March, 2019

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs. They stopped collecting news at the election of U.S. Unindicted Co-conspirator Forty-Five, which was a frickin' party pooper of a day, I'll tell ya.

Here's the 10-day weather forecast for Mattawa, Ontario, where we have a farm, away from the noise of that blowhard, the liar-in-chief. I try to spend as much time as I can on the farm.

March, 2019

3/31/2019

  • U.S. judge scraps Trump order opening Arctic, Atlantic areas to oil leasing: A federal judge in Alaska has overturned U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to open vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil and gas leasing.
    • The decision issued late Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason leaves intact President Barack Obama’s policies putting the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea and a large swath of Atlantic Ocean off the U.S. East Coast off-limits to oil leasing.
    • Gleason, in a separate case, delivered another decision Friday that blocks the Trump administration’s effort to overturn an Obama-era environmental decision. Gleason struck down a land trade intended to clear the way for a road to be built though sensitive wetlands in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. The Obama administration, after a four-year environmental impact statement process, determined that the land trade and road would cause too much harm to the refuge to be justified. Trump’s then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke the law when he summarily reversed the Obama policy without addressing the facts found in the previous administration’s study of the issue, Gleason ruled.
  • The keeper of the secret: After decades of silence about a long-ago Virginia lynching, one man pursues accountability, apologies and the meaning of racial reconciliation
  • Herbarium specimens, photographs, and field observations show Philadelphia area plants are responding to climate change:
    • The global climate is changing rapidly and is expected to continue changing in coming decades. Studying changes in plant flowering times during a historical period of warming temperatures gives us a way to examine the impacts of climate change and allows us to predict further changes in coming decades. The Greater Philadelphia region has a long and rich history of botanical study and documentation, with abundant herbarium specimens, field observations, and botanical photographs from the mid-1800s onward. These extensive records also provide an opportunity to validate methodologies employed by other climate change researchers at a different biogeographical area and with a different group of species.
  • Peter Dykstra: The 800-lb (cheap, plastic) gorilla in our oceans: Decades of warnings. A global environmental threat. Climate change isn't the only mess we're ignoring.
    • the 30 year-old plastics paper
    • Last week, an item worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records washed in from the Philippines, where the carcass of a Cuvier's beaked whale (really more an oversized dolphin than a great whale) yielded 88 pounds of plastic bags.
    • Plastic Pollution: Could We Have Solved the Problem Nearly 50 Years Ago?: What if we’d listened to the researchers who first warned us about plastic pollution in the 1970s?
      • One paper, published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies in 1972, identified the phenomenon of plastic consumer packaging washing up on isolated shorelines as an ecological concern. Written by University of Aston chemist Gerald Scott, the paper discussed the problematically slow biodegradation speed of plastic in the marine environment and outlined a “need for the acceleration of this process” to prevent further ecological harm.
      • That same year a scientist named Edward J. Carpenter, who now works as a professor at San Francisco State University, became the first to publish warnings about what would eventually be known as “microplastics.” While posted as a researcher at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Carpenter published two landmark 1972 papers describing “plastic particles” in the Sargasso Sea and plastic spheres used for plastic production (called nurdles) that had absorbed PCBs in waters off Southern New England and were found inside several fish caught there.
      • Although plastic pollution wasn’t making news headlines decades ago, the research did continue, with several important early findings made. This includes the 1973 discovery of small plastic particles accumulating in the bodies of seabirds (today we know more than 90 percent of all seabirds have eaten plastic at some point in their lives) and the identification of large quantities of plastic floating on the Pacific Ocean between California and Japan (where we now know the Great Pacific Garbage Patch lies).
        plastic-seabird-stomach-USGS.jpg
      • But the real push for plastic started even earlier. Plastics-history expert Rebecca Altman recalls how a 1950s packaging magazine editor told industry insiders that “The future of plastics is in the trash can.” Altman, who has deeply explored the human connection to plastic, says that the world had to be conditioned to carelessly consume. Prior to that time, “it was not in the culture to use something once and throw it away.” Today the items most commonly found in nature are so-called “single-use” plastics.
      • But it’s well known that certain industries have covered up the link between tobacco use and cancer, and fossil fuel use and climate change. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ “Disinformation Playbook,” corporations have followed a specific pattern when attempting to block legislation and minimize their liability for problems created by their products. The plastics industry appears to have followed the same predictable plays as other deceptive businesses: blitzing scientists who speak out with “inconvenient” results or views, diverting attention from scientific recommendations (to cut plastic use), and making strong attempts to block unfavorable policies (banning or restricting plastic use), among other strategies.
      • “The public did not get adequate information, or the right information, early enough to act,” says Eriksen. “Industry has been very effective at controlling the public narrative, but today they cannot control things the way they did in the past. Social media and mass communications have allowed people to organize.” And that’s starting to make a difference.
  • Google, GM and other corporate giants form alliance to create a boom in US clean energy: The corporate giants and their nonprofit partners on Thursday launched the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a trade organization that will help companies take advantage of new ways to purchase clean energy. The goal is to support construction of new green power projects by striking renewable energy deals pioneered by companies such as Google parent Alphabet, General Motors and Walmart in recent years.
    • Ninety-five percent of human resource leaders say burnout is sabotaging workplace retention, often because of overly heavy workloads, one survey found. Poor management contributes to the burnout epidemic. “Organizations typically reward employees who are putting in longer hours and replace workers who aren’t taking on an increased workload, which is a systematic problem that causes burnout in the first place,” says Dan Schawbel, research director of Future Workplace, the firm that conducted the survey along with Kronos.
    • Burned out on “doing the next thing I was supposed to do to be a good girl and get ahead,” she knew she needed downtime, but she was afraid to take a step back from the hamster wheel. “Boredom goes against everything we’re told to do to succeed, achieve and be proactive,” Swain says. “Even when I clean the house, I think, ‘Well, I should take the opportunity to listen to a podcast. Maybe I can grow as a person.’ Honestly, I’d grow more if I chose to be in silence and let my mind wander.”

3/30/2019

  • From moms to medical doctors, burnout is everywhere these days: Ziegler defines burnout as “chronic stress gone awry.” The big three symptoms are emotional exhaustion, cynicism and feeling ineffective, according to the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), a survey designed to measure employee burnout in the workforce. Other symptoms can include frequent colds or sicknesses, insomnia and a tendency to alleviate stress in unhealthy ways, such as with too much alcohol or online shopping.

3/29/2019

  • The Catastrophe is coming: No matter what happens with the climate now, we’re headed for a world of change. If it’s really bad, our descendants will know which generation to blame: ours.

3/28/2019

  • The destruction of the Earth is a crime. It should be prosecuted: Businesses should be liable for the harm they do. Polly Higgins has launched a push to make ecocide an international crime
    • Why do we wait until someone has passed away before we honour them? I believe we should overcome our embarrassment, and say it while they are with us. In this spirit, I want to tell you about the world-changing work of Polly Higgins. She is a barrister who has devoted her life to creating an international crime of ecocide. This means serious damage to, or destruction of, the natural world and the Earth’s systems. It would make the people who commission it – such as chief executives and government ministers – criminally liable for the harm they do to others, while creating a legal duty of care for life on Earth.
    • Last week, for instance, the research group InfluenceMap reported that the world’s five biggest publicly listed oil and gas companies, led by BP and Shell, are spending nearly $200m a year on lobbying to delay efforts to prevent climate breakdown. According to Greenpeace UK, BP has successfully pressed the Trump government to overturn laws passed by the Obama administration preventing companies from releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The result – the equivalent of another 50m tonnes of CO2 over the next five years – is to push us faster towards a hothouse Earth.
    • Last week Polly was diagnosed, at the age of 50, with an aggressive cancer that has spread through much of her body. The doctors have told her she has six weeks to live. Given her determination and the support of those around her, I expect her to defy the prediction, which she has met with amazing fortitude. “If this is my time to go,” she told me, “my legal team will continue undeterred. But there are millions who care so much and feel so powerless about the future, and I would love to see them begin to understand the power of this one, simple law to protect the Earth – to realise it’s possible, even straightforward. I wish I could live to see a million Earth Protectors standing for it – because I believe they will.”
    • See her TedX talk...
  • How hydrogen is transforming these tiny Scottish islands: Scotland’s Orkney islands produce more clean energy than their inhabitants can use. Their next step? Hydrogen. Here’s why that matters – and what the rest of the world could learn.
    • I’ve seen thousands of petrol pumps in my life, but this is my first encounter with a hydrogen refuelling station. It sits by the road in the Orkney islands, an archipelago off the north-east coast of Scotland where residents have big dreams: they want to have their cars, ferries and boilers all running on hydrogen.
    • Since Orkney started planning its hydrogen-based economy in 2016, the process hasn’t always been this smooth. When five vans, including this one, arrived in 2017, the islands didn’t have hydrogen for them, as production was still not underway. After managing to charge the tanks, the planners encountered another potential issue: who can fix a broken hydrogen vehicle in a community of 21,000 people?
    • In response to the challenges, the Orcadians flew in an expert to train a local mechanic, created fresh educational programmes for ferry operators and drafted regulations to update maritime law to allow hydrogen use in vessels. And they aren’t stopping there. If everything goes according to plan, by 2021 the islands will have the world’s first sea-going car-and-passenger ferry fuelled only by hydrogen.
    • Another benefit of hydrogen? If you have too much, you can store and transport it at a large scale with relative ease. As one Bloomberg New Energy Finance consultant wrote in a column published last year, hydrogen “is one of the most promising ways of dealing with longer-term storage, beyond the minutes, hours or days that could be met by batteries”.
    • In September 2017, after research aided by a £1.4 million grant from the Scottish government, they had their answer. Inside a green trailer-sized container, they ran electricity through water to split the molecules into hydrogen and oxygen in a process called electrolysis. The oxygen was harmlessly released back into the atmosphere; the hydrogen was carefully compressed and stored into cylinders. The cylinders first were used for a humble enough application: they were converted into electricity on a fuel-cell at Kirkwall harbour, with the result of powering lights on some of the harbour’s vessels as well as heating a nearby sailor hall.
    • After that, new projects started coming in fast. A second electrolysis station was installed on the island of Shapinsay, as well as a boiler for a school and blueprints to create a hybrid ferry. In the meantime, there were several charging stations and five retrofitted vans were running on hydrogen. But there were even bigger goals ahead.
    • I initially came to Orkney because of this vessel. Companies and governments around the world are contemplating hydrogen as a way to clean up the polluting marine shipping industry, which is responsible for more than 2% of all global emissions of carbon dioxide. When I asked a specialist at the European Climate Foundation about the clean shipping frontier, he told me to visit Orkney.
  • AT&T, hit by higher natural disaster costs, unveils 30-year climate change model: AT&T says it is paying the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory to predict climate-related events that could damage the company's infrastructure. Weather disasters have cost the company $847 million since 2016.
    • [ael: AT&T should hire Trump and the GOP: their answer is 0 climate-related events.]
    • [ael: "No need to worry, AT&T. It's all a hoax, a Chinese hoax…."]

3/27/2019

  • Can the tools of capitalism curb climate change?: Investors are pushing companies to reckon with their environmental impacts.
    • From dismantling regulations to pushing oil and gas leases in previously protected habitat, the Trump administration has shown its allegiance to fossil fuel interests. By protecting corporate executives and boards from answering to investors for their climate impacts, the administration is making it as comfortable as possible for fossil fuel companies and their financiers to continue to sow climate chaos.
  • Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control): If procrastination isn’t about laziness, then what is it about?
  • Sea Level Rise and What We Can Do About It: NASA and JPL scientist Eric Rignot (UCIrvine)
    • [ael: The speaker, Eric Rignot, begins by saying that "I don't think that you need to run to the hills… but I would walk."]
    • He predicts 1m-1.5m of sea level rise by the end of the century; but he says that we've already gone past the most important tipping points: these ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland are going to disappear.
    • Greenland's ice sheet is melting faster than scientists thought. New research shows that we've been underestimating how much sea levels will rise in the future.
    • Winds have been changing as a result of climate change…. Winds are getting stronger.

3/26/2019

3/25/2019

  • 'Coal is on the way out': study finds fossil fuel now pricier than solar or wind: Around 75% of coal production is more expensive than renewables, with industry out-competed on cost by 2025
    • “Even without major policy shift we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar. The fact that so much coal could be retired right now shows we are off the pace.”
    • The study’s authors used public financial filings and data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) to work out the cost of energy from coal plants compared with wind and solar options within a 35-mile radius. They found that 211 gigawatts of current US coal capacity, 74% of the coal fleet, is providing electricity that’s more expensive than wind or solar.
  • Fed Researcher Warns Climate Change Could Spur Financial Crisis: Climate change is becoming increasingly relevant to central bankers because losses from natural disasters that are magnified by higher temperatures and elevated sea levels could spark a financial crisis, a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco researcher found.

3/24/2019

  • Recording Reveals Oil Industry Execs Laughing at Trump Access: The tape of a private meeting was made shortly after the lawyer for an influential industry group was tapped for a high-level post at the Department of the Interior.
    • [ael: an illustration of how the fossil fuel industry talks out of both sides of its mouth]
      • One of the goals they achieved with the Trumpsters was "Ended long-standing protections for migratory birds."
      • Then, whenever the subject of wind power comes up, they're sure to focus on the damage wind turbines do to birds. Oh, how dear birds are to their icy hearts!
      • The hypocrisy just drips from their foul mouths….

3/22/2019

3/21/2019

3/20/2019

  • Amid 19-Year Drought, States Sign Deal to Conserve Colorado River Water: Seven Western states have agreed on a plan to manage the Colorado River amid a 19-year drought, voluntarily cutting their water use to prevent the federal government from imposing a mandatory squeeze on the supply.
    • State water officials signed the deal on Tuesday after years of negotiations, forestalling what would have been the first federally enforced restrictions on the river’s lower basin. But any victory may be short-lived. Climate change promises to make the American West increasingly hot and dry, putting further pressure on the Colorado and the 40 million people who depend on its water. “We all recognize we’re looking at a drier future,” said Tom Buschatzke, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
  • Pesticide residues found in 70% of produce sold in US even after washing: Strawberries, spinach and kale among most pesticide-heavy; Conventionally farmed kale could contain up to 18 pesticides
    • Other foods on the group’s “dirty dozen” list include grapes, cherries, apples, tomatoes and potatoes. In contrast, its “clean 15” list includes avocados, onions and cauliflower.
    • [ael: food grown on our farm contains 0 pesticides. It may, however, contain pests!:)]
    • While 90% of Americans have detectable pesticide levels in their urine and blood, “the health consequences of consuming pesticide residues from conventionally grown foods are unknown, as are the effects of choosing organic foods or conventionally grown foods known to have fewer pesticide residues,” they said.
  • Federal judge casts doubt on Trump’s drilling plans across the U.S. because they ignore climate change: A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in the West.
  • Climate Challenge Will Be Harder Than It Seems, JPMorgan Executive Warns: The world isn’t cutting carbon emissions anywhere near quickly enough, a senior executive at J.P. Morgan Asset Management told clients this week — and changing that will require far harder choices than most people realize.
    • In his annual “Energy Outlook” report, Michael Cembalest, chairman of market investment and strategy for the asset management group, wrote that the U.S. needs to reduce its use of carbon much faster — a view he shares with the authors of the Green New Deal, including first-term Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

3/19/2019

  • England could run short of water within 25 years: Exclusive: Environment Agency chief calls for use to be cut by a third
    • The country is facing the ‘‘jaws of death”, Sir James Bevan said, at the point where water demand from the country’s rising population surpasses the falling supply resulting from climate change. However, this could be avoided with ambitious action to cut people’s water use by a third and leakage from water company pipes by 50%, he says, along with big new reservoirs, more desalination plants and transfers of water across the country.
    • In the speech, Bevan says: “Water companies all identify the same thing as their biggest operating risk: climate change.” By 2040, more than half of our summers are expected to be hotter than the 2003 heatwave, he says, leading to more water shortages and potentially 50-80% less water in some rivers in the summer.
  • Met Office: global warming could exceed 1.5C within five years: Lowest Paris agreement target may temporarily be surpassed for first time between now and 2023
    • Meteorologists said there was a 10% chance of a year in which the average temperature rise exceeds 1.5C, which is the lowest of the two Paris agreement targets set for the end of the century. Until now, the hottest year on record was 2016, when the planet warmed 1.11C above pre-industrial levels, but the long-term trend is upward.
  • Major Pipeline Delays Leave Canada’s Tar Sands Struggling: Keystone XL’s construction has been delayed by the courts, tar sands forecasts are down and investors are worried.
    • March has brought a string of setbacks for Canada's struggling tar sands oil industry, including the further delay of two proposed pipelines, a poor forecast for growth and signs that investors may be growing wary.
    • On Friday, a federal appeals court in California refused to lift a lower court order that blocks construction of the Keystone XL pipeline until a thorough new environmental assessment is completed. The decision likely pushed back by a year the start of major work by TransCanada, Keystone XL's owner, to complete the project.

3/18/2019

  • U.S. Blocks U.N. Resolution on Geoengineering: The measure called for a report on carbon capture and solar radiation management
    • [ael: yeah, the Trump administration would hate to have any actual information on which to base decisions.]
    • US and Saudi Arabia blocking regulation of geoengineering, sources say: Delegates at UN environment assembly say the oil producers are protecting their industries
      • Currently, the main prohibition on testing is the Convention on Biological Diversity, which the US is the only country not to have ratified. There are also provisions in the London Protocol, which forbids ocean seeding – another form of geoengineering, which aims to increase the capacity of sea water to absorb CO2. The question now is whether to strengthen the controls, by tightening rules and broadening oversight, or to narrow them down.

3/17/2019

  • As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling: With China no longer accepting used plastic and paper, communities are facing steep collection bills, forcing them to end their programs or burn or bury more waste.
  • Record snowfall, 'historic' bomb cyclone are forces behind devastating floods, blizzard
  • Iconic Forests Reaching Climate Tipping Points in American West, Study Finds: Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests are struggling to regrow after wildfires in parts of the West as temperatures rise and the air and soil become drier.
    • As temperatures rise, the hotter, drier air and drier soil conditions are increasingly unsuitable for young Douglas firs and ponderosa pines to take root and thrive in some of the region's low-elevation forests, scientists write in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wildfires in these areas could lead to abrupt ecosystem changes, from forest to non-forest, that would otherwise take decades to centuries, the study says.
  • Climate study warns of vanishing safety window—here’s why: Millions of possible scenarios were analyzed, and only a few are acceptable, the scientists said.
  • The Strange Optimism of Climate Alarmist David Wallace-Wells: The author of The Uninhabitable Earth on having children in a warming world, the danger of complacency, and why there is reason for hope (sort of)
    • The environmental philosopher David Orr once noted that, “we continue to educate the young…as if there were no planetary emergency.” How should we raise our kids during these times? The basic lesson, or central value, that I’d like to pass along to my daughter is actually the same one that I would want to impress upon her if we were not in this situation: human empathy. The one great risk of the next few decades is that many of the climate horrors that I write about in the book do come to pass. When looking back on this in about 30 years, we might say, “Oh, my God, that way of life was horrifying, unconscionable, unforgiveable, and impossible to endure.” Yet we will likely find ourselves doing exactly that: still living in it, enduring it, and probably doing so through psychic compartmentalization and denial — in the same way that we in the West discard and overlook the huge amounts of suffering that currently exists. We think we couldn’t possibly be living in a world where we’re killing millions each year with air pollution, and yet we already are. So my main hope for my daughter and her generation would be that they don’t look away — that they are motivated and mobilized by these atrocities enough to do something about them.

3/15/2019

  • School Strike for Climate: What Today's Kids Face If World Leaders Delay Action: When today's leaders were Greta’s age, scientists were already issuing strong warnings about climate change.
    School-Strike-World-Leaders529px.png?itok=Nm7DHexY
  • Young People Feel Betrayed by Adults Over the Climate Crisis. Today, They’re Going on Strike.
    • Climate change is causing mental anguish in people of all ages, according to Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist and member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance. “When you’re hearing day in and day out that we’ve got 12 years, we’ve got 11 years, the oceans are collapsing, fires are burning, air quality is terrible, wear a mask, the anxiety is inescapable,” said Van Susteren. “It sticks itself into dark crevices in your brain.” For kids, she said, there’s often an added emotional layer of feeling betrayed by the older generation’s inaction.
    • But there are limits to the uplift. “The reality is that the climate crisis is really depressing,” said Oli Tierney, a 17-year-old climate activist in Louisville, Kentucky. Tierney has found that urging lawmakers to do something about the crisis has eased her feelings of helplessness. But nothing can shake her worry about her mother and grandfather, who both have disabilities and live in a coastal area of the Philippines that has already been hit by storms.
  • Indigenous guardians raise the alarm on impact of climate change in Canada More than 40 Indigenous communities in Canada have launched guardian programs, which employ local members to monitor ecosystems and protect sensitive areas and species. At a national gathering in Vancouver this week, guardians raised alarm about environmental degradation and climate change in their territories.

3/13/2019

  • Shell urges Trump White House to tighten methane leak rules: Royal Dutch Shell urged U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday to tighten restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas production, instead of weakening them as planned.
    • Breaking from a decades-old tradition of avoiding criticism of U.S. government policies, Shell’s U.S. Country Chair Gretchen Watkins called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tighten rules to plug methane leaks, a potent greenhouse gas. “It is a big part of the climate problem and frankly we can do more,” Watkins said in an interview with Reuters at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston.

3/7/2019

  • The Other Kind of Climate Denialism: In 2008 and 2009, the American Psychological Association put together a task force to examine the relationship between psychology and climate change. It found that, although people said that climate change was important, they did not “feel a sense of urgency.” The task force identified several mental barriers that contributed to this blasé stance. People were uncertain about climate change, mistrustful of the science, or denied that it was related to human activity. They tended to minimize the risks and believe that there was plenty of time to make changes before the real impacts were felt. Just ten years later, these attitudes about climate feel like ancient relics.
    • But two key factors, which the task force identified as keeping people from taking action, have stood the test of time: one was habit, and the other was lack of control. “Ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change,” the group stated. “People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.”
    • Wallace-Wells hits this note in his book, too, writing, “We seem most comfortable adopting a learned posture of powerlessness.” As uncertainty and denial about climate have diminished, they have been replaced by similarly paralyzing feelings of panic, anxiety, and resignation. As we begin to live through the massive dangers imparted by climate change, as one psychologist put it to me, “We are in psychological terrain, whether we like it or not.”
    • Yet Wallace-Wells has also stressed that there is no place for fatalism. In an interview with NPR, he said that “every inch of warming makes a difference”—we cannot stop the process of warming altogether, but we can control whether climate change yields a future that is apocalyptic or instead “merely grim.” Several years ago, I asked the climate activist and writer Bill McKibben how he was able to keep from falling into depression, given how much time he devotes to thinking about climate change. He answered that fighting is the key—it’s only despairing if you think that you can’t take on the problem. “It’s the greatest fight in human history, one whose outcome will reverberate for geologic time, and it has to happen right now,” he said.
    • Margaret Klein Salamon, who trained as a clinical psychologist before founding a climate-advocacy organization, takes the opposite view. She doesn’t see fear as paralyzing but as a necessary response that activates people to recognize danger and take action. What’s more, given the state of the atmosphere, she argues that acute fear is rational. “It’s important to feel afraid of things that will kill us—that is healthy and good,” she said. She believes that reckoning with the scope of the emergency is required, both to activate responsible behavior and to reap the mental-health benefits of “living in climate truth.” Salamon, who grew up in a family of psychoanalysts and considers therapy to be “something of a family business,” is writing “Transform Yourself with Climate Truth,” a self-help book on the subject.
    • Salamon said that it’s no surprise that people can’t process the truth about the climate crisis and instead construct defense mechanisms against it. In twenty years, what now registers as an extreme heat wave will likely be the norm. By 2045, more than three hundred thousand U.S. homes will be lost to encroaching oceans; by 2100, a trillion dollars worth of real estate will be lost in the U.S. alone. As atmospheric carbon levels rise, plants produce more sugars and fewer nutrients—by 2050, vegetables will be turning into junk food. There’s a huge overlap between things that wreak havoc on the climate and things that serve a materialist version of the good, comfortable life: meat-eating, air-conditioning, air travel. “It’s a basic part of being human that our minds frequently deal with competing interests—that’s how defense mechanisms are formed,” Salamon said.j
    • As Heglar writes, “You don’t fight something like that because you think you will win. You fight because you have to.”
    • Wallace-Wells writes that the last century of fossil-fuel extraction and industrial capitalism has enabled a life style I enjoy—that this very process “made middle-class-ness possible” for billions of people.” Yet, at the same time, it is a system that must be radically overhauled. Modern people have a tendency, he writes, to see human systems as more inviolable than natural ones. And so, “renovating capitalism so that it doesn’t reward fossil fuel extraction can seem unlikelier than suspending sulfur in the air to dye the sky red and cool the planet off by a degree or two.” It’s why creating global factories to suck carbon out of the atmosphere might appear to be easier than simply ending fossil-fuel subsidies, he writes. These are the competing truths we have to integrate: a livable world is incompatible with fossil fuels, and fossil fuels made the world we live in.

3/6/2019

  • White House’s plans to counter climate science reports ‘will erode our national security,’ 58 former officials warn: Generals, admirals and other national security officials sent a letter to President Trump.
    • “Imposing a political test on reports issued by the science agencies, and forcing a blind spot onto the national security assessments that depend on them, will erode our national security,” the letter states. “It is dangerous to have national security analysis conform to politics.”
    • “Fundamentally, this is about letting the military and intelligence community do its job,” said John Conger, director of the Center for Climate and Security and former acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and the environment.
    • The letter’s signatories also include rear admirals, major generals and other high-ranking officers who worked under presidents stretching all the way to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Others served extensively in Republican administrations. Geoffrey Kemp, for instance, worked as a special national security assistant to Ronald Reagan. And retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, another signer, just recently left his post in the Trump administration as the Coast Guard’s top officer.
  • A hidden scandal: America's school students exposed to water tainted by toxic lead. Elevated levels of lead have been found in schools across the US, alarming experts who say it is particularly harmful to children
  • The Machine Stops: The neurologist on steam engines, smartphones, and fearing the future. (Oliver Sachs)
    • I cannot get used to seeing myriads of people in the street peering into little boxes or holding them in front of their faces, walking blithely in the path of moving traffic, totally out of touch with their surroundings. I am most alarmed by such distraction and inattention when I see young parents staring at their cell phones and ignoring their own babies as they walk or wheel them along. Such children, unable to attract their parents’ attention, must feel neglected, and they will surely show the effects of this in the years to come.
    • These gadgets, already ominous in 2007, have now immersed us in a virtual reality far denser, more absorbing, and even more dehumanizing. I am confronted every day with the complete disappearance of the old civilities. Social life, street life, and attention to people and things around one have largely disappeared, at least in big cities, where a majority of the population is now glued almost without pause to phones or other devices—jabbering, texting, playing games, turning more and more to virtual reality of every sort.
    • Everything is public now, potentially: one’s thoughts, one’s photos, one’s movements, one’s purchases. There is no privacy and apparently little desire for it in a world devoted to non-stop use of social media. Every minute, every second, has to be spent with one’s device clutched in one’s hand. Those trapped in this virtual world are never alone, never able to concentrate and appreciate in their own way, silently. They have given up, to a great extent, the amenities and achievements of civilization: solitude and leisure, the sanction to be oneself, truly absorbed, whether in contemplating a work of art, a scientific theory, a sunset, or the face of one’s beloved.
    • A few years ago, I was invited to join a panel discussion about information and communication in the twenty-first century. One of the panelists, an Internet pioneer, said proudly that his young daughter surfed the Web twelve hours a day and had access to a breadth and range of information that no one from a previous generation could have imagined. I asked whether she had read any of Jane Austen’s novels, or any classic novel. When he said that she hadn’t, I wondered aloud whether she would then have a solid understanding of human nature or of society, and suggested that while she might be stocked with wide-ranging information, that was different from knowledge. Half the audience cheered; the other half booed.
    • But it may not be enough to create, to contribute, to have influenced others if one feels, as I do now, that the very culture in which one was nourished, and to which one has given one’s best in return, is itself threatened. Though I am supported and stimulated by my friends, by readers around the world, by memories of my life, and by the joy that writing gives me, I have, as many of us must have, deep fears about the well-being and even survival of our world.
    • When I was eighteen, I read Hume for the first time, and I was horrified by the vision he expressed in his eighteenth-century work “A Treatise of Human Nature,” in which he wrote that mankind is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.” As a neurologist, I have seen many patients rendered amnesic by destruction of the memory systems in their brains, and I cannot help feeling that these people, having lost any sense of a past or a future and being caught in a flutter of ephemeral, ever-changing sensations, have in some way been reduced from human beings to Humean ones.
    • I have only to venture into the streets of my own neighborhood, the West Village, to see such Humean casualties by the thousand: younger people, for the most part, who have grown up in our social-media era, have no personal memory of how things were before, and no immunity to the seductions of digital life. What we are seeing—and bringing on ourselves—resembles a neurological catastrophe on a gigantic scale. [ael: my emphasis]
    • Nonetheless, I dare to hope that, despite everything, human life and its richness of cultures will survive, even on a ravaged earth. While some see art as a bulwark of our collective memory, I see science, with its depth of thought, its palpable achievements and potentials, as equally important; and science, good science, is flourishing as never before, though it moves cautiously and slowly, its insights checked by continual self-testing and experimentation. I revere good writing and art and music, but it seems to me that only science, aided by human decency, common sense, farsightedness, and concern for the unfortunate and the poor, offers the world any hope in its present morass. This idea is explicit in Pope Francis’s encyclical and may be practiced not only with vast, centralized technologies but by workers, artisans, and farmers in the villages of the world. Between us, we can surely pull the world through its present crises and lead the way to a happier time ahead. As I face my own impending departure from the world, I have to believe in this—that mankind and our planet will survive, that life will continue, and that this will not be our final hour.

3/5/2019

  • Ocean Heat Waves Are Threatening Marine Life: When deadly heat waves hit on land, we hear about them. But the oceans can have heat waves, too. They are now happening far more frequently than they did last century and are harming marine life, according to a new study.
    • The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, looked at the impact of marine heat waves on the diversity of life in the ocean. From coral reefs to kelp forests to sea grass beds, researchers found that these heat waves were destroying the framework of many ocean ecosystems.
    • But perhaps the biggest surprise was the significant loss of what biologists call foundational species, like coral reefs, sea grasses and kelp forests. They support the diversity of aquatic life by providing shelter from predators, moderating temperatures and acting as food sources. When they disappear, the entire ecosystem disappears along with them.
    • Climate change “may be a gradual process, but set on that backdrop are these extreme warming events that might be becoming more common that can have more dramatic consequences,” said Robert Miller, an associate research biologist at the Marine Science Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the study.
  • Pressed by Climate Activists, Senate Democrats Plan to ‘Go on Offense’: Facing a showdown vote as early as this month over the embattled “Green New Deal,” Senate Democrats are preparing a counteroffensive to make combating climate change a central issue of their 2020 campaigns — a striking shift on an issue they have shied away from for the past decade.
  • Fracking linked to increased hospitalizations for skin, genital and urinary issues in Pennsylvania: Rashes, urinary tract infections, and kidney stones requiring hospital stays are more common in areas with more drilling, according to a new study
    • Researchers found that the more fracking wells were in a county, the more hospitalizations the county saw for genital and urinary problems like urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and kidney stones. Fracking, another name for hydraulic fracturing, is a process of extracting oil and gas from the Earth by drilling deep wells and injecting liquid at high pressure.

3/4/2019

  • The Communal Mind: Patricia Lockwood travels through the internet
    • [ael: A phenomenal look at our society, as we collectively migrate into a digital hell-hole….]
  • Most US coal plants are contaminating groundwater with toxins, analysis finds: Of 265 US power plants that monitor groundwater, 242 report unsafe levels of at least one pollutant derived from coal ash
    • Of the 265 US power plants that monitor groundwater, 242 have reported unsafe levels of at least one pollutant derived from coal ash, which is the remnants of coal after it is burned for energy. More than half such facilities report unsafe levels of arsenic, a carcinogen linked to multiple types of cancer, with 60% finding elevated lithium, which is associated with neurological damage.
    • “The pollution is basically everywhere you look,” said Abel Ross, attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), which compiled the analysis based on reports issued by individual power plants. “The major concern is that this could be a problem for decades or centuries because once the pollutants leech from the coal ash into the water, they are hard to get out.”
    • American coal plants produce around 100m tons of coal ash each year, with at least 2bn tons stored in pits of varying quality. Most coal ash pits are ageing and not lined with a protective substance that would prevent the ash seeping into streams and rivers.
    • The so-called Coal Ash Rule, introduced in 2015, required power companies to monitor groundwater from wells near ash dumps and make the data public. Since May 2018, information from more than 550 individual coal ash ponds has been made available.
    • These regulations were eased, however, by the Trump administration. In July, the Environmental Protection Agency extended by 18 months the time that industry can use unlined coal ash ponds for dumping. The move would “provide states and utilities much-needed flexibility in the management of coal ash” and save utility companies as much as $31m a year, according to Andrew Wheeler, confirmed as EPA administrator this week.
    • “Using industry’s own data, our report proves that coal plants are poisoning groundwater nearly everywhere they operate,” Evans said. “The Trump administration insists on hurting communities across the US by gutting federal protections. They are making a dire situation much worse.”
    • A stew of pollutants emanate from coal ash, including cadmium, cobalt, chromium and lead, as well as arsenic and lithium. These toxins are linked to a range of health conditions, including cancers, kidney damage and developmental problems. According to the EIP report, the site with the worst contamination is found next to the San Miguel power plant near San Antonio, Texas. Coal plants in North Carolina, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Maryland, Mississippi and Kentucky round out a list of the 10 worst polluters.
    • “We’ve never really been happy with the EPA’s approach to this but now it is run by a coal lobbyist we are even more skeptical,” Ross said, referring to Wheeler’s former employment. “Over the long term it’s going to become clear the EPA needs to be stronger and do something, but that probably won’t happen under this administration.”
    • [ael: we need a "Friends of Toxic Coal Waste" license plate in Kentucky….]
  • Wallace Smith Broecker, the 'grandfather' of climate science, leaves a final warning for Earth: Days before his death, Wallace Broecker urged scientists to consider deploying a last-ditch solar shield to stop global warming.
    • “Over the last 50 years, the ratio of energy from fossil fuels (85 percent) to that from other sources (15 percent) has not changed. Several billion people still live in poverty. … Those who own fossil fuel reserves will do everything possible to make sure they are burned,” he wrote. “I wish I could be my usual optimistic self and believe those who say we are on the brink of an energy revolution. But I can’t.”
    • Like the vast majority of the scientific community, he supported a shift to sustainable fuels and away from oil, gas and coal. He also backed research into carbon capture technologies. But he despaired that humanity was moving too slowly and spoke in recent years with increasing fervor about the possible need for a solar shield.
    • “He was not advocating that it should be done, but he was advocating we should at least get the knowledge to enable us to decide whether or not we ought to look in that direction,” said Shepherd, an emeritus professor of Earth system science at the University of Southampton in England. “Wally could see his time on Earth was quite limited and I think he wanted to make sure there were a bunch of people who would carry on the initiative after he was gone.”

3/2/2019

  • Could 'climate delayer' become the political epithet of our times?: Already we argue over whether to call them climate deniers, skeptics or doubters. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might have hit on a more devastating attack
    • …there a way of using name-calling, not just to insult, but to introduce a new political idea. It seemed like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was doing that this week when she used the term “climate delayer” to call out those dragging their feet on climate change.
    • Ocasio-Cortez used the term to describe Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was filmed telling a bunch of children that when it comes to the looming apocalypse, she knows better than they do, because she has spent a long time in the Senate not fixing the problem. While they called for immediate action on the Green New Deal, she argued that change wasn’t going to come anytime soon. After all, when it comes to averting a global catastrophe on an unprecedented scale, endangering hundreds of millions and fundamentally altering the human experience, you don’t want to rush into things.
    • The term isn’t entirely new. “Global warming delayer” appeared on sites like ThinkProgress more than a decade ago; it appeared in the Guardian at least as far back as 2011. And out of context, it sounds like a badge of honor. A climate denier denies climate change, so a climate delayer … delays it? Like by buying a Prius?
    • The Guardian’s own style guide takes a different view: “The OED defines a sceptic as ‘a seeker of the truth; an inquirer who has not yet arrived at definite conclusions’. Most so-called ‘climate change sceptics’, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, deny that climate change is happening, or is caused by human activity, so denier is a more accurate term.”
    • On top of all that, there are “climate contrarians”, who make it their business to fight the scientific consensus – “often with substantial financial support from fossil fuels industry organizations and conservative thinktanks,” as summarized in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
    • Luntz knows messaging: he turned the estate tax into the “death tax” and health reform into a “government takeover” of healthcare. Fortunately in Ocasio-Cortez, it seems the left has a messaging expert of its own. And whether denier or delayer, she points out, “if they get their way, we’re toast”.
  • Humans are frogs in hot water of climate change, research says: The extreme weather that comes with climate change is becoming the new normal, so normal that people aren't talking about it as much — and that could make them less motivated to take steps to fight global warming, according to new research.
    • It's the "boiling frog" effect, an urban legend about an experiment that involves putting a frog in a pot of boiling water, where it quickly jumps out. But if it's put in a pot of tepid water on a stove and the heat is gradually increased, the frog will stay in the pot until it dies, because it doesn't feel a difference until it's too late.
  • Plastics: The New Coal in Appalachia?: With the natural gas fracking boom, plastics production is spreading in the Ohio River Valley. But at what cost to health and climate?
    • Along the banks of the Ohio River here, thousands of workers are assembling the region's first ethane cracker plant. It's a conspicuous symbol of a petrochemical and plastics future looming across the Appalachian region. More than 70 construction cranes tower over hundreds of acres where zinc was smelted for nearly a century. In a year or two, Shell Polymers, part of the global energy company Royal Dutch Shell, plans to turn what's called "wet gas" into plastic pellets that can be used to make a myriad of products, from bottles to car parts. Two Asian companies could also announce any day that they plan to invest as much as $6 billion in a similar plant in Ohio. There's a third plastics plant proposed for West Virginia.
    • With little notice nationally, a new petrochemical and plastics manufacturing hub may be taking shape along 300 miles of the upper reaches of the Ohio River, from outside Pittsburgh southwest to Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. It would be fueled by a natural gas boom brought on by more than a decade of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling process that has already dramatically altered the nation's energy landscape—and helped cripple coal.
    • But there's a climate price to be paid. Planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the Shell plant alone would more or less wipe out all the reductions in carbon dioxide that Pittsburgh, just 25 miles away, is planning to achieve by 2030. Drilling for natural gas leaks methane, a potent climate pollutant; and oil consumption for petrochemicals and plastics may account for half the global growth in petroleum demand between now and 2050.
    • "While the rest of the world is dealing with global warming, Pennsylvania and Ohio and West Virginia are embracing developing plastics, and that just appalls me," Lodge says. "It's just not something I see as the future and unfortunately that seems to be the push to make that the future. And that's upsetting."
    • IHS does see some headwinds, including an international backlash against plastics. It published a report last summer that found that worldwide pressure to reduce plastic use and increase recycling was one of the biggest potential disruptors for the plastics industry and was "putting future plastics resin demand and billions of dollars of industry investments at risk."
    • The oil and gas industry might find themselves with stranded assets, needing to abandon Ohio River valley communities, said Lisa Graves-Marcucci, a Pennsylvania-based organizer for the Environmental Integrity Project.
    • China Energy signed an agreement with West Virginia in 2017 to potentially invest $84 billion in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing projects in the state. Late in January, West Virginia's development director, Mike Graney, told state senators that China Energy was looking at three undisclosed "energy and petrochemical" projects. An announcement could be made later this year, he said, though President Donald Trump's trade war with China was causing delays.
    • The Shell plant was lured to Beaver County by Pennsylvania officials with some $1.65 billion in tax incentives. It's scheduled to open "early next decade," company spokesman Ray Fisher said. This year, as many as 6,000 construction workers will be working on it, and Shell says it plans 600 permanent jobs to run the plant. It's in Potter Township, a community with fewer than 700 residents. Rebecca Matsco, who chairs the township commission that gave Shell the local zoning permits, said she sees the plastics plant as an industrial upgrade from a dirty zinc smelter that had stood on the property for about a century, and that Shell cleaned up.
  • When climate change predictions are right for the wrong reasons: Wally Broecker
    • Just over 40 years ago, I wrote a paper entitled “Climate change: Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming?” In it, I attempted to explain why despite a rise in the atmosphere’s CO2 content there had been no significant warming. I predicted that a natural cooling was about to give way to a warming, and that industrial emissions of CO2 would amplify this warming. The paper published in Science in 1975. Warming did follow in 1976–1977. However, a retrospective look shows that my analysis was flawed. What is more—and to my chagrin—based on the words “global warming” in my Science paper, I was given the title “Father of Global Warming.” Not only did I not like this title, I had done little to merit it.
    • My Science paper circulated widely; given the paper's title, some popular media sites unfortunately started referring to me as the "Father of Global Warming." This credit was misplaced. If there has to be such a person, it should be the late Charles David Keeling, whose tireless work unequivocally demonstrated that atmospheric CO2 concentrations are rising in lock-step with fossil fuel use. [ael: my emphasis] In 2001, I offered a $200 reward to anyone who could find an earlier use of the two words "global warming." For a long time, I received no claim. But finally, one appeared. David McGee, then a colleague here at Lamont-Doherty, found a 3-in.-long column in Indiana's The Hammond Times (6 November 1957) which used these words. Its subject was a claim by unnamed scientists in Southern California that CO2 released by industry was going to lead to global warming. The 1957 date for this piece was close to the time when Keeling was gearing up for his CO2 measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the island of Hawaii. I suspect the unnamed scientists were Keeling and Roger Revelle, the director of Scripps. I promptly gave David McGee the promised reward. Since then, other uses of "global warming" prior to my 1975 publication have come to my attention. Two scientific papers in the 1960s used the phrase, one by. JM Mitchell in 1961 and the other by NR Malkin in 1968. It is my hope that the title "Father of Global Warming" does not appear on my tombstone. Were it to, I would be faced with a restless afterlife.

3/1/2019

  • With Climate Science on the March, an Isolated Trump Hunkers Down: New efforts by President Trump and his staff to question or undermine the established science of climate change have created a widening rift between the White House on one side, and scientific facts, government agencies, and some leading figures in the president’s own party on the other.
    • But in February, three of the top-ranking Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Greg Walden of Oregon, Fred Upton of Michigan, and John Shimkus of Illinois, published an op-ed on the website Real Clear Policy in which they said, “climate change is real” and called for innovations to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
    • Similarly, in December, Senator John Barrasso, the Wyoming Republican who is chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which he acknowledged his acceptance of climate science but also criticized the Paris Agreement and proposals to tax carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Climate Change Is Already Cutting Into the Global Fish Catch, and It's on Pace to Get Worse: One new study shows where fish populations have been hit hardest by climate change. A second gauges how much future harm could be avoided if the Paris goals are met.
    • The study of past changes to ocean fisheries, published Thursday in the journal Science, looked at the impact of rising ocean temperatures on 124 marine species representing about one-third of the global catch from 1930 to 2010. It found that the "maximum sustainable yield," or the amount of fish that could be caught each year without jeopardizing future harvests, dropped by 4.1 percent over this period as a result of climate change.

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