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Center for Biological Diversity

No. 837, July 28, 2016

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EPA Admits Airplane Pollution Is Climate Danger But Has Yet to Act

AirplaneYes, airplane pollution is a scourge on the planet; no, we still haven't done anything about it, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday. After nine years of delay, the agency published an "endangerment finding" admitting that rapidly growing emissions from aircraft disrupt the climate and endanger human welfare -- but failed to move forward on rules to reduce those emissions.

The Center for Biological Diversity and allies first petitioned the EPA in 2007 to regulate carbon emissions from aircraft under the federal Clean Air Act. Finally the agency began evaluating the climate risk of airplane pollution in 2014, shortly after environmental groups filed a notice of intent to sue for the second time over the agency's failure to act.

"EPA officials have at last acknowledged airplane pollution's obvious climate threat, but they're still not actually cutting the airline industry's skyrocketing emissions," said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center. "Decisive federal action on the problem is critical to catalyzing change on a global scale."

Read more in The New York Times.

Who Really Belongs on California's Flag?

Bring Back the BearsFor years a grizzly bear has graced California's state flag -- but there hasn't been a grizzly roaming the Golden State since 1924, when the last one was shot. We think it's time to bring grizzlies back to the state's wildest places.

This week the Center launched a series of fun PSAs to raise the profile of grizzlies in California and encourage people to sign a petition urging the state's Fish and Wildlife Commission to consider bringing these bears back to their native home in the Sierra Nevadas, where there are 8,000 square miles of prime habitat.

In our four short videos, California archetypes make their case to be featured on the flag instead of the bear.

"Grizzly bears lived in California long before it became a state, and they deserve a home there today," said the Center's Jeff Miller. "Returning these incredible animals to remote portions of our state would be a key step in rewilding parts of California and saving one of America's most iconic animals. It's time to bring back the bears."

Check out the PSAs and sign the petition.

Study: Confronting Climate Change Is Corals' Only Chance

Coral reefPeople have long known that "the rainforests of the sea" -- our planet's beautiful, biodiverse coral reefs -- are increasingly endangered due to a variety of threats, from pollution to habitat destruction to overfishing. But a groundbreaking new analysis, coauthored by a Center scientist, now shows that global climate change far surpasses any localized factors; that is, hedging risks to a particular reef system won't save it unless the larger problem is also solved. This study largely settles a debate within the scientific community about the relative importance of local versus global causes of declining coral reefs.

The global CO2 problem is causing both coral bleaching (when heat-stressed corals expel the colorful algae they need to survive) and ocean acidification (which depletes seawater of the compounds that corals need to build their skeletons).

"To save coral reefs," says the Center's Abel Valdivia, one of the paper's authors, "we must reduce our overreliance on fossil fuels and lead global efforts to swiftly and drastically cut carbon emissions. Local management alone won't cut it."

Read more from Abel and follow the Center on Medium.

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Prominent Scientists Urge End to Public Lands Coal Leasing

Climatologist Dr. James HansenMore than 65 prominent scientists this week urged the Obama administration to fight global warming by ending coal leasing on public lands. In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Drs. James Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Mark Jacobson, Michael Oppenheimer, Susan Solomon, Stuart Pimm and dozens of other climate and environmental scientists pointed out that most U.S. coal deposits must stay in the ground to avert climate change's most damaging effects.

The letter comes as the U.S. Department of the Interior embarks on an environmental review of the federal coal-leasing program, which alone accounts for 13 percent of all U.S. fossil-fuel carbon emissions.

"Top climate scientists are speaking out about the need to end public coal leasing once and for all, and President Obama would be wise to heed their warning," said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center. "It makes no sense for the federal government to undermine the climate fight by letting companies dig up more of this incredibly polluting fossil fuel from our public lands."

Read more about the letter in our press release.

Frostpaw Marches for Climate Action in Philly

FrostpawThe Center's Frostpaw the Polar Bear took his urgent climate-action message to the Democratic National Convention this week after visiting the Republican convention in Cleveland. The faux-bear carried a sign reading "Stop Corrupt Fossil Fuel Money" and marched from City Hall to Independence Mall in 95 degree temperatures in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution.

"I'm in a much better situation than the polar bears of the Arctic," Center Senior Counsel Bill Snape told passersby, feeling the heat as he inhabited the sweltering bear suit. "Their habitat is literally melting. Melting precipitously. So this is our lighthearted way to remind people: We need to stop climate change now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now."

Check out this coverage of Frostpaw's appearances in Philadelphia (including a video of Bill's statement).

Lawsuit Filed for Rare California Fish and Kangaroo Rat

Santa Ana suckerA dam on California's Santa Ana River, plus mismanagement of the river's flood-control projects, are threatening two species. The Santa Ana sucker, a tiny algae-eating fish that has vanished from 95 percent of its habitat since the 1970s, and the San Bernardino kangaroo rat, a small, hopping mammal with powerful hind legs, are both at risk -- so on Monday the Center and partners announced our intent to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their failure to assess potential harm to these animals.

The Army Corps originally consulted with the Service on impacts to the endangered Santa Ana River woolly star plant and kangaroo rat in 2002. But new critical habitat was designated for the Santa Ana sucker in 2010, and the Corps failed to follow the prescriptions of the original consultation and has never considered the effects of the overall operation of the Santa Ana River Project on the species.

"These animals are on a downward slide toward extinction," said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center. "The Army Corps needs to do its duty to the American people by consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service to identify and remedy any harm resulting from mismanagement of the Santa Ana."

Read more in The Press-Enterprise.

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16 States Targeted to Clean Up Ozone Pollution

Air pollutionThe Center and allies have just sued the EPA over its failure to make sure plans are in place for cleaning up ozone pollution in 16 states -- including California and New York -- plus Washington, D.C. Ozone pollution poses serious health risks for the 90 million-plus residents of these areas, including increases in lung diseases like asthma and heart attacks.

This pollution also harms wildlife and ecosystems; for example, long-term ozone exposure can stunt growth and injure leaves in trees and forests. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to take action on ozone -- but the agency still hasn't corrected violations of air-quality standards made back in 2008.

"We can't wait any longer while air pollution keeps causing hospitalizations and premature deaths across America," said the Center's Jonathan Evans.

Read more in our press release.

Wild & Weird: The Wingless, Awesome World of Dragonfly Larvae

DragonflySometimes you think you know a guy -- or in this case, a dragonfly. But then a new detail surfaces and changes everything. For instance, the dragonflies you see hovering above a pond have a secret, wingless and watery past that accounts for no less than 95 percent of their lifespan.

Dragonflies exist in a nymph or larval stage for two to five years, lurking beneath the surface of fresh water, breathing through gills in their abdomens, and voraciously hunting prey with their prehensile and extendable jaws. Only toward the end of their lives do these wingless dragon-nymphs crawl out of the water and, in a process known to science as "emergence," shed their larval skin and fly away -- to then live for only one or two short months in flight, eating and mating as adult dragonflies.

Watch our new video of dragonfly nymphs, full of amazing footage of these wingless aquatic predators.

Kieran Suckling

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

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Photo credits: Airplane by Eric Prado/Flickr; California flag ad courtesy Center for Biological Diversity and Gyro; coral reef by Abel Valdivia, Center for Biological Diversity; wolves by John Pitcher; climatologist Dr. James Hansen by; Frostpaw by Clayton Norman, Center for Biological Diversity; Santa Ana sucker by Paul Barrett, USFWS; brown bear (c) Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity; air pollution by Jay Peeples/Flickr; dragonfly by Macroscopic Solutions/Flickr.

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