Arctic Sea Ice Hits New Low
It's official: The extent of summer sea ice across the Arctic has hit a historic low. Monday's announcement from the National Snow and Ice Data Center capped a summer of record-breaking extreme weather events fueled by manmade climate change, including 40,000 high-temperature records that have been broken in the United States this year. At this pace, the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer for a day or more by 2020. Animals like polar bears, ice seals and walruses, which rely on the sea ice to survive and raise young, are almost certain to face a higher death toll from starvation and drowning.
And that's very bad news for people too. "The sea-ice death spiral, coming during one of the warmest summers in American history, is just one more clear sign of the deepening climate crisis that we ignore at our own peril," said Center for Biological Diversity Climate Science Director Shaye Wolf.
The good news: If we can drastically reduce emissions now, we can still lower our atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million and avoid climate catastrophe.
Read more in Wired and help spur the feds to action by signing our People's Petition to Get to 350 and making your city the next Clean Air City.
Shell Oil Asks for Favors From Feds Again -- Take Action
It seems almost every week that Shell Oil comes up with a new way to ask for special treatment. This week the oil giant asked the Interior Department to bend the rules and give it a two-week extension on its Chukchi Sea drilling permit. But letting Shell drill later into the fall is a truly bad idea: A late-season blowout in the Arctic would be catastrophic, with oil gushing into the ocean for months and frozen seas making cleanup nearly impossible. That will dramatically raise the risk of oil spills reaching polar bears, walruses and ice seals -- and add an extra level of danger to Arctic oil drilling, a practice already fraught with potentially devastating consequences.
Read more about Arctic oil development and take action now to tell the Interior Department not to let Big Oil take big risks with our Arctic waters and wildlife.
Lawsuit Launched to Save California Wildlife From Fracking
Fracking has become a fact of life in at least nine counties in California -- and that spells possible trouble for endangered species. On Wednesday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for not properly assessing the effects of fracking on threatened and endangered species on the state's public lands. Fracking, or "hydraulic fracturing," is a method of oil and gas extraction that injects millions of gallons of highly pressurized water, sand and toxic chemicals deep into the earth. It has undeniable impacts on the environment, including habitat for imperiled animals like steelhead trout, California condors and San Joaquin kit foxes.
Yet the BLM continues to issue oil and gas drilling leases and permits -- all the while relying on outdated wildlife analyses that don't factor in the dangers of fracking.
Read about it in our new press release. And take action by telling California officials: California needs a fracking ban. Then learn more on our California Fracking Web page.
EPA Agrees to Address "Kraft" Pulp-mill Pollution
After a 17-year delay and a 2011 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally agreed to review outdated rules meant to control air pollution from "kraft" pulp mills. These pulp mills use chemicals to dissolve woodchips into fibers for making paper -- in the process spewing vast amounts of poisonous, stinking gases into the air, including nitrogen oxides and sulfur compounds. "People living nearby have no choice but to breathe it," said the Center's Vera Pardee. "It's time to set standards that force the use of new pollution-control technologies."
Kraft pulp mills also emit greenhouse gases, fueling dangerous climate change.
Rules for regulating pulp mills' dangerous emissions are supposed to be updated every eight years . . . but the EPA hasn't done it for 25. The new settlement with the Center and partners will mean the agency either proposes rules to revise the old standards by next spring or declares that no updates are needed. If it does propose revisions, new rules will be finalized the following year.
Read more in our press release.
Center Op-ed: "Plastic Simply Does Not Belong in the Ocean"
The Clean Water Act has an impressive record of making water safer to drink and more livable for wildlife. Now it's time for the landmark law to be used to tackle another growing crisis: plastic pollution in our oceans. Plastic litter on our beaches and in ocean waters is deadly for nearly 300 marine species, including sea turtles, whales, seals, fish, corals and seabirds. Hundreds of thousands of animals die each year from eating or getting tangled up in plastic.
The Center for Biological Diversity recently filed the first-ever petition to the Environmental Protection Agency to begin curbing plastic pollution in the ocean. Said the Center's Oceans Director Miyoko Sakashita in a new piece in The Huffington Post: "The more I learn about this crisis, the more one thing becomes clear: We've got to stop polluting these areas with derelict fishing gear, beverage bottles, caps, shopping bags and every other scrap of plastic that, while convenient for us, is a daily death sentence for sea life. Plastic simply does not belong in the ocean."
Read Miyoko's Huffington Post op-ed, learn more about our ocean plastics campaign and take action to stop plastic from killing ocean animals.
Pennsylvania May Protect Three Bat Species -- Help It Happen
In the Northeast, numbers of little brown bats, northern long-eared bats and tricolored bats have all been reduced drastically -- in some states by more than 97 percent -- by the devastating epidemic called white-nose syndrome. The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned in 2010 to protect little brown bats and northern long-eared bats. Now Pennsylvania may be heeding that call
The state has proposed to safeguard the three species under its own Endangered Species Act, which would help raise awareness of the bats' plight, protect habitat where mothers and young roost, and limit human access to bat hibernation areas, where the animals are very sensitive to winter disturbance. Pennsylvania's proposal sets a good example for other states, and the feds, to give these bats the emergency help they need to survive deadly white-nose syndrome, which has already wiped out nearly 7 million bats.
Take action to support protecting these three bat species in Pennsylvania; then read more about white-nose syndrome and how we can help stop it.
Desert Tortoises Endangered by Military-base Expansion
The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., is one of the nation's most popular areas for off-road vehicles. Now the Corps is proposing to expand the base into 189,700 acres of the community's federal land. ORVers are angry -- because an expansion would reduce their legal off-roading areas -- and while the Center for Biological Diversity often opposes off-roading for its habitat destruction, we're actually with the ORV lobby in opposing this base expansion.
That's because it would also endanger a wildlife-management area that's key habitat for ancient, gentle desert tortoises: A preposterous 3,040 to 17,766 tortoises could die. "That's appalling," said Center biologist Ileene Anderson. The Center will keep fighting for the tortoises, as we've fought for more than 15 years.
Read more in The Desert Sun and learn about our work for the desert tortoise.
Wild & Weird: Got Zombies? Call Uncle Sam
Don't worry. Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani, a "zombie" fungus discovered in ants in 2011, hasn't yet spread to humans. That's a good thing since it grotesquely infects its hosts, takes over their brains and bodies, guides them to a prime location for fungal growth and finally kills them. But what if the undead decide to come after us?
Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control is on the case. A CDC spokesman has assured frightened citizens that the agency is unaware of any virus that would animate a human corpse, control its brain, and lead it on a rampage of cannibalism.
But just in case, there's the agency's "Zombie Preparedness" Web page, posters and graphic novella Zombie Pandemic -- which, purely coincidentally of course, may also help zombophobes prepare for more common disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks.
Check out the CDC's Zombie Preparedness page for yourself and see photos of the zombie fungus infecting ant brains at National Geographic.
Photo credits: Pacific walrus by Captain Budd Christman, NOAA; gray wolf courtesy Flickr Commons/Brian Digital; Arctic sea ice by Goddard Photo and Video, NASA; Noble Discoverer drillship courtesy USFWS; San Joaquin kit fox by B. Moose Peterson, USFWS; pulp mill courtesy Flickr Commons/Max Gag; plastic marine debris courtesy EPA; little brown bat courtesy Flickr Commons/Chris Mathers; desert tortoise courtesy Flickr Commons/sandman; zombie courtesy Flickr Commons/e_monk.
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