Category Archives: Features

The Lost Emperors

Emperor penguins. Photo source: ©© Sandwich

Excerpt from LiveScience

A small colony of emperor penguins on an island off the West Antarctic Peninsula is gone, and the most likely culprit is loss of sea ice caused by warming. Although it has been predicted that penguins could suffer greatly because of global warming, this is the first time the disappearance of a colony has been documented…

Read Full Article, LiveScience

Earlier Arctic Phytoplankton Blooms and Impacts on The Food Chain
Warming temperatures and melting ice in the Arctic may be behind a progressively earlier bloom of a crucial annual marine event, and the shift could hold consequences for the entire food chain and carbon cycling in the region.

Goats Put Their Graze Anatomy to Good Work

Photo source: ©© Tambako


The sound of hundreds of goat hooves echoed through a small valley overlooking the Pacific ocean in the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, surprising passerby who watched as the animals munched their way through yard after yard of invasive weeds.

The 230 goats are the first step in a project to restore natural flora and fauna to a 12-acre portion of the 1,400-acre preserve that was burned in a fire in 2009…

Read Full Article, The Los Angeles Times

The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy

New System Can Warn of Tsunamis Within Minutes?

Photo source: ©© Royal19


Seismologists have developed a new system that could be used to warn future populations of an impending tsunami only minutes after the initial earthquake. The system, known as RTerg, could help reduce the death toll by giving local residents valuable time to move to safer ground.

The study by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology appears in the March 5 edition of Geophysical Research Letters

Read Full Article, Science Daily

The Green Belt Report, Article and Videos, in Coastal Care

Tsunami Detection Improves But Coastal Areas Still Vulnerable, in Coastal Care

When Warning Tsunami System Don’t Help, in Coastal Care

Mangrove as Lives Savers When Natural Disasters Occur, in Coastal Care

Trade group sues over polar bear critical habitat, Anchorage, Alaska

Photo Source: Paul Nicklen

By Dan Joling, AP

An Alaska petroleum industry trade group has sued the federal government over its designation of 187,157 square miles as polar bear critical habitat, claiming it covers too much territory and could cost tens of millions or more in economic effects.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Association sued Tuesday in Anchorage.

“This is an area larger that 48 of the 50 states, exceeding the size of the State of California by nearly 25,000 square miles,” association attorneys said in the lawsuit.

The designation is unprecedented, the largest area set aside in the history of the Endangered Species Act, and was done for an animal that is abundant, with 20,000 to 25,000 animals in 19 subpopulations, according to the group.

AOGA represents 15 companies that account for most oil and gas exploration, production, refining and marketing in Alaska. The group claims there is no evidence of an overall decline in the global polar bear population or its historical range.

That’s disputed by the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned to list bears.

“AOGA’s suit is premised on the fiction that polar bear populations are stable,” said attorney Brendan Cummings in an e-mail.

The two best-studied populations, western Hudson Bay and Southern Beaufort Sea, are known to be declining, he said. The polar bear specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists eight of the world’s 19 subpopulations of polar bears as “declining,” including both of Alaska’s. Seven other subpopulations are listed as “data deficient” for making the call.

A U.S. Geological Survey model prepared before the listing suggested a better than 50 percent chance that polar bears will be extinct in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas under the minimum sea ice model run by 2030. The USGS later noted its projections of sea ice decline appeared to be underestimated.

The Interior Department under former President George W. Bush declared polar bears a threatened species in 2008 because of the threat from diminishing sea ice.

The department announced its critical habitat designation in November. It includes large areas of sea ice off the Alaska coast, including areas where petroleum companies hope to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

Designation of critical habitat does not automatically block development but requires federal officials to consider whether a proposed action would adversely affect the polar bear’s habitat and interfere with its recovery.

The trade association said federal agencies underestimated economic effects of the designation and that it will cost tens of millions to billions of dollars. During testimony in June, director Marilyn Crockett said the designation would lead to project delays, additional consultations and expensive litigation.

The trade association said the designation was an abuse of discretion.

“The Service failed to balance the conservation benefits and the economic benefits to exclude areas where the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such areas as part of the critical habitat,” the lawsuit said. The association also said polar bear habitat already is adequately managed and there’s a long history showing interaction between bears and the oil and gas industry has had no more than a negligible effect.

The lawsuit is the first filed in opposition to the critical habitat designation. The state of Alaska and a coalition of Alaska Native groups also have given the federal government a required 60-day notice that they intend to sue over the recovery plan for polar bears.

Original Article

Alaska Sets Aside Critical Habitat For Polar Bears, in Coastal Care

EU Pledges 90m Euros in Climate Funds for Sinking Pacific Island States

Vuanatu Sea Level Rise
“The melt has to go somewhere”. In Vanuatu, rising sea levels have forced the relocation of entire villages. Caption and Photo Source: Meredith james-Johnstone

By Leigh Phillips

Pacific island states on the frontline of climate change are to receive €90m (£76m) in EU cash for climate-related projects in return for siding with the European bloc at international climate negotiations.

The European Union’s development commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, headed to Vanuatu Wednesday to unveil funding for climate-related projects.

The funding comprises redirected resources, according to the European Commission, and will back projects such as mangrove replanting, watershed reforestation, rainwater harvesting, soil retention, raising of infrastructure, disaster preparedness and moving hospitals to higher ground.

The cash may appear small in EU terms, but represents as much as 19.5% of the nominal GDP of Vanuatu, and more than 12 times the GDP of the Pacific Islands Forum’s poorest member, Niue.

Such an injection of cash does not come without strings attached however. Piebalgs is to make the funding announcement at a high-level climate conference on Vanuatu organised by the European commission where the he will present an EU-Pacific action plan for the island states to sign.

The document requires the states to embrace “joint positions on the international stage” as part of a “stronger Pacific-EU political dialogue on climate change”.

Climate negotiations have been at a stalemate with only moderate advances made since the global UN conference in Copenhagen in 2009, as Western countries try to convince the developing world to commit to binding emissions reductions.

Since 2009, the EU has revamped its climate diplomacy strategy, with France and the UK dispatched to try to pry some African states away from what Brussels officials describe as an “awkward squad” of refusenik nations. Germany has been tasked with the Pacific.

Isaac Valero-Ladron, the EU’s climate spokesman, said that the bloc has had a lot of success in the region, which contains countries with some of the lowest GDP per capita in the world. “If we put money on the table, it really creates a constructive atmosphere and good policies.”

“The Pacific islands are a very helpful, positive partner on the international level. Our positions are very close.”

The funds, which according to the commission are redeployments of existing development funds rather than new sources of climate financing as many development groups also demand – support projects that include mangrove replanting, watershed reforestation, rainwater harvesting, soil retention and the raising of infrastructure.

In advance of the meeting, the commissioner called on EU member states to increase their funds to the region.

Original Article

Pacific Islands Climate Change Conference: European Union Calendar

Excerpt from Europa, EU Calendar

Between 3 and 4 March, 2011, European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will participate in Conference on Climate Change in Vanuatu and sign an Action Plan to enhance Pacific-EU cooperation on climate change.

Some of the small Pacific islands are under the threat to disappear. They dramatically need increased aid.which, Commissioner Piebalgs will call EU member states and other international partners and donors to engage politically and financially in addressing climate change challenges faced by Pacific Countries and Territories.

The Commissioner will also sign four programmes which show EU determination to combat climate change and poverty in the Pacific for €50.4 million in total. Two of them cover specifically Vanuatu and Solomon Islands climate resilience specific needs. One will support strategic actions on adaptation in 9 Pacific Small Island states and prepare those countries to absorb efficiently the expected international climate fast start funds. The second regional project, to be implemented by the University of South Pacific, seeks to strengthen capacity building, community engagement and adaptive actions along with applied research.

The background:

Pacific islands are very isolated developing countries which have already suffered from regular natural disasters. In the worse case scenario, some islands could disappear due to rising sea levels and increasing erosion occurring from intense storms. All these changes infringe on hunting, fishing and the quality water resources therefore contribute to increased poverty in the region. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on time the poverty must be also addressed in the Pacific region.

The European Commission provides development aid to the Pacific, which amounts €600 million for 2008-2013. It has reached a 60% increase between the 9th European Development Fund (2002-2007) and the 10th EDF (2007-2013).. A specific support needed to be devoted to address the negative impact of climate change in the Pacific. The Commission is politically and financially leading this EU effort. Together with Pacific partners, the Commission is actively engaged in financial terms, with €90 million in ongoing and already planned development cooperation projects and programmes at country and regional level for the period 2008-2013.

The event:

Building on the Cancun Climate Change Conference, the High Level conference on Climate Change in the Pacific will be hosted by Vanuatu on 4 March and is organised by the European Commission. Commissioner Piebalgs will make the introductory speech and Prime Minister of Vanuatu will do the closing remarks. An action plan will be presented for endorsement by the Conference.

A press conference will be organised on site.

Commissioner Piebalgs will visit a first wind farm implemented in the Vanuatu archipelago, designed to help meet the country’s growing energy needs. He will also visit the National Disaster Centre and Meteorological Services to assess local capacities deployed at the forefront of disaster risk management.

King Tide: The Sinking of Tuvalu

A film documentary by Juriaan Booij

Tuvalu is one of the smallest and most remote countries on earth. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it can barely be seen on most maps. The country is in danger of disappearing beneath the waves. Not an Atlantis myth but the reality of this century. Plans for evacuation are being made right now. Tuvalu is destined to become one of earth’s first nations to be washed away due to the effect of global warming, making the Tuvaluans the first complete nation of climate refugees, banned from their home-islands, their culture and identity taken away.

Beyond the appearance of an easygoing life, the threat to Tuvalu’s future is an obvious danger that everyone has been forced to recognize. The highest point of Tuvalu is only four and a half meters above sea level. The average elevation is not even two.

But still, in spite of the evidence, many people in Tuvalu don’t believe they will be forced to leave, and point to their bibles for proof. In the deeply Christian country, great faith is placed in the words of Genesis, which says that rainbows are proof God is keeping his covenant made with Noah to never again flood the earth. What is going to happen to a nation without their home islands to anchor what is left of their culture?

The King Tide of Tuvalu Website

Tuvalu struggles to hold back tide, BBC
The fragile strips of green that make up the small islands of Tuvalu are incredibly beautiful but also incredibly vulnerable.The group of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific only just break the surface of the ocean, but for how much longer?

King Tide Pacific Islands States
A young girl watches waves crash over a sea-wall during a king tide in Kiribati. Photo Source: Reuters/Greenpeace

The Voices of the South Pacific

The View From Beneath the Waves

The floods can be fun for children, but what does the future hold? Photo Source: Greenpeace

Protecting Nature Through “Radical Collaboration”

Blue Wave
Liquid Planet, from the series Liquid Vision, which shows a different point of view of waves. Photo and Caption: Freddy Cerdeira.


One of this year’s themes at TED is “Radical Collaboration.” I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot lately, specifically what can be achieved if the goals of development and conservation were linked together.

For too long, the conservation movement has viewed development as something that must be stopped in order to protect nature.

As we face a resource-challenged world with rapidly growing populations, human well-being and the health of the natural world can no longer be viewed separately. We need to design a new way of thinking that brings development strategies and conservation principles together. But how?…

Read Full Article; Nature

First New Deepwater Permit Issued

Oil Platform
Oil platform off the coast.

By Phyl Taylor, The New York Times

The Interior Department today announced it has approved the first new deepwater drilling permit since the Deepwater Horizon explosion last April spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The permit for Noble Energy to drill about 70 miles southeast of Venice, La., comes more than four months after Interior lifted its deepwater drilling moratorium. It complies with new rules to strengthen drilling safety and ensure companies can respond and contain oil in the case of a blowout, the agency said.

“This permit represents a significant milestone for us and for the offshore oil and gas industry, and is an important step towards safely developing deepwater energy supplies offshore,” said Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. “This permit was issued for one simple reason: The operator successfully demonstrated that it can drill its deepwater well safely and that it is capable of containing a subsea blowout if it were to occur.”

The permit comes days before Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is set to defend the agency’s 2012 budget request on Capitol Hill, where Republican and oil-state lawmakers have been loudly critical of the agency’s pace of permitting in the Gulf. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) this month placed a hold on the agency’s nominee to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service until Interior approves 15 new deepwater drilling permits.

Bromwich rejected suggestions that the Noble approval was issued to appease lawmakers or respond to a recent court ruling by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ordering the agency take action on deepwater permits.

“There are no politics associated with the approval of this application,” Bromwich said. “It has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that it was ready to be approved.”

Noble estimated a worst-case discharge of 69,700 barrels of oil per day if it loses control of its well. But the company has contracted with the Helix Well Containment Group to use its capping stack to stop the flow of oil in such a scenario, Bromwich said.

Boemre expects additional deepwater permits to be issued in the coming weeks and months based on a process similar to Noble’s permit, but the approvals will be limited because only a handful of completed applications have been received, Bromwich said.

“Industry was waiting for signals that deepwater drilling would be allowed to resume,” he said, adding that new proposals would each receive a “careful, rigorous, well-by-well analysis.”

Initial drilling on the Noble well began April 16, 2010, in water 6,500 feet deep, but the activities were halted in June under Interior’s drilling moratorium. In addition to today’s permit, Interior said it has approved 37 permits for new shallow-water wells.

Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, praised Bromwich and said he is taking the agency at its word that the Noble proposal is not a “token permit” and that more permits are in the offing.

“The actual issuance of a permit for new deepwater drilling is long awaited and an important step forward in the wise development of energy off our shores,” Luthi said in a statement. “With all the world-complicating factors, including rising oil prices, political turmoil in the Middle East and the loss of jobs in the Gulf of Mexico, this decision offers hope that the United States is getting back in the energy and jobs market.”

Vitter praised Interior’s action on the permit but said he will maintain his hold on FWS nominee Dan Ashe until Interior issues 15 deepwater permits, a decision backed by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

“While one deepwater permit is a start, it is by no means reason to celebrate,” Vitter said in a statement. He claimed that Interior regulations in the Gulf have lost jobs, contributed to one company’s bankruptcy and breached contracts with other drilling firms.

Owen Kratz, CEO of Helix, said the company’s spill containment technology will be expanded in the coming weeks and that he hopes to assist other drilling projects in moving forward.

Original Article