Global Warming for Dummies — Climate Change for Dummies

Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas for our energy has increased levels of heat-absorbing gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. So, our planet has warmed over one degree Fahrenheit, and will continue to heat further and faster, as more of these gases build up.* Most climate scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences, agree this is what’s happening, and that something must be done soon to stop the heating, before climate change starts accelerating.

The heat doesn’t sound like much, but a little goes a long way towards changing climate. Scientists predict that our planet could heat up another 6 to 11 degrees by the end of this century, roughly the same DIFFERENCE in temperature that separates our climate from the last ice age, when 300-foot thick ice sheets covered the northern US.

Think of Earth as a big ball, covered with water and air. The sun heats up the water and air, and some heat becomes motion, moving the mix around the ball, just like heating moves water in a pot. The long-term patterns of this heat and these movements are our climate, changing slowly enough over the eons so that most life can adapt to it. But add to this water-air mixture a sudden jolt of heat,* and the planetary water cycle speeds up, something scientists are seeing now. This results in bigger and stronger storms and floods. The extra heat also creates more extreme heat waves, droughts, and melts ice globally, which raises sea levels.  All this is threatening our sources of food, water and shelter, the basics of our survival.

The good news is that we can stop too much harmful climate change if we act fast. We just have to stop emitting global warming gases. We can do this mostly by: a. using energy more efficiently; b. switching from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy — like solar, wind, and geothermal energy; and c. stopping deforestation. We’ve got the technology to do all this, and doing so would create more jobs and improve our economy, as other countries have already shown. So would another important solution: bringing our populations to sustainable levels.

Changing energy sources won’t be easy or cheap politically. But it’s cheaper economically than what we’re doing now. We’ve spent trillions defending foreign oil sources. Furthermore, fossil fuel pollution and mining inflicts heavy damage on human health and our environment.  So, even if climate change wasn’t happening, it pays for us to switch to clean renewable energy anyway.

How do we solve this?  MOVE THE MONEY. Our government must stop supporting fossil fuels and tax breaks for the rich, and start creating tax breaks for clean energy and energy efficiency in the marketplace.  But fossil fuel lobbyists are strong and influential.  So, it’s up to you, the voters, to elect strong leaders who are going to pull the plug on fossil fuels, and promote clean renewable energy and efficiency, as fast as possible.

It’s all about our economy, our future.   

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You can help the planet by making this go viral — please spread it far and wide!

Another way to help? I  started a Clean Energy Voting pledge online, to let Congress know many voters are monitoring their action on climate change. When we can show Congress that a large voting bloc consider this an important voting issue, Congress will act seriously on it. You can pledge here:
Please help make THIS go viral, too — spread it far and wide! Thanks!

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for a summary of the science behind climate change that uses the simple analogy of boiling water, see my posting: Climate Change for Dummies: Go Boil Water at the HuffingtonPost

Why do some gases absorb more heat than others?

 All gases can absorb heat, but some absorb more than others. Why? Different gases are made up of molecules of varying complexity. Since the building blocks of molecules are atoms, the more atoms in the molecule, the more complex it is.  More complex molecules can hold, or absorb, more heat than simpler ones, just like larger houses can hold more heat than smaller ones.  So, the more heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere are ones that have more than 2 atoms (#)  in them – carbon dioxide (3), water vapor (3), methane (4), nitrous oxide (3), and so on. Lucky for life on Earth, there are relatively small amounts of these more complex molecules in the atmosphere.

Large amounts of simpler molecules make up the bulk of our atmosphere:

Nitrogen (2) makes up about 78 percent,

Oxygen (2) makes up about 21 percent

Yeah, that’s right!!  All those bothersome, heat-absorbing, so-called greenhouse gases that are creating climate change make up only about 1 percent of our atmosphere, but boy are they potent, especially in terms of the climate change they can affect when their levels are changed!

Physical and Ecological Feedbacks Mostly Speed Up Global Warming

Relatively little global warming is caused directly from the heat trapped by the gases emitted from burning fossil fuels — it is what comes next that really creates an ultimately unsafe situation. The initial warming creates physical and ecological effects that usually, in turn, speed up global warming and reinforce themselves. These reinforcing processes are known as positive (as in reinforcing) feedbacks. Remember, all an effect needs to do is to cause a further increase in heat absorption or in atmospheric greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which, in turn, reinforce that effect, for it to be a positive feedback.

Physical effects include decreasing the ability of the planet’s surface to reflect light and heat. When the warming causes ice to melt, for example, the light surface of ice is replaced by the much darker surface of water and soil, decreasing its reflective ability, or albedo. This new surface will absorb more heat, causing adjacent areas to melt faster. And so, the albedo effect reinforces itself as it adds to global warming by absorbing more heat.

Warming in the Arctic melts frozen methane deposits in the soils, lake beds, and sea beds. Once melted, the methane rises into the atmosphere, significantly adding to the global warming effect that will help melt more methane deposits. There is a huge amount of methane stored in these Arctic deposits.

Ecological feedback effects occur because many ecosystems store carbon, keeping it from becoming greenhouse gases. Huge amounts of carbon are stored soil and in forest trees, for example. As soils warm, soil microbes start releasing the carbon as carbon dioxide. Global warming also results in warmer drier seasons and more extreme droughts. These create longer fire seasons, increasing the frequency and size of wildfires, which release large amounts of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.

These are just some examples of physical and ecological feedbacks, the overwhelming majority of which are positive feedbacks that result in further warming of the planet and further climate change. There are plenty more.

About that “Sudden” Jolt of Heat

 “Sudden” is a relative term in time, of course.  What’s sudden for the planet can be nonexistent for us, who usually live less than a century.  The planet as a whole usually changes so slowly that to see its changes, we have to look at the history of how it changes geologically (like how mountain ranges form or continents drift) over millions of years, or how it evolves biologically over the same time scale.   Most atmospheric changes on the planet have happened slowly, over thousands of years.  The rate at which we are changing the atmosphere is SO fast on that timescale, however, that it constitutes a veritable explosion. So, jolt is actually a pretty conservative term.

Although the total average increase in temperature is small so far, this constant infusion of extra heat represents an energy inbalance in our planetary system, points out NASA climate scientist Pushker Kharecha.  “No question about it, it’s a lot of energy,” says senior climate scientist Warren Washingtion at the National Center on Atmospheric Research.  Just how much?  250-500 million Megawatts of energy. It’s like having up to half a million EXTRA, large coal burning plants on Earth. Yeah, a half million….


1. Cool The Earth, Save the Economy: Solving Climate Change Is EASY , a free, downloadable book available at: www.CoolTheEarth.US . Readable, and comprehensive, with lots more information and detail, accrued from hundreds of reports, peer-reviewed scientific studies, and informative articles, listed in the Bibliography. Published in 2008 by an award-winning environmental scientist and a biologist (that’s me), online only. Although the sections on technological advances are already outdated, the relevancy of the bulk of it is pretty much unchanged. Am still trying to work on an updated edition.

2.  250-500 Million MW of Extra Energy Now Roiling the Earth’s Climate System

Posted: 29 Jul 2011 09:30 AM PDT.  As extreme weather events multiply, scientists are still in the early stages of understanding how more energy is influencing complex weather phenomena.  By Lisa Song, SolveClimate News

3. Wikipedia, Composition of the Atmosphere:

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Welcome to the Climate Change Reports Blog

Welcome to my blog.  Here you’ll find the Climate Change Reports — newscasts  being uploaded every weekday for those of you who want to keep updated with developments, both good and bad, related to climate change and global warming.  The reports are basically compressed newscasts about events, studies, reports, and more that are being churned out around the planet about the consequences of and solutions to global warming EVERY DAY, but rarely see the light of day, especially in US broadcast media. If you want to listen to most of them, go to which features downloadable podcasts, suitable for rebroadcast on radio. While you’re at that website, check out the free, downloadable book co-authored by an internationally recognized climate change scientist and ecologist, John Harte, and myself, Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte.

Why don’t more people in the US recognize that global warming exists and is creating harmful climate change?  I don’t buy the argument  that it is “because people tune out news they don’t want to hear.”  Nah. US voters are hearing bad news every day — about jobs, the economy and more — and not tuning out, as the Occupy movement shows.

Rather, I think the lack of recognition of global warming is because mainstream US media rarely mention it or connect it to the every day news events that affect our lives — such as the weather and its consequences, or the latest advances happening in clean renewable energy. Did you know, for example, that the first big heatwave in Russia in 2010 was actually part of a giant continental heatwave that extended across Eurasia, from Europe to Japan?  And which of these facts are you more aware of — the failure of a solar company, Solyndra, or that the solar industry is the fastest growing industry in the US today? And when was the last time you heard a TV meteorologist mention global warming in the context of the record-breaking heatwaves, droughts and floods we’ve been having?

Let’s look at a more explicit recent example.  Despite all the coverage of Hurricane Irene, the media, for the most part, once again managed not to say the words “climate change” or “global warming”.  Apparently, these words are the Potterian “Voldemort” of the daily news media when extreme weather is reported. Media hawks are noticing, as the slate of extreme weather events continues to pile up, and the words are rarely spoken.[1]  Amy Goodman herself noted as much on Democracy Now as she introduced Bill McKibben,[2] who advocates averting climate change.

This surreality reminds me of a Jon Stewart segment in which Samantha Bee tried, without saying the word herself, to get Republicans to utter “choice” at a convention a while back.  Similarly, my husband and I play a spectator form of this game with one of the most liberal mainstream broadcast media, National Public Radio. (There is no sport in even attempting this with the lalaland of Fox et al.) In fact,  we think a record of sorts occurred as we listened one warm morning in July 2011 to a slate of NPR headline topics. It started with the huge wildfires burning in the west, then smoothly segued into US heat waves, and finally discussed the plight of polar bears watching their habitat literally melt away. All of these events are intimately tied to climate change, as our free online book explains.[1] Each time, we slyly speculated if we would hear the forbidden words – would we? would we? — but they remained forbidden, even with polar bears. We laughed through tears of hilarious sadness.

How are we going to vote for leaders who will act on slowing global warming, if we aren’t being reminded every day how global warming is intimately tied to our economy and jobs, our health, and our future?  Just remember, folks, that if we don’t roll on this soon, all those other important voter issues will go out the window as things turn catastrophic. It already has been for farmers (and food prices) affected by drought, and people affected by extreme weather, such as heatwaves, floods and hurricanes.

So, I’m hoping US media coverage will improve, but in the meantime, welcome to my blog.  My reports come from items I find, sifting through feeds from:   The Daily Climate,   World Environment News (Reuters),    Inside Climate News,    GreenTech Media,    EnvironmentalResearchNews,  and RSOE EDIS – Climate Change News, among others. And they represent just my personal highlights. I welcome yours.

Mel (Mary Ellen) Harte

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Keeping carbon stored: Underestimating Logging, Eagles Decline, and More!


Knobbed hornbill. Some forest specialists, like some hornbills and parrots, require tree hollows typically found in old trees that may be absent in heavily logged forests.Credit Rhett Butler at Mongabay

Ecologists Underestimating The Impacts Of Rainforest Logging says a new study, reports Rhett Butler at Mongabay. They fail to account for subtleties in how different animal groups respond to the intensity of timber extraction, argues the published paper, based on a meta-analysis of 48 studies that evaluated the impact of selective logging on mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates in tropical forests.

Even selective logging can heavily degrade forests, such as this one in Malaysian Borneo, completely transforming them ecologically. Credit Rhett Butler at Mongabay

The number of birds in forests generally increases with logging intensity as gaps open up habitats for species that thrive in disturbed habitats and grasslands. But mammals, amphibians, butterflies, dung beetles, and ants decline as more trees are removed from a forest.

This fringe leaf frog is particularly vulnerable to logging in Borneo forests. Credit Rhett Butler at Mongabay

“We found that mammals and amphibians are the most sensitive groups to selective logging in terms of the rate of decline in species richness,” the authors write. Removing as few as 3-4 trees from about 2.5 acres can halve the species of mammals; removing 6-8 trees halves the species of amphibians.

OO Cargill To Cut Off Suppliers Who Don’t Provide Deforestation-Free Palm Oil - such plantations are driving deforestation, especially in Indonesia.

OO Indonesia: Tin Mining, Palm Oil Plantations Wreaking Havoc On Small Island


Only 400 breeding pairs of the magnificent Philippine Eagle remain in the wild.Wikipedia.

The Philippines: ‘Megadiversity’ Meets Mega Deforestation reports Shaira Panela at Mongabay. While logging is now banned, illegal logging is rampant, leaving only 5% of Philippine forests intact. It is the fourth most threatened forest system on the planet.

Stunning High-Resolution Map Reveals Secrets Of Peru’s Forests reportsRhett Butler at Mongabay. Peru’s landmass has just been mapped like never before, revealing important insights about the country’s forests that illustrate the value healthy and productive ecosystems afford humanity.


The study found that vegetation in Peru stores nearly 7 billion metric tons of aboveground biomass, roughly equaling nearly twice the combined annual carbon emissions of the U.S. and China; it also documented ecosystem gradients that underpin the country’s rich biodiversity.

OO Peruvian Oil Spill Sparks Concern In Indigenous Rainforest Community

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Climate Change Risks: Birds Decline, Long Droughts, and More!


OO As Temperatures Rise, Britain Is Losing Its Waterbirds But birds in the U.S. are also being affected.


Record-Setting Drought Intensifies in Parched California reports Andrea Tompson at Climate Central. While the drought can’t be directly linked to climate change, the warming of the planet is expected to make already dry places drier. And future droughts could be even worse.

OO California Is Now Experiencing Its Most Severe Drought Ever Recorded The majority of the state is now in the worst category of drought conditions.

OO Governor Brown Declares State Of Emergency As Wildfires Consume California “We’re seeing fire behavior we wouldn’t normally see until September.”

OO Climate Change May Increase the Number of Hawaiian Hurricanes A new modeling study indicates a 2-3 fold increase by 2100.


OO No Record, But 2014 Summer Arctic Sea Ice Will be Among 10 Lowest Recorded – allowing much more heat to be absorbed globally by the dark waters that replace previous ice cover.

OO Derailments May Increase as ‘Sun Kinks’ Buckle Tracks

The Great Lakes toxic algae bloom that affected Toledo, Ohio.

Toledo’s Toxic Algae Bloom Fits with Climate Trends reports Brian Kahn atClimate Central. The bloom caused a ban on drinking water in Toledo for two days. Climate change could make the Great Lakes’ harmful algae blooms more toxic and last longer.

Other Major US Water Supplies, Economies, Threatened by Toxic Bloomsinclude spots in New York, Kansas, California and elsewhere reports Emily Atkin atClimate Progress. The EPA defines these blooms as major environmental problems in all 50 states.

OO Warming Seawaters Behind Rise In Deadly Flesh-Eating Bacteria In US

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Climate Change Follies: Polluters Pay Little Taxes, Fracking Spills, and More!

Fossil Fuel Follies:

OO Big Oil Companies Pay Just 11+ % Tax Rate, report finds. Time to nix THAT tax subsidy.


Credit Greg Goebel at flickr

OO Fed Agency Could Approve Coal Sale , Threatening Obama’s Climate Goals – by locking in coal pollution for decades.

OO Pennsylvania: Families Claim State Ignores Fracking-Related Health Complaints willfully; the state attorney general says it will be investigated.

OO Oklahoma: Frackers Spill Huge Amount of Hydrochloric Acid


Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Fighting Climate Change: Religion, Population Policy, and More!



Speaking Out:

Ggg religions, jews

OO At EPA Hearing, Religious Leaders Call Carbon Pollution ‘An Affront To God’
Christian, Jewish, and Hindu leaders urged the EPA not to weaken their proposed regulations on carbon emissions from coal plants.

OO White House Chief Science Adviser: Wildfires Are Linked To Climate Change

OO PR Firms: We Don’t Want To Work For Climate-Bashing Clients

Informed Leadership:

OO Obama: Business Leaders Must Accept Climate Change


OO India: Prime Minister Modi Pledges New Climate Action Funds In First Budget

Good Ideas:

OO California: Company Recycles Waste Vanadium To Produce Cheaper, Advanced Battery

OO Maps Show How Big Data Can Fight Climate Change - areas impacted by climate and pollution often also hold the greatest potential for clean energy investment.


OO Californians Twitter To Shame Neighbors Who Waste Water

OO Washington State Is Gearing Up A System To Cut Its Carbon Emissions
State officials are considering both a cap-and-trade system and a carbon tax, to join California and some Canadian provinces in a coordinated effort.


Reducing Carbon Emissions by Curbing Population notes Eduardo Porter at the New York Times is an obvious yet still touchy pollution and global warming solution. Slowing growth 15% by 2050 could deliver a nearly 30% reduction in emissions, reduce the needed 70% increase in food production, and help preserve carbon-storing forests.



Educating women and providing reproductive health services help bring down reproductive rates, and could be done relatively cheaply. Giving women reproductive choice worldwide is equally important:: in the Sahel, for example, where men oppose family planning, reproduction far exceeds sustainable levels.


Emissions have grown far faster than both rich and poor populations, though, so material consumption needs to be managed, too, especially as populous poor nations become richer, consuming more, faster.


Photo: US NIH collection

We can manage our populations humanely, or let them crash inhumanely via starvation and war. We can choose.


OO What Would Jesus Do (About Climate Change)? Gordon College science professor Dorothy Boorse wants evangelical Christians to connect practicing their faith with caring for the environment.

Scientific Insights:


Credit Richard B Mieremet/NOAA OSDIA

Atlantic Warming Causing Stronger Pacific Trade Winds reports
Tom Arup at The Age. The windy upsurge is partly responsible for pushing global warming heat into the ocean, thus slowing the heating of air surface temperatures. Australian researchers found that the warming Atlantic is creating lower pressure at the surface than higher up, driving large air masses high. Ultimately, these speed the trade winds and amplify the California drought.

Within 15-30 years other conditions will ease the trade winds, though – allowing the heat pushed into the ocean to rise, noted lead researcher Shayne McGregor.

A large plume of methane rising from the Arctic sea floor, detected at roughly 60 m.University of Stockholm

Scientists Discover Vast Methane Plumes Rising From Arctic Seafloorreports Earth Sky
and Climate Change SOS at Daily Kos. University of Stockholm researchers noted that “these early glimpses of what may be in store for a warming Arctic Ocean could help scientists project the future releases of the strong greenhouse gas methane from the Arctic Ocean.”

Methane is about 80 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas in its 20 year average life in the atmosphere. Mega releases will accelerate global warming. And then what?

This is the largest of a few Siberian craters recently discovered, and believed to be formed from the explosive release of methane from melting permafrost. Photo: AP television frame vis Climate Progress

Siberia: Craters Formed As Methane Released From Melting Permafrostreports Ari Phillips at Climate Progress. Measurements at the bottom of the crater revealed high levels of dissolved methane. Unusually warm summers in 2012 and 2013 could have melted and collapsed the permafrost near the surface, releasing methane trapped beneath the ice.

Even if excaping methane could be held to 10% of the total planetary emissions, it will be a chronic source of carbon emissions for centuries – and that is worrying, noted one Australian climate scientist, who monitors greenhouse gas levels.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Good Clean News: Tidal Power, Community Solar Power, and More!



OO Wind, Solar, Geothermal and Biomass Will Top Hydropower in 2014
For the first year ever… and none too soon, since drought is drying up hydro…

OO Minnesota: For Energy Co-Ops, Behavioral Efficiency Programs Are Succeeding
2-3 % energy savings for 4 electrical co-ops, but every percent counts…

OO New York: Utility Proposes Community Solar, Microgrids as a ServiceAnd is already having an impact on planning…

OO Wales, UK: Major Milestone In Tidal Power Emerges With Giant Generator

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Solar Power Creating Credit Overseas, A Mass US Exodus to Solar, and More!


As some US states try to impose fixed monthly charges for solar power, financial analysts at Morgan Stanley warn that where electricity rates are relatively high, this could push a mass exodus from the national grid, with solar customers buying lithium batteries to store their solar energy, especially in the west, southwest and mid Atlantic areas.

Meanwhile, a California utility is contracting for 1+ GWatts of solar projects, and another 20% of capacity in geothermal power. And California solar customers aresaving an estimated $700-1000 annually on their energy bills via net metering, which encourages use during hours of lower demand.

Globally, affordable off-grid solar products in developing countries are having two major effects in rural communities: 1) providing cheaper, cleaner sources of energy and 2) through the successful pay-as-you-go solar financing programs, creating credit score records that allow these communities to acquire further loans needed for economic improvement.

Join the swelling numbers of voters TELLING Congress they’ll vote for Clean Energy candidates here. This is an ongoing campaign (the next Congressional election is this year!) so please, spread the word. It’s our way of telling Congress that a strong clean energy voting bloc is out there. This is how YOU can make a difference.

For more on Climate Change, check out my weekly column at the HuffingtonPost, Climate Change This Week

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Keeping Carbon Stored: Deforestation Increasing, Preserving Forests, and More!


OO Deforestation Rising In Carbon-storing Yasuni Natl Park As Ecuador To Open It To Drilling in this world-class biodiversity hotspot.

New Guinea rainforests are home to many Birds of Paradise, besides being important carbon storage systems. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Palm Oil Company Clears Rainforest In New Guinea reports Rhett Butler atMongabay. An Indonesian Stock Exchange-listed company, whose commissioner is a member of The Nature Conservancy-Indonesia’s board, has been clearing dense rainforest in New Guinea, finds a new report from Greenomics-Indonesia. The report is based on analysis of data from Global Forest Watch, NASA satellites, Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, and company documents.

OO Forest Conservation: Reconnecting Religious Faith And Forests – sacred forest patches are important in conserving biodiversity in Africa and Asia. Can they be expanded?


The jaguar, denizen of the Brazilian Amazon. Wikipedia

Brazil Could Meet All Its Food Demand By 2040 Without Cutting Down Another Tree
Better utilization of its vast areas of pasturelands could enable Brazil to dramatically boost agricultural production without the need to clear another hectare of Amazon rainforest, cerrado, or Atlantic forest, argues a new study published in the journal Global Environmental Change, reports Mongabay.


The Amazonian rainforest is home to many beautiful hummingbirds found no where else. Credit Michel Giraud-Audine at flickr.

Phone-Based Logging Alert System Eyes Expanding To The Amazon – After exceeding an ambitious fundraising target to launch a near-real time forest monitoring system in the Congo Basin, a San-Francisco based start-up is now eyeing expansion in the Amazon, where it hopes to help an indigenous rainforest tribe fight illegal logging, reports Mongabay.

OO Peru Slashes Environmental Protections To Attract More Mining, Fossil Fuel Investmenst – bye-bye, carbon storing forests…

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