August, 2018

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. They stopped collecting news at the election of U.S. President Forty-Five, which was a frickin' party pooper of a day, I'll tell ya.

2018

August, 2018

8/29/2018

  • Pentagon warns against EPA’s science proposal: The Pentagon is criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to boost “transparency” standards for the science it uses in decisionmaking. Patricia Underwood in the Department of Defense’s office of energy, installations and environment told the EPA last week that the proposal could unnecessarily exclude sound science from the agency’s use.
  • China logs hottest national average summer temperature in 57 years: Xinhua: China’s national average temperature hit 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 Fahrenheit) this summer, the highest since 1961, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.
  • French Environment Minister Hulot quits in major Macron blow: In a stunning setback to the French government, Nicolas Hulot has announced his resignation. He said he felt "all alone" while trying to advance green policies in the government. Here's what Hulot said:
    • The French government's lack of progress on steps to tackle climate change, defend biodiversity and address environmental threats resulted in an "accumulation of disappointments."
    • "I don't want to lie any longer. I don't want to maintain the illusion that my presence in government means that we are meeting these environmental challenges."
    • "France is doing more than a lot of other countries. Do not make me say that it is doing enough. It is not doing enough. Europe is not doing enough. The world is not doing enough.
    • "I have a bit of influence, but I have no power and no means."
  • Rising CO2 will leave crops—and millions of humans—less healthy: Scientists say certain staple foods such as rice and wheat will deliver less nutrition in 2050. Women, children and poor people will suffer most.
  • Study finds widespread degradation, deforestation in African woodlands: Deforestation rates in southern Africa’s woodlands are five times higher than prior estimates, according to recent research published Aug. 2.
    • More deforestation, combined with widespread degradation of these savannas, translates to three to six times the loss of carbon as compared to previous estimates, Edward Mitchard and his colleagues write in Nature Communications.

8/27/2018

  • India's devastating rains match climate change forecasts: "our recent research shows a three-fold increase in widespread extreme rains during 1950-2017, leading to large-scale flooding," he told AFP.
    • "These floods that we are seeing in Kerala right now are basically in line with climate projections," said Kira Vinke, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
    • The 196-nation Paris climate treaty calls for capping global warming at "well below" 2°C (3.6°F), and 1.5°C if possible. But voluntary national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if respected, would still see temperatures rise at least 3°C.
  • So, What Can I Do?: A lot of people ask me how they can live more sustainably, and help tackle environmental issues like climate change in their own lives. Here’s my advice.
    • Support more sustainable farming systems, including grass-fed beef (instead of feed-lots) that can help offset their greenhouse gas emissions by restoring carbon-rich grassland soils, organic farming systems (which aren’t perfect, but have many environmental benefits, especially to biodiversity, soils, local ecosystems, and water), and other well-run farms. Seasonally-appropriate and local food is good too, but “food miles” aren’t that big a factor in global greenhouse gas emissions, it turns out. For seafood, check out the Seafood Watch program to make the best choices.
    • when it’s time to update your washing machine, get one with a horizontal spin axis (usually a “front loading” model), which use far less water and energy, get your clothes just as clean, and are gentler on fabric.
    • Plant trees. Lots of them. Or maybe give money to people who do. I sometimes have trees planted in people’s name as a Christmas present.

8/26/2018

8/25/2018

  • If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer: Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We should, at the very least, question the ethics of driving up demand for crops that require high inputs of fertiliser, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, while demonising sustainable forms of livestock farming that can restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon.
  • Mike Pence had very clear feelings about adultery in this video, said president should resign
  • You can kick the planet 'in the butt' — Trump's science pick: President Trump's pick to lead the White House science office told scientists four years ago that "he doesn't know" if there's a climate tipping point and said the planet can be kicked "in the butt really, really hard" and recover.
  • Why do people bend to the tyrannical pressures of social media? Let's get real: It’s a question I ask myself when I hear research revealing that, for millennials, Instagrammability is now the No 1 consideration when deciding where to holiday. Or the news last week that half of cosmetic surgeons in the US say that people are asking for procedures to look better in selfies, and that there is a disconcerting increase in the number of people asking for procedures to make them look more like how they do in Snapchat filters: enhanced cheekbones and digitally smooth skin.
  • Integrating Homo sapiens into ecological models: Imperatives of climate change: Henri Berestycki (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) asked a crucial question: Can a species keep pace with a changing climate? “Species” in this context was generally understood to be all living things on Earth (except humans). But mounting scientific evidence suggests that it is time to pose the parallel question: Can Homo sapiens keep pace with a changing climate? Furthermore, should we merely “keep pace”, or should we strive to get ahead and then do our utmost to stop any further climate change? In this paper we document the very real potential for climate change to have devastating consequences before the end of this century. The urgency of the situation calls for concerted action by anyone who understands the problem, and mathematical ecologists are uniquely trained to contribute to such efforts. We ask modellers to deliberately incorporate the species H. sapiens into their modelling work, and offer suggestions as to how this might be done. Ultimately modellers must seek ways to provide guidance to citizens and policy-makers as we all wrestle with the most important existential threat of our time.

8/21/2018

8/19/2018

  • Most economic forecasts have a big blind spot: Climate change: Climate change is having a real impact, not just on the environment but on the economy too. And a growing body of research by economists and climate scientists shows that extreme weather will weigh on economic growth even more so in the future. But almost no mainstream economic forecasting model takes that into account, in an omission that some economists say could affect the accuracy of economic predictions going forward.
    • The most recent study to quantify the economic impact of the carbon emissions that spur climate change was featured last week in a brief by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. By evaluating the performance of state economies in previous years, the report found that every one degree increase in average summer temperatures decreases annual state-level output growth by between 0.15 and 0.25 percentage points.
    • ael: Why can't US groups use temperatures in Celsius, or at least indicate which temperature scale they're using? This report uses Fahrenheit, which is mentioned in the abstract, but ignored by CNN….
    • ael: that's such a pathetic "accounting" for the impact of climate change.: Linear thinking, again, although we can think of this as "exponentially linear" thinking…. So if the Earth's temperature rises by, say, 5 degrees Fahrenheit, then the states' "output growth" will decrease to (.9975^5 = 0.9876) of its previous value. So at 5 degrees, we're only down 1.25%. 9 degrees Fahrenheit is 5 degrees Celsius, and would drop growth by 2.2 percent (even though all coastal cities would be under water). Absolute hogwash….
  • Judge shifts legal brawl, revives WOTUS in 26 states: The Obama-era Clean Water Rule became the law in 26 states today as a federal judge in South Carolina issued a nationwide injunction on the Trump administration's delay of the regulation that defines what wetlands and waterways get federal protection.
  • EPA Quietly Delays Reviews for Bee-Harming Pesticides: Environmental assessments for neonicotinoid pesticides won’t be completed until 2019. The Environmental Protection Agency quietly posted the change on its pesticides webpage without comment. The assessments, which would provide the scientific basis for further restricting neonicotinoids, were previously set to be released this year.
  • ‘Toilet to tap’ water nearly matches bottled H20 in taste test, California university researchers discover: Saddled with the “toilet to tap” label, recycled water still has a bit of an image problem. But in a blind taste test, UC Riverside researchers found that people prefer its flavor over tap water and that they like it as much as bottled water.
    • ael: One step closer to "Porcelain Springs"…:)
  • Paul Nicklen: ‘If we lose the ice, we lose the entire ecosystem’: The photographer has been documenting life at the poles for years. He is determined to safeguard these fragile habitats

8/17/2018

  • Kink in the Jet Stream and Climate Change Spur Extreme Weather: Kinked, buckled, stuck or stalled, it doesn’t matter how you describe it, the jet stream — the ribbon of wind that circles the Earth — is doing strange things.
    • “We are seeing some extreme jet-stream behavior, where the jet stream is contorting into these extreme loops both sharply towards the poles with ridges of high pressure and dips to the equator with troughs of low pressure,’’ said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The extreme configuration is getting stuck in place which means that places are getting long periods of extreme weather.’’
  • Humans are pushing the Earth closer to a climate cliff:

8/16/2018

  • A Free Press Needs You: “Public discussion is a political duty,” the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” and “may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”
    • In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.
  • The End Game for a Truly Planetary Society: Our planet is already overpopulated with humans. We have to figure out how to thoughtfully draw down our numbers. It begins with universal reproductive choice and access to contraception. If we don’t get a collective grip on our fertility soon, we will most assuredly exhaust our planet’s ability to provide. Before that happens, nature could well impose its own harsh brand of corrective action.
  • Exclusive: Draft details Trump’s plan for reversing Obama climate rule: A portion of the rule obtained by POLITICO shows Trump’s EPA easing the planned limits on the pollution from power generators driving climate change.
  • Weedkiller found in wide range of breakfast foods aimed at children: Cancer-linked herbicide, sold as Roundup by Monsanto, present in 45 products including granola, snack bars and Cheerios
    • In April, internal emails obtained from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that scientists have found glyphosate on a wide range of commonly consumed food, to the point that they were finding it difficult to identify a food without the chemical on it. The FDA has yet to release any official results from this process.
  • The Super Bowl of Beekeeping: Almond growing in California is a $7.6 billion industry that wouldn’t be possible without the 30 billion bees (and hundreds of human beekeepers) who keep the trees pollinated — and whose very existence is in peril.

8/15/2018

  • The next five years will be ‘anomalously warm,’ scientists predict: Humans are already making the planet warmer. Now Earth could help speed the process up.
    • The study “offers a new and promising low-cost approach to forecasting near-term variations in global average surface temperature,” said John Fyfe, a climate scientist at the Canadian Center for Climate Modelling and Analysis. “Results indicate that internal variations in the climate system will likely cause the surface to warm substantially above that expected from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — at least for the next five years. This is important information for scientists, policymakers and society writ-large.” But Gavin Schmidt, who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that the size of the effect isn’t very large, noting that for 2018, the technique predicts just two hundredths of a degree Celsius of added warming for the planet as a whole. “Let’s be clear, being 58% confident that 2018 will be 0.02ºC above the forced trend . . . is not practically significant (even if it might be skillful)," Schmidt wrote in an email.

8/14/2018

  • How climate change is making B.C.’s wildfire season hotter, longer, drier: Scientists fear ‘vicious, vicious cycle’
    • On average, 7,000 wildfires are sparked across Canada every year, burning through 2.5 million hectares — about half the size of Nova Scotia. According to Mike Flannigan, a professor in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, this number has doubled since 1970.
    • “My colleagues and I attribute this to human-caused climate change,” he said. “I can’t be more clear on that. Human-caused climate change.”
    • Temperatures are on the rise around the world. Global data compiled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicates that the last 30 days have seen 3,210 new record daily temperatures. Earlier this year, the World Meteorological Organization released its 25th annual Statement on the State of the Global Climate, noting that “the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 were clearly warmer than any year prior to 2015.” In B.C., numerous heat records were broken across the province in July. All this heat spells trouble for forests. “The warmer it gets, the more fire we see,” said Flannigan. “And this is true all over.”
    • But increased heat does more than just dry out fuels. A 2014 study published in the journal Science predicted that for every one-degree increase in global temperature, there will be a corresponding 12-per cent increase in lightning strikes.
    • Wildfire has long been known to be a natural process that can have regenerative effects for forest ecosystems, and what’s referred to as a “natural fire cycle” is necessary in many landscapes. But North Americans have long prioritized protecting timber, industry and homes over including important low-intensity wildfires on the landscape, and a century of forestry-management practises that favoured putting out wildfires as soon as they started (known as fire suppression) has also contributed to increasingly devastating megafires. “With hindsight we know that was the wrong thing to do,” Gray said. But, he said, added to the concern is the fact that the whole cycle is fuelled by climate change.
  • Cost of Coastal Flooding in Europe Could Reach $1 Trillion Annually by 2100: Without additional climate change adaptation measures, the annual cost of damage from coastal flooding in Europe could jump from $1.4 billion today to as much as $1 trillion by the end of the century due largely to rising sea levels, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change. These coastal floods could impact up to 3.65 million people in Europe annually by 2100, compared to 102,000 today.
  • Drought Forces Hard Choices for Farmers and Ranchers in the Southwest: Large reservoirs have buffered urban areas in the Southwest from the worst of the year’s dry conditions, but rural farmers and ranchers are bearing the brunt of water shortages and the economic fallout.
    • Chester, an unincorporated community in central Utah, has been hit by “exceptional” drought conditions, the most severe rating issued by the United States Drought Monitor. For much of the southwestern U.S., this past winter has marked one of the driest periods in recorded history.
    • More than half the western U.S. is currently experiencing some level of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Sparsely populated areas in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona in particular are grappling with dry conditions of historic proportions – many small irrigation companies are reporting water shortages the likes of which have not been seen since the 1970s.
      drought-monitor1.jpg

8/10/2018

8/9/2018

  • Trump Officials Helped Edit ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Report to Boost Coal: Trump administration officials pushed to highlight the value of coal-fired power plants in a government report on the “bomb cyclone” that plunged the Eastern U.S. into single-digit temperatures last January.
    • They prodded authors at one of the Energy Department’s national labs to highlight past electrical outages from natural gas-fired power and emphasize planned coal plant closures as part of the analysis, according to newly released correspondence.
    • “The communications reveal this single-minded approach to get a certain narrative out there about the value of coal power for the grid,” said Casey Roberts, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club. “What I think we would all hope our national labs are doing is taking an unbiased approach to looking at what the data mean for the reliability of the grid and these enormous policy changes that are being considered — and I don’t see that here.”
  • Black widow spiders creep northward: The northern black widow is a black spider with red markings and sometimes white slashes on its back, and two red triangles on its belly that form the separated top and bottom halves of an hourglass. (In the southern black widow, the hourglass is connected.) It's not picky about its habitat and can be found among humans in places like backyards, pine plantations and under fence posts, in eastern North America from southern Ontario and Quebec as far south as Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
    • The main factor affecting the spiders' range is the temperature of the warmest three months of the year.
    • The northernmost northern black widow sighting since 1990 was 94 kilometres farther north than the northernmost sighting in the three decades before that.
  • Domino-effect of climate events could move Earth into a ‘hothouse’ state: Leading scientists warn that passing such a point would make efforts to reduce emissions increasingly futile
  • SEC drops investigation into Exxon climate change response: The government has dropped a two-year investigation into how Exxon Mobil Corp. factors climate-change regulations into its calculations of the value of its assets, the company said Friday.
    • The Securities and Exchange Commission informed the energy giant in a letter dated Thursday that it would not recommend an enforcement action against the company at this time.
  • Don’t despair – climate change catastrophe can still be averted: The future looks fiery and dangerous, according to new reports. But political will and grassroots engagement can change this
    • Thinking about climate change as a practical political problem helps avoid despair because we know that huge political changes have happened in the past and continue to do so. The future is up to us if we act collectively and engage in politics. To quote Antonio Gramsci: “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Looked at this way, we can see the politics as a battle between a future shaped by fear versus a future shaped by hope.

What went on: 2018

What went on: 2017

What went on: 2016

What went on: 2015

What went on: 2014

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