August 2015

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs.


August, 2015


  • In Appalachia, the coal industry is in collapse, but the mountains aren’t coming back:
    • “They’re going to blast that one next,” he says, pointing to a peak in the distance. He’s referring to a process known as “mountaintop removal,” in which coal companies use explosives to blast away hundreds of feet of rock in order to unearth underground seams of coal. “And then it’ll be just blank space,” he adds. “Like the Taylor Swift song.” Skinny and shirtless, Hensley looks no more than 11 or 12. His ribs and collarbones protrude from his taut skin. Dipping tobacco is tucked into his right cheek. He has a head of cropped blond curls that jog some memory of mine, but I can’t quite figure out what it is. He’s pointing at a peak named Coal River Mountain. These days, though, it’s known to activists here as “the Last Mountain,” as it’s the only ridgeline in this area that’s still largely intact.
    • In the first half of this year, at least six domestic coal companies filed for bankruptcy. In February, West Virginia’s Covington Coal fell, followed by Xinergy and Grass Creek Coal in April, Patriot and Birmingham Coal & Coke in May, and A&M Coal in June. In August came the biggest announcement of all: the $10-billion coal giant Alpha Natural Resources had entered the bankruptcy sweepstakes, too.
    • Only four years earlier, Alpha had secured its position as one of the world’s largest coal outfits by purchasing the Appalachian company Massey Energy for $7 billion and expanding its operations to 60 mines, many in Appalachia. But its reign would prove short-lived. The price of coal has been plummeting as utility companies shift to significantly cheaper shale gas, extracted through the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to produce power. This April, for the first time since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began collecting data in 1973, gas surpassed coal as the nation’s No. 1 producer of energy.


  • Sea levels are rising and they’re not going to stop, says NASA: Global sea levels have risen by an average of three inches since 1992, the result of warming ocean temperatures and melting ice sheets and glaciers, according to new data released by a NASA panel yesterday. And the data suggest that we can look forward to a lot more sea level rise down the line.


  • The forests of the world are in serious trouble, scientists report: … the world’s forests are in serious trouble, according to a suite of papers out in this week’s issue of the journal Science. The research systematically examines how forests are being damaged by the combined impacts of a changing climate and more human incursions.
  • Too warm, too few fish: Health warning for world’s oceans: The world’s oceans – covering nearly two-thirds of the Earth’s surface, and on which much of human life depends – are under severe pressure…. These are the sobering conclusions of a wide-ranging study of the Earth’s ecosystems by the Worldwatch Institute, a US-based organisation widely rated as one of the world’s foremost environmental think-tanks.
    • Worldwatch says there must be big cutbacks in fossil fuel emissions: “If emissions continue at current levels, ocean acidity in surface waters could increase by almost 150% by 2100, creating a marine environment unlike anything that has existed in the past 20 million years.” “It is time for homo sapiens sapiens to live up to its somewhat presumptuous Latin name, and grow up”.
  • Climate Change Deniers Present Graphic Description Of What Earth Must Look Like For Them To Believe: “The reality is that we’re still experiencing cold, snowy winters, and the entire global population is not currently embarking on cross-continental migrations in search of arable land,” Davis continued. “Until that changes, we cannot be expected to believe climate change is occurring.”
    • “We keep hearing all this mumbo-jumbo about the sixth mass extinction we’re in the midst of,” said Mitch McConnell, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, at the conclusion of the press conference. “Well, if that’s the case, then tell me this: Why aren’t the streets littered with human bodies right now, with the ragged bands of the still-living siphoning the moisture from the corpses of the dead?”
    • [ael: Okay, it's The Onion!]
  • Lobsters in New England shift north as ocean gets warmer; boom in the north, bust in the south: The lobster population has crashed to the lowest levels on record in southern New England while climbing to heights never before seen in the cold waters off Maine and other northern reaches — a geographic shift that scientists attribute in large part to the warming of the ocean.
    • [ael: With climate change will come losers and winners (far fewer of the latter, however). In this case, Maine is a winner; and southern New England is a loser.]


  • I've been lax, and spent my summer as far away from a computer as possible. That was good, and bad. I did check in from time to time, to see what was going on in climate. It's been much bad news. I'm about to re-engage, partly because I've returned to NKU to fall semester. I'm back in a seat, staring at a rectangle — and as long as I'm staring at a rectangle, I may as well recommence my collection of observations about climate. I hope to do a little more blogging this time — not just collecting the news, but commenting on it. Watch this space!


  • NOAA: July hottest month on record, and 2015 could be hottest year:
    • July saw the highest average temperatures since record-keeping began — globally, not just in the United States — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday. Globally, the first seven months of the year also had all-time highs. The latest global temperature data make it likely that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, the agency said.
    • Data from NOAA dates back to 1880, but it is possible that July was the hottest month in at least 4,000 years. Climate research suggests these are the hottest temperatures the Earth has seen since the Bronze Age.



  • My minister Terry Webster preached a sermon on "Living Wisely". I was compelled to think back to a news story I'd recently heard: Resource overdraft: Planet Earth crosses into ecological red: "Humanity currently demands 1.6 Earth's worth of resources from the planet each year."
    • Is that living wisely? My life, as a relatively affluent American, in an urban setting, is contributing to the destruction of the planet. Am I "living wisely?"
    • “Assuming global carbon emissions are reduced by at least 30 percent below today’s levels by 2030,” writes the GFN, “Earth Overshoot Day could be moved back on the calendar to September 16, 2030.” [ael: would that be "living wisely?" When will we live wisely?]
  • New NASA data show how the world is running out of water

What went on: May, 2015

What went on: April, 2015

What went on: March, 2015

What went on: February, 2015

What went on: January, 2015

What went on: 2014

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