Public hearings where landowners, representatives from the Ponca Tribe, and environmentalists will make their case for rejecting the proposed route are slated to begin in August, and most analysts expect the panel’s review to take a year at a minimum.

Keystone XL: 5 basic things you should know

There’s plenty of reason to expect the commission – a five-member elected panel made up of four Republicans and one Democrat – to ultimately sign off on the proposal. Voters in the traditionally conservative state have consistently favored the project, and the Republican governor has pushed for approval.

But some opponents are making a case that could resonate with business-minded conservatives. They warn that oil leaks could pollute the Ogallala Aquifer, the source of about 80 percent of the state’s drinking water – and about a third of the water tapped for irrigation by the powerful agricultural industry. Also, landowners whose property lies in the path of the proposed pipeline are contesting TransCanada’s claim of eminent domain, arguing that the real benefits of the project would accrue not with Nebraskans but with a foreign corporation.
Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Bold Nebraska is an opposition group that is pushing for Trans-Canada to alter the route so that it runs parallel to an existing pipeline in eastern Nebraska – and away from the Nebraska Sandhills ecosystem. The group says if it fails to convince the commission, it’ll file lawsuits and mobilize protesters.

“Sometimes, these cases can go on for several years,” says Deborah Ann Sivas, a Stanford professor of environmental law who has litigated high-profile challenges on behalf of environmentalists. “If they want to tie things up in litigation, it might be two to three years to get through an appeal.”
Will there be standoffs with protesters?

Indigenous-led activist groups such as the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) are promising to set up encampments along the path of the proposed pipeline. Last year’s well-
publicized protests against the Dakota Access pipeline – another project, which has been slated to pass near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota – might serve as a blueprint.

But at the moment, courts are the main stage. IEN and other environmental and indigenous activist groups that have filed suits in Montana are seeking to get the Trump administration’s permit voided. They accuse the State Department of violating the National Environmental Policy Act when it based approval of the pipeline on what they describe as a flawed and out-of-date 2013 department analysis of the project’s environmental and economic impacts.

Some oil analysts have speculated that if the price of oil remains low, the Keystone XL could meet the same fate as a 1,700-mile natural-gas pipeline that was being negotiated in 2008 when Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska. That pipeline was never built, amid a glut of cheap gas from the Lower 48. However, the current low price of oil could actually make the cheaper form of shipment provided by pipelines more attractive to producers.

“At the moment, the price of crude looks favorable for the project,” says Tom Seng, a professor of energy business at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma.“Let’s face it; there’s a cost,” he adds. “There’s going to be protests against Keystone XL and delays, and delays equal costs. But it’s not going to stop the project.”


Shitstain Trump Sued for Censorship of Climate Change Data


The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration Tuesday to uncover public records showing that federal employees have been censored from using words or phrases related to climate change in formal agency communications.

Tuesday's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC, seeks to require four federal agencies to release climate-censorship records, in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of State have failed to provide records requested by the Center for Biological Diversity or indicate when they might do so, violating deadlines established under the law.

"The Trump administration's refusal to release public information about its climate censorship continues a dangerous and illegal pattern of anti-science denial," said Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Just as censorship won't change climate science, foot-dragging and cover-ups won't be tolerated under the public records law."

On March 30 the Center for Biological Diversity filed Freedom of Information Act requests for all directives or communications barring or removing climate-related words or phrases from any formal agency communications. The records requests followed news reports that federal agencies had removed climate information from government websites and instructed Department of Energy staff to avoid using the phrases "climate change," "emissions reductions" and "Paris agreement."

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed identical requests with the Council on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On March 23 the Center for Biological Diversity joined conservation biologist Stuart Pimm and the Center for Media and Democracy in a separate Freedom of Information Act request to prevent the administration from removing hundreds of environmental data sets on government websites.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, when federal agencies receive requests for the same records three or more times, they must make the records freely available to the public on their websites—a rule known as "the Beetlejuice provision."

Records responsive to the Center for Biological Diversity's climate censorship requests will be made available to the public and the media.


Nation's Largest Industrial Trade Association Wants Out of Kids Climate Lawsuit


After numerous legal efforts trying to get a federal district court in Oregon to throw out a climate lawsuit brought by 21 young people, a defeated National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) filed a motion Monday requesting the court's permission to withdraw from the litigation.

NAM "moves to withdraw as an intervenor—defendant from this case." Based on its pleadings in court, "NAM is the nation's largest industrial trade association representing the manufacturing sector of the United States economy."

"Over 18 months ago, NAM, like the other fossil fuel intervenors, went to great lengths to become a party defendant in this case," Julia Olson, counsel for plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children's Trust, said.

"They claimed their members were seriously threatened by our case. Now faced with significant legal victories by these young plaintiffs, and on the eve of having to take a position on climate science, NAM wants out of this case. We believe the court will determine that there should be consequences for wasting the court's time."

When youth plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2015, they did not name the trade associations NAM, American Petroleum Institute or American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, as defendants. On Nov. 12, 2015, these trade associations joined to intervene the side of the U.S. government defendants, calling the lawsuit a "direct threat to [their] businesses."

The position of these associations was that "significant reduction in [greenhouse gas] emissions would cause a significant negative effect on [their] members by constraining the sale of the product they have specialized in developing and selling."

In a January 2016 proceeding before Judge Thomas Coffin, an attorney representing all three trade associations explained how these associations would speak with "one voice" if permitted to join the litigation:

"...having the associations participate as associations in this litigation effectively represents those interests without a multiplicity of disparate viewpoints and voices. Rather, in fact, they have joined to speak with one voice through this intervention motion."

The court allowed NAM and its fellow fossil fuel industry associations to become defendants. However, when these intervenor defendants filed their answer to the allegations in youth's complaint, their "one voice" lacked "sufficient knowledge to admit or deny the factual allegations" to take a position on most of the claims in the complaint.

During a March 9 case management conference, intervenor defendants agreed to set forth their positions on the facts in the form of responses to requests for admissions, which Plaintiffs subsequently filed on March 24. When the intervenors had not submitted their responses by April 20, Judge Coffin ordered that they be electronically-filed with the court. At the May 18 case management conference, Judge Coffin granted intervenor defendants an extension to submit their responses until May 25. Now NAM "no longer wishes to participate" in the case, according to Monday's filing.


For more than a decade, NAM was a member of the Global Climate Coalition, a group that led an aggressive lobbying campaign against the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions caused global warming, as Andrew Revkin revealed in the New York Times in 2009.

By way of background, NAM, like the American Petroleum Institute and their common member, ExxonMobil, had its own long-standing knowledge of climate danger. For example, NAM's Environmental Quality Committee published a document in 1975, Air Quality Control: National Issues, Standards, and Goals, which included a section on carbon dioxide, concluding:

"And it is believed that the huge amounts of carbon dioxide emitted each day are very slowly heating the Earth's atmosphere. In time, some scientists fear this scarcely perceptible rise in temperatures may cause the partial melting of the polar icecaps and extensive flooding throughout the world."

NAM's Environmental Quality Committee published a document in 1975 called Air Quality Control: National Issues, Standards, and Goals, which included a section on carbon dioxide. Our Children's Trust

It is yet to be determined whether the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers will join NAM in seeking to leave the case. Counsel for intervenor defendants has indicated to the court it is possible all three association may seek leave to withdraw.

Juliana v. United States was brought by 21 young plaintiffs who argue that their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government's creation of climate danger. The case is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children's Trust, seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.


Spiteful and Destructive': Maine Gov. Bans Road Signs to Obama-Designated Monument


Looks like you'll have to trust your map if you want to find the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.

Gov. Paul LePage has refused to put up any official signs along the four main roads to the 87,500-acre preserve, which is on the list of 27 national monuments under Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's review.

President Barack Obama established Katahdin under the Antiquities Act last summer on forestland donated by Burt's Bees founder and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby.

Gov. LePage, who believes the designation went against the state's wishes and undermines the timber industry, successfully lobbied the Trump administration to review whether Obama's order was valid.

Now, until the federal review is complete, there will not be any signs along Interstate 95 and Routes 11, 157 and 159 that lead to Katahdin, state officials said Friday.

"What we don't want to do is commit taxpayers' money to signage ... without knowing that it [the monument] is in place and that everyone is on board with it," Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot told the Bangor Daily News.

But Lucas St. Clair, Quimby's son and president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, told the Guardian that Katahdin is only under review because the governor requested it.

He called LePage's refusal to display signs "spiteful and destructive," and pointed out that the governor is also refusing to put up signs paid for with private funds.

"It's one of the most irresponsible things he could do for the region," continued St. Clair, adding that the actions are "petty" and "sophomoric."

Other supporters of the national monument say that the designation has brought many benefits to nearby towns.

"To my knowledge, Governor LePage has never even set foot in Patten and yet he insults our region by calling it a 'mosquito area,'" Jon Ellis, a local business owner, said. "The monument has brought new energy to our towns and helped unify the region."

Similarly, Terry Hill, owner of Shin Pond Village in Mt. Chase, said, "I am very disappointed that the governor would try to undo this new economic engine in our community without having even visited."

While visitors will still be able to find the monument, say with Google Maps, Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce president Gail Fanjoy pointed out "the fact that our governor is blocking signage is telling people that the region is not open for business."

"He should be doing the opposite of what he is doing," Fanjoy said.

 on: May 24, 2017, 04:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
World could put carbon tax on US imports if Shitstain Trump ditches Paris Agreement, says expert

The US could weaken the historic deal if it remains a signatory, says climate policy specialist

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent
Tuesday 23 May 2017 14:32 BST

The withdrawal of United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change could be better for the world than if the US remains a signatory – because other countries could then impose a carbon tax on American imports, according to an expert.

The Trump administration is currently considering whether to leave the international agreement and there has been concern that the departure of the US – the second biggest source of carbon emissions – would be a major setback for attempts to reduce global warming.

However, writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Dr Luke Kemp, an expert in climate policy at the Australian National University, argued that this might not be as bad as if the US remained a signatory, but failed to live up to its commitments.

This, he warned, would provide cover for other “laggards” to backslide.

But Dr Kemp also said a US withdrawal would create “positive opportunities”, such as a carbon tax on American imports – an idea previously suggested by Nicolas Sarkozy, the former centre-right president of France.

He stressed the success of the Paris Agreement relied on the promises made by each country and the diplomatic pressure to keep them.

“A great power that wilfully misses its target could provide political cover for other laggards and weaken the soft power of process,” Dr Kemp wrote.

“This would lay bare the weaknesses and legal porousness of the Paris Agreement and undermine any public and investor confidence vested in the agreement.   

“Paris may forfeit legitimacy due to the loss of a major emitter, but it is equally likely that its legitimacy will be grievously injured by the US blatantly violating the spirit and purpose of the agreement.”

The Trump administration could also water down measures designed to ensure countries take the action required to restrict global warming to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible, the overall target adopted at Paris.

“If the administration so desired, the US delegation could procedurally obstruct … critical negotiations. It is an approach that has been successfully deployed by other laggards such as Saudi Arabia,” Dr Kemp said.

However if Mr Trump decides to quit the Paris Agreement, this might make it easier to essentially impose sanctions on the US.

“There are positive opportunities that could arise from US withdrawal,” Dr Kemp wrote.

“One is the re-emergence of climate trade measures, such as border carbon adjustments.

“The idea of instituting a carbon tax of one to three per cent on US imports in the event of withdrawal was raised by former French presidential nominee Nicholas Sarkozy.

“Trade measures are risky manoeuvres that could trigger negative impacts such as a trade war.

“However, trade measures have tended to be a key component of successful international agreements, such as the 1987 Montreal Protocol, and institutions like the World Trade Organisation.”

 on: May 24, 2017, 04:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Sea levels are rising at triple the pace since 1990, find scientists

Meltwater from the vast ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica is increasing the rate

Chris Mooney
Tuesday 23 May 2017 10:39 BST

A new scientific analysis finds that the Earth’s oceans are rising nearly three times as rapidly as they were throughout most of the 20th century, one of the strongest indications yet that a much feared trend of not just sea level rise, but its acceleration, is now underway.

“We have a much stronger acceleration in sea level rise than formerly thought,” said Sönke Dangendorf, a researcher with the University of Siegen in Germany who led the study along with scientists at institutions in Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands.

Their paper, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn’t the first to find that the rate of rising seas is itself increasing — but it finds a bigger rate of increase than in past studies.

The new paper concludes that before 1990, oceans were rising at about 1.1 millimetres per year, or just 0.43 inches per decade. From 1993 through 2012, though, it finds that they rose at 3.1 millimetres per year, or 1.22 inches per decade.

The cause, said Dangendorf, is that sea level rise throughout much of the 20th century was driven by the melting of land-based glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms, but sea level rise in the 21st century has now, on top of that, added in major contributions from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

“The sea level rise is now three times as fast as before 1990,” Dangendorf said.

Studying the changing rate of sea level rise is complicated by the fact that scientists only have a precise satellite record of its rate going back to the early 1990s. Before that, the records rely on tide gauges spread around the world in various locations.

But sea level rise varies widely in different places, due to the rising and sinking of land, large-scale gravitational effects on the waters of the globe and other local factors. So scientists have struggled to piece together a longer record that merges together what we know from satellites with these older sources of information.
Ignoring forecasts of rising seas risks disaster, scientists warn

The new study takes a crack at this problem by trying to piece together a sea level record for the 20th century, before the beginning of the satellite record, by adjusting the results of local tide gauges based on an understanding of the factors affecting sea level rise in a given region, and then also weighting different regions differently in the final analysis. That’s how it came up with a relatively small rate of sea level rise from 1900 through 1990, followed by a much faster one afterward.

Robert Kopp, a Rutgers University sea level researcher who has also published research showing a sharp acceleration of sea level rise, called the new study a “nice analysis” in an email to The Washington Post.

“Their final estimate of 20th century (particularly pre-1990) global mean sea level rise is in good agreement with the results of the two different analyses presented by [our] 2015 paper, and less than those of most other reconstructions,” Kopp said.

That 2015 study found that from 1901 to 1990, sea level rose at a rate of 1.2 millimetres per year, very close to the current study’s estimate. But other researchers have found figures more in the range of 1.6 to 1.9 millimetres.

These differences matter a great deal because the larger sea level rise was during the 20th century, the less of an increase there has been since then — and vice-versa.

Overall, though, the disparities between different studies — many of which point to an acceleration, but which vary upon its size — suggests that scientists have converged on the big picture but are still debating its details.

An acceleration of sea level rise, after all, is an expected consequence of ongoing global warming, and there are projections that it could rise as high as 5 to 15 millimetres per year (1.97 to 5.9 inches per decade) in extreme climate warming scenarios, according to Dangendorf.

Kopp added that in the past five years, there is some indication that sea level rise could already be even higher than the 3.1-millimetre annual rate seen from 1993 through 2012. He cautioned, though, that “those higher rates over a short period of time probably include some level of natural variability as well as continued, human-caused acceleration.”

Just how much control we are able to exert over the rate of sea level rise will critically depend on how rapidly global greenhouse gas emissions come down in coming years — making the entire outlook closely tied to whether the United States sticks with the rest of the world in honouring the Paris climate agreement.

“Sea levels will continue to rise over the coming century, no matter whether we will adapt or not, but I think we can limit at least a part of the sea level rise. It will further accelerate, but how much is related to how we act as humans,” Dangendorf said.

 on: May 24, 2017, 04:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
China expands its Antarctic ambitions

The country plans to expand its scientific research programs on the icy continent amid growing environmental concerns associate with rising temperatures there.

Matthew Brown
Associated Press   

May 24, 2017 Beijing—China plans to expand its scientific research in Antarctica in coming years amid worries over the area’s susceptibility to climate change, but has no immediate plans to mine or develop natural resources that could be exposed as the ice cap shrinks, government officials said Monday.

China’s growing interest in the frozen continent is in the spotlight as it hosts a meeting of more than 40 nations that oversee management of Antarctica under a 1959 treaty.

Human activity in Antarctica is governed by agreements designating it as a natural reserve. Those protocols also prohibit military bases and the extraction of natural resources, although there has been speculation China one day could seek to tap into Antarctica’s mineral reserves to support its economic expansion.

China signed the Antarctic treaty in 1983 and has since established four research stations. It plans to start construction of an airfield later this year and a fifth research station as early as 2018, and has a new icebreaker under construction to augment the Xue Long, a Ukrainian-built vessel currently used to service its Antarctic missions.

Lin Shanqing, deputy head of the State Oceanic Administration, told reporters Monday that China wants “to make our contribution to the peaceful use of the Antarctic as a responsible and big country.”
The five coldest places on Earth

“At this stage China’s Antarctic expeditions and research mainly focus on boosting our understanding of the Antarctic and to better conserve the Antarctic environment,” Lin said. “According to my knowledge now, China has made no plans for mining activity in Antarctica.”

About 400 representatives from 42 countries and 10 international organizations are expected to attend the 40th Antarctic Treaty meeting, which goes through June 1. China’s delegation is led by Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and Yang Jiechi, a senior foreign policy adviser to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Their attendance speaks to the importance China attaches to its rising scientific and technological prowess, which includes landing a rover on the moon in 2013, an increasingly sophisticated military and the maiden flight of the first large Chinese-made passenger jetliner earlier this month.

At the Antarctica meeting, Chinese officials hope to sign polar cooperation agreements with the United States, Russia, and Germany, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Climate change and the tourist trade also will be on the international delegates’ agenda.

Last week, researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom released a study describing “fundamental and widespread changes” on the Antarctic Peninsula as glaciers retreat and more areas become covered with green moss. Representatives of the treaty nations will examine how to adapt to such changes.

More than 38,000 tourists visited Antarctica and surrounding waters in the 2015-2016 season, a 29 percent increase from a decade earlier, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. China accounts for a growing proportion of the visitors.

In 2014 the crew of the Xue Long rescued 52 scientists and tourists from a Russian research ship that became stuck in Antarctic ice.

 on: May 24, 2017, 04:32 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The world’s unsolved airplane mysteries

International Business Times
21 May 2017 at 11:01 ET   

Over the years, the airline industry across the world has witnessed several tragic plane crashes, some of which have perplexed both aviation experts and the public.

From Amelia Earhart's ill-fated flight to the unsolved mystery behind the disappearance of Malaysia Airline Flight MH370, aviation authorities have faced several challenges over the years despite an improvement in flight tracking systems and specialized technologies to track pings from black boxes.

Here are few unsolved airline mysteries — in no particular order — that kept investigators clueless for years.

Amelia Earhart: The hunt for Amelia Earhart’s long-lost plane never really found a closure as the plane carrying the aviation pioneer and her navigator, Fred Noonan, went missing on June 1, 1937, as the two left Miami, Florida in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. It is believed that Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed Electra crash-landed in the Pacific Ocean somewhere near their target destination of Howland Island.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has made the most significant strides in the search trying to make sense of Earhart’s mysterious disappearance. The group has been combing a remote South Pacific island called Nikumaroro since 1989, which many experts believe could be the resting point of Earhart and Noonan's plane. Some of the items collected by the group include improvised tools, shoe remnants and aircraft wreckage that experts believe are consistent with Earhart’s Electra.

The most compelling development in the case was made in 2014, when searchers reportedly identified a piece of the missing aircraft near an atoll in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, making it the first time a piece of wreckage found had been recognized as a fragment from Earhart’s plane, according to Discovery. TIGHAR linked the fragment with a patch of metal that was installed on Earhart’s plane. The government reportedly spent more than $4 million looking for Earhart. In January of 1939, Earhart was officially declared dead.

Flying Tiger Line Flight 739: This was a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation propliner chartered by the U.S. military that disappeared on March 16, 1962, over the Western Pacific Ocean. The aircraft was transporting 93 U.S. soldiers and 3 South Vietnamese from Travis Air Force Base, California to Saigon, Vietnam. There were 11 crew members on board the plane. An eight-day search for the missing plane yielded no concrete clues as to the whereabouts of the jet or the people on board, following which the search operations were called off. A total of 48 aircraft and 8 sea vessels scoured over 200,000 square miles of the ocean to locate the jet.

Flight MH370: On March 8, 2014, Malaysian Airline Flight MH370, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, went missing with 239 people on board. Just hours after the plane lost contact with air traffic control, a search operation was launched to find the plane. Little was known at the time that the incident would end up becoming one of the greatest mysteries of aviation history. The plane went off the radar while traveling over the southern Indian Ocean. Investigators concluded that the plane may have crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean. Despite efforts that continued for more than two years, no trace of the plane or the people on board has been found till date.

A Chinese vessel will join the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 next month. This photo shows French maritime gendarmes looking at a map indicating measures undertaken in the search for wreckage from the missing MH370 plane at the marina of Saint-Marie on the French island of La Reunion, Aug. 14, 2015.

The disappearance of Flight MH370 has now become the costliest search in aviation history with authorities spending an estimated $150 million. Malaysia, China, and Australia conducted the search for the plane but the hunt was called off earlier this year. While authorities of the tripartite nation faced criticism from the families of those on board the jet, Australia’s Transport Minister Darren Chester said that the cost of the search was not the reason for calling off the search.

While the mystery behind what happened to Flight MH370 continues to linger, there have been several conspiracy theories that made the round just after the jet went missing, including claims of a cockpit fire, of a rogue pilot, and also hijack.

Bermuda Triangle Incidents: Over the past centuries, planes have disappeared or met with fatal accidents in the triangular area on the Atlantic Ocean known as Bermuda Triangle. The most shocking incident of all was in 1945 when five training flights that took off from Florida naval base disappeared while flying over the Bermuda Triangle. Despite search efforts, the planes and those on board were never found. In fact, a Martin Mariner flying boat that was sent for the search operation also went missing.

Many experts have tried to solve the mystery as to while planes and ships disappeared while traveling through the area. However, the reason behind the disappearances still remains unknown with only conspiracy theories, including electronic fog engulfing an aircraft, hurricanes destroying aircraft,  or just simple human error.

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