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Hawaii now has a state law supporting the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.

In a new report, Grist 50-er Liz Specht identifies the obstacles that prevent earth-friendly meat from taking over the world. If meat stopped coming from cows and was instead grown in the lab, she argues, it would slash meat production’s environmental footprint.

So, Specht and her colleagues at the Good Food Institute hope to midwife the birth of a new clean-meat industry. To get there, we’d need some crucial innovations. Here’s a taste:

Better bioreactors: Bioreactors are big tanks that slowly stir meat cells until they multiply into something burger sized. They already exist, but we need the a new generation that do a better job at filtering out waste, adding just the right nutrients, and recycling the fluid that the cells grow in.

Scaffolding: If you want nice tender meat, instead of a soup of cells, you need a scaffold — a sort of artificial bone — for meat cells to cling to so they can take shape. People are experimenting with spun fiber, 3D-printed grids, and gels that cue cells to form “the segmented flakiness of a fish filet or the marbling found in a steak.”

Growth fluid: At the moment, meat cells are mostly raised in fluid taken from cattle embryos. But there won’t be enough embryonic fluid if reactor meat replaces the livestock industry. So scientists are working to mass produce fluid that nurture’s developing cells.

For more detail, see the report here.

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Hawaii now has a state law supporting the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.

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Trump’s new vision: Cover the border wall with solar panels.

In a new report, Grist 50-er Liz Specht identifies the obstacles that prevent earth-friendly meat from taking over the world. If meat stopped coming from cows and was instead grown in the lab, she argues, it would slash meat production’s environmental footprint.

So, Specht and her colleagues at the Good Food Institute hope to midwife the birth of a new clean-meat industry. To get there, we’d need some crucial innovations. Here’s a taste:

Better bioreactors: Bioreactors are big tanks that slowly stir meat cells until they multiply into something burger sized. They already exist, but we need the a new generation that do a better job at filtering out waste, adding just the right nutrients, and recycling the fluid that the cells grow in.

Scaffolding: If you want nice tender meat, instead of a soup of cells, you need a scaffold — a sort of artificial bone — for meat cells to cling to so they can take shape. People are experimenting with spun fiber, 3D-printed grids, and gels that cue cells to form “the segmented flakiness of a fish filet or the marbling found in a steak.”

Growth fluid: At the moment, meat cells are mostly raised in fluid taken from cattle embryos. But there won’t be enough embryonic fluid if reactor meat replaces the livestock industry. So scientists are working to mass produce fluid that nurture’s developing cells.

For more detail, see the report here.

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Trump’s new vision: Cover the border wall with solar panels.

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Scientists, like someone barging into an occupied bathroom, realize they’ve been lax on others’ privacy.

In a new report, Grist 50-er Liz Specht identifies the obstacles that prevent earth-friendly meat from taking over the world. If meat stopped coming from cows and was instead grown in the lab, she argues, it would slash meat production’s environmental footprint.

So, Specht and her colleagues at the Good Food Institute hope to midwife the birth of a new clean-meat industry. To get there, we’d need some crucial innovations. Here’s a taste:

Better bioreactors: Bioreactors are big tanks that slowly stir meat cells until they multiply into something burger sized. They already exist, but we need the a new generation that do a better job at filtering out waste, adding just the right nutrients, and recycling the fluid that the cells grow in.

Scaffolding: If you want nice tender meat, instead of a soup of cells, you need a scaffold — a sort of artificial bone — for meat cells to cling to so they can take shape. People are experimenting with spun fiber, 3D-printed grids, and gels that cue cells to form “the segmented flakiness of a fish filet or the marbling found in a steak.”

Growth fluid: At the moment, meat cells are mostly raised in fluid taken from cattle embryos. But there won’t be enough embryonic fluid if reactor meat replaces the livestock industry. So scientists are working to mass produce fluid that nurture’s developing cells.

For more detail, see the report here.

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Scientists, like someone barging into an occupied bathroom, realize they’ve been lax on others’ privacy.

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Quietly, Surely, We’re Losing a Whole Pine Species En Masse and Nobody Gives a Damn

Mother Jones

This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

U.S. Forest Service research ecologist Bob Keane has studied whitebark pine, a coniferous tree of the high country, for more than thirty years. Still, when asked to describe a whitebark to someone who’s never seen one, he takes a breath and pauses for a moment. “Gosh,” he says.

The shape of the tree is very distinctive, Keane says. Instead of growing cone-shaped like other conifers, whitebarks branch like hardwoods. “A lot of the undergrowth is very small, so you see these open park-like stands of beautiful spreading trees,” he says. This shape is an adaptation that shows Clark’s nutcrackers flying past that a tree below has many nutritious cones and might be worth a travel stop.

Clark’s nutcrackers cache thousands of whitebark seeds, dispersing the pine across the high country, where the tree is a keystone species. Whitebark pine is one of the first trees to break ground after a fire, thanks to those nutcrackers, and it stabilizes soil and snowpacks at timberline. Living a millennium or more, whitebarks shape the West’s high mountain ecology in countless ways.

But the whitebark is going extinct and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the agency) hasn’t given the species federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. In April 2017, two conservation organizations from Montana lost a lawsuit against the agency for its failure to list the pine. No one—not the plaintiffs, defendants, or panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals—questioned the precariousness of the tree’s fate. At question was how the agency prioritized which species it protects. Species, the court ruled, could be passed over because the agency didn’t have the necessary funds. As the story of whitebarks demonstrates, extinction has as much to do with politics as it does with biology.

The whitebark pine is an iconic tree of the West’s high mountains, ranging from Wyoming’s southern Wind Rivers to northern Alberta and British Columbia. In the fall, in a whitebark pine forest, “there are tons of cones and it is alive with animals, just alive,” Keane says. “You don’t see that with subalpine firs.” Researchers have found that whitebark cones feed more than 100 animal species and, in Glacier National Park, 40 percent of the understory plants in whitebark pine communities grow only there. The tree’s fatty, protein-rich seeds are an important food for Greater Yellowstone grizzlies; when the seeds run short, the bears eat more meat.

The whitebark pine faces intertwined threats that have killed the trees across much of their historic range. In 1910, Gifford Pinchot imported white pine blister rust, a fast-moving European fungal disease that kills whitebarks, to the West in a tree shipment.

And a century of fire suppression has imperiled whitebarks, too. The shade-intolerant trees rely on fire to open areas; without fires, trees such as subalpine firs shade out whitebarks. Often, Keane says, permanently stunted pines linger in the shadows of those new neighbors. “You’ll see an overstory of subalpine fir, but an understory of tiny whitebark pine saplings that are probably older than the canopy,” he says.

Meanwhile, native mountain pine beetles have taken out swaths of whitebark pines weakened by overcrowding and drought; a 2009 beetle outbreak killed whitebarks across more than 3,000 square miles. Exacerbating blister rust’s spread, wildfire suppression, and pine beetle outbreaks is an ever more pervasive threat: “The fourth big one is climate change and how climate change is interacting with all of these things, ” says Amy Nicholas, endangered species listing coordinator for the agency’s Wyoming field office.

Conservationists have requested federal protection for whitebark pines under the ESA for more than 25 years, beginning in 1991. In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service found that the pine was likely to go extinct across much of its U.S. range in as little as 100 years, or less than two generations. Yet instead of listing whitebark pine as endangered, the agency listed the tree as a “candidate” species, essentially waitlisting the species for help.

The reason came down to a funding shortage: listing whitebark pine as endangered would have required the agency to devote resources to saving it. Without enough money to care for all disappearing species, the agency focuses on listing species that are part of legal settlements, for example.

As a candidate species, whitebark pine got a listing priority number, based on how likely it is to go extinct. In 2011, whitebark pine received one of the highest priority rankings, yet other species were being federally protected and whitebark pine was not.

Two Montana-based conservation organizations—WildWest Institute and Alliance for the Wild Rockies—sued the agency, arguing that by prioritizing candidate species ranked lower than whitebark pine, the Fish and Wildlife Service wasn’t following its own guidelines for deciding which species to protect. The conservation groups felt species should be given help in order of biological need.

The court ruled in favor of the agency. While pointing out that current policies on listing seemed inadequate when “dealing with the potential life or death of an entire species,” the court concluded that the agency was not required to make decisions based on its candidate species ranking system. “Scarce funds and limited staff resources may prevent FWS from taking immediate final action to list or delist a species,” the presiding judge wrote.

According to Patrick Parenteau, a Vermont Law School professor, the agency often makes listing decisions based on finances. “This is a systematic problem that the Fish and Wildlife Service has had for decades,” Parenteau says. He points to persistent resistance from Congress and some Republican administrations to fully fund the service’s endangered species listing program.

Financial considerations do not factor into whether a species gets listed, but rather in what order and when, agency biologist Craig Hansen says. “The listing budget is given to us by Congress and has an annual cap,” Hansen says. “We can’t pull funds from other programs to list.” The service’s funding woes have led to a backlog of organisms waiting to be listed, such as northern California’s Sierra Nevada red fox, which in 2016 included just 29 remaining adults.

These rust-resistant baby whitebarks are part of the U.S. Forest Service’s collaboration with NGOs trying to save the species. Bob Keane

In 2016, to stop the constant backlog of candidate species waiting to be listed as threatened or endangered, the Obama administration drafted a streamlined process that prioritized the most imperiled species backed by the best available science. It wasn’t adopted by the Trump administration.

Matthew Koehler, executive director of plaintiff WildWest Institute, grows frustrated talking about the whitebark case. Koehler believes the funding shortage that stalled the whitebark’s listing is part of a strategy by Congressional members in both parties to tie the service’s hands. “Then, the same members of Congress complain that the ESA doesn’t work or that it moves too slow,” he says.

Indeed, this past February, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., led a Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act,” arguing in a statement that the ESA has not been successful enough and causes economic harm.

Funding is only one of the ESA’s difficulties, though. Court battles also stymie species’ recoveries. For each species, a listing decision takes years, followed by litigation from whoever opposes the outcome. “It isn’t just a bunch of scientists sitting around a table saying ‘let’s list this species,” says Parenteau. And still, species such as the whitebark disappear.

And then there’s climate change. Congress wrote the ESA in the 1970s, long before scientists understood the profound ways in which greenhouse gases affect species and their homes. The ESA is designed to address discrete problems: overgrazing, point-source pollution, exurban development. In its revision of ESA listing guidelines, the Obama administration acknowledged as much: the agency could have put off working on species endangered by climate change, including whitebark pine, since it has less power to help them.

With our existing environmental laws, whitebarks may yet survive in the northernmost parts of their range in Canada, Parenteau says. “But in the southern part of its range, unless we get serious about climate mitigation, it’s probably doomed anyway,” he says.

In any case, listing isn’t necessary for the feds to take action: Almost all whitebarks occur on federal public land, where the government can take steps to protect the species without listing, Parenteau says.

Indeed, having given up on the ESA for now, the WildWest Institute is seeking other pathways to whitebark protection. The organization is supporting a bill introduced to Congress to designate public lands in the northern Rockies where whitebarks live as wilderness. “We see wilderness designation as a way to protect that entire ecosystem,” Koehler says.

When pressed to make predictions for the longterm, Keane says areas where whitebarks used to flourish will probably eventually burn. By then, though, there will be no source trees left for birds to find seeds to spread to freshly burned areas. Instead, he imagines, shrub herblands will grow.

Still, unlike Parenteau, Keane is optimistic about the climate extremes that whitebarks can survive, if the trees get help. He’s part of a new collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and two NGOs – American Forests and the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation—that’s working to restore whitebarks in the West. The group’s even developing rust-resistant seedlings. “Whitebark pine doesn’t even start optimum cone production until it’s 200 years old,” he says. “What we want to make sure is what we’re doing now, 100 years from now we will see the fruits of our labors.”

“If we do nothing,” Keane says, “we are making sure that it will be so low on the landscape, we will probably name the ones we see, there will be so few of them.”

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Quietly, Surely, We’re Losing a Whole Pine Species En Masse and Nobody Gives a Damn

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Trump’s Behavior in Europe Has Made the World Cringe. Here’s What’s Really on the Line at the G7.

Mother Jones

One year ago Friday, when speaking on a campaign stop in North Dakota, Donald Trump declared he’d “cancel” the Paris climate agreement within 100 days of his presidency, framing it as a “bad deal” that undermines domestic interests. The 100 days have passed, but his unfulfilled pledge hangs over the G7 meeting in Italy.

Trump has already appeared to push a NATO leader aside in Brussels and caused a diplomatic scuffle in Italy after accusing Germany of being “very bad” on trade. But his decision on Paris is far more significant, especially in terms of the response of the 195 signers of the 2015 agreement. The question is whether the rest of the world sinks to the low bar that Trump has set, and the G7 is the first key test. On the one hand, Trump’s resistance may force the G7 to downgrade its climate ambitions and show how US denial is already taking its toll on the global stage. On the other, a G7 that reaffirms Paris goals would demonstrate that the rest of the world won’t be dragged down by America’s new president.

“I think what the other countries are concerned about is that there is not any question about the rest of the industrialized countries raising ambition over time,” says Union of Concerned Scientist’s Director of Strategy and Policy Alden Meyer, who’s followed global climate negotiations for more than 20 years. “That’s why this is so tricky to go along with the US’s minimalist demands in negotiations.”

After world leaders from Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom meet on Friday, senior officials will gather to hammer out a text to try to represent a unified front, with global warming usually ranking among the top priorities. Climate change may not be important to Trump, who’s regularly called it a hoax, but it is to leaders of the G7—and has been for a long time. Meyer, who’s followed global climate negotiations for more than 20 years, points to 2005 as when concerns began, but David Waskow, World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative Director, says the focus extends even further back, receiving some mention in every G7 text for the last three decades.

That’s not to say there were never any disagreement. In 2015, Canada, home to carbon-intensive tar sands and then led by the conservative Stephen Harper, resisted strong climate goals but eventually agreed to a long-term decarbonization target that involved phasing out fossil fuel use by the end of the century. Japan, which has higher emissions than most countries in the G7, save for the US, has also historically resisted stronger climate language and has become more reliant on coal ever since it mothballed nuclear plants after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Yet both these countries have changed. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is more committed on climate change than his predecessor was, and Japan has vowed to fulfill its pledges in the Paris agreement. European countries, especially Germany, are expected to take on new leadership in climate negotiations. France’s new President Emmanuel Macron urged Trump in Brussels on Thursday not to abandon the deal.

“We’re seeing a much broader set of actors playing a real leadership role,” says Waskow. “It ranges from major emitters, like the EU, China, and Canada coming together, to many of the most vulnerable countries, to many countries in between, as well as cities, states, and businesses. It’s no longer dependent on one or two countries playing that leadership role.”

But Trump could change everything. The US is still the major polluter in the G7, at 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to self-reported data to the United Nations, and second in the world only to China. France, Italy, and Canada are each responsible for less than 2 percent of global emissions, and Germany and Japan’s slightly higher emissions hardly compare to pollution in the US. If it were up to Trump, the G7 would probably break its tradition on climate change and ignore the issue entirely. His administration is divided on the Paris decision, and the uncertainty has spilled over into other international negotiations.

Even if the US remained in the agreement, it would likely push for lower engagement across the world, urging countries to include language that recognizes the long-term dominance of fossil fuels, which the oil, gas, and coal industries would appreciate seeing. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this month, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who was an energy adviser on Trump’s campaign, argued that the US should advocate for “advancing technology for clean coal and pushing for increased investment and a better regulatory environment” in future climate talks.

On the other hand, the US will face pressure to flip on Trump’s insistence that we do nothing. We saw that at an Arctic Council meeting with Nordic countries, Russia, and Canada earlier this month, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed to text that loosely reaffirmed the Paris climate agreement and global action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Headed into the Arctic Council, it wasn’t clear if the US would attempt to remove language on Paris entirely.

Meanwhile, the world waits for Trump to decide: recommit, drop out, or come up with some understanding for continued engagement.

“Some of the Europeans seem to think he may make a decision on the spot in the G7 meeting,” Meyer says. “No one obviously knows. Maybe even including him.”

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Trump’s Behavior in Europe Has Made the World Cringe. Here’s What’s Really on the Line at the G7.

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