The theme of Earth Day 2013 is The Face of Climate Change. This campaign seeks to harness the power of Earth Day to personalize the massive challenge that climate change presents, while uniting people around the globe into a powerful call to action.
Earth Day Network is collecting images of people, animals and places affected by climate change, as well as images of people doing their part in the fight against climate change. On Earth Day itself, an interactive digital display of all the images will be shown at thousands of events around the world. The display is also available online to anyone who wants to view it, show it or read the stories.
Although climate change still seems a remote problem to some people, the reality is quite different. This past year marked many climate-change milestones. Arctic sea-ice cover reached a record low in September. The United States experienced its hottest year ever; this after the World Meteorological Organization announced that the first decade of this century was the hottest on record for the entire planet. Public perception of extreme weather events as “the new normal” grew, as unusual super storms rocked the Caribbean, the Philippines and the northeast United States; droughts plagued northern Brazil, Russia, China and two-thirds of United States; exceptional floods inundated Nigeria, Pakistan and parts of China; and more. Meanwhile, international climate change talks stagnated.
But as these Faces of Climate Change begin to multiply, others are multiplying, too: people stepping up to do something about it.
“The goal is to depict the very real impact that climate change is having on people’s lives and to unite thousands of Earth Day events around the world into one call for climate action,” said Franklin Russell, director of Earth Day at Earth Day Network. “The more people who participate, the more of an impact it will have.”
Earth Day Network is encouraged by the level of participation in this year’s activities.
Examples of stories collected so far include a mountaineer in New Zealand who reported on receding glaciers and an organization in Thailand who installed solar panels at a refugee camp on the Myanmar border. With more than 1 billion people across 192 countries participating in Earth Day-related activities each year, the potential is enormous.
People can also post photos to Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #FaceOfClimate for inclusion in the mosaic. To view The Face of Climate Change photo display, go to www.earthday.org/faces. To learn more about Earth Day 2013 and The Face of Climate Change, go to www.earthday.org/2013.
· Kathleen Rogers, president
· Franklin Russell, director of Earth Day
If you are interested in specific stories from The Face of Climate Change or in scheduling an interview with an Earth Day Network spokesperson, contact Bryan Buchanan, communications director: email@example.com, 202-518-0044 x 14
- Counting down to Earth Day; April 22nd (scrink.com)
- Earth Day 2013: The Face of Climate Change, What Can You do to Make a Difference? (Video) (scienceworldreport.com)
- Add Your Face to Climate Change (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- Digital mosaic shows human face of climate change (treehugger.com)
- Earth Day 2013 themed The Face of Climate Change (caribbean360.com)
- Earth Day Channels Power (pacificsolarcompany.wordpress.com)
More than one billion people across 192 countries now participate in activities, with planting trees being one of the most popular ways to show support.
Earth Day 2013 has been given a major boost thanks to Google featuring it as its doodle.
This is Google’s 13th Earth Day doodle. Today’s elaborate animation shows the cycle of seasons represented by the rising and falling sun and moon. Users can play and pause the moon and sun on four different images.
US senator Gaylord Nelson conceived the idea for the event in the wake of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. The first Earth Day began in 1970 when 20 million Americans took to the streets to demand a sustainable environment and it is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.
- The History of Earthday (winwinforacause.wordpress.com)
- Earth Day – Every Day (ichoosecleanworld.wordpress.com)
- Live: How Earth Day 2013 is being celebrated around the world (mirror.co.uk)
Scientists blame Central Great Plains drought on failure of Gulf jet stream but critics say study was too narrow. The Guardian reports
The summer of 2012 was the driest since record-keeping began more than a century ago, as well as one of the hottest, producing drought conditions across two-thirds of the continental United States.
Barack Obama and other prominent figures have repeatedly cited the drought as evidence of climate change. But the report released on Thursday by scientists at five different government agencies said that was not the case. The drought was “a sequence of unfortunate events” that occurred suddenly, the report said. The circumstances were so unusual the drought could never have been predicted.
“The Central Great Plains drought during May-August of 2012 resulted mostly from natural variations in weather,” the report said.
The scientists found moist air from the Gulf of Mexico did not stream northward as it does most years, bringing spring rain. The jet stream that ordinarily pushes up the moisture from the Gulf was stuck far to the north in Canada.
July and August failed to produce their usual thunderstorms and those that did occur brought little rainfall.
The deficits were extreme. Last year was the driest year since record-keeping began in 1895, the report said. Conditions were even hotter and drier than the “dust bowl” years of 1934 and 1935.
But the scientists were clear in the report: “Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains.”
The finding was immediately challenged by other scientists. The report looked at six states – Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa – but by last September the drought had spread across two-thirds of the continental United States, devastating crops from Texas to Georgia. Some experts predicted the economic losses would exceed those from hurricane Sandy.
Obama cited the drought, along with last year’s wildfires, record-breaking temperatures, and Sandy, as evidence of climate change. Campaign groups have also cited the drought to make the case for climate action.
The lead author of the report, Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Associated Press he had tried to create computer simulations of the the drought, factoring in climate change conditions. Hoerling undertook a similar exercise with the 2011 drought in Texas, finding that climate change had indeed been a factor.
He was unable to do so in this case, Hoerling said, arguing that it demonstrated the drought had been a one-off event.
“This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years,” Hoerling told the AP. “Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event.”
However, Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, who was also contacted by the Associated Press, said the study failed to take into account the lack of snowpack in the Rockies or how climate change may have played a role in keeping the jet stream away.
- Global warming didn’t cause drought (independent.ie)
- Texas Drought Not Due to Climate Change, Says NOAA Study (reason.com)
The North American monarch butterfly’s amazing migration, travelling thousands of miles each year from its wintering grounds in Mexico to as far north as the Great Lakes of Canada and back, is done without any internal maps, a study has found. The Independent reports
Scientists have shown that the annual migration of the monarch butterfly is achieved with just an in-built “compass” – based on the position of the sun – which tells the insect which direction it should fly at the appropriate time of the year.
Researchers have long speculated on how the insect, which weighs about half a gram, is able to make the return journey to the mountain forests of Mexico for winter, especially as those born in late summer, would not have made the journey before.
Experts thought they used an internal, genetically encoded “map” to locate their position, as well as a built-in compass to tell them where to fly. But now a study has shown that the butterflies manage with just a compass alone.
“To be a true navigator, you need both a compass and a map. We’ve known for some time that monarchs use external cues, such as the sun and magnetic field, as a built-in compass that can indicate their latitude. But having an internal map requires knowledge of both latitude and longitude,” said butterfly expert Professor Ryan Norris of the University of Guelph in Ontario. “Given the challenge of this migratory journey and the fact that these insects weigh less than a gram, it is a remarkably simple system they use to travel thousands of kilometres to a site they have never seen,” Professor Norris said.
The scientists took monarch butterflies from the Ontario region of eastern Canada and tested their migratory flight patterns in experiments set up 2,500km away to the west in Calgary. They found that the monarch continued to try to fly in the same direction and did not compensate for the geographic displacement.
“The monarchs we tested in Guelph flew south-west, in the general direction of Mexico. When we tested them in Calgary, they flew in the same general direction as if they were in Ontario, suggesting they did not know they had been displaced 2,500km,” said Rachel Derbyshire, who carried out the work published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.
It is likely the butterflies also use landmarks, such as mountain ranges, to help them find their way, and possibly scent when they are near to their final goal, the oyamel trees of the Mexican highlands where they clump together in their thousand to spend the winter season.
- No map, no problems for monarchs (esciencenews.com)
- Monarch butterflies navigate with compass but no map (nature.com)
- Where Have All the Monarch Butterflies Gone? (thefunlifeofsophia.wordpress.com)
- Monarch butterflies navigate with compass but no map (richarddawkins.net)
Whaling brings to mind visions of the 19th century. Harpoons into blubber. Captain Ahab versus Moby-Dick. The International Whaling Commission used to be a whalers’ club, but now is focused increasingly on new conservation measures. The International Herald Tribune reports
But in some parts of the world, whaling remains very much alive, despite a world moratorium on commercial whaling that took effect in 1986. In 2011, more than 1,500 whales were hunted and killed, according to figures compiled from the Web site of the International Whaling Commission, an intergovernmental body. That represents a decline from 2008, when more than 1,900 were killed.
Controversy about the practice continues. The International Court of Justice, a U.N. court based in The Hague, is considering a challenge by Australia against the whaling practices of Japan, which killed 540 whales in 2011, according to the commission.
“Australia has a very difficult case to make,” said Cymie R. Payne, an assistant professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey who specializes in international and environmental law. However, she said, the court could side with Australia and order Japan to cease whaling.
Concerned about the over-hunting of whales, fifteen nations came together in 1946 to sign a treaty aimed at conserving the whale population. The treaty created an oversight body, the International Whaling Commission. In the 1980s, after public outcry against whaling intensified, members of the commission imposed a moratorium that allowed no commercial hunting of the animals. Some nations oppose the moratorium and have exercised what they consider their right to continue whaling.
Norway caught 533 whales for commercial purposes in 2011, and Iceland took 58, according to the commission. (Some of the 2011 numbers run roughly from spring 2011 to spring 2012; more recent figures were not available.) Hunters from aboriginal groups in Greenland, the United States, Russia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines collectively took 384 whales in 2011.
The nation that has hunted the most whales in recent years is Japan. It does so under a scientific exemption, saying that the whale hunts are for research purposes. But the whale meat is sold to consumers — officially, as a byproduct of the research. Environmentalists charge that the Japanese whaling program relies on heavy subsidies.
“The fact is that more than half a million Antarctic minke whales can easily support an annual harvest,” Yoshihiro Fujise, director general of the Institute of Cetacean Research, which conducts Japan’s Antarctic whaling program, said in a statement last year. Minke are the type that Japan mostly hunts.
The International Whaling Commission’s most recent estimate, published in 2012, shows that there were about 515,000 minke whales in Antarctic waters in the period between 1992 and 2004.
Tensions over Japan’s whaling practices have existed for years. An anti-whaling group, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, regularly pursues Japanese whaling boats, igniting confrontations on the high seas. Japan has complained bitterly about these tactics. Recently, a three-judge panel of a U.S. court in San Francisco took its side.
In a dramatically worded ruling in February, the chief judge, Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, wrote: “You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.”
The Institute of Cetacean Research hailed the ruling, which enables a lawsuit brought against Sea Shepherd by the Japanese whalers to move forward.
Sea Shepherd, which is based in the United States, is seeking to have a larger, 11-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit review the case. The group also recently filed suit in the Netherlands, where some of its ships are registered, accusing the Japanese whalers of violent tactics.
The legal battle taking place at the International Court of Justice is not as animated but is potentially more significant. In 2010, Australia sued Japan over its whaling in Antarctic waters, saying it had breached its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the 1946 agreement. This year, New Zealand was allowed to join the case on Australia’s side.
Written arguments concluded about a year ago. Oral proceedings could start this year, although it is unlikely that a final decision will come before next spring at the earliest, according to Ms. Payne, the Rutgers professor.
The International Court of Justice case “hopefully will close legal loopholes in the Whaling Convention,” Peter H. Sand, who teaches international environmental law at the University of Munich, said in an e-mail. Mr. Sand is a former secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, also known as Cites, a group that oversees a multinational treaty.
Politics overlay the courtroom battles. “These are countries that interact with each other on a lot of different issues, and they don’t want this to become something that is going to harm their other political and commercial relationships,” Ms. Payne said.
In a blog post on The New York Times Web site this year, Jun Morikawa, a professor of international relations at Rakuno Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan, cited a “slight — very slight — possibility” that the Japanese government could move to end research whaling to strengthen relations with anti-whaling powers like the United States and the European Union, as well as Australia.
“Because the general public in Japan does not consider whaling a major issue,” he wrote, “a drastic shift in whaling policy could be a cheap, safe and a fairly effective bargaining chip.”
Meanwhile, the International Whaling Commission, which decades ago was considered something of a whalers’ club, is focused increasingly on new conservation measures. Some whale species are thriving, but others are not. Simon Brockington, the commission’s executive secretary, said that for whales, “being caught in nets or being run over by ships is perhaps as great a source of mortality” as the hunting. A whale entangled in a net can take months to die, he said.
The International Whaling Commission is working to remedy some of these problems, like researching pollution issues and rerouting shipping lanes in areas with heavy whale populations to avoid ship strikes, Mr. Brockington said.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 3, 2013
An earlier version of this article misstated the title of Simon Brockington. He is executive secretary of the International Whaling Commission, not executive director.
- Japanese whalers have ‘worst ever’ catch (stuff.co.nz)
- Japan Report Record Low Whaling Haul, Blames Activist ‘Sabotage’ (latinospost.com)
- Japanese whaling haul at record low (abc.net.au)
- Japan rues low whale haul (theage.com.au)
- Record low catch for Japan whaling season, Sea Shepherd blamed (japandailypress.com)
- Sea Shepherd activists confront whalers (bigpondnews.com)
- Whaling Haul Hits ‘Record Low’ In Japan (news.sky.com)
- Japan whaling haul at ‘record low’ (smh.com.au)