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February 19 2016


US population of endangered Mexican gray wolf declines

The southwestern US population of endangered Mexican gray wolves declined by 12 percent last year after five years of steady growth, leading wildlife advocates to suggest that illegal killings of the beleaguered predators may be to blame.

February 18 2016


Humans settled, set fire to Madagascar's forests 1,000 years ago

A widespread and permanent loss of forests in Madagascar that occurred 1,000 years ago was due not to climate change or any natural disaster, but to human settlers who set fire to the forests to make way for grazing cattle, suggests researchers.

Market integration could help protect poor from climate-related food insecurity

Global market integration is key to buffering future commodity prices and food security from the negative effects of climate change on agriculture, says an agricultural economist in a new report.

Finding the best seeds to match Africa's needs

Soybean farmers in the United States can choose from a "candy store" of hundreds of varieties of soybean seed--high-yielding seed with proven performance traits for every region and latitude. Soybean farmers in Africa may either only have access to a few seed varieties with an unimpressive yield potential, or a few high-yielding varieties for which no performance data exists for their latitude and altitude. A new coordinated soybean variety evaluation program is underway that will address these problems and give African growers more and better seed options.

Method to predict local climate change developed

Global climate models are essential for climate prediction and assessing the impacts of climate change across large areas, but a team has now developed a new method to project future climate scenarios at the local level.

Free labor for for-profit journals just got nuttier

From the inbox:

I just noticed that the EVISE system, Elsevier has recently introduced as a new online editorial system for [journal], has sent you about 6 automated reminders to complete your review for [journal].

I deeply apologize for this technical mistake that I immediately reported to our technical support staff at Elsevier.
In addition, we have been asking Elsevier to stop threatening reviewers of denying access to the submission if review time exceeds a certain time limit. We are very sorry that the EVISE technical staff has still not succeeded in stopping this practice as requested by the [journal] Editorial team, so please ignore the content of these reminders.

I very much hope you can accept my sincere apologies and that we can still count on you having a look at the relevant manuscript as your time allows!

My reply: 

Sure, no problem. I ignore the reminders anyway ;->

Here is the 2/17 reminder:

Dear Prof. Whitehead,

You kindly agreed to review the above-referenced manuscript on 03/Jan/2016. We sent a reminder that your review was overdue on 16/Feb/2016 but have not yet received your review.

Please let us know as soon as possible if you cannot complete your review at this time.

If we do not hear from you within the next 85 days then we will process the submission without your input, and you will no longer be able to access the submission to review.

I was hoping they weren't going to send me a reminder each day for the next 85 days.


Can ecotourism save endangered species?

Using population viability modelling, researchers have developed a method that for the first time quantifies the impact of ecotourism on threatened species.

El Nino begins decline after 'powerful' impact: UN

The 2015-2016 El Nino weather phenomenon, one of the most powerful on record, has begun its decline but continues to have a strong influence on global climate patterns, the UN's weather agency said on Thursday. The WMO statement said this El Nino was comparable to the particularly strong phenomena recorded in 1982-83 and 1997-98.

With help, tigers clawing back in Southeast Asia

A new study finds that a depleted tiger population in Thailand is rebounding thanks to enhanced protection measures.

Green building to grow by 20% in India by 2018: UGBC report

Green building industry will grow by 20% in India in the next three years, mainly on account of environmental regulation and rising demand, a report said. New high-rise residential, communities and mixed-use development are expected to be the top three sectors for green building growth in India, it added.

Better water management could halve food gap

Improved irrigation and rainwater management could also mitigate effects of climate change

Better water management could halve food gap

Improved irrigation and rainwater management could also mitigate effects of climate change

Teaching environmental policy to MBAs with Veconlab

App State has become quick to cancel classes with the buses won't run. When that happens we are asked to "winterize" our courses. In other words, we're supposed to keep the students busy while they are enjoying no class time. My go to assignment has been Veconlab's supply and opportunity cost experiment. Here is the abstract from Mandell et al. (2009):

This paper describes an individual choice experiment that can be used to teach students how to correctly account for opportunity costs in production decisions. Students play the role of producers who require a fuel input and an emissions permit for production. Given fixed market prices, they make production quantity decisions on the basis of their costs. Permits have a constant price throughout the experiment. In one treatment, students have to purchase both a fuel input and an emissions permit for each production unit. In a second treatment, they receive permits for free, and any unused permits are sold on their behalf at the permit price. If students correctly incorporate opportunity costs, they will have the same supply function in both treatments. This experiment motivates classroom discussion of opportunity costs and emissions permit allocation under cap-and-trade schemes. The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme provides a relevant example for classroom discussion, as industry earned significant windfall profits from free allocation of emissions allowances in the early phases of the program.

Mandell, Svante, Chrles Holt, Erica Myers, Dallas Burtraw, and Markus Wråke. Teaching Opportunity Cost in an Emissions Permit Experiment. RFF-DP-09-22, 2009.

My MBA managerial economics class missed last wednesday and monday and so I fielded and debriefed the experiment on those days. 

If students recognize the opportunity cost of free permits then the cap-and-trade and emissions tax regimes should result in the same supply curve. This doesn't happen for all of the students so the supply curve is too high for profit maximization when permits are freely distributed. Here is the estimated supply curve (OLS with random effects, n = 23, t = 16), quantity ranges from 0 to 3, price ranges from 1 to 10 and tax is equal to 0 for cap-and-trade and 1 for the tax regime:


Here is my pre-experiment video:

And here is my post-experiment video:

And just so you know, the Watauga County kids are going to school today for the first time in 8 days.


Introducing the Corporate Front Groups That Helped Win a Supreme Court Stay of Obama's Clean Power Plan

On February 9, just days before the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay freezing President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP). 

While many articles have speculated on what Scalia's death means as it relates to the future of the CPP — and the Court's voting balance tipping from a 5-4 conservative majority to a potential 5-4 liberal majority — there's been less attention paid to the corporate-funded network that launched a slew of lawsuits against the government to add legal muscle to the state Attorneys General attacks on the CPP.

A DeSmog investigation of the dozens of legal challenges filed just before the holidays at the federal Appeals Court level reveals that big corporate interests sit at the center of a coordinated attack against the Obama administration's regulatory attempt to curb emissions for coal-fired power plants.

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Seagrass genome study to boost ecological insight in marine ecosystems

Seagrasses provide the foundation of highly productive ecosystems present along the coasts of all continents except Antarctica, where they rival tropical rain forests and coral reefs in ecosystem services. In colonizing sedimentary shorelines of the world’s oceans, seagrasses found a vast new habitat free of terrestrial competitors and insect pests, but had to adapt to cope with new structural and physiological challenges related to full marine conditions. An international research team has completed the first comprehensive genome analysis of Zostera marina, the most widespread seagrass species throughout the temperate northern hemisphere.

Mapping the world for climate sensitivity

By using satellites, biologists are now able to map which areas are most sensitive to climate variability on a global scale. A new metric, Vegetation Sensitivity Index (VSI), allows a more quantifiable response to climate change challenges and how sensitive different ecosystems are to short-term climate anomalies. Ecologically sensitive regions are the Arctic tundra, parts of the boreal forest belt, the tropical rainforests, alpine regions worldwide, steppe and prairie regions of central Asia and North and South America, forests in South America and eastern areas of Australia.

POLSTRACC measurement campaign: Strong ozone depletion above Arctic possible

This winter, the Arctic stratosphere so far has been unusually cold. Hence, all prerequisites are given for strong ozone depletion in the coming weeks. This conclusion is based on first results of the POLSTRACC measurement campaign, which has been conducted in the Arctic since December 2015. Of particular importance are vertically extended polar stratospheric clouds that have been observed to cover wide areas of the Arctic. At their surface, chemical reactions take place, which constitute the ground for ozone depletion. This winter, these clouds have been observed down to the lowermost stratosphere, which is very unusual for the Arctic.

Ford Just Dumped ALEC, Latest Major Corporation to Dump American Legislative Exchange Council

By Nick Surgey, originally published by the Center for Media and Democracy

Ford Motor Company confirmed to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that it is cutting ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that has drawn heavy criticism for promoting climate change denial and for opposing the development of renewable energy sources.
“As part of our annual budget review, we have adjusted our participation in several groups. We will not be participating in ALEC in 2016,” wrote Christin Baker, a Ford spokesperson in an email to CMD.
Its products might be “Ford Tough,” but in making the decision to stop funding ALEC, Ford executives are responding to consumer concern over its membership in the controversial, Koch-funded ALEC, which has both an extreme anti-worker agenda as well as an anti-environmental agenda.
The departure makes Ford the 108th identified company to cut ties with ALEC in recent years.

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Website, app launched for easy access to environment info

In a bid to assist decision-making and policy formation on environment-related issues, the Centre on Wednesday launched a website and mobile application for integrating its existing 69 Environment Information System centres across the country. 

Haryana uses mapping tech to trace groundwater

Haryana will become the first state in the country to have aquifer mapping done for its groundwater resources by May
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