Tag: Environment

Wildlife: Jackals spreading into central Europe

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A golden jackal photographed in the Czech Republic. Photo courtesy Klára Pyšková.

Changing climate, shifting species

Staff Report

Climate change and other impacts from human activities are enabling jackals to spread into parts of Europe, scientists said after documenting the first living golden jackal in the Czech Republic. The mammal, native to northern Africa and southern Eurasia, was photographed by motion sensors cameras several times just 40 kilometers from Prague, according to a new study published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

“The habitat, where the golden jackal decided to settle, resembles the landscapes which these animals prefer in their natural distribution area, the Balkans – an open grass-shrubland surrounded by a forest. It is one of the warmest areas in the country, with mild winters.The observed animal was mostly active at dusk and dawn, with majority of the sightings occurring in the morning hours,” said researcher Klára Pyšková, who co-authored the paper with  a group of researchers from Charles University and Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences, among them her supervisors Ivan Horáček and David Storch. Continue reading “Wildlife: Jackals spreading into central Europe”

2016: A year to remember

The year the corals died …

Bleached elkhorn coral. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.
Bleached elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy NOAA.

After spending several months abroad in the autumn of 2015 I returned to the U.S. just in time for Christmas and New Years, as well as the lead-up to the Super Bowl. At the same time, the presidential campaign was starting to wind up, with Trump already spreading his poisoned rhetoric and the Democrats hopelessly divided and apparently unable to offer any meaningful positive message to counter the GOP hatefest.

But what I really noticed is that most Americans weren’t actually paying much attention to the unfolding election. The GOP primary was just another sideshow in the circus of consumerism and entertainment that has become of the mainstay of American civic life. To me, it felt like what a decaying Rome must have been experiencing as the empire waned, the masses entertained by excessive spectacles in the Coliseum, while the ruling class made its last-ditch effort to exploit society for short-term gain. It all crystalized for me in late January, when I saw three stories juxtaposed in the Denver Post: one on the Flint water crisis, a second on Trump’s ascendancy and a third on the armed takeover of a wildlife preserve by the Bundy malcontents. Taken together, the three articles represent the decline of American civilization. I wrote about it here.

In the West, the fracturing of the consensus on American values has often played out in the realm of public lands management, and nowhere is this more apparent than in discussions of endangered species. I saw this trend reinforced in mid-January at a Denver meeting on wolves, where it became clear that, for all the efforts that have been made, the reactionary opposition to predator restoration still prevails in the establishment. More in this in my wolf restoration post on Medium.

Another story that marked 2016 was the global debate over refugees. In February, human rights groups announced that, in the first six weeks of the year, 80,000 people had already made the journey to Europe, and more than 400 had already died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Continue reading “2016: A year to remember”

Still so much confusion about weather versus climate

Big sky.
If it’s hot, it’s global warming, but if not … @bberwyn photo.

Study finds climate change beliefs in the U.S. linked with personal weather experiences

Staff Report

Meteorologists, climate scientists and journalists have apparently failed to convey the message that global climate change and local day-to-day weather conditions are two separate things. A study published this week suggests that Americans’ beliefs about global warming are based on how often they personally experience weather-related events.

One of the paper’s co-authors explained the findings in a press release.

“One of the greatest challenges to communicating scientific findings about climate change is the cognitive disconnect between local and global events,” said Michael Mann, associate professor of geography at George Washington University. “It is easy to assume that what you experience at home must be happening elsewhere.” Continue reading “Still so much confusion about weather versus climate”

2016 headed for new global temperature record

November ends up as 5th-warmes on record

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November was marked by contrasts between North America and Eurasia. Map courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

November’s average global temperature was 1.31 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the fifth-warmest November on record. According to the latest global state of the climate report from the National Centers for Environmental Information, it was cooler than last year’s record by 0.41 degrees Fahrenheit, but 0.09 degrees warmer than the average for the 21st century.

According to the report, warmer-than-average conditions prevailed across most of the globe’s land areas, with record warmth in parts of central and southeastern Canada, where temperatures were at least 9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1981–2010 average in many places. Other warm regions included the far northern tier of the United States along with a portion of the southwest, parts of western and southern Mexico, sections of eastern and west central Africa, and regions of some southeastern Asia island nations. Continue reading “2016 headed for new global temperature record”

Draft plan for jaguar recovery panned by wildlife advocates

Photo courtesy Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.
Photo courtesy Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Jaguars listed as endangered since 1997

Staff Report

Jaguars making their from Mexico back to the southwestern U.S. apparently won’t be getting much help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency this week released a draft recovery plan that puts the conservation burden on Mexico. The plan’s criteria for recovery and removal of the jaguar from the “endangered” list could be met without any jaguars occupying any of their vast historic range in the United States, according to wildlife watchdogs with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The draft was released just a short time after a second jaguar was documented in the Southwest. Between 2011 and 2015, another jaguar was seen several times around the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson. Another jaguar called “Macho B” was photographed repeatedly from 1996 until he was killed by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish as a result of a botched capture operation in 2009.

“Jaguars are making their presence known in the southwestern United States so it’s disappointing to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the focus of jaguar recovery solely in Mexico,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. “By excluding the best remaining unoccupied jaguar habitat, this plan aims too low to make a difference in saving the jaguar. It’s an extinction plan, not a recovery plan.” Continue reading “Draft plan for jaguar recovery panned by wildlife advocates”

Opinion: Colorado, you are so fracked …

It’s all about the Mancos shale gas

Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level from 35,000 feet in the air.
Signs of oil and gas development are visible on a landscape level across western Colorado and eastern Utah from 35,000 feet in the air. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

If you think Colorado is getting fracked now, just wait a few more months. The state’s oil and gas producers are lining up with the rest of the fossil fuel industry to cash in on the incoming administration’s dark vision of carbon unleashed. In a press release issued this week, the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association says it’s already planning a trip to Washington, D.C. to expedite approval of a natural gas pipeline across the western USA, leading to an export terminal at Coos Bay, Oregon.

The Canadian company proposing development of the project announced today it will reapply for a permit for the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the next few months.

But a pipeline won’t do any good if there is no place to load the gas aboard ships, and West Coast cities are determined to block new fossil fuel infrastructure, according to InsideClimate News, which reports that Portland is one of the latest cities to use local zoning powers to prevent construction of new major fossil fuel terminals and expansion of any existing facilities.

And according to the watchdog group Citizens Against LNG, the Jordan Cove Energy Project, L.P. also formally requested that its application for a Site Certificate for their South Dunes Power Plant be withdrawn from further consideration by the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council and the Oregon Department of Energy. Without that power plant, there won’t any terminal at Coos Bay, activists say.

The idea, according to WSCOGA, is to develop Western Colorado’s vast Mancos Shale gas potential — an energy reserve among the largest natural gas resources in North America. According to the press release, natural gas producers in the Piceance Basin “have applauded Jordan Cove LNG’s decisive and speedy decision to pursue reapplication and approval of the most important energy infrastructure project in the Western United States.” Continue reading “Opinion: Colorado, you are so fracked …”

Autumn was exceptionally warm across the U.S.

Record and near-record readings from coast to coast

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All 48 contiguous states reported above average temperatures for the fall of 2016.

Staff Report

November 2016’s average temperature across the U.S. was 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the second-warmest on record, behind 1999. According to the latest monthly update from the National Centers for Environmental Information, November is warming at a rate of 6.6 degrees Fahrenheit per century. Only January has been warming faster, at a rate of 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century.

Idaho, North Dakota and Washington were record warm in November. Every state in the Lower 48 experienced an average temperature that above average. North Dakota’s average temperature was 12.8 degrees above normal, nearly 2 degrees above the previous record set in 1999. In the West, 15 states reported their second or third warmest November reading on record. Continue reading “Autumn was exceptionally warm across the U.S.”