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U.S. Seeks Greater Focus on Ocean Warming

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By Oliver Milman, The Guardian

The U.S. government has urged the international community to focus more on the impact of climate change on the oceans, amid growing concern over changes affecting corals, shellfish and other marine life.

The U.S. will raise the issue at United Nations climate talks in Paris later this year. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be asked to devote more research to the issue.

“We are asking the IPCC in their next series of reports to focus more on ocean and cryosphere [ice ecosystem] issues,” David Balton, deputy assistant secretary for oceans and fisheries at the U.S. State Department, said.

Waves lap a coral reef off Bunaken Island marine protected national park near Sulawesi, Indonesia. Warming oceans pose a major threat to coral formation. 
Credit: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images/The Guardian

“In my judgment, more attention needs to be paid to the climate change effects upon the ocean areas of the world,” Balton said. “We need to keep pushing up until the Paris conference and beyond.

“Ultimately, we need to change the way we live if we’re to keep the planet in the safe zone.”

Around half of all greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels and other activities are absorbed by the world’s oceans, which are warming steadily.

This has caused sea levels to rise and the oceans to become around 30 percent more acidic than in pre-industrial times. In acidic water, corals and shellfish struggle to form skeletons and shells.

An Australian-led study released this week, which examined the impact of climate change on 13,000 marine species, found that while some fish may be able to move into cooler areas, others face extinction due to warming waters. Species on the Great Barrier Reef are considered to be at particular risk.

U.S. government scientists have voiced their concern over recent signals that marine life is under pressure. An enormous toxic algal bloom nicknamed the “blob”, stretching from the Gulf of Alaska to the coast of Mexico, has been linked to the deaths of 30 large whales washed up on Alaskan coasts.

More than 250,000 Pacific salmon have died or are dying, meanwhile, due to warm temperatures in the Columbia river. Scientists predict that up to 80 percent of the sockeye salmon population, which swim up the river from the ocean to spawn, could ultimately be wiped out.

Warming water causes outbreaks of disease among some fish, as well as triggering problems high up the food chain by reducing the number of small prey fish.

“This year is looking an awful lot like what climate-change predictions for the future look like,” said Toby Kock, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Another government scientist, Dr. John Stein, science and research director at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, said people were “having to change the way they do things right now” because of changes to the oceans, citing the decision by some U.S. shellfish farmers to move their operations.

Stein, who is based in Seattle, added that there was a “fair amount of political challenge” in talking about climate change.

“On this coast you can talk about climate change, in certain parts of the country you cannot,” he said, in reference to a reported ban by the Florida governor of any reference to climate change by public officials.

“We have a very diverse Congress and there are some of them that are true deniers and I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to reach them,” Stein said. “But you can talk to a broader section of Congress about severe drought and flood and they will listen.

“Sometimes you have to craft your message in a way that gets resonance.”

Michael Gravitz, director of policy at the Marine Conservation Institute, a U.S.-based nonprofit, said: “It’s likely the IPCC has done less on oceans than the general atmosphere and we hope that will change.”

Gravitz said overfishing was another blight on ocean ecosystems, with just 10 percent of the world’s fish populations not under significant stress.

Reprinted from The Guardian with permission.


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Nature Gives Us Hope: River Guardian Latha Anantha

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Climate Change Poses Risk to Great Barrier Reef Species

By Joshua Robertson, The Guardian

Species native to the Great Barrier Reef are more likely to face extinction through climate change than marine life elsewhere that can adapt by “invading” new regions, according to new research.

The largest study to date on the impacts of climate change on marine biodiversity found that many species would cope by finding new waters.

Studies have shown “high levels of extinction risk in local marine populations” thanks to human impact and climate change.
Credit: AIMS/EPA/The Guardian

However, tropical species with narrower ranges were more likely to die out in a rapidly warming climate, the international research team found.

And the unknown effects of “invaders” encroaching on “natives” would pose “unprecedented challenges” for conservation, they warned.

One of the researchers, John Pandolfini from University of Queensland’s ARC center of excellence for coral reef studies, said the richness of marine biodiversity would change markedly and vary considerably region to region.

He said the study of almost 13,000 species “gave us hope that species have the potential to track and follow changing climates but it also gave us cause for concern, particularly in the tropics, where strong biodiversity losses were predicted.”

“This is especially worrying, and highly germane to Australia’s coral reefs, because complementary studies have shown high levels of extinction risk in tropical biotas [local marine populations], where localized human impacts as well as climate change have resulted in substantial degradation,” Pandolfini said.

The modeling relied on blending “climate velocity trajectories” – a measurement which combined the rate and direction of shifting ocean temperatures over time – with information about what temperatures and habitats species can tolerate.

CSIRO professor Elvira Poloczanska said the study showed that climate change would drive a new sameness in marine life populations across the world.

“Ecological communities which are currently distinct, will become more similar to each other in many regions by the end of the century,” Poloczanska said.

University of the Sunshine Coast researcher David Schoeman said the model suggested there was still time to prevent major climate-driven extinctions outside the tropics.

“Results under a scenario in which we start actively mitigating climate change over the next few decades indicates substantially fewer extinctions than results from a business-as-usual scenario,” Schoeman said.

However, the prospect of new blends of marine life populations through climate-driven migration was “possibly more worrying.”

“We have little idea of how these new combinations of species in ocean systems around the world will affect ecosystem services, like fisheries,” he said. “We should be prioritizing ecological research aimed specifically at addressing this question.”

Pandolfi said the broad geographic connections of climate change effects shown by the study underlined the need for international cooperation on conservation.

Climate Velocity and the Future of Global Redistribution of Marine Biodiversity is published in Nature Climate Change.

Reprinted from The Guardian with permission.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - August 30, 2015 at 6:01 am

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Infographic: U.S. Surface Water Pollution by State

More than half of the country’s lakes and rivers are not meeting water quality standards.

A major goal of the U.S. Clean Water Act is maintaining “designated uses” for rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways. Uses include fishing, swimming, boating, irrigation, drinking water, and wildlife habitat. Every two years, states must submit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a list of impaired water bodies that are not meeting quality standards for their designated uses.

clean water act map infographic pollution impaired waters united states

Graphic © Kaye LaFond/Circle of Blue
The most common pollutants found in U.S. waterways include mercury, nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and pathogens.Click image to enlarge.

This graphic accompanies the article, U.S. Clean Water Law Needs New Act for the 21st Century, by Circle of Blue reporter Codi Kozacek. Reach her at by email or @codikozacek on Twitter.

The post Infographic: U.S. Surface Water Pollution by State appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - August 29, 2015 at 6:10 am

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Effective Responses to Global Water Crisis Are Largely Local

With exceptions like California and Australia, regions and cities shape resilient adaptations for water security.

California Kern County reservoir drought Central Valley Carl Ganter circle of blue

Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue
California is a testing ground for drought response in an era when water scarcity is increasing for many regions. The state is paving the way for effective drought management, but it can also learn lessons from other parts of the world. Click image to enlarge.

By Miranda Cawley
Circle of Blue

STOCKHOLM-– In developing effective responses to severe drought, national governments from around the world look to local programs as sources of innovation, according to a group of global water experts convened by Circle of Blue at an online Catalyst town hall event during World Water Week here.

California’s drought response, in particular, is serving as a lesson in successes and shortcomings for the rest of the world, said the authorities who participated at the Catalyst virtual town hall hosted Tuesday by Circle of Blue and Maestro Conference in Sweden’s capital city.

“To make innovation happen on the ground we need to have locals on the ground – the mayors of the world – take responsibility,” said Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), which produces the annual World Water Week conference. “The combination of businesses, local municipalities, governmental bodies, and civil society will be key.”

In California…it is essentially a tale of two water futures, in which we are considering conditions that are more treacherous than they have ever been, but there are also now more initiatives than ever.”

–J. Carl Ganter, director
Circle of Blue

Experts from the private and public sector, as well as nongovernmental organizations and research groups, joined the third in a series of Catalyst events this month, the latest one coming live from Stockholm and from the One Water Leadership Summit in San Francisco.

California was specifically praised for developing relationships with the private sector to help confront the drought. Lindsay Bass, manager of Corporate Water Stewardship at the World Wildlife Fund, said that the case studies in California of cooperation between the private and public sector should be duplicated in the rest of the world. According to Bass, strong business relationships are particularly important, as the top risk to public sector investment in drought relief is the private sector.

“If we look at California we see really great innovation,” she said. “We want to understand and articulate those business case studies, the demands with which private sector impacts water.”

Peter Gleick, co-founder and director of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, also praised California’s business relationships as one of many steps the state is taking to address the drought.

“We are exploring water efficiency, expanding wastewater reuse, and exploring how the business community is using water,” he said.

Lessons for California, From The World

The panelists highlighted the importance of political power, as well as business power, in shaping responses to drought. Junaid Ahmad, director of the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice, drew on his own local experiences as a Bangladeshi national to discuss the political economy that controls water.

According to Ahmad, effective drought response in Bangladesh has been driven by determining who has real political power over the water.

“It is an important question to ask because the solution or adaptation to drought depends on whether power lies with farmers, cities, energy allocation, or users,” he said.

California stands to learn many lessons from developing countries such as Bangladesh that are confronting their own water crises. Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center in New York, highlighted how increasing user participation in crafting a drought response can improve the situation.

“On the policy side, the participatory frameworks, in negotiating sides, are taking force in developing countries much faster than in the U.S., and bringing those home is important,” Lall said.

There were universal lessons that could be applied from looking at individual droughts worldwide, including in California. Specifically, the speed of responses and flexibility are two crucial elements to a drought response. Both have become more vital in the face of many droughts that proceeded unchecked and became devastating.

“Coming back to California, the structure is not conducive to change,” said Lall. “What is interesting in working with this is that we need the affinity to predict climate variability, give drought warnings, so that people can plan in the next agricultural seasons and adjust, and so that change is not disruptive.”

This became clear in Africa, as well. Mats Eriksson, the director for climate change for SIWI, drew important lessons on mobilizing a speedy local response from the drought in the Horn of Africa.

“When we look in the mirror, we should question how we dealt with droughts in the Horn of Africa, where a number of alarms went up for several institutes of serious drought,” he said. “But taking action at an early stage with communities did not happen. So this is an important area of improvement.”

However, Gleick cautioned against applying the one-size-fits-all approach to creating a healthier water future.

“Success stories are important, but not all lessons can be applied everywhere,” he said. “Differences in institutions are important and we need to be careful about that.”

Catalyst is a series of online conference events about the California drought, America’s water supply, and the world’s water challenges. Visit our website to learn more about the series and stay informed of future Catalyst events. Read a recap of the previous two Catalyst: California town halls, California Drought Signals Fundamental Shift to New Water Conditions; and California Drought and Strengthening El Nino Accelerate Statewide Water Transition.

The post Effective Responses to Global Water Crisis Are Largely Local appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.


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‘Disastrous Year’ for North Cascades Glaciers Heralds Global Decline

Record heat in 2015 is melting glaciers at an eye-popping pace.

California Kern County canal agriculture drought farming Central Valley carl ganter circle of blue

Photo courtesy of Mauri Pelto
A lake at the end of the Columbia glacier, in the North Cascades range of Washington state, is growing as the glacier melts. Click image to enlarge.

By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue

With nearly a month left in the summer melt season, researchers already know that 2015, on track to be the hottest year ever measured, will be awful for the world’s glaciers, which are likely to lose more ice than any year on record.

The latest evidence comes from the North Cascades in Washington state, where a team of scientists recently completed its 32nd annual survey of the mountain range’s major glaciers.

The North Cascades, home to more mountain ice than any state except Alaska, is expected to lose a record amount of its glacier mass this year: between five and seven percent, according to Mauri Pelto, professor of environmental science at Nichols College and director of the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project.

Smoke from the dozens of wildfires burning in Washington obscured the sky during the team’s three weeks of field work in the alpine basins between Snoqualmie Pass, east of Seattle, and the Canadian border. The catalysts for the fires — the severe heat and deep drought that wracked the Pacific Northwest this year — are also walloping the region’s glaciers.

Record Glacier Loss Expected Worldwide
Glaciers throughout the world are in decline, and the rate of ice loss is accelerating, according to an annual report published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Last year was the 27th consecutive year with a net decline. The rate at which glaciers are melting is nearly four times quicker in the 2000s compared to the 1980s, according to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, which has tracked 37 glaciers for more than three decades.
Mauri Pelto, who is the U.S. representative to the World Glacier Monitoring Service, said that with warm temperatures cooking the Alps, another current hot spot, 2015 will be the worst year on record for glacial melting.
In some regions, particularly the Himalayas and Andes, rapid melting can cause lakes at a glacier’s toe to burst their banks, triggering catastrophic flooding for downstream communities. The presence of glacial lakes contributed to June 2013 floods in Uttarakhand, India, that killed as many as 30,000 people, buried highways, destroyed villages, and damaged at least 10 big hydropower projects.

Glaciers, in basic terms, shrink when more ice melts in the summer than accumulates in the winter. The imbalance in the North Cascades in 2015 is larger than ever. Pelto, who started monitoring the glaciers in 1983, called the scenario “disastrous.”

“It’s disastrous for the glaciers themselves,” Pelto told Circle of Blue. “It’s disastrous for water resources in the future. In watersheds fed by glaciers, there will be less runoff.”

Though an outlier in terms of severity, the 2015 melt follows the long-term trend line, which points downward. Less glacial runoff and less snowpack will eventually lead to a reordering of the mountain ecosystem. Pika, a cousin of the rabbit, are being driven toward extinction by the loss of snowy habitat. Salmon and other aquatic species will struggle in warm, depleted creeks without the pulse of summer meltwater.

Systems engineered by humans will also be altered. Hydropower production, a source of roughly 75 percent of Washington’s electricity generation, will decline. Drinking water reservoirs will require new operating procedures that reflect changes in the timing of water flows.

Most of the consequences are disruptive. However, the big melt is producing an ironic benefit this year. The Pacific Northwest winter was so warm that very little snow fell in the Cascades. The freezing level — the elevation at which air temperatures were cold enough for snow — climbed up the mountains, some 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) higher than normal in February. Without the slow release of water from melting snow, most Washington streams are running at historic lows and at temperatures warm enough to kill salmon. Streams fed by glaciers, on the other hand, are getting a boost.

“The near-term effects are not so bad,” Pelto explained, referring to the melt. “The only streams with water in them are those fed by the glaciers. The melting is helping to maintain streamflow.”

The post ‘Disastrous Year’ for North Cascades Glaciers Heralds Global Decline appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.


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The Stream, August 28: Judge Stops U.S. Clean Water Rule

The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

A federal judge in North Dakota placed an injunction on the new federal Clean Water Rule, which is scheduled to take effect today. Extreme droughts, like the one in Central Europe this year, could become more common in the region. Hydropower development in India threatens habitat for the Tibetan crane, California met its water use reduction targets for July, and bottled water sales in the United States are on track to exceed soda sales in the next two years.

“The risk of irreparable harm to the states is both imminent and likely.”–Ralph Erickson, U.S. district judge in Fargo, North Dakota, in granting a temporary injunction exempting 13 states from the federal Clean Water Rule, which was set to take effect Friday. The rule, issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, seeks to clarify which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. (Associated Press)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

31 percent Water use reduction in California in July, higher than the 25 percent reduction target mandated by the state government. Reuters

7 percent Growth in the amount of bottled water sold in the United States last year, meaning it will likely outsell soda by 2017. The Wall Street Journal


Science, Studies, And Reports

A severe drought in Central Europe this year, the worst since 2003, provides a window into the region’s future climate, according to a report from the European Drought Observatory. The area is also likely to see more extreme floods. Guardian

On the Radar

On The Radar

The construction of a 780-megawatt hydropower dam in India could destroy winter habitat for the Tibetan crane, a vulnerable species. Other hydropower projects planned for the region could compound the problem. Guardian

The post The Stream, August 28: Judge Stops U.S. Clean Water Rule appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.


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How Local Organizers Thwarted One of the Biggest Utility Acquisitions in History

Until this week, most people thought Exelon’s planned $6.9 billion acquisition of Pepco was a sure bet. But in a blow to both companies, regulators in the District of Columbia rejected the deal.

What happened?

The story is not just about a business deal gone awry. It’s a story about local empowerment, how utilities are dealing with the dramatic swing in America’s electricity market, and the tough decisions regulators are grappling with as they consider how to promote a cleaner grid.

We will talk to Anya Schoolman, an organizer in DC who opposed the deal, about how a group of citizens derailed one of the largest utility acquisitions in history. 

Later in the show, we’ll examine how recent turmoil in the financial markets may impact energy markets. And we’ll finish with a discussion of President Obama’s latest announcement on PACE and loan guarantees.

This podcast is sponsored by ReneSola, a Tier 1 solar cell and module manufacturer with a decade of experience in the cleantech industry. 

The Energy Gang is produced by The show features weekly discussions between energy futurist Jigar Shah, energy policy expert Katherine Hamilton and Greentech Media Editor Stephen Lacey.


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America’s Utility-Scale Solar Generation Is 31 Times Higher Today Than a Decade Ago

There was a moment in 2013 and early 2014 when utility-scale solar hit a snag in America. California utilities were reaching the upper limits of their renewable energy mandates, concentrating solar power costs were not coming down as expected, and investors had turned their attention to the booming residential PV market. 

But that moment passed fairly quickly. Moving into the second half of 2014, utilities all around the country signed an unprecedented number of contracts for utility-scale PV projects — in large part because the technology had gotten so cheap. California had largely dominated the market since 2010, but suddenly utilities in Colorado, Minnesota, Utah and Kentucky were inking deals for large projects below the price of natural gas, completely separate from state mandates.

Today, utility-scale solar continues to hit cost and generation records. There are now more than 7 gigawatts of PV projects slated for completion around the country next year. In June, Austin Energy revealed that the average bid from developers in the second round of a 600-megawatt procurement were averaging below 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. And in March, California became the first state to generate 5 percent of its electricity from utility-scale solar power plants.

Here’s another notable record: this week, the U.S. government’s energy research arm showed that generation from utility-scale solar power plants is 31 times higher than it was a decade ago. (Note: EIA defines utility-scale solar as any project over 1 megawatt; GTM defines it as any project on the utility side of the meter.)

Utility-scale solar now accounts for just over a half percent of U.S. electricity production. Add in the 700,000 distributed projects around the country — which make up 45 percent of U.S. installed capacity — and solar generation is over 1 percent of production.

But the most compelling part of this EIA data set isn’t the surge in overall generation. It’s the shift in solar generation itself. 

From 2005 to 2012, concentrating solar power saw a resurgence of investment after years of virtually no activity. Over that five-year period, the technology contributed 85 percent of overall solar generation. After 2011, as PV development costs fell and CSP costs stagnated, that dynamic flipped. More than 86 percent of total solar electricity came from PV as of last year.


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What’s the Current Operational Capacity of the US Microgrid Market?

Welcome to week two of GTM’s Energy News Quiz. I’m your host, Alex Trebek Mike Munsell.

Take the quiz below. If any questions leave you puzzled, we’ve provided explainer links at the bottom.

How’d you do? Feel free to brag (or shame yourself) in the comments section.


1. Which of these elements is NOT part of President Obama’s recently announced clean energy plan?

2. AGL Resources was just acquired for $8 billion by which firm?

3. Speaking of acquisitions, which firm just acquired Seeo’s Solid-Electrolyte EV-Battery Technology?

4. Name the most recent addition to Eric Wesoff’s list of now-defunct CIGS thin film manufacturers.

5. Authorities in this country have pre-approved 11 GW of PV projects for an upcoming reserve auction.

6. Regulators blocked Exelon’s $6.8 billion takeover of which utility?

7. Nevada’s PUC voted to extend the state’s net metering policy until when?

8. According to GTM Research, what’s the current operational capacity of the U.S. microgrid market?


Mike Munsell is GTM’s resident game geek. In addition to creating the GTM Energy News Quiz, hosting GTM’s annual ping pong tournament, and winning Super Smash Brothers games at solar trade shows, he writes original riddles at Sign up to get them in your inbox every Monday and Friday.


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