Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment View this newsletter in your browser. July-August 2012
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The 2012 Nonprofit Management Institute
"New Skills for a Complex World"

Seminar leaders include Wendy Millet, associate director of programs at the Stanford Woods Institute.
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Directors' Letter

Extreme weather, expanding dialogue

This summer, Woods fellows have advanced the dialogue about climate change spreading from sustainability circles to kitchen tables to Capitol Hill. In June, Woods fellows produced widely reported papers on climate and other issues relevant to thousands attending the UN’s Rio+20 sustainability conference. By August 1, Woods Senior Fellow Chris Field was testifying at the first U.S. Senate hearing in two years to specifically address climate change and its connection to extreme weather. The hearing was called after severe storms caused massive power outages up and down the East Coast, during the hottest U.S. July on record. Despite a stark partisan divide, Field and other members of our research community are committed to keep leaders informed with the latest climate science. "What we're trying to do is provide sufficient information for policymakers to make good decisions, to figure out ways to avoid the damages that come from climate change without providing unacceptable costs to the rest of society," Field told senators.

We will continue to provide policy- and decision-makers with the latest findings from Stanford Woods Institute scholars in our new quarterly Research Digest. We invite you to read this advance copy, which presents summaries of new findings in our core research areas (climate, ecosystem services, food security, freshwater, oceans, public health and sustainable development). As a subscriber to our monthly newsletter you will automatically be subscribed to this online publication. Read on for details about the timely work our fellows and affiliated faculty are doing to plant the seeds of a more sustainable future.



Debbie Drake Dunne
Executive Director

Jeffrey R. Koseff
Perry L. McCarty Director

Barton H. Thompson, Jr.
Perry L. McCarty Director

Research Highlights

Far From Sustainability

On the eve of the landmark U.N. environmental conference in Rio, Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellows Paul Ehrlich and Gretchen Daily joined with Daily's Natural Capital Project co-founder Peter Kareiva to look at how far from sustainability we are as a species. Their Nature paper, "Securing natural capital and expanding equity to rescale civilization," called on the world's nations to take stock of the world's population (projected to reach 9.5 billion by 2050), consumption and biodiversity loss. Rio+20, the successor to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, was, the authors argued, a major opportunity to reconsider how to live more sustainably.

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Biodiversity Loss and its Impact on Humanity

In the same issue of the journal Nature, an international group of ecologists including Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Gretchen Daily and Leopold Leadership Program Fellow David Hooper (2006) called for renewed international efforts to curb the loss of Earth's biological diversity. The loss is compromising nature's ability to provide goods and services essential for human well-being, the scientists stated in their paper, "Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity." Over the past two decades, strong scientific evidence has emerged showing that decline of the world's biological diversity reduces the productivity and sustainability of ecosystems. This decline also decreases ecosystems' ability to provide society with goods and services like food, wood, fodder, fertile soils and protection from pests and disease.
Photo Credit: Adam.J.W.C.

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Approaching a Global Tipping Point?

In the weeks leading up to Rio+20 a group of international scientists including Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Elizabeth Hadly warned that population pressures may be pushing Earth toward a crucial tipping point. If this planetary transition takes place, some plant and animal species we depend on could disappear and major crop disruptions could occur, leading to widespread political instability, according to the scientists' study, "Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere." The paper, published in the journal Nature, was picked up by hundreds of major U.S. and international media outlets.
Photo Credit: NASA

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Climate Change Could Open Trade Opportunities for Some Vulnerable Nations

The economy of one of the world's least-developed countries could actually benefit from climate change by increasing exports of corn to the U.S. and other nations, according to a study by researchers including Stanford Woods Institute Center Fellow Noah Diffenbaugh. The study, "Agriculture and Trade Opportunities for Tanzania: Past Volatility and Future Climate Change," shows that Tanzania, an African country better known for safaris and Mt. Kilimanjaro, has the potential to substantially increase its maize exports and take advantage of higher commodity prices with a variety of trading partners due to predicted dry and hot weather that could affect those countries' usual sources for the crop. The study was published in the Review of Development Economics.

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Gap in Climate Change Awareness and Concern

The heat waves, massive storms and blackouts that have rolled across the country this summer have not translated into increased concern or support for action on global warming among Americans, according to a poll by Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Jon Krosnick in collaboration with The Washington Post. The study shows that most Americans believe temperatures around the world are going up and that weather patterns have become more unstable in the past few years, but it also shows that the number of people who want more government action on the issue has decreased since 2006. A majority still support government action across a range of policies to curb energy consumption, but more than 70 percent of respondents oppose policies that would rely on tax increases on electricity or gas to change individual behavior. Twenty percent want the government to stay out of regulating greenhouse gases altogether.

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Predicting the Oceans of the Future

Stanford researchers have helped open a new door of possibility in the high-stakes effort to save the world's coral reefs. Working with an international team, the scientists – including Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellows Jeff Koseff, Rob Dunbar and Steve Monismith – found a way to create future ocean conditions in a small lab-in-a-box in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The water inside the device can mimic the composition of the future ocean as climate change continues to alter Earth. A paper on the project, "A short-term in situ CO2 enrichment experiment on Heron Island (GBR)," was published in the journal Nature.

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Climate Sensitivity Study

Modern climate is more sensitive to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels than it has been in the past 12 million years and possibly ever, according to a study by scientists including Stanford Woods Institute Center Fellow Michael Wara. The study, published in the journal Nature, provides new evidence from deep-sea sediment cores that Miocene period temperatures across a broad swath of the North Pacific were 9-14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than today while atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations remained low – similar to those prior to the Industrial Revolution. The research shows that, in the last five million years, changes in ocean circulation have made Earth's climate more closely coupled to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Previous studies had shown that high concentrations of CO2 persist during warm periods, while lower concentrations correspond to colder times.
Photo Credit: Christine Zenino

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People Spotlights

Bringing Climate Change Science to a Heated Capitol Hill

Speaking at a contentious U.S. Senate hearing on climate change, Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Chris Field offered a stark yet hopeful analogy. Just as speeding increases the chance of having a car accident, climate change intensifies the risk of heat waves, droughts and heavy precipitation, he said. "We can point clearly to the causal mechanism, but it's still difficult to predict exactly when or where the crisis - either the accident from speeding in a car or the disaster that's related to climate change - will occur," Field said. "But still, we can have high confidence in the driving mechanism." Although we can't be certain that staying within the speed limit will prevent a crash, we know it will decrease the risk. Similarly, Field said in his testimony, we can reduce the risk of a weather-related disaster with measures such as disaster preparations, early warning systems and well-built infrastructure.

Field is co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group that recently released a special report entitled "Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation." For the report, the IPCC – the leading international body for the assessment of climate change – drew upon the expertise of international specialists in physical climate, climate change impacts and disaster reduction and management. It is the first IPCC report produced by a Stanford-based team. Field, a fellow with the Leopold Leadership Program, has received media requests on a near daily basis in the months following the report's publication.

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Can Coral Reefs Survive the 21st Century?

A panel of experts, including Center for Ocean Solutions Executive Director and Stanford Woods Institute Senior Lecturer Meg Caldwell, discussed the future of coral reefs in a segment filmed by Australia's national public broadcasting corporation. The discussion, which took place at the International Coral Reefs Symposium in Cairns, Australia, focused on how to ensure the survival of remaining reefs while meeting the world's growing food and energy demands.


Woods Welcomes Visiting Scholar Cynthia Truelove

It takes a great deal of water to produce energy and a great deal of energy to treat, heat and transport water. The Stanford Woods Institute recently welcomed Cynthia Truelove as a visiting scholar. She will direct the Water in the West program's new water-energy investigation and work with Woods faculty and researchers on a variety of water and energy issues. A comparative international political economist and environmental sociologist, Truelove is also a well recognized and respected veteran in the field of water-and-energy issues. She comes from the California Public Utilities Commission where she developed statewide water use and water-energy efficiency policies addressing the impacts of climate change. Truelove will work with graduate student researchers and Water in the West faculty to produce a comprehensive literature review and research agenda fostering interdisciplinary scientific research to promote the conjoined management of energy and water resources. Truelove will also engage utilities, state regulators and others in the water sector to inform and shape policies and practices that enhance sustainable resource use.


Geneviève Turcotte New Head of Development

The Stanford Woods Institute is happy to announce the addition of Geneviève Turcotte as Senior Associate Director of Development. Turcotte brings more than 25 years of experience in development and eight years with environmental conservation organizations including The Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society. Turcotte has also held various development positions at some of the Bay Area's major arts institutions including the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera and the American Conservatory Theater. In her new position, Turcotte works with the broader Stanford University major and principal gifts team to raise funds for Stanford Woods Institute priorities and broaden the base of support for the Institute's work.

Program Updates

InVEST in China

Natural Capital Project staffers were in China June 26 - July 2 for an ecosystem assessment training sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection. More than 200 representatives from around China attended the workshop, which featured an introduction to InVEST software for assessing changes in ecosystem services over time. The software will be used to conduct China's first-ever national assessment of ecosystem services, spanning a wide range of ecosystems, services and scales. The Natural Capital Project is also working with Chinese officials to use InVEST as a tool for implementing a new system of conservation areas that will span 24 percent of the country's land area. These massive initiatives open a new paradigm for integrating ecosystem functions (e.g., clean water and carbon storage) and human development to achieve improved outcomes for both.


Scientists Join Forces in Call for Action to Save Coral Reefs

A statement drafted by a group of eminent scientists under the auspices of the Center for Ocean Solutions has given Pacific Islands leaders a boost in their efforts to safeguard their countries from the damaging impacts of climate change. Signed by more than 2,600 scientists, the Scientific Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs details the threats that valuable coral reef ecosystems are under across the globe and calls on governments to take meaningful steps toward their protection. The statement was released at July's International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia, and was covered by the New York Times among other publications.

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Leopold Leadership Fellows Join to Advise CA Governor Jerry Brown

The Stanford Woods Institute's Leopold Leadership Program provided California Gov. Jerry Brown with an ad-hoc advisory group of 38 experts from universities across the country recently, after the governor put out a call for help engaging Californians on environmental policy solutions. At their June reunion, fellows with the program assembled a list of resources for communicating about climate change with a range of audiences, demonstrating scientific consensus on the issue and illustrating diverse constituencies' concerns about it. The effort – a response to the governor's request for help with conveying the importance of environmental change and refocusing the policy debate on solutions – was the first initiative the program's fellows had undertaken collectively. The fellows also took part in interviews for Generation Anthropocene, a podcast series in which Stanford students and faculty discuss a geologic age defined by human impacts. To hear the interviews, read about the Leopold Leadership Program's new strategic plan and learn more about workshop outcomes, visit the program's reunion page.

In the News
Selected media coverage of the Stanford Woods Institute and its
fellows, affiliated scholars and supported research.

U.N. Scientists: Climate Change Behind Recent Freak Weather

Slate, Aug. 1
"In the first congressional hearing on climate science in more than two years, scientists from the IPCC told lawmakers that man-made climate change is one of the culprits behind the streak of strange weather seen all around the country lately. 'It is critical to understand that the link between climate change and the kinds of extremes that lead to disaster is clear,' Christopher Field, a leading IPCC scientist, told lawmakers."


Trying to Tally Fukushima

New York Times, July 29
"On the slippery question of 'How bad was Fukushima,' two Stanford University researchers have published a paper that casts the accident in a new light...John E. Ten Hoeve, a meteorologist and graduate student in civil and environmental engineering, and Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and expert on atmospheric problems, estimated the spread of radioactive material worldwide from the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan."


Analysis: Evidence for Climate Extremes, Costs, Gets More Local

Reuters, July 27
"Scientists are finding evidence that man-made climate change has raised the risks of individual weather events, such as floods or heatwaves, marking a big step towards pinpointing local costs and ways to adapt to freak conditions. 'We're seeing a great deal of progress in attributing a human fingerprint to the probability of particular events or series of events,' said Christopher Field, co-chairman of a U.N. report due in 2014 about the impacts of climate change."


Climate Change: U.S. Heat Waves, Wildfires And Flooding Are 'What Global Warming Looks Like'

ABC News, July 3, and the Huffington Post, July 20
"As recently as March, a special report an extreme events and disasters by the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of 'unprecedented extreme weather and climate events.' Its lead author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University, said Monday, 'It's really dramatic how many of the patterns that we've talked about as the expression of the extremes are hitting the U.S. right now.'"


Polling: A Look Inside the Machinery of Public Opinion Surveys

The Christian Science Monitor, July 8
"Are polls a civic duty? 'Being called to do a survey is a privilege, not a burden,' says Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor and expert in the psychology of political behavior and survey research methods. 'Polls are taken so seriously that being given the opportunity to express your point of view is meaningful. It is a valuable opportunity, and it will make a difference.'

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