November 7 News: Climate Change, Beetle May Doom Rugged Pine

There’s just a deadly synergy between beetles, blister rust and climate change,” said Jesse Logan, a whitebark expert in Montana.

They're kind of cute, entomologist Connie Mehmel says of mountain pine beetles, but deadly for stands of whitebark pine.

Other key stories below: Secret ‘Watch List’ Reveals Failure to Curb Toxic Air; Wind Power Surges in the Third Quarter

Climate Change, Beetle May Doom Rugged Pine

The bug lady scoots through stick-straight lodgepole and ponderosa, and marches uphill toward the gnarled trunk of a troubled species: the whitebark pine.

The ghostly conifers found on chilly, wind-swept peaks like this may well be among the earliest victims of a warming climate. Even in the Northwest, rising temperatures at higher elevations have brought hundreds of thousands of whitebark pines in contact with a deadly predator — the mountain pine beetle — that is helping drive this odd tree toward extinction.


Connie Mehmel, with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, is one of a handful of entomologists struggling to track the beetles’ destructive path.

Mountain pine beetles are probably best-known here as the trunk-girdling devils that have reddened and deadened millions of acres of lodgepole, exposing the Northwest to a greater potential for cataclysmic wildfires. But the evolutionary history of lodgepole pine and beetles is so intertwined that those forests in many places are expected to grow back.

Whitebark pines may not.

“What concerns me and a lot of people in my line of work is we are seeing beetles being more active in areas where we didn’t use to see them — particularly in higher-elevation areas,” Mehmel says. “We have thousands of acres of whitebark pine that are being attacked by mountain pine beetles, more than we’ve seen in quite a long time.”

… A study in the mid-2000s showed whitebark trees had declined by 41 percent in the Western Cascades. Tree declines throughout Washington and Oregon hovered around 35 percent. In the coastal range and the Olympics, blister rust infection ranged from 4 to 49 percent. Nearly 80 percent of the whitebark in Mount Rainier National Park are infected. Whitebark deaths in North Cascades National Park doubled in the last five years.

“We know the incidence of blister rust infection and mountain pine beetle outbreaks is increasing exponentially,” says biologist Amy Nicholas. She authored a report for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this summer that concluded whitebark pine across the West belongs on the Endangered Species List. The agency declined to list the tree, saying it didn’t have the money….

But in whitebark pine, beetle epidemics historically have been rare because the trees appear in places too cold for bugs to do much damage — until lately. In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported, beetles killed whitebark pine trees across half a million acres in the West — the most, at the time, since record-keeping began.

Two years later, beetles killed trees on 800,000 acres. And unlike lodgepole, whitebark pines produce few seed cones and do so late in life. They aren’t set up to survive massive slaughter.

Related Post:

Montana entomologist on bark beetles: “A couple of degrees warmer could create multiple generations a year. If that happens, I expect it would be a disaster for all of our pine populations.”

Secret ‘Watch List’ Reveals Failure to Curb Toxic Air

The system Congress set up 21 years ago to clean up toxic air pollution still leaves many communities exposed to risky concentrations of benzene, formaldehyde, mercury and many other hazardous chemicals.

Pollution violations at more than 1,600 plants across the country were serious enough that the government believes they require urgent action, according to an analysis of EPA data by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity. Yet nearly 300 of those facilities have been considered “high priority violators” of the Clean Air Act by the Environmental Protection Agency for at least a decade.

About a quarter of those 1,600 violators are on an internal EPA “watch list,” which the agency has kept secret until now.

EPA estimates facilities across the country emit 40 percent less toxic emissions in 2005 than they did in 1990, but toxic air pollution has persisted in communities like Ponca City, Okla., Hayden, Ariz., Tonawanda, N.Y., and Muscatine, Iowa.

“I don’t think it’s a great deal of comfort to tell somebody whose kids may develop brain damage or the adults in the neighborhood who may get cancer that overall we’re reducing toxic air pollutants. It doesn’t help them,” says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., an author of the 1990 update to the Clean Air Act. “What will help them is that the industries that are in their area actually control the pollution and stop poisoning the people.”

China Shelves U.S. Solar Project in Trade Row

China’s largest solar power plant developer has put a planned $500 million U.S. project on hold over an anti-dumping trade dispute, the company’s general manager said on Monday.

CECEP Solar Energy Technology Co Ltd, a unit of the state-owned giant China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group, said a planned installation of China-made panels to generate solar power in California, New Jersey and Texas would be made uneconomic by U.S. anti-dumping moves.

“If the solar panel prices increase by, say 30 percent, in the United States, following the move, then we would certainly drop the plan because there’s no profit to be made,” Cao Huabin, the general manager of CECEP Solar Energy, told a news conference in Beijing.

Prices of solar panels in the project, which account for about 70 percent of the costs, are set to jump if Washington imposes duties on imported Chinese products that U.S. rivals say breach agreed global trade rules.

“I don’t see any alternatives to Chinese solar panels,” Cao said, who described Chinese products as having “low prices but good quality.”

Wind Power Surges in Third Quarter

If you thought you were seeing a lot of stories about new wind power plants in Colorado, there’s a reason for that: In the third quarter of 2011, Colorado installed more new wind capacity than any other state – way more. According to the latest quarterly report [PDF] from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Colorado installed 501 megawatts from July through September, outdistancing Minnesota (163 MW), Oklahoma (130 MW), West Virginia (98 MW) and Texas (88 MW). Nationwide, 1,204 MW of capacity went in, bringing 2011 installs to 3,360 MW.

The U.S. wind industry’s cumulative capacity now totals 43,461 MW. Texas leads with 10,223 MW, nearly 7,000 MW more than second-place Iowa (see map below). As of the end of July, wind power provided about 3 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the AWEA.

IBM Surges Past Facebook and Apple in Solar Power Race

It’s game on for solar power among tech giants like IBM, Facebook, and Apple, and the advanced clean energy investments of these global moneymakers could have some interesting implications for the 2012 presidential contest. Among the recent news, IBM’s new rooftop solar array for its India Software Lab in Bangalore wins out for innovation, with Facebook’s unique hybrid solar plant at its Menlo Park campus giving it a run for the money, and Apple’s unannounced plans for a giant solar farm in North Carolina coming up close behind.

IBM’s Energy Efficient Solar Array

The sun may be free, but energy efficiency is still a crucial factor when companies invest their energy dollars in commercial solar arrays. IBM’s first-of-its kind solar system tackles one part of the problem, which is the loss of power that occurs when the DC (direct current) generated by photovoltaic panels is converted to AC (alternating current). To cut down on that loss, the company’s new solar array works in tandem with high voltage DC servers and water cooling systems instead of conventional

Obama Banks on Disappointed Environmentalists Returning in 2012

From alternative fuels to clean air, President Barack Obama’s record is a disappointment to environmentalists, who helped get him elected and now are threatening to sit out his re-election bid in 2012.

“He’s been held hostage by Congress, but at some point I feel that the important thing is to stand up for what you believe in, and he’s not doing that,” said Rhoden Streeter, 67, who attended a White House demonstration yesterday against a proposed crude oil pipeline that would cut through six states.

Obama’s re-election campaign’s response: Where can they go?

“When Americans compare the president’s record promoting clean energy and America’s energy security to those of the leading Republican candidates,” Ben LaBolt, a campaign spokesman, said in an e-mail statement, “there will be no question about who will continue our progress.”

The campaign’s confidence lies not just in the positioning of the Republican candidates, most of whom deride the idea that humans have contributed to climate change. “Man-made global warming is poppycock,” said Herman Cain, a former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive officer and a leading Republican primary candidate, in a Sept. 27 radio interview.

30 Responses to November 7 News: Climate Change, Beetle May Doom Rugged Pine

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Tree mortality is way up throughout the United States, as verified by USFS. There is a big time lag in reporting the annual percentage, and this number is highly political. If forests are becoming degraded, we need to reduce logging, which selects the healthiest and largest specimens.

    Fire is not a bad thing per se in Western forests, because they are adapted to it. Fire suppression has led to unhealthy species mixes in dry Western pine forests, which used to see fires on a regular basis.
    Suppression leads to more crowded conditions and less healthy trees.

    When there is a forest fire in the West, 80% of the carbon remains onsite, in the form of soil amendments and charcoal snags. When a stand is clearcut, 80% of the site carbon goes up into the atmosphere, via decay. Microclimate is also affected, as clearcut areas hold less cloud cover, a bigger factor than albedo loss.

    Intuition says the opposite, and this is preyed on by the timber industry. We desperately need a rational forest policy in the United States.

  2. Bruce says:

    The headline lead “October 7 News: ” is off by a month.

  3. Leif says:

    During our last summers trip from the Pacific Coast to Yellowstone area we drove through many areas of pine destruction on a vast scale. Some areas had 100% die off, where whole mountain sides would be rust brown. Not a green tree in sight. One home owner I talked to said that he had to cut down every tree on is 8 acre homestead. Enjoy your blood money or in this case sap money, GOBP.

    Join the fray, Make Wall Street PAY.

  4. paul magnus says:

    King Coal

    Global economy gets dirtier for first time in a decade: it’s no time to panic
    The world – and UK – economy is pumping out more climate-warming carbon for each bit of growth,

  5. Tom Lenz says:

    The firestorms are going to be mind boggling.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Rapid Spike in CO2 Emissions Shocks Researchers,1518,795978,00.html

    From same author who wrote about Climategate a 5 page story last year,1518,686697,00.html

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Obama Must Stop Keystone XL Pipeline, Native Activists Say

    Getting President Barack Obama to halt a planned expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline through Indian country remains a top goal for some Native activists.

  8. Gail Zawacki says:

    Argh! Studies going back to the 1950’s have proven tht trees damaged by ozone are unable to fend off attacks from insects, disease and fungus! “And here are yet two other books, the first, “Forest Decline and Ozone”, has, imagine this, an illustration of a bark beetle on the cover! Do you suppose the authors think that the bark beetle infestation just might have something to do with trees being more vulnerable because they are damaged by ozone??”

    picture at the end of this post;

  9. Anne van der Bom says:

    Because energy is a big part of the cost for the Googles and Facebooks of this world, I can see computing jobs following the sun around their global park of data centers.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Drought, demand from China drive up pecan prices

    Pecans are the only major tree nut native to the U.S., which produces about 80 percent of the world’s crop. The harvest season begins in the fall in Georgia and Florida and ends in February in New Mexico. Georgia is usually the biggest pecan producer. Other top states include Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

    Drought dramatically reduced the pecan crop in many of those states this year. Production in Texas, which has had a record drought, dropped the most, from 70 million pounds last year to an estimated 40 million pounds this year. In Louisiana, production plunged from 20 million pounds last year to an estimated 9 million pounds this year.

    The entire U.S. crop is expected to be less than 252 million pounds this year, roughly 14 percent smaller than last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    interesting gender study about people who switch their electricity provider

    The significantly higher Wechselwilligkeit be among men could be attributed to the fact that the area of ​​energy supply in the household is often the responsibility of the man,” Daniel suggested by Dodt Also have an influence that in many families the power – ran and gas contracts in the name of the man.

  12. Joan Savage says:

    At Tar Sands Action, two other native representatives spoke, plus other speakers referred to native values, and more sentiments showed up on hand-lettered signs in the crowd.

    Tom Poor Bear, Lakota, brought greetings and a message.

    A man from a First Nations people near Kitimat BC said there are only six hundred of his people, and they live within six kilometers of the the tank field planned for the end of the Enbridge tar sands pipeline to the Pacific. He appealed to any of those assembled in DC to help organize in BC.

    Native values showed up in other speakers’ words; ‘the earth does not belong to us,’earth was not given to us by the past, it is loaned to us by the future,’and consider the “seventh generation.”

    My favorite was a hand-lettered sign on cardboard, “Love Your Mother.”

  13. Steve Funk says:

    It’s not surprising that whitebark pine is especially vulnerable. It has a very narrow ecological niche, typically growing just below timberline, and is relatively uncommon. Since it is not commercial, the expensive genetic research to develop rust resistant sugar pine probably won’t be repeated for this species. It won’t go totally extinct unless our civilization collapses, because seeds can be stored for many years and planted at even higher elevations.

  14. Joan Savage says:

    Time for exploring preventive measures, asap!

    Better a good brainstorm than a firestorm.

    Felling trees changes the way fire can move, for better (less opportunity for wind influence) or worse (more profound loss of remaining living organic material near the land surface). If it is possible to get the dead trees down and moist enough to decay there might be some sequestration of the carbon into living spongy soil.

    The Ecological Society of America has pointed out more research on carbon sequestration is needed.

    Paul Stamets gave a TED talk on mycological solutions that touches on CO2 sequestration as calcium oxalates.

    Let’s see more on this not-so-WAG idea, and soon.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    NASA airborne mission maps remote, deteriorating glaciers

    Bridging a gap between two ice elevation mapping satellites, and breaking new scientific ground on its own, IceBridge this fall has charted the continued rapid acceleration and mass loss of Pine Island Glacier.

    IceBridge has now generated three years of laser altimetry data over certain locations to continue the record from NASA’s Ice Climate and Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped operating in 2009. IceBridge measurements show Pine Island following its rapid deterioration that began around 2006. Combined IceBridge and ICESat data show the glacier is losing more than six times as much mass per year — mass loss was measured at 7 gigatons a year in 2005 and about 46 gigatons a year in 2010 — making it one of the most significant climate change response trends that scientists see worldwide. For comparison, the Chesapeake Bay holds about 70 gigatons of water.

  16. Sasparilla says:

    The Apocalyptic Landscapes of Alberta’s Oil Sands

    Its a little ironic given the direction of the article that they buy into the oil company title of the tar sands (calling it oil sands).

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    SF –
    Your remarks reminded of the collapse of the pinon’ forest around the Valles Caldera.
    Pinon’ have a lot in common with White Pine in that they are slow growers, their seeds are major food source for a whole pile of animals.

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    Something that fell through the cracks :
    Janet is running the DNA profile of the tundra, read what she’s found out so far about methane production from thawing permaforst ….

    “Nobody has looked at what happens to microbes when the permafrost thaws,” said Janet Jansson, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. She led a study that recorded what happened when chunks of Alaskan permafrost thawed for the first time in 1,200 years.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    The average freeze-up on Hudson Bay approaches, …..
    Zero ice has formed, and managed to grow.
    2010 –

    Therefore, the ice extent into all areas was slow to develop and was delayed by 6 weeks in Hudson Bay such that it was mid-January before it was ice covered.

  20. Malcreado says:

    Seen a lot of wind turbine towers moving down the interstate lately. Here in corn country as soon as the corn comes in the work crews seem to hit the fields.

  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Some good news for a change.

    After all these years and buckets of blood (political), the set of bills for a price on carbon goes through the Aussie Senate today.

    However, I listened in to some of the speeches from the Opposition which was like seeing the psychedelic world of those brought up on LollyGobbleBlissBombs – black swirled into red and green flashed purple.

    Did anybody really vote for this manufactured madness? No. It’s just what happens when scientific illiteracy meets the adversarial political system, ME

  22. Paul Magnus says:

    are those available online?

  23. Paul Magnus says:

    Interesting article….

    We need a third way, now
    Globalisation has brought economic disaster, but anti-globalisation isn’t the answer. There is an alternative

    Paradoxically, while democracy is still mostly expressed at national level, the regulations and restructuring that are needed, especially in the environmental field, must take place at a supra-national level; hence the importance of gradually building a European democratic space. Since the global crisis is not merely the sum of national crises, there can be no national solution.

    The agriculture and climate issues show the need for a complete overhaul of the development model on which capitalist globalisation is based. This aspect is sometimes ignored by advocates of deglobalisation, who cite as their main example the nationally based Fordian model, which is better regulated than the neoliberal model but has led to devastating productivism

  24. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I listened to it on ABC News Radio Paul. They were broadcasting from the Senate yesterday Aussie time. I would be surprised if they didn’t have a record of it somewhere on the ABC site, ME

  25. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Paul, if you can find it, its still going on. The barmy Barnaby Joyce is rabbitting on as I type, ME

  26. David B. Benson says:

    ERCOT (Texas grid) has an energy only policy adntherefore is in a serious capacity bind since nobody can, in that market, make money by buiding anything but wind turbines.

    Which don’t turn during hot stagnent highs during the summer nor during cold stagnent highs during the winter.