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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 749, Nov. 20, 2014

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Warming Drives 40 Percent Drop in Alaska Polar Bear Population

Polar bearsDeeply troubling news for polar bears: A new study finds that global warming has driven a 40 percent decline in the number of these bears in eastern Alaska and western Canada. The Southern Beaufort Sea population was estimated to be 1,500 in 2006. Today, according to the study, it's dwindled to just 900.

"Global warming has put Alaska's polar bears in a deadly downward spiral," said the Center for Biological Diversity's Sarah Uhlemann. "It's happening now, it's killing polar bears now, and if we don't act now, we will lose polar bears in Alaska."

The Center secured Endangered Species Act protection for polar bears in 2008, but if we're going to make sure these great bears of the north survive, we've got to cut the greenhouse gas pollution that's melting their Arctic homes. Without help, scientists predict, two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be gone by 2050.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times and sign our petition to save polar bears.

Keystone XL Bill Fails in the Senate -- Thank You

Keystone XL protestTalk about a close call: The U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly defeated a bill that would have required construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Thanks to all of you who responded to our emergency call for action over the weekend and helped flood Senate offices with calls against Keystone XL. This project would not only exacerbate the climate crisis but put air, water and wildlife in harm's way from Canada to Texas. Congress will almost certainly try to ram Keystone XL through in early 2015 -- and soon enough it could be up to President Obama.

"The president has to decide which side of history he'll be on: the one that embraces the fossil fuels that drove us into this climate crisis, or the one that begins to get us out of this mess," said the Center's Bill Snape. "It isn't just symbolism at play here. This decision will have real and lasting consequences for years to come."

Read more in our press release, then check out this video on the dangers of America's pipelines.

Fight for a Stronger U.S. Power Plant Pollution Plan -- Take Action

SmokestackThe Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed the first-ever Clean Air Act rules to reduce global warming pollution from power plants. Because the power sector is our single-biggest source of pollution, and power plants, once built, will operate for decades, the Clean Power Plan is hugely important. It's an essential, exciting move -- but the proposed rules just aren't ambitious enough to help prevent dangerous warming. And we don't have time for baby steps.

The rules don't cut emissions deeply or quickly enough and would promote expanded use of natural gas for power. That means more fracking threatening our communities and more methane leakage to wipe out any benefit of burning natural gas instead of coal. Rather than prolonging our dependence on fossil fuels, we need real clean-energy solutions.

We have one more week to make our voices heard.

Act now to demand that the EPA fix the Clean Power Plan to help preserve a livable climate.

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Endangered Rockfish Win 1,000 Square Miles of Puget Sound

Canary rockfishFollowing pressure from conservation groups, including the Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service just protected more than 1,000 square miles of "critical habitat" for endangered yelloweye, canary and bocaccio rockfish in Washington's Puget Sound. Four years after these fish were federally protected, it's about time some of their most precious habitats received safeguards.

Rockfish, often brightly colored and capable of living longer than 100 years, have been plunging in numbers due to decades of overfishing and habitat degradation. In order to save these fish in the Puget Sound -- a 2,000-plus square-mile estuary home to many other endangered species -- these waters must be kept clean and free of debris (like abandoned fishing nets, which kill more than 16,000 fish every year). The new designation will help by identifying activities that might harm the habitat, including near-shore development and in-water construction, dredging and material disposal, pollution and runoff, cable laying and hydrokinetic projects, kelp harvest, fisheries, and activities that lead to global climate change and acidification.

Read more in our press release.

Lawsuit Challenges Winter Wildlife-killing Contest in Idaho

CoyoteThe Center and partners filed a lawsuit last week asking a judge to stop an annual, privately sponsored wild-animal-killing contest in Idaho approved by the Bureau of Land Management. Recalling Idaho's infamous bunny-killing drives, the so-called "predator derby" gives prizes to those who kill the most wolves, coyotes and other wildlife over three days around the town of Salmon.

"It's repugnant and shocking that wildlife-killing contests are still being held," said the Center's Amy Atwood. "In approving this contest, the BLM is out of step with an American public that no longer supports the slaughter of wildlife for sport. More than 90,000 people submitted comments opposing the contest, yet the permit was still issued."

Get more from Reuters.

New Report Shows EPA Must Cut Airlines' Carbon Pollution -- Take Action

Airplane contrailAs Americans frantically calculate baggage fees for their Thanksgiving flights, a new report finds that the profitable airline industry isn't cutting carbon pollution.

U.S. domestic airlines showed no fuel efficiency improvement last year, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation. That highlights the urgent need for EPA regulations. Aviation now accounts for about 11 percent of carbon emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, and emissions are rising 3 percent to 5 percent every year.

After the Center and others launched legal action against the EPA for ignoring the airlines' huge contribution to global warming, two months ago the agency finally announced the start of the first step in the regulatory process.

"Airlines are banking sizeable profits even as they ignore fuel efficiency and emit more carbon pollution," said the Center's Vera Pardee. "To preserve a livable planet, we need the EPA to move quickly to fight this problem using the Clean Air Act. Our climate cannot take any further delay."

Act now to urge the EPA to cut airplane carbon pollution.

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NASA Releases Simulation of Global CO2 Flow -- Watch Video

CO2 circulationEver wonder where our pollution goes? A captivating new video simulation of how carbon dioxide flows around the world, which took 75 days to create on a NASA supercomputer, depicts plumes of the greenhouse gas gushing into the atmosphere and swirling among the continents along with weather systems.

Using emissions data from May 2005 to June 2007, the high-res mapping illustrates two oft-neglected facts: One, CO
2 emissions come almost exclusively from the Northern Hemisphere. Two, massive amounts of the gas are absorbed seasonally by forests and other vegetation. As the model's time frame moves from spring to summer, the rivers of red gas begin to fade away, drawn out of the atmosphere by plants, and when early winter rolls around and vegetation goes dormant, CO2 flows back into the atmosphere.

Watch the very cool video now.

Biodiversity Briefing: The Future of Oceans -- Listen Now

Oyster musselOceans make up most of our planet, but their plight -- especially acidification -- doesn't get the attention it deserves. The Center's Executive Director Kierán Suckling addressed that this month in our latest quarterly "Biodiversity Briefing" phone call.

Kierán described the very basic process of ocean acidification: Carbon dioxide spewed into our air gets absorbed by the ocean (about 22 million tons daily), and that CO
2 increases the acidity of the water. The more acidic the ocean's water is, the more vulnerable are animals with calcium in their bodies, like plankton, oysters and other creatures with shells -- because the calcium in their shells is eroded by acidic water. A scarcity of shelled creatures, of course, has devastating effects up the entire marine food web, affecting creatures from salmon to orcas to seabirds -- to humans.

And of course there are other impacts of ocean acidification -- global impacts. Listen to a recording of Kierán's briefing (session 1, session 2) to find out much more. These personal phone briefings, including Q&A sessions, are open to all members of the Center's Leadership Circle and Owls Club. For information on how to join and be invited to participate live on the calls, email Senior Donor Relations Associate Julie Ragland or call her at (520) 623-5252 x 304.

Wild & Weird: One Kiss = Millions of Microbes

KissingWhen couples share a kiss, they aren't just swapping saliva; they're swapping ecosystems. A single 10-second smooch, according to research published in the journal Microbiome, transfers as many as 80 million bacteria.

The study also found that sweeties who kiss each other at least nine times a day develop similar communities of bacteria, some of which aid in digestion of food and synthesizing nutrients.

Read more about the kissing study at ScienceDaily.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Polar bears courtesy Flickr/Lennart Tange; Keystone XL protest courtesy Flickr/Tar Sands Action; smokestack courtesy Flickr/Senor Codo; wolves by John Pitcher; canary rockfish by Tippy Jackson, NOAA; coyote courtesy Flickr/Jean-Guy Dallaire; airplane contrail courtesy Flickr/; elephant courtesy Flickr/Matt Rudge; CO2 circulation courtesy NASA; oyster mussel courtesy USFWS; kiss courtesy Flickr/Courtney Carmody.

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Center for Biological Diversity
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