Celebrate World Penguin Day by Taking Action

GR: Here’s another opportunity to lend your support to nature conservation.

Join the #Antarctica2020 movement!

“In October 2016, the 25 member governments that make up the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) agreed by consensus to designate the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica’s Ross Sea. Commercial fishing is banned throughout an area that covers more than 2 million square kilometers, including the Ross Ice Shelf.

“The Ross Sea Region MPA is a huge conservation win for the world’s oceans and an important first step toward fulfilling a commitment that CCAMLR governments made in 2002 to create a broader Southern Ocean MPA network.

“When CCAMLR members meet again in October this year, we expect them to continue this good work by designating MPAs in the Weddell Sea and in the waters off East Antarctica that set aside areas where no commercial fishing is allowed. Such an action would continue the momentum toward establishing a network of marine protected areas and reserves throughout the Southern Ocean by 2020. We need your support to make that happen!” –The Pew Charitable Trusts (Sign the petition:  Take action now!)

Trump to Launch Unprecedented Attack on National Monuments

GR: To add profits for a few companies, Donald Trump is willing to abandon protections for public lands that took years to get. In this action, Trump is just a tool of industries that have no concerns beyond profits.  Please help resist this asinine behavior.

“President Trump is poised to threaten more than 1 billion acres of national monument protection in a devastating and unprecedented attack on America’s public lands and oceans.

“Trump is expected to issue an executive order April 26 calling for a review of every national monument that’s been protected by presidential proclamation since 1996. His goal is to turn these natural and cultural wonders over to special interests, including mining and logging industries. Trump reportedly has the stunning Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah at the top of his hit list.”

“This is a frightening step toward dismantling the protection of some of America’s most important and iconic places: our national parks and monuments,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trump’s tapping into the right-wing, anti-public-lands zealotry that will take us down a very dangerous path—a place where Americans no longer have control over public lands and corporations are left to mine, frack, clear-cut and bulldoze them into oblivion. It starts with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase and only gets worse from there.”

“More than 50 national monuments are at risk, including vast marine areas in the Pacific and Caribbean. Congress gave the president the authority to designate national monuments on federally owned land under the Antiquities Act of 1906 for the express purpose of protecting important objects of historic and scientific importance.”

“President Trump is clearly doing the bidding of the Utah congressional delegation, who are without question the most aggressive federal lawmakers seeking to seize, dismantle and privatize America’s public lands,” Suckling added.

“National monument designations have protected some of the most iconic places in the country. Dozens of the nation’s most treasured national parks were first protected as monuments, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Acadia and Olympic national parks.”

“With this review, Trump is declaring war on America’s public lands,” Suckling said. “The president is satiating the greed of industry and blatantly dismissing the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, who overwhelmingly want to see these areas protected for future generations.”

“The monuments under attack are cherished by Americans for their natural beauty as well as their huge cultural significance.

“Congress gave the president authority to designate national monuments on federally owned land under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features. No president has ever attempted to withdraw a monument named by a predecessor.” –Center for Biological Diversity and EcoWatch (Continue reading:  Trump to Launch Unprecedented Attack on National Monuments.)

Plastic-eating bugs? It’s a great story – but there’s a sting in the tail

GR: People have often tried to import species to solve problems or increase productivity. Many times, unintended consequences have proven disastrous as the imported species spread beyond the objective and replaced local plants and animals. [Here’s an example from my research.] The story below gives another example for a current problem.

You’d need an awful lot of Wax Moth caterpillars to make a significant dent on the plastic waste problem. The UK alone discards almost 2m tonnes of the stuff every year.’ Photograph: Federica Bertocchini/Paolo Bombe/PA

“Caterpillars that can munch up plastic bags have just been identified, fuelling excited speculation that this could one day eliminate global pollution from plastic waste. The chance discovery, initially made by a scientist and amateur beekeeper whose plastic bag had been eaten through by the moth caterpillars, was reported this week by researchers at Cambridge University and the Spanish National Research Council.

“How thoughtful of nature to provide bugs that eat our rubbish. Is this the end of landfill, turtles with plastic-congested stomachs, and trees adorned with tattered ribbons of shopping bags?

“Well, it’s never that simple, is it? Attempts to commandeer nature to do our dirty work never seem to turn out as hoped, whether these take the form of planting trees to soak up carbon dioxide, or introducing invasive species for pest control, or using microorganisms to clean up oil spills. Remember the Australian cane toad debacle? The toads were introduced in the 1930s to control crop pests but instead gorged themselves on other local wildlife and spread across the country.

“These creatures, the larvae of the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella), can devour polyethylene, which along with the closely related polypropylene is the main type of plastic found in waste. But you’d need an awful lot of them to make a significant dent on the plastic waste problem. The UK alone discards almost 2m tonnes of this stuff every year. At the rate of consumption reported by the researchers – one worm gets through about two milligrams of plastic a day – you’d need billions of caterpillars eating constantly all year round to deal with that.

“Quite aside from how and where you’d farm all these bugs, there’s something about them that news reports have failed to mention. Wax moths, which are found throughout the world, are so-called because they eat wax. Specifically, they love to eat the wax from which bees make their honeycombs – and so they can devastate bee colonies. The two common species of wax moth, of which Galleria mellonella is one, are thought to cause more than £4m worth of damage annually in the United States alone.” –Philip Ball (Continue: Plastic-eating bugs? It’s a great story – but there’s a sting in the tail | Philip Ball | Opinion | The Guardian)

With bee populations already under severe stress, we might want to think twice about breeding one of their common airborne enemies in huge numbers. Photograph: Peter Komka/EPA

 

 

 

Pollution From Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported

GR: Almost every day, we learn that the many forces contributing to climate change are more powerful than we thought, or we learn that they are occurring faster than we thought, or both. And apparently, the picture is even gloomier than all the bad news has told us, because our measurement methods have been faulty.

“Canadian scientists have found that the standard way of tallying air and climate pollution from Alberta’s oil sands vastly understates pollution levels there — by as much as 4.5 times, according to a Canadian government study published Monday.

“The study shows that air samples collected using aircraft may be a more accurate way to tally air and climate pollution from oil and gas production than using industry estimates.

Suncor Energy oil sands plant near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.Credit: Suncor/flickr

“Accurate accounting of the oil and gas industry’s pollution is critical for scientists to understand how fossil fuel production affects the climate and to find ways to cut the pollution to address air quality and climate change, said Allen Robinson, director of the EPA-funded Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University, who is unaffiliated with the study.

“Both the U.S. and Canadian governments rely on energy companies’ self-reported emissions estimates in order to count all the pollution from oil and gas operations. Few actual pollution measurements are taken.

“If official tallies underestimate the actual emissions, climate models will likewise underestimate the extent to which fossil fuel pollution is contributing to climate change, Robinson said. The Canadian research shows that the energy industry has been underreporting its emissions and it highlights the challenges the industry faces in accurately estimating emissions from very complex equipment.

“Scientists in both the U.S. and Canada have found that measuring greenhouse gases and other kinds of air pollution using satellites or air samples gathered from airplanes paints a vastly different picture of fossil fuel emissions than those reported by government environmental agencies.

“For example, research using satellite data found a previously undetected hotspot of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — over oil and gas fields in northwest New Mexico. Most leaking methane from oil and gas fields isn’t included in EPA emissions estimates.

“Another study, conducted by Harvard University researchers, used air samples gathered from towers and airplanes to show that methane emissions from various sources in southern states are five times higher than EPA estimates.

“The Canadian research team measured emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the air above oil sands operations in Alberta. VOCs, most of which are not greenhouse gases, have an indirect effect on the climate. They produce ozone, which is a greenhouse gas and can harm human health.

“Ozone can allow methane to linger longer in the atmosphere than it would under normal conditions. The longer methane, which has about 86 times the power of carbon dioxide to warm the globe over the span of 20 years, remains in the atmosphere the more it helps to warm the climate.” –Bobby Magill (Continue reading:  Pollution From Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported | Climate Central.)

An oil sands operation in eastern Alberta. Credit: Kris Krug/flickr