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New UN Report Is Cautious On Making Climate Predictions by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360

New UN Report Is Cautious On Making Climate Predictions by Fred Pearce: Yale Environment 360.

24 MAR 2014: ANALYSIS

The draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world faces serious risks from warming and that the poor are especially vulnerable. But it avoids the kinds of specific forecasts that have sparked controversy in the past.

by fred pearce

Batten down the hatches; fill the grain stores; raise the flood defenses. We cannot know exactly what is coming, but it will probably be nasty, the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will warn next week. Global warming will cause wars, displace millions of people, and do trillion-dollar damage to the global economy.

But careful readers will note a new tone to its discussion of these issues that is markedly different from past efforts. It is more humble about what scientists can predict in advance, and far more interested in how societies can make themselves resilient. It also places climate risks much more

IPCC cautious predictions

Rob Elliott/AFP/Getty Images
The draft IPCC report cites sea level rise and storm surges among eight “key risks.”

firmly than before among a host of other problems faced by society, especially by the poor. That tone will annoy some for taking the edge off past warnings, but gratify others for providing a healthy dose of realism.

The study, the result of a five-year review of published papers, is from the IPCC’s scientists working on the impacts of climate change. It complements an IPCC study late last year on the planetary science and will be followed next month by another that will focus on what we should do about it.

A leak of the final draft prepared by scientists at the end of October 2013 is circulating. It is not the final version, which will be a summary for policymakers that will be released on March 31, though there is unlikely to be much change. And, since government delegates at international talks in Japan this week will scrutinize the final draft before signing off

Hopes that better science and greater computer power would allow more precise forecasts have often proved wrong.

for publication, what we have is effectively “the scientists’ cut.”

Past impacts reports from the IPCC were based around attempts to produce detailed forecasts of local climate in future decades and somewhat mechanistic assessments of what this would mean for society. But the new report is much more wary, especially of putting numbers on likely changes. Many previously firm-sounding forecasts have disappeared since the last major IPCC climate-impacts report in 2007, such as spreading droughts and crop losses in Africa and more violent hurricanes in the Atlantic.

The reason for avoiding precise forecasts is twofold. First, overly precise predictions got the authors of the 2007 report into trouble. The most famous faux pas was the claim that Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035, when 2350 is a more likely date. But there were other unsubstantiated forecasts, such as that “projected reductions in [crop] yield in some countries [in Africa] could be as much as 50% by 2020” — a misinterpretation of a paper, which was not peer-reviewed, that looked at rain-fed agriculture in just three North African countries.

The hundreds of authors of the draft report have been silent for some time, following IPCC rules by refusing to discuss their draft with journalists. But their chairman, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution in Stanford, California, told me soon after taking on the job in 2009 that he recognized serious mistakes had been made last time and that he was “committed to sufficient checking and cross-checking to ensure a truly error-free product next time.”

Another reason for the more measured tone is that hopes that better science and greater computer power would allow more precise forecasts than seven years ago have often proved wrong. For parts of the world, model forecasts of regional climate change are diverging rather than converging. The more we know, it seems, the less we know for sure.

Caution is the watchword. Take the treatment of Africa. Last time, the chapter on that continent began with a declaration that up to a quarter of a billion Africans “are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due

The draft report lays out eight ‘key risks,’ including sea level rise and storm surges that could affect hundreds of millions.

to climate change.” This time, the leaked draft states simply that while “a reduction in precipitation is likely over North Africa … projected rainfall change over sub-Saharan Africa is uncertain.”

The draft agrees that “climate change will amplify existing stress on water availability in Africa” and will “very likely” reduce cereal crop productivity. But this time the discussion is not about how big or small those reductions might be, but on how African farmers might cope with less water, through terracing and agroforestry for instance.

Asia has fallen into a similar forecasting limbo. Last time, the IPCC warned that there would be less water in most Asian river basins and up to a billion people could experience “increased water stress” as early as the 2020s. This time, “there is low confidence in future precipitation projections at a subregional level and thus in future freshwater availability in most parts of Asia.” Last time the IPCC predicted “an increase of 10 to 20% in tropical cyclone intensities” in Asia. This time it reports “low confidence in region-specific projections of [cyclone] frequency and intensity.”

Some certainties do remain. The leaked draft suggests growing agreement among climate modelers that Scandinavia and much of Canada will see more precipitation and that the southwestern U.S., southern Australia, the Middle East, southern Europe, and North Africa can expect more droughts and emptier rivers.

Southern Europe looks set to fry, with crops shriveling in the fields, reservoirs emptying, deserts spreading, tourists staying away, and demand for air conditioning going through the roof. Even its vineyards will suffer, though a reference in a March 2013 draft to Venice being “lost forever” beneath the waves has since been removed.

Globally, the draft report lays out eight “key risks”: sea level rise and storm surges in coastal areas that could affect “hundreds of millions… by 2100”; food insecurity for the poor from warming and drought; inland flooding of cities; loss of access to water for drinking and irrigation; breakdown of infrastructure due to extreme events; loss of fisheries, due to a “global redistribution of maximum catch potential”; loss of terrestrial ecosystems such as

The idea that climate change is of an entirely different order to other threats faced by the world has been rooted out.

“forest dieback … in the next one to three decades”; and extreme heat, especially for the poor in cities.

But it asks us to be grown-up about the uncertainties involved in what plays out when. “Responding to climate-related risks involves making decisions and taking actions in the face of continuing uncertainty about the extent of climate change and the severity of impacts in a changing world,” the draft report says. Or as Field put it to journalists in 2010: “Most people spend their lives making decisions under uncertainty, and that’s what dealing effectively with climate change demands — the same kind of decisions you make when you decide to buckle your seatbelt.”

The 2007 report was almost all about the impacts of climate change. Most of this report, and in particular most of the summary for policymakers, is about resilience and adaptation to inevitable climate change.

Central to that new take is setting climate change in a context of other risks, uncertainties and mega-trends such as poverty and social inequality, urbanization, and the globalization of food systems. What some call “climate exceptionalism” — the idea that climate change is something of an entirely different order to other threats faced by the world — has been rooted out. Here climate change is painted as pervasive, since nobody can avoid it wholly, but as usually only one among many pressures, especially on the poor.

“Climate-related hazards constitute an additional burden to people living in poverty, acting as a threat multiplier,” it says. “Vulnerability is rarely due to a single cause.” Even for someone living on a sand spit in coastal Bangladesh, at constant risk of being washed away by rising tides and

On food security, the report is markedly more gloomy than the previous assessment in 2007.

superstorms, the country’s pervasive land inequality may be a bigger threat.

Thus climate will exacerbate and amplify pre-existing problems. The report notes how a drought in Australia in 2007 sent global food prices soaring in 2008. But it cannot answer whether we should blame climate change or a dysfunctional food system.

Food security is, nonetheless, one area where the report is markedly more gloomy that its immediate predecessor. The 2007 assessment argued that increases in crop yields in mid-latitudes could offset losses in hotter climates, at least for the next few decades. “Globally,” it said, “the potential for food production is projected to increase with increases in local average temperature over a range of 1-3 degrees C.” But that optimism has faded. The leaked draft forecasts that “local temperature increases of 1 degrees C or more… are projected to negatively impact yields.”

Average yields of major grains could fall by up to 2 percent a decade from here until the end of the century, it predicts. With demand for food crops likely to rise by 14 percent a decade, that sounds a daunting prospect — though it also suggests that climate change is only a small element in the emerging 21st century crisis over global food security.

Some nightmare scenarios are robustly defused. Past IPCC reports have warned that there might be as many as 50 million “climate refugees” around the world, who will flee drought, rising tides and spreading deserts. This report is set to dismiss that idea. “The current alarmist predictions of massive flows of so-called ‘environmental refugees’ are not supported by past experiences of responses to droughts and extreme weather,” the draft

MORE FROM YALE e360

Has the U.N. Climate Panel
Now Outlived Its Usefulness?

sea level rise

Some scientists are saying the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is overly conservative and fails to mention some of the most worrisome possible scenarios. The panel, they contend, is no longer fulfilling its mission of informing policy makers of the risks of global warming.
READ MORE

says. “Predictions for future migration flows are tentative at best.” It also points out that migration is a good “coping strategy,” often to be encouraged rather than feared.

The report may irritate politicians in poor countries who look to blame climate change caused by the rich world for the ills of their people and want to demand reparations. But it may also dismay those who want to cite other factors to “prove” that climate change is never to blame. The world is more complicated, the scientists who prepared the draft conclude. The lesson of their report is that climate change will be implicated in a vast array of global ills, but it will rarely be the sole cause.

Climate change skeptics may want to characterize the report as debunking what they regard as the scaremongering of past reports. They may latch onto statements such as that “for most economic sectors,” factors such as changing demography, technology, lifestyles, and governance “will be large relative to the impacts of climate change.” And the report is, on the face of it, more optimistic than the famous review of the economics of climate change by Britain’s Nicholas Stern in 2006.

Stern put the likely cost to the global economy of warming this century at 5-20 percent of GDP. The new IPCC draft says that a global average temperature increase of 2.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels may lead to a global loss of income of between 0.2 and 2 percent.

But if Americans think this puts them in a good position, they are wrong. While the report is silent on whether there might be more or stronger hurricanes hitting North America from the Atlantic (and “Katrina aside,” saw no trend in U.S. hurricane deaths since 1970), it states that “much of North American infrastructure is currently vulnerable to extreme weather events.”

The message is clear. We may not be able to make hard and fast predictions, but prudency requires that we prepare for the worst.

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Activist Post: World Leaders Play ‘Nuclear War Game’ During Netherlands Summit to Test Nuclear Attack Responses

Activist Post: World Leaders Play ‘Nuclear War Game’ During Netherlands Summit to Test Nuclear Attack Responses.

Paul Lawrance
Activist PostDuring the G7 nuclear summit in the Netherlands this week,heads of government played a interactive nuclear war game that was designed to test their response to a terrorist plan to set off a “dirty bomb” in a Western metropolis.

President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese premier Xi Jinping were all a part of the games which showed a series of short films where terrorists planed to use stolen nuclear material to set off a “dirty bomb” in a unnamed Western metropolis, reports The Telegraph.

A diplomatic source told The Telegraph that the heads of state had to react to the films in real time as they were equipped with a computer tablet with a touch screen displaying responses.

“It could be the city of London or Wall Street, Milan or anywhere,” summit goers were told,according to The Telegraph’s report.

“US officials” said the games where meant to give the state leaders at the summit a “scare you to death” feeling that would make then think deeply into their reaction during a nuclear attack.

In the end, as it is being reported, the leaders were able to thwart the attack due to their decision making.

Another interesting note:

During a press conference in the Netherlands on Tuesday, President Barrack Obama said he is more concerned about a nuke going off in Manhattan then he is of any threat coming from Russia.

“Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the No. 1 national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan,” Obama said in response to a reports question on whether or not Russia is the biggest political foe of the US.

Paul Lawrance writes for Eyes Open Report, where this first appeared

What Do World's Two Biggest Dangers Have in Common? Washington's Blog

What Do World’s Two Biggest Dangers Have in Common? Washington’s Blog.

Anyone who cares about our natural environment should be marking with great sadness the centenary of World War I. Beyond the incredible destruction in European battlefields, the intense harvesting of forests, and the new focus on the fossil fuels of the Middle East, the Great War was the Chemists’ War. Poison gas became a weapon — one that would be used against many forms of life.

Insecticides were developed alongside nerve gases and from byproducts of explosives.  World War II — the sequel made almost inevitable by the manner of ending the first one — produced, among other things, nuclear bombs, DDT, and a common language for discussing both — not to mention airplanes for delivering both.

War propagandists made killing easier by depicting foreign people as bugs. Insecticide marketers made buying their poisons patriotic by using war language to describe the “annihilation” of “invading” insects (never mind who was actually here first). DDT was made available for public purchase five days before the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  On the first anniversary of the bomb, a full-page photograph of a mushroom cloud appeared in an advertisement for DDT.

War and environmental destruction don’t just overlap in how they’re thought and talked about.  They don’t just promote each other through mutually reinforcing notions of machismo and domination.  The connection is much deeper and more direct. War and preparations for war, including weapons testing, are themselves among the greatest destroyers of our environment.  The U.S. military is a leading consumer of fossil fuels. From March 2003 to December 2007 the war on Iraq alone released more CO2 than 60% of all nations.

Rarely do we appreciate the extent to which wars are fought for control over resources the consumption of which will destroy us.  Even more rarely do we appreciate the extent to which that consumption is driven by wars.  The Confederate Army marched up toward Gettysburg in search of food to fuel itself.  (Sherman burned the South, as he killed the Buffalo, to cause starvation — while the North exploited its land to fuel the war.)  The British Navy sought control of oil first as a fuel for the ships of the British Navy, not for some other purpose.  The Nazis went east, among several other reasons, for forests with which to fuel their war.  The deforestation of the tropics that took off during World War II only accelerated during the permanent state of war that followed.

Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. Perhaps the most deadly weapons left behind by wars are land mines and cluster bombs. Tens of millions of them are estimated to be lying around on the earth. The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.

The United States fights its wars and even tests its weapons far from its shores, but remains pockmarked by environmental disaster areas and superfund sites created by its military.  The environmental crisis has taken on enormous proportions, dramatically overshadowing the manufactured dangers that lie in Hillary Clinton’s contention that Vladimir Putin is a new Hitler or the common pretense in Washington, D.C., that Iran is building nukes or that killing people with drones is making us safer rather than more hated. And yet, each year, the EPA spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each. The $1 trillion spent by the United States on militarism each year, and the $1 trillion spent by the rest of the world combined, could fund a conversion to sustainable living beyond most of our wildest dreams. Even 10% of it could.

When World War I ended, not only did a huge peace movement develop, but it was allied with a wildlife conservation  movement.  These days, those two movements appear divided and conquered.  Once in a blue moon their paths cross, as environmental groups are persuaded to oppose a particular seizure of land or military base construction, as has happened in recent months with the movements to prevent the U.S. and South Korea from building a huge naval base on Jeju Island, and to prevent the U.S. Marine Corps from turning Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas into a bombing range.  But try asking a well-funded environmental group to push for a transfer of public resources from militarism to clean energy or conservation and you might as well be trying to tackle a cloud of poison gas.

I’m pleased to be part of a movement just begun at WorldBeyondWar.org, already with people taking part in 57 nations, that seeks to replace our massive investment in war with a massive investment in actual defense of the earth.  I have a suspicion that big environmental organizations would find great support for this plan were they to survey their members.

Risk Expert: GMOs Could Destroy the Global Ecosystem Washington's Blog

Risk Expert: GMOs Could Destroy the Global Ecosystem Washington’s Blog.

 

Risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb predicted the 2008 financial crisis, by pointing out that commonly-used risk models were wrong.  Distinguished professor of risk engineering at New York University, author of best-sellers The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness, Taleb became financially independent after the crash of 1987, and wealthy during the 2008 financial crisis.

Now, Taleb is using his statistical risk acumen to take on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Taleb’s conclusion:  GMOs could cause “an irreversible termination of life at some scale, which could be the planet.”

Sound crazy?

Sure it does … but only because we don’t understand statistics, and so we have no handle on what’s risky and what’s not.

Taleb and his 2 co-authors write in a new draft paper:

For nature, the “ruin” is ecocide: an irreversible termination of life at some scale, which could be the planet.

***

Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs fall squarely under [the precautionary principle, i.e. the rule that we should err on the side of caution if something is really dangerous] not because of the harm to the consumer because of their systemic risk on the system.

Top-down modifications to the system (through GMOs) are categorically and statistically different from bottom up ones (regular farming, progressive tinkering with crops, etc.) There is no comparison between the tinkering of selective breeding and the top-down engineering of arbitrarily taking a gene from an organism and putting it into another. Saying that such a product is natural misses the statistical process by which things become ”natural”. [i.e. evolving over thousands of years in a natural ecosystem, or at least breeding over several generations.]

What people miss is that the modification of crops impacts everyone and exports the error from the local to the globalI do not wish to pay—or have my descendants pay—for errors by executives of Monsanto. We should exert the precautionary principle there—our non-naive version—simply because we would only discover errors after considerable and irreversible environmental damage.

Taleb shreds GMO-boosters – including biologists – who don’t understand basic statistics:

Calling the GMO approach “scientific” betrays a very poor—indeed warped—understanding of probabilistic payoffs and risk management.

***

It became popular to claim irrationality for GMO and other skepticism on the part of the general public —not realizing that there is in fact an ”expert problem” and such skepticism is healthy and even necessary for survival. For instance, in The Rational Animal, the author pathologize people for not accepting GMOs although ”the World Health Organization has never found evidence of ill effects” a standard confusion of evidence of absence and absence of evidence. Such a pathologizing is similar to behavioral researchers labeling hyperbolic discounting as ”irrational” when in fact it is largely the researcher who has a very narrow model and richer models make the ”irrationality” go away).

In other words, lack of knowledge of basic statistical principles leads GMO supporters astray. For example, they don’t understand the concept that “interdependence” creates  “thick tails” … leading to a “black swan” catastrophic risk event:

Fat tails result (among other things) from the interdependence of components, leading to aggregate variations becoming much more severe than individual ones. Interdependence disrupts the functioning of the central limit theorem, by which the aggregate is more stable than the sum of the parts. Whether components are independent or interdependent matters a lot to systemic disasters such as pandemics or generalized crises. The interdependence increases the probability of ruin, to the point of certainty.

(This concept is important in the financial world, as well.)

As Forbes’ Brian Stoffel notes:

Let’s say each GM seed that’s produced holds a 0.1% chance of — somehow, in the intricately interdependent web of nature — leading to a catastrophic breakdown of the ecosystem that we rely on for life. All by itself, it doesn’t seem too harmful, but with each new seed that’s developed, the risk gets greater and greater.

The chart below demonstrates how, over time, even a 0.1% chance of ecocide can be dangerous.

I cannot stress enough that the probabilities I am using are for illustrative purposes only. Neither I, nor Taleb, claim to know what the chances are of any one type of seed causing such destruction.

The focus, instead, should be on the fact that the “total ecocide barrier” is bound to be hit, over a long enough time, with even incredibly small odds. Taleb includes a similar graph in his work, but no breakdown of the actual variables at play.

Source: Author’s input, based on Taleb, Read, and Bar-Yam paper

Taleb debunks other pro-GMO claims as well, such as:

1. The Risk of Famine If We Don’t Use GMOs. Taleb says:

Invoking the risk of “famine” as an alternative to GMOs is a deceitful strategy, no different from urging people to play Russian roulette in order to get out of poverty.

And calling the GMO approach “scientific” betrays a very poor—indeed warped—understanding of probabilistic payoffs and risk management.

2.  Nothing Is Totally Safe, So Should We Discard All Technology?  Taleb says this is an anti-scientific argument. Some risks are small, or are only risks to one individual or a small group of people.  When you’re talking about risks which could wipe out all life on Earth, it’s a totally different analysis.

3. Assuming that Nature Is Always Good Is Anti-Scientific.  Taleb says that statistical risk analysis don’t use assumptions such as nature is “good” or “bad”. Rather, it looks at the statistical evidence that things persist in nature for thousands of years if they are robust and anti-fragile.  Ecosystems break down if they become unstable.

GMO engineers may be smart in their field, but they are ignorant when it comes to long-run ecological reality:

We are not saying nature is the smartest pos­sible, we are saying that time is smarter than GMO engineers. Plain statistical significance.

3.  People Brought Potatoes from the Americas Back to Europe, Without Problem.  Taleb says that potatoes evolved and competed over thousands of years in the Americas, and so proved that they did not disrupt ecosystems. On the other hand, GMOs are brand spanking new … created in the blink of the eye in a lab.

4.

As if “ecocide”isn’t enough, there are many other reasons to oppose GMO foods … at least without rigorous testing, including decreased crop yieldincreased pesticide requirements, and potentiallysevere health effects.

On the plus side?  A few companies will make a lot of money.

3 Surprising Sources of Oil Pollution in the Ocean

3 Surprising Sources of Oil Pollution in the Ocean.

Seeping oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

An iridescent sheen spreads from a drop of crude oil on top of the water in the Gulf of Mexico.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JONATHAN BLAIR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Christine Dell’Amore and Christina Nunez

National Geographic

PUBLISHED MARCH 25, 2014

Obvious oil spills, like the 168,000 gallons (635,000 liters) of oil that leaked into Galveston Bay on Saturday, usually make national news, accompanied by pictures of oil-blackened wildlife.

But such publicized events account for only a small part of the total amount of oil pollution in the oceans—and many of the other sources, such as automobile oil, go largely unnoticed, scientists say.

In fact, of the tens of millions of gallons of oil that enter North Americanoceans each year due to human activities, only 8 percent comes from tanker or oil pipeline spills, according to the 2003 book Oil in the Sea III by the U.S. National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, which is still considered the authority on oil-spill data.

Most oil pollution is “different than the pictures you see of beaches covered with tar and ducks getting stuck in it,” said David Valentine, a biogeochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (Read more about how pollution harms the oceans.)

Here are three little-reported sources of oil that contribute to oil pollution in North American oceans.

1. Natural Seeps

Natural seeps of oil underneath the Earth’s surface account for 60 percent of the estimated total load in North American waters and 40 percent worldwide, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

These leakages occur when oil—which is lighter than water—escapes into the water column from highly pressurized seafloor rock. (Read about Gulf of Mexico seeps.)

Off Santa Barbara, California, some 20 to 25 tons of oil flows from seafloor cracks daily—making it one of the world’s largest seeps.

Valentine, who studies the Santa Barbara seep, noted that much of the natural oil is consumed by ocean bacteria that have evolved to eat certain oil molecules. (Read about how nature tackles oil spills.)

But in “places which don’t have natural oil seeps and you come along with an oil spill or a sewer pipe that delivers [oil pollution], organisms have not had an opportunity to adapt and are going to respond differently,” said John Farrington, dean emeritus and marine geochemist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

2. Cars and Other Land Vehicles

A “pretty big issue,” Valentine said, is the oil on roads and other surfaces that’s flushed into the sea during rainstorms.

Most cars drip oil onto the ground, usually on impermeable concrete or asphalt, and that oil ends up trickling into the ocean. In drier places like California, the oil builds up on the asphalt and, when it finally rains, the water shuttles large amounts of oil into the ocean.

“We’re doing a much better job than 40 or 50 years ago of recycling motor oil,” Woods Hole’s Farrington said. “You can find storm sewers around the nation that have stencils on them that say ‘don’t dump, it goes to the sea.’ So there’s less input in that regard.”

But he notes that there are still a lot of cars and trucks contributing to the “dribble, dribble, dribble” effect of slow leaks that end up on asphalt and contribute to runoff pollution.

Not surprisingly, this sort of invisible pollution is more subtle than the Galveston Bay spill, which is much more localized and visible, Valentine noted.

Oil runoff from land is “complex in that it can hang around [in the ocean] and move between water and sediment, [which] makes it difficult to effectively track.”

A hotly debated topic, he added, is what these constant pulses of oil are doing to the environment and its inhabitants. Scientists know that animals directly exposed to oil suffer health problems, but what’s unknown is the impact of low, chronic oil exposures on wildlife, he said. (Related: “On 25th Exxon Valdez Anniversary, Oil Still Clings to Beaches.”)

3. Recreational Boats

People operating recreational craft, such as Jet Skis and boats, sometimes spill oil into the ocean.

“It’s usually operational error, human error or unpreparedness, [or] lack of education. A lot of time mostly it’s just negligence,” said Aaron Barnett, a boating program specialist at Washington Sea Grant, a state-federal partnership aimed at marine research and outreach across Washington State.

“It’s just not on [boaters’] radar scope. They’re there to have fun, it’s leisure, it’s recreation. … That means that certain things don’t get dealt with, like proper engine maintenance.”

Barnett added that boat owners will top off their fuel tanks as they would a car, and on a hot day the fuel expands and escapes through a vent.

Just like land-based pollution, though, oil spills by recreational boats are “hard to track, because about 80 percent of oil spills go unreported, so there’s really no way to know” on what scale this is happening, Barnett said.

Overall, he said, the Environmental Protection Agency “looks at the small-oil-spill problem as sort of like death by a thousand cuts.”

Ebola Virus Outbreak Spreads To Canada | Zero Hedge

Ebola Virus Outbreak Spreads To Canada | Zero Hedge.

The last few days has seen a sudden jump in the news headlines about one of the deadliest viruses known to man. Ebola haemorrhagic fever has prung up in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone but now, as BBC reports, a man is in hospital in Canada with symptoms of a haemorrhagic fever resembling the Ebola virus, a health official has said.

“Ebola” is in the news again…

  • *GUINEA CONFIRMS EBOLA AS SOURCE OF EPIDEMIC, AFP REPORTS
  • *LIBERIA SAYS FIVE DIE OF EBOLA IN NORTH OF COUNTRY
  • *TWO SUSPECTED CASES OF EBOLA IN SIERRA LEONE, AFP SAYS

 

 

And that is definitley not a good thing…

As The BBC reports, Canada is now the latest nation to have a potential case…

The man had recently returned from Liberia in the west African region, currently suffering a deadly outbreak of an unidentified haemorrhagic fever.

He is in isolation in critical condition in Saskatoon, the largest city in Saskatchewan province.

Dr Denise Werker, the province’s deputy chief medical officer, declined to say how long the man had been in Africa but said he only fell ill after returning to Canada.

She said that was in line with the profile of common deadly haemorrhagic fever viruses Lassa fever and Ebola, which have an incubation period of up to 21 days.

She said the people most at risk were healthcare workers who do not protect themselves from contact with the patient’s bodily secretions.

“There is no risk to the general public,” she said. “We recognise that there is going to be a fair amount of concern and that is why we wanted to go public with this as soon as possible.”

A virus resembling Ebola has struck in Guinea, with cases also reported in Liberia.

As many as 61 people have died of the disease in the remote forests of southern Guinea.

Climate Change and Human Extinction – A Personal Perspective  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

Climate Change and Human Extinction – A Personal Perspective  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

“Just one source, methane from the arctic…leads us [by 2030] to…a temperature beyond which humans have never existed on the planet.” Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of University of Arizona in Environmental Studies, shares highlights from his compilation of recent reports on climate change effects. Their number and extent have grown exponentially since he began five years ago. In this interview, he shares his personal journey through despair and deep grief to recent acceptance. “I suspect we get to see the end of this movie… Nobody else in human history [has]… We get to see how humans act in the face of their own demise.” Episode 262. [guymcpherson.com] Watch Guy’s Climate Change presentation February 2014

Climate Change and Human Extinction – A Personal Perspective  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

Climate Change and Human Extinction – A Personal Perspective  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

“Just one source, methane from the arctic…leads us [by 2030] to…a temperature beyond which humans have never existed on the planet.” Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of University of Arizona in Environmental Studies, shares highlights from his compilation of recent reports on climate change effects. Their number and extent have grown exponentially since he began five years ago. In this interview, he shares his personal journey through despair and deep grief to recent acceptance. “I suspect we get to see the end of this movie… Nobody else in human history [has]… We get to see how humans act in the face of their own demise.” Episode 262. [guymcpherson.com] Watch Guy’s Climate Change presentation February 2014

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com.

BY SEAN COCKERHAM

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 21, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

FILE – In this April 9, 1989 file photo, crude oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez, top, swirls on the surface of Alaska’s Prince William Sound near Naked Island. The 987-foot tanker, carrying 53 million gallons of crude, struck Bligh Reef at 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989, and within hours unleashed an estimated 10.8 million gallons of thick, toxic crude oil into the water. Storms and currents then smeared it over 1,300 miles of shoreline. Twenty five years later, the region, its people and its wildfire are still recovering. JOHN GAPS III, FILE — AP Photo

Andy Wills was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Cordova, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, ready to head out and harvest spring herring in Prince William Sound.

“My buddy had just handed me a cup of coffee in the morning and we’re watching ‘Good Morning America,’ ” Wills said. “And there’s the Exxon Valdez on TV, spilling oil.”

“We were like, ‘No!’ It was just the start of a nightmare,” Wills said.

The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered. Neither have killer whales, and legal issues remain unresolved a quarter of a century later. Monday is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters of the sound.

Prince William Sound today looks spectacular, a stunning landscape of mountainous fjords, blue-green waters and thickly forested islands. Pick up a stone on a rocky beach, maybe dig a little, though, and it is possible to still find pockets of oil.

“I think the big surprise for all of us who have worked on this thing for the last 25 years has been the continued presence of relatively fresh oil,” said Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The question of how well Prince William Sound has recovered from what at the time was the nation’s largest oil spill is a contentious one. Exxon Mobil Corp. cites studies showing a rebound.

“The sound is thriving environmentally and we’ve had a very solid, complete recovery,” said Richard Keil, senior media relations adviser with Exxon Mobil.

Government scientists have a different view.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, a state-federal group set up to oversee restoration of Prince William Sound, considers the pink and sockeye salmon to be recovered, as well as the bald eagles and harbor seals. Several other species are listed as recovering but not recovered.

Sea otters have had a rough time. Thousands died in the months following the spill, and the population has struggled to recover in the 25 years since. The U.S. Geological Survey reported earlier this month that the sea otters of the area had finally returned to their pre-spill numbers.

Listed as still not recovering are the herring, a group of killer whales and the pigeon guillemots, a North Pacific seabird.

Rick Steiner, an oceans activist and former professor at the University of Alaska, said the “spill is not over. The damage persists in quite remarkable ways.”

Wills, who fished salmon as well as herring, said the spill left a huge mark on those who made a living from Prince William Sound.

Exxon compensation checks were too late and too little, he said.

“A lot of people got real hurt. I know a lot of guys committed suicide and all that stuff. I got divorced, had an ulcer. It was rough,” said Wills, who now runs a bookshop and cafe in Homer, Alaska.

Among the scientific puzzles of the spill, the fate of the herring is a particular mystery. It’s a vital species for the ecosystem, giving protein to whales, salmon, birds and others.

Prince William Sound was home to a lucrative spring herring fishery that supported fishermen badly in need of cash coming off the long winter in between fishing seasons.

Researchers found lesions and larval abnormalities in herring exposed to the oil. Then, four years after the spill, the herring population crashed dramatically. The reasons are a subject of intense debate, with suggestions that the effects of the spill could have made the herring vulnerable to disease.

“No other stock in Alaska crashed in 1993, so that’s indirect evidence it is spill-related,” said Jeep Rice, who studied the spill for more than two decades as a federal scientist. “That’s kind of weak, and yet it is about as good as we can get in terms of explaining why it happened in that year.”

The herring never really recovered, and the current population is too low to overcome predators. Herring fishing, with a brief exception, has been closed for more than 20 years.

The killer whales of Prince William Sound also have suffered. Two groups were hit especially hard. Scientists saw killer whales from one of the groups swimming through heavy sheens of oil. A Los Angeles Times photo showed whales from the other group swimming near the tanker as it gushed oil. Populations dropped dramatically in the year after the spill.

“The evidence is pretty compelling that it was a spill-related effect on those two groups of killer whales,” said federal marine biologist Shigenaka.

One of the groups continues its slow recovery. The other numbered 22 killer whales at the time of the spill and is down to just seven. Scientists now expect it to go extinct, the end of a genetic line that researchers say has hunted in the area for thousands of years, maybe since the last Ice Age.

The federal and state governments are still weighing the science of the spill’s effects and deciding whether to seek more money from Exxon Mobil for cleaning up remaining oil.

If there is evidence the spill is causing unexpected, continuing damage, the company could be forced to pay up to $100 million on top of the $900 million civil settlement that Exxon paid in 1991. The case lives on in the courts.

The federal and state governments have said more studies are needed, a frustration for federal Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland.

“The court is dismayed that so few of the projects that the governments had expected to be completed by now have been completed,” Holland wrote in a filing last year.

Studies measuring the effects on sea otters and harlequin ducks have now been completed and are awaiting peer review before being released to the public, the federal and state governments said in their latest court filing last week. They said they are still awaiting a study on the effectiveness of techniques for lessening the remaining oil; they figure it is at least two months away from release.

The governments said they are reviewing the results of other studies and will be consulting with the Department of Justice about whether to proceed with seeking money from Exxon Mobil.

They told the judge their next update on the case will be in October, as it approaches 26 years since the Exxon Valdez became the most notorious tanker in history.

Sean Cockerham is a reporter in the Daily News Washington bureau. Emailscockerham@mcclatchydc.com.

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com.

BY SEAN COCKERHAM

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 21, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

FILE – In this April 9, 1989 file photo, crude oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez, top, swirls on the surface of Alaska’s Prince William Sound near Naked Island. The 987-foot tanker, carrying 53 million gallons of crude, struck Bligh Reef at 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989, and within hours unleashed an estimated 10.8 million gallons of thick, toxic crude oil into the water. Storms and currents then smeared it over 1,300 miles of shoreline. Twenty five years later, the region, its people and its wildfire are still recovering. JOHN GAPS III, FILE — AP Photo

Andy Wills was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Cordova, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, ready to head out and harvest spring herring in Prince William Sound.

“My buddy had just handed me a cup of coffee in the morning and we’re watching ‘Good Morning America,’ ” Wills said. “And there’s the Exxon Valdez on TV, spilling oil.”

“We were like, ‘No!’ It was just the start of a nightmare,” Wills said.

The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered. Neither have killer whales, and legal issues remain unresolved a quarter of a century later. Monday is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters of the sound.

Prince William Sound today looks spectacular, a stunning landscape of mountainous fjords, blue-green waters and thickly forested islands. Pick up a stone on a rocky beach, maybe dig a little, though, and it is possible to still find pockets of oil.

“I think the big surprise for all of us who have worked on this thing for the last 25 years has been the continued presence of relatively fresh oil,” said Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The question of how well Prince William Sound has recovered from what at the time was the nation’s largest oil spill is a contentious one. Exxon Mobil Corp. cites studies showing a rebound.

“The sound is thriving environmentally and we’ve had a very solid, complete recovery,” said Richard Keil, senior media relations adviser with Exxon Mobil.

Government scientists have a different view.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, a state-federal group set up to oversee restoration of Prince William Sound, considers the pink and sockeye salmon to be recovered, as well as the bald eagles and harbor seals. Several other species are listed as recovering but not recovered.

Sea otters have had a rough time. Thousands died in the months following the spill, and the population has struggled to recover in the 25 years since. The U.S. Geological Survey reported earlier this month that the sea otters of the area had finally returned to their pre-spill numbers.

Listed as still not recovering are the herring, a group of killer whales and the pigeon guillemots, a North Pacific seabird.

Rick Steiner, an oceans activist and former professor at the University of Alaska, said the “spill is not over. The damage persists in quite remarkable ways.”

Wills, who fished salmon as well as herring, said the spill left a huge mark on those who made a living from Prince William Sound.

Exxon compensation checks were too late and too little, he said.

“A lot of people got real hurt. I know a lot of guys committed suicide and all that stuff. I got divorced, had an ulcer. It was rough,” said Wills, who now runs a bookshop and cafe in Homer, Alaska.

Among the scientific puzzles of the spill, the fate of the herring is a particular mystery. It’s a vital species for the ecosystem, giving protein to whales, salmon, birds and others.

Prince William Sound was home to a lucrative spring herring fishery that supported fishermen badly in need of cash coming off the long winter in between fishing seasons.

Researchers found lesions and larval abnormalities in herring exposed to the oil. Then, four years after the spill, the herring population crashed dramatically. The reasons are a subject of intense debate, with suggestions that the effects of the spill could have made the herring vulnerable to disease.

“No other stock in Alaska crashed in 1993, so that’s indirect evidence it is spill-related,” said Jeep Rice, who studied the spill for more than two decades as a federal scientist. “That’s kind of weak, and yet it is about as good as we can get in terms of explaining why it happened in that year.”

The herring never really recovered, and the current population is too low to overcome predators. Herring fishing, with a brief exception, has been closed for more than 20 years.

The killer whales of Prince William Sound also have suffered. Two groups were hit especially hard. Scientists saw killer whales from one of the groups swimming through heavy sheens of oil. A Los Angeles Times photo showed whales from the other group swimming near the tanker as it gushed oil. Populations dropped dramatically in the year after the spill.

“The evidence is pretty compelling that it was a spill-related effect on those two groups of killer whales,” said federal marine biologist Shigenaka.

One of the groups continues its slow recovery. The other numbered 22 killer whales at the time of the spill and is down to just seven. Scientists now expect it to go extinct, the end of a genetic line that researchers say has hunted in the area for thousands of years, maybe since the last Ice Age.

The federal and state governments are still weighing the science of the spill’s effects and deciding whether to seek more money from Exxon Mobil for cleaning up remaining oil.

If there is evidence the spill is causing unexpected, continuing damage, the company could be forced to pay up to $100 million on top of the $900 million civil settlement that Exxon paid in 1991. The case lives on in the courts.

The federal and state governments have said more studies are needed, a frustration for federal Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland.

“The court is dismayed that so few of the projects that the governments had expected to be completed by now have been completed,” Holland wrote in a filing last year.

Studies measuring the effects on sea otters and harlequin ducks have now been completed and are awaiting peer review before being released to the public, the federal and state governments said in their latest court filing last week. They said they are still awaiting a study on the effectiveness of techniques for lessening the remaining oil; they figure it is at least two months away from release.

The governments said they are reviewing the results of other studies and will be consulting with the Department of Justice about whether to proceed with seeking money from Exxon Mobil.

They told the judge their next update on the case will be in October, as it approaches 26 years since the Exxon Valdez became the most notorious tanker in history.

Sean Cockerham is a reporter in the Daily News Washington bureau. Emailscockerham@mcclatchydc.com.

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