Tens of thousands march on White House in rally for climate action – WIll it work?


By Susie Cagle

Organizers called it the largest climate rally in U.S. history, and it was. Depending on who you ask, there were 30,000, 40,000, even 50,000 people in Washington D.C. Sunday to lobby for political action on climate change. Depending on who you ask, the tone was joyous or righteous. And depending on who you ask, those 30,000, 40,000, even 50,000 people were giving President Obama an angry demand, a stern but friendly prodding, or the “support he needs” to take action.


350.org, the Sierra Club, the Hip Hop Caucus, and a comprehensive list of basically anyone in the U.S. who cares about climate changejoined with politicians, investors, indigenous peoples, and an assortment of celebrities (can’t have a climate rally without some celebs!) to rally and lead a march on the White House Sunday afternoon, calling for an end to politics and policies that are cooking our planet to death. For all the serious stuff, it was also a party — chants for justice were mixed in with mini dance parties to pop music. But for all the Gangnam Style, there was an overwhelming sense that, while this rally was a glorious show, it was also indicative of just how bad things have gotten.

“We have a very entrenched system that’s going to really require us to work together for a vision of people, peace, and the planet,” the Green Party’s Jill Stein said in an interview. “We are here for the long haul.”

From fracking and coal to factory farming, activists called for an end to all the little things that are adding up to climate meltdown. But mainly today we were here because of the Keystone XL pipeline — thelong-embattled project to pump vast quantities of tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, halted a year ago by President Obamaand up for a final decision this spring.


“This President has lifted the hope for the world with his inaugural address, with his State of the Union address. He cannot turn around in two weeks and crush the hopes of the world and his base and the next generation and the children of all species by letting a very dumb and dangerous project go through our country,” Rebuild the Dream’s Van Jones, former green jobs adviser to President Obama, told me. “I think it is up to us to make sure that he does not accept the pipeline. I don’t have any reason to believe at this point that the pipeline won’t go through.”

350.org’s Bill McKibben kicked off the rally in the early afternoon, listing some of the many (many!) different battles being waged nationwide in the war on climate change. “You are the antibodies kicking in as the planet tries to fight its fever,” McKibben said as a Park Police helicopter circled low and slow overhead. “And we have waited a looong time to get started.”

At first glance, it seemed a united front of climate activism, a relatively diverse and good-spirited crowd coming together to make change. It was indeed a broad coalition, but there were definite blocs within the group. Stein told me she wanted to speak at the rally but hadn’t been allowed to, for political reasons. “Fighting climate change” seemed to take on different meanings for different people: Was it marching in a permitted protest through the streets, blockading pipeline construction, or a more extreme escalation?

Within a span of five minutes while paused in front of the White House, I heard a soft rendition of “Down by the Riverside” and a rousing chant of “a-anti-anticapitalista.” Some dressed as polar bears while others wore black bandanas over their faces. Some signs asked nicely; others screamed.


As those tens of thousands circled the White House, President Obama was playing golf in sunny (warmer every day!) Florida with Tiger Woods. By the time the afternoon rolled around and the icy wind picked up, the crowd dispersed (but not until after a rousing round dance led by First Nations peoples from the Idle No More movement).

In all, the rally seemed to mark the end of the beginning of the new environmental movement. But the thing’s gotten so big, it seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis — torn between mainstream and radical aspirations.


In some ways, Sunday’s event was an absolutely historic response to a historic moment. And in some ways, it was exactly the same as these things always have been.

We come, we chant, we go home. So: What’s next?


Threats of Climate Change

Threats of Climate Change

This is a link to a general website with some really awesome info for all the animal lovers! Climate change really is having a huge impact on wildlife around the world. 

“To adequately address the climate crisis we must urgently reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the consequences of global warming, which the world is already experiencing. Combining global outreach with local expertise, WWF:

  • helps people and nature adapt to a changing climate
  • advances policies to fight climate change
  • combats deforestation
  • engages with businesses to reduce carbon emissions
  • challenges U.S. cities to prepare for more extreme weather”

Snow Leopards Need To Be Protected … But How?

Snow Leopards Need To Be Protected ... But How?

Christine Dell’Amore
National Geographic News
Published October 9, 2012

The snow leopard in Pakistan is an endangered species. The population of the rarely seen big cat has likely fallen to fewer than 450 in the country, mainly due to hunting. Now an expert has come up with an unconventional—and controversial—proposal to save the snow leopard: Classify it as a domesticated animal.

That doesn’t mean that snow leopards are literally tame, like a chicken, explained Shafqat Hussain, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who spoke during the National Geographic Explorers Symposium in Washington, D.C., in June: “When I say that snow leopards are like domestic cats, I mean it rhetorically to make contrast with the word wild.” (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

His idea stems from the changing relationship between snow leopards and humans. Where the cats do remain in the Himalaya, they increasingly share their habitat with mountain herders. A 2010 study of snow leopard scat found that up to 70 percent of the species’ diet in the Gilgit Baltistan Province (map) comes from sheep, cattle, and other domestic animals. Some herders have killed snow leopards in retaliation for preying on their livestock. (See pictures and video of snow leopards in Afghanistan.)

Given the snow leopards’ diet, “how do we see these mythical, elusive wild animals? Are they really wild in the sense that of meaning we attach to the word wild—existing on its own, having no connection with society and domestic economy?” Hussain said.

“Clearly not.”

Supporting Locals

So the way to enable snow leopards to survive, says Hussain, is not to create protected areas that sequester them from local communities. That solution often alienates farmers, who lose their grazing areas as a result. He would suggest supporting local herders instead so they can make a living despite snow leopard incursions. (See snow leopard pictures in National Geographic magazine.)

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing for more than a decade. In 1999 Hussain founded the Snow Leopard Project, an insurance scheme that compensates local people in snow leopard-range countries if their livestock are killed by the predators.

Various branches of the successful project, which is jointly managed by project officials and a committee of villagers, have spread to 400 households covering 3,000 animals across central Asia.

Since 1998, close to U.S. $7,000 has been paid out in compensation for lost animals, and $13,000 invested on improving livestock corrals and other infrastructure. Meanwhile, the snow leopard population seems to have remained stable, if not grown, Hussain said.

Snow Leopard Perspective Controversial

Not everyone agrees. In fact, there is great consternation in the big-cat conservation community about Hussain’s ideas, particularly that conservation groups don’t work with locals. (Learn about National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.)

Tom McCarthy, executive director of the Snow Leopard Program for the big-cat conservation group Panthera, said that he doesn’t “know a single conservation [nongovernmental organization] working on snow leopards today that would support setting up reserves for the cats at the expense of local people.”

For example, before Hussain set up the Snow Leopard Project, McCarthy and colleagues founded the award-winning Snow Leopard Enterprises, which helps local people in snow leopard countries generate income.

Conservation biologist and snow leopard expert Jerry Roe also said by email that relabeling the snow leopard as domestic will not resolve the conflict between snow leopards and herders or benefit the species.

For one, “a change of definition will not alter the perspective of snow leopards as a pest species in the eyes of herders,” said Roe, co-founder of California-based Nomad Ecology, an ecological consulting and research company.

Living With Snow Leopards

Hussain thinks the objections are just not valid. Local people—at least in Pakistan—do not have an “atavistic enmity to snow leopards, [nor] this itch to kill it,” he said. “If they get compensated for their losses, they have no interest in eliminating this animal.”

Such is the case with Mohammed Ibrahim, chairman of Skoyo Krabathang Basingo Conservation and Development Organization in Krabathang, Pakistan (map), who also owns 15 goats. In a phone interview with an Urdu interpreter, Ibrahim said that he’s not worried about snow leopards, mostly because of insurance schemes such as Project Snow Leopard that compensate herders for lost animals.

And since snow leopards have never been known to attack people, Hussain is confident that his scheme would work far better than a conservation policy that separates the leopards from the locals: “The idea of co-existing with snow leopards is easy to implement if you satisfy the villagers.”

Ultimately, conservationists share the same goal: Ensuring that the snow leopard—what Hussain calls a “symbol of the high mountains”—can survive. Whether that will continue to be an animal dependent on people for food, though, is still up in the air.


5 Surprising Facts About Rare Species

5 Surprising Facts About Rare Species

By Eric Dinerstein, author of The Kingdom of Rarities

What if the organisms that populate the natural world—from whales to weevils—were classified not by their evolutionary relationships but by their relative degree of rarity? Imagine a way of looking at the world where we divide the ark into representatives of two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Common species and the Kingdom of Rarities. Which would require a bigger ark if we only took two of each species?
Surprising facts about rare species:

1. Rare isn’t rare. Most people don’t realize that many, many species on Earth are rare. By rare, we mean having a narrow range, low population density, or both.

Ecologist Kevin Gaston estimated that perhaps 90-95% of all individual organisms on Earth represent no more than 20-25% of all species. That means that up to 75% of all species on Earth are rare in one form or another. Among the two forms of rarity, most take the former condition: species with narrow ranges.

2. Rare hotspots abound. There are about 600 places in the world that contain one or more species who call that spot the only place on Earth they can be found. Some are as large as the Javan rhinoceros or as small as 13 species of tiny frogs in the same genus that live on top of a single mountain in Haiti. Many of these single-site species have cool names, like the Bloody Bay Poison frog.

The group that has spearheaded the conservation of these single site rarities is the Alliance for Zero Extinction, which includes many major conservation groups as members.

3. Goats are enemies. Goats are a scourge when it comes to conserving rarities, especially when it comes to goats on islands, where these introduced herbivores mow down the vegetation and cause the extinction of rare plants.

Except, at least, in the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas, where goats are a force for good in creating more wintering habitat for the rarest breeding songbird in North America, the Kirtland’s warbler. The goats prefer the shrubs that compete with the fruiting-shrubs that form a large part of the winter diet of the warbler. By eating out the shrubs the Kirtland’s avoid, the goats leave more space for the plants whose fruits the birds like to eat. The Kirtland’s warbler may also be the only species with a college named after it: Kirtland’s Community College near Grayling, Michigan.

4. Hawaii hosts a bonanza. The Hawaiian archipelago is America’s Galápagos that hosts more creatures—a group of birds called the honeycreepers, fruit flies, and many kinds of plants like the silverswords—that rival or surpass what Darwin found on the Galápagos. Had The Beagle landed in Hawaii instead of the Galápagos, we would likely be celebrating Hawaii as the cradle of evolutionary thinking.

5. Giant poo. One of the rarest of large mammals, the greater one-horned rhinoceros of Nepal and India, produces up to 24 kilograms in a single defecation. I know, because I weighed it.

Rhinos are a good example of species that were once more common in the past few centuries and made rare by humans hunting them. But the southern white rhino, now threatened by poachers again, is perhaps the greatest success story for conservation: numbering no more than 60 individuals and limited to a single reserve around 1900, the current estimate is above 20,000 and now spread among more than 450 populations. (See photos of “rhino wars.”)

So if we can recover even one of the largest, slowest breeding vertebrates in nature, we can recover many rarities threatened with extinction.

There are many insights into how the natural world works that we can only glean by studying its rarities. The challenge is that it is often much harder for scientists to study rare species than to study common ones. But if we are to save some semblance of our natural world for future generations, the roster of rarities plays an important role that I hope my book helps to illuminate.


10 Ways Obama Could Fight Climate Change

10 Ways Obama Could Fight Climate Change - National Geographic

Dan Stone
National Geographic News
Published January 23, 2013

One of the biggest surprises of President Barack Obama’s inaugural address on Monday was how much he focused on fighting climate change, spending more time on that issue than any other.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said.

The President pointed out that recent severe weather supplied an urgent impetus for energy innovation and staked the nation’s economic future on responding to a changing climate.

“We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise,” Obama said. “That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.”

So what could the President reasonably do to deliver on that vow? National Geographic asked experts in climate research, energy innovation, and oceanography. Here are ten of their suggestions:

1. Sunset coal with new incentives and regulations. “Provide incentives to phase out the oldest, most polluting power plants,” said Robert Jackson, a climate scientist at Duke University. It’s already happening, to some degree, as more of the nation transitions to natural gas. Earth scientist Bill Chameides, dean of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and a former chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, urges the administration to use its Clean Air Act authority to promulgate carbon regulations for existing power plants like it has for new ones: “Doing that will force fuel switching from coal to natural gas.” (Related: “6 Ways Climate Change Will Affect You.”)

2. Invest federal stimulus money in nuclear power. It’s hardly a perfect fuel, as accidents like Japan’s Fukushima fallout have shown, but with safety precautions new nuclear plants can meaningfully offset dirtier types of energy, supporters say. “Nuclear is the only short- to medium-term way to really get away from fossil fuels,” said Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden. He said the damage done by relentless global warming will far exceed the damage done by faults in the nuclear system.

3. Kill the Keystone pipeline. The controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline is up for review again by the White House this year. “The first thing he should do to set the tone to a lower carbon economy is to reject the Keystone pipeline,” said Raymond Pierrehumbert, a geophysical scientist at the University of Chicago. The pipeline was never going to be a major driver of global emissions, but Pierrehumbert and some other environmentalists say that by killing it the President would send a clear message about America’s intent to ramp down fossil fuels. (See pictures of the animals that helped kill the Keystone pipeline.)

4. Protect the oceans by executive order. Land use is complicated, but large swaths of oceans can be protected by executive fiat. Just as President George W. Bush designated the world’s largest marine monument northwest of Hawaii in 2006, Obama could single-handedly protect other areas. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle said the President should focus on parts of the Arctic that are under U.S. control, putting them off limits to energy production, commercial fishing, and mineral exploration. Marine sanctuaries won’t stop climate change, but they can give marine species a better chance of adapting to it by reducing the other man-made threats the animals face. (Read about the many benefits of marine reserves.)

5. Experiment with capturing carbon. Huge untapped reserves of natural gas and oil make it unlikely that the U.S. will transition away from fossil fuels in the immediate future. Instead, said Wallace Broecker, geology professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, we should attack the atmosphere’s carbon surplus directly. “[Obama] could make available funds to build and test prototype air capture units” to capture and store CO2, said Broecker. Removing some carbon from the atmosphere could buy valuable time as policy makers and scientists explore more permanent solutions.

6. Grow government research for new energy sources. The Department of Energy has a nimble program that’s tasked with innovative energy research—the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The ARPA-E funds research in biofuels, transmission, and battery storage, with an annual budget of $275 million. Last year, DOE officials requested at least $75 million more. Increasing funding for ARPA-E, said Rafe Pomerance, former deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and development and currently an environmental consultant, “you get new technologies that undercut coal, oil, and gas.” Plus, he said, you get a competitive advantage if American researchers uncover the next big idea in new energy.

7. Tax carbon. Congress would have to agree, but many climate experts say that the most meaningful way to tackle emissions is to set a price on carbon. “We should be asking people to pay the cost of putting carbon into the atmosphere as they buy the fuel,” said Josh Willis, climate scientist and oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To gain political support for the idea, Obama would probably have to show that the tax would help accelerate technology, grow new industries, and pay down the deficit.

8. Dial back the federal government’s energy use. With more than 1.8 million employees, $500 billion in annual purchasing power, and 500,000 buildings to operate, the federal government has been a leader in reducing energy use since Obama signed a 2009 executive order to cut waste. “I would urge him to keep using the power of government to promote energy conservation,” said Syndonia Bret-Harte, an Arctic biologist who studies climate change at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

9. Build a scientific clearinghouse for climate information. “I advocate for building a better information system on what is happening and why,” said Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. That involves compiling observations related to climate change from around the world and using the data to refine climate modeling. Think of it as a one-stop, user-friendly website that clearly demonstrates how weather data from around the globe are influenced by broader shifts in the planet’s climate.

10. Keep talking. Despite a consensus among top scientists, the world still needs some convincing on climate change. A CNN poll last week found that just 49 percent of Americans agree that global warming is real and is due to human activities. “The most important thing the President can do is to build on his inaugural comments to heighten the sense of urgency about rapid climate destabilization and clarify its connection to virtually every other issue on the national agenda,” said David Orr, environmental studies professor at Oberlin College. That means using the bully pulpit to show how a more volatile climate affects everything from agriculture to transportation to 21st-century warfare.

Christine Dell’Amore, Rob Kunzig, and Jane J. Lee contributed reporting.

From National Geographic

Climate Change Deniers

Climate Change Deniers

And it’s “Climate Change” not “Global Warming”. Get with the times, Trump!
From Grist.com

Solar power cheaper than coal

Solar power cheaper than coal

Solar power cheaper than coal: One company says it’s cracked the code

By David Roberts

Over time I’ve grown more and more suspicious of stories about breakthrough technologies. I always think back to those heady days of EEStor, the guys who were going to make a battery that would revolutionize grid storage and electric cars alike. “EEStor CEO says game-changing energy storage device coming by 2010”! As you may have noticed, 2010 came and went and the game remains unchanged.

All of which is to say, regarding the post to follow: caveat lector.

Still, this looks very, very cool.

CleanTechnica has an exclusive on a new solar technology that claims to be able to produce power with a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of8¢/kWh. That is mind-boggling, “two-thirds the price of retail electricity and over 3 times cheaper than current solar technology.” If the claim proves to be true (and a lot can happen between prototype and mass manufacturing), it could revolutionize the solar industry.

The company is called V3Solar (formerly Solarphasec) and its product, the Spin Cell, ingeniously solves two big problems facing solar PV.

First, most solar panels are flat, which means they miss most of the sunlight most of the time. They only briefly face direct sunlight, unless expensive tracking systems are added. The Spin Cell is a cone:

V3Solar Spin CellThe conical shape catches the sun over the course of its entire arc through the sky, along every axis. It’s built-in tracking.

The second problem: Solar panels produce much more energy if sunlight is concentrated by a lens before it hits the solar cell; however, concentrating the light also creates immense amounts of heat, which means that concentrating solar panels (CPV) require expensive, specialized, heat-resistant solar cell materials.

V3Solar spin cellThe Spin Cell concentrates sunlight on plain old (cheap) silicon PV, but keeps it cool by spinningit.

It’s just so damn clever.

That is a whole new ballgame right there.

The company’s aim is to capture 3 percent of the energy market. For context, CleanTechnica notes that “all solar power installed in the U.S. to date currently accounts for about 0.5-1% of the energy market.” More than tripling the size of the U.S. solar market is … well, not short on ambition.

Most impressively, to me, the company tells CleanTechnica that it already has over 4 GW of requests for orders. There is 7 GW of installed solar in the U.S., total.

There’s lots, lots more on the technology over on CleanTechnica, if you want to dig in.

To me, the most exciting implications of the technology (again, if it proves out) are for distributed energy. Spin Cells are only a meter across and quite aesthetically appealing. You could carpet a city in these. Like this:

V3Solar power poles

Maybe this tech or this company will peter out before reaching mass-market scale. But advances in solar technology are coming faster and faster. (Small, distributed energy technologies are inherently more prone to innovation than large, capital-intensive energy technologies.) Sooner or later, solar will be woven seamlessly into the fabric of our lives. Our built environment will harvest energy as a matter of course (from the sun, from the wind, from waste), store it effectively, and use it wisely. Power harvesting and power management will be ubiquitous; power imported from large, distant, polluting power plants over long-distance transmission lines will come to be seen as back-up, a necessary evil. And perhaps, someday, an unnecessary one.