Tunnel trees are a thing. Created in the 19th and early 20th century to promote parks and inspire tourism. They're good for engagement, but bad for the tree. One of the last known sequoia tunnel trees was recently brought down by a storm in California. A sequoia drive-throughable tunnel log does still exist.
Virus, Coal, and Seed: Subcutaneous Life in the Polar North: Anthrax, Coal, Flu, and the Global Seed Bank on Svalbard. The 2016 average annual temperature on Svalbard is projected to be above freezing for the first time ever. [more inside]
Kelp is a large seaweed that grows in underwater forests along temperate coasts, sustaining many marine species in turn. The Kelp Highway Hypothesis postulates that Pacific Rim kelp forests and the wealth of fish, mammals and birds that they supported sustained maritime hunter-gatherers spreading into the New World 16,000 years ago. Kelp species play an important role in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, and fuelled the production of soda ash in the Scottish Highlands and islands until the industry's collapse in the 19th century, which in turn fuelled emigration to North America and beyond. Charles Darwin wrote of the kelp forests of Tierra del Fuego that "if in any country a [terrestrial] forest was destroyed, I do not believe nearly so many species of animals would perish as would here, from the destruction of the kelp". [more inside]
Earth warming to climate tipping point, warns study. Writing in the journal Nature, they project that an increase of 1C (1.8F) will release an additional 55 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by 2050...previous assessments have not taken carbon released by soil into account. This could trigger a "positive feedback" and push the planet's climate system past the point of no-return. [more inside]
The interval between the 2016 US election and inauguration of POTUS #45 continues. Donald likes an avid reader, but claims many bogus votes were cast and others believe it. Romney (previous, post title, transcript) emerges full of chocolate cake and glowing praise. The "swamp" continues to be filled, and despite 'leaving business' there are conflicts (multiple, many) of interest. There's recount news in Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin. Amongst voter suppression news (more, more, again), recent tactics arguably worked (more), Michigan is trying to pass tougher ID laws, legal issues continue in North Carolina, and the fight will be a hard and an unavoidable one. [more inside]
Google has released an update to their Google Earth Timelapse feature that provides for a longer time horizon and a much greater level of detail than has been previously available. [more inside]
As the Arctic settles into polar night, scientists are noticing that something has gone horribly wrong. Sea ice levels in at the North Pole are at a record low—but even more startlingly, air temperatures are 36° F (20° C) higher than normal across the region. At the same time, north-central Asia is experiencing equally abnormal temperatures, but in the opposite direction. There’s a cold spell looming over Siberia.
A week since the post-truth 2016 US elections and Donald is attempting team selection with Reince Priebus becoming the Chief of Staff (Onion), while Steve Bannon is the Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor and Jeff Sessions could be the Attorney General. Election result analysis continues, including Barack's reaction, rural voters and insiders, as does consideration of the approaching 2018 mid-terms. Post-election, hate crimes have increased and a tally is being kept, while Black Lives Matter issues a statement. There are issues with fake news, and with vote counting in Arizona and Supreme Court control in North Carolina. Meanwhile, down ballot election results bring good news for liberals, Twitter does something, and voters swap media bubbles. Relevant events in the near future include the minority House elections, the Trump University litigation trial (maybe), the Louisiana Senate race runoff, the Electoral College vote and probable climate collapse. [more inside]
Recent climate studies predict that global temperatures could raise as much as 7C within our lifetimes, putting Earth on the fast track to a full Venus atmosphere.
Ars Technica: "UN report: climate goals rapidly moving out of reach." Paris Agreement made progress, but 2°C warming limit takes much more. [more inside]
Frozen Dreams: Russia's Arctic obsession (16 min.) is a Financial Times video feature about Russian Federation preparations to take advantage of the Northern Sea Route opening up along its Arctic coast, which may at some point offer a preferable path for global shipping between the Atlantic region and East Asia, in comparison with the conventional route through the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, and Indian Ocean. [more inside]
The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old.
No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously. "The actions necessary to hold to 2 degrees, much less 1.5 degrees, are simply outside the bounds of conventional politics in most countries. Anyone who proposed them would sound crazy, like they were proposing, I don’t know, a war or something. So we say 2 degrees is unacceptable. But we don’t act like it is." [more inside]
2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes. In the centuries to come, history books will likely look back on September 2016 as a major milestone for the world’s climate. [more inside]
An interview with science journalist and educator Margaret Wertheim. The majority of readers of science magazines are well-off white men over 40. That's a fact. I think it's an oversight on the part of the science communication world, and I'm trying to do something about it. [more inside]
With a global mean temperature rise of 1.5℃ (video, direct .mp4 link) the Marshall Islands, site of the US's Bikini Atoll nuclear weapons tests, may disappear completely. With most islands just six feet above sea level and less than a mile wide the ring of atolls is already severely affected by climate change. ⅓ of all Marshall Islanders are believed to live in the US, although they may face deportation. In recent months the residents of the Pacific island nation have been advised to cease eating fish after elevated levels of PCBs were found in the waters around the US missile base on Kwajalein Atoll. Recently, very previously, previously, previously, personal anecdotes.
When people say "the climate has changed before," these are the kinds of changes they're talking about. A handy (and terrifying) infographic by Randall Munroe.
Electric vehicles – It's not just about the car - "One of the key characteristics of complex systems, such as the world's energy and transport sectors, is that when they change it tends not to be a linear process. They flip from one state to another in a way strongly analogous to a phase change in material science... A second important characteristic of this type of economic phase change is that when one major sector flips, the results rip through the whole economy and can have impacts on the societal scale." (via) [more inside]
New York Times: Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun — Scientists’ warnings that the rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline are no longer theoretical. [more inside]
Bill McKibben asks us for a WWII-scale climate change mobilization. Maybe it's time to think of climate change as a war, argues Bill McKibben (founder of 350.org).
Logic hacking - "Writing shorter and shorter computer programs for which it's unknowable whether these programs run forever, or stop... the winner of the Busy Beaver Game for N-state Turing machines becomes unknowable using ordinary math - somewhere between N = 5 and N = 1919." [more inside]
At the top of the world a climate disaster is unfolding that will impact the lives of more than 1 billion people.
In Zarrilli's view, there is no time to waste. By 2030 or so, the water in New York Harbor could be a foot higher than it is today. That may not sound like much, but New York does not have to become Atlantis to be incapacitated. Even with a foot or two of sea-level rise, streets will become impassable at high tide, snarling traffic. The cost of flood insurance will skyrocket, causing home prices in risky neighborhoods to decline. (Who wants to buy a house that will soon be underwater?) - Can New York City Be Saved In The Era Of Global Warming? - Rolling Stone.
Thirty Million (direct Vimeo link), a U.N.-funded half-hour film about the expected effects of climate change on the country of Bangladesh. Radio interview with one of the directors on Radio New Zealand. Bangladesh will lose 70% of its land area if there is a one-meter sea level rise, displacing thirty million people. [more inside]
Alaska is Having Its Hottest Year Since Records Began - "After a spring that was a full ten degrees hotter than normal, the northern state is on track for the most sweltering year on record." (via) [more inside]
Newsfilter: India just set a new all-time record high temperature — 123.8 degrees
Five years after Radiohead's last album, myriad hints from the band marked May 1st -- Dawn Chorus Day -- as the date something big was gonna happen. The band ateased the web with rumours_of songs new and old, cryptic artwork, ominous mailers. But after years of waiting, nothing came... literally. Optimistic fans trying to pick up every last crumb_were left climbing up the walls_as they were shown how to disappear completely, with the band's official site and social media fading out
again, slowly dissolving little by little, one by one, before their very eyes.
It all came back Tuesday, as mysterious chirps and inkblots ushered in the sinister claymation music video for long-awaited track "Burn the Witch" [prev.], followed days later by an arresting P.T. Anderson-directed film for the somber elegy "Daydreaming."
While Radiohead's ninth album is not here now physically till June, it's available for download come 8th May_(today!) at 2 PM EDT on Radiohead.com.
It's gonna be a glorious day. [more inside]
Hundreds of documents uncovered by the Center for International Environmental Law have push back the record of oil industry knowledge on climate change by decades, and have now been published on the Internet: Smoke and Fumes. [more inside]
You're running out of time to see one of nature's most spectacular sites, writes Tom Philpott in Mother Jones. American Samoa is just one of the locations affected by a massive coral bleaching event. [more inside]
The case for optimism on climate change - "I'll finish with this story. When I was 13 years old, I heard that proposal by President Kennedy to land a person on the Moon and bring him back safely in 10 years. And I heard adults of that day and time say, 'That's reckless, expensive, may well fail.' But eight years and two months later, in the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, there was great cheer that went up in NASA's mission control in Houston. Here's a little-known fact about that: the average age of the systems engineers, the controllers in the room that day, was 26, which means, among other things, their age, when they heard that challenge, was 18." (via; previously) [more inside]
The REMAINS of Greenland project is attempting to locate and preserve archaeological sites in Greenland before they are lost to the destructive effects of climate change. [via]
E-Commerce: Convenience Built on a Mountain of Cardboard (sl; nyt) Online shopping is even worse for the environment than traditional retailing, with environmental costs including additional cardboard and other packaging plus emissions from "increasingly personalized" freight services. "Consumers expect that even their modest wants should be satisfied like urgent needs [....]From a sustainability perspective, we’re heading in the wrong direction."
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster. - A historic deal has been struck in Paris to reduce carbon emissions and reduce global warming, with a ceiling of 2 degrees centigrade and a goal of 1.5C. 2015 has been the hottest year on record.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a poet and climate activist from the Marshall Islands. Recently, she performed her poem Tell them at a protest calling for fossil fuel divestment at the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. Transcript on Democracy Now. [more inside]
The world's coral is suddenly and rapidly starting to die - "This is only the third time we've seen what we would refer to as a global bleaching event. [The prior events] were in 1998 and 2010, and those were pretty much one year events. We're looking at a similar spatial scale of bleaching across the globe, but spanning across at least 2 years. So that means a lot of these corals are being put under really prolonged stress, or are being hit 2 years in a row." Can 'manually breeding supercorals capable of living in increasingly inhospitable waters' help in time? (via/via)
Breaking the Tragedy of the Horizon – climate change and financial stability: Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warns investors face 'huge' climate change losses - "The Financial Stability Board, an international body monitoring the global financial system that Mr Carney chairs, may recommend G20 countries make it easier for investors to compare the 'carbon intensity' of different assets." [more inside]
The Weight of the World: Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself? by Elizabeth Kolbert [New Yorker]
Of all the jobs in the world, Figueres’s may possess the very highest ratio of responsibility (preventing global collapse) to authority (practically none). The role entails convincing a hundred and ninety-five countries—many of which rely on selling fossil fuels for their national income and almost all of which depend on burning them for the bulk of their energy—that giving up such fuels is a good idea. When Figueres took over the Secretariat, in 2010, there were lots of people who thought the job so thankless that it ought to be abolished. This was in the aftermath of the fifteenth COP, held in Copenhagen, which had been expected to yield a historic agreement but ended in anger and recrimination.
Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. Some snapshots: In just the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people. [...] London reached 98ºF during the hottest July day ever recorded in the UK. [...] In California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, jumping across the I-15 freeway during rush-hour traffic. Then, a few days later, the region was pounded by intense, virtually unheard-of summer rains. Puerto Rico is under its strictest water rationing in history as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide. [more inside]
About once a year he has nightmares of earth becoming a very alien planet. "Part of being a scientist is you don't want to believe there is a problem you can't solve."
In the past few years, science has lurched closer to envisioning habitable Mars, though at the moment estimates for creating breathable oxygen range from hundreds to 100,000 years in the future, the soil is currently toxic to astronauts, and travel is so unwieldy that scientists have proposed "printing" humans on Mars. Meanwhile, I wondered why not make Earth's increasingly inhospitable deserts greener.[more inside]
Grist: Seattle: City Of The Future series includes -
Is Seattle a model for sustainable cities, or just a mess?
Is Seattle a model for sustainable cities, or just a mess?
In reality, of course, change is a complicated and messy thing. With that in mind, the crew at Grist decided a few months back to use our hometown as something of a laboratory. We abandoned our work stations and set off in search of stories that would illustrate how Seattle is changing, for better or worse, and how the city and its residents are coping. It was a chance to get to know the place better, put our theories and prognostications to the test, and see what lessons Seattle holds for other cities.[more inside]
But to a growing cadre of A-list winemakers, there’s actionable intelligence in the data. Many of Fruition’s clients are altering their irrigation techniques, turning laggard vineyards into top performers and using far less water than they ever imagined. Along the way they’re extracting lessons that could extend far beyond this rarified corner of agriculture. By gaining insight into the relationships between water, sunlight, yield, and taste, Fruition Sciences is showing the way for farmers of all stripes to increase productivity and quality in a world of shifting weather patterns and decreasing supplies of freshwater.
The Surprising Link Between Fjords and Carbon While fjords make up just one tenth of one percent of the oceans’ surface area they account for about 11 percent of the carbon locked away in marine sediments each year ... [more inside]
Tesla Powerwall Battery Economics: Almost There - "Elon Musk announced Tesla's home / business battery today. [video] tl;dr: It'll get enthusiastic early adopters to buy. The economics are almost there to make it cost effective for a wide market... That said, for large scale grid deployment (outside of the home), it still looks like flow batteries and advanced compressed air are likely to be far cheaper in the long run." [more inside]
Toxic, Oxygen-Depleted Oceans May Have Caused a Mass Extinction Event Changes in the ocean may have pushed some species over the edge 200 million years ago. Scientists have discovered that oxygen-depleted toxic oceans had a key role in a mass extinction event during that time. [more inside]