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Using Feces to Identify Species [Life Lines]

Source: http://scienceblogs.com/lifelines/2016/09/28/using-feces-to-identify-species/

File:Hibernating Virginia big eared bats in cave.jpg

Image of big eared bats By Stihler Craig, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

According to a press release from Northern Arizona University, Drs. Faith Walker and Carol Chambers at the Bat Ecology & Genetics Lab have developed a system called Species From Feces to identify bat species from guano collected in field locations such as mines, caves, bridges, etc. The system takes advantage of DNA sequencing technology and an assay to look for genetic identifiers unique to different species using DNA barcodes. The sequences can then be compared to a searchable database to identify what species of bats were present at that location.

This method is a great way to screen populations for endangered species and to verify what species of bats have been in a location. The team reports that their technology has been used to differentiate species that look similar as well.

Tropical Storm Matthew Highly Likely To Form Soon [Greg Laden's Blog]

Source: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2016/09/27/tropical-storm-matthew-highly-likely-to-form-soon/

The next named Atlantic storm will be Matthew. There is currently a well organized stormy blob in the Atlantic, heading for the Lesser Antilles, that has a very high probability of becoming a named storm, and that could happen by Wednesday or Thursday.

This seems to be a fairly fast developing storm. Also, though it is way to early to say much, its possible futures are interesting.

The storm could continue roughly westward and either encounter the Yucatan or western Cuba, then presumably on to the Gulf. But, it also seems very likely to make a hard right and squeeze between Cuba and Hispaniola, or perhaps traverse on e or the other, on the way to the Bhamas or Turkes and Caicos, then north into the Atlantic. This is not one of those storms with a near 100% probability of wandering out over the Atlantic until it dissipates. There is a reasonable chance that this could be a land falling storm in the US. Again, this is way too early to say but this is one to watch very closely.

Sea surface temperatures are plenty high in the waters over which this storm will track no matter which way it goes. Global warming enhanced anomalously hight. So, it is pretty much impossible for this storm to not be stronger than it otherwise would be owing to human caused global warming. Let us hope it doesn’t hit anything.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-2-07-28-pm

A Question For Next Debate: How Will the US Catch Up With the Clean Power Plan? [Greg Laden's Blog]

Source: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2016/09/27/a-question-for-next-debate-how-will-the-us-catch-up-with-the-clean-power-plan/

The US is already behind in its agreed to commitment to clean power

A study just out in Nature climate Change suggests that the US is already behind in its commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuel as an energy source, and the concomitant release of climate-warming greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

The paper, by Jeffery Greenblatt and Max Wei, says:

Current intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)are insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature change to between 1.5 and 2.0◦C above pre-industrial levels, so the effectiveness of existing INDCs will be crucial to further progress. Here we assess the likely range of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2025 and whether the US’s INDC can be met, on the basis of updated historical and projected estimates. We group US INDC policies into three categories reflecting potential future policies, and model 17 policies across these categories. With all modelled policies included, the upper end of the uncertainty range overlaps with the 2025 INDC target, but the required reductions are not achieved using reference values. Even if all modelled policies are implemented, additional GHG reduction is probably required; we discuss several potential policies.

The authors note that we can reach the targets, if we do something about it soon. There is time. The main problem seems to be methane, emissions of which will be higher than previously estimated. Chris Mooney talked to the authors, reports that here, and notes:

Earlier this year, the U.S. EPA increased its estimate for how much methane is being emitted by the oil and gas sector, and by the U.S. overall, in recent years. The new study has more or less done something similar.

“We made some corrections to the 2005 and 2025 estimates for methane,” says Greenblatt. In particular, he said, in 2005 these changes added 400 million additional tons of carbon dioxide equivalents emitted as methane.

Greenblatt emphasized that assumptions of higher methane emissions aren’t the only reason that the U.S. could miss its goals, but that it’s a significant one. “An increasing amount of methane emissions is part of the story,” he said.

Another problem, of course, is the yahoos who live in conservative states, the self-interested fossil fuel industry, and presidential candidate Donald Trump. These nefarious actors are trying to force the US EPA Clean Power Plan out of existence because, well, I guess they want to see all of our children grow up in a post apocalyptic world.

John Upton at Climate Central notes:

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has embraced the fight against global warming started by President Obama. Republican nominee Donald Trump has vowed to end it, such as by disbanding the EPA and abandoning international commitments.

Polluting industries and conservative states are suing the EPA in an attempt to overturn its new power plant rules, arguing that the agency overstepped its legal boundaries. The rules haven’t taken effect yet, but they’re the linchpin of American climate policy.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear opening arguments in the case Tuesday, with an eventual ruling likely from the Supreme Court. A judicial appointment by the next president could tip the Supreme Court against or in favor of environmental regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan.

So, the question I’d love to see asked in the next Presidential Debate is this: “A recent peer reviewed study indicates that the US is not on target to meet the promised reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This is mainly due to methane release being greater than previously thought, but other factors matter as well. What will you do as President to get us back on track?”

More about the Clean Power Plan: