What's Going On: January, 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.

2015

January, 2015

1/30/2015

  • Post Carbon Institute: heard about it today during our first Climate Conversations at NKU. Gotta get post-carbon, soon!
  • Senate passes Keystone XL pipeline bill despite Obama promise to veto: The Senate approved legislation Thursday mandating construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, setting the stage for a veto showdown with President Obama. In a 62-to-36 vote, 53 Republicans and nine Democrats approved a bill seeking to force completion of the 840-mile pipeline, a measure Obama has vowed to veto while federal environmental reviews continue.
  • Climate change, vaccination: Scientists, public far apart in concerns, poll shows: Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use, and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization. Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed.
    • In eight of 13 science-oriented issues, there was a 20 percentage point or higher gap separating the opinions of the public and members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, according to survey work by the Pew Research Center. The gaps didn't correlate to any liberal-conservative split; the scientists at times take more traditionally conservative views and at times more liberal.
  • Germany boosts onshore wind capacity by record amount in 2014: Germany's newly installed onshore wind power capacity rose by a record 4,750 megawatts (MW) in 2014, industry groups said on Thursday, marking what is likely to be a peak annual gain as the country gears up for a nuclear-free future.
    • "Onshore wind in 2014 made another big leap ahead and underscored its role as the engine of (Germany's energy transformation)," said BWE president Hermann Albers.
  • Melting Ice and Warmer Temperatures Linked to Massive Oxygen Loss in the World's Oceans: It turns out that about 10,000 to 17,000 years ago, there was a massive loss of oxygen in the ocean when ice sheets abruptly melted. The new findings could explain similar changes that are occurring in the ocean today.
    • "This is a global story that knits these regions together and shows that when you warm the planet rapidly, whole ocean basins can lose oxygen very abruptly and very extensively," said Sarah Moffitt, the lead author of the new study, in a news release.
    • The researchers first made these findings are taking seafloor sediment cores. By examining these cores, the scientists found that there was evidence of extreme oxygen loss from the subarctic Pacific to the Chilean margins that stretched from the upper ocean to about 3,000 meters deep. In some regions, this oxygen loss took place over a time period of 100 years or less.
    • "Our modern ocean is moving into a state that has no precedent in human history," said Moffitt. "The potential for our oceans to look very, very different in 100 to 150 years is real. How do you use the best available science to care for these critical resources in the future? Resource managers and conservationists can use science like this to guide a thoughtful, precautionary approach to environmental management."
  • The bitter battle over a giant Canadian oil pipeline (no, not Keystone—an even bigger one): Energy East—estimated to cost nearly $11 billion—would be among the most ambitious and expensive natural pipelines ever built, transporting 1.1 million barrels a day of heavy, dirty oil-sands crude, known as bitumen. (By comparison, Keystone would carry 800,000 barrels per day.) To build Energy East, TransCanada plans to convert 1,800 miles of existing natural gas pipeline to carry oil and construct another 1,000 miles of new pipeline.
  • Shell urges shareholders to accept climate resolution: Resolution brought by activist shareholders requires oil firm to test its business model is compatible with global targets to limit global warming
    • Shell is set to confront the risk that climate change may pose to its future, after backing a resolution from activist shareholders. The move came on the same day it announced $15bn (£10bn) in cost cutting due to plummeting oil prices and said it wanted to resume drilling for oil in the Arctic.
    • The resolution, filed by 150 investors who control hundreds of billions of pounds, requires the oil major to test whether its business model is compatible with the pledge by the world’s nations to limit global warming to 2C.
    • The 2C target means only a quarter of existing, exploitable fossil fuel reserves are burnable, according to a series of recent analyses. That implies trillions of dollars of oil, gas and coal held by investors could become worthless and that continuing exploration for fossil fuels may be pointless.
    • The resolution, also filed with BP, includes a ban on corporate bonuses for climate-harming activities and a commitment to invest in renewable energy.
  • Pennsylvania governor bans new oil/gas leases on state land: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday signed an executive order reinstating a moratorium on new leases for oil and natural gas development in state parks and forests. The move restores the ban lifted by his predecessor, Tom Corbett, a Republican.

1/29/2015

  • Pipeline ruptures raise desperation for inspectors: Rachel Maddow reports on the shocking lack of pipeline inspectors in North Dakota after a new, uninspected pipe has spilled a record-setting 3 million gallons of toxic saltwater
  • This map is bad news for the Midwest:
    • “The average Chicago resident is expected to experience more days over 95 degrees F by the century’s end than the average Texan does today.”
    • "…extreme heat, scarcer water resources, and weed and insect invasions will drive down corn and soybean yields by 11 to 69 percent by the century’s end. Note that these predictions assume no “significant adaptation,” so there’s an opportunity to soften the blow…."
      crop-map-630.jpg?w=630&h=364
  • Fracking ‘to be suspended in Scotland’: A MORATORIUM on fracking in Scotland has been imposed by the Scottish Government amid growing concerns over the environmental and health implications. Energy minister Fergus Ewing told MSPs yesterday that “no planning permission will granted” for fracking schemes to extract underground oil and gas while a series of government investigations are carried out to assess its effect. The moratorium in Scotland comes two days after David Cameron reaffirmed his commitment to fracking and MPs voted against a similar suspension of operations. The UK government grants licences but ministers in Scotland can withhold consent through the planning system.
  • Climate models don't over-predict warming, study shows: A new study suggests that climate models have been accurate in predicting accelerated warming of Earth's surface. Record-setting temperatures for the world's oceans in 2014 threaten to melt the Totten glacier, at the end of the massive East Antarctic continental ice sheet. (references Forcing, feedback and internal variability in global temperature trends -- Jochem Marotzke, et al.)
  • The difficult art of communicating climate change to farmers: "Our research so far has shown pretty clearly that although most farmers believe that climate change is occurring, a minority attribute it to human activity," said Arbuckle, an associate sociology professor at Iowa State University.
    • To engage a farmer: Don't mention 'climate change'. In order to get farmers to use adaptive farming practices like low tillage or crop rotations, Arbuckle recommended that extension workers avoid talking specifically about greenhouse gas mitigation or even use the phrase "climate change" at all.
    • According to a 2013 study of California farmers, factors like exposure to extreme weather events and perceived changes in water availability made farmers more likely to believe in climate change, while negative experiences with environmental policies can make farmers less likely to believe that climate change is occurring, said Meredith Niles, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard's Sustainability Science Program and lead author of the study.
  • China 2014 coal output seen down 2.5 pct, first drop in a decade: China's coal production is estimated to have fallen 2.5 percent in 2014, the first annual drop in more than a decade, hit by a war on pollution and government efforts to tackle a supply glut as demand from industry and the power sector weakens.

1/28/2015

  • Can Koch Brothers Lock In Fatal Climate Delay For $889 Million In 2016 Election?: The multi-billionaire Koch brothers are planning to spend a staggering $889 million in the 2016 election cycle, more than double what they spent in 2012. Politico called it “a historic sum that in many ways would mark Charles and David Koch and their fellow conservative megadonors as more powerful than the official Republican Party.”
    • Remember, the Koch family put together the Tea Party movement and much of the modern right-wing infrastructure. Koch Industries surpassed Exxon Mobil in funding climate science disinformation and clean energy opposition years ago. They have already become the biggest force for anti-science politicians at every level of government.
    • This $889 million announcement is a declaration of dependence on fossil fuels, a figurative declaration of war on a livable climate and the health and well-being of countless future generations. As Mayor Michael McGinn put it in 2013, “We’re the first generation to see the effects of climate change, and the last generation who can do anything about it. To refuse to use every tool at our disposal in this fight — to embrace inaction — is to endorse a trajectory that will lead to suffering, privation, and calamity.”
  • Something Really, Really Terrible Is About To Happen To Our Coral: Coral reefs cover just 0.1 percent of the ocean floor, but provide habitat to 25 percent of sea-dwelling fish species. That's why coral scientist C. Mark Eakin, who coordinates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch program, is surprised that the warning he has been sounding since last year (PDF)—that the globe's corals appear to be on the verge of a mass-scale bleaching event—hasn't drawn more media attention.
    • while this year's El Niño warming phase is looking relatively mild (though highly unusual in its pattern), Eakin says, the oceans' waters have warmed so much in recent years that most coral areas are "right on the verge of having enough heat stress to cause bleaching and it doesn't take nearly as much to start one of these global-scale events." That very thing has happened before, in fact. In 2005, the Caribbean ocean experienced its worst-ever bleaching event despite a relatively tame El Niño year, and in 2010, the second-ever globe-spanning bleaching event occurred. It wasn't as severe as the 1998 disaster, but unlike the earlier one, it "didn't have a strong El Niño driving it," Eakin says.
      c63d7596-d8f3-482d-88ad-68cc501116d7-bestSizeAvailable.png
  • Nordea divests coal shares – a canary in the coal mine?: One of the Nordic region’s biggest banks is pulling out of investments in coal. Though the sums involved are tiny compared to its overall holdings, the move could signal a broader shift in the Nordic market, says Aalto University's professor of corporate responsibility.
  • Climate change adaptation in the boardroom: the Australian private sector is giving little consideration about the impacts climate change.

1/27/2015

  • Al Gore is still kicking butt as a climate warrior: I remember the first week of the sit-ins against the Keystone pipeline in August of 2011. Now they seem like the curtain-raiser on what’s become the enviro fight of a generation, but at the time it was almost impossible to get anyone to pay attention, despite the largest civil disobedience action about anything in many years. Official Washington knew the pipeline was a done deal, and that no motley collection of Native Americans, ranchers, scientists, and climate activists was going to derail it. But then Gore wrote a short note on his blog. In its entirety:
    • The leaders of the top environmental groups in the country, the Republican Governor of Nebraska, and millions of people around the country — including hundreds of people who have bravely participated in civil disobedience at the White House — all agree on one thing: President Obama should block a planned pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
    • The tar sands are the dirtiest source of liquid fuel on the planet. This pipeline would be an enormous mistake. The answer to our climate, energy and economic challenges does not lie in burning more dirty fossil fuels — instead, we must continue to press for much more rapid development of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies and cuts in the pollution that causes global warming.
  • A Climate Hawk Separates Energy Thought Experiments from Road Maps: [M]ost decarbonization scenarios are thought experiments, not practical roadmaps. But when they are reported to the public, that distinction is often lost." Andrew Revkin reflects on David Robert's piece We can solve climate change, but it won’t be cheap or easy, separating delusional thinking going on at the highest levels from reality — that we're going to have to work really, really hard to get anywhere near where we need to be.
    • A critical review of global decarbonization scenarios: what do they tell us about feasibility? is the paper that Roberts discusses. The news is not good: "Dozens of scenarios are published each year outlining paths to a low carbon global energy system. To provide insight into the relative feasibility of these global decarbonization scenarios, we examine 17 scenarios constructed using a diverse range of techniques and introduce a set of empirical benchmarks that can be applied to compare and assess the pace of energy system transformation entailed by each scenario. In particular, we quantify the implied rate of change in energy and carbon intensity and low-carbon technology deployment rates for each scenario and benchmark each against historical experience and industry projections, where available. In addition, we examine how each study addresses the key technical, economic, and societal factors that may constrain the pace of low-carbon energy transformation. We find that all of the scenarios envision historically unprecedented improvements in energy intensity, while normalized low-carbon capacity deployment rates are broadly consistent with historical experience. Three scenarios that constrain the available portfolio of low-carbon options by excluding some technologies (nuclear and carbon capture and storage) a priori are outliers, requiring much faster low-carbon capacity deployment and energy intensity improvements. Finally, all of the studies present comparatively little detail on strategies to decarbonize the industrial and transportation sectors, and most give superficial treatment to relevant constraints on energy system transformations. To be reliable guides for policymaking, scenarios such as these need to be supplemented by more detailed analyses realistically addressing the key constraints on energy system transformation. WIREs Clim Change 2015, 6:93–112. doi: 10.1002/wcc.324"
    • "… these studies tend to only superficially address the key technical, economic, infrastructural, and societal factors that may constrain a rapid energy system transition or how such constraints can be plausibly overcome. We recognize that detailed treatment of these factors is beyond the scope and purpose of many of these studies, which are intended to address at a relatively high-level the scope and pace of energy system transformation required under different assumptions or to suggest the portfolio of technologies necessary to decarbonize the energy sector. However, this point may be lost on lay audiences and the media through which these studies are reported. To be reliable guides for policymaking, these types of scenarios clearly need to be supplemented by more detailed analyses addressing the key constraints on energy system transformation, including technological readiness, economic costs, infrastructure and operational issues, and societal acceptability with respect to each of the relevant technology pathways."
    • Upshot: we're completely delusional about how easily or quickly we can address the fundamental underlying problem. I'd say that the "Risky Business" report that just came out regarding the Midwest is really a crock, as well. They talk of how "crippling temperatures will most likely claim up to 24 additional lives per 100,000 citizens by the end of the century", or "Detroit and St. Louis will see spikes of 5.9 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in their violence crime rates." They have completely missed the scale of the upcoming cultural destabilization. By many orders of magnitude.
  • Climate change skeptic accused of violating disclosure rules: Harvard-Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon apparently failed to disclose conflicts of interest in a new paper, according to a complaint.
  • Giant east Antarctic glacier melting with warmer oceans: Warming ocean water is said to be melting the largest glacier in east Antarctica, underscoring climate change's assault on the continent's ice cover.
  • Here’s What Every Governor Thinks About Climate And Clean Energy
  • Wyoming House Votes to End Ban on Teaching Climate Science as Settled Science The vote could lead to adoption of standards that teach climate change as settled science.
  • Climate change mitigation’s best-kept secret: Methane is a potent greenhouse gas — but there’s a lot we can do about it. At Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, Vt., the black-and-white dairy cows are used to the routine. In what looks like a choreographed dance, 1,400 milk cows delicately step over the scrapers that run along the concrete floors and collect their manure, which goes into a huge digester capable of holding 21 days’ worth of waste. Inside, highly flammable methane gas is built up under low pressure and then burned in a 600-kilowatt generator, with the capacity of powering 400 homes.

1/26/2015

  • New Proposal to Protect Alaskan Wilderness Most Sweeping in Decades: President Obama's proposal to designate 12.3 million acres of oil-rich land as new wilderness in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is likely to stir an explosive federal debate over energy and conservation.
    • No president in 35 years has made as sweeping a conservation proposal as President Barack Obama did today by urging Congress to transform the oil-laden coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into what would be the largest wilderness area in the nation's history.
  • Modi Shifts on Climate Change With India Renewables Goal: After a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in New Delhi, the prime minister said that his nation along with all others has an obligation to act on reducing the fossil-fuel emissions blamed for damaging the climate.
    • The remarks represent a shift in India’s tone on global warming. It previously emphasized the historical responsibility of industrial nations for creating the problem, and the Indian government has been ambiguous about whether it will adopt domestic targets for reducing greenhouse gases. Modi’s comments suggest he’s ready to work with Obama on a deal in Paris in December that would for the first time require all nations, rich and poor alike, to restrain emissions.
  • Copenhagen unveils first climate-change adapted neighborhood: 'Cloudburst boulevards' and innovative bowl-shaped parks are designed to protect the city from rising sea levels
  • Portland's New Pipes Harvest Power From Drinking Water: Turn on the tap and you're getting water and energy for the price of one.
    • The pipes can't generate power in every location; they only work in places where water is naturally flowing downward with gravity (if water is being pumped, the system would waste energy). But they have another feature that can be used anywhere: The pipes have sensors that can monitor water, something that utilities couldn't do in the past.
  • Pope's visit to stoke climate fight: Pope Francis’s visit to the United States this fall will give him an important stage to push for climate change policies, in a year when global warming is shaping up to be a central issue both for the Vatican and Washington.

1/24/2015

1/23/2015

1/22/2015

  • Oregon teens sue state: Can local government be held accountable for climate change?: Two teenage plaintiffs take on the State of Oregon raising the legal question: Does the state bear responsibility for addressing climate change?
    • Ms. Juliana (now 18) and Ms. Chernaik (now 14) claim that Oregon’s state government is not moving fast enough to address the causes of climate change, thereby violating the public trust doctrine. The state, by its own admission, has failed to meet carbon emission reduction goals that were established eight years ago in House Bill 3543. The teens argue that the State of Oregon has a fiduciary obligation to manage natural resources – including the atmosphere – as public trust assets, and to also protect these resources from greenhouse-gas emissions and the adverse effects of climate change.
  • 'Climate change is real and not a hoax,' Senate overwhelmingly decides: By a vote of 98 to 1, the Senate agreed. Even Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), whose book on climate change is called, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future," supported the measure. Inhofe announced his position moments before the vote, drawing an unusual outbreak of scattered cheers and applause in the chamber. "Climate is changing," said Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate. Man can't change climate."
    • The single no vote came from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
    • Just before the vote, the amendment's sponsor touted the measure as a first step. "I'm hoping that after many years of darkness and blockade, this vote can be a first little beam of light," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said. But that wasn't the Senate's final word on the matter.
    • The next amendment, from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), fell one vote short of the 60 needed for passage. That resolution said: "Climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change." All Democrats voted for the measure, but it went too far for most Republicans.
    • (ael: nonetheless, some Republicans supported it! That's a victory!) Here Are All the Senators Who Do and Don’t Believe in Human-Caused Climate Change. Republican realists (there are five):
      • Mark Kirk of Illinois
      • Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
      • Alexander, Lamar (R – TN)
      • Ayotte, Kelly (R – NH)
      • Collins, Susan M. (R – ME)
  • Davos 2015: World Bank chief makes climate action plea: The president of the World Bank has urged the international community to help developing nations cope with a warming planet as the first day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos was dominated by calls to make 2015 a year of action on climate change.
    • Jim Kim called for rich and poor countries to put aside their differences over tackling climate change as he warned that the hottest year on record in 2014 was evidence of accelerating global warming.“We are seeing the accelerated impact of climate change. Last year was the hottest on record. That matters. Extreme weather is real. It’s a complete no brainer to move towards cleaner more liveable cities,” said Kim.
    • John Nelson, chairman of the Lloyd’s of London, said: “We take in to all our underwriting and modelling climate change. We expect to see our syndicates modelling climate change when they are looking at this sort of property risk.”
    • (ael: This story is ironic, given that yesterday's posts included this one: How concerned are CEOs about climate change? Not at all)

1/21/2015

  • TransCanada begins condemnation proceedings: TransCanada, the company proposing to build the controversial $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline, filed court documents Tuesday in nine Nebraska counties to start eminent domain proceedings and get the 12 percent of easements it still needs here. On the same day, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers filed legislation (LB473) that would wrest the power to take land from the Canadian pipeline company.
  • In State of the Union address, Obama draws line on climate, says U.S. will lead the world: “No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change. 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”
    • “I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts,” Obama said. The remark suggested a likely veto for legislation that would block key White House initiatives to slash pollution from coal-fired power plants or interfere with efforts to reach a landmark treaty on climate change later this year in Paris.
    • The president referred mockingly to a favorite line used by politicians — “I’m not a scientist” — to deflect questions about human-induced climate change. “Well, I’m not a scientist either,” he said. “But you know what? I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA.”
  • China's nuclear dream: how the atom could lead to self-sufficiency near-zero emissions
  • Probing the unknowns of what warming does to the Earth's fertility: But as temperatures rise and the summer season lengthens, the soils in Alaska and the Arctic have been thawing. Forests are getting drier and wildfires now rage more frequently, releasing carbon, so scientists do not know how much longer these forests will remain carbon sinks. Measurements are key, and this is SMAP's task. Once it is in space, it will provide the most frequent and highest-resolution measurements of exactly how frozen the ground is in the northern latitudes. "The problem is the nature and stability of the land carbon sink; it is largely unknown," said John Kimball, a professor of hydrology at the Flathead Lake Biological Station at the University of Montana and a SMAP science team member.
  • Watch 28 Years of Old Arctic Ice Disappear in One Minute: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration has released an animation showing the decline of old sea ice since 1987, the first year for which accurate data is available on ice thickness. It shows a region of change in terms of the long-term trend as well as season-to-season fluctuations.
  • Clues in Coral Hint at Looming Temperature Spike: A cryptic chemical weather log kept by Tarawa Atoll’s stony coral in the tropical Pacific archipelago has been cracked, helping scientists explain a century of peaks and troughs in global warming — and inflaming fears that a speedup will follow the recent slowdown.
    • Added to a growing body of research, the newly published findings indicate that all it would take to trigger what could be an historically unparalleled period of rising global temperatures would be a shift in the winds. And that type of change in the intensity of Pacific trade winds appears to happen every 20 to 30 years or so.
  • Study Downgrades Climate Impact of Wood Burning: Surprising new research has sharply downgraded the perceived climate impacts of the gathering and burning of wood by residents of poor and developing countries who rely on the fuel to keep warm and cook food.
    • Of the 2.8 billion people forced to use wood for fuel, often filling their humble homes with life-shortening soot, the vast majority are chopping down and gathering their fuel in ways that allow forests and woodlands to regrow. That isn’t just good for the environment around them — carbon-hungry growth of trees that replace those that were felled helps cancel the climate-changing effects of carbon dioxide pollution released when the wood is burned.
  • Kansas City Power & Light will stop using coal at some of its generating units: The utility said Tuesday that generating units at its Montrose, Sibley and Lake Road power plants will be shuttered or converted to use natural gas starting in 2016. The affected units generate about 700 megawatts of power, which amounts to a nearly 19 percent reduction in the utility’s coal-generating capacity.
  • How concerned are CEOs about climate change? Not at all: In a critical year for action to prevent runaway climate change, one would hope the issue would rank high on chief executives’ list of business risks to worry about. So it comes as a shock to discover that climate change appears so low on their list of concerns that professional services group PricewaterhouseCoopers did not even bother to include it in its global survey of business leaders. PwC’s 18th annual global CEO survey, released Tuesday to coincide with the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos, failed to even ask 1,322 business leaders about their global warming concerns after only 10% registered concern the previous year. A spokeswoman for PwC said that climate change did not make it into the top 19 risks CEOs were questioned about because of their lack of interest in the subject.
    • Unfortunately, the bad news does not end there. When CEOs were asked about the changes they are seeing in international policies and regulations, collaboration between governments and businesses to mitigating climate change risks more effectively again ended up on the very bottom of the list. Nearly half said collaboration was not improving, with less than a third seeing an improvement. These survey results suggest that beyond the very few progressive companies that are taking the risks of climate change seriously, the majority are failing to register the magnitude of the problem. It seems that CEOs are so overwhelmed by short-term fears that they are failing to look further ahead.
  • Canada's attempts to block NAFTA probe into oil sands "disheartening": The federal government is trying to stop NAFTA's environmental oversight commission from investigating environmental damage caused by tailings ponds in Alberta's oil sands. Canada has already stopped NAFTA twice from investigating its environmental record in the past year. The trade organization’s environmental oversight commission seeks to review public complaints that Canada is ignoring its fishery laws by not acting strongly enough to protect the Athabasca River from industry pollution.

1/20/2015

  • Life on Earth now officially at risk, scientists say:
    • Humans are “eating away at our own life support systems” at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years by degrading land and freshwater systems, emitting greenhouse gases, and releasing vast amounts of agricultural chemicals into the environment, new research has found.
    • “Some people say we can adapt due to technology, but that’s a belief system, it’s not based on fact. There is no convincing evidence that a large mammal, with a core body temperature of 37 degrees C, will be able to evolve that quickly. Insects can, but humans can’t and that’s a problem.” Steffen said the research showed the economic system was “fundamentally flawed” as it ignored critically important life support systems.

1/19/2015

  • A few days ago I arranged with folks here at NKU (Rosemarie Santos, director of NKU's Center for Environmental Education and Madhura Kulkarni of NKU's CINSAM) to create what I'm calling Climate Conversations on NKU's campus. We're going to have them the last Friday of each month for this semester, culminating in a "Democracy Square LIVE" discussion on April 24 at 12pm in SU108, during Earth Week.
  • Solar energy on the rise: Global investment in solar energy is on the rise. In 2014, sales of solar panels increased by 20 percent.
    • Preliminary statistics suggest that solar energy generation rose by 45 gigawatts (GW) in 2014, and achieved an output akin to that of 11 large coal or nuclear power stations. But experts say the big boom is yet to come, and are predicting an increase of 50 GW for 2015, and a continued upward trajectory in the ensuing years.
    • "In 2020 we expect a rise of between 100 and 150 gigawatts," Eicke Weber, Head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems said. "The market will grow rapidly." And if that happens, four percent of the world's energy demand could be met with solar power.
  • There are about as many solar jobs as coal jobs in the US: Putting solar power on rooftops is pretty labor-intensive. You need people to design and manufacture the panels. Then people to market the panels to homes and businesses. Then people to come and install them.
    • That's a lot of jobs. Even though solar power provides just a tiny fraction of electricity in the United States — about 0.4 percent — the solar industry now employs roughly 174,000 people, according to a survey from the non-profit Solar Foundation. And the industry is expected to add another 36,000 jobs in 2015, as rooftop installations keep rising at a rapid clip.
  • Faulty thermometers exaggerated western U.S. mountain warming: Observations of sharply rising high-elevation temperatures in the western United States were caused by faulty equipment, not climate change, new research suggests.
    • From 1991 to 2012, the National Water and Climate Center’s Snow Telemetry network, or SNOTEL, reported a 1.16 degree Celsius per decade climb in minimum temperatures at high elevations throughout the mountainous American West. Correcting for flawed temperature sensors, which overstated temperatures by as much as 2 degrees Celsius, new research published January 13 in Geophysical Research Letters reduces this decadal increase to roughly 0.106 degrees. That’s roughly in line with warming at lower altitudes. While not used in global climate research, the flawed data were used by ecologists, hydrologists and regional climate researchers, says lead author Jared Oyler, an earth scientist at the University of Montana in Missoula.
    • The inaccurate measurements were not used by global climate scientists, who Oyler says would have quickly flagged the data for inconsistencies. The SNOTEL dataset was, however, used by ecologists and hydrologists studying the impacts of climate change, he says, and by climate researchers producing detailed regional climate predictions based on results from global climate simulations. Many of those studies may have to be reexamined for erroneous conclusions.
  • Scientists Drill through 2,400 Feet of Antarctic Ice for Climate Clues: A surprise finding may reveal how fast glaciers could slip into the sea
    • The pebbles scattered on the bottom offered an immediate clue about the physical environment beneath the ice sheet here. “You don’t get that sort of material on a regular seafloor,” Powell says. “Normally at the ocean floor, at 700 meters depth, what you’re accumulating is very fine material”— dust or silt small enough that it could be carried by currents or winds far from land without settling out. This is what the team found two years ago when they drilled into Subglacial Lake Whillans, 95 kilometers upstream of the grounding zone; the ice there is melting off the underside of the glacier very slowly, at a rate of several dime-thicknesses per year, as heat seeps up from Earth’s deep interior. But here at the grounding zone the underside of the ice may be melting more quickly. “These stones were sitting on the seafloor after having dropped out from the ice as it was melting,” Powell says. That information could eventually help them estimate an important number: the rate at which the ocean water is melting ice at the grounding zone.
  • Falling oil prices pose another delay for B.C. pipelines: Energy economists say that a prolonged slump in oil prices will further slow two proposed pipelines already hamstrung by court challenges and community opposition in British Columbia.

1/18/2015

  • Concerns over children's health motivates reduction in electricity use: In the study, which involved 118 grad student apartments at the University of California, Los Angeles, people who regularly got e-mail messages about how much money they could save made few to no changes in their energy consumption. But people who got messages saying how much air pollution their energy use corresponded to - and reminding them that the pollution is linked to diseases such as childhood asthma and cancer - cut their energy use an average of 8 percent. People with children in the home were even more motivated, cutting their energy use nearly 20 percent.
  • Republicans Claim Support for Science: But at least one science advocate isn’t buying it.
    • Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), penned an essay entitled “No, the GOP Is Not at War With Science” in Politico Magazine this week (January 12).
    • “To remain a world leader, the United States must ensure that our investments are funding not just any science but the best science,” the legislative duo wrote. “Unfortunately, in recent years, the federal government has awarded taxpayer dollars toward research that few Americans would consider to be in the national interest.”
    • Yesterday (January 14), Ben Corb of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASMBM), wasted no time in dismantling the Politico piece an ASBMB Policy Blotter post. “The point is when it comes to science and outcomes, the enterprise is built on questions and not answers,” the ASBMB public affairs chief wrote, “and we must allow researchers to follow where their findings take them and not be fearful their findings will take them to a place that Congress doesn’t want to fund.”
  • Will 2015 be the year hydrogen took off?: The success of FCVs largely depends on how a wide network of hydrogen fueling stations is created. While there are only a few in Japan, the government is in the midst of a hydrogen station blitz.
    • In June, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry drew up a road map for bringing about a “hydrogen society” in which the gas even plays a central role in homes powered by fuel-cell batteries, which, like those in FCVs, emit only water and heat as byproducts.

1/17/2015

  • Beijing’s toxic air is literally off the charts:
    • No matter what desperate steps the Chinese government takes — banning coal-burning plants within the city limits, shuttering more than 300 factories, wiping out old vehicles and boilers, forcing heavy trucking to go nocturnal — this just keeps happening: Beijing’s smog has yet again soared off the charts.
    • On Thursday local time, Beijing measured “beyond index” levels of the dangerous airborne particulate matter known as PM2.5 — considered hazardous to human health because the tiny particles can embed deep in a person’s respiratory system. Those sky-high levels have been measured several times since the U.S. began measuring the city’s air using a device installed atop its embassy in Beijing in 2008, most notably during a “crazy bad” incident in 2010, and 2013’s “airpocalypse.”
    • Thursday’s levels indicated the concentration of PM2.5 exceeded 500 on an “Air Quality Index” (AQI) measured from the embassy. The Beijing municipal government maintains its own index, always notably lower than the U.S. readings, which reported an AQI of 430 — still hazardous. (Anything above 150 is considered unhealthy for the general population). Thursday’s levels are generally regarded as more than 20 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
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  • Science Graphic of the Week: Perennial Arctic Sea Ice Continues to Shrink: For scientists concerned about the fate of the Arctic ice cap, one of the most important things to keep track of is the amount of ice that survives the summer. A new video shows how, despite growth during some years years, we’re progressively losing this mature, thicker ice.
    • Published on Jan. 12 by NASA’s Science Visualization Studio, this video tracks perennial sea ice from 1979-2014. To get a complete picture of multi-year ice, researchers had to carefully analyze their imagery day-by-day, and section-by-section. This is because different parts of the Arctic reach minimum sea ice at different times, and floating ice has a tendency to move.
    • The video builds on a study that was published in October in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. While the original study only tracked ice from 1979-2000, these 14 additional years of data show that even with a spike in 2000 and several recent years of growth, the Arctic is steadily, if spikily, melting.
  • 2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics : Several scientists said the most remarkable thing about the 2014 record was that it had occurred in a year that did not feature a strong El Niño, a large-scale weather pattern in which the Pacific Ocean pumps an enormous amount of heat into the atmosphere.
    • Skeptics of climate change have long argued that global warming stopped around 1998, when an unusually powerful El Niño produced the hottest year of the 20th century. Some politicians in Washington have seized on that claim to justify inaction on emissions.
    • But the temperature of 1998 is now being surpassed every four or five years, and 2014 was the first time that happened without a significant El Niño. Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, said the next strong El Niño would probably rout all temperature records.
  • Drought fears return with signs of 4th straight dry year: The December rain was but a cruel tease for California. The storms that brought some of the biggest downpours of the decade have given way to a dry January and renewed fears that California will languish in yet another parched year.
    • “Californians should brace themselves for a fourth year of drought,” said Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources. “We need a lot more rain and snow to pull us out of this drought, and unfortunately very little is on the horizon.”
    • State drinking water supplies remain far below normal. Farms are hard up for water. So are fish, mountain lions and bears. And Mother Nature doesn’t seem to want to cooperate as forecasters raised the possibility this week that parts of the state, including San Francisco, could see a January without rain for the first time in recorded history.
  • Solar Jobs Report Shows Huge Growth: The solar industry reports job growth 20 times higher than the rest of the U.S. economy, according to a new analysis. As of 2014, there were nearly 174,000 jobs in the solar industry, according to the report from the nonprofit Solar Foundation. That represents 86 percent employment growth since the organization began tracking job figures in 2010. By the end of 2015, companies said they expect to hire an additional 36,000 new solar workers.
  • Wind power 'adds resilience to UK energy market': Installing more wind turbines will make the UK's energy market more resilient to global fossil fuel price shocks, an independent report has concluded.
  • Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says: A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.
    • But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

1/16/2015

  • The rate of sea-level rise is ‘far worse than previously thought,’ study says: “What this paper shows is that the sea-level acceleration over the past century has been greater than had been estimated by others,” lead writer Eric Morrow said in a statement. “It’s a larger problem than we initially thought.” Co-author Carling Hay added in an interview with BBC: “The acceleration into the last two decades is far worse than previously thought. This new acceleration is about 25 percent higher than previous estimates.”
  • Scientists react to warmest year: 2014 underscores ‘undeniable fact’ of human-caused climate change: In 134 years of temperature records, the warmth in 2014 exceeded them all, NOAA and NASA announced today. Unsurpassed heating of the world’s oceans fueled the chart-topping warmth.
  • Treading Water: Florida’s bill is coming due, as the costs of climate change add up around the globe. Adaptations will buy time, but can they save Miami?
  • Scientists: Human activity has pushed Earth beyond four of nine ‘planetary boundaries’: At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world. The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They are the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.
    • “There’s a lot of emotion involved in this. If you think about it, the American ethic is, ‘The sky’s the limit.’ And here you have people coming on and saying, no it isn’t, the Earth’s the limit,” she said.
    • Stockholm Resilience Centre: info on the study.
  • How much is climate change going to cost us?: In a sense, this restates what we already know: Rich countries could do all right with slow mitigation because they are relatively robust in the face of climate impacts, but it would be devastating to poor countries. Aggressive mitigation is justified because of the threat to poor countries. (This tells you a lot about the politics of the issue.)
    • OK, that’s what you need to know: that there is good reason, outside contested questions of “raw moralism,” to think that the models we use to assess the social cost of carbon are considerably understating it. “We estimate that the social cost of carbon is not $37, as previously estimated [by the EPA and others],” Moore and Diaz say, “but $220.”
    • Suffice to say, if the U.S. government started using $220 as the social cost of carbon, it could justify much more aggressive policies. Maybe even renewable energy subsidies.
  • Good news and bad news about rising seas:
    • Good news! Research published this week in the journal Nature finds that the seas did not rise as much during the last century as scientists previously thought. Here’s Justin Gillis with the New York Times: Instead of rising about six inches over the course of the 20th century, as previous research suggested, the sea actually rose by approximately five inches, the team from Harvard and Rutgers Universities found. The difference turns out to be an immense amount of water: on the order of two quadrillion gallons, or enough to fill three billion Olympic-size swimming pools.
    • Bad news! That means that now they’re probably rising even more quickly than we thought. Gillis again: That silver cloud comes with a dark lining. The new research confirms numerous previous estimates that the rate of sea-level rise jumped substantially toward the end of the 20th century. The ocean now appears to be rising at a rate of about a foot per century.
    • And it gets even worse! The study supports previous research suggesting that the rate of sea-level rise is still accelerating. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that, if we continue polluting the way we’ve been, the seas will rise between 1.7 and 3.2 feet by 2100. But that’s a conservative estimate. A survey of sea-level scientists last year found that most experts believe the IPCC’s worst-case scenario is actually the best we can expect if we aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions, starting now. Failing that, they said, we can expect 2.3 to 4 feet of rise by 2100…. (I'm less optimistic than that — ael)
  • Here’s what climate activists should do in 2015: One big common theme: The need to broaden and diversify the climate movement, bringing in low-income communities, people of color, and other groups that haven’t traditionally been engaged in green causes. The People’s Climate March in New York City in September was impressively diverse, and climate leaders want to build on that.

1/15/2015

  • Will the Pacific Northwest be a Climate Refuge Under Global Warming?: As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?
  • This map shows you the best places to ride out climate change: Well, every November, the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), releases its analysis of which countries are most prepared for climate change. This year, Norway was deemed the best prepared, and Chad was ruled the worst.
  • Turns out the U.S. oil boom was just a fairy tale:
    • With one quick drop in the price of oil, the shale oil boom is officially bust. In less than a week, 61 oil rigs across the United States closed up shop, according to the most recent rig count from Baker Hughes. The U.S. has 1,750 oil rigs still hunting for new oil wells, but that number is expected to fall by another 400 rigs by the time spring rolls around.
    • The whole episode is a wake-up call about just how much of a fairy tale North America’s oil boom really was. It was a fairy tale with real drills, sure — and since it was exempt from the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, it will continue to have real consequences for the people living near it. But when it costs Saudi Arabia $10 to get a barrel of oil and it costs shale oil operations around $65 to make that same barrel, it should have been obvious that America was only a titan of oil production because another country was letting us be.
    • The U.S. got the excitement of overtaking Saudi Arabia and becoming the biggest producer of oil in the world for a few months this summer. Then Saudi Arabia did what it always had the power to do and raised its oil output so that prices fell.

1/14/2015

  • Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism: scholar and social critic Henry Giroux connects the dots between our political system and "casino capitalism."
  • Senate to vote on whether climate change is happening: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he will allow the Senate to vote on an amendment asking if they agree that climate change is impacting the planet.
  • Alarm over Kara Sea permafrost thawing: Remember the big sinkhole on Yamal Peninsula discovered last summer? Scientists have now discovered leaking methane gas from the shelf west of Yamal. That is where Gazprom plans to drill.
    • “If the temperature of the oceans increases by two degrees as suggested in some reports, it will accelerate the thawing to the extreme. A warming climate could lead to an explosive gas release from the shallow areas,” says Dr. Alexei Portnov at the Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø.

1/13/2015

  • The Children’s Climate Crusade: Bill Moyer's final show, an interview with Mary Christina Wood, a legal scholar who wrote the book, Nature’s Trust, tracing this public trust doctrine all the way back to ancient Rome.
  • A more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, methane emissions will leap as Earth warms (Nature):New research in the journal Nature found that for each degree that the Earth’s temperature rises, the amount of methane entering the atmosphere from microorganisms dwelling in freshwater wetlands — a primary source of the gas — will increase several times. The researchers analyzed nearly 1,600 measurements of temperature and methane emissions from 127 freshwater ecosystems across the globe (above), including lakes, swamps, marshes and rice paddies. The size of each point corresponds with the average rate of methane emissions in milligrams per square meter, per day, during the course of the study. The smallest points indicate less than one milligram per square meter, while the largest-sized point represents more than three milligrams.
  • Turning blood to power, Maasai pastoralists begin bottling biogas: According to project leader Michael Kibue, the group of 320 pastoralists anticipates that by March 2015 they will be selling their Keeko Biogas in 6 kilogram cylinders. Each should cost around Ksh 700 ($8), half the cost of conventional liquefied (LP) petroleum gas.
    • The slaughterhouse can afford to sell its biogas so cheaply because, with an average 120 cows and 400 sheep and goats slaughtered daily, "raw input is assured and at zero cost," said Kibue.
    • Even the process of pumping the gas into cylinders costs nothing, he adds, because it's powered by the slaughterhouse's own biogas.
  • Poland's shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests: Fear and loathing stalk Poland’s shale fields, where a 400-day site occupation stopped a Chevron drill earlier this year
    • Seven of the 11 multinationals which invested in Poland – including Exxon, Talisman and Marathon – have already pulled out, citing permit delays and disappointing results. Most shale activity is now being led by Poland’s state-controlled PGNiG, and by Orlen and Lotus.
  • Report: Rooftop solar already cheaper than utility rates in most major cities: Customers in 42 of the nation's 50 largest cities — including Charlotte and Raleigh — would save money by installing rooftop solar instead of buying all their power from local utilities, says the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center.
  • For the little auk, ice's retreat is a warning: The Antarctic has its penguins, but the Arctic is home to a small black-and-white tuxedoed bird that can fly as well as swim. And the little auk, also known as the dovekie, is serving as sentinel of global warming.
    • Marked sea-ice retreat has profoundly altered the feeding habits of little auks in Russia's Franz-Josef Land, an archipelago is their northernmost breeding ground, a research team reported today in Global Change Biology. The islands have been virtually ice-free each summer since 2005.
    • Using miniature electronic tags, the scientists showed that the smallest of the European auks, members of the puffin family, were losing their main prey, lipid-rich zooplankton. The birds adapted by shifting to new foraging spots at the front of melting glaciers, where zooplankton become stunned by cold and osmotic shock. Little auk chick growth rates thus stayed steady, but adult body mass fell 4 percent compared to 21 years ago – a potential problem for a bird about the size of a quail. the little auk, also known as the dovekie, is serving as sentinel of global warming.
    • Marked sea-ice retreat has profoundly altered the feeding habits of little auks in Russia's Franz-Josef Land, an archipelago is their northernmost breeding ground, a research team reported today in Global Change Biology. The islands have been virtually ice-free each summer since 2005.
    • Using miniature electronic tags, the scientists showed that the smallest of the European auks, members of the puffin family, were losing their main prey, lipid-rich zooplankton. The birds adapted by shifting to new foraging spots at the front of melting glaciers, where zooplankton become stunned by cold and osmotic shock. Little auk chick growth rates thus stayed steady, but adult body mass fell 4 percent compared to 21 years ago – a potential problem for a bird about the size of a quail.
  • 72 percent of GOP senators deny climate change: … 68 percent of the Republican leadership in both House and Senate deny human-caused climate change. On the committee level, 13 out of 21 Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, or 62 percent, reject the science behind human-caused global warming, joined by 67 percent, or 21 out of 31 Republican members, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee … In addition to Inhofe, 10 out of 11, or 91 percent, of Republicans on EPW have said climate change is not happening or that humans do not cause it.

1/12/2015

  • Playing Dumb on Climate Change: SCIENTISTS have often been accused of exaggerating the threat of climate change, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they ought to be more emphatic about the risk. The year just concluded is about to be declared the hottest one on record, and across the globe climate change is happening faster than scientists predicted.
    • Science is conservative, and new claims of knowledge are greeted with high degrees of skepticism. When Copernicus said the Earth orbited the sun, when Wegener said the continents drifted, and when Darwin said species evolved by natural selection, the burden of proof was on them to show that it was so. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this conservatism generally took the form of a demand for a large amount of evidence; in the 20th century, it took on the form of a demand for statistical significance.

1/10/2015

  • In the past year, we've lost four science and environment icons whose impact will be felt for decades: Americans have an unfortunate genius for anointing the irrelevant and forgetting those who truly mattered. Let’s make sure we remember four who left us in 2014: Pete Seeger, Martin Litton, Theo Colborn and Rick Piltz.
  • Unusual number of UK flowers bloom: Botanists have been stunned by the results of their annual hunt for plants in flower on New Year’s Day. They say according to textbooks there should be between 20 and 30 species in flower. This year there were 368 in bloom. It raises further questions about the effects of climate change during the UK’s warmest year on record. “This is extraordinary,” said Tim Rich, who started the New Year’s plant hunt for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. “Fifty years ago people looking for plants in flower at the start of the year found 20 species. This year the total has amazed us – we are stunned.

1/9/2015

1/8/2015

  • What Psychology Says About Materialism and the Holidays: APA: What does psychological research say about materialism’s link to happiness?
    • Kasser: The connection between materialism and well-being is the longest-standing strand of research in the materialism literature. My colleagues at the University of Sussex and I recently published a meta-analysis that showed the negative relationship between materialism and well-being was consistent across all kinds of measures of materialism, types of people and cultures. We found that the more highly people endorsed materialistic values, the more they experienced unpleasant emotions, depression and anxiety, the more they reported physical health problems, such as stomachaches and headaches, and the less they experienced pleasant emotions and felt satisfied with their lives.
    • The most supported explanation for why well-being is lower when materialism is high concerns psychological needs. Specifically, materialistic values are associated with living one’s life in ways that do a relatively poor job of satisfying psychological needs to feel free, competent and connected to other people. When people do not have their needs well-satisfied, they report lower levels of well-being and happiness, as well as more distress.
  • Climate Science: Here’s What You Need To Know (PBS program It's Okay to be Smart, with host Joe Hanson) has a great video series on Climate Change. Next in his series is his wonderful video showing why facts don't always work on climate deniers. Jim Tooby is cited: "our modern skulls house a stone-age mind." Favorite part: if climate change proved a direct threat to puppies, we'd be okay!
  • Climate Mission Impossible: Scientists Say Fossil Fuels Must Go Untapped: New study says vast amounts of coal, oil, and gas must be left untouched to limit global warming
    • In the United States, where coal mining is already being challenged by existing and proposed regulations to curb pollution, 92 percent of the reserves—the amount that could feasibly be recovered given current technology and costs—would need to be left where they are. Europe would need to leave 78 percent of its coal alone; China and India, 66 percent.
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  • Fracking's Methane Leakage To Be Focus of Many Studies This Year: The early years of the shale boom came with a widely held assumption that the vast quantities of natural gas liberated through high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would help slow climate change by displacing coal-fired power plants and speeding the transition to a clean-energy future.
    • But that notion was seriously challenged as scientists began studying the life cycle of natural gas. Although natural-gas power plants emit fewer greenhouse gases than coal plants, the process of extracting, processing and transporting natural gas releases unknown amounts of methane into the air.
    • Because methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, the shale boom's net impact on climate change remains unclear. That uncertainty has widened the rift between fracking supporters and opponents, and was cited as one of the reasons behind New York's recent fracking ban.
  • American Petroleum Institute shares spotlight with renewables in its annual report: The most noteworthy message from the American Petroleum Institute's 2015 annual report isn't its finding that the U.S. oil industry is experiencing a "petroleum renaissance" born of a drilling boom in domestic fields such as the North Dakota's Bakken and Texas' Eagle Ford shale formations.
    • An unexpected appearance in API's latest "State of American Energy" report was API's gift of space to alternative and traditionally competing energy sources such as nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy, all of which have positioned themselves as environmentally preferred alternatives to carbon-intensive fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal.
    • In fact, roughly 20 pages of the 50-page document are dedicated to energy resources that have no relationship to oil and gas, with chapters titles like "Solar Energy in America Shines Bright" and "The Attributes of Wind Energy Are Adding Up."
    • The authors of those sections were also not from API or even independent energy analysts, but representatives of the nation's leading renewable energy trade groups, many of which have been feisty critics of the fossil fuel industry on matters ranging from pollution to climate change to the proper use of government subsidies.
    • Consider the opening lines of API's assessment of solar energy: "Few things threaten America's future prosperity more than climate change," the report states. "But there is growing hope. Every 2.5 minutes of every single day, the U.S. solar industry is helping to fight this battle by flipping the switch on another completed solar project."
    • Such language may give heartburn to climate change and renewable energy skeptics — including many of the oil industry's traditional allies. But API officials say the message is consistent with the organization's long-held belief in an "all of the above" energy strategy that embraces both traditional fossil fuels and alternative energy resources large and small, from nuclear power to geothermal energy.
  • Survey Finds Doctors Concerned About Impacts Of Climate Change On Patient Health: American medical professionals specializing in respiratory conditions and critical care are concerned about what climate change may mean for patient health, a new survey finds.
    • A survey of members of the American Thoracic Society, which represents 15,000 physicians and other medical professionals who work in the fields of respiratory disease, critical care and sleep disorder, finds that the majority of respondents said they were already seeing health effects in their patients that they believe are linked to climate change. Seventy-seven percent said they have seen an increase in chronic diseases related to air pollution, and 58 percent said they'd seen increased allergic reactions from plants or mold. Fifty-seven percent of participants said they'd also seen injuries related to severe weather.
    • An overwhelming majority — 89 percent — agreed that climate change is happening, and 65 percent said they thought climate change was relevant to direct patient care. Forty-four percent said they thought climate change was already affecting the health of their patients a "great deal" or a "moderate amount." Strong majorities of respondents also said that heat, vector-borne infections, air pollution and allergies would likely affect patients in the next 10 to 20 years.
  • New Research Links Scores of Earthquakes to Fracking Wells Near a Fault in Ohio: Not long after two mild earthquakes jolted the normally steady terrain outside Youngstown, Ohio, last March, geologists quickly decided that hydraulic fracturing operations at new oil-and-gas wells in the area had set off the tremors.
    • Now a detailed study has concluded that the earthquakes were not isolated events, but merely the largest of scores of quakes that rattled the area around the wells for more than a week.
    • The number and intensity of fracking-related quakes have risen as the practice has boomed. In Oklahoma, for example, quakes have increased sharply in recent years, including the state’s largest ever, a magnitude 5.7 tremor, in 2011. Both state and federal experts have said fracking is contributing to the increase there, not only because of the fracking itself, but also because of the proliferation of related wells into which fracking waste is injected. Those injection wells receive much more waste, and are filled under high pressure more often, than oil or gas wells, and the sheer volume of pressurized liquids has been shown to widen cracks in faults, raising the chances of slippage and earthquakes.
  • EPA delays regulations on cutting carbon at coal power plants: The Obama administration on Wednesday said it would delay for months a final rule to control carbon dioxide emissions at new coal-fired power plants, thwarting for now one way the Republican-controlled Congress could have blocked the administration's plans on global warming.

1/7/2015

  • B.C. regulations ban oil and bitumen from natural gas pipelines:
    • A proposed network of pipelines from natural gas fields in British Columbia's northeast to liquefied natural gas export plants in the northwest will not be permitted to pump oil and diluted bitumen, the provincial government says.
    • The Natural Gas Development Ministry said a new regulation prohibits the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission from allowing any conversion of a natural gas pipeline supplying an LNG facility.

1/6/2015

  • California Gov. Jerry Brown gets more ambitious about tackling climate change
    • He quoted E.O. Wilson — “Surely one moral precept we can agree on is to stop destroying our birthplace, the only home humanity will ever have” — and then called for California to pursue ambitious climate goals for 2030 that build on those the state has already laid out for 2020. Brown said that California’s “impressive” 2020 goals, which the state is “on track to meet,” still “are not enough” for California to lead the world on the path to containing climate change to 2 degrees Celsius of warming, a target that the U.N. hopes will keep the worst effects in check.
  • One for the Record Books: 2014 Officially Hottest Year: It’s official: 2014 has taken the title of hottest year on record. That ranking comes courtesy of data released Monday by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the first of four major global temperature recordkeepers to release their data for last year.
  • California to begin work on nation's first bullet train:
  • Land of the Midnight Sun Warms Fastest in World: Over the past nearly two centuries, Finland's average temperatures have increased by more than 2 degrees Celsius
    • Although extensive previous research had shown that countries at high latitudes were warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world, this was the first time that researchers had recorded such a high increase in average temperature, according to Ari Laaksonen, a professor in the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Eastern Finland and a co-author of the study.
  • Shaken more than 560 times, Okla. is top state for quakes in 2014:
    • The Sooner State was shaken by 564 quakes of magnitude 3 and larger, compared with only 100 in 2013, according to an EnergyWire analysis of federal earthquake data. California, which is twice the size of Oklahoma, had fewer than half as many quakes.
    • Researchers and many people in the state believe the quakes are linked to oil and gas activity, namely deep-underground disposal of drilling waste fluid.
    • "Who'd have ever thought we'd start having so many earthquakes out here in the middle of the country?" asked Max Hess, a county commissioner in Grant County, which had 135 quakes last year. He also thinks the quakes are related to oil and gas, which has been an economic boon for the rural county northwest of Oklahoma City.
  • Road Worrier: When coal is involved, electric cars are polluters, too:
    • A new study finds that plug-in electric cars can be the dirtiest vehicles on the road – when they run on electricity produced from the favorite fuel of America’s utilities: coal.
    • Nissan Leafs, Teslas and other electric cars have no tailpipes and no exhaust. But three University of Minnesota researchers looked at air pollution from the entire life cycles of plug-ins and other alternative cars.
    • For every 100 air pollution deaths attributable to gasoline cars, Tessum and his colleagues calculate the equivalent of only 26 deaths from plug-in cars, driven the same number of miles, that use electricity created from wind or solar power. Burning natural gas to make that same electricity is almost as clean (50 deaths) – and, it turns out, much cleaner than burning compressed natural gas in the cars themselves (89 deaths).
    • The dirtiest picture was painted for plug-in cars with electricity produced entirely from coal – at 363 deaths on this scale, nearly four times deadlier than the average gasoline car. This exaggerates the true picture, since coal is used to produce less than half the nation’s electric power.
  • Climate change: Are forestry and agriculture (and GMOs) part of the problem or a solution?: Improved crop varieties could play a role in climate change mitigation if they can improve land use, relieving pressure on forests and raising yields without expanding to new land–and GM varieties could be critical.
  • Sourcebook on Climate-Smart Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Climate-smart agriculture, forestry and fisheries (CSA), as defined and presented by FAO at the Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change in 2010, contributes to the achievement of sustainable development goals. It integrates the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) by jointly addressing food security and climate challenges.
  • Toyota Offers Fuel-Cell Patents to Other Car Makers:Japan’s Largest Auto Maker Hopes to Spur Wider Use of Hydrogen to Power Vehicles
    • Automotive-industry researchers have said hydrogen would make the ideal transportation fuel because of its ubiquity and reusability.
    • “By eliminating traditional corporate boundaries, we can speed the development of new technologies and move into the future of mobility more quickly, effectively and economically,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota’s North America arm.
  • My favorite weather service: great graphics — allow one to see the weather over long time frames, and the predictions are as good as any service I've tried.
  • 5 GOP science 'believers' in the new Congress: Not every Republican in the incoming 114th Congress dismisses human-driven climate change. A few within the GOP majority accept the science. But on key policies, expect them to vote with those who dismiss the issue as a hoax.
    • "If conservation doesn't sit within conservative principles, then words have no meaning at all," says Gibson, a retired Army colonel who fought to get federal aid to his constituents after Hurricane Irene struck his Hudson Valley district in 2011, his first year in Congress.
    • Gibson said last month he plans to introduce a resolution meant to rally Congress to "recognize the reality" that climate change is behind events like the three 500-year floods he has witnessed in the last several years in his district. "We have changing weather patterns, and we have climate change," he said at a forum organized by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a nonprofit issues advocacy group. "This is the science. I hope my party will come to be comfortable with this, because we have to operate within the realm of science.

1/5/2015

  • Looking Ahead in the Arctic, With the United States on Point: An American admiral is in line to lead the eight-nation Arctic Council as a climate steward and a caretaker of the ocean.
    • Though the United States' tenure is still months away, the incoming head of the council—retired Coast Guard Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr.—has already indicated in a number of speeches that a drastic shift is coming, and that climate change will be on the council's front burner. Papp, who spent 39 years in the Coast Guard, is Secretary of State John Kerry's pick to represent the country as the special representative to the council. He has said that part of his job will be introducing the U.S. to the Arctic—where it has remained largely absent in policy-making—and introducing the Arctic to the U.S., where there has been a lack of awareness in both public and political spheres.
    • The U.S. takes the reins from Canada, which has led the council for the past two years. The theme during Canada's leadership was "Development for the people of the North," and during that tenure the council shifted its emphasis from environmental protection to development of the Arctic.
    • Though it remains to be seen what steps the council will take in this new chapter, the U.S.'s turn comes amidst an unprecedented period of climate action by its own government.
    • "The impact of climate change, especially sea-ice reduction, is already threatening certain species as well as the local communities that subsist on them," Papp said in his December address to a House Committee on Foreign Affairs subcommittee. "Our goal is to protect the environment for the people who live there and to conserve the natural resources in the face of ever-expanding human activity that will surely have impacts."
  • Nuclear power is the greenest option, say top scientists:
    • Nuclear power is one of the least damaging sources of energy for the environment, and the green movement must accept its expansion if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, some of the world's leading conservation biologists have warned.
    • Rising demand for energy will place ever greater burdens on the natural world, threatening its rich biodiversity, unless societies accept nuclear power as a key part of the "energy mix", they said. And so the environmental movement and pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace should drop their opposition to the building of nuclear power stations.
    • In an open letter to be published next month in the journal Conservation Biology, more than 65 biologists, including a former UK government chief scientist, support the call to build more nuclear power plants as a central part of a global strategy to protect wildlife and the environment.
    • The letter is signed by several leading British academics including Lord May of Oxford, a theoretical biologist at Oxford University and former chief scientific adviser; Professor Andrew Balmford, a conservation biologist at Cambridge; and Professor Tim Blackburn, an expert in biodiversity at University College London.
    • Professor Corey told The Independent on Sunday: "Our main concern is that society isn't doing enough to rein in emissions… Unless we embrace a full, global-scale assault on fossil fuels, we'll be in increasingly worse shape over the coming decades – and decades is all we have to act ruthlessly.
  • Alaska's toasty temperatures in 2014 worry observers:
    650x366
  • Technique for turning manure into drinkable water could help lakes:
    • Several manufacturers use reverse osmosis filtering that produces water clean enough for animal consumption, crop watering or for discharging into surface water, according to a 2013 study prepared by U.S. Biogas LLC, the developer of the GL Dairy Biogas project on Schneider Road in the town of Springfield.
    • Next month, pigs on a farm in Illinois were expected to become the first animals in the U.S. to be given the water to drink, said U.S. Biogas CEO Duane Toenges. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has granted permission for the water to be discharged into wetlands in at least one case, Toenges said.
    • A 2,000-cow dairy hauls more than 23 million gallons of manure per year at a cost of $345,000, the U.S. Biogas report estimated.

1/3/2015

  • Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches: However, Francis’s environmental radicalism is likely to attract resistance from Vatican conservatives and in rightwing church circles, particularly in the US – where Catholic climate sceptics also include John Boehner, Republican leader of the House of Representatives and Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate.
    • Cardinal George Pell, a former archbishop of Sydney who has been placed in charge of the Vatican’s budget, is a climate change sceptic who has been criticised for claiming that global warming has ceased and that if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were doubled, then “plants would love it”.
    • “A papal encyclical is rare. It is among the highest levels of a pope’s authority. It will be 50 to 60 pages long; it’s a big deal. But there is a contingent of Catholics here who say he should not be getting involved in political issues, that he is outside his expertise.”
    • Francis will also be opposed by the powerful US evangelical movement, said Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion.
  • It's not the heat, it's the stupidity: The new Congress may be the most boldly anti-science body since the time of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
  • Can a Christian Make Conservatives Care About Climate Change?: Meet the 29-year-old using her conservative pedigree to help save the planet
    • Last year, Joyner was featured in Showtime's documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, where she debated climate change with her father in a gripping segment. "What I found was that his resistance had very little to do with theology and much more to do with his entrenched political ideology," she says. "Conservative talking heads and think tanks don't have to prove the science, they just have to introduce an element of doubt."
  • 13 species we might have to say goodbye to in 2015: British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough once asked: "Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?"
  • Back in the headlines: Climate coverage returns to its 2009 peak: And it wasn't just the UN. Every metric The Daily Climate tracks saw a bounce for the second year running: News stories were up 30 percent last year versus 2013, the number of reporters writing at least one climate story jumped 28 percent, and the number of outlets publishing on the topic rose 26 percent.
  • DEP report details legacy of coal mining: A new state report details troubling mining legacies in 10 Pennsylvania counties, including Elk, raising questions about the true cost of coal for those communities as new, more modern forms of energy development begin to take root.
  • Scientists track natural responses to climate change: Researchers in the US have identified a wide range of impacts – human and natural – that global warming has on fish, forests, birds and wildflowers.
    • Adena Rissman and Chad Rittenhouse, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, report in the Journal of Environmental Management that they looked at weather records and logging data and found that, since 1948, the winter interval during which ground is firmly frozen has declined by an average of two to three weeks.
    • Scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in the United States report in the ICES Journal of Marine Science that they looked at trawl survey data collected between 1972 and 2008 to analyze variations in abundance of black sea bass, scup, and summer and winter flounder. All had shown "significant poleward shifts" in at least one season.
    • This makes survival a problem for the birds as their young are more vulnerable to nest predators and parasites. Some species forego breeding entirely during an extreme drought. Even without global warming, droughts are an enduring fact of life in the region. But ecologists point out that climate models predict a greater frequency of droughts, which could lead to even more delays in nesting.
  • Study: Climate change raises risks of power outages: In the December issue of Climatic Change, researchers suggest that increases in storm frequency, as predicted by some climate scientists, are likely to aggravate power outages in hurricane-prone areas like Miami or New Orleans. But if hurricanes become more intense, as many climate researchers expect, the study found severe outages could occur in areas that now suffer relatively few storm landfalls — such as New York, Philadelphia and Hartford, Conn.
  • Heat is on Abbott government over climate change as world turns: This could be the year of extinction for the climate-change denier
    • When the Baird government unveiled the first high-resolution mapping of how global warming is expected to shift the climate for NSW, Victoria and the ACT by 2070, officials were quizzed why they weren't using "climate variability", a term favoured by federal Coalition counterparts, to describe the outlook.
    • "This is the NSW government, we believe in climate change!" came the immediate response at the last month's media briefing.
  • Climate change is real and deadly, says Attenborough: Sir David Attenborough has launched an outspoken attack on senior politicians who deny the dangers of climate change, accusing them of taking the “easier” option of deliberately ignoring the evidence.
    • The veteran wildlife broadcaster was speaking as a group of economists called on the United Nations to abandon its “very costly” target of limiting the global temperature increase to 2C.
  • the 2009 Worldwatch Institute report “Livestock and Climate Change.”
  • The Top-Secret Food That Will Change the Way You Eat : More protein than beef. More omegas than salmon. Tons of calcium, antioxidants, and vitamin B. In their secret R&D lab, the scientists at Beyond Meat concocted a plant-protein-based performance burger that delivers the juicy flavor and texture of the real thing with none of the dietary and environmental downsides.
    • In his twenties he became a vegan. “It wasn’t emotional. It was a question of fairness,” he says. “ ‘Why are we treating our dog so well and not the pig?’ As you get older, you try to become more coherent.” He was already thinking big. “I wanted to start a plant-based McDonald’s.” Instead, he went into the alternative-energy business, working on fuel cells for Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems. “Somehow energy seemed like a more serious thing to do. But the food idea kept eating at me, until finally I said, ‘You know what, I gotta do this.’ ”
    • http://beyondmeat.com/products/
    • It takes about 9,000 calories of edible feed to produce 1,000 calories of edible chicken and 11,000 calories of feed for 1,000 calories of pork—a far cry from the 36,000 calories required for 1,000 calories of beef. More important, cattle and their ruminant cousins—sheep, goats, buffalo—produce geysers of methane during digestion. One molecule of methane traps 
25 times as much heat as a molecule of CO2, so each cow produces the annual GHGs of a car driven about 9,375 miles. Per pound, that’s eight times more than chickens and five times more than pigs.
    • There are, of course, lots of good arguments for raising cattle sustainably: it’s easier on both the animals and the land. But it’s no solution when it comes to global warming. Grass-fed beef generates significantly more methane and has nearly twice the carbon footprint of its grain-fed kin.
  • The biggest winter energy myth: That you need to idle your car before driving: Idling in winter thus has no benefit to your (presumably modern) car. Auto experts today say that you should warm up the car no more than 30 seconds before you start driving in winter. "The engine will warm up faster being driven," the EPA and DOE explain. Indeed, it is better to turn your engine off and start it again than to leave it idling. (As many readers pointed out after this post was first published, it's always important to be careful driving in winter, and clear your windshield of any ice.)
    • A 2009 study in Energy Policy tried to calculate the consequences. The researchers found that, overall, all types of vehicle idling — idling in winter, idling while waiting for someone or something, and idling in traffic — contribute a staggering 1.6 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
    • And no wonder: When 1,300 Americans were surveyed about idling for the study, nearly half reported both idling their cars for longer than 30 seconds to warm them up and idling for more than 30 seconds because of waiting. Indeed, the average amount of time that respondents thought you should idle your car before driving, when it is lower that 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside, was 5.01 minutes! And since that's the average, many people thought you should idle for a lot longer than that.
    • So, it's hard to see any redeeming value to idling your car in winter. For the final word on the dumbness of this practice, let's turn to the late Tom Magliozzi, the unforgettable co-host of NPR's "Car Talk." As he put it to a Boston listener named Lisa, who had asked about her boyfriend's conviction that you need to idle up to 10 minutes in winter:
    • "Dear Lisa's Boyfriend: You have your head so far up your tailpipe on this one, it may be coming out your air intake."
  • Interior secretary criticizes fracking bans: Interior Secretary Sally Jewell criticized local and state bans on hydraulic fracturing, saying they create confusion for the oil and natural gas industries. (Oh, pity the poor industry! Someone stands up to them — or something, that being New York — and they get their undies in a bunch.)
  • Siberian Methane Release is on the Rise, and That's VERY Frightening: "If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f'd," Jason Box, a widely published climatologist, tweeted back in August, when it was first revealed that this could be occurring in the East Siberian Arctic Ocean.
    • researchers are finding that more and more harmful methane gas is escaping from the region's thawing permafrost.
    • That's at least according to a pair of studies recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and Geophysical Research Letters, which look into the extent of permafrost on the Siberian coastal floor and how it is connected to the significant release of the greenhouse gas methane
  • Startup offering wind turbines that look like a tree and sound like one too: In other words, NewWind's Wind Tree is silent, and can exploit even the mildest of breezes, says its CEO.
  • In North Dakota, a Tale of Oil, Corruption and Death:
    • FORT BERTHOLD INDIAN RESERVATION, N.D. — Tex G. Hall, the three-term tribal chairman on this remote, once impoverished reservation, was the very picture of confidence as he strode to the lectern at his third Annual Bakken Oil and Gas Expo and gazed out over a stuffed, backlit mountain lion.
    • Tall and imposing beneath his black cowboy hat, he faced an audience of political and industry leaders lured from far and wide to the “Texpo,” as some here called it. It was late April at the 4 Bears Casino, and the outsiders endorsed his strong advocacy for oil development and the way he framed it as mutually beneficial for the industry and the reservation: “sovereignty by the barrel.”
    • “M.H.A. Nation is No. 1 for tribal oil produced on American soil in the United States right now currently today,” Mr. Hall proudly declared, referring to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.
    • But, in a hall decorated with rigs and tepees, a dice throw from the slot machines, Mr. Hall’s self-assurance belied the fact that his grip on power was slipping. After six years of dizzyingly rapid oil development, anxiety about the environmental and social costs of the boom, as well as about tribal mismanagement and oil-related corruption, had burst to the surface.By that point, there were two murder cases — one person dead in Spokane, Wash., the other missing but presumed dead in North Dakota — tied to oil business on the reservation. And Mr. Hall, a once-seemingly untouchable leader, was under investigation by his tribal council because of his connections to an Oregon man who would later be charged with murder for hire in the two deaths.
    • In 2012, the man, James Henrikson, 35, who had five felony convictions in his past, operated a trucking company called Blackstone out of the tribal chairman’s garage. Blackstone worked primarily for the chairman’s own private oil field company, enjoying privileged access to business on the reservation as his subcontractor.
    • Blackstone also worked directly for the tribal government, earning $570,000 for a job watering road dust that was never put out to bid. Mr. Hall voted to approve the payment, but because he did not think he had any conflict of interest, he said, he never disclosed his business relationship to the company.
    • The relationship was personal, too: Mr. Henrikson and his wife vacationed in Hawaii with the tribal chairman and his family. Mr. Henrikson had an extramarital affair with, and impregnated, the now 21-year-old daughter of the chairman’s longtime girlfriend; Mr. Hall considers the baby his grandson.

1/1/2015

  • Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graph (found it from Fox New's rather interesting and disingenuous feature Botched environmental predictions for 2015)
  • Tropical Forests May Inhale Third of Fossil Fuel Emissions: Tropical forests are so critical to fighting climate change that they may absorb up to one-third of all of humans’ fossil fuel emissions and may become more effective at doing so as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    • Feedbacks from terrestrial ecosystems to atmospheric CO2 concentrations contribute the second-largest uncertainty to projections of future climate. These feedbacks, acting over huge regions and long periods of time, are extraordinarily difficult to observe and quantify directly. We evaluated in situ, atmospheric, and simulation estimates of the effect of CO2 on carbon storage, subject to mass balance constraints. Multiple lines of evidence suggest significant tropical uptake for CO2, approximately balancing net deforestation and confirming a substantial negative global feedback to atmospheric CO2 and climate. This reconciles two approaches that have previously produced contradictory results. We provide a consistent explanation of the impacts of CO2 on terrestrial carbon across the 12 orders of magnitude between plant stomata and the global carbon cycle.
  • The 2015 Climate change target: 192 nations, two weeks of negotiations – and one world to save: great slide show of how we're blowing through our targets for CO2.
  • Tribute: The Man Who Linked Climate Change To Global Health: Tony McMichael has written more than 300 papers on how erratic weather and climate can cause health problems. He died in September.
    • One of McMichael's last publications in a scientific journal was a request to health professionals to speak out about climate change. He noted that what he and others have predicted is now happening — more droughts, heat waves, floods, storms, fires and the like, leading to job loss, impoverishment, migration and conflict, which in turn make people more prone to illness, depression and premature death. He cited ideological rigidity and an anti-science ethos in his own Australia — his "land of droughts and flooding rains" (from a popular poem published in 1908), he wrote, has become a "land of doubts and fuddled brains."
    • McMichael worried that the human health dimension of climate change has long been overlooked: "Concerns have focused on risks to tangibles 'out there' — coastlines, property damage, electricity costs, iconic species and ski slopes." All important, he said, but it's perhaps even more important to recognize that climate change threatens people's health, and that in turn threatens social stability all over the world.

What's Going on: 2014

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