What your father ate before you were born could influence your health - There is increasing evidence that parents' lifestyle and the environment they inhabit even long before they have children may influence the health of their offspring. A current study, led by researchers from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, sheds light on how. Researchers in Associate Professor Romain Barrès' laboratory compared sperm cells from 13 lean men and 10 obese men and discovered that the sperm cells in lean and obese men, respectively, possess different epigenetic marks that could alter the next generation's appetite, as reported in the medical journal Cell Metabolism. A second major discovery was made as researchers followed six men before and one year after gastric-bypass surgery (an effective intervention to lose weight) to find out how the surgery affected the epigenetic information contained in their sperm cells. The researchers observed an average of 4,000 structural changes to sperm cell DNA from the time before the surgery, directly after, and one year later.  "Epidemiological observations revealed that acute nutritional stress, e.g. famine, in one generation can increase the risk of developing diabetes in the following generations," Romain Barrès states. He also referenced a study that showed that the availability of food in a small Swedish village during a time of famine correlated with the risk of their grandchildren developing cardiometabolic diseases. The grandchildren's health was likely influenced by their ancestors' gametes (sperm or egg), which carried specific epigenetic marks - e.g. chemical additions to the protein that encloses the DNA, methyl groups that change the structure of the DNA once it is attached, or molecules also known as small RNAs. Epigenetic marks can control the expression of genes, which has also been shown to affect the health of offspring in insects and rodents.

State Of Emergency Declared In Michigan City After Lead Found In Children's Blood -- “The City of Flint has experienced a Manmade disaster,” said the city’s mayor Monday evening, as she declared a state of emergency over evidently staggering levels of lead in the city’s tap water. . In September, news broke that lead contamination was on the rise in Flint. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of the Hurley Medical Center concluded that since the water supply switched from the Detroit system to Flint River in April 2014, the number of infants and children with elevated levels of lead in their blood had doubled, from 2.1% to 4%. The World Health Organization says “lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. . The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.”The high levels of lead have been attributed to old pipes and plumbing, which researchers say rubs off more into Flint River water than it does other sources. Because the water itself is more corrosive than other supplies, it erodes the pipes it flows through, picking up lead along the way.  Flint River is one of the filthiest rivers in Michigan. Over the years, it has housed raw sewage, tires, old refrigerators — which residents have attempted to sift out — and lead. In spite of this, officials declared it safe to drink in April 2014, when they switched the supply to the tainted river.  Shortly after the April switch, residents complained the water emitted a foul odor and was cloudy in appearance, but local and state officials insisted the water was safe. In spite of these assurances, in January 2015, MLive reported the State Department of Environmental Quality had “issued a notice of violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act for maximum contaminant levels for trihalomethanes — or TTHM — a group of four chemicals that are formed as a byproduct of disinfecting water.” These chemical byproducts are linked to cancer and other diseases, and presented a separate issue from the lead.  The water was so dirty that in October 2014, General Motors announced it would no longer use treated Flint River water at its engine plant out of fears it would cause corrosion.

Nobody Worries About Water Crises Until They Happen on American Soil - Water in the cities in Michigan has been a major issue for several years now. Detroit has been a particular mess. In 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department turned off the water to 100,000 Detroit residents who were delinquent in paying their bills. The situation was an instant nightmare;  neighbors who could not afford to settle their debts instead chose to pay a local handyman $30 to have their water turned back on illegally. Detroiters in neighborhoods across the city who cannot face their accumulated water debts—even with the department's offer to only collect 30 percent initially—are opting for the same solution.   So now, in what was supposed to be a temporary measure, Flint was disconnected from the Detroit water supply in April of 2014. The Flint water supply now came from the Flint River, and it was pretty much a chemistry set before people began noticing the lead levels. And it's not as though nobody could have seen this coming.  Safety tests conducted in 2014 and early 2015 showed high levels of TTHM or THM in the drinking water, violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. TTHM, or total trihalomethane, is a byproduct of chlorine disinfection. According to the EPA, prolonged exposure to or consumption of such chemicals can pose significant health risks. The Flint River has a history of poor water quality due to industrial pollution and agricultural runoff,according to an assessment by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. But efforts to remove pollutants and clean up the river have been successful in the past 40 years. And now, the lead hammer has dropped on all of them. Concerned residents have filed a class-action lawsuit.  These parents and other Flint residents filed a class-action federal lawsuit against Snyder, the state, the city and 13 other public officials in November for the damages they have suffered as a result of the lead-tainted water. The suit, which claims to represent "tens of thousands of residents," alleges that the city and state officials "deliberately deprived" them of their 14th Amendment rights by replacing formerly safe drinking water with a cheaper alternative that was known to be highly toxic.

Water rates to spike to help LA's aging pipe system - The board that oversees the Department of Water and Power Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to raise customer water rates over the next five years to help pay for upgrades to the city's aging pipe system. For the typical household, bills would go up about $3 per month under the rate hike plan. The changes would make an average monthly bill of about $58 to increase to about $73 at the end of the five years, according to an example in a staff report. The average or low water user is likely to see bills grow 4 percent each year, while heavy water users could see bills go up by 7 percent per year, with the biggest increase in the first of the five-year plan, the report said. The proposal will go to the Los Angeles City Council for consideration. Fred Pickel, the independent watchdog of the LADWP, signed off on the plan as being "reasonable," and said the proposal includes provisions for monitoring the progress of the projects and allows for necessary changes to be made to the rate structure.

Largest Desalination Plant in Western Hemisphere Opens: Will It Fix the Drought? -The largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere, which we featured on EcoWatch earlier this year, officially opened Monday. If the Carlsbad, California, plant performs as expected, desalination could play a much larger role in addressing the four-year drought plaguing the state. About 15 other desalination plants are being proposed in California. “We’ve now established a model, not just for San Diego County but for other plants up and down the coastline, so that we can make sure California’s future is bright and that we have the water we need,” Poseidon Water, the builders of the $1 billion plant, said it can produce up to 50 million gallons of fresh water a day, which amounts to about 10 percent of the county’s total water use. The company has plans for another plant about 60 miles north of Carlsbad in Huntington Beach. Desalination is a contentious issue, though. Researchers at MIT have developed a small-scale solar-powered desalination machine that has been hailed as a potential solution for drought-stricken communities. But critics, citing marine impacts and its high cost, say desalination isn’t a good solution and can’t fix the drought. Various environmental groups, including the Surfrider Foundation, opposed the plant in Carlsbad.

Historic Supreme Court Ruling Bans GMO Crop Trials in Philippines: The Supreme Court of the Philippines has ordered a permanent ban on field trials of GMO eggplant and a temporary halt on approving applications for the “contained use, import, commercialization and propagation” of GMO crops, including the import of GMO products. The court ruled in favor of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, as well as several Filipino activists, academics and politicians, in a major victory for Filipino farmers and activists around the world.“This decision builds on awave of countries in Europe rejecting GE crops and is a major setback for the GE industry,” said Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Ecological Agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “The Philippines has been used as a model for GE regulatory policy around the world, but now we are finally making progress to give people a right to choose the food they want to eat and the type of agriculture they want to encourage.” The temporary ban is in place until a new “administrative order” takes effect and includes the highly controversial GMO golden rice, an experimental project by International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that is currently back at the R&D stage due to the crop’s poor performance.

'Kill switches' could make genetically modified food more palatable -- In the US you can buy and eat genetically modified apples that don’t go brown, potatoes that are less likely to cause cancer, and – as of recently – salmon that grow faster.  Genetic modification allows us to breed organisms with specific characteristics by precisely inserting sections of DNA into their genetic code. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) offer a number of advantages to farmers and crop growers. But there are also public concerns about GMOs, ranging from their potential effects on human health to their dominance by large corporations. When I debated the use of genetically modified bacteria this summer, I found the audience’s main concern was the potential for GMOs to escape and contaminate the environment. So what if science could fix this? Recent progress in GM technology has seen scientists engineer “kill switches” that are designed to act as an emergency stop mechanism for GMOs. These are pieces of inserted genetic code that create characteristics intended to prevent a GMO from surviving and reproducing if they “escape” from a contained site, such as a field of GM crops, into the wild.  One type of kill switch involves making GMOs dependent on nutrients not found in nature. Two independent pieces of research published in early 2015 essentially redesigned Escherichia coli bacteria to require synthetic versions of nutrients essential for survival and growth. If these genetically recoded organisms (GROs) were to escape into the “non-contained” environment, they would be unable to get the nutrients they needed, effectively activating the kill switch causing them to die.

Are You Eating Frankenfish? -  NY Times - THIS month, Congress may decide whether consumers are smart enough to be trusted with their own food choices. Some lawmakers are trying to insert language into must-pass spending legislation that would block states from giving consumers the right to know whether their food contains genetically modified ingredients  They must be stopped. Nine out of 10 Americans want G.M.O. disclosure on food packages, according to a 2013 New York Times poll, just like consumers in 64 other nations. But powerful members of the agriculture and appropriations committees, along with their allies in agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, want to keep consumers in the dark. That’s why opponents of this effort have called it the DARK Act — or the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act. As a chef, I’m proud of the food I serve. The idea that I would try to hide what’s in my food from my customers offends everything I believe in. It’s also really bad for business. Why, then, have companies like Kellogg and groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association spent millions in recent years to lobby against transparency? They say, in effect: “Trust us, folks. We looked into it. G.M.O. ingredients are safe.” But what they’re missing is that consumers want to make their own judgments. Consumers are saying: “Trust me. Let me do my own homework and make my own choices.”

Congress insists on labels for GM salmon - Financial Times - It is unlikely to say “Frankenfish,” but genetically modified salmon is about to gain a label. The US Congress on Friday overturned a November ruling by the Food and Drug Administration that authorised the sale of GM salmon without any special labelling in what could be a significant victory for advocates of broader GM labelling rules in the US. Included in a 2009-page spending bill that passed through Congress on Friday is a provision that requires the FDA not to allow the sale of any food containing genetically engineered salmon until it publishes labelling guidelines. The ban was pushed by Democratic senator Maria Cantwell from salmon-producing Washington state, who for years has campaigned against the approval of the genetically modified fish. “Consumers have a right to know whether they are buying Washington’s world-class wild salmon or Frankenfish engineered in a lab,” she said. Critics charge the move is a case of Washington pork barrel — or fish barrel — politics and a move by a member of Congress to protect a local industry from a disruptive new competitor. “It is like Ford inserting amendments in an appropriations bill to block Chevy from introducing a new automobile” is how Ron Stotish, president and CEO of AquaBounty, the Massachusetts company behind the GM salmon, put it. But the move is also emblematic of what is now both a growing movement at the state level to require labelling for GM products in the US and a growing paradox in the US position regarding GM organisms in trade negotiations with the EU and others.

AP: Global supermarkets selling shrimp peeled by slaves: Every morning at 2 a.m., they heard a kick on the door and a threat: Get up or get beaten. For the next 16 hours, No. 31 and his wife stood in the factory that owned them with their aching hands in ice water. They ripped the guts, heads, tails and shells off shrimp bound for overseas markets, including grocery stores and all-you-can-eat buffets across the United States. After being sold to the Gig Peeling Factory, they were at the mercy of their Thai bosses, trapped with nearly 100 other Burmese migrants. Children worked alongside them, including a girl so tiny she had to stand on a stool to reach the peeling table. Some had been there for months, even years, getting little or no pay. Always, someone was watching. No names were ever used, only numbers given by their boss — Tin Nyo Win was No. 31. Pervasive human trafficking has helped turn Thailand into one of the world's biggest shrimp providers. Despite repeated promises by businesses and government to clean up the country's $7 billion seafood export industry, an Associated Press investigation has found shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves is reaching the U.S., Europe and Asia. The problem is fueled by corruption and complicity among police and authorities. Arrests and prosecutions are rare. Raids can end up sending migrants without proper paperwork to jail, while owners go unpunished.

One of the big arguments for a vegetarian diet might be wrong -- A paper from Carnegie Mellon University researchers published this week finds that the diets recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which include more fruits and vegetables and less meat, exacts a greater environmental toll than the typical American diet. Shifting to the diets recommended by Dietary Guidelines for American  would increase energy use by 38 percent, water use by ten percent and greenhouse gas emissions by six percent, according to the paper.  While the research builds on previous work that likewise undermines the conventional wisdom, the debate over the environmental virtues of vegetarianism are unlikely to subside any time soon. For one thing, the vegetarians have a point: scientists on both sides have concurred that eating beef - though not other meats - has daunting environmental impacts.  Because of the amount of grain and land used to produce a pound of beef, as well as the volume of methane the animals produce, the nation’s intake of beef has significant environmental ramifications, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the environmental impacts from beef production dwarf those of other animal foods such as dairy products, pork and poultry.

No, Lettuce Is Not Worse For The Environment Than Bacon - Sorry to break it to you, meat enthusiasts, but bacon isn’t necessarily better for the environment than lettuce.  It’s not as if people cutting 400 calories worth of bacon out of their diet are going to supplement that with 400 calories worth of lettuce (or approximately four heads of Romaine)  The issue is that the original Carnegie Mellon study on which the claim was based looked at energy, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions on a per calorie basis. Comparing lettuce to bacon is taking a high-calorie meat and comparing it with a low-calorie vegetable — it’s an unfair comparison. In order to equal the calories in two and a half strips of bacon, you would have to eat an entire head of lettuce. Since you have to eat more lettuce to equal the calories of bacon, you have to first grow more lettuce — and that lettuce is going to use more resources like water and energy.
And Just Like That, "Free Trade" Pact Trounces US Law --Claims that trade pacts like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not trump public health and environmental policies were revealed to be fiction on Tuesday after Congress, bending to the will of the World Trade Organization, killed the popular country-of-origin label (COOL) law. The provision, tucked inside the omnibus budget agreement, repeals a law that required labels for certain packaged meats, which food safety and consumer groups have said is essential for consumer choice and animal welfare, as well as environmental and public health. Congress successful revoked the mandate just over one week after the WTO ruled that the U.S. could be forced to pay $1 billion annually to its NAFTA partners, which argued that the law "accorded unfavorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock." Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, said that consumers relied on the standard to "make informed choices about their food," and that Congress' elimination of the rule "makes clear that trade agreements can—and do—threaten even the most favored U.S. consumer protections."The move flies in the face of statements made by President Barack Obama, who—arguing in favor of the 12-nation TPP, pledged that "no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws."

Fish Stocks Are Declining Worldwide, And Climate Change Is On The Hook --  For anyone paying attention, it's no secret there's a lot of weird stuff going on in the oceans right now. We've got a monster El Nino looming in the Pacific. Ocean acidification is prompting hand wringing among oyster lovers. Migrating fish populations have caused tensions between countries over fishing rights. And fishermen say they're seeing unusual patterns in fish stocks they haven't seen before.Researchers now have more grim news to add to the mix. An analysis published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the ability of fish populations to reproduce and replenish themselves is declining across the globe."This, as far as we know, is the first global-scale study that documents the actual productivity of fish stocks is in decline," says lead author Gregory L. Britten, a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine.Britten and some fellow researchers looked at data from a global database of 262 commercial fish stocks in dozens of large marine ecosystems across the globe. They say they've identified a pattern of decline in juvenile fish (young fish that have not yet reached reproductive age) that is closely tied to a decline in the amount of phytoplankton, or microalgae, in the water."We think it is a lack of food availability for these small fish," says Britten. "When fish are young, their primary food is phytoplankton and microscopic animals. If they don't find food in a matter of days, they can die."

Why are Chinese fishermen destroying coral reefs in the South China Sea? -- What I came across on a reef far out in the middle of the South China Sea has left me shocked and confused. I'd been told that Chinese fishermen were deliberately destroying reefs near a group of Philippine-controlled atolls in the Spratly Islands but I was not convinced. "It goes on day and night, month after month," a Filipino mayor told me on the island of Palawan. "I think it is deliberate. It is like they are punishing us by destroying our reefs." I didn't take it seriously. I thought it might be anti-Chinese bile from a politician keen to blame everything on his disliked neighbour - a neighbour that claims most of the South China Sea as its own. But then, as our little aircraft descended towards the tiny Philippine-controlled island of Pagasa, I looked out of my window and saw it. At least a dozen boats were anchored on a nearby reef. Long plumes of sand and gravel were trailing out behind them.  "Look," I said to my cameraman, Jiro. "That's what the mayor was talking about, that's the reef mining!" Even so, I was unprepared for what we found when we got out on the water. A Filipino boatman guided his tiny fishing boat right into the midst of the Chinese poachers. They had chained their boats to the reef and were revving their engines hard. Clouds of black diesel smoke poured into the air. "What are they doing?" I asked the boatman. "They are using their propellers to break the reef," he said. Again I was sceptical. The only way to see for sure was to get in the water. It was murky and filled with dust and sand. I could just make out a steel propeller spinning in the distance on the end of long shaft, but it was impossible to tell exactly how the destruction was being carried out. The result was clear, though. Complete devastation.  This place had once been a rich coral ecosystem. Now the sea floor was covered in a thick layer of debris, millions of smashed fragments of coral, white and dead like bits of bone.

Oregon Is The Latest Target Of Right-Wing Effort To Get Rid Of National Forests --A draft bill recently released by U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) proposes to dispose of hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest land in Oregon’s Klamath River Basin so that it can be clear-cut or auctioned off to the highest bidder. The proposal, which is the latest in a series of attempts by right-wing politicians to seize or sell-off national public lands, is so controversial that observers say it could spark a renewed water war in Rep. Walden’s home state of Oregon. The Klamath Basin, a 15,000-plus square mile river basin spanning regions of both Oregon and California, has long been the site of fierce disputes over the allocation of scarce water supplies and the collapse of fisheries and wildlife habitat.  Over the past several years, however, a wide range of stakeholders — including farmers, tribes, landowners, conservationists, and national, state, and local governments — engaged in a collaborative process aimed at resolving the decades-long Klamath water crisis and restoring economic stability and environmental integrity to the basin. These negotiations resulted in three bipartisan agreements which seek to remove four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River, promote water quality and wildlife restoration, and provide local farmers, businesses and communities with economic stability and certainty.  Congressman Walden’s draft bill, which he circulated just four weeks before the settlement is set to expire, would undermine these locally-driven agreements by eliminating the requirements that the dams be removed and giving away massive stretches of the Winema-Fremont National Forest and the Klamath National Forest— so that they could be clear-cut by logging companies or sold to the highest bidder.

Scarred Riverbeds and Dead Pistachio Trees in a Parched Iran - Iran is in the grip of a seven-year drought that shows no sign of breaking and that, many experts believe, may be the new normal. Even a return to past rainfall levels might not be enough to head off a nationwide water crisis, since the country has already consumed 70 percent of its groundwater supplies over the past 50 years. Always arid, Iran is facing desertification as lakes and rivers dry up and once-fertile plains become barren. According to the United Nations, Iran is home to four of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, with dust and desertification among the leading causes.In Zanjan, in central Iran, the historic Mir Baha-eddin Bridge crosses a riverbed of sand, stones and weeds. In Gomishan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, the fishermen who once built houses on poles surrounded by freshwater now have to drive for miles to reach the receding shoreline. In Urmia, close to the Turkish border, residents have held protests to demand that the government return water to a once-huge lake that is now the source only of dust storms. More than 15 percent of the approximately 150,000 acres of pistachio trees in the main producing area in Kerman Province have died in the last decade or so. A nationwide network of dams, often heralded by state television as a sign of progress and water management, is adding to water shortages in many places while helping deplete groundwater.

November 2015: Earth's Warmest November and 2nd Warmest Month of Any Kind on Record --November 2015 was Earth’s warmest November on record by a huge margin, according to data released by NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Thursday. November 2015 also had the second largest positive departure of temperature from average of any month among all 1631 months in the historical record that began in January 1880; only last month (October 2015) was more extreme. As shown in the table below, October and November 2015's 0.97°C and 0.99°C departures from the 20th Century average beat the next eight runners-up by an unusually large margin, underscoring how unusual and extreme the current surge in global temperatures is. NASA also rated November 2015 as the warmest November in the historical record. November 2015's warmth makes the year-to-date period (January - November) the warmest such period on record, according to both NOAA and NASA. November 2015 was the seventh consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set in NOAA's database, and the ninth month of the eleven months so far in 2015.

November Burns Through Temperature Records: This November was the warmest on record, according to a monthly climate update issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information. November was also the seventh month in a row to average global temperatures that were not only warmer than average, but also broke records set during previous years. NOAA scientists based their report on global temperature data going back to 1880, when climate record-keeping began. To determine global temperatures, scientists average surface temperatures on land and in the oceans. November's data showed that across the globe, average land-surface temperature was higher than the 20th century average by 2.36 degrees Fahrenheit (1.31 degrees Celsius). This year's average sea-surface temperature was higher than the 20th century average by 1.51 degrees F (0.84 degrees C), also a record-breaking number.Over land and sea surface combined, the November average temperature was 1.75 degrees F (0.97 degrees C) higher than the 20th century average. From September through November in the contiguous United States this year, temperatures in every single state were warmer than average, with record warmth recorded in Florida. The entire year of 2015 will likely prove to be one of the five warmest ever recorded in the United States, with record and near-record warmth in Florida, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. When weather and climate agencies like NOAA incorporate monthly reports like these into the larger record of climate data, they can compare average temperatures over time to detect patterns of how Earth's climate is changing, and how quickly.

A White-Hot Christmas Wraps Up Earth’s Hottest Year on Record - This has been by far the hottest year on record, and it’s ending with an exclamation point. Holiday shoppers in New York’s Rockefeller Center have been checking off their lists in weather that’s an eerie 20 degrees warmer than normal. Meanwhile, another stack of global temperature records has fallen. Last month was the hottest November in 136 years of data, according to U.S. figures released on Thursday, making it the ninth record-breaking month of 2015. This year has been so far off the charts, it’s certain to go down as the hottest year on record even if December turns out to be unusually cool (it won’t).  El Niño is largely responsible for this year’s extremes, but make no mistake: This is what global warming looks like. Before this year, 13 of the 14 hottest years fell in the 21st century. The thermometer creep is relentless. The animation below shows the earth’s warming climate, recorded in monthly measurements from land and sea dating back to 1880. Temperatures are displayed in degrees above or below the 20th century average.

NASA: 2015 Will Be ‘A Scorcher Relative To All Other Years On Record - November was so hot globally it’s now over 99.999 percent certain 2015 will be the hottest year on record — driven overwhelmingly by record levels of carbon pollution in the air. Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), tweeted out this chart Monday: 2015 will be a scorcher relative to all other years in the record. Even with sampling uncertainty: pic.twitter.com/wvTvzA1GC2 Schmidt also tweeted out “With Nov update to GISTEMP, probability of 2015 being a record year is > 99.999%.” Scientifically, >99.999 percent certainty is equivalent to the chances that:

The new Star Wars movie will make money.

Donald Trump will say something at the Las Vegas GOP debate that will offend somebody.

At some point in your life, you will experience either death or taxes.

Air temperatures in the Arctic reach 115-year high: researchers: The Arctic is heating up, with air temperatures the hottest in 115 years, and the melting ice destroying walrus’ habitat and forcing some fish northward, a global scientific report said Tuesday. Air temperature anomalies over land were 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.3 degrees Celsius) above average, “the highest since records began in 1900,” said the 2015 Arctic Report Card, an annual peer-reviewed study issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meanwhile, the annual sea ice maximum occurred February 25, about two weeks earlier than average, and was “the lowest extent recorded since records began in 1979.” “Warming is happening more than twice as fast in the Arctic than anywhere else in the world. We know this is due to climate change, and its impacts are creating major challenges for Arctic communities,” said NOAA chief scientist Rick Spinrad at the annual American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco. “We also know what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” he said.

Monster El Nino Hurls 43+ Foot Waves at US West Coast -- For NOAA, it looks like we’re well on the way toward seeing one of the most powerful El Ninos ever recorded. And already, there’s some brutal Fall and Winter weather events starting to emerge as a result. One event, in particular, is today roaring into the US West Coast like a Godzilla-hurled freight train.  It’s just one upshot of a Monster El Nino in a record warm world. A weather and climate event — one likely pumped up by an overall atmospheric warming of 1 C above 1880s levels — that will likely continue to have severe and worsening global impacts over the coming months. NOAA’s September, October, November ONI Index, the key zone for measuring El Nino strength, hit a +2.0 degree Celsius positive anomaly this week. That’s just 0.3 C shy of the most powerful El Nino ever recorded — 1997-1998 which peaked out at +2.3 C in the same monitor. With October, November and December likely to show even hotter overall readings for the Central Equatorial Pacific, it appears that the 2015-2016 El Nino will strike very close to this ONI high mark. Peak weekly sea surface temperature values already exceeded top 1997-1998 temperature levels for NOAA (+2.8 C for 1997-1998 vs + 3.1 C for 2015-2016). So we wait on the ONI three month measure for October, November and December to give broader confirmation. The other major El Nino monitor — the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in Australia — has weekly sea surface temperatures peaking at +2.5 C in the same zone. This is 0.2 C short of peak 1997-1998 values. BOM notes that the current El Nino is near peak and that, according to its own measures, is unlikely to exceed 1997-1998 but will likely hit within the top 3 strongest events.

As Florida Keys flood, property worries seep in - (AFP) - Extreme high tides have turned streets into canal-like swamps in the Florida Keys, with armies of mosquitoes and the stench of stagnating water filling the air, and residents worried rising sea levels will put a damper on property values in the island chain. On Key Largo, a tropical isle famous for snorkeling and fishing, the floods began in late September. While people expected high tides due to the season and the influence of a super moon, they were taken by surprise when a handful of streets in the lowest-lying neighborhoods stayed inundated for nearly a month with 16-inches (40-centimeters) of saltwater. By early November, the roads finally dried up. But unusually heavy rains in December brought it all back again. "Like a sewer," said Narelle Prew, 49, who has lived for the past 20 years in her four-bedroom home on Adams Drive, a waterfront lane lined by boat docks. Residents have signed petitions, voiced anger at community meetings and demanded that local officials do something, whether by raising roads or improving drainage. Sometimes, they clash over whether the floods are, or are not, a result of man-made climate change. "There seems to be a mix of responses -- whether they think it is sea level rise, and what they think the government should be doing about it."

Greenland's glaciers retreating at record speeds  (UPI) -- Greenland's glaciers are on retreat, shrinking at strikingly fast rates -- at least twice as fast as any time over the last 9,500 years. Researchers with Columbia University's Earth Institute compared modern satellite data with records of glacier growth and decline gleaned from ice cores. Their findings were published last week in the journal Climate of the Past. "If we compare the rate that these glaciers have retreated in the last hundred years to the rate that they retreated when they disappeared between 8,000 and 7,000 years ago, we see the rate of retreat in the last 100 years was about twice what it was under this naturally forced disappearance," study co-author William D'Andrea, a paleoclimatologist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, explained in a press release.  Scientists were able to measure ancient glacier movements by measuring the levels of silt and sediments trapped in the ice cores collected from a glacial lake. As glaciers move, they grind the bedrock beneath them. The faster the movement, the more sediment, which is washed downstream by the glacier's melt water.

Paris climate deal: nearly 200 nations sign in end of fossil fuel era - Governments have signalled an end to the fossil fuel era, committing for the first time to a universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change. After 20 years of fraught meetings, including the past two weeks spent in an exhibition hall on the outskirts of Paris, negotiators from nearly 200 countries signed on to a legal agreement on Saturday evening that set ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and to hold governments to account for reaching those targets. Government and business leaders said the agreement, which set a new goal to reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century, sent a powerful signal to global markets, hastening the transition away from fossil fuels and to a clean energy economy. The deal was carefully constructed to carry legal force but without requiring approval by the US Congress - which would have almost certainly rejected it.

Paris climate deal: key points at a glance -- Governments have agreed to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels: something that would have seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. There is a scientific rationale for the number. John Schellnhuber, a scientist who advises Germany and the Vatican, says 1.5C marks the point where there is a real danger of serious “tipping points” in the world’s climate. . But bear in mind we’ve already hit 1C, and recent data shows no sign of a major fall in the global emissions driving the warming. As many of the green groups here in Paris note, the 1.5C aspiration is meaningless if there aren’t measures for hitting it. The 1.5C passage from the Paris agreement. Before the conference started, more than 180 countries had submitted pledges to cut or curb their carbon emissions (intended nationally defined contributions, or INDCs, in the UN jargon). These are not sufficient to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond 2C – in fact it is thought they will lead to a 2.7C rise or higher. The INDCs are recognised under the agreement, but are not legally binding. Countries have promised to try to bring global emissions down from peak levels as soon as possible. More significantly, they pledged “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”. Experts say, in plain English, that means getting to “net zero emissions” between 2050 and 2100. The UN’s climate science panel says net zero emissions must happen by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.

Analysis: The final Paris climate deal - Carbon Brief - The 31-page draft no longer has any brackets to indicate areas of disagreement on the text.  Nonetheless, the COP21 plenary later today must still sign off on the deal. The final draft of the Paris deal includes a temperature limit of “well below 2C”, and says there should be “efforts” to limit it to 1.5C. This is stronger than many countries had hoped just months previously, but falls short of the desires of many island and vulnerable nations, which had pushed for 1.5C as an absolute limit. To give practical relevance to the temperature limit, the deal also includes a long-term emissions goal. The draft wording aims to peak global greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” and to achieve “balance” between emissions and sinks in the second half of the century. This is similar to the “emissions neutrality” language, which appeared in the previous draft, but more specific and tightly defined. It effectively means reaching net-zero emissions after 2050, though the lack of a specific timeline is a blow to those that wanted the clearest possible message for investors. The text provides essentially a two-stage process to increase ambition over time, acknowledging that the current provisions are not going to be enough to reach the long-term 2C temperature limit.   In 2018, there will be a facilitative dialogue to take stock of the collective efforts of countries, which should inform the efforts of future commitments. Countries which have submitted targets for 2025 are then urged to come back in 2020 with a new target, while those with 2030 targets are invited to “communicate or update” them.

Here’s what you need to know about the new Paris climate agreement | Grist: — The Paris Agreement to address climate change, adopted on Saturday, will be remembered as a big step forward and at the same time a frustrating set of compromises and omissions. The COP21 conference brought every country to the table, they all accepted the science of climate change, and they agreed to work together to do something about it. But some proved more ambitious than others, and the rich countries didn’t come up with enough money to get the best deal possible. The bottom line is that the agreement gets us far closer to containing climate change than we were two weeks ago, but still far short of where we need to go. In fact, we won’t even know for years what it will accomplish. How much the agreement reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and through that reduces warming, will depend on whether countries meet their targets for curbing emissions and deploying renewable energy and whether they ramp up their ambition in the years ahead. In terms of climate justice, there is even less to cheer. Rich countries like the U.S., Canada, and the European Union upped their pledges for climate finance slightly, but nowhere near enough to compensate for the hugely outsized share of the global carbon budget they have devoured.

ANALYSIS-A la carte action on climate change: (Reuters) - At the end of bargaining, when the last bracketed differences in diplomatic language were [glossed over], the global climate accord that emerged from two weeks of talks in Paris proved to be a very a la carte deal. The intentional flexibility of the Paris agreement was constructed not only to accommodate the diversity of 195 national interests. It had to compensate for its limited legal authority with enough aspirational language to send governments away confident that a global turn from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources was inevitable. "You cannot always press the parties to do something on your own terms," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Reuters in an interview just hours before the agreement was adopted but not in serious doubt. "Just motivate the parties so that they do it in their own way." Most countries in Paris accept that they face a wicked problem in trying to stop rising global temperatures. With some exceptions, there is a willingness to get off dirty energy sources, though many will still need to burn a lot of coal for quite a while. All know it will take billions of dollars to get there. What no one wanted to accept was an onerous collection of international rules dictating how they do it. The final accord therefore repeatedly "invites," "urges," "requests" and "further requests" countries to take action. The most ambitious goals - such as holding the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 Celsius degrees above pre-industrial levels - are aspirational, requiring belief that technologies yet to be invented will offer a realistic route to achieving them.
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