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News Article | March 11, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

They come from the West Coast, as far south as California, as north as Alaska, and as east as the Atlantic coast. Their joint letter refers to “Misrepresentation,” “lack of information,” and “Disregard for science that was not funded by the proponent.” Scientists condemn the flawed review process for Lelu Island, at the mouth of British Columbia’s Skeena River, as “a symbol of what is wrong with environmental decision-making in Canada.” More than 130 scientists signed on to this letter. “This letter is not about being for or against LNG, the letter is about scientific integrity in decision-making,” said Dr. Jonathan Moore, Liber Ero Chair of Coastal Science and Management, Simon Fraser University. One of the other signatories is Otto Langer, former Chief of Habitat Assessment at Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), who wrote: These are tough words for a Federal government that promised to put teeth back in the gutted environmental review process. In Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s defense, this is yet another problem he inherited from the previous administration, and the task of cleaning up this mess seems enormous. That said, this government was aware the environmental review process was broken before it was elected and has not intervened to at least stop the process from moving forward until it is prepared to take action. The Liberal Government appears to be facing a tough decision. So far, it has attempted to work with the provinces. On Lelu Island, as well as the equally controversial proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline  expansion and Site C Dam project, continuing to support Premier Clak’s policies in this manner would appear to necessitate betraying the trust of the Canadian people. Here are a few choice excerpts from the public letter that more than 130 scientists sent to Catherine McKenna and Prime Minister Trudeau: ” … The CEAA draft report has not accurately characterized the importance of the project area, the Flora Bank region, for fish. The draft CEAA report1 states that the “…marine habitats around Lelu Island are representative of marine ecosystems throughout the north coast of B.C.”. In contrast, five decades of science has repeatedly documented that this habitat is NOT representative of other areas along the north coast or in the greater Skeena River estuary, but rather that it is exceptional nursery habitat for salmon2-6 that support commercial, recreational, and First Nation fisheries from throughout the Skeena River watershed and beyond7. A worse location is unlikely to be found for PNW LNG with regards to potential risks to fish and fisheries….” ” … CEAA’s draft report concluded that the project is not likely to cause adverse effects on fish in the estuarine environment, even when their only evidence for some species was an absence of information. For example, eulachon, a fish of paramount importance to First Nations and a Species of Special Concern8, likely use the Skeena River estuary and project area during their larval, juvenile, and adult life-stages. There has been no systematic study of eulachon in the project area. Yet CEAA concluded that the project posed minimal risks to this fish…” ” … CEAA’s draft report is not a balanced consideration of the best-available science. On the contrary, CEAA relied upon conclusions presented in proponent-funded studies which have not been subjected to independent peer-review and disregarded a large and growing body of relevant independent scientific research, much of it peer-reviewed and published…” ” …The PNW LNG project presents many different potential risks to the Skeena River estuary and its fish, including, but not limited to, destruction of shoreline habitat, acid rain, accidental spills of fuel and other contaminants, dispersal of contaminated sediments, chronic and acute sound, seafloor destruction by dredging the gas pipeline into the ocean floor, and the erosion and food-web disruption from the trestle structure. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Natural Resources Canada provided detailed reviews12 on only one risk pathway – habitat erosion – while no such detailed reviews were conducted on other potential impacts or their cumulative effects…” ” … CEAA’s draft report concluded that the project posed moderate risks to marine fish but that these risks could be mitigated. However, the proponent has not fully developed their mitigation plans and the plans that they have outlined are scientifically dubious. For example, the draft assessment states that destroyed salmon habitat will be mitigated; the “proponent identified 90 000 m2 of lower productivity habitats within five potential offsetting sites that could be modified to increase the productivity of fisheries”, when in fact, the proponent did not present data on productivity of Skeena Estuary habitats for fish at any point in the CEAA process. Without understanding relationships between fish and habitat, the proposed mitigation could actually cause additional damage to fishes of the Skeena River estuary…” British Columbia Institute of Technology 1. Marvin Rosenau, Ph.D., Professor, British Columbia Institute of Technology. 2. Eric M. Anderson, Ph.D., Faculty, British Columbia Institute of Technology. British Columbia Ministry of Environment 1. R. S. Hooton, M.Sc., Former Senior Fisheries Management Authority for British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Skeena Region. California Academy of Sciences 1. John E. McCosker, Ph.D., Chair of Aquatic Biology, Emeritus, California Academy of Sciences. Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada 1. Otto E. Langer, M.Sc., R.P.Bio., Fisheries Biologist, Former Chief of Habitat Assessment, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Memorial University of Newfoundland 1. Ian A. Fleming, Ph.D., Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland. 2. Brett Favaro, Ph.D., Liber Ero conservation fellow, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research 1. Rachel Malison, Ph.D., Marie Curie Fellow and Research Ecologist, The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. Russian Academy of Science 1. Alexander I. Vedenev, Ph.D., Head of Ocean Noise Laboratory, Russian Academy of Science 2. Victor Afanasiev, Ph.D., Russian Academy of Sciences. Sakhalin Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography 1. Alexander Shubin, M.Sc. Fisheries Biologist, Sakhalin Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography. Simon Fraser University, BC 1. Jonathan W. Moore, Ph.D., Liber Ero Chair of Coastal Science and Management, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University. 2. Randall M. Peterman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and Former Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Risk Assessment and Management, Simon Fraser University. 3. John D. Reynolds, Ph.D., Tom Buell BC Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation, Professor, Simon Fraser University 4. Richard D. Routledge, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 5. Evelyn Pinkerton, Ph.D., School of Resource and Environmental Management, Professor, Simon Fraser University. 6. Dana Lepofsky, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University 7. Nicholas Dulvy, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Professor, Simon Fraser University. 8. Ken Lertzman, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 9. Isabelle M. Côté, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 10. Brendan Connors, Ph.D., Senior Systems Ecologist, ESSA Technologies Ltd., Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University. 11. Lawrence Dill, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University. 12. Patricia Gallaugher, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University. 13. Anne Salomon, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University. 14. Arne Mooers, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 15. Lynne M. Quarmby, Ph.D., Professor, Simon Fraser University. 16. Wendy J. Palen, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University. University of Alaska 1. Peter Westley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 2. Anne Beaudreau, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 3. Megan V. McPhee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks. University of Alberta 1. David.W. Schindler, Ph.D., Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology Emeritus, University of Alberta. 2. Suzanne Bayley, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, University of Alberta. University of British Columbia 1. John G. Stockner, Ph.D., Emeritus Senior Scientist DFO, West Vancouver Laboratory, Adjuct Professor, University of British Columbia. 2. Kai M.A. Chan, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia 3. Hadi Dowlatabadi, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics and Integrated Assessment of Global Change, Professor, University of British Columbia 4. Sarah P. Otto, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia. 5. Michael Doebeli, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia. 6. Charles J. Krebs, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia. 7. Amanda Vincent, Ph.D., Professor, University of British Columbia. 8. Michael Healey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia. University of California (various campuses) 1. Mary E. Power, Ph.D., Professor, University of California, Berkeley 2. Peter B. Moyle, Ph.D., Professor, University of California. 3. Heather Tallis, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Adjunct Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz. 4. James A. Estes, Ph.D., Professor, University of California. 5. Eric P. Palkovacs, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California-Santa Cruz. 6. Justin D. Yeakel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California. 7. John L. Largier, Ph.D., Professor, University of California Davis. University of Montana 1. Jack A. Stanford, Ph.D., Professor of Ecology, University of Montana. 2. Andrew Whiteley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Montana. 3. F. Richard Hauer, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Center for Integrated Research on the Environment, University of Montana. University of New Brunswick 1. Richard A. Cunjak, Ph.D., Professor, University of New Brunswick. University of Ontario Institute of Technology 1. Douglas A. Holdway, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Toxicology, Professor, University of Ontario Institute of Technology. University of Ottawa 1. Jeremy Kerr, Ph.D., University Research Chair in Macroecology and Conservation, Professor, University of Ottawa University of Toronto 1. Martin Krkosek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Toronto. Gail McCabe, Ph.D., University of Toronto. University of Victoria 1. Chris T. Darimont, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Victoria 2. John Volpe, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Victoria. 3. Aerin Jacob, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria. 4. Briony E.H. Penn, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria. 5. Natalie Ban, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria. 6. Travis G. Gerwing, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Victoria. 7. Eric Higgs, Ph.D., Professor, University of Victoria. 8. Paul C. Paquet, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria. 9. James K. Rowe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Victoria. University of Washington 1. Charles Simenstad, Ph.D., Professor, University of Washington. 2. Daniel Schindler, Ph.D., Harriet Bullitt Endowed Chair in Conservation, Professor, University of Washington. 3. Julian D. Olden, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Washington. 4. P. Sean McDonald, Ph.D., Research Scientist, University of Washington. 5. Tessa Francis, Ph.D., Research Scientist, University of Washington. University of Windsor 1. Hugh MacIsaac, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, Professor, University of Windsor. Photo Credits: 9 of the scientist condemning the CEAA review are professors at the University of Victoria. Photo shows U Vic students listening to a UN official in 2012 by Herb Neufeld via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Screen shot from a Liberal campaign video in which Trudeau promised to bring real change to Ottawa;8 of the scientist condemning the CEAA review are professors at the University of British Columbia. Photo of UBC by abdallahh via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License);5 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review are from the University of Washington. Photo is Mary Gates Hall, in the University of Washington by PRONam-ho Park Follow via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License);5 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review are from the Skeena Fisheries Commission. Photo is Coast mountains near the mouth of the Skeena River by Roy Luck via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License);16 of the scientists condemning the CEAA review were professors at Simon Fraser University. Photo shows SFU’s Reflective Pool by Jon the Happy Web Creative via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)    Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.”   Come attend CleanTechnica’s 1st “Cleantech Revolution Tour” event → in Berlin, Germany, April 9–10.   Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.  


BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Version 2.0 Communications, a public relations and digital communications firm, today announced the latest installment in its infographic series with the addition of Women Mean Business: San Francisco. The infographic showcases the Bay Area's businesses with women leadership, including Learnvest, Code for America, Eventbrite, TaskRabbit and many more, as well as key resources that support women-led initiatives. "As a women-led organization, Version 2.0 has always encouraged discussions focused on the realities of gender in the workplace," said Maura FitzGerald, partner and co-founder, Version 2.0 Communications. "While our research has high points, there is still a lot of work to be done, and we hope this will empower and inspire other women to know they have unique support out there to help them achieve their business goals." Research from University of California Davis Graduate School of Management found that women in leadership positions grew from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 12.3 percent in 2015, and the number of female CEOs rose 21 percent over the last year (and 55 percent since 2006). While women in leadership positions have increased, female CEOs still only represent 4.3 percent of the CEO positions for the top 400 public companies in California. In addition to details on top women funded companies and stats on progress towards gender equality, the “Advocacy, Association, Capital, Education and Media” section of the infographic is meant to help women find guidance, funding and mentorship. These organizations, which include Tech in Motion, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and Aspect Ventures, all provide unique services geared toward supporting women in business environments. The San Francisco data follows two other infographics in the "Women Mean Business" series – Boston and New York. The findings from all three infographics show women have made strides when it comes to leadership positions, but there is room for improvement across the board. "While the gap is slowly shrinking, women are less likely to get funding and sit on board seats, and they still make less than the men working the same jobs,” said Jean Serra, partner and co-founder, Version 2.0 Communications. “This series was designed to not only showcase the powerful women in the workplace across three important tech hubs – Boston, New York and San Francisco – but also provide a list of valuable resources that will empower more women to get funded, get promoted or acquire board seats." About Version 2.0 Communications: Version 2.0 Communications is a public relations and digital communications agency recognized as the smart choice for disruptors worldwide that must navigate a new era of communications to create or lead markets. Our skilled professionals leverage their years of experience, influencer relationships and innovative, creative and effective communications programs to achieve results that dominate in their markets. Version 2.0 works with a broad spectrum of clients from large consumer brands to professional services organizations and technology innovators. Our global reach allows us to design, manage and implement coordinated communications programs that are designed to deliver the greatest impact. For more information, visit http://www.v2comms.com/ and follow the company on Twitter @v2comms.


News Article | February 27, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

A breakthrough envelope sealing technology that promises to transform the way home and commercial buildings are constructed is entering advanced field trials – the final process toward general market introduction. The new technology, called AeroBarrier™, is being showcased this week at the RESNET Building Performance Conference, where Aeroseal LLC, the sole owner of the technology, is signing up new partners interested in implementing AeroBarrier at new construction job sites. AeroBarrier offers a first-of-its-kind approach to effectively sealing the entire building envelope using an aerosolized sealing system that simultaneously measures and seals building envelope leaks in homes, multi-family apartments or commercial buildings. The computerized AeroBarrier process provides a faster, less expensive way to seal the building envelope and quickly meet even the most stringent building specifications for envelope tightness. The system automatically delivers a final certifiable report at the end of the sealing process, guaranteeing results. As part of the technology’s final analysis before general market introduction, Aeroseal LLC is forming partnerships with builders, developers, architects and contractors interested in using the breakthrough technology to build energy efficient structures. All new partners will have the unique advantage of being among the first to gain expertise in applying the technology and the first to market it to their customer base. “AeroBarrier represents a potential sea change in the way homes and buildings are constructed,” said Mark Modera, Principal Inventor, Sempra Energy chair in energy efficiency, professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Director of the Western Cooling Efficiency Center at University of California Davis. “With AeroBarrier, envelope sealing – a routine that is typically a long, expensive, labor-intensive process -- can now be completed in a matter of hours.” For the past 4 years and under grants provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, a team of researchers at the Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC), University of California, Davis have been working to refine and finalize the development of the AeroBarrier technology, a process that has resulted in new worldwide patents. “AeroBarrier builds upon the aeroseal duct sealing technology that has revolutionized the way we seal duct systems,” said Amit Gupta, president and CEO of Aeroseal LLC. “Now, imagine a similar computerized approach to envelope sealing that, in one-step, can quickly seal all the leaks around windows, drywall, electrical outlets, canned lighting and other areas where leaks affect overall building performance.” The technology has already been field tested under various circumstances including a U.S. Department of Energy building project where AeroBarrier was demonstrated to be highly effective at sealing the envelope of newly constructed multifamily buildings and single family homes across the country. Becoming An AeroBarrier Partner Currently in advanced field trials, the technology is expected to be available on the market in early 2018. For more information about AeroBarrier technology or to request additional information on being an AeroBarrier partner, call (937) 428-9300. About Aeroseal LLC The Aeroseal brand is celebrating 20 years in the market with over 600 dealers offering duct sealing services around the world. Aeroseal LLC bought the patents and rights to Aeroseal technology in 2010 with focus on creating a portfolio of industry-changing energy efficiency solutions. For more information about Aeroseal LLC or aeroseal duct sealing technology, visit http://www.aeroseal.com.


News Article | February 23, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

(Boston)--Maunil Bhatt, MD, a post graduate resident in the Department of Surgery at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center (BMC), was recently honored with a Global Surgery Research Fellowship Award by the Association for Academic Surgery (AAS) at their 12th Annual Academic Conference. Bhatt's project, titled Innovative Method of Screening for Esophageal Squamous Cell Cancers in Rural India, was chosen from 25 applicants. He received $10,000 for his project. For his study, Bhatt will screen a high-risk population in rural Gujarat, India, for esophageal squamous cell cancer using a device called EsophaCap. This tool is a sponge, compressed into a capsule that is attached to a string. Once swallowed, the outer coating of the capsule dissolves and forms into a sponge in three to five minutes which is then retrieved using the string. The sponge collects the esophageal cells which can then be analyzed to screen for cancerous or dysplastic lesions. "Our hope is to demonstrate this new method of screening is non-invasive, requires no expertise and will be more cost effective than endoscopy as a screening tool for this deadly cancer in the low- and middle-income countries with very high incidence of esophageal cancer," explained Bhatt. Born and raised until the age of 17 in Gujarat, Bhatt and his family moved to the US in search of a better future. He attended the University of California Davis and received his undergraduate degree in neuroscience becoming the first person in his family to receive any form of higher education. He then returned to India for a year to volunteer in a range of projects to improve health awareness and access to care in rural parts of the country. Upon his return, Bhatt attended medical school at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He matched with his No. 1 choice, BMC, for a general surgery residency. Bhatt is interested in global surgery and plans to spend some of his clinical time training and teaching in poor and low income countries that lack the surgical expertise. He hopes to work on addressing the disparities in access to surgical care that currently exists across the country.


News Article | November 7, 2016
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

Twice a day the rocky Pacific coast traps seawater in pools as the tide rolls in and out. Compared to the ocean, the puddles are so small and innocuous that it seems nothing momentous could possibly be happening there, but there is. It turns out tiny black turban snails may be getting a buzz from the changing levels of acidity caused by ocean acidification. The scientists at Bodega Marine Lab looked closely at sea stars and snails to find out. The underside of the purple sea star is covered in tiny delicate suction cups that make one wonder how it moves fast enough to be a voracious hunter, but it is. It’s the bully on the playground, a merciless predator. It can pry open mussel shells, turn its stomach inside out and wrap it around large prey, and digest its meal before even swallowing. It’s no wonder that when black turban snails sense the purple star’s arrival, they all flee to safety, crawling quickly up the side of a tide pool until the enemy leaves the water. Quickly for snails, that is. Snails have always been good at running away from their primary predator - the purple sea star - until now. Brittany Jellison, a graduate student at University of California Davis, has found in a recent study that the snail’s dramatic response might be slowing down because of ocean acidification. Jellison modified tide pools to mimic ocean acidification conditions. Then she observed the snail’s response by measuring the path they took to safety. What she found when watching the snail was a trippy set of behaviors. “Elevated carbon dioxide is a foreign substance in seawater, and snails are taking that foreign substance into their body, so yes, they in essence are on drugs,” said Brian Gaylord, a professor at UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab, where Jellison discovered that under ocean acidification conditions, snails didn’t immediately flee the pool to safety. Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  While most scientists studying the phenomenon are trying to understand how it effects a single species in a lab, Jellison’s work explores how ocean acidification effects multiple species interactions. “I think what’s really important here is that she is moving beyond thinking about an individual species, and instead thinking about how the direct effects on individuals scale up when they are in nature and interacting with other species. That is the important part of it,” said Kristy Kroeker, Assistant Professor at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California Santa Cruz. Professor Philip Munday of James Cook University agrees. He studies how ocean acidification effects reef fish and their ability to adapt to a changing environment. “Ecosystems are a whole combination of interactive species,” said Munday. “If we want to understand how ocean acidification is going to impact marine ecosystems we need to understand how it will impact with the really critical ecological interactions, such as predatory-prey interactions. That’s one of the really exciting things about Jellison’s work.” Tide pools on the Pacific coast have natural fluctuations in acidity, and the black turban snail and other animals that live there have adapted to that. Jellison wondered if the snails would be tolerant to ocean acidification conditions as well, or if they would reach their tipping point, and no longer able to tolerate the changes. To find out, Jellison made model tide pools in aquariums. So that the snails would feel most at home, she simulated the conditions of natural tide pools, with one exception. Jellison changed the levels of acidification in some of the pools to mimic the levels that are expected for rock pools under ocean acidification by the year 2100. Having some tide pools with normal conditions and some with future acidic conditions allowed her to compare the behavior of sober snails with snails on acid. With the arena built, let the show begin. Clutching her camera, Jellison carefully lowered black turban snails into the tank. One by one the snails reacted to a chemical cue produced by the predator sea star. Jellison took photos every two minutes for a half hour, then analyzed them for the distance the snails traveled, where they moved, and most importantly, if they left the water and escaped to safety. In total, Jellison did two 5-day trials, created 32 aquariums, tested 32 snails, and took photos every two minutes for 28 minutes per snail. Under normal conditions, the snails will run away and exit the water, a flight response that keeps them safe. Jellison found that in water with higher acidity the snails started to run away, but instead of moving to dry ground, they seemed to get confused, haphazardly meandering around the pool. Ocean acidification’s ability to change the interactions between predators and prey can have far reaching consequences. Jellison and her team aren’t yet sure exactly why the snails act confused. They think it’s related to changes in the brain as the animal tries to maintain balanced brain chemistry, which is something they would like to understand further. “I really love research and I especially love working with marine animals,” said Jellison, “but when I think about what my work is saying about the future it can be a little bit hard to take in. Most of the things we are finding is that the world is going to look very different form what we see today.” In the meantime, Jellison continues this research out in the field, in a creative study that has her waking up at all hours to hike to the tide pools and observe snails – all to understand the cascading effects of ocean acidification on the ecosystem. “I have a lot of hope that we will move forward as a society and try to come up with solutions and actually make changes. It is having hope that is important,” said Jellison. Ocean acidification may cross national boundaries, and reach all corners of the earth, but a glimpse into a puddle of seawater reveals an elaborate community, a tiny snail, and a big message.


News Article | December 22, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

This story has been updated. As we learn more and more about the tenor of the Trump transition, a key part of its regulatory rollback strategy on climate change is coming into focus. It seems increasingly likely that the Trump administration would either alter, or attempt to stop using entirely, an Obama-era metric known as the “social cost of carbon” in its federal rule-making processes. And that could have have major effects on the way environmental policies are written (or unwritten) in the coming years. A recent, highly controversial questionnaire the transition team sent to the Department of Energy requested a list of all “employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings,” as well as emails and other materials associated with those meetings. It also asked a variety of questions about the assumptions that went into calculating the social cost of carbon. Meanwhile, a document written last month by Department of Energy transition leader Thomas Pyle and recently obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, suggested that “during the Trump Administration the [social cost of carbon] will likely be reviewed and the latest science brought to bear. If the [social cost of carbon] were subjected to the latest science, it would certainly be much lower than what the Obama administration has been using.” But experts have countered that attacking the social cost of carbon may not hold up under scientific, or even legal, standards. If anything, many scientists believe that its monetary value should be set even higher. Scientists agree that climate change could cause a wide variety of damages to human communities, including natural disasters, harm to human health, reduced agricultural output and lower economic productivity, all of which result in monetary costs to society. The social cost of carbon, then, refers to the cost of emitting one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A U.S. government working group first convened in 2009 to develop a method for quantifying the social cost of carbon, and the value has since been used to help create a variety of federal environmental regulations, including the Clean Power Plan. The cost is currently set at about $36 per ton of carbon dioxide. For an administration that has promised to reduce regulations on oil and gas operations and revive the coal industry, doing away with — or at least reducing — the social cost of carbon is an obvious priority. The higher the cost is set, the more harm the government assumes will be caused by greenhouse gas emissions, which would generally justify more, rather than less, stringent regulation of the fossil fuel industry. Yet many climate experts now believe the social cost of carbon should actually be even higher than the current estimate. The old models used to calculate the value rely on dated research, they’ve argued, and there are certain climate-related damages that may not be adequately factored in. “When the U.S. government issued the social cost of carbon first in 2009 or 2010, it was a very good job of summarizing the literature as it stood,” said Michael Greenstone, an economist at the University of Chicago and former chief economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, who helped convene the first federal working group to address the social cost of carbon. “What has emerged since then has been an explosion of research to estimate the likely damages from climate change.” One 2015 paper argued that the models don’t do enough to account for the effect of higher temperatures on GDP. Once the authors factored it in, they found that the social cost of carbon skyrocketed up to about $220 per ton of carbon dioxide. The lead author of that paper, Frances Moore of the University of California Davis, is now working on new research that addresses the impacts of climate change on agricultural output, and how those effects can radiate through the economy. “The representation of those impacts in the agricultural sector is pretty dated in the models,” Moore said. “When we update those…we  find the social cost of carbon goes up substantially.” Other recent research suggests that a majority of climate-focused economists would agree that the social cost of carbon could be set higher. One 2015 study surveyed experts who’d published a climate change-related article in a leading economics or environmental economics journal in the past two decades. The survey, which asked a variety of questions about climate change, found that more than half the respondents thought the current estimate of the social cost of carbon was too low. Eighteen percent thought it was about right, while just eight percent thought it should be even lower. The same survey also found respondents generally predicted higher economic impacts from future climate change than past surveys have indicated, which may illustrate our evolving understanding of how climate change will affect human societies. The future of the social cost of carbon As Greenstone and his colleague Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School point out in a recent New York Times op-ed, it would legally be difficult or even impossible for the Trump administration to do away with the metric entirely. One of the reasons the standard was developed in the first place is because a 2008 federal court of appeals ruling specified that federal regulations must take climate change impacts into account. A more recent legal challenge to the use of the social cost of carbon was rejected in court. “Any effort to eliminate the social cost of carbon would reflect a neglect of science and economics — and it would be quickly struck down in court,” Greenstone and Sunstein write. But there are other potential ways to dull the metric’s bite, so to speak, by making its value smaller. One way would be to reconsider the calculations known as the “discount rate.” This is a kind of interest rate which can be thought of as a way to address how much the present generation is willing to pay to prevent climate-related damage in the future. A higher discount rate results in a lower social cost of carbon. Currently, the federal government uses a rate of 3 percent with a value of $36 for the social cost of carbon — but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a discount rate of 2.5 percent would bring the cost up to $56 per ton of carbon dioxide, while a rate of 5 percent would lower it to $11 per ton. In fact, the same questionnaire that requested the names of Energy Department employees who’d worked on the social cost of carbon also asked for information on the models and discount rates used to calculate the value. And at least one member of the Trump transition team has already argued for a higher discount rate. David Kreutzer, a member of the Environmental Protection Agency transition team who has previously questioned the science of anthropogenic climate change, published an essay earlier this year suggesting that a 7 percent discount rate, rather than 3 percent, would be more appropriate for use in regulatory policy. The new administration almost certainly couldn’t make any major changes without providing adequate scientific and economic justification, said Richard Revesz, a law professor and dean emeritus of the New York University School of Law. Otherwise, the move would also likely be struck down in court as “arbitrary and capricious,” he argued. In fact, he added, the National Academy of Sciences has assembled a committee of experts to review the way economic aspects of climate change are modeled. Their findings are expected to be published in a report early next year, which will help inform any future revisions to the social cost of carbon. “Interestingly, the economic consensus is actually moving in the direction that suggests the Obama discount rate is too high, not too low,” Revesz said. It’s likely the academy’s report will reflect this movement, or at least continue to support the value that’s been used by the Obama administration. “Once that report is out there, if the Trump administration wants to take a very different approach, it will have to explain…why it decided to disregard a consensus report of a very highly distinguished panel and what support it has for doing that,” Revesz said. So despite the leaked memo’s suggestion, there will likely be many hurdles the new administration would have to overcome to tackle the social cost of carbon, which is now a staple of environmental regulatory policy. “At the end of the day, climate change poses a very difficult challenge to society because neither of the choices are great — we can pay more today for energy and have less climate damage in the future, or we can pay less today and expose ourselves to greater climate risk in the future,” Greenstone said. “It’s a balancing act to find the right tradeoff between costs today and costs tomorrow.” But, he added, “wishing those costs did not exist does not make it so.”


News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Sea star wasting disease caused a severe decline in sunflower sea star populations in the Salish Sea off the coast of British Columbia and northern Washington state, according to a study published October 26, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Diego Montecino-Latorre from the University of California Davis, USA and colleagues. Sea star wasting disease broke out in 2013, causing large scale population decline in several species of sea stars along the west coast of North America, from Mexico to Alaska. Infected animals develop lesions leading to tissue decay, with limbs dropping off as the animals die. Previous research on the disease has mainly focused on intertidal populations, and little is known about how the disease impacts sea stars living below the low tide water line. Montecino-Latorre and colleagues investigated the impact of sea star wasting disease on species in the Salish Sea, which straddles the U.S./Canadian border and is home to a diverse number of sea star species. The researchers used a combination of data collected by scientific divers during 2014 - 2015 and longer term data collected by trained recreational scuba divers to assess the effects of the 2013 outbreak on species. The authors found dramatic declines in populations of sunflower sea stars, Pycnopodia helianthoides, along with several other sea star species. Sunflower sea stars are a key predator in the Salish Sea ecosystem and the researchers found that some sea urchin prey species, which feed on habitat-forming kelp beds, showed a corresponding increase after 2013. The authors warn that these sea star wasting disease effects could have long term effects on the Salish Sea ecosystem. Sunflower sea stars have effectively disappeared from the Salish Sea, the study concludes, and the researchers are in discussions with the National Marine Fisheries Service to have the sunflower sea star listed as a "species of concern". "Sunflower stars are major predators," says Joe Gaydos, wildlife veterinarian and chief scientist with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's SeaDoc Society. "This [decline] is probably going to change the shape of the ecosystem." Adapted from a press release provided by the authors. In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://dx. Citation: Montecino-Latorre D, Eisenlord ME, Turner M, Yoshioka R, Harvell CD, Pattengill-Semmens CV, et al. (2016) Devastating Transboundary Impacts of Sea Star Wasting Disease on Subtidal Asteroids. PLoS ONE 11(10): e0163190. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0163190 Funding: Funding for 100 focused Advanced Assessment Team REEF surveys in the San Juan Islands in 2013, 2014 and 2015 was provided by the SeaDoc Society and numerous private donors (including S. and N. Albouq, L. Ceder, C. Curry, J. Luce, A. Phelps Ford, the Seattle Aquarium and M. Wyckoff). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


News Article | March 2, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Simon Modi, 17, has just crossed into Yumbe in northern Uganda from South Sudan and within a few hours will be bussed to Bidi Bidi, one of world’s largest refugee settlements. Within 24 hours, he and his relatives will be settled on a half-acre plot with the tools to farm and build a home. The Ugandan refugee operation is seamless. But for now, it fails to sooth Modi. All he knows is that his father was shot, he missed his exams, and his mother is trudging through savannah with six children. “Maybe tomorrow they will arrive. If not, I will go back to find them!” Three other boys clasp their heads. “We learned their story when they were crying,” says Mohamed Bran, who runs the collection point for refugees. “Their mother was killed, the fate of their father unknown.” Refugees are pouring in. Bran keeps a list of why. Besides “killing and torturing” are “abduction of men, trading has stopped, no schools, looting of properties”. “It was preventive fleeing,” says Charlie Yaxley of the UN high commissioner for refugees. “Now it is actual violence. They go through forest because of armed groups on the road.” On 21 February South Sudan declared famine. It is horribly grim. Yet inside Uganda something extraordinary is happening. The country has a no camp policy and has settlements instead – swathes of land availed to refugees. Refugees can move freely, work and own a business. “Uganda is incredibly switched on,” says Musarait Kashmiri from African Initiatives for Relief and Development, which has opened 343km of roads in Bidi Bidi. “Uganda is a showcase,” says Yaxley. The settlement has churches under trees, health units and schools for refugee and local children. Most refugees are ready to farm. “Since we crossed, we have not heard guns,” says Helena Kujang,who “followed the footsteps of citizens” to safety. “We are going to grow our own food. All the seeds that are available, we will plant.” Several reasons exist for Uganda’s outlier levels of hospitality. Its commissioner for refugees, David Kazungu, says “Ugandans have been in exile and know what it means, and refugees are important for social and economic transformation.” Jens Hesemann suggests the last might be key. A 2016 study by University of California Davis and the UN World Food Programme found that “refugees’ purchases benefit local and national economies, and economic benefits exceed the amount of donated aid”. “In many countries such an influx would have led to a crisis,” says the UNHCR senior field coordinator. “Here it’s working.” A small cotton farmer extols the change. “The refugees are an opportunity,” says Hamza Yassin, 23. “Before they came, this place was empty. But they’ve created a marketplace. We can now buy things close by.” “Providing land to refugees allows them to immediately start settling, as no one knows how long they will have to stay,” says Yann Libessart of Médecins Sans Frontières. “Markets will expand, and the distinction between a South Sudanese refugee settlement and a Ugandan village eventually blur. This could give an economic boost.” But Uganda’s great undertaking could go wrong. “The hosts have been outstanding and the settlement model is unique,” says Hesemann. “But it comes with high expectations that if communities host refugees, they will benefit. It needs to be followed with concrete funding, or it risks disenfranchising the community.” However, just 36% of the $251m (£204m) needed in 2016 has come through, and at least three further settlements have had to open since Bidi Bidi filled up. There is also a clear and present danger of profound environmental damage to a district already poor, losing soil, entirely dependent on wood to cook and build, and reliant on economic activities that degrade natural resources, such as sand mining, which breaks down riverbanks, and charcoal, brick making and tobacco curing, which consume millions of trees a year. “Almost all the population depends on the environment so anything that happens to it is a big problem,” says Serbeet Kawawa, Yumbe’s natural resources officer. “The question is how to make refugees and host communities lead a sustainable life.” Yumbe already teeters on food insecurity, and water is so scarce that it is tanked from the Nile to refugees. “What we are seeing is a total destruction of trees,” says district agriculture officer Rashid Kawawa. “They clear their land and use the standing ones for fuel. We risk losing our big ones, which are important for biodiversity and rain.” This also worries farmer Yasin. “I doubt we shall experience our wet season,” he says. One project is marking “1,000 mother trees of biological importance like mahogany and shea,” explains forest officer Zabibu Ocogour. But much more needs to be done, like “a programme to explain what we are doing. The refugees may not understand.” Planting and regenerating trees will give refugees prunings to cook with, reduce pressure on natural vegetation and address assaults on women collecting wood. FAO’s Guidance on safe access on firewood and alternative energy in humanitarian settings advocates woodlots, efficient stoves, and farming that produces food and fuel. Serbeet Kawawa appreciates the humanitarian shift. “It used to be rehabilitation after repatriation. Now it is prevent damage right from the start.” “We emphasise stopping uncontrolled bush burning,” adds Timothy Olum Ojwi of the Lutheran World Federation. “The challenge is the long dry spell. Planting has to wait. But we give refugees 70% of everything we do, and host communities are happy because they receive 30%.” This current exemplary state needs urgent support: 300,000 refugees from South Sudan are expected in 2017, according to UNHCR, and a projected $558m (£453m) will be needed for all South Sudanese, now totalling 762,672, in Uganda this year. “The authorities, humanitarian community and environment can only cope with so much,” says MSF’s Libessart. Cathy Watson is chief of programme development at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi. Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow @GuardianGDP on Twitter


News Article | November 10, 2016
Site: www.washingtonpost.com

Each year, millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean, where it often goes straight into the bellies of hungry birds, sea turtles and other marine animals. This is a big concern for scientists, who are still investigating the possible consequences for the marine ecosystem — but until now, researchers weren’t completely sure why so many animals were mistaking the plastic for food in the first place. A new study, just out in the journal Science Advances, may shed some light on the mystery . The study finds that plastic in the ocean gives off a specific chemical compound with a distinctive smell, signaling to some seabirds that it’s dinnertime. “What we think is going on is that the plastic is emitting a cue that is getting [the birds] into moods to eat,” said Gabrielle Nevitt of the University of California Davis, the study’s senior author. Scientists already knew that some types of seabirds rely heavily on their sense of smell, rather than just their vision, when foraging for food. Nevitt’s previous research has focused largely on a group known as the procellariiform seabirds, which include albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters. Previous research has found these birds are especially responsive to a chemical compound called dimethyl sulfide, or DMS. In nature, DMS is produced by algae — especially when it’s being broken down and eaten by krill. There’s an evolutionary purpose to this system that benefits both seabirds and algae. When the the algae emit the chemical, they’re “engaging in sort of a mutualistic interaction,” said Matthew Savoca, a Ph.D student at UC Davis and the study’s lead author. “The algae says, ‘Birds, come over here and find food,’ and the birds say to the algae, ‘Thank you very much, we’re now going to eat your predators and reduce your grazing pressure from the krill.’ ” The problem is that plastic in the ocean tends to accumulate algae and other organic matter on its surface in a process known as “biofouling” — and this material emits DMS, the new study found. The researchers filled mesh bags with three of the most common types of plastic debris — high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene and polypropylene — and attached them to buoys in the ocean. After three weeks, the researchers collected the bags for analysis. Back at UC Davis, they turned to food and wine chemist Susan Ebeler’s lab for help. The lab supplied equipment usually used to detect sulfur in wine, which the researchers then used to analyze their plastic samples. They found a DMS signature on all the plastic that had been in the ocean. On the contrary, they did not detect any DMS when they tested plastic that hadn’t been soaked in the sea. Next, the researchers pooled data from previous research on plastic ingestion in seabirds. They found that birds known to be responsive to DMS consumed plastic five times as frequently as non-DMS-responsive species. The researchers decided to expand their study even further. Previous research has suggested that DMS-responsive species often tend to build their nests underground, while many other species nest on the surface. So the researchers decided to see what would happen if they analyzed previously collected data on plastic ingestion in burrowing versus non-burrowing seabirds. They found that burrow-nesting birds were also significantly more likely to ingest plastic than surface-nesting birds. These results have several important implications, according to the researchers. First, the study provides new insight into the mechanisms causing certain marine animals to eat plastic waste — and it likely applies to more than just seabirds. Some research has indicated that other animals, including fish and sea turtles, also use DMS or other chemicals as feeding cues, Nevitt said. The research also suggests that some of the species most vulnerable to plastic pollution may have been overlooked until now. Burrowing seabirds have not been the most heavily monitored up until this point, Savoca pointed out — largely because they spend so much time hidden underground — but the new study suggests they might be disproportionately affected by plastic waste. The paper “provides a convincing argument for the Procellariiform seabirds as to why they might pick up plastic from the ocean,” said Chris Wilcox, a senior research scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia, who was not involved with the new study, in an emailed comment to The Washington Post. However, he added, other species that don’t use DMS for foraging have also shown high rates of plastic ingestion. The reason for this remains an open question. For many species, eating plastic may indeed be a simple visual mistake — it might just look like food. Even in the DMS-responsive seabirds, visual cues may still be playing a part, Savoca noted. “I think it’s quite possible that these hypotheses are complementary, they really build on each other,” he said. “If something looks like food and smells like food, it would be much harder not to eat it.” Wilcox also cautioned that a lot of research on the actual effects of plastic consumption, particularly on whole populations of seabirds, remains inconclusive. While many scientists are indeed concerned that plastic might be harming the marine ecosystem, Wilcox pointed out that the new study can’t be used to speculate on the consequences of plastic consumption — only the reasons it’s happening. That said, the researchers are hopeful that their findings can be used to help stop marine animals from eating so much plastic waste. Recent research has suggested that the problem is only continuing to grow for now. A 2015 study, which was led by Wilcox, predicted that 99 percent of all seabird species — up from about 59 percent now — will be eating plastic by the year 2050. “[The study] provides a salient mechanism for how this group of birds might be detecting plastic and consuming it,” Nevitt said. “And once you have a better idea of how a mechanism might work, you’re in a better position to potentially mediate that.” There may be some opportunities for materials scientists and manufacturers to make a difference in the future, Savoca suggested — perhaps by designing plastics that are less conducive to algae growth. But he says the biggest priority should be keeping plastic out of our waterways in the first place. “Really, [the paper] just adds another layer to how how insidious and bad this plastic problem is,” he said. Why scientists are so worried about sea-level rise in the second half of this century We’re adding record amounts of wind and solar — and we’re still not moving fast enough For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here and follow us on Twitter here.


News Article | November 10, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

Why do seabirds fill their bellies with plastic? A new study in California suggests that it's all because of the smell emitted by marine plastic debris, which has been found to mirror the "appetizing" aroma of typical seabird meals. Certain seabirds are normally attracted to the sulfurous stench of dying algae, which, for hundreds of years, has helped them detect where their next feast awaits, scientists said. Up until the middle of the 20th century, scientists never thought that birds could smell at all. But it turns out, tube-nosed seabirds such as kiwis, albatross and petrels use their keen sense of smell to hunt for food. Their exceptional olfactory sense helps them forage over hundreds or thousands of square kilometers. Unfortunately, petrels, kiwis and albatross are also among species most affected by plastic consumption. Indeed, because of this olfactory cue, seabirds often make the mistake of chowing down on plastic in increasing quantities, the new study explained. Lead author Matthew Savoca, who conducted the research while he was a graduate student at University of California Davis, believes it is important to consider the animals' point of view in order to understand the reason behind their habits. To find out why seabirds eat plastic and at the same time, determine what marine plastic debris smells like, Savoca and his colleagues put beads made up of the three most common types of plastic trash into the ocean at Bodega Bay and Monterey Bay. Researchers were careful enough not to add to the marine plastic problem, so they inserted the beads inside sewn mesh bags, tied them to buoy and then collected them after three weeks. The beads were made up of poly-propylene, low-density polyethylene and high-density polyethylene. With the help of a special chemical analyzer, scientists confirmed that marine plastic trash did reek of dimethyl sulfide (DMS), a sulfur compound that is released by algae, which coats floating plastic. Savoca said their findings do not refute that plastic might also look like food to other marine animals that eat it, but it does affirm that when plastic looks and smells like food, it becomes more appealing to seabirds. "The way the plastic appears visually, from the organism's perspective ... is important to consider," added Savoca. Experts believe the findings of the study can help in finding new strategies to address the marine plastic problem, which affects not only seabirds, but also sea turtles, fish and other marine life. Meanwhile, details of the new report are published in the journal Science Advances. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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