In the arid far-western region of South Africa is a vast flatland covered with white quartzite gravel known as the Knersvlakte—Afrikaans for “Gnashing Plain”—because it sounds like grinding teeth when you walk across it. It’s a good place to watch unpeopled horizons vanish into ripples of heat haze, but to appreciate its real value you must get down on your knees. The Knersvlakte holds about 1,500 species of plants, including 190 species found nowhere else on earth and 155 that are Red-Listed by conservation biologists as threatened with extinction. To protect them, 211,000 acres have been set aside as the Knersvlakte Nature Reserve.
John Holdren is the longest-serving presidential science adviser in U.S. history. He’s also probably one of the most influential, having advised President Obama on key energy issues for the last eight years. “Mr. Holdren has this president’s ear,” is how The New York Times put it in 2014.
A physicist by training, Holdren is among the chief architects of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan.
There's a Growing Ozone Crisis Flying Under the Radar - and It Could Be Disastrous for Life on Earth
For the last four years Jack Fishman, a professor of meteorology at St. Louis University, has guided the planting of five gardens in the Midwest, gardens that have a distinct purpose: to show the impacts of an invisible gas that is damaging and contributing to the premature death of forests, crops, and other plants — and also humans.
"The idea of the ozone garden is that it is a canary in the coal mine," said Fishman, who recently planted one of the gardens at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
This article first appeared on Yale Environment 360.
The Microscopic Critters in the Soil Are Essential for Healthy Ecosystems, but Climate Change Is Threatening Their Existence
In 1994, scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory moved soil from moist, high-altitude sites to warmer and drier places lower in altitude, and vice versa. In 2011, they returned to the sites and looked again at the soil microbes and found that they had done little to adapt functionally to their new home. That's a bad sign, experts say, for a world convulsed by a changing climate.
For more than 25 million years, Lake Baikal has cut an immense arc from southern Siberia to the Mongolian border. The length of Florida and nearly the depth of the Grand Canyon, Baikal is the deepest, largest in volume, and most ancient freshwater lake in the world, holding one-fifth of the planet’s above-ground drinking supply. It’s a Noah’s Ark of biodiversity, home to myriad species found nowhere else on earth. It’s also changing
The key passage — the forward-looking passage — of President Obama’s speech last week rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline came right at the end, after he rehashed all the arguments about jobs and gas prices that had been litigated endlessly over the last few years.
Nestled in Vermont’s bucolic Champlain valley, Middlebury College is a seedbed of environmental activism. Middlebury students started 350.org, the environmental organization that is fighting climate change and coordinating the global campaign for fossil-fuel divestment. Bill McKibben, the writer and environmentalist who is spearheading the campaign, has taught there since 2001. Yet Middlebury has declined to sell the oil, gas, and coal company holdings in its $1 billion endowment.
The current drought afflicting California is indeed historic, but not because of the low precipitation totals. In fact, in terms of overall precipitation and spring snowpack, the past three years are not record-breakers, according to weather data for the past century. Similarly, paleoclimate studies show that the current drought is not exceptional given the natural variations in precipitation of the past seven centuries. Nor can it be confidently said that the current drought bears the unequivocal imprint of climate change driven by increasing greenhouse gases, since the low precipitation is well within the bounds of natural variability.
Saguaros and palo verde trees flourish in the Sonoran Desert northwest of Phoenix along the road to Hieroglyphic Mountains Recharge, one of the Central Arizona Project’s groundwater banking sites. The shallow ponds, fed at one end by a burbling fountain, may look static, but the water is percolating down through the soil at a rate of about 3 feet a day, replenishing underground aquifers.